Going to Gralen
We went to Master Jeran’s house to ask him if he’d be lonely on the feast. He was painting something with the blue paint we’d helped him make from the blue stone! “That’s pretty,” I said, and we said some more things like that (“you have to do a lot of talk first,” Rhinla said) before we asked him what we’d come to ask.
“No,” he said, “I won’t be lonely, I’m celebrating the feast with a lot of people.”
“But are they nice people?” I asked.
“Of course they are! Or I wouldn’t want to celebrate with them.”
Rhinla went to get the painting of the fish with all the teeth that she thought would be too scary for the little kids in hospital, and Master Jeran agreed. Not only the fish, but also the person looking at it, which was me from the back, but you couldn’t see that, you could only see a dark scary figure like a thing from a nightmare. “I’d better paint a big pie then,” she said.
“Yes!” I said, “then all the kids will get hungry, and they have to eat a lot to get better!”
We went to tell Lord Vurian that we were coming. “I’ll organise some horses,” he said.
“Do we have to go on top of a horse?” I asked.
“Yes, we’re not taking a wagon, only horses.”
Horses! They’re so big! Well, we could make friends with the horses first. Rhinla got some apples from the kitchen, in her shirt, but there weren’t any horses yet, they’d come tomorrow. So she hung up the shirt with the apples in it from a hook in the stable.
Everybody was preparing things! But there was nothing we could do. Rhinla went to paint the pie, and I first got water from the fountain on the corner of the street and then I sat on the fence of the herb garden with Radan, who couldn’t do anything either. He told me a lot about Gralen! That there were a lot of his cousins and other kids to play with (I wondered whether they’d be nice or throw stones at us, but if they were Radan’s cousins they’d probably be nice) and that you could swim and fish, and that there were otters. I’d seen otters before in the river, they’re so cute!
Later, Lord Vurian asked us what we used to fish. “Our hands!” we said. “And a reed spear. And a bucket.”
“Not a net?”
“It’s much easier to make a spear than a net!” we said.
We’d leave the day after tomorrow, so we had a day to make friends with the horses, and I promised Venla to help her clean the little temple because it was full of mud from people who had walked there with their muddy feet, and I knew I was one of those people! And it was nice to be in the temple, with Anshen in the fire.
There still weren’t any horses the next morning so I went to the temple, and Rhinla started to paint the pig and her piglets. (Later I heard that when she’d finished she was hungry and she washed herself because you wash before eating, so after washing you eat! But it wasn’t time to eat yet, so she washed herself some more, and got very very clean.)
Venla was already at the temple with buckets and brooms and brushes. We swept and scrubbed, and then we saw there was a crack in the wall! There had been so much dirt on it that we couldn’t see it before. I got some soft clay from the river to fix it, so Venla could paint it white again when it was dry. I would probably still be in Gralen then so she’d have to do it.
Then we saw that the wall was full of anea and it went through the stone but not through the clay! I took the clay out again to see if it made a difference but it didn’t go through the gap either. “Perhaps there should be anea in the clay,” Venla said, and we tried to knead some in but it didn’t stick.
“I can do water, I think,” I said, “can you do sand? Clay is just sand with water in.” And we tried to do it together and that worked, sort of, when we filled the gap with the clay full of anea the power in the wall did go through but very slowly.
“Perhaps it’ll be better when it’s dry,” I said, and Venla promised to check every day while it was drying. Or else we’d have to get the people who built it, the Ishey, neither of us are builders.
Then I noticed that I was tired. And hungry! But at the school fresh bread was just coming out of the oven and I ate a lot of it.
When I came back to Lord Vurian’s house Rhinla told me about the ceiling in Lord Vurian and Lady Rava’s bedroom. It was all painted with lots of naked people who liked each other a lot! Lord Vurian and Lady Rava had found her there when she was lying on her back on the floor so she could see it better. But they weren’t angry, they’d only sent her away because they wanted to be in the bedroom on their own. And they weren’t at dinner either, perhaps they were in the bedroom liking each other a lot.
Now there were horses! We made friends with the one that looked nicest, brown with white feet, not too large. We climbed on the horse with the climbing things that hang from the leather chair-thing on a horse’s back, just as the stableman came back from what he’d been doing, and he told us that the climbing things were called stirrups and the chair-thing a saddle, and that we could ride this horse if we liked, it was the quietest one. We were small enough to fit in the saddle together! The stableman showed us how to pull very softly on the reins, those are the leather straps that go to the horse’s head, to make it go to one side, but we wouldn’t need that, he said, this horse would just go with the other horses when we were all riding.
The next morning we put all of our things in the saddle-bag and climbed on the horse. Rhinla was in front. Two of the horses had only packs, and all the others had people on them, one person on most but Halla was sharing with Radan because they were even smaller than us. (Well, Halla is taller though she’s younger, but Radan is smaller.) Then the front horses started to go and it was true, our horse went with them without us having to do anything.
It didn’t look as if we were going very fast, but it was faster than walking, because we arrived at the Halfway Inn with the white dog in the middle of the day. We were so stiff from sitting on the horse! But we petted the dog and splashed in the creek. No fishing, because we had food with us that we ate, we only got drinks from the inn, beer for the people who liked that and water with fruit juice for us. And then we were in the saddle again, because Lord Vurian wanted to reach Veray on the same day.
It was almost dark when we reached Veray, and there was nobody fighting, at least not that we could see. I’d thought we might sleep in the big stone house, because that’s for lords and ladies, but we went to an inn. All of us children got a place to sleep in the hayloft: us two, and Radan, and Halla, and Radan and Halla’s sister Riei who is a bit older than me, and Seran, the cook’s son, who is a bit younger than Rhinla.
Rhinla made clouds of light! And I made a couple of stars but they didn’t make it more light than the clouds already did, they were just pretty. Then I closed the window and the hatch in the floor. The bats could still get through, but people and the Nameless couldn’t!
We talked a bit, and promised to tell each other scary stories, but not in Veray, we’re saving them for the feast. I’m going to tell all about the time we went into the house to count people and saw the man with one hand and the other man who looked like a rat, that was really scary!
In the night I woke up and saw Rhinla drawing in her sleep again! And Radan woke up too and he could see it. She was drawing the same thing that she’d done before, but it looked as if we were closer to it. Radan asked if that was a real mountain, but I didn’t know.
The next morning someone knocked at my seal, it was still there! We had to eat fast because we were leaving: porridge and bread and, when Rhinla insisted, fried eggs with salt pork.
Then we were on the horse again. I was almost too stiff to sit! We wanted to tell Lady Rava about the sleep-drawing, but she was in front of us and we didn’t know how to make the horse go faster. Then we called her, and she made her horse go slower to get next to us. “You push with your heels, like this,” she said, and showed us (and then of course her horse went faster and she had to make it go slower again). And to make it walk normally with all the other horses, you let the reins drop so it doesn’t feel them any more. That’s easy! If I ever learn how to sit on a horse without getting as stiff as wood I want to ride horses a lot more.
I don’t think Lady Rava was very worried about the sleep-drawing, but she said it was a good thing that I’d closed the loft so nobody could get in. Or out!
In the middle of the day we found a place at the riverside to eat. And swim! Rhinla went into deep water at once, but she’d forgotten how to swim under water! She came up snorting and spitting. But she learned to do it again quickly. I swam with her for a bit and then I went back to where the others were in the shallows, throwing water at each other.
Later, we saw Riei and Halla and their sister Alyse brushing the horses, and we wanted to do that too. They showed us how, and we brushed our own horse, each on a side. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, and horses like it a lot.
When we were on the way again we suddenly came to a place where the road was full of rocks. A whole pile of rocks, most of them too big to lift, as if a whole chunk of the mountain had fallen down. People could climb over, but horses can’t climb, they’re not goats! And it was hard to go around because on one side was the river and on the other side it was much too steep.
We tried to think of different ways to move the stones, but they were too heavy for horses to pull away, and the ground was too hard to dig a hole in, and we didn’t have pickaxes to break them with, and fire or water would take too long to work, the feast was in a couple of days already. “Can’t we go through the water?” I asked, because there was reed growing in it so it couldn’t be too deep to wade.
“Let’s camp here and decide what we’ll do tomorrow,” Lady Rava said. We left the horses on the road and climbed up the mountain to a large flat space where someone made a kind of shelter of a big cloth. Rhinla and I and Radan and Seran went down to the river again to catch fish for dinner and came back with two big fishes each, enough that everybody could have a piece with their bread.
In the morning we put the saddles on the horses again and decided to go through the water after all. Some horses were okay with it, others didn’t like it one bit, like ours, and I tried to calm it down, I sort of brushed its thoughts so it wouldn’t panic. That went well, we reached the other side of the pile of rocks and it only had to shake itself a bit when it was back on dry land. But Halla and Radan’s horse, right behind us, stumbled. Rhinla and I went to rescue Halla and Radan –Halla could swim a bit but she was wearing a long skirt, and Radan couldn’t swim at all, we’d promised to teach him in Gralen– while the stableman got the horse out of the water. I tried to calm down this horse as well, but that wasn’t as easy because it had broken or torn something in its leg which hurt a lot.
Someone rode ahead on the fastest horse to fetch the horse-doctor from Gralen. That was someone from Lady Rava’s family’s house. That meant Riei and Alyse had to share a horse, and Halla and Radan got our horse, and Rhinla and I walked with the stableman and the hurt horse while the rest rode on. “If you’re not in Gralen tomorrow night you’ll miss the feast!” Lady Rava said, but we both thought the horse was more important, especiallly because I was still trying to help it.
We had to stop after a while because the horse’s leg really hurt it too much to walk. We gave it water in a bucket, and it lay down after it had drunk it, panting like a dog (except that its tongue didn’t stick out).
Then I thought: isn’t pain a kind of anea? I’d seen Doctor Cora take pain away, and perhaps I could do that, too, like I’d put anea from the temple in a bucket to move it. I put my hand on the horse’s leg and tried to draw the pain out, and something that I could almost see did come out, but I couldn’t let it flow into the ground, I had to put it in the empty water bucket. When the bucket felt full I went to rinse it in the river, and when I came back I was so tired that I fell asleep in the middle of the day. (No problem, we had to wait for the horse-doctor anyway!)