Shiri has stayed in the Emperor’s City. We’ll miss her! I guess we’ll going to miss people who stay behind more and more and more the longer we’re together. She’s rich though, her parents had died and she’d inherited their house, their business and everything… Not that that’s much consolation when all you wanted was to see your parents back!
Our adventure in the Emperor’s City started out scary enough, by the way. After we’d entered the gate, we were asked by a sergeant to stay in the gate house because the inner gate had already been closed. I don’t think any of us were suspicious, until we were led into a big room where we were told to wait for dinner. And they closed the door, locked it. And when the food came, we had gotten suspicious enough to use Valdyan magic to look at the food, and for sure, it was full of sleeping draught! One of us, little Tanu, had already started to eat and he was asleep before we had even finished the invocations!
Well, that settled it. Especially when we found toys and children’s clothes in a chest — these guards must be in cahoots with the children-smugglers! So we decided to escape.
That wasn’t so easy, but we managed! We made a really good plan, and with a bit of trickery — I’m very good at opening locks, actually, and closing them, too, thank you very much — and a bit of bravery, we got pretty much all of the garrison locked up. And then we got our horses and cart back, our dog, opened the inner gate, locked it — and set fire to the whole gate-house garrison barracks place!
I don’t care! Let them die, the filthy thieves-of-people! People belong to themselves, forever, and never anyone else!
We ended up in a real thieves’ den, which was great fun! And we sneaked into a big festival the guilds were throwing for apprentices, and had even more fun. There was music, there was dancing, there was everything. But Shiri stayed behind when we went on, as an apprentice scribe. Not much fun that, I’d say!
In the next country, the Queen is the boss, and she, and all the noble ladies can have as many husbands as they want. It’s strange… But it’s got a pretty country-side, and the river is full of fish, and the towns are clean. The capital is really big, and we had to camp at the outskirts again, in some friendly farmer’s courtyard. Well, it soon became a big party again, it was almost Midsummer.
In the middle of the party, I felt someone looking at us, with semsin, from a distance. At all of us; so I looked back, and found it was two old women. They were very intent, and looked as if they could use some fun, so I invited them to the party, and they came… And then, of course, it turned out that they were the queen and Jakham’s mother. The queen is gifted, it’s almost scary as gifted as she is. But then, we’re a bunch of budding Valdyan grand-masters, of course!
That morning, the Queen, who had been dancing and singing and praying with us all night, she took us to her Palace. The Palace is a bit like the Emperor’s City, with lots of round walls around each other, like an onion. We were taken right inside, and Jakham was taken away by her mum. Nice quarters, and good food… And very soon three Ishey boys who came up to us and asked us whether they could travel with us!
They were slaves! So I said, let’s ask all children who are slaves in this palace whether they want to come with us, and Fikmet said, eep — are we going to steal from the queen? But we found a good plan, and we’d ask the queen on Midsummer, when she grants wishes, to let all the children she owns who want to come with us, come with us.
After all, she had promised to give us anything we wanted for our travels.
Midsummer was a very, very exciting festival. Not just because it’s the Feast of Anshen, but because of the way they celebrate the festival here! There is a big procession right around the inside of the outermost wall of the Palace, with lots of people watching, and we were in the procession! Not at the front of course, at the rear, but still. And we sang our Velihan prayers for Arankhaen or Anshen, with all our minds. That made some people silent!
That night, at the audience we asked for our gift, and we got it! The queen had to think very hard, but she gave it, and now we’re lots and lots of people again. Not all of us are gifted anymore, which makes travel harder… We cannot do the same games and songs all the time, and the deaf and dumb cannot speak Velihan, of course, so we need to invent a new language!
The Ishey were pretty impressed that we had a flock of sheep, and even more when we spent some money and bought a dozen more sheep from the Queen. And with a flock of sheep, a horse, a cart, a dog and about twenty people we left for Sewe!
The travel to Sewe was very quiet. We took a quiet river-side road, instead of the royal highway. We hunted, fished, made slings, sang, prayed… Until we arrived in the wetlands!