Back to Valdis
When we wanted to leave for Valdis, Hylti came with us, and she had a cart! “I was almost due to go anyway,” she said, “take goods to the city to sell there, and use the library, and I want to talk to your Erne.” Some of the goods were woollen cloth, so we had a soft place to sleep. Vurian and Rovin looked after the mules while Riei and I slept, and in the afternoon we did it the other way round.
At the eternal fire we stopped to pray, but this time we didn’t stay the night: we went off the main road to a small village where everybody ate in the same village hall. “Just like the palace,” Vurian said, “and about as many people, too!” They knew the princes here, and of course we wanted to know who we were. “Friends of theirs,” I said.
The village hall had a hay-loft where guests could sleep, but Hylti had a bed in the headwoman’s house.
In the morning Hylti came to breakfast (porridge for whoever turned up) red-eyed with tiredness. “Have you been working hard?” I asked.
“Scarlet fever. All the little children.”
“I wish you’d woken us!” Riei said, “we could have helped! I had it when I was a kid so I wouldn’t get it again anyway.”
“You were fast asleep, and frankly I didn’t think of it.” She climbed on the cart and tossed the reins to Vurian. “You drive, I’m having a nap.”
Now all of us young people had had a good night’s sleep, so the other three of us rode the mules again. When we were between the farms south of the city, but couldn’t see the walls yet, we got a mind-call from big Arni. Ah, you’re back! Arni said you’d gone on, but we already thought you’d be more sensible.
“What do you think they did with Arni?” Rovin asked. “I bet they’re making her work at the Temple of Naigha for a month, to clean and mend after school.”
“I think she got a good beating and nobody will talk about it any more,” I said. “But perhaps she’ll have to apologise to us.”
“That would be the worst part of the punishment,” Vurian said. He sounded like he had experience.
We went to the palace first to stable the mules, and immediately there were people who took them away (and the cart as well) so we couldn’t even brush them ourselves! But there were two men who both embraced Hylti, they must be the fathers of the children. One had so much flour on his clothes that he must be the baker, the other one had carpenter’s tools in his apron.
And then big Arni and Erne were there too to collect us! “First a bath, and then food,” Erne said, and we agreed with that. “Can we take the boys, too?” Riei said, and we all ended up in a bath-house where I hadn’t been before. And when we were all clean and dry and wearing something decent we went to a small cookshop and ate pie and drank weak ale.
“You know, we should get together as soon as we’re all free and plan what things we really must bring when we travel,” Vurian said.
“We’re both free on the Day of Mizran,” Riei said. That was already the day after the day after tomorrow!
“What about Arni?” someone asked, and big Arni said that she was helping out in the Temple of Naigha as punishment! “I win,” said Rovin, but nobody knew what he had won because we’d forgotten to bet anything.