A boat on the Valda
We tried the “pale wheat slops made by a Khas” that Tilis was famous for. Ruzyn sort of liked it, Riei liked it a lot, it was too sour and bitter for me (but it did make me less thirsty), and Arni spat it out. Then we got a flask of wine from Ryshas, and that was a lot better, though we all wanted water in it. We ended up drinking so much that it made us woozy, even with all the bread and fish we were eating! (The fish in Tilis tastes wonderful but it’s full of little bones. Ruzyn says that’s because they’re river fish.)
A priestess of Naigha and her apprentice came in and sat down at the next table. The priestess had ale, the apprentice tea. Then the priestess came up to us and asked all kinds of nosy questions — as if they don’t see strangers every day in Tilis! “It’s your mother who’s getting married tomorrow, right?” she asked Riei and Arni, and she asked all of us “Do you know where you are sleeping tonight?”
“No,” we said, and I thought we might sleep in the boat or see if the baroness had a place to sleep for us, but the priestess said “then you’d better sleep in my house!” So to the temple we went, and after evening prayers and a last cup of tea we all lay down on a heap of fresh straw beside the fire. The priestess said another prayer in the direction of the door, at least that was what it looked like more than sealing, and that made it so quiet that I thought I might sleep forever. (That’s what happens under Naigha’s mantle! But I wasn’t afraid that I was going to die in the night. It was just more peaceful than I’d ever been before.)
And I slept a lot better than I’d done for ages, too. When I woke up Riei was talking with the priestess in a low voice, I only caught a couple of words, and the apprentice showed me and Arni where we could wash. Ruzyn was gone — the apprentice said she was talking to the landlord of the inn where the ale came from, a master in the Guild of Anshen. Not the local Guildmaster, that was the midwife, but important all the same.
Then we got porridge with honey, and the priestess shooed us out, “if you go into the village now you can catch your mothers coming back from the wedding!”
And catch them we did, the baroness walking between Arni and Erne, all holding hands. We ran at them and embraced them, the baroness got her share of embraces too. It wasn’t only a feast because of the wedding but it was also the Feast of Mizran, but they didn’t celebrate that very much in Tilis because there was no temple of Mizran. Strange, really, because all the traffic on the Valda and the Rycha went through there, and all the cargo had to be reloaded because there were different types of boats for Essle and the Valda and the Rycha, I’d expect a temple! Lots of people went to Essle to celebrate, that’s why we’d seen so many boats going the other way.
But there wasn’t much feasting, because we got into another boat to take us north. Ruzyn was coming with us! “Don’t you have to go back to Essle?” I asked, but she said she’d sent a message via Ferin (that must be the landlord) and he and the baroness both approved. “I want to see Valdis too!”
This boat was a Valda boat, lower and longer than the Essle boats. It wasn’t rowed but pushed with long poles, and there was also a rope and a harness so a person or an animal could pull it along, but that needed a road along the river and there wasn’t even any dry land on the first stretch.
The Rycha boats were lower still, the boatwoman told me when she noticed I was interested, because the Rycha is very shallow in places. She also told me that her son had a boat on the Rycha, and her daughter was married to a crown prince! It wouldn’t be the crown prince of Valdyas, of course, Prince Vurian was much too young to get married, and no, he was the crown prince of Velihas.
“So she’s going to be the queen of Velihas when he becomes king?” I asked, because that’s what happens to crown princes, they become kings.
“Goodness, I never thought of that!” the boatwoman said. “I only asked her at the wedding if she was happy, and she was very happy! I could see that he was a good man, too. They’re both still very young, I hope his father has many more years!”
The first time we halted big Arni drew me aside in the very front of the boat and whispered “They’ve hanged him, right?”
“They were going to,” I said, “I don’t know if it’s been done yet.”
Arni nodded. “Good. You don’t need to talk about it with anyone else, or even with me again, but I wanted you to know that you’re not the only one to know.”