And the next, and the next…
Mizna was really sick! Fikmet kept bathing her with cold water from the stream and I cut up my deer that I had caught. It was a very cute deer, but we were hungry, so I stripped off the skin and — and then I scraped it to make an Ishey bucket, like the Ishey had taught us. And I filled the bucket and then heated it up on a fire and boiled one of the legs of the deer for our supper, and that was very nice. And Wolf was so happy with the bone! He’s still carrying it with him!
And Mizna got better, too, but she was still very weird, and Fikmet had to some semsin work and make her mind stand straight — I wish I could do that sort of thing! But I haven’t got any talent, I think. I’m too young anyway, Ferin only noticed when he was fourteen or fifteen.
So I left them to that work, and I made sure we had food, and fire and water to wash Mizna with, and then took a good look round to see if there were any bears, but there was so much deer shit and fox shit that I think that there cannot be any bears, because otherwise the the deer would have fled, but Mizna says that bears eat fruit and berries and fish, mostly, and only sometimes deer or girls. I guess when they are very hungry. I guess a bear could do all of its winter sleep on just me!
And the next morning she, I mean Mizna, not the bear, she was fit enough to walk, so, we walked on, it was glorious weather, not too warm in the morning even though later on we started to sweat, this was the third day since we had left the Cup, we had slept in the forest for two nights, only one of them I didn’t sleep a lot because me and Fikmet, we kept guard.
The path went uphil, but still to the east, so we knew we were going the right way, you can see where you go by looking where the sun is, but you have to know if it’s morning or afternoon, too, which is easy, since in the afternoon it was very warm! And we came to a place where the ground dropped down a lot, as if the mountain had fallen on its side and we couldn’t find a way down, but Wolf did! And then it was sort of easy! Only I made sure to tie a rope to Mizna’s belt for if she fell down, but she didn’t, and we got down safely!
And there was a long road between two mountains with a bit of river and it was swampy, so I started pulling up wild onions, they are nice and crunchy! And the bugs hate the smell, and then we went up again, and then there was this big billygoat, and it blocked the path and didn’t even go when Wolf barked at it! So I grabbed its horns and pushed, but it only went when it wanted! And then we saw a small boy coming up the path. He was only five years old and he’d never seen a girl! But he took us to his place, which was a small hut and a place for goats to be and chickens and vegetables. He was so cute! I mean, his dad, he was a big guy, and they’d lost Arin’s mother, well, the dad was called Arin, too, but it was his wife who had died in a plague. And we stayed there, and we shared our onions and a hank of deer (is hank the right word? The more I write, the more I get confused!). And we had a wonderful evening, talking, and making music, and we bathed, and little Arin really had never seen a girl! So he was like, why don’t you have a willy? How do you go pee-pee? And we had to giggle! And I told him that everyone starts with a little willy, but if you grow up strong and smart, it drops off, naturally, like, but if you stay stupid, it’ll grow thicker and thicker, but then his dad came into the river too — and his dad is smart enough!
Still, it was a great night, after all the wonderful food and porridge and pancakes we had eaten, and goat’s milk, which is nicer than other milk, and we saw the stars, and we had music and stories and later on snores, and the noise of goats chewing their cud, if that’s what goats do — and then Fikmet woke up, and she woke me up, but I went back to sleep. But the next morning she said she’d seen Timoine, or Dai or Daya, as she calls them, Dai if Timoine is a boy and Daya of she’s a girl, which is like weird! Timoine is Timoine!
And Big Arin had told us about Ruby Village, which is a place where they dig in the mountain and bring out stones that get made into earpieces for the queen — only I had never seen her wear any! But we went on anyway, it was in the direction of the light Fikmet had seen, and she wanted to go there very much and Mizna told us that that was where the Velihas temple of Dayati was, so we decided to go there. But first we came to Ruby village. It took some days of walking! We went along a little river but from the mountain sides on both sides we could see it would be huge, sometimes! And the closer we got to Ruby Village, the more deserted houses and workshops we saw, and in one I took an old, rusty, but still good axe blade, and I carry that still.
And then we got to Ruby Village, but there was hardly anyone around, but there was a man and he was a cook and he was cooking and it smelled so good. There seems to be a direct road, takes only two weeks, to Ironlode, but we didn’t want to visit there. And we had lots of that nice food, and they thought I couldn’t eat as much as a mine worker, but I can, and I liked it! And then I had a fight, well not a real fight, just arm wrestling with a girl called Lysna, and I barely lost, but I put up a good fight! And she’s two years older than me anyways.
So after we’d slept — they put up curtains between the unmarried women’s and the unmarried men’s side of the long sleeping hall, but the married people went off together, and so did the cook and the priestess of Naigha! even though it wasn’t midwinter! — Lysna took us into the mountain. It was a bit scary and very dark, and then we came into a huge place where the rubies glittered all around, just waiting to be cut out. And Lysna smiled very proudly, but then she let us get out, and we went back to the village where Wolf was fighting with the village dogs! I told him not to, and we went on to Velihas, with lots of food given us by the Ruby Village people.