We slept very well in the hay-loft, close together under the rough blankets. When we woke up our seal was still there! We said our prayers and repaired the holes in our heads — I still couldn’t see what Vurian did but I could see that it worked.
“If I’m going to die,” Rhinla said to Vurian, “you have to kiss me as if I’m a woman. Before I die I want to be kissed.”
“I don’t,” I said. Because kissing is stupid!
We went down the ladder and into the kitchen and we got porridge. Rhinla didn’t even wait until she got a spoon but crammed the porridge into her mouth with both hands. “The faster you eat, the less chance someone comes and takes it away before you’re finished!” she said. But there was nobody here who wanted to take our food away, and there was enough for everybody!
Then we offered to do the dishes (well, I offered, and I got Vurian and Rhinla to join in) and we talked about how you can be sure that something exists: if you’ve seen it? if you’ve heard of it? if you’ve made it? if you’ve made it up? You can make up things that don’t exist, like the bird Rhinla had painted, but perhaps that makes things exist, perhaps there are such birds now in the world somewhere far away in Iss-Peran! Making something up at least means that it can exist.
We went to buy the horse! There were two horses in the meadow but we wanted the large one, because all three of us had to ride it together. We called it and it came to see what was up. I was making friends with it when the man whose horse it was came, and said “Oh, you’re the youngsters who want to buy my horse.” We didn’t know what a horse cost but he said it was eighteen riders, and we had more than that in the purse, and he’d give us a blanket and reins and straps and horse food. Not a saddle, because saddles are more expensive than horses, and we wouldn’t fit on a saddle anyway, not all three at the same time!
The way to the west was on the top of the cliff, close to the sea, past lots of fruit trees and fields with vegetables. Most fruit were the round kind we’d eaten, and other kinds as well, but we didn’t stop to taste them. There weren’t any people on the road this time, with or without goats (we did see some goats or sheep in the distance, but there was no person with them that we could see). But when Rhinla looked ahead with her mind she could see some people!
It took us more than a day to get there, though. On the way we made pictures with light. Vurian had never tried it and said he couldn’t, but Rhinla bullied him and he made a fish with two little legs. “It’s a land-fish!” he said. That figured, there are sea-fishes and river-fishes, why not land-fishes? And we made up a whole story about the land-fish, that it’s so large that there can be a village on its back (Rhinla drew the village on Vurian’s drawing) and when there’s a fire the fish jumps and thrashes (Vurian made the fish go up and down, and jiggle its legs). Then I put out the fire with a great big cloud full of rain, so much rain that the land-fish became a water-fish! “It needs paddling feet,” Vurian said, and gave it four more feet like a duck has (well, a duck has only two, but that sort of feet).
We wanted to make the horse go faster, and I remembered what Lady Rava had taught me with the reins and did that, but it helped only a little and not for long, it wanted to walk at its own pace. But that didn’t matter, because we came to the place where we’d seen the people, a big house with little houses all around it built against the walls. In the big house a man lived on his own, called Ervan.
“Are you the king?” Vurian asked, because the house was like a palace!
“The king of my house,” Ervan said.
“And do you have a queen, too?” I asked.
“My queen died,” Ervan said, and he looked so sad that it made us sad too. But he was glad to have us for company, and he didn’t want any money for food and a place to sleep, but instead he wanted to hear stories of our adventures! And we could tell those!
Then we talked about the gods, because we had to explain about all the Namelesses. “Gods are just like grown-ups,” Rhinla said, “they tell you what to do, and when you do it they tell you to do something else! Gods are STUPID!”
Then Rhinla felt a hand on her shoulder, a girl a bit older than us, who said “Gods are hard to understand, but not stupid!” She was the priestess of Naigha! But she wasn’t wearing a long grey dress, and her hair was pinned to her head, not in a long braid, she only dressed like that when she was doing priestess work. “Oh,” Rhinla said, “that’s because you want to have a man more often than only once a year?”
“That’s not it,” Selle said, but she blushed anyway. We talked a bit about Naigha, and that there even were priests of Naigha abroad, and with the Khas! We’d heard that at school, but Selle didn’t know it yet.
“Naigha is the only one who isn’t stupid!” Rhinla said. “All the Namelesses are stupid! If they’d just taken each other’s hands then I could have gone back to Turenay and done other things!”
“Would you like to be with Naigha for a while?” Selle asked, but Rhinla didn’t want that, it was just like being with Jerna in Essle, she didn’t want to go because she was afraid she wouldn’t want to leave. She was still convinced that she was going to die! “There isn’t any ‘for a while’ any more,” she said.
In the morning Ervan gave us food to eat on the way, bread and cheese, and even pancakes when we asked for those! Ervan made them himself. A stack in a linen cloth, without any syrup or honey because that would have been much too sticky in the cloth, but they were very nice anyway. And we got food for the horse, too, it had eaten all the food from the other village.
Now we weren’t right on the edge of the cliff any more but we could still see the sea if we craned our necks. Between here and Dol-Rayen there weren’t many villages, none at all on the road we were on, and it was so dark in the night that we took turns keeping watch. There were more stars than I could count (but that’s not difficult, I can’t count to as much as I’d like yet). Rhinla’s turn was before mine, and sometimes she left drawings of light in the air.
And one night she told me that she’d seen the bad people’s ship and set it on fire! “With all the sailors who aren’t bad people?” I asked. Because I don’t mind killing crooks, but I do mind killing innocent people who are only sailing the ship with the crooks on it because that’s their work! I could see the ship when I looked closely with my mind (like craning the neck of my mind), and it was smouldering but not sinking. I hoped the sailors could swim and get away! Rhinla or I could have swum that distance, but I think most sailors can’t.
We woke Vurian up with talking about the ship, and it was almost morning anyway so we ate some of our bread and cheese, and I took care of the horse while he and Rhinla talked about the ship some more. “I don’t want you to die!” I heard him say to Rhinla, and I called to them “Me neither!”
“Gods don’t die, people do, that’s the difference,” one of them said, I couldn’t tell which.
Rhinla was all exhausted from the firestarting, and I didn’t mind giving her some of my anea but not if she used it to set fire to people who didn’t deserve it! (People who did deserve it, that was something else.) She was making me angry, first at her because she was talking about dying all the time, then at myself because I didn’t know how to do the right thing.
Another day of riding to the west. No drawing this time, we were all too grim to make up stories! And now we could see something in the distance that looked like a great big dark cloud of anger, and that didn’t make it any better.
We tied the horse to a tree and held hands to see it better with our minds, but then I was suddenly alone! But then Arin was next to me and said he’d help me find the others. “No!” I said. “I don’t want help from any Namelesses, not even the one who does have a name! If I’m going to find them I can do that myself.” And that made me find them at once, just like in a dream only I was sure I wasn’t asleep.
We could all see the place that Rhinla had been drawing on the walls, a sort of basin with bits of ruin and fighting people. Everybody was of the Nameless, but different kinds of Namelesses, one bunch of the ordinary one and the other bunch of the extra special scary one. And there was a kind of pillar of power that went up to the cloud where all the Namelesses were. No, not all, only the two without a name, Arin was with us! And then Anshen was with us too and put a hand on each of our shoulders, but Rhinla shook it off, “i can do it on my own!” But I knew that I couldn’t and I was glad of Anshen’s help.
And now we knew what we had to do: join all the Namelesses together so there would be only one again. “You have to do that,” Arin said to me, “you’re the one who makes things whole!” (Rhinla and Vurian were doing things too, but I was too busy to see what exactly.)
I took Arin by his wrist and dragged him along, “come on, you’re one of them too!” I got him as far as where the other two were standing, perhaps in the pillar, or in front of it, and I put Arin’s left hand in one of the Namelesses’ right hand, and his right hand in the other one’s left hand, and reached around them to join the other two hands. I don’t know how my arms could be that long! Because the gods were larger than ordinary people, taller and broader! But it worked! And I sort of squeezed them together and they melted into each other and there was only one. And then I was so exhausted that I fell down where I stood and woke up on the rim of the basin where we’d tied up the horse, because of course we’d only been out there in our minds, not in our bodies.
Vurian was sitting up looking dazed, and I could see he still had the (or at least a) Nameless in his head. “You can tell him to fuck off,” I said. and he did that, and was very surprised, “he fucked off!”
Rhinla was still asleep but she woke up a bit later. Something was strange about her, and she looked at me as if there was something strange about me, and when we thought a little we knew what it was: no holes in our heads any more! Only Vurian had still got the weak place even though there wasn’t a god in his head, not even one.
Then Rhinla told me that she’d seen the man from Veray and fought him and killed him! Serves him right, I say. Now he can’t put his nasty hooks in Vurian any more.
Now I still wanted to go to Dol-Rayen on my two feet, not only with my mind! Because it would be silly if we could only tell the story of almost going to Dol-Rayen when we’d been sent there. But we were still all too tired, so we went back to sleep. It was dark anyway, only in the basin there was light as if there were lamps or fires.
I dreamed of standing between the bits of ruin and Arin came towards me, but I told him “You don’t exist any more, now go away!” and he went away.
When we got down in the basin the next morning the bits of ruin were just as I’d dreamed them. and as I’d seen them in my mind. There was nobody fighting now, but there was someone lying on the ground who I knew, it was our brother Arin the crook! “What are doing here?” we asked, and he said “Fighting, for the boss, he took us along.” He was wounded in all kinds of places, so I bandaged him with strips that Rhinla tore off her shirt and while I did that he told us more. He’d been with one Nameless, and the man from Veray who Rhinla had (seen? fought?) with the other. Those were the ‘rivals’ that Vurian had talked about! Arin didn’t know what they were actually fighting for, but I thought it was just to see who was the boss. “We’ll take you home,” we said, and he thought Essle but we meant Turenay, to doctor Cora, who could really make people whole!
“I can’t fight any more,” Arin said, and we said he didn’t have to fight any more, he could just go and do something else! And I don’t know exactly how it went then, but he said he wanted to become a smith and Rhinla gave him the purse with the rest of Lord Vurian’s money to become a smith with.
Then Rhinla went away to do something she really had to do, and when I found her she was squatting above the fountain of anea and shitting on it. “That’s what it deserves!” she said, “shit!”. And the fountain really looked a bit clogged then, but it sprang up again.
We hoisted Arin on the horse and took him back to Selday. That sounds easier than it was, because he was still very weak and broken, but everybody on the way helped us and gave us food and whatever else we needed so it didn’t matter that we’d given the purse of money to Arin! And in Selday there was Cynla and the ship and we could go back to Essle. We convinced Arin to come to Turenay with us so Doctor Cora could look at him and he could become a smith there or wherever else he liked, not in Essle where all those thieves would probably make him join them again.
When I told Cynla about joining the Namelesses together she asked “Were you afraid?” and I said “No, but only because I was so angry!”
And now we’re back in Turenay, and it’s all just like a very strange dream. I’m back at school, and people tell me I’m a journeyman now, that what I did to the Namelesses did that, and I do feel different but I have to find out exactly how. And Rhinla is a journeyman too, but all she wants is to get better at drawing with light and drawing with paint. Nobody can teach her to draw with light, she has to teach herself, but she’s really Master Jeran’s apprentice now with paint, not only in his class at school like I am. I’m not much good at drawing, but I stay in the class anyway because I like to do it. And Vurian came along too and he’s at school like it’s never been different.
It’s strange, now we’re back and learning things nobody asks us what we want to do, or tells us what to do! (Well, except lessons at school. But not what to do with our lives.) Perhaps I’ll go and be in the Order like Cynla! In Essle or Veray or even Valdis where I’ve never been yet so I don’t know what it’s like.