Obnoxious men

After the Ishey and the neighbours showed the Síthi men that they weren’t welcome in our house, they didn’t come to our part of town any more. Sometimes a few of them followed me at a distance when I went to work, but they never got close.

On the Day of Anshen all of us went to the temple, even Khushi’s mother Pahiz and her sisters Baran and Bachche. We had them in the middle of our family, and I walked at the back and made myself wide. The Síthi men were behind us, and one of them prodded me, but I didn’t hit him, only pushed him back a couple of feet when he did it again.

At the school gate there was a girl who raised her eyebrows, “trouble? Need help?”

“Yes, please,” I said, “those men shouldn’t come in here.” She went to get her sword and we stood in the gate together. She was called Halla astin Hayan but one of her parents was Síthi, they’d met when the king’s army was in Solay for the first time.

“Do those men follow you around all the time?” Halla asked. “That’s no good. You should tell the sheriff.” I thought that was a good idea, and when we talked to Ashti about it she thought it was a good idea too.

But first a bath! Halla went to the bath-house with us — we didn’t go to the Mill Bath because that was too close to the Síthi quarter, and obviously not to the Síthi bath either, but to the bath-house near Master Mernath’s workshop. Our children took Baran and Bachche to the large basin as soon as they were all washed, and Pahiz was worried, “won’t they drown?” but I could see that Raisse and Aldin and Sidhan were teaching little Bachche to swim, and it wasn’t deep enough for Baran to be in danger, she was already twelve and almost as tall as Ashti.

After we were all dried we went to the sheriff. I thought only me and Halla and perhaps Ashti would go, but everybody came along. Halla had already told him we were coming, and he asked us to come to his house next to his wife’s apothecary shop, not to the town hall, because they were having their weekly day off, they were in the Guild of Anshen too.

“I know who you are,” the sheriff said when we arrived, “Ferin, isn’t it? I’d like to hear the story from you.” So I told him everything that had happened, from the time Baran’s father had come to collect her and her mother and little sister and I’d told him that there was nothing in our house that belonged to him. And how the Ishey and the neighbours had put him and his sons and friends across the river, and how they’d been following me around and now all of us on our way to the temple.

“Hm, that should stop,” the sheriff said. “Why must my son and daughter-in-law be in Gralen instead of here? Of course they do deserve a holiday, they work quite hard enough. I’ll ask my other daughter-in-law to keep an eye on the Síthi, and my son as well. The captain.”

He was talking about Doctor Cora and Prince Aidan! “Can the doctor do anything with the Síthi?” I asked.

“Can she! She’s put so much money in the bath-house and the temple that she’s got more than a little influence there. And she put up most of the starting capital for this lady’s shop. Didn’t she?” he asked Pahiz, who startled.

“Yes,” Pahiz said, and I thought she blushed but her skin was too dark to see it clearly.

Then Lady Halla talked to Pahiz in a low voice, and she became even darker. “Really?” she asked, and Lady Halla nodded. “Your wife says that for Valdyan law I’m not even married!” she said to Lord Radan, and then he asked her if it had been done in front of the Mother in a ceremony with water, and when she said no, he said that the marriage wasn’t valid! So even if her husband thought he had a claim to her, or to her children, that wasn’t true for the law in this country. And because the men didn’t do any work in the shop, they didn’t have a claim to the shop either. She could leave him any time she wanted and marry someone else or stay alone, and he couldn’t do anything against that without committing a crime.

Then we all went home, because there was nothing more that the sheriff could do for us, especially when Doctor Cora and the captain were going to help.

All the children went to catch fish, even Baran and Bachche, even though they weren’t going to eat any fish. But we had enough eggs and some cheese and a lot of bread, so there was food for Síthi too.

We’ll probably have to build much more house if the Síthi women are really coming to live with us, and Rhinla and Lesla too because I think Rhinla’s master’s girlfriend is moving in with him. Baran already found a friend in our neighbourhood, and the two girls are talking about starting a sweet-shop on our side of the bridge!

But we won’t have Arni and Raisse until the school starts, because they’re going to Gralen for the rest of the summer to learn more brewing. I don’t know who first thought of it, perhaps Ashti, she’s clever that way. They’ll have Halla as an escort, because she thinks it’s a good way for her to learn to protect people. (And of course then Halla will have a whole season in Gralen too. Perhaps she’ll learn to brew there, because I don’t think Gralen needs any more protection.)