Valdis! It’s not as big as I had thought — not as big as Essle, or Sewe, or the Imperial City, but it’s got walls and gates, and Jeran took our boat through the river gate. For the first night, we decided to stay in an inn, the Spotted Dog. What with Aldan, his wife, two sons and little daughter (so cute!) and Jeran and Mialle, we were a big group again, but the attic was free, and with some pallets it was quite comfortable. And the food was good! Not very delicate perhaps, but there was plenty of it. I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to have more of an appetite recently, as do all of us, and Charpatong thinks that’s because we’re using semsin like nobody else — all the time.

After the evening meal, we decided to go dancing! All of us, even little Leying, who is only nine or ten. The best place, Lyse had told us, and Fikmet could confirm, was the Mill. Fikmet had danced and played there before, when she was just as old as Leying, so that wasn’t a problem! On our way to the Mill we passed the Palace. I couldn’t help myself — both because I was so glad to be in Valdis, and because of the stories I had heard about its walls, that I touched the walls to see if they were really built with power in the stones.

But while there was power, it was an ordinary seal! And when we touched it, the back door opened and a soldier came out to see what was happening. He was a bit surprised to see six foreign grandmaster-apprentices (well, two of us are journeymen), all belonging to his own guild. He promised to show us the old tower, which really has power built in, and art that has been lost, later on.

The Mill was full of people, full of music. There was decent weak beer, and pretty soon we’d made friends. We had to push Charpatong a bit — he was shy, our prince! But there were some cute Valdyan girls looking at him, and he’s handsome enough, in a very exotic way. We danced until it was time to go back, around midnight.

When we arrived at the Spotted Dog, everything was closed up! Even the kitchen door, but fortunately the seal was very weak, so we made a better one once we were inside, and went up to sleep. The next day we’d visit the Order, to train with swords. Well, some of us were going to train, not me… That would NOT be a good idea. In the morning the hostess woke us up, with a frustrated grin.

“Did you make a new seal after you sneaked in?”

“Uh… Huh, yes, we did. The old one wasn’t safe! Well, I did. Ah… There’s someone who wants in.”

“Yes, young man, that’s the baker, and every semte inside this inn has been trying to break through your seal, and there you are, sleeping like stone logs! Don’t you notice when people touch your seals!”

“Oh…” I felt a bit, no, a lot, sheepish, and cleared away the seal. “I had no idea it was unbreakable! I noticed something, sure, but I thought people had just gone through.”

She threw her arms in the air and uttered, “Budding grandmasters!”

In the morning, we went to the Palace to see the Queen, but it turns out that she is away! There was a baron gone bad in the wild lands south-west of Valdis, or something… But major Talvi was in residence, and could receive us later in the morning. So we had to wait anyway, and went to the Order.

We spent a lot of time in the Temple, together with the family we had taken from Lenyas; I spent some extra time there, while the rest were off training. And Fikmet did remember the task I had placed on her, when she became a journeyman: she went to the captain of the Order and explained to him what I could not explain, about my problems with fighting. I felt it when the task left her heart, and knew I didn’t need to worry about the Order pressing me. I have been afraid of going bad, once I start fighting again, so very afraid.

The refectory gave us a good meal, in any case, and we helped with cleaning up afterwards, to say thanks for the hospitality. We also pulled a prank on them; it was nice and light, so the torches didn’t need to be lit, and frugality alone demanded that they wouldn’t be lit. But I made a light of semsin on all of them, and once dinner had started, made them stronger. And when they noticed, and started berating the novice who had been responsible for laying the table for having lit the torches, we made the lights jump from one torch to another. Captain Ruyin snorted soup through his nose when he saw that!

Afterwards, we went to Major Talvi, and she received us, and when we told her about the lord terrorizing his county, she first thought it was the one the Queen had gone after, but then realized it must be a second one. She said she was going to send out troops immediately! She also told us that both the King and the Queen would be back soon, probably before the feast of Muzran. The family got sent to a place in the north, not Rizenay, but smaller: Valdyas Lyoras.

And that meant that the six of us had time off until the Queen or the King would arrive! We could enjoy Valdis, explore the city, train with the Order, buy new clothes and take a Síthi bath! We saw elephants, and I bought beautiful golden rose-shaped eardrops for Muhori (which she cannot wear yet, she didn’t have piercings yet, so she needs to wear the training silver earrings first). We’ve also started, well… Touching each other, but only with our minds, but in private.