A boat and a scary man

We set out on the reed boat as soon as everything was ready. Rhinla had made a special thick piece of boat to hide the purse full of money in! We put Vurian between us and taught him to paddle, but he was too tired to paddle so we wedged him more securely so he could sleep. And I put my head on his butt and slept too, because I hadn’t had much sleep last night.

When I woke up we were already almost in Veray! It really went a lot faster downstream. We put the boat ashore in a reed-field so it wouldn’t stand out, and hid ourselves as well as we could, and went to Maile’s house where Master Jeran had had a room. We couldn’t have that room but we could have a room, for a day and a night, and we could pay for it, too, we had the money-purse for that kind of thing! Now Rhinla wanted to sleep because she’d been paddling the boat to Veray all night long, and she locked herself in the room with Vurian and I went into town with the purse to buy a boat. Not that I knew where or how to buy a boat! But I decided to go to the harbour because that was full of boats.

When I passed the house where the fighting had been, there was a boy about my age with the people repairing it. “Hey,” I said, “looks good, last time I saw this house it was on fire!” We talked about that for a bit while he worked, but I don’t think he knew anything about the fight. “Would you know where I can buy a boat?” I finally asked him, because he lived in Veray and he just might know people I didn’t know existed.

“I don’t buy a lot of boats!” he said, “How big does it have to be?”

“For three people to go to Tilis in,” I said. And yes, he thought his uncle might want to sell his boat, because the uncle was too old to go fishing! He could take me there but he’d be working all day, of course, so I promised to be back at sunset if I wanted the boat and not come back if I found another one before then.

Then I went to the harbour and saw boats being made, and boats being painted, and boats being repaired, and boats being broken into pieces, and boats being loaded and unloaded. And I looked where boats were going from the harbour and how to get out of the harbour without standing out because of doing something different than everybody else.

I was so full of boats then that I started back, but it was through different streets because I’d walked quite a long way along the harbour. Near a large white building I saw a cat that looked familiar! I thought we’d left that cat with Master Jeran in Turenay! The cat went into the building, and I followed her, it looked like a place where you could just go in like a temple of Naigha, only not of Naigha. I found the cat sitting at the feet of a huge statue of a woman with a child on her arm, looking as if she was at home there (the cat, not the woman, though the woman was at home too, I could see that). I sat there for a long time, stroking the cat. I really was the cat! She smelt a little like oil paint!

A girl with skin about as brown as mine, and hair about as curly as Rhinla’s, asked “Can I help you? You look like you need something from Dayati.”

“I don’t think you can help,” I said, “my sister is angry but not with me.”

“Can you tell me why?”

“No,” I said, “it’s not mine to tell.” But I could say that this place felt very good and safe, and she said that it was the temple of Dayati and that Dayati was Timoine. I didn’t know Timoine was a grown-up lady with a baby! The priestess in Essle had never told us that when she was teaching us about the gods. But it was the Síthi people who had built the temple because there were so many of them living in Veray, the girl told me (and also that her name was Prithi) so perhaps people from different countries see different parts of the gods.

I went to get Rhinla to look at the cat, and I wanted to get Vurian too but Rhinla locked him into the room. That was a pity because I thought it would be good for Vurian to be in the temple! And Rhinla wasn’t convinced it really was the same cat, but she (the cat) wanted to come with us, Prithi said so too.

Then the sun was almost setting so we went back to the boy mending the house. He took us to a bit of harbour where there were little huts and fishing-boats. His uncle was sitting in front of his hut, mending a net. He was called Ervan and his nephew was Erian. The boat was just the right size! And everything that needs to be in a boat was in the boat, except the oars, they were lying in a rack next to it.

Rhinla said that she wasn’t going to pay more than twelve silver riders for it because that was what a boat cost! But I thought boats didn’t usually cost that much, the twelve riders had just been because Master Jeran wanted the bad people to pay us enough money to go to school with.

“You know what,” Uncle Ervan said, “I’ll sell you the boat for twelve new-minted riders or six old tarnished riders.”

I found six old tarnished riders in the purse! Five with the head of the king on it, and one with the head of a queen who Rhinla said wasn’t the real queen because the queen was thin and the head was of a chubby woman. But Uncle Ervan said that this was the old queen, the king’s mother.

We paid him the six riders and now we had a boat! And on the way back to our room we passed a butcher and bought a little barrel of salt pork and a hard sausage. Rhinla wanted to take a barrel of pancakes too! “I don’t think pancakes come in barrels,” I said, but we bought an empty barrel for a couple of pennies.

And Maile promised to bake pancakes if we gave her two shillings extra for the flour and milk and eggs! She started at once because, she said, filling the barrel would take a lot of pancakes! But first she took a pie out of the oven and cut it into eight pieces. “Is there anyone else living in the house?” we asked, but the people who were didn’t eat in the kitchen, we could have two pieces each, and that felt like twice as much pie. There was chicken and turnip and carrot and eggs in the pie!

But Rhinla was still angry and I didn’t know what to do about that. And we were up half the night again because Vurian was dreaming bad dreams about sitting on a cart in a cage that he only just fitted in.

In the morning we had a barrel full of pancakes! With honey and butter between the layers. I carried it, and we made Vurian carry the barrel of pork, and Rhinla carried the sausage and the bucket with cups and bowls and spoons.

When we got to Uncle Ervan’s house he’d put the boat ready for us, so we were away at once, and that was a good thing because there was a scary person looking at us! With their mind, we couldn’t see who it was, but it felt like a man. Vurian was very scared, and I knew it had something to do with his dream, perhaps he’d dreamed of the scary man, but he still didn’t speak anything we could understand and I hadn’t been in his dream this time.

Getting away from the scary man didn’t make Vurian less scared, he looked as if he got more scared! So I brushed him some more with the imaginary brush, but this time it snagged on something when I did that, and I found a kind of thread that was fixed to his head and it went somewhere, it looked like all the way to Veray! Now that was really scary! We wondered whether to cut it because it looked as if someone was sucking something out of him through it. I tried to reel it in like fishing-line, and got a bit of it bunched up in my hand, but when I let it go it was back where it had been.

And I think my pulling alerted someone because there was something rushing at us! Rhinla and I made a shield at the same time, like we’d learned from Lord Vurian! And the something hit it with a loud crash (at least in my head it was loud), and stuck in it trembling, and it was a black knife made of power, of mind-stuff. Rhinla pulled it out and looked at it with a disgusted look on her face. “Perhaps I can cut the line with this,” she said, but she threw it back where it had come from instead. She couldn’t throw it all the way to Veray but it gave her an idea. “Hey, cat,” she said, “make yourself useful, will you, and catch me a live rat!”

Catching live rats isn’t hard for a cat but bringing them back still alive is, and the rat wasn’t very alive when the cat brought it back but alive enough. So Rhinla smeared a lot of power on the rat and put the rat on the line and gave it a push. It ran along the line for a bit and then fell off, but the power went on and on and we knew it was hitting the scary man!

All that time we were going farther and farther away from Veray, and the thread pulled thinner and thinner, and I saw us arriving in Tilis or even in Dol-Rayen with Vurian on a thread that was too thin to even see! There must be a way to get it off him. “Let’s take him to the doctor in Essle,” I said, “or to the witch, or the woman from the Order!” But Rhinla wanted us to try before then, and she saw that there was something missing in Vurian’s head, a bit of his spirit, and she tried to give him a bit of her own spirit to fill the hole. And that worked! The hole was still there but it was a lot smaller. I could see that Rhinla now had a hole in her spirit too, and I couldn’t fix it like we’d fixed the holes in people’s light, so it took me some time to decide to give Vurian a bit of me as well. But I did. And when the hole in his spirit was patched we could cut the line with an ordinary knife. Though i think there was a bit of anea on the knife, too.

The first thing Rhinla did then was check if she could still paint, if she hadn’t given that piece of herself away! But she could. We couldn’t see which pieces we’d given away at all, but it really was what Vurian needed.

And then we were all so hungry that we ate a lot of pancakes from the barrel, nice sticky ones!