I’ve been tricked! And I don’t even know who to be angry with for that because I don’t know who was in on it. For all I know Vurian and Rovin knew all the time. I hope they didn’t because I don’t want to travel all the way to Veray with people I can’t trust. If it was to teach us a lesson, well, I’ve learned a lesson: never to leave the house again overnight without my tools, because this is the second time I’m stuck somewhere without them and this time Riei can’t steal them back for me because she’s in the same fix. If it was just ordinary stuff I wouldn’t be so angry because I could get new ones, but those are the tools my father gave me on his last Feast of Mizran, that I’ve made so many things with since then that really work. Not that I brought any of those things because I didn’t think I’d want them on so short a trip. And I don’t have the hair-clasp Riei gave me, or the squid pendant I was making for her that’s now lying half-finished in Master Sidhan’s workshop. I hope someone thinks of sending that after me so I can finish it, even if it’s years later.
First they tell us that we have to wait until spring to travel to Turenay and Veray, but the pilgrimage in winter is all right because it’s only for one night, and now we’re travelling in winter anyway with only supplies for that one night! Unless Rovin knew all along that we’d be away much longer, after all he had a splint and bandages and stuff that “his milk-brother’s father” as he put it had made sure he took with him. But for all the boys are so grown-up and sensible they’re still only ten years old and if anything happens to them it’ll be our fault, mine and Riei’s, because we’re older and we’re supposed to keep them safe, we promised that to the king! Someone should have warned us so we could have planned for keeping them safe on a long journey, not been stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter without even a hairbrush, let alone a hammer. I don’t know if I’ll be less worried or more angry (or both) if the boys brought all their useful travel stuff because they knew that this was coming. If that was so they could at least have told us, too! Suppose I bleed again before we get anywhere, what shall I do, bleed on my only skirt and the mule saddle? I don’t think Rovin brought girls’ things.
It started so nice, a pleasant ride through fields and woods on a feast day. Perhaps I should have suspected something when we met the young man sitting on a log, saying he’d broken his leg when a tree fell on him, but he didn’t look as if he was in any pain (that’s when Rovin brought out the splint and bandages, Vurian and Arni were far ahead, having fun moving fallen branches out of the way with their minds). And Riei saw right through him and said “if you are who I think you are, you can heal yourself!” He offered us food but I’ve heard all the Iss-Peranian tales and you don’t accept food from someone who isn’t people, so I said that we had our own food with us. But I don’t think anybody ate anything then (and I was really hungry when we arrived at the eternal fire so I think I’m right about that, even though I’m not thinking very clearly now). And later we had a young man riding the spare mule who looked so much like the first one that I said “I think you are your own brother!” when he talked about his brother in the wood. (Can someone be their own brother? They have the same parents so why not?) I think Riei tried to say “Archan” and “Anshen” a couple of times but she stopped in the middle of the word every time.
Then we were suddenly at the eternal fire already, and the spare mule’s saddle was empty again. A Valdyan girl and two Ishey boys were there before us, all of them about our age (well, between me and Riei I think, so about thirteen). “Are you on a pilgrimage too?” they asked, and said they’d come from Three Hills. The girl was called Rusla, I don’t remember the Ishey’s names. They were roasting rabbits over a fire, not the eternal fire of course but a fire they’d built, and we shared our food with them as well.
Then the girl asked us, “you’ve come from the capital right? Can you dance for the gods? Perhaps it’s not very decent because you have to do it with all your clothes off and there are boys here, but the way those two are going on they might as well be girls, and you two are young enough. I learned from Hylti who lives in Three Hills, and she learned from Doctor Cora in Turenay.”
We couldn’t, but we were all willing to learn! We all undressed and Rusla showed us the steps and we danced the rest of the night until it started to become light. Someone danced with us, another young man who looked exactly like his brother or brothers, only different enough that I knew it was the other one. He didn’t say a word, but kissed each of us on the cheek before he left. (Or disappeared, we didn’t see him leave but he was just gone.)
“We came to wake!” Vurian said as we were putting our clothes back on. “And now we’ve danced all night!”
“We danced for the gods,” Riei said, “how isn’t that a wake?” And I don’t know how we came to talk about whether Three Hills was too far to go there and come back in time for work and school, but Arni said “I think I can still reach Mother from here and ask!” and she did, without even waiting for one of us to help her.
“I have to go back,” she said when she was done talking to big Arni. “And you Ishey and your friend are expected in Valdis.”
“Valdis! But Sabeh is there!” one of the Ishey said.
“Yes, that’s why,” Arni said with a wicked grin. “And by the way, the four of you” — that was Riei and me and Vurian and Rovin — aren’t expected back. See you in four years, Vurian!” And before any of us could stop boggling she was gone, with the Ishey boys and Rusla, on Vurian and Rovin’s horses!