Back in Tylenay
Neither Riei nor me wanted to stay in Silvermine or close to the bandit village any longer, so we collected Erne and Arin and the mules and Erne’s borrowed donkey, and Tarn who was really interested in going to school in Veray, especially because he’d talked to his old grandfather (“he’s the only one in the whole village who believes in me”) who had given him a purse of money to get himself set up there. Of course if you mine almost the only silver in a whole region — the silver that comes from the other mines is so little that it doesn’t really count, and mostly not pure at that — you get rich enough to give purses of money to your grandchildren when they need it!
Erne was glad she could get away, the captain had offered her a job in the army but the army didn’t agree with her. “I know what I want to do now!” she said. “I want to have my own livery stable, but for donkeys and mules, and take good care of them and hire them out only to people who take good care of them too.” Riei said that she supported that, but Erne would need to work in someone else’s livery stable for a year, and learn business in the Temple of Mizran for a year, and do a season’s apprenticeship with a farrier and another with a carter, things like that, and she’d be able to set up a business when she was sixteen. She wasn’t very sure how old she was, but between us we decided thirteen because she wasn’t bleeding yet but she was getting tits, just like me. “And when you’ve done all those things, come to me and I’ll advance you enough money, under conditions,” Riei said. “One of those conditions being that you give Arin here a job.”
“We were already planning that!” Erne said. “We want to work together. He’s so good with the animals. And it doesn’t matter if he’s not good at sums because I’m good enough at sums for the two of us.” It’s easy to see that they’re friends, too, though Erne is very clever and Arin not at all. (Both of them are really nice, though. You don’t need to be clever to be nice.)
It was two days riding back to town, and about halfway we overtook a squad of soldiers with an ox-cart with the important prisoners on it. It was time for a pause anyway so we shared our food and talked with the soldiers and the sergeant (the sergeant is called Erian and he’s engaged to someone called Halla in Turenay, daughter of smiths and a smith herself; we promised to tell her he was all right and coming to marry her as soon as he could get some leave, if we get to Turenay before he does).
After all it was a bit less than two days because we got back in the early afternoon. Mother Aine was talking to her son the wainwright when we arrived, and she counted us and promptly set off to buy food. “Do we eat first, or go to the bath-house first?” Riei asked, and Arin said “Well, I’m hungry but I’m dirty too and I don’t want to eat when I’m dirty!” and we all agreed and went to the nearest bath-house, very neat with white-tiled basins already full of cold water that they poured hot water into from a large copper kettle on wheels. Tarn and I started to figure out if we could use the heat from the cooling water in the mines to have hot water piped into the town — I think Riei set us on that, but it fit very well with things we’d been talking about earlier — and we got so absorbed that Riei had to drag us home where Mother Aine had stuffed pancakes ready, some with cheese, some with greens, some with meat.
We’d hardly eaten our fill when a page from the hospital came in, a boy of about ten, who said “You are here! The doctors ask you to come to the ceremony of giving Doctor Serla her master’s letter!”
“When?” Riei asked, and the boy blushed and said “Now?” so we hastily ate the last bites and washed our hands and faces and went with him. After the bath we were all wearing clean clothes, so we didn’t have to change again.
Doctor Cora saw us coming and waved to us from behind a table on the square in front of the hospital. The other two doctors were sitting on either side of her, and on the side there was another table with a woman behind it who I later heard was the dean of the doctors’ and midwives’ guild, the midwife Eirith.
“There are three master doctors in this town now,” Doctor Cora said, and Riei whispered in my ear that she couldn’t stand speeches, but the doctor wasn’t going to hold a long speech at all, she called Serla forward and each master doctor asked her a difficult question (I didn’t understand any of the questions, anyway) all in the form of “this is the situation, what do you do and why?”
“I know what I’d do and why,” Riei said.
“Get a doctor!” I said.
“Yes! And why, well, because I don’t know anything about doctoring.”
But Serla did know all the answers and the midwife gave her a master’s letter and the doctors all signed it. Then we heard that Serla and her fiancé Jeran (a very tall young man with very light hair, I think he comes from Rizenay originally) would be going to Istila, in Velihas in the east, to set up a hospital there. When the doctors Amre and Venla got sent to Tylenay first the idea was that they would stay for a couple of years and then go on to Istila, but they’d settled so much in this town and their neighbourhood that they didn’t want to leave, and their neighbours wanted them to stay, too!
There was a party after the ceremony, with music and dancing and lots of nice things to eat and drink. We talked to some of the neighbours, a huge man who looked like a baker who said that it was a good thing for the young people to go and start something new, after all the little doctors had been young too when they came here and started the hospital! But that set Riei off in one of her fits of — well, not rage, but indignation — and she told him that her mothers had been thirty-something at least and started the clinic for the sailors’ women in Valdis, there was no need at all to be young! (And Riei didn’t approve of Serla’s young man either because he was a man, but we didn’t say that to the baker. I don’t mind that he’s a man, if that’s what Serla wants let her have him! He looks nice and steady.)
Riei did write two letters of credit for a thousand riders each and sealed them and gave them both to Serla, saying “one is for the hospital here, and one is for you to give you a head start in Istila, but if you want to spend some it on yourself do so by all means!” and Serla blushed –she’s a pale-skinned blonde so it shows– and said “well, I think I’d like to have a bit of a wedding party, thank you!”
We didn’t stay at the party long because we were tired from all the travelling, and went home to our feather bed and slept very well.
When we got up the next morning Mother Aine was making groats porridge. “What do you put in that?” Riei asked, and Mother Aine said cardamom and butter and cream. “No cinnamon?” Riei asked, but there was no cinnamon today, she did that sometimes, but she was all out of cinnamon and needed to go to the market. Then the porridge was ready, and did we want honey or syrup? Riei wanted both, and got half of her bowl with syrup and the other half with honey, and I wanted all syrup because it was that really rich tree-syrup that I love, and we each got a pat of butter on top to melt too.
We went to the Temple of Mizran then, to talk to the priestess Jinla about the house we wanted to buy. But we had to wait until she was available, and Riei took issue with that, “don’t make me wait ever again!” She stayed at the temple all day to help with the work, it turned out that Jinla was now doing all the old Mighty Servant’s work as well as her own work, and she couldn’t appoint any new assistants until she was Mighty Servant herself, still a season and a bit away. “Don’t you know any clerks in Veray who would like to get ahead in the world?” she asked Riei, and Riei said that she (Riei) would like to hand-pick those clerks and train them before sending them to Tylenay.
I left then, and spent most of the day at the hospital recalibrating the apothecary’s scales and rigging a clockwork thing that would stir a pot for a quarter of an hour when wound up so the apothecary could go and do something else in the meantime.
Then Riei called and asked me to reserve a table for four at the lakeside eating-house, and to bring her party clothes to the Temple. I sort of knew that Jinla had a woman of her own, a goldsmith called Mialle, and she was there too, with Jinla’s party clothes!