The princes took little Arni away to wherever they went to school, and the queen took big Arni and Erne away to do grown-up things, so we were left with the king. “If I were you,” he said, “I’d go and explore the city. It’s safe enough, safer than Essle at least.” And then he told us which parts of the city weren’t as safe as others: near the walls on the north and east side, and the harbour towards the Order house in the south. I said I wanted to go to the Temple of Mizran, and the king said he’d call a page to take us there. We went to get a few things from our guest room first (our purses, not that we had much money, and I put the half-finished music box in my pocket, perhaps I’d find things I could use for it) and when we went outside into the courtyard there was a tall girl in page’s livery waiting for us. She reminded me of someone, or I’d seen her before, or something like that. “You’re Riei and Arni, right?” she asked.
“Riei and Leva,” we said.
“Isn’t there an Arni too?”
“That’s my sister,” Riei said, “she went to school with the princes.”
“Right. I’m Lyase. You wanted to go to the Temple of Mizran?”
“Yes,” I said, and then knew who she reminded me of: of the queen. “Are you Lyase astin Brun?”
“Exactly,” she said with a grin.
“And I’ve seen you before, too, you were at the table last night! Only you weren’t wearing your palace clothes then.”
“We’re sometimes off-duty,” she said, and led us out of the palace, round the left side, over a bridge we hadn’t seen yet. I tried to recall the map I’d seen. “This is the Ilda, right?”
“Right. I’m not taking you the shortest way, but the easiest to remember.” It was through a long straight street with shops on both sides, quite posh shops, dressmakers and saddlers and things like that. “I’m not going to buy new clothes here,” I whispered to Riei.
After a while we got to a very large square which had a whitewashed building in the middle. Many buildings here were whitewashed, I think the people who had built Little Valdyas had taken an example from the capital! “That’s the Temple of Naigha,” Lyase said. “And that is the Temple of Mizran. Can you manage now? I ought to get back on duty.”
“Yes,” we said, “thank you!”
It was clear that the Temple of Mizran was the Temple of Mizran, it had pillars at the front and three steps to the door, like the temples in Albetire and Essle. I hadn’t seen the one in Lenay but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had that too, though perhaps a bit smaller because Lenay was smaller.
“Perhaps they’ll let us earn some money clerking here!” Riei said, and I thought that was a good idea though I’d rather try and apprentice myself to a coppersmith for as long as we were in Valdis, so I’d arrive in Veray with more skills than I have now. Because I thought for so long that I was going to go into trade in the family tradition and that my tinkering was only a pastime, but now I know that other people than me are interested in it. And that there’s a school full of people who are like me.
We stood in the main temple hall for a while, because when you do that in Albetire or Essle a clerk or novice will notice you immediately and ask what you want, but nobody came. I saw a table with a clerk behind it where it looked like people were asking questions and got answers, though, so we went there, and when I said that I had an account in Essle and wanted to get at my money here the clerk told us to go to the third room on the right and to wait there for someone who could help us.
A novice (I think it was, he had a short embroidered stole) brought wine and nibbles when we were waiting in that room, and Riei said “early for wine, isn’t it? I’d like tea instead,” and yes, I wanted tea instead too! So the novice took the wine away and brought a pot of tea, only we had to drink it from the wine-glasses because he hadn’t brought any teacups. But at least he hadn’t taken the nibbles away (little biscuits with nuts and cheese, they went as well with tea as with wine.)
After a while a priest in an embroidered cloak came into the room, and the first thing he said was “didn’t they bring any wine?” so we had to tell him that we’d wanted tea and someone had taken the wine away. He called the novice in to correct that and ate the rest of the biscuits while he was looking at my papers from Essle. “Hm, that’s a nice sum if it’s well invested, is the trading house active now?” I told him it wasn’t, at least not until I’d finished school, but I’d entrusted the money to the Temple in Essle and assumed they were doing something with it.
When he heard I was staying in Valdis over the winter but moving to Veray in the spring, he suggested to send everything to Veray now, and only have a current account in Valdis. That sounded useful! I could withdraw money or have merchants send their bills to the Temple. “At least then I won’t have to shake my pockets for pennies when I’m at the dressmaker!” I said. “And we might want to rent some rooms.”
“My mother will take care of that,” Riei said, “or buy a house even, after all she is staying in Valdis when we go to Ryshas. And, talking about that, my mother will probably be here later about our inheritance, only it’s a bit more complicated because most of the funds are still tied up.” Then we said we were staying at the palace, and the priest promptly started to treat us as if he was taking us much more seriously! He looked from Riei to me, and from me to Riei. “We’re not sisters,” I said, “it’s two different inheritances. We’re separate heiresses. Mine isn’t tied up, fortunately.”
Then he delivered us to a priestess, older and more elaborately dressed, who was going to draw up the papers for my current account. I hadn’t thought of my inheritance as being a lot of money, only enough money, but it seemed to be substantial. The priestess would write to Essle, and make an account for me with seven hundred and fifty riders in it, a loan at an alarming interest rate, but the moment the capital came from Essle I’d be able to pay it off. “And if it turns out to be a soap bubble, then you’ll have to find another way to discharge your debt,” she said. I wasn’t concerned about that, only that it might take long for letters from Essle to get to Valdis in winter.
“If you’d like to take out some money now we can provide that,” the priestess said, “weren’t you going to explore and shop?”
I tried to estimate how much I’d need — I might want to buy some material as well as clothes — and decided on five riders, two in shillings. Suddenly I had a purse full of silver! I hung it around my neck inside my shirt.
“Do you know a coppersmith nearby?” I asked, and the priestess told us where the craft districts were. But when she heard what I was doing, she thought I’d have more success learning from a locksmith. I’d never thought of that! I know a bit about locks but have never tried to make one. And Riei knows how to pick one, she might be able to learn from a locksmith too, but instead she asked if she could come and work at the temple as a clerk until we left for the east.
“I’ll put you on the roster,” the priestess said, “and have you informed when you’re scheduled.”
And then we stood on the square outside the temple, with most of the day still before us. Riei took my hand and we walked through a lot of streets, sort of in the direction where the priestess had pointed us. We crossed a very long bridge — it must be over the Valda because that’s a wide river — and stood in the middle looking north, to the palace, and south, where there were more bridges and a huge gate with a bridge of its own, we could see people walking over it.
“Let’s find a market,” I said, so we crossed the rest of the bridge and walked through some streets. We ended up in a market all right, but it was a cattle market! One part of it was all horses. We stood looking at some from a distance when a man spoke to us, “hey young ladies! You look as you’ve just come from the south! Have you ever been on a horse?”
No, we hadn’t! “Erian!” he called, and a boy came from the other side of the enclosure. “Fetch the old mare for these young ladies and give them a hand up.”
The boy came back with a horse that looked quiet and friendly, and very old, her brownish muzzle streaked with grey. “The slaughterhouse is nearby,” the horse-trader said, “so we take the old lady along to keep the herd quiet.”
“Oh!” I said. “Like having an old grandmother in a house full of noisy children.” Or in the Temple of Dayati for that matter, but he probably wouldn’t know what that was.
“Who goes first?” Erian asked, and I was a bit quicker than Riei so he lifted me into the saddle. Fortunately there was a bit sticking out in front that I could hold on to, because the horse was very high! And the saddle was wider than my legs were so I had to sit on my tail-bone. Erian adjusted the straps to put my feet in and then he and Riei took the leads the horse was on (that’s called the reins, I know now) on either side and we made a round of the market. I wasn’t falling off, and after a while I really started to like it!
“Now you can move with the horse,” Erian said, “up when she goes up and down when she goes down, just like fucking.” That made Riei splutter with laughter, of course. Going up and down did make it a lot more comfortable, but I was still glad when we came back to Erian’s father and I changed places with Riei.
“We’re not going to buy any,” I said when we were back from the second round, “at least not now, we’re not travelling until spring. And we don’t know if we’ll travel on a cart or on a horse.”
“We are travelling with two boys who will probably be riding,” Riei said, “in that family, they’ve probably been riding since they could sit up! And they might want to race, and we’re not so much for racing!”
“But their parents are sending us along to keep them in check,” I said, “they’re not allowed to race, and they do have manners so they know that.”
“In that case I’d advise mules for you,” the trader said, “they’re easier to ride than a horse, as placid as the old mare, and not as wide between the legs! Two for each of you.”
“Ah, when one is tired of carrying you, you ride the other,” I said.
“Exactly, and you can also take more baggage that way. Well, we’re here every month, in this same spot on the first market day after the full moon, come back when you’re ready! My name is Fian.”
“Thank you,” we said, “we’ll remember you!”
Out of earshot we talked it over. The king and queen would probably lend us horses, or even give us horses, but we really wanted to buy our own because then they’d be really ours! And we had every reason to think Fian was reliable, after all he hadn’t started by trying to sell, he’d only been really friendly and helpful. And if we had our own mules instead of borrowed horses, we’d have them in Veray too, and if we didn’t need all four — two or perhaps one would probably be enough — we could sell the others. And if we didn’t wait until the very last moment we’d be able to go riding and practice!
Then we both smelt the same thing at the same time: cheese! And onions! And dough fresh from an oven. We followed our noses and found the bakery, where a cheerful woman was taking pies from the oven and putting them on the rack outside, the size of the palm of Riei’s hand, all smelling wonderful.
“One-and-a-half pence each, six for a half-shilling!” she said when she saw us looking. “These are cow cheese and greens, these goat cheese and onions, these sheep cheese with Iss-Peranian pepper.” We got one of each kind each and I paid with one of my new shillings and got a half-shilling back. Yes, they tasted as wonderful as they smelt, and the Iss-Peranian pepper was properly sharp.
We hadn’t quite finished the pies when we came to a little square where two old women were sitting on a bench in front of a house, making lace. That was very exciting to watch! It looked kind of like knitting and kind of like braiding, with thin yarn on wooden spools. They worked so fast that we could see the lace growing under their hands, all flower and leaf patterns. I resolved to remember the patterns so I could draw them in my notebook and use for something later because they were beautiful.
We sat down on the end of the bench to finish our pies. “That’s wonderful!” I said.
“Might as well be, it’s for Alyse astin Brun’s wedding dress. Getting married in Liorys in a couple of weeks.”
“Who is she marrying?” I asked. “Someone noble I expect.”
“No,” one of the old ladies said, “someone from the school in Turenay, not noble at all.”
Then we noticed we were thirsty after all that cheese and Iss-Peranian pepper, and when we said that one of the women said “if you go through the house to the yard, you can get water from the well there!” so we did that, and noticed that there was no room for an outhouse at all, the yard was too small for that! We asked “if you have drunk a lot of water and you need to go, where do you go?” Well, where they went was on the piss-pot, and what was in the piss-pot went into the barrel, and someone with a cart came by to empty the barrels every couple of days. “Oh!” I said. “For the tanners!”
“The wet is for the tanners, the dry goes on the fields.”
We’d had an outhouse with a cesspit under it at home, and in Riei’s house in Essle you just lifted the latrine lid and let everything fall in the water and it got washed down to the sea. No wonder the dolphins and porpoises hadn’t liked to swim in the harbour!
We thanked the lace-makers for the water and went on, getting closer to the parts of Valdis where things were being made. Eventually we got to a street full of metal-workers, and stopped outside a locksmith’s workshop where a surly-looking apprentice was filing on a key without much success.
“I think that file needs sharpening,” I said.
“What do you know?” he said, and made another stroke that didn’t make a difference to the key.
I shrugged. “I’ve done some work myself.”
The master came out from the back. “Vexing my apprentice?” And he took one look at the boy’s work and cuffed him and sent him inside, “I told you to sharpen that file, lazy brat!”
“That’s what I was trying to tell him,” I said.
“And how would you know?” Well, I had some experience with tools, I was interested in locksmithing, I was looking for a temporary apprenticeship until we left Valdis in the spring. The master took us inside so we could see the locks he was working on: simple things that I could understand because I know how mechanical things work, nothing intricate, but the plates that would go on the door were beautifully decorated.
“That looks like it’s for a palace door,” I said.
“You’re not far off. They’re for the new temple of the Order of the Sworn.”
Then the master’s wife appeared from the house at the back to call him for the mid-day meal. “New apprentices?” he asked, so I explained again, and I saw the wife look at me with that searching gaze that meant she’d noticed me. “Are you staying? There’s plenty of soup.”
Riei and I looked at each other — soup would be welcome, it had been some time since the cheese pies. “Yes, please,” we said and went with her to the kitchen. It was cold there! When the wife saw us shivering she closed the shutters and poked up the fire, “you’re from the south, right? Not used to Valdis autumn weather.” We’d really have to get some warmer clothes!
The soup was hot and full of turnips and carrots and bits of sausage, and there were thick slices of brown bread with it. The apprentice also put his head through the door, but the master sent him back, “when you’ve done that properly, then you get to eat!”
“Cold soup again,” he grumbled but he went, and came back before we were finished eating so his soup was still lukewarm. And then we all got cups of warm milk with honey in it.
When the master and the apprentice had gone back to the workshop the wife asked me and Riei to stay. “You’re leaving Valdis after the winter, right?”
“Yes,” I said, “we’re going to Veray.”
“Veray? Not Turenay?”
“I want to go to the artisan school in Veray,” I said, and showed her the music-box.
“I see. You know, if you go in the direction of the river and then go right when you’re almost there, you’ll find some toy-makers, and a market where there might be more. But what I meant was you’ll need a master in the Guild. Are you learning from anyone?”
“From Riei’s mother at the moment,” I said. “Both of us are.”
“If you should need someone who… I’m the head of the Guild of Anshen in this neighbourhood. You’ll know where to find me.”
“Perhaps we can persuade Mother and Aunt Erne to get a house here,” Riei suddenly said. It seemed a good neighbourhood, and if I wanted to learn from the locksmith it was convenient too.
We thanked the wife (I still don’t know her name! I don’t even remember if she told us. But I’m sure I can find her again), waved to the master and the apprentice, and went out and further on. After a few crossings the houses were smaller and less well kept, and even the animals in the street were scrawny and furtive! We left that part of town in a hurry.
I looked out for people carrying shopping baskets, and that was how we found the fruit and vegetable market! Riei bought a bag of small tart apples from a woman who liked to talk, and she told us where to find the cloth-market where we could get something warm to wear, because goodness, we were all blue with cold, poor southern things! She was right, too. Not all that blue, but cold, yes, we’d really need a jacket or a coat.
We went where the woman had pointed and passed a fish market first. It was all river-fish, of course. When I said something about that where a fishmonger could overhear me, he said “But I do have sea-fish! Dried and salted cod, best there is, from Sarabal!”
I laughed and said “But there’s no tuna, no shark, no squid, no proper shrimp!”
“Shark, squid, are you from Essle or something? But we have crayfish, they’re so good and sweet when you fry them up with green onions.”
“We’ll try that when we have a house of our own,” Riei said.
When we’d almost left the fish market we smelt something wonderful: in a corner of the market some young men — probably builders, they had a wheelbarrow full of bricks and a tool satchel with them — were eating smoked fishes that dripped fat all over them. I’d like to get some of that some time, but in old clothes!
Then, finally, we came the cloth market where they sold linen and wool and yarn and sewing things and ready-made clothes! We found a stall with rag-dolls, some with a rag head, some with the head and hands made of wood, some of clay, but even Arni wasn’t small enough to like it if we brought her one, and the little princesses liked the clockwork birds much better. But next to that stall there was one with baskets full of small bits of cloth, and when I searched for a bit of brown woollen cloth to finish my monkey I found a whole rabbit skin and some bits that could make the belly and face and hands. And there was a box with tiny pieces of cloth, some no larger than my fingernails. When I asked what those were for, a woman standing beside us said that she used them to weave into her cloth so it got speckled. I picked out a handful that I liked the colours of, and when I wanted to pay and told the stallkeeper that I needed the rabbit skin to make a toy animal, and showed her the music box to explain what kind of toy, she said “Oh! Then you should to talk to the marionette-maker!”
“He’ll be on his fairing round,” the other woman said. “But his wife is at home, she makes most of the marionettes anyway!”
I didn’t know the word, but they’re those dolls that you make move from above with strings. Yes, it would probably be useful to talk to those people, perhaps we could learn from each other!
The rabbit skin cost fourpence, the other pieces a penny each, and I got the little bits for free.
Now we were really cold! But the women pointed us to the right part of the market to buy a coat.
Most of the clothes here were not new, but some had clearly been made over, and some stalls had a sort of tent where you could undress out of sight to try them on, and there were some copper mirrors that the stallkeepers kept lending to each other. There was so much to see that we almost forgot that we wanted coats (though we got colder and colder) until we ran into a stall with the most beautiful coats we’d ever seen, made from wool but not woven, it was more like an Ishey blanket, in bright colours, some plain, some with embroidery at the edges, and the best ones were made from wool in different colours that ran together like clouds.
“Ladies!” the man in the stall said. “Can I interest you in a coat? Made by the king’s Khas, exclusive for this market!”
Made by Khas? “I didn’t know that Khas could make things!” I said.
“They make only six of these every month,” the man said, “all different!” And he found some that were only a little too large for us, “but I see that you’re still growing, and they’re so durable that your children will be able to wear them too.”
That was warm! And beautiful! Riei was wearing one in colours like sand and ground spices, yellows and golden browns, and I had one that was like the sea I’d seen near Selday, all blue and green.
“I must admit that they’re not cheap,” the man said, “one rider and ten shillings each.”
(Frankly, that was about half of what I’d expected, I know what woollen clothes cost in Albetire.)
“We shall discuss it,” Riei said, and we took the coats off and left them on the stall because we didn’t want the man to think we’d run away with them and went out of earshot.
“I can afford it,” I said, after all I still had three whole riders in my purse, and that would buy both. I knew that Riei would probably be too proud to let me pay for both coats, so I said, “Then when we get to Veray you can buy me something!”
“Hm, I wonder if he’s charging a fair price or we have to bargain,” she said. I’d thought of that too! If this was Albetire, he’d have started at five or six riders –well, wainwheels– and I’d have been able to talk him down to four, and Aunt Mahsab to three because she was better at it than me. Riei took my hand and dragged me back to the stall and asked the stallkeeper, with her best “I’m from elsewhere and I don’t know the customs here” face, whether it was the custom to bargain. (And I stood by with my best “I’m a little foreign girl” face, for all I was the person with the three riders.)
It wasn’t the custom, it turned out, they were earning little enough from it as it was, but he’d give us a scarf each, and if we brought more customers he’d give them a discount! Later, Riei said that we already had three customers for him, big Arni, Erne and little Arni! But there’s probably nothing on the stall that little Arni won’t fit in twice over.
So now we have beautiful felt Khas coats! And they’re probably really special, because we didn’t see anyone else wearing anything even a bit like it.