Not a Dog Person.
In the evening, in our bed, Leva and I had a loooong talk. She told me that doctor Airath was worried about me, about me having problems with, well, doing more than cuddling, and that he thought she’d better keep an eye on me. I daresay he’s right. I still wake up, now and then, sweating with fear from nightmares about living in the Dawn mansion in Essle. Of seeing father/grandfather at official dinners with lots of guests, complimenting him on his cute granddaughter.
Away, bad thoughts.
We also discussed what we’d want to do in the summer. Leva really wants to study the waterworks Tarn has set up for the smith in High Penedin, and his water mill, and his irrigation works… But I wanted to go to Valdis and see mom, Erne and Arni for a bit, maybe even Vurian and Rovin… Though they might be in Gralen, because that’s where the Royal Family summers. And we could also take the long way to Valdis, taking the Rycha from Veray to Tilis, and see a part of the country that’s new to us.
And all the time, the school will be open: not for lessons, but any student can use the facilities to work on stuff and do research, which is also attractive for Leva.
But when Leva asked me what I wanted to do, for myself, well, yes, I really want to see mom and Erne again. Arni, maybe not so much, but still a little.
Of course, if we bought a big house in Veray, or in Tylenay, or a farm in High Penedin for ourselves, we could invite them to visit us… I didn’t think of that before writing my notes, but that might work out… They might want to see some other parts of the country themselves! I need to tell Leva that when she’s back.
Because, of course, this morning she’s running around with the students from the school and local apprentices and others, to look into anything that can be learned, improved, replaced or figured out.
I love it when she gets this enthusiastic, though she also sighed about us not being together so much.
But I had my own very busy day. I’m writing a short monograph on how riches are divided in Tylenay and environs, so I went up and down, in all the normal, not-rich, parts of town to buy stuff and see what it costs, and chat, and ask people how often they would eat meat, for instance.
I drank a lot of beer with old men and women in front of inns, helped laundrywomen with their work, cleaned dishes in another inn, helped out in a few food markets, bought pudding bread for all the children in the hospital while chatting with a baker, and in general, figuring out what makes this town tick.
In the afternoon, even though a teensy little bit fuddled from all the beer, I worked with Jinla on their archives, figuring out true from forged bills.
Then that night, I had a talk with Captain Aidan. Turns out, two of the Nine — the old town bosses — had gone and started living on their own in a village close to Silver Village, which is where Leva and the School crew wanted to go. And Aidan was worried, because there were signs that there was something brewing there. And could I investigate? Being Selday-trained and all that. Doryn and Ruyin, they are called.
I told him, sure, if Leva allows me. So I went to talk to Leva, and that’s when we also discussed getting a house somewhere around here just for summer. She said, go for it, you should have adventures — I wish we would have adventures together! I don’t want Leva to have adventures… I want her to be safe, and cherished, and brainy, and make stuff, because making stuff makes her happy. So we had a bit of a cuddle, and even a real kiss.
But adventures always seem to happen around Leva!
A bit of investigation in Tylenay already showed me significant amounts of money were flowing towards Doryn and Ruyin. Really important amounts of money. Army-assembling amounts of money, almost, in any case, band-of-bandits assembling amounts of money.
In between investigating, I also got Jinla to start looking for a suitable farm for us. Really, life is easy if you don’t have problems with spending lots of money. We want something that we can use, that the school can use, where the people managing the farm can host us whenever we are there, and in return, we won’t ask for any rent. And we were going to make Aine, our Tylenay landlady, the housekeeper.
And I got letters sent out to Veray and Valdis, telling grandmother Alyse and my mom about our likely plans for the summer. We probably will have time to go back to Veray and wait for Mom, Erne and sis to arrive and take them to Tylenay before it’s summer for real.
While waiting at the North Gate (which is East), I was accosted by a girl I’d danced with. She told me she was going to leave for Gralen to learn how to brew proper beer! I don’t care about beer, but I had adviced her to go out and learn, and for once, I guess, I didn’t regret my meddling.
The morning ride was quiet, until I started thinking of what I was going to do. I was going to have to infiltrate a village with an alert and despotic usurper. I wanted to make sure I could stay in touch with Leva no matter what.
When I told her that, she had a really wonderful suggestion. Depending on the color of the next bird we saw, either I or she would ride to the front of the column, and we’d try to stay in touch for hours, at a distance. Since it was a large group of people, there was quite a distance between front and back of the column.
The first bird we saw was a raven, and I had black, so I went to the front.
There I found Captain Prince Aidan, apparently not someone to lead from behind, or someone who didn’t want to breathe all the dust of the an entire column of soldiers, scholars and other travelers.
I proposed to him we would scout ahead, and he understood why I said that — he realized I was in training mode. So we did that, and around noon, we had not encountered anything scoutable, but had found a good place for the noon meal. I set him to collect firewood, then prepared four fire pits, so when the column would arrive, they could start preparing the meal right away.
Leva was cute, and the rest of the day we rode next to each other. At one point I asked her to lean over, and patted her head, and then the other way around, it was cute.
That evening, we rubbed salve between each other’s legs, or rather, I between mine, and I between hers, but tomorrow, I’ll let her do that to me… And we slept in the communal school tent, which I sealed. Lochan woke up, for a bit, but when he saw what I was doing, he nodded off again, vaguely thinking “Good…”.
The next day, in the evening, we arrived at the crossroads. Silver Mine to the right, the disreputable two to the left, or south.
I hid myself, quite well, and then a bit better, and told Captain Prince Aidan to keep in touch with me through Leva, and went down. Pretty soon, there were fields and terraces, and in the valley, a village. I walked for a while through the bed of a stream, gaining power from the water, but, on the other hand, freezing my toes off.
When I came out of the stream, and sat down for a bit, a dog came sniffing around. I told him to go, and he went!
I’m not a dog person, though…
But then a goatherd appeared, with his goats, and not seeing me, they started drinking from the stream all around me. The goatherd, a youngish man, appeared to be both stupid and oblivious, and I decided to follow him. If people saw this familiar sight, they probably wouldn’t notice me!
In the end, he walked around the village, and got into his own shed, after putting dog, me and goats into a pen. There was a door between the pen and the shed, and I knocked on it.
“Who is there?” was the surprised answer.
I answered, “Me, can I come in? With the dog?”
“Eh, why are you not at the front door?”
“Well, I came walking here with the goats.”
“Are you a goat?”
“NO! I am a woman.”
And then the door was opened, and dog and I came in.
We had a bit of a discussion about me, and how I came here, but the man really was basically just dumb as a piece of dry bread. He told me his wife had left him four years ago, two years after the terrible two had taken over the village (he needed a lot of time to determine that) and that while his wife had left him a letter, he never had been able to read it, owing to not being literate at all.
So, I told him to prepare dinner while I cleaned up the shack, collecting all letters I could find.
There were quite a few! One from his wife, the rest from the TT. I first read him the letter from his wife: she wrote him, come after me as soon as you have sold the goats, I cannot live here anymore.
The other letters were demands for paying his taxes to the TT. That’s illegal! Only the baron and the king (or queen, when reigning) can levy taxes! So we had a good reason to apprehend the TT.
And then I asked him to tell me all he knew, and he said, I need wine for that, let me get a jar, and I was like, won’t the people in the village think that strange, and he was, I usually do that for festival days, and I was like, today is so NOT a festival day! So I sent him to get some fresh water, which I boiled, and mixed with my flask of brandy, and that’s what we drank.
What he told me was that the TT were living in the new house in the village, but that a bit to the east, there was a training camp, with lots of soldier-looking people.
In the end, I bought his goats, his dog and his shed, for four riders, and got him to promise to leave and look for his wife in the morning. She’ll be with her mother, he thought, in Velihas. Well! That’s not unlikely, is it? He was also wondering whether she would still want him, but that’s something nobody can answer without asking her.
So, the next morning I sent him on his way, and I disguised myself in his second set of clothes, took goats and dog, and went to meet Captain Prince Aidan, to discuss plans.
The goats, by the way, are definitely going to be army stew! And as for that too-affectionate dog, I’m not keeping it.
I’m a cat person, and I want to pet Leva.