We left the market and followed the directions we’d got to the puppet-maker’s house, but on the way we passed a jeweller’s shop (with a sign that said “Sidhan’s Finest Jewellery”) and Riei said “hold my hands or I’ll lift some of those!” and yes, the things in the window looked very delectable. We stood admiring them for a while (me holding Riei’s hands all the time) until a dark woman came out of the shop and said, “so, did you want to rob me?”
“Well,” Riei began, but didn’t go on, and I said, “what I would like is to look at your tools, you’re making such delicate things!”
“Ah, you know about metal?” the woman (who could only be Master Sidhan) asked.
“Not nearly enough!”
“Well, come in then,” she said. “Goodness, you two are of the Nameless.”
“I’m not!” I said, and Riei said “I haven’t chosen yet, I’m barely a journeyman!”
Master Sidhan took us to a very bright, very clean workshop, and I loved it already! I was bold enough to show her the music-box. “This is what I do.”
She looked at the music-box as if she was trying to figure out exactly how it worked (and perhaps she was!) and then asked “Do you know how to make bronze?”
“No,” I said, “I can only use what comes to my hands, and that’s been mostly copper until now!”
“I’ll make a bet with you two,” she said. “I’ll teach you (that was me) how to make bronze, and if you (that was Riei) manage to steal something from this house while I’m doing that, without me or any of my journeymen or apprentices catching you, I’ll let you take away one thing of your choice worth five riders or less.”
“Let’s do that!” I said, but Riei was more careful. “What if you do catch me? Will you turn me over to the guards?”
“There will be no consequences,” Master Sidhan said, “except that you’ll know we outsmarted you.”
Riei nodded, and the master took me to the corner of the workshop where the furnace was. She told her journeymen and apprentices to stay on watch, “seal, those of you who can, you know that I won’t be helping you because teaching takes all my attention”.
Then I had such a wonderful lesson! Most of it was learning what different metals did, while we waited for the copper and tin and lead to melt, and then what different mixtures of metals did, and my head was full of the properties of bronze and brass and red brass and leaded copper, and then the master sat me down at the table and showed me everything in numbers, and I wished I had Riei with me because she’s better with numbers than me!
Then I heard Riei say in my mind “Are you finished yet?” but I had to say “Not nearly, I think.”
When I’d learned enough to know that bronze was the best metal for springs, and knew enough to ask “but you have to do the bending before it cools or it’ll be set in its shape, right?” Riei came up behind me and kissed me on the neck.
“How did you do that?” I asked.
“I was inside all the time. Sneaked up behind you when the master was talking to the apprentices and hid in the storeroom.”
“And did you steal anything?” Master Sidhan asked her.
Riei held up a small linen bag. “Almost the most valuable thing in this house. Saffron. And I’ll take this away with me. As well as the absolute most valuable thing.” And she put an arm around me.
From the size of the bag, perhaps it was worth five riders in Valdis, but in Albetire it would be barely half a wainwheel, and an Albetire wainwheel is about a Valdyan rider! But the master did think it was valuable, because it was for the rice that evening, and now they’d all have to eat plain rice and know that it was because Riei had stolen it.
“Now you’re thinking you’d like to learn more from me,” Master Sidhan said.
“Yes,” I said, “that’s true. I’ll be in Valdis all winter, can I come back?”
“Whenever it suits you,” the master said.
“She’ll want you to apprentice yourself to her!” Riei said when we were outside again. “And then you’ll stay in Valdis for four years! And she wants to get you in her Guild. And she wants to get me in her Guild.”
“Well, I’m not staying in Valdis for four years, I promised to take Vurian and Rovin to Turenay!” I said.
While talking we’d come to the house of the puppet-maker without even noticing! But there was a clear enough sign on the house. We banged on the door, and after a while we heard shuffling and the door opened and there was a large, coarse, very ugly woman standing there. “What do you want?”
“Are you the puppet-maker?” I asked.
“Yes, what’s that to you? I’m not selling.”
“I don’t want to buy, I want to talk to you! Perhaps we can learn from each other.”
She let us in then, past a workshop that was mostly dark so we couldn’t see anything except that it was crammed full, into a kitchen. “Sit down,” she said. “I’m Rava.”
We said our names, and I showed her my music-box. “I don’t make things like that,” she said.
“No, and I don’t make things like you do,” I said, “that’s why I thought we could learn from each other! I’ve made some birds too, but I gave them to two little girls.”
“And she’s made a monkey that can climb a broomstick!” Riei said. And then suddenly we were talking about what we could do with puppets and clockwork, joining it together and making new kinds of toys. “Orian will be back by the feast of Naigha,” Rava said, “he’s working the markets, I make the puppets, he tells the stories.”
I’d seen that there were charcoal drawings on the walls, quite good, two of swaddled babies and two of toddlers. When Rava saw us looking, she said, “I don’t think I’ll ever have a living child. But at least we can make the children laugh.”
Then a girl of about eight came in, carrying a jug of milk and a basket of eggs. “Hey, Aunt Rava, visitors?” she asked.
“Yes, it’s a bigger pancake tonight, I think.” And to us, “You are staying, aren’t you? Does anyone know where you are?”
“Yes, they know,” Riei said, and I knew that was because she’d just been telling people. “Someone will come to pick us up later, it’s dark already.”
I was glad of that, I didn’t want to be in a strange city after dark with only the two of us!
The girl, Lyse, made a pancake, and we all shared it. “Do you like beer?” Rava asked.
“Er, yes,” I said, and Riei said, “I’d rather have milk if it’s no trouble.”
“Me too!” I said, and Lyse gave me and Riei and herself cups of warm milk with honey, while Rava had a huge mug of strong-smelling beer. I was glad I wasn’t having any of that, after all, even half of a mug like that would have been too much for me.
I don’t know how we came to talk about school, but Lyse was sad that her teacher had gone away (to live somewhere else, I think, not died) because she’d always had new books, and she (Lyse) knew all her letters and numbers already and had read all the other books in the school, but she wasn’t old enough to leave and learn more somewhere else! I resolved to ask around at the palace if the teacher who was there now could get more books somehow.
Then we talked some more about work, and Rava said she wasn’t taking apprentices, but I didn’t want to be her apprentice, I just wanted to work together and find out new things a couple of days a week! Riei had the right idea, I think: two days with Rava, two days with Master Sidhan, two days clerking in the Temple of Mizran together, and have the day of Anshen off. (Riei said “Archan” of course but that’s on the same day, it just depends which Nameless is your Nameless.)
Someone was banging on the door now! Rava went to open it, and we could hear Vurian’s voice, and Rava saying that she allowed no weapons in her house. “All right,” Vurian said, and through the corridor we saw him unbuckle his sword belt and give it to one of the soldiers he had with him. (And the soldiers stayed outside, too.)
Vurian was so polite! I’ve never seen a boy of ten with such manners. He even remembered Rava, because he’d bought puppets for his brothers and sisters in the market. Rava didn’t remember him, and he said “Of course not! Because you have lots of customers, but I’ve only bought puppets once!” And when he heard that I was planning to work with Rava, “can I give Leva the puppets I bought to bring here and repair, because my little brother Aidan played with them and he’s too small to leave them whole!” And Rava said with a grin, “Of course you can!” And she looked at me and Lyse with a face that clearly meant that she was going to let us do the repairs so I could figure out how they worked and Lyse could start learning.
Back at the palace, the first person we met was little Arni. “You’ve had much better adventures than me!” she said.
“Was school so boring?” I asked.
“Not really, but you’ve been everywhere and I’ve been only here!”
Then Vurian and Arni took us to the room where we’d had breakfast with the king and queen, and I think it was the king and queen’s ordinary living-room, because everybody was there, big Arni and Erne cuddling in the window-seat, the king and queen sitting in chairs on either side of the fireplace. “Can we hear your adventures?” the queen asked, and I told it sort of back to front, starting with my plans to divide the week into different parts. The king had taken Riei’s hand, and all the time she was showing him what we’d seen! It took a lot out of her, and she took my hand to make it easier and I got very tired too! But at the end the king hugged Riei and said “Thank you, that was the best city walk I’ve had in ages!” We all hugged each other, really, and then we went to bed and I was so tired I don’t even remember getting there.