Sailing to the East
Sailing was fine! Pretty soon, the weather turned sharp, and, sure!, we were cold now and then. And the sea wasn’t always as calm as a suckling baby’s mind, and we got wet now and then. But there was plenty of work to do, and plenty of things to learn. Master Ailin is trying to teach me counting and sums, and Master Jeran not only teaches Valdyan semsin, but also reading and even writing! Only in his own language, Ilaini, not in our language, but then, he’s Valdyan after all. Reading and writing is hard, though, it’s like talking to a deaf person who’s got trouble speaking!
And it was kind of fun being with the other stolen kids, even though I had a real job and they were just helping out. Fikmet has a lot of stories, and a lot of stubborn, too. She was stolen when she was four years old, by a Khas priest who kept her as his slave! Together with some other children. But Princess Lyse’s brother rescued her, so now she’s traveling the world, first to find her mother, and now to get away from her mother.
Would I know what to do if I would meet my mother? Or my dad? I guess not. It won’t happen anyway, I don’t know what they look like, I don’t know if they’re dead, or where they’re gone or whatever. Just that one of them was Lástalfái. Maybe both, but at least one of them!
Weeks and weeks of sailing, and we’ve seen mountains of ice breaking off land and crashing into the sea, and all kinds of sea animals, some with, some without much spirit, and we kept the ship really well, and nobody got beaten or anything, and then we arrived in Vidus’ home city, Pilseta!
It’s a very clean place, with a neat harbour and city gates made from huge bones, those are bones that come from whales! And we went with Vidus and everyone into the city, and to the temple, which is very properly a Temple of the Mother! Because that’s where Vidus saw his parents and siblings…
He didn’t greet them, and they didn’t greet him, which was very weird, but then he took off all his clothes, which was weirder! Not that we haven’t seen him without clothes before, of course, but it was snowing, and there was snow and ice everywhere!
He scooped up snow in his hands and rubbed his skin with it until it was red and pimply, and we were wondering, should we do the same, but he said, no. He needed to get clean to go into the temple, but we could go in as we were. That felt… Strange. As if we weren’t good enough to clean up for the Gods, as if They wouldn’t even mind if we’d bother or not.
But we went inside, and inside, Vidus’ mother put a small baby in the hands of a big statue and then almost collapsed, and Vidus whispered, that’s another little sister. His mother couldn’t have been a week from having given birth! I was so amazed she could even walk!
And they still hadn’t hugged… But everyone serves the Gods in their own way, some ways are better, some ways are not good at all, but this didn’t look bad. And then there was a Priestess doing stuff, and after that, they hugged, and wept and cried and laughed, so we knew that they were glad Vidus was home again.
It turns out that he’s as much a prince as Charpatong!
So there was a huge party, and there was singing, and dancing, and music-making, and it turns out that Fikmet isn’t just an acrobat, she can also make music really well, and she’s got a flute carved from wood, and I think I can copy that. It was a great party!
I didn’t get drunk, of course, I don’t want to be abducted again, besides, they drink a kind of spoiled milk that tastes like vomit, but I danced a lot, and it was easy, because everyone was having the steps in their minds. Really late in the night we fell asleep, then and there, and the next morning, all of us children were given sealskin clothes by Vidus’ uncles.
One of his uncles, he had only a few fingers on one hand, and it turned out that he was also a thief. Or very close. He had hunted too many seal, one year, when he was young, and the Priestesses had cut off a finger for every seal too many! It’s not a bad country, but it’s cruel — though, as Vidus said, maybe not as cruel as Princess Lyse, who would condemn a man to never have anything but a loincloth and the food he would get from the village, just for stealing a farm.
Anyway, we were happy with really warm clothes, and they were so beautiful that I decided to put mine in my sea-chest immediately when we would get on board of the ship. But when we were in the harbour, I remembered that this was the place where Vidus was stolen! So I said to Fikmet, let’s look together, where everyone is, so they don’t get stolen again!
And when we did… We found an extra spirit on board of the ship, another child! So we went there, and we found — Princess Feneng! She had been hiding from me and Fikmet all the time, while sleeping and working with the rest of us! I was really pissed! She both had made life really hard for us, and for Princess Lyse, and she’d not trusted us — and then, then she told me she had kept me from having my nightmares!
I have nightmares every night, of course, who doesn’t? And they’re mine, and mostly, they’re all that I remember from my parents, my time with Morug and so on… And it’s not nice having nightmares, but having someone decide you shouldn’t, and taking them away from you! But then, princess Feneng is only eight years old, and she meant well…
That didn’t save her from the Captain’s cane, though! All of them got caned, and too right, too! They deserved it! But afterwards, we all had lessons with Master Jeran again. We couldn’t send her back, she’d have to go all the way with us. But the Captain sent a pigeon, he had three, all wanting to fly to Istila, and she sent one of them, to the Queen, telling her we had found her daughter.
Well… I’m learning stuff, counting and adding and other sums, and reading and writing, and I guess I can almost read a list of things to buy for my master, except that it’s easier, of course, to just remember things. Fikmet is a bit like me, she also doesn’t really want to learn this stuff, but we have to. The Queen of Valdyas has said so, and Princess Lyse has a book that has everything that the Queen of Valdyas has taught her about being a queen, so I guess that everyone in Velihas will have to learn, too, once she becomes the Queen. And master Jeran has given me a book to write down all my “adventures” in, and I’m not allowed to write them with semsin, I have to use ink!
The next harbor where we stopped was Mahathat, a floating harbor for Sutharam, which is the city where Charpatong’s father is King. It’s really a collection of rafts and ships and so on, and together it’s a harbor city. There are temples and warehouses — but one good storm and it will all be gone! But Charpatong says that in these parts it never storms, not like in the Bend between Valdyas and Velihas, where we had to be protected from the big storm by the Water Person who danced with Princess Lyse.
We were allowed to go on shore, if you want to call this a shore, but I know what I mean, and that should be enough!
We were walking around, there are soldiers here, they are Charpatong’s father’s soldiers, so it’s all quite safe. We were dithering around the temple a bit when I thought, Charpatong — couldn’t you, now that we’ve learned Valdyan semsin, try to remember the people who kidnapped you, and try to find them! And he could, and he did!
So then we bickered about whether we should get the soldiers or free the children ourselves, but getting the soldiers would have been pretty boring! So we went there, and broke down the door and grabbed the robbers and bound them! And they had already six more children ready to ship to Iss-Peran! They were all drugged, deep asleep. Now we did call Master Jeran and the soldiers, and all together we took everyone to Charpatong’s Father, the King.
That is, we went on a small boat that went upriver. First the river was wide, and there were all kinds of swamp trees, just like in Il Ayande, but then there came mountains, and we still weren’t in Sutharam! But when we had gone through a deep gorge, fortunately there were no caratacts or so, the river was still quite wide and flat, and not deep at all, a real ship couldn’t sail here, we arrived in Sutharam.