Arin’s second report to the queen
Now he notices who is reading his reports…
Valdis, two days after my first, after the festival of Timoine
I never realized… Now I know why Master Ervan was grinning. But whatever I am writing down here will be read by the Queen! And I don’t know how to write properly for a Queen, what to say, how to say it, what to leave in, what to take out — Master Ervan says I have to write down everything that’s important and relevant, and leave out the rest, but how do I know what is important? Nothing is as important as cleanly butchering an ox, so it don’t suffer nor gets tough or leaves a mess all over the place… I know about oxen, so I’ll include the bit about the ox. Besides, it might explain why we didn’t learn a lot in the past two days.
Let’s see… after I finished my last letter, we went to have a beer the Corner. It’s nice beer, the beer Rovin serves, and we know the people there, so we took a table and just went over the things I’ve written about in my first when I felt like someone was watching me. Jeran noticed the same. There was only this boy at the door, a small, scrawny boy who looked like he eats even less than we do — I remember not having had breakfast that day and what with the things happening near the Guard House, nothing for dinner either, and as for a our evening bread, I’m not sure we were planning anything. My little sister was in the The Corner as well, in the kitchen, doing her homework with Rani.
But it was Jeran really, who (master Ervan says I should write “whom”, but I never say that, so why should I write it?), the boy was looking for, so Jeran should be writing this, but he’s inside with the boy, the same one I’m writing about now, in the Temple, the Temple of Timoine, so I’m writing the letter again. But that happens later on.
The boy came to our table, and I ordered a mug of breakfast beer for him — he looked like a thimble of the good stuff would keel him over — and he sort of begged without begging whether we wouldn’t stand him some bread as well, so I ordered bread and soup, but when I think back to it, I think the landlord never put that on our slate. He’s like that — a good man, even though he likes to boast about the rich ladies visiting the Corner these days, as if any rich lady would come here instead of the Three Kings.
The boy, Aidan, had a big parcel for Jeran, and he claimed he had already been paid for bringing it, which means he’s honest, and the parcel came from Jerna, from the Watch, there were all the witch’s medicine and herbs in there, as well as a tin box with lip-red.
We decided to ask Rusla whether the contents were any good, it would give us a chance to ask her about the quacks and witches, but to do that the next day, that’s today. I was still thinking about Maile, I’m really sorry about that because it means I’m not all the time thinking about the job master Ervan has given us, but I thought I’d send Maile a letter and have the boy bring it. He seemed clever enough, and I’d just spent an hour with master Ervan getting back some of my spelling. I used to be good at writing! Better than reading in any case.
So I wrote Maile a nice little letter, and she sent the boy back asking us to come and have our evening meal with her! That was more than I dared to expect, so we went, and this time I bought dinner. Jeran offered to pay for me, but I said, it was my treat, and I don’t want Maile to think I’m tight with money. She really is nice! We went inside together, she knows the inn, and besides, I wanted to know whether she would do that, be with me without her friends present, and she did come with me, and help me choose the pies. Her friend, Selle, she has said Maile likes me. So maybe I’ve got a chance.
Next morning we went to Rusla. I am not sure whether to put this in, I hope it won’t cause trouble for Rusla, because she’s decent enough and really knows a lot about herbs, we went to the back door, where she has a little yard, and she was treating a boy for an infected wound in his leg; she had bound him up and given him a salve. Then we showed her the witch’s bundle of herbs, and Rusla immediately saw that it was all very good, powerful stuff, and she pounced upon a packet of southweed, and immediately started to fill her pipe! We tried to learn from her whether she is a quack, as well, and what she thinks of the foreign witches, but she didn’t tell us a lot.
We left the package with her, in a locked chest, she said she might want to buy it all if it’s ours to sell, so we decided to go to the guard’s house to ask whether it is ours. But first we had to put our names down in the register in the Tunned Piglets, because if you’re without a master and don’t appear in the book for even a day or two, you get expelled from the guild. And you have to buy beer to be allowed to sign the book, so we had that horrible beer, fortunately our landlord had given us some bread that morning, so we weren’t drinking on an empty stomach!
And then Master Hinla came in, and she saw us and asked us to come with her for a big job, one that would take a some days, doing the butchering for a banquet in the Palace — but I forget, the Queen will know about the banquet. Master Hinla is a very good master, she is dean of the butcher’s guild, and supplies the Palace, even though she has her own shop as well, so we didn’t want to refuse, I hope that’s not a problem — we didn’t do much looking around today, but we will go to a few places tonight, after having given this letter to Master Ervan at the school.
There was also an apprentice butcher, from Lenay, who had been sent to Valdis by his master to finish his apprenticeship as a game butcher. But the master he should have gone to was dead, and he didn’t have the money to return to Lenay. Some guilds, like the builders, are organized and help apprentices and journeymen in trouble, but the butcher’s guild doesn’t do that, only if you get disabled through an unlucky cut.
There was an ox, two sows and a lot of game to work, and Master Hinla let me do the ox. I like oxen, they are placid, and if you do your work right they die as quietly as if they go to sleep and the meat stays tender. I could see Master Hinla thought I had done a good job, but I should also thank the men who helped me rack the carcass.
It was really nice day’s work! There were some small boys running about who were mightily interested — they begged the pigs’ bladders off Jeran, and an even smaller boy wanted the tassel of my ox — some girl washed it for him, though I have to say that we did a clean job: almost all the blood went in the tun, and except for the liver, all the organs were nice and sweet, and I didn’t perforate the intestines. And there were plenty of knucklebones to go round for those boys.
It’s such a pity the Palace wants to roast the whole ox! Such a beautiful beast, the meat would have been so tender, either the best cuts roast carefully or other cuts stewed. But it’s their meat not mine, and it felt really good to be working for real for a whole day, and tomorrow again.
Well, the apprentice had acquitted himself very well, too — Master Hinla was duly impressed, and the kitchen folk were amazed by his speed and neatness. And we were promised some nice cuts and sausages, and Aldin some fowls, we will get it tomorrow.
After work, Aldin, Jeran and me went to the Guard house to ask about the package with herbs. We were told we were free to sell them to Rusla, and were invited to dinner with the guards, which was very kind of Captain Jerna. She also told us that the witch had killed herself, and I now remember that Rusla told us the herbs had come from the store of Sarkash Yaktub.
Maybe I should also tell that we found the messenger boy who brought us the package, and that we went to the temple of Timoine to ask whether they could give him the apprentice money so he can get apprenticed to our landlord the baker, who told me he needs help. But the temple only had six riders for someone who went to be apprenticed at someone of his own people, they have more for people who are apprenticed at someone from another people, like a Valdyan with a Síthi (as if that would ever happen!). Now I might have to use the six riders I got for catching the Rat so Aidan has the full price. Rayin the baker said he doesn’t mind not getting the full price, but it is a bad start for an apprentice because he will have to make it up in work or even not get any money as a journeyman until he has made up the difference. At least, in our guild that’s the way it works.
I must close and seal this now, since Jeran and Aidan are coming out of the Temple of Timoine, so we are going to the bakery now and I will drop this letter off with Master Ervan.