After that delicious fish dinner followed about a week of frantic work. We visited the brothel a couple of evenings, I helped the doctors in the hospital out when they needed a bit of extra power — but most of the time I spent on the big window-of-Mizran design. It came out really well, though!
The design combined a lot of things and had a lot of color. In the middle Mizran, wearing a splendid stole, with a fox and a bear cub at his feet. Left and right, the artisans of Tylenay. Over his head, sky and the mountains. When it was done, we framed it and took it to the temple, where we could see it in the actual window. I was really, really proud of myself! I also managed to paint a marriage portrait for Venla end Amre, a pretty cool one, in three pieces, with two pieces closing over the main panel like a door. Outside, on the doors, there are Parande and Zendeghi, and if the doors are closed, they kiss. Inside, the left door has Timoine and the right door has Anshen. (I didn’t want to paint the Nameless, and in case, if I had wanted to do that, which one?) In the middle, there’s them hand in hand with their children around them. On the back, I painted an impression of their hospital and some other important places.
In the meantime, Cynla got into making gesso, making pigments, mixing paint — but she also got a bunch of sketch books of her own, and started doing what I do: draw and paint all the time. She’s really smart, so she learns fast, because she pays attention to what she does, what I do and tell her, of course, to our master!
Master Jeran had lots of work as well, doing guild portraits and paintings of the oil mill and the paper mill and things like that. But I was so busy all the time that I barely saw what he was creating before the paintings were shipped off!
And then the wagon was ready, we were paid (and pretty well, too, the design for the Mizran window, well, you can buy a street full of houses for what it fetched! At least here, in Turenay, the houses are a bit dearer.) And we were on the road again!
The scenery was SPECTACULAR!!! We went north out of Tylenay, along the river. There were thundering waterfalls, there were small hamlets and villages, the mountains were steep, but there were also flat bits where people were growing stuff to eat. And since it’s almost midsummer, the hillsides were a riot of flowers and blossoms and greens. We made really slow progress, now staying here for a day, then over there halting in the middle of the day to sketch and paint.
After a week or two of this leisurely kind of travel, we arrived at a rather largish farm. The people here were all with the Nameless, but we were invited to stay with them anyway, and the next day they were all (except for gramps) going to the nearby village of Stonybridge, about a day, or maybe two depending on how fast we’d be going.
Apart from Aine, who is a master in the guild of the Nameless, there were two gifted teenagers, Arni and Arin, and a 19 year old girl with great big tits, Hinla. And some more sons. Pretty soon after dinner, Arin and Aine started getting really interested in me. I was with the Nameless, wasn’t I? And when I confirmed I was with Anshen, they started whispering a bit.
I asked, “Hey, we’ve got two masters here, of both sides. Shall we have a real fight? I’m already a journeyman (I became one when I inked Ashti’s body) and way more powerful than you can guess, but if we have the masters make a circle, you’re both welcome to try yourselves on me.”
They agreed eagerly — it isn’t often that out here in the middle of the mountains people get the chance to fight (friendly, fairly, and according to the rules) with someone from the other side, let alone someone who has been trained in Turenay.
It had been quite a long time since I’d last fought — I don’t really care about it, it’s a bit boring even with new opponents, but you know, when you make a great painting, there’s something interesting added to the world, but when you beat a bunch of teenagers, there’s just a bunch of beat teenagers, and that doesn’t make the world cuter.
(Sorry, the next bit is going to sound like bragging… Can’t be helped!)
Anyway, I set out to teach them a lesson, so while I started out holding myself back, and gave them a chance to show me what they could do. They had the basics down pat, including looking out for each other — one would block, while the other would attack, and then the other way around. Mother Aine had taught them quite well!
But then Arin, after he blocked one of my attacks, he made the mistake to taunt “is that all you got!” I could hear his mom groaning at that, and his sister looked aside, taking her eyes from me, to check out her brother’s dumbiness. At that point I simply flooded the circle with light and anea and I sort of simply drowned them in it, after blinding them. When they fell to the ground, I snuffed the light out, a bit, and gestured at the referees, and they opened the circle.
“Archan, what was that!” asked mother Aine, and I said, “well, that was me. I do light. Also, I’ve fought with the Nameless himself, in most of his persons.”
Things got a bit awkward, until gramps took out the good brandy, and I got a jug of cider to share with the kids. They were still a bit dazy, but came out of it when I told them I’d drink all of it, if they didn’t want some.
This was quite a weird trip! Because we have a mule, and mother Aine’s family an ox, we went faster. But then, we’d stop quite a bit to draw, sketch and paint, and then they’d catch up. The first afternoon, we stopped by a brook, Master, Cynla and me, and I set out to teach Cynla how to spear-fish. Because, yes, I haven’t forgotten I’m one of the Waterbirds!
Since we took it easy, we camped out half-way. I taught Arni and Arin and the other boys how to catch fish, and demonstrate how to make a fish trap. So we had plenty of fish for dinner as well. Mother Aine’s household dog, he ***LOVES*** fish! Especially the innards, he likes to roll in them before eating them. Fortunately, even though I had caught the fish, I didn’t have to wash the dog!
There were others in the campsite, too. One of them sold pots, he offered everyone a discount if they’d buy before he’d setup his stall at the market at Stonybridge, because your sales at the market are taxed, one shilling in a rider. I got a couple of small glazed pots, they’re officially for brandy, but they are the right size to mix egg tempera in. We got talking about his trade, and how he and his wife couldn’t get any children. At that point Cynla butted in, talking about how there were plenty of children wanting a trade in the orphanage in Tylenay.
He went all huh… Are those brats from that hell-hole any good? And Cynla couldn’t stop telling him about her own story, how the doctors had changed and improved the orphanage from a — she admitted he was right — hell-hole where the orphans were fed just enough so they could give a couple of years of useful work in the mines to a place where people learned their letters, as the Queen said they should, and were sent out in proper apprenticeships, bringing their twelve riders, since that was also made good by the doctors (I think probably Lord Vurian, but whatevs). But that if they wanted someone young enough to regard them as their children — yes, there were orphans as young as that, too.
And then, when Cynla and I were asleep underneath the wagon, she confided in me how much she wanted to have a sister, and I told her, “when we are back in Turenay, in a year or so, you’ll have a sister: my sister, Lesla”.
I didn’t want to be more direct…
But she got it, and cuddled up and asked, “so, that means, you’re my sister, too?”
And I said yes, and then we had to figure out who was older, which I think is Cynla, but it’ll always be a question, since I don’t know how old I am, not within a year or three, four.
Stonybridge probably should be a town… It’s big! There are a couple of big farms in the center, as well as the Temple of Naigha, and then workplaces and houses smaller and closer up to each other around that center. It gives off a very prosperous feel, what with every place being painted up to the nines, and the Priestess of Naigha as fat or fatter than Hinla, who is going to be married tomorrow.
The priestess had a baby! So we asked her to feed her child in front of the statue, naked, if possible. Half-naked was possible, and Gods!, she was gorgeous!!! Fat, round, squishy, jiggly — Cynla was, of course, because of her previous job, already used to all kinds of shapes of women, but… She, too, recognized this woman was something special, and we sketched her like crazy during feeding time. Then, after helping with diapers, cleaning, sweeping and other chores, like we should, we went back to the wagon and started a panel each.
Cynla is getting good! We really made something that I think Selle will appreciate! Her kid obvs has an Ishey dad, but they don’t care about girl children… Not even if they, like Veh, turn out to be boy kids after all.
Then we prepared some food to share around the fire, and it was time to go there. The adherents of the Nameless were on one side of the village, we were on the other side, and in the village center, well, there was a big party going on! I always kind of feel that it would be better if it weren’t midsummer that we’d have this around-the-fire thing, because a camp file only gets fun for real if it’s dark, and there’s little of that at midsummer!
I was the youngest journeyman who could light a fire with her mind, so Alieth, a retired astronomer from the court, asked me to do it. Like always, I overdid it a bit! But fire is light, and light is what I do.
The night was spent eating, chatting, drinking, having deep conversations about the gods and people — and was over before we knew. Whenever I was sitting down, I was sketching, and when it became really dark, I was sketching by a little light I kept going over my sketchbook. Cynla followed suit, but Master Jeran had announced his intention of acquiring a hangover, and with some older masters was working steadily on that goal. It’s good to have a goal in your life!
During the night… Cynla noticed me playing with light for some of the other journeymen. She could see the anea, which means we’re right! She’s gifted too! So we can teach her! Though I had to warn her that I would be a pretty bad teacher, since I’m just way too powerful for my own good. I guess that’s because the Gods had planned on me being involved with the fractured Nameless, and given my gift a boost, but… It can make it frustrating for other people, I noticed that at school already. It’s the same with painting — Cynla will be good, and people will love her work, I’m sure of that. But, without boasting, since painting and sketching are working with light… I will be among the best.
As I proved at dawn when master Jeran and I painted the light coming over the eastern mountains. His work is better, obviously, but not as spectacular as mine. Dammit, that sounds like boasting again. I cannot help it!
In any case, the next morning we sat down in the village square, after a good breakfast, and started drawing couples. Charcoal + fixative: 2 shillings, silverpoint: 4 shillings. We did a roaring trade! And so did master Jeran — only he was doing the way more expensive tempera paintings.
We got food around mid-day from Lyan and Selle, they’re apprentices as the village’s only bakery. It might be the only one, but they bake GOOD bread! And I sketched them together, too. There was this old lady who wanted to be sketched with her great-granddaughter. There were couples, there were siblings, it was so much fun that I actually sketched and drew and painted until I fainted in the evening.
That was just when the market master, a local farmer, demanded to see our books, which we cooked up, and then added the price of the piece of paper we’d totted up the sales to the expenses, too. We made lots and lots of money, but it was a bit of a bummer that we needed to pay the village out of our income. Oh, well, I guess they need to pay people to maintain that stony bridge of theirs.
A quick rest put that to rights again, and in the evening Cynla and I joined the dancing. We’ll be staying here another day or two, to finish the commissions, and then, onwards, to the icy north!