When we got home, big Arni was cooking, and it smelt deliciously of onions and fish. “Go and wash first,” Arni said, and pointed to our bedroom where she’d put buckets of warm water ready.
While we were drying ourselves, Riei said, “I think I should tell you something but I don’t know whether to tell you now or later.”
“You can tell me if you want, I won’t tell anyone else,” I said.
“I know! It’s just that — I’m not sure if you can bear to hear it. And I’m not sure if I’m ready to talk about it.”
“Well, you can tell me when you’re ready, you don’t need to wait for me,” I said, and Riei nodded and we put on clean shirts because the ones we’d taken off were all sweaty, and Riei’s streaked with mud as well from climbing through the window.
Arni wanted to hear everything about what had happened at the school, but we should eat dinner first, she insisted. So we ate rice and vegetables and little fishes fried in oil. quickly because we wanted to talk even more than we wanted to eat! Though I was really hungry. Arni said that was because I’d been doing heavy work with my mind and that makes you as hungry as doing heavy work with your body.
“But it was easy!” I said. Well, it had been easy once I got the hang of it, getting the hang of it in the first place had been difficult.
“Mernath said there’s a school in Veray for craftspeople who invent things,” I said, “if I can’t go to the trade school here I’d like to go there! I like inventing even better than trade.”
“Hm, I wanted to talk to you — all of you — about what we should do. Let’s clear everything away and make a plan.”
We didn’t get a chance to do that, because there was a loud banging on the door just then. “Can anyone see who that is?” I asked.
“Two masters,” big Arni said, “and a bunch of heavies.”
Riei and I and little Arni helped Arni seal the door as tight as we could. It sounded like more people were coming. Then we heard a man’s voice saying “Arni! It’s been enough, time to come home with the children. And your little house-mate.”
Riei and big Arni both gasped and said “Father!”
“Do you have a back door?” I asked. We should get away!
“We have a hatch,” Riei said.
“Go to the Greys,” big Arni said to Riei. “Tell them — well, just go and get them.”
“I’ll go with you,” I said. After all I knew the Greys! Those in Albetire, anyway. If they didn’t listen to Riei because she was a journeyman of the Nameless, they might listen to me.
“Riei, what about your caches around town?” Arni asked.
“Nothing in there that I need,” Riei said, “all my tools are here, anyway.”
“And Leva, all your money and the papers for the trading-house are in the Temple, right? You don’t have valuables or letters of credit here in the house?”
“No, they said to come ask for letters if I move to another town, I’ve got nothing here. Only the receipt they gave me, but that isn’t worth any money, it’s just to put in the records.”
“All right, then give me as much power as you can, both of you, so Arni and I can hold the door closed until help comes.”
I didn’t know how to do that, but I stretched out my hands and said “Take it” and she knew how to do that, I felt dizzy and shaky and I could see Riei was in the same state. But Riei took up a couple of floorboards and pulled me through the hole into her little boat that had been lying under the house. She rowed, not very fast, but at least away from the people who were trying to get in.
When we got into the channel we bumped into another boat, and it had our steersman in it and a girl about Riei’s age who I hadn’t met before but she turned out to be the steersman’s daughter, Ruzyn.
“We need to go to the Greys, now, ” I said.
“We thought something like that,” the steersman said. “They don’t have Moyri any more, fortunately.”
“How is that fortunate?” I asked, “was she bad?”
“Very strict,” the steersman said. “But fair.”
“Strict is good,” I said. “Fair is good. Mean and unfair would be bad.”
“She’s the baroness of Idanyas now!” Ruzyn said. “Move over, you two, you wouldn’t have got far in that state.” And she climbed into our boat and took the oars from Riei.
A little farther we saw two large boats going in the other direction — towards the house — with six rowers each, dressed in grey, and more people dressed in grey on board, all with armor and weapons, the rowers too. “Oh good,” Ruzyn said, “they heard me. I will join the Order the moment I’m a journeyman, whatever my father says about grandchildren!”
Riei fell asleep after a while, but I was thinking too much for that. “Ruzyn?” I asked. “Do you know, if you have money in the Temple of Mizran here, can another Temple get that for you even if you can’t give them a letter?”
“Yes,” Ruzyn said, “they write to each other, it’ll take some time, and you need to prove it’s really you, but it’s still your money even if you’re, say, in Valdis and your money is here in Essle.”
“That’s what I wanted to know, thanks!” I said, and then we arrived at a landing near a big house that looked drab in the twilight but I thought it was really whitewashed. A man and a woman, each carrying a polearm, were waiting for us. I poked Riei awake and they helped us get out of the boat.
Inside — we were in a large kitchen or an eating-hall — someone gave us bowls of hot soup, and in spite of dinner I was hungry again! Riei was poking at it a bit, though. “You should eat!” I said, “that’ll warm you up!” because she was shivering.
Another woman came and got blankets from a chest that she folded around us, and also bread to go with the soup, and mugs of steaming tea. “Your mother and sister are on their way,” she said, “with all important things, tools and papers and such. But I’m afraid the house is burning.”
Then suddenly both Arnis were there too and hugged us as if they’d never let us go. Some more of the Greys came in as well, and I saw that my tool and work bags and a large cloth-covered box from the little office were some of the things they were carrying. Most of the Greys looked a little battered, some even bloodied. “Have you been fighting?” I asked.
“Of course. That’s what we’re for,” a cheerful young man said.
“We’ve made a guest room ready for you,” the woman who had taken care of us said, “have a good night’s sleep first, and tomorrow we’ll see how we can help you further.”
“Is there a seal on the room?” I asked, because I knew that neither I nor Riei could make one now, and probably Arni couldn’t either.
“The whole fort is sealed,” the woman said, “but you may seal your room if you want.”
There were two beds in the guest room, one for big and little Arni, one for me and Riei, but none of us could sleep yet. Big Arni was worried about her work and her friends, and little Arni tried to comfort her, saying “someone else can do that! You told us you were teaching some of the women, they must have learned enough now and if they haven’t they can teach themselves like you did!” That made Arni laugh, and she climbed out of the bed and gave me and Riei a goodnight kiss, and then little Arni did that too, and we climbed out of our bed to give them a goodnight kiss, and so we kissed each other goodnight a lot of times because we were so relieved that we were all safe and alive and whole. And then we did fall asleep.