The first guest for the feast was unexpected: it was Ruzyn! “I’m part of the security detail for your other visitors,” she said, “but don’t tell anyone, especially not the princes!” And many another family around our common garden suddenly had an aunt or an old friend or a third cousin visiting who had remembered that they had friends or family here and wanted to celebrate the feast with them. Not that anyone minded.
Then there was another knock on the door, and that was Vurian with his whole family! And as Riei had already thought, they brought pies from the palace bakery. Everybody got talking — it was a bit awkward to call the king and the queen by their names, but they were our guests, it wasn’t a royal audience!
Then the king –Athal!– asked me if it would disturb anyone if he played some music. Of course not, I said, and he got a viol out of the case he’d brought and tuned it and started to play. Rusla ran to her room and came back with a mouth-harp and joined him!
“Seeing that Rusla has the evening free,” Erne said, “laying the table falls to you youngsters.” That was easy! We had Vurian and Rovin to help carry dishes, and Riei asked Radan to get the basket of leaves she’d left in the garden and decorate the chairs. The geese were ready, with turnips under the dripping. There was bread from the baker, because though Rusla could bake very good bread she couldn’t do it at the same time as the geese, it needed something different with the oven. (Like you can’t melt copper and set enamel in the same furnace at the same time, it figures.)
We ate and drank, there was a small cask of wine — I don’t know if it came from the palace or from our own cellar — and a pot of tea and jugs of small beer and water. And we talked about all kinds of things. When we’d eaten enough goose and pie the boys went into the garden with the sausages and roasted them to give to whoever wanted one (starting with themselves, of course). Some more people came to join the music, a man with a drum and a woman with a flute. I think everybody secretly knew who the red-haired man with the eye-patch was who played the viol like it was his daily work (and he did have a green ribbon to tie his hair back) but nobody talked about it.
There was dancing, and more to eat and drink! I saw a young priestess of Naigha dancing, and around midnight (at least I thought it was) she went into a house with a young man.
Far into the night the queen took me and Riei aside and asked “Can you sleep on horseback?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “I’ve never been on the mule longer than an hour or two. But I don’t think so.”
“Then you’d better get some sleep. Vurian and Rovin can ride in their sleep but I’m going to try to get them to bed, too.”
We and Arni crawled into our bedstead where there were already two small princesses and a smaller prince. There wasn’t any music any more, and not much noise, only people talking quietly, so it was easy to get to sleep even though it was crowded.
Arni and I were the first to wake in the morning, and when I put my head out of the bedstead I poked through a seal. That woke Vurian up, who had been sleeping on the floor in a heap with Rovin and Radan. “That’s a nice seal,” I said, “did you want to protect us?”
“Not protect you, warn you! And me too! So you wouldn’t step on us in the morning or getting up for a piss.” Because the boys were sleeping exactly where anyone getting out of the bedstead would step.
“Clever,” I said, and scrambled out on the place that Vurian had got up from, Arni behind me. The king and queen were sleeping on the big table, the baby on top of her mother. Ruzyn was curled up against the garden door. The bath was full of clean water.
“Shall we warm the washing-water?” Vurian asked, and Arni nodded while I must have looked a bit stupid. “Haven’t you learned that? I can show you.” So we all held our hands in the bath-water and I could see what Vurian and Arni were doing –she picked it up at once, or she’d learned it already, I couldn’t tell– but the two of them were working together so seamlessly that I didn’t get a chance to do anything, though I think I learned enough to practice on my own and get the hang of it.
And every gifted person in our house and around the garden knew what we were doing.
“You should come to Turenay with me!” Vurian said. “We can do so much together!”
“I’ve still got three years of school here,” Arni said, “and I don’t want to learn everything together with you anyway, then I’ll never learn to do things on my own! It’s like you’re the pudding-mold and I’m the pudding. I don’t want to stay wobbly! When you’re done in Turenay it’s my turn, if I want to go.”
By the time that the three of us were washed, more people were up. Vurian got caught by his father, who said, “When have your mounts’ hooves last been checked?”
“Yesterday!” Vurian said. “Rovin’s horse’s and mine and the mules, too.”
“Good. Then I can give you leave not to come to the temple service today. Go and get ready.”
We packed a change of linen and Rusla filled a large bag with bread and cheese and cold meat and apples. “Do we take blankets?” I said. “I think there’s a village near the place and we can ask to sleep in someone’s barn.”
“I think you’re going to have a night-wake instead,” the king said, “but blankets are a good idea, to wrap yourselves in, and an extra one to sit on.”
Then people started going to the Temple of Naigha –I was so glad I’d gone to the temple in Essle to pray for my parents and Arzu or I’d have been sorry not to get the chance– and we went to get our horses and mules, and put our bags and blankets on the extra mule, and rode to the south. Right through the fort of the Order!
“What is your purpose?” the guards at the drawbridge asked.
“We’re going to conquer your temple and set up camp in it,” Riei said, but with such a grin that everybody knew she was joking.
“A pilgrimage to the eternal fire,” Vurian said solemnly, and someone opened the gate out of the city for us and we were on our way.