First working day
We were so busy with Venla’s loom that we completely forgot to eat. Or to rest. Or even to drink water. When we were at a point that we could stop it was already getting dark, and we probably wouldn’t have stopped even then if I hadn’t felt Riei poking at me from the front room.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Venla said, “I should have kept track of time! I’m taking you all out to dinner. My treat.”
“Can Riei come too?” I asked. If Venla couldn’t afford that, we could offer to help, or pay for the wine or something.
“Your pretty girlfriend? Sure. But then I’m going to want to take someone as well — you’re gifted, right? I don’t mean mechanically, I’ve seen that you are. I mean the Guild way.”
“Can you call him and say we’ll meet him at the Pheasant? He’s probably at the weavers’ guildhall, still at work.”
“What’s his name?” I wanted to ask what he looked like but I wouldn’t be able to see that anyway, only what his mind looked like but Venla wouldn’t know that.
“Er, Arin,” Venla said absently, while she scribbled down the last of her notes.
I did find someone at the weavers’ guildhall who admitted to being called Arin, but he was very surprised that Venla wanted him to come! Are you sure she didn’t mean Jichan?
She did say ‘Arin’.
Huh. Well, I’m coming. The Pheasant, you said?
When we arrived at the eating-house Venla was as surprised as Arin had been. And Arin was a bit sheepish, pointed at me, “She called me.”
“Yes, Venla asked me to.”
“Are you sure you didn’t mean Jichan?” Arin asked Venla. “Did it come to nothing with him after all?”
“Er — never mind,” Venla said. “I’m glad you’re here.” And Arin took her by the arm, and me by the other arm, and I used my free arm to grab Riei.
But we weren’t staying ‘here’ because Riei was against it. “Venla,” she said, “Leva and I can’t go in there. If we do –together– we’ll have … trouble. I’ll take you somewhere else if you don’t mind. ”
“Trouble is what we don’t want,” Venla said, and Riei took us all to the eating-house where we’d had the really good food, the expensive one! Venla blanched when she saw where we were going.
“It’s all right,” Riei said, “I’m a priestess of Mizran. I’ll take care of it.” I knew that probably meant she’d let them take it from our joint account at the Temple, and I didn’t mind one bit! “A real priestess of Mizran. I’ve even been measured for a stole of my own today!”
“Hey, Venla,” I said, “if you want to treat us you can have the pie-shop deliver tomorrow at mid-day. Then we’ll remember to stop working and eat something, too!” And she thought that was a good idea.
On the way Arin walked next to me again. “You’re with the Nameless, right? So’s my boss. Senthi. It’s easy to work together, though.” So Senthi had clerks under her after all! But Riei would probably tell me more about that later, too. She’d told me when we were still at the school waiting for everybody to come along that she’d found out some things.
“I call both of them the Nameless now,” I said. “Much easier.”
At the eating-house Riei said to the boss, “There are eight of us. And we want no trouble at all.”
He looked us over. “You’re from the inventors’ school, right? We don’t want trouble either. Students. Journeymen. Guild members…” He only just didn’t say ‘rabble’.
“I’m a priestess of Mizran,” Riei said. “Anyway, you’ve seen me here before.” Then the man recognised me as well and his face cleared. He sent a boy to take us upstairs, where we hadn’t been before, to a large room with more than enough room for all of us.
Riei sealed the room when everybody was inside, not tightly enough so servers couldn’t get in, but we’d be out of sight of people looking with their minds.
“What’s the deal?” Venla asked Riei. “Why couldn’t you go into the Pheasant?”
“I can,” Riei said, “but not Leva and I together. It’s very much of Archan, and perhaps you won’t have noticed but they would have noticed that Leva is a fledgling grand master of the other side.”
We got bread and wine and soup, and there was a lot of talk, mostly the same kind of talk as we’d had at school (though nobody had a slate or tools, so without the demonstrations). Two people at the end of the table were trying to calculate the chance that someone would be both a grand master in one of the Guilds and a gifted mechanic. Arin actually understood much of the talk, and he was as eager as the rest to join in when it was about numbers.
Then we got the main course, and it was a huge bowl full of pieces of fish in a green sauce, with freshwater shrimp in it as well. This was a fish I didn’t know! “Eels,” Riei said, and went on to my mind only, that’s expensive but they’re only available for two weeks in spring. Eels? They weren’t at all like the big fat eels in Essle that some people won’t eat because they (the eels, that is) eat dead bodies.
“They swim upstream to Gralen,” Arin said, and I said, “what do they want to do there?”
Arin shrugged. “I don’t know what fish want, fish don’t exist for people, they exist for themselves.”
(And he was in the Guild of the Nameless? It was something Uncle Rhanion could have said.)
Everybody was silent for quite a while, eating, and when all the fish was gone we got bowls of warm water and towels to wash our hands. That was useful, because the best way to eat the eels was to fish the pieces out of the bowl and suck the meat off the bones.
When we were finishing the meal with a large bowl of warm spiced wine that everybody could dip their cups in, there was some commotion outside. Not only outside the room, but outside the building. “I’ll go and look,” Riei said. “No, not you, Leva, you stay, they’re your mates.” She stayed away for a while, and when she came back she looked satisfied. “It’s solved,” she said, “Prince Aidan is downstairs drinking wine, and he’ll walk us home.”
“Prince Aidan,” someone asked, “is that Captain Aidan? How do you know him?”
“We took his nephew to Turenay when he was going to school,” I said.
“If I hadn’t been working on tricky stuff with you this morning and known that I could trust you, I’d think you were bragging and I’d never want to see you again!”
“Perhaps you will never want to see me again when I rope you in for my own project!” I said, and then everybody started to talk about projects again until there was no more wine in the bowl and we all left, the students (except me, but with Arin) all in a bunch, and Riei and I last of all. We found the captain at the door already.
“Cora is at the hospital doing operations,” he said, “she’ll be out all night, I suppose. Might as well do something useful.” He took each of us by an arm as Arin had done! (And I realised that he wasn’t even much older than Arin, perhaps twenty-five.)
“I’m so glad I’m not a doctor,” I said.
“You could never be one, either,” the captain said. Riei turned on him at once, “Don’t tell her that she can’t do something!” but I agreed, everybody had things they could and couldn’t do.
The captain said, “I dare say you” (that was Riei) “can’t bring ten thousand troops into the field against the enemy. And I couldn’t tell a real document from a fake one if it bit me in the balls.” He’d definitely done his homework!
When we got close to our house, the captain paused. “Draw your swords, both of you,” he said, and because Riei was on his left side and I on his right, both of our swords were on the outside. It wasn’t as if I could do anything useful with the sword yet, but we did look daunting! And that wasn’t for nothing because there was a small crowd of people in front of our front door, seven or eight of them with knives and clubs.
“Better go home, boys,” the captain said (and that was the right word, because they were all male and all younger than him).
“We’d like to use that door to go into our house,” Riei said.
“And who do you think you are?” the leader of the group asked.
“I’m Aidan astin Brun,” the captain said.
“Brun?” I said under my breath, “not Velain?”
The captain shrugged. “All right, Velain. I happen to be the king’s brother. Now are you going away or not?”
One of the young men made a movement with his knife, but the leader caught his wrist and jerked his head in the direction of the side street. And they all went away!
“Swords are impressive,” the captain said with a grin. “Oh, by the way, tomorrow evening you two are invited to dinner with the baron at at the castle. With Cora and me. Then you can give him my brother’s letter that you probably still have in your possession.”
We did, that was true! “Can I wear my nice clothes?” Riei asked.
“I don’t know what your nice clothes look like,” the captain said, and I showed him what Riei looked like with her dancing-clothes on.
“You must wear the skirt as well,” he said.
“And I’ll wear my dress with the really wide skirt!” I said. Honestly, those were the only really nice clothes we had at the moment, perhaps we should have something made.
“Well, see you tomorrow night then,” the captain said.
“Tomorrow morning!” I said. “We’ll want another lesson!”
When we sat in the bedstead before going to sleep, with a cup of warm milk with honey and the tiniest bit of brandy, a cat or two on our laps, I asked Riei “What was it you were going to tell me? About what you’d found out?”
She closed the doors of the bedstead, startling the cats, and sealed them fiercely. “You are NOT HEARING any of this,” she said. “But there’s been trouble in the weavers’ guild, more than we anticipated. All the cloth is being sold through the guild, and some of the masters may be taking more of the proceeds than they’re entitled to. There used to be healthy competition, and people inside the guild who were selling their own work — there were two women weaving linen for the hospital in Turenay, and they’ve stopped working in Veray altogether because they couldn’t keep up with the regulations. They seem to have moved away.”
“Did they move to Turenay and join the weavers’ guild there at least?” I asked.
“There isn’t a weavers’ guild in Turenay. Only a few independent weavers. Raisse — the head of the Guild of — well — she’s a weaver, and the woman who used to be the head of the Guild of Archan is a weaver too, but she moved to Sarabal. Anyway, both of them weave woollen cloth for clothes, not plain linen.”
“Did they lack weavers in Sarabal, or people in that Guild?” I asked.
“It seems that she left after, well, because, Archan split into several parts.”
I didn’t understand the half of that. But Riei was satisfied that she’d told me enough, and opened up (scattering cats) and we put our cups away and brushed the honey off our teeth and went to sleep.