Immediately after the previous episode (that is, the very next day).
(In fact Aidan brought the letter, but he and Fian arrived practically together, so it’s irrelevant)
This morning while we were getting ready to go on our trip though the poor parts of Essle, Fian came by with a letter from Khora that had an interesting view of Valdyan history though Iss-Peranian eyes. He also foresaw trouble with the dandar who was still living in the house. He did not give me any specifics and halfway though the conversation we really had to go, so I suggested that he think of a solution himself or come back to me when I had returned. We mentioned the Order as people who could deal with dandar. He left the two intact boys and their minder with us for their safety.
So Athal and I were rushed into the boats and we were off. The temple of Mizran had taken care of gifts and food and the city council had wood and nails and carpenters.
We went to three islands before going to the flood-plain for the final speech. Things unfolded in a similar way on each island. Boys would swim or run ahead of us to declare our coming and our intent. We picked up more of these the further we went. Athal would talk to the person in charge, breaking the ice, and then hang around talking to the men. Moyri would talk to the women to find out what things were like on the island, who was sick, and if they had someone to look at their sick and wounded. The priests of Mizran would give out gifts, mostly linen and food, and Moyri would prepare a meal together with the women. Meanwhile the priestess of Naigha would do something, I’m not sure what. Perhaps look for places to send people to or create a small temple. Meanwhile I would gather children who were old enough and sit down and start asking them if they could read, show them a letter or a word or two, and generally give them a lesson that wasn’t too hard, and prod them for ambitions they might have. This would go on until the food was done. Then I would give out the certificates we had prepared that said they were taught by the queen, and we would eat and say goodbye. And of course the school would get built.
At the Vurian school
When we arrived the island chief was waiting. I wasn’t quick enough to hear what Athal said to him, but by the time I got there he was hitting Athal on the shoulder and the atmosphere was relaxed. Things went by without a glitch there. I think that this is the place where Riei and Arni will fit in best, because it was a friendly place and the children were relatively young.
At the Radan school
The second Island was by far the most hostile. When we arrived, many of the boys were fighting. Some in support of us and others against us, no doubt. One of them threw some mud at Athal and he responded very calmly and made the mud under the boy tremble just enough to make him fall on his face. That broke the ice again. There were a lot of mixed descent children on this island, but all the adults where as pale as I am. Moyri found out that until about one and a half years ago foreign men had taken over the island, killed the men and taken the women for themselves. Grrrr. Until one night they were drugged to sleep and taken out to sea and left there in a boat. They never came back.
They must have been spies of some kind. But who sent them or if there are any more I do not know. And given that these people see themselves as apart from us, I don’t know how we would find others if they were there. Perhaps children going to school would tell their friends, and someone would tell a teacher or a priestess, who would know to go to the Order or the city council. I’m sure very little goes on there that isn’t seen by someone. We just have to make it someone who cares and knows where to ask for help.
The boy who threw the mud turned out to be a very suitable doctor’s apprentice. He should be around tomorrow or soon and I’ll see if we can’t apprentice him to one yet. And the boys, who had become quite mature for their age given their circumstances, were well able to finish the school under the supervision of Faran, who we left on the Island together with some tools.
At the Alyse school
This was a bigger and richer place. There were lemon trees and other crops. Everything looked just a little more affluent. They had a midwife who came over when there was need from the next island, which was even better off. At first it looked like things were all right here but among the people greeting us was a girl who should have been a priestess of Naigha. She was in training with the priestess who used to live here, but the older priestess died. This girl, Doryn, had had child-paralysis when she was eleven and lost the use of her legs. That meant that she wasn’t able to join the priestesses. She did find a worthwhile purpose in teaching the children of this island. I could tell that they knew a lot more then the ones I had taught earlier today. We thought this would be the best place for Lysna to set up teaching. That way she could take on Doryn as her apprentice.
This island even had a carpenter who could help us build the last school and lend the tools we were missing now. When it was almost done and the lessons were over Moyri asked me if this should then be called the Raisse school, after me. Now I’m not going to name this school after myself. If someone else decides to do that, fine, but I’m not going to. So I said let Lysna decide and she came of with naming it after the previous queen, Athal’s mother, and that was fine with me.
During dinner there was talk of importing rice. A grain that grows with its roots under water. Not far from this island there was a swamp forest and there the water might just be clean enough. Seems like something worth trying, but Moyri is talking care of that, I think.
At the flats
We were all tired by now, but there was still the meeting on the flats. The place that floods in spring, but where many people can gather at other times, and many did. We waited there for over an hour while people kept arriving. When the people stayed in their boats because there was no more room for them to get out, it was clearly time to start Athal’s speech. I had been close to him and helped him think over what to say. It was simple though. He had to be serious and sincere and show the people that they were not forgotten. And simple and sincere is his strong suit. So I held his hand as he talked to the crowd. And I could see that he was trained for it somehow. Vurian needs to be trained too, and perhaps its about time to begin. I will start by asking him some serious questions now and then and help him find the answer. After the speech the children stayed on the dais for safety while we went into the crowd to shake hands and distribute the last of the food we had brought. Then it was time to go back.
When we got back everyone desperately needed a bath. Vurian looked like a ball of mud. And we were only a little cleaner. So that is what we did. Moyri brought up the spies, but I don’t know what to do about them or how to find out what they were up to. Fian had had the Order arrest the dandar. It’s good that he showed initiative and I’ll have to go and visit soon.
I feel something akin to angry or frustrated now that we have done the whole day. It all went very well, no more hostilities than a clump of mud, and I am sure we made an impression. But on the boat back I was thinking how there is so much these people need. And what’s more important?
- To know that they are part of Valdyas and that we are there for them too.
- Food and clean water.
- Doctors and midwives.
- Land that can give them a crop.
- Each other.
- Learning to read and write.
It seems long ago I decided that learning to read and write would give them the chance of making something of themselves and then perhaps serve as an example to others or even give something back. But I feel theoretical, removed or something. How do you tell a woman who has been bleeding for a year or the girl who can’t become a priestess because she lost her legs that we will give them reading and writing skills when they need doctors. Intellectually I know it’s right but it doesn’t feel that way. That’s probably why Moyri feels good about the trip. She got to do immediate good, but I have to think about how we can possibly help all of these people. If I spent the rest of my life just shaking hands, not even eating or sleeping, I could not shake them all if I lived to be eighty years old.
That’s how I felt last night anyway when Athal dragged me away so we could spend our last night together. I suppose both Moyri and I are trying to give them hope for a better future. Hope founded in something real. Once they have that and have learnt to read and write, they can become doctors and teachers with family still living there so they will come back there and help make things better.
Things I need to do.
- Visit dandar with the Order
- Visit soldier camp
- Get answer from Khora
- Meet with teachers’ guild
- Get doctor to look at everyone in the palace and the potential apprentice
- Moyri’s prescription
And tomorrow we will watch Athal sail off to war. Sigh.
(Day of Naigha, first week of Naigha in the year 547 of the kingdom.)