For four or five weeks, I was working and learning so hard that I didn’t even have time to work on my own things. Except that Rava taught me sewing and stitching, and I brought the monkey and the rabbit-skin and the scraps of fabric and we did the lesson with that and I managed to finish it! And she taught me to make things that weren’t so obvious that they told only one story, but that people could use to tell different stories themselves. I taught her to make dolls move by themselves, and we invented new sorts of dolls together, one that blew itself up until it was three times as large and then collapsed again with a whistling breath! “Orian will love that one,” she said, “makes the children laugh even before the story starts!”
Sidhan taught me what all kinds of metals did, and how to mix them so they did yet different things, and to shape them the way the material liked. Then I realised that I’d been doing that all along when I was teaching myself to work copper, so it wasn’t as hard for me as for some of the real apprentices! I was starting to learn to cover metal with enamel, but I’d only progressed to grinding up the colours while she talked about the properties of each thing I was grinding. She also taught me how to keep safe while I worked, because a lot of what I was working with was very dangerous, hot or poisonous or sharp, or sharp and poisonous, if you got a sliver of copper under your skin your hand could rot off or you could die of it.
And at the temple of Mizran I worked with Riei most of the time, but we didn’t have a chance to talk, because just as we’d started working there a huge chest of documents had come from Solay and Riei had discovered that one was forged, and then we had to check every one of them and it turned out that most were forged! I think Riei worked at the temple on some but not all of the days that I was in the other two places, but somehow we never got to talk about it because there were always other people around.
The last day of the week — I call it the day of Anshen but of course Riei calls it the day of Archan — we usually had a long and late breakfast and went to the bath-house, and then I sometimes managed to do some tinkering but I was often working on my notebooks from Rava’s and Sidhan’s lessons as well.
Then one morning Arni and Erne came into our room and said “Tomorrow we move! We’ve written to your masters to give you the day off.”
It was Sidhan’s day, and she didn’t try to make me do two days’ work (not that I could have, a lot of metalwork takes exactly this much time and it’s impossible to make it go faster). When I got back to the palace I said to Riei “I can almost make enamel now!” and she said “Will you make me a pendant?”
Yes, of course I would! She wanted a squid with arms in all directions, in pale blue and pink and green, and I already knew how to make those colours, I’d ask the master if I could do it and pay for the materials myself.
That evening we packed most of our things. While we were doing that the princes came in. “I came to thank you,” Vurian said, “you — all of you — have been so good for my parents!”
We didn’t know what we had done! “They can’t get out much,” Vurian went on, “and talking to you, and to your mothers, they know what ordinary people are up to. They’d so like to do that themselves! We’ll miss you a lot.”
“We’ll miss you too,” I said. “But we can come to visit and eat with you every now and again!”
“Or we can come and eat at your house,” Vurian said, “I’ll ask Father and Mother about it!”
Then there was another knock on the door, and that was Erne and big Arni. “Can the gentlemen leave the ladies’ dormitory now?” they asked, and the princes bowed themselves out.
“They’ve got such wonderful manners!” Riei said, “not what you’d expect from a boy. And it’s all real, they’re not just pretending. And he’s only an apprentice king now, and not even old enough to be apprenticed.”
“It’s not as if there’s a kings’ guild!” I said, and then Erne knocked on the door again and said that we ought to go to sleep and stop talking, so we did.
In the morning there was a cart to take all our stuff to the other house. The princes helped load it. Vurian looked at me, and then at Riei, and said thoughtfully, “I don’t think either of you is going to be a queen.”
“That’s not the work I want to do anyway,” I said. But Arni said to him, “In two, three years, let’s talk again, you and me!”
It was the day of Mizran, and there had just been a full moon, so I remembered about Fian the horse seller! So we went by the cattle-market on our way. Erian saw us coming and came our way. “Hey, it’s the young ladies for the mules! Did you bring your whole family?” And to little Arni, “would you like to ride the old mare, too?”
“You definitely want to ride the old mare,” I said, “it’s fun!” So Erian got the mare and boosted Arni into the saddle and went round the market with her while Riei and I found Fian to talk about the mules. Big Arni and Erne stayed at a distance but I was sure they’d want to talk about money later.
The mules were large (but not so large or wide as the mare) and greyish-brown and they had long soft ears and looked friendly. “Go make friends with them,” Fian said, “mules are very loyal to their people, if they don’t know you they won’t do anything you say, and if they don’t like you still less!” So we went to talk to the mules, and one liked Riei at once, and I scratched another between the ears and then behind the ears and she (they were all mule-mares) sniffed me and seemed to like me. And then we went and scratch the other two who were just as interested.
“Do you have stabling for them?” Fian asked. “Vurian said we can put them in their stables for the time being,” Riei said.
“Is that Prince Vurian?” Erian asked, who had just come back with the mare and little Arni. “I’ll have to go and check on the mules then, I’d like to see Vurian again. And his horse.” Because the prince had bought his horse from Fian, too! A little dappled mare, and Rovin had her sister.
Big Arni talked with Fian about the price of the mules, but she didn’t haggle, because it was reasonable. (I don’t remember what it was, but more expensive than a Khas coat and cheaper than a prince’s linen shirt. And Arni paid, which meant that they weren’t as much ours as we’d have wanted but we could figure that out later.)
When we got to the house we hardly recognised it, the whole front was now made of brick and the roof had been tiled and there were two front doors. “Oh!” I said to Erne. “One for your practice!” And most of the rest of the house was now one large kitchen (there was a tiny front parlour) with a copper bath and a hot-water kettle where one of the bedsteads had been. There were stairs to the attic, and when we climbed those we saw that there were tiny rooms, each with a bed. “Ooh, we can have guests!” Riei said. Or perhaps some of patients who couldn’t go home, I thought later.
We didn’t have to do anything except find a place for our own things, all the rest was finished already. There was enough room under our bedstead to put everything away, clothes and hair things and my work-bag and my and Riei’s tools and our notebooks and Arni’s school stuff. And behind the house the outhouse had been rebuilt and had a tiled roof too. The old herb woman was there and some other neighbours, who were very glad they had neighbours again. “My sisters are off to the east by the Feast of Timoine,” I heard Arni tell a couple of boys about her age, “but I’m staying!” I think the boys were in the same school, so she knows some people already.
Then a woman came into the kitchen carrying a large basket and said to Arni, “Sorry I’m late!”
“You’re not, Rusla, don’t worry, we’re early.” And then the woman called Rusla unpacked her basket and started to cook! Of course, none of us have time to cook when Erne has a practice and big Arni goes to law school and Riei and I are both apprenticed and little Arni is in school every day!