Dear Sister, I had hoped, but not expected to be needing my notebook during our stay in Valdis. But not only do I have at least two interesting cases, maybe even three, there are complicated things happening which I need to note down so I will not forget them. I have already written a long letter to Raisse about the beginning of the complications.
I have asked Raisse (the Queen) about my allowance now that I will be earning some money on my return because of being a journeywoman in the doctor's guild. She was not sure and will ask Athal. On the one hand, I hope it will be continued until I am a doctor, on the other hand, we've received so many gifts from the Iss-Peranian merchants that I don't really need it, I think, if we sell the gifts instead of keeping them or giving them away in our turn. It would be nice to be able to be a bit liberal once again... And I have wondered whether we should be returning these gifts, since we have disappointed the kind givers by not wanting to become their King and Queen. I would like to keep at least a little jewelry, though I'd like even more to sell what we have received today and let Aidan buy something for me. Also, I noticed that neither the mighty prince Attima nor his wives have yet presented their gifts to us.
In any case, I have made a list of the gifts:
These are all gifts for kings and queens, which feels silly, since we definitely are not kings and queens, so instead of just adding a little bit more to a pile of riches we already have, we have instantly become quite wealthy compared to our previous state or to our neighbours. The really strange thing is that the people who have given us all these gifts will expect us to live and have been living in a style that fits these gifts, while we were (and are, I am sure, of myself and of Aidan) really happy with what we had before. Only Aidan needs a new sword, and I'd like a bit of jewelry to wear now and then.
Oh, well -- I don't know what the Valdyan customs are with regards to received gifts and whether we are supposed to give something back of an equal value or else be forever in the debt of the givers. For now, it may be best to assume innocent ignorance. I'm good at that! Besides, there are more important things to do!
I have had any number of broken bones, sore, be-blistered feet and other minor ailments during our journey to Valdis: those were very gratifying, but I do not think I need to keep book of them. There are three important cases I have encountered in Valdis up to now:
Prince Attima: Prince Attima was at first very angry with Athal for bringing me to Valdyas, and he wouldn't believe that Athal didn't intend me to become Queen of Albetire and his brother King. To make sure he really knew I am becoming a doctor and nothing else, I wanted to take a look at him, together with the other court doctors, Hinla, Roushan and Dushtan. Also because he is an important ally of Athal, and he is not very healthy.
So we inspected him this morning. There is much wrong with him, but it can all be attributed to his eating and drinking far too much. His heart is strained to move the blood through his great body, his piss tastes sweet, so he must stop eating anything sweet, he cannot do his duty to his many wives (I suspect that even had he had just one wife, he wouldn't be able to his duty to her), and he has stones in his bladder and in his kidneys, eight in all.
Fortunately, the stones are still very small, so tomorrow Hinla and I will crush the stone with our spirit. The Iss-Peranian doctors have created a very complicated recipe that will help with the sweetness of his piss; and we have forbidden him all red wine, all fatty meats, all sweets and all sweet liquors. If he doesn't believe by now that I am a doctor, well, then he must be a fool!
I also told him about the circumstances of my flight, even about my improper behaviour in the palace that resulted in becoming with child. He did not attach much importance to that, but his daughter, Hediyeh, convinced him to accept that this means he was wrong in supposing my coming to Valdyas a despicable plot instead of a true flight for my life.
But he is a very great lord, and once he had seen he was wrong, he was very gracious and did not even protest when we had him piss in a large bowl, which was perhaps a little cruel of us. And he danced with me at the ball, and for someone who is so large, he dances very well, very graciously and light of foot. And he has very pleasing conversation when dancing. Well... I hope he doesn't mind too much that he cannot add me to his collection of wives, for his sake, not for mine, of course. Poor Halla and his other wives! I hope our treatment will be efficacious and that he will soon be fit to do his duty to them again.
Lady Khastana: the noble lady Khastana was spying on us during the ball, but master Lyse of the Order caught her and put her in custody. The next morning, Raisse made to go and visit her, and determine whether she should be sent to Iss-Peran. I asked to come with her, mostly out of curiosity, partly because I had heard that her son had ran away from her, as well as her husband, and I felt pity for her.
We found her, a woman of about forty-five years old, in a waiting room in the Castle of the Order. She is not uncomely, but was very frightened. She told us her husband was drunk good-for-nothing, but that she had been told to marry him for the convenience of her mistress. Who turned out to be lady Vermudant!!! Now I felt immediately very close to her, because we share this fear for lady Vermudant. She also told us she was searching for her son, because his bride was waiting at her palace -- an Iss-Peranian lady named Pichidan. But her son is already married! And this lady was also sent by Lady Vermudant.
Lyse immediately sent out an army to Lady Khastana's palace, which is half-way between Valdis and Ildis, to apprehend this witch! The Queen is very serious about not wanting dandar in Valdyas, but there are so many already, and all of them are afraid to return to Iss-Peran, and nobody feels like hanging them, nor like keeping them prisoner all their lives.
In any case, Lady Khastana also told me that I was her and Lady Vermudant's last hope: they hoped I would become Queen of all Iss-Peranians in Albetire and everywhere King Athal rules, uniting all the Iss-Peranians. She was very disappointed, to the point of utter dejection, in the failure of their plans.
But although I think doctor Airath could lift her spirit and do her much good, that is not why I am putting her among my cases. The reason for that is as follows:
When we had discussed all these issues and after the noble lady had given a full account of herself to Raisse, Lyse and me, I was feeling very sad about her wasted life -- having had to marry a worthless husband, losing her son, never learning anything that gives people pleasure -- and I wanted to discover whether this woman was truly filled with a poisonous evil, as Raisse told me Koll Abatté was.
But everything I had learned from my teachers in Turenay was in vain: I could not get a sense of the noble lady's soul. So I tried to touch her with my hand, and through my hand with my spirit. Immediately, I encounted a strong resistance, as if the poor lady was encased in an egg or mud-like shell -- not much like a seal, but more like an involuntary accretion the remnants of many seals. Raisse and Lyse were watching me, not telling me to stop, nor to continue, so, being more impulsive than clever, I pushed with my spiritual hand and made a crack in this shell.
This hurt the poor Lady Khastana very much, and I took fright, but when my hand was through to her, I could feel her body not being harmed, and her soul being not evil at all, but very full of fear, raw under the shell and in sore need of care. So we took off the rest of the shell, Raisse, Lyse and I, rubbing the rawness underneath with care and gentleness.
We then packed the very, very tired Lady Khastana off to the Síthi baths, with some soldiers to protect her. We will meet her soon again, I think, and have to determine what to do with her. We cannot send the poor woman back to Iss-Peran -- Lady Vermudant would surely kill her -- and we cannot send her back to her husband, because he has disappeared.
Maybe, when she has recovered fully and has become a normal woman, she can go to Veray, where her son and his wife live, and begin to make something of her life. Start a weaving workshop, perhaps. She may be assumed to be rich enough of herself, although, if she has hurt people in Valdyas, they will need to be compensated out of her assets.
Yesterday, during the morning, Raisse showed me around the Palace. We visited the library, the kitchens, the great and the small hall and the gardens. While we were in the gardens, the delegation of Iss-Peranian merchants arrived and we had to receive them and their gifts. There were a few women, among whom a priestess of Dayati. I still think they actually came to declare themselves loyal to the new King and Queen of Albetire, but they had to revise their plans when they saw me being very much Valdyan -- I didn't even wear a headscarf, but a strange thing I had borrowed from Ayneth instead, that kept slipping down from my head. Instead, they congratulated us on our marriage.
That strange headdress of mine gave Raisse, who can be as whimsical as the next queen, but is fortunately not capricious, the idea of giving an official banquet and ball in our honour. Every woman was requested to wear something special on her head. This was organized in half a day, and there were many Valdyan, Iss-Peranian, Ishay and Síthi nobles, as well as people from Velihas! Raisse doesn't like banquets and balls herself, but I enjoyed myself very much. I met all the nobles and other guests, and I haven't received so many beautiful and pleasing compliments since I came to Valdyas!
And there was dancing, and I danced with Aidan, Athal, Ayran Brun, prince Attima and many, many others. And near the evening, when everyone became a little more quiet, Athal began to play music, and even attempted an Iss-Peranian melody, so I could accompany him with my untrained voice, but I still remembered the words at least.
There was just one unpleasant moment, namely, as noted above, a certain Iss-Peranian noblewoman called Khastana, who is married to a Valdyan nobleman, an Arin Hayan, but who is also a dandar, had come to the ball, and was hiding like a spy. She was apprehended by the Grand Master of the Order of the Sworn, Lyse, and taken into custody. I was quite a bit afraid of her, especially since I only noticed when Raisse warned me. I was standing very, very close to her, chatting with Garmi, the priestess of Dayati, and some other women in the Small Hall.
I was so pretty! Aidan and I had gone to the Palace Treasure Chamber, and selected from the old and new jewelry so many pretty things. I was wearing Erlyn's best, dark blue, dress, little embroidered shoes of cloth with precious stones in them, a circlet of thin, gold leaves in my hair, as wel as a net of thread-of-gold and pearls. A very long necklace of pearls. A golden cincture over my hips. There were also bangles for my ears, but I hadn't worn earrings for over a year, not having any, so I had to prick open the piercings and heal them. I can do that! I can heal a wound in my own body by just applying my spirit to it. I did have the girl from the Síthi Baths (who came because I had given Arvi and Hediyeh the day off to explore Valdis) paint my face, but very slightly, only to make my eyes brighter and my lips a little more red -- my intention was to have a little the look of all the peoples in Athals kingdom.
Raisse, by the way, has a beautiful girdle of gold and pearls, obviously made to wear dancing for her husband in the manner of Dimani -- but she doesn't know how to dance properly, so I will try to teach her. Hediyeh and I already have shown her a small part of a dance for Anshen.
And when we came back to our bedroom I had Arvi undress me, except for the jewelry and silk stockings. I was just going to make a seal when I noticed there were two young men outside, and that Arvi and Hediyeh were giggling in their bedroom. Well! I had promised Arvi's mother I would take care of her daughter and not let her get into trouble, but on the other hand, given my improper past, who am I to tell a girl of my own age not to receive a young man?
So what I did was go outside immediately -- I should have thought a little longer about that, since I was naked except for one stocking. Aidan was holding the other one. I called the girls, and told the young men, Ruyin Hayan and Jilan Brun, they were welcome to visit my servant girls, but that they should be very careful since neither drinks the tea yet. Arvi assured me she had told the boys that they both wanted to keep their virginity, and that she had learned enough from me to be able to find her pleasure anyway. Which made me blush, and the send the girls into another convulsion of giggles.
I had a pleasant night with Aidan in any case, and had to fetch the girls from whatever they were doing after an hour or two, to take the jewelry from my hair and body, so I could fall asleep in my lord husband's arms. Next morning, the girls were indeed still virgins, so I was not wrong in allowing them to receive their menfolk, and all three men were fast asleep when I needed the girls to prepare me for breakfast with the Queen.
I am not sure about Arvi: but Hediyeh is quite serious about Ruyin Hayan. She is torn in two: on the one hand she wants to go to Turenay, to the school, on the other hand, she wants to stay near Ruyin, who is also going to Turenay, but not very soon, since he needs to stay close to his father, who is dying from a malignant growth that has spread through his entire body (as noted above).
By the way, I've seen an elephant! When we were on our way to the Castle of the Order of the Sworn to Anshen, we passed the City Gates, and at that moment one of the elephant cows we had given to Athal came through, just back from a morning's work. I hadn't seen elephants from close up since I arrived at my late husband's Palace, so I simply had to go and cuddle it. I remember, when I was brought from my parents' Palace to Albetire, that I often sneaked away from the pavillion to the elephant pen and made quite a pet of one of the elder cows. They liked me, and this one still liked me, and let me tickle it between the eyes and cuddle against its trunk. I showed Raisse and Aidan how to properly pet an elephant, and they did so, too, all in wonder that I am not afraid of these large, but very gentle animals, while still not liking horses.
They wondered whether an elephant is smart, and I think it is, smarter than a horse in any case. But not smart enough that is has an anie I can see, but that is not my talent in any case. I also chatted a while with the elephant driver, a young man named Pesar. He came with the elephant, and now is a partner, together with the other elephant attendants, and a man named Faran. They rent out the elephants for work, and make good money. I am glad they all have fallen on their feet, as I believe the Valdyan expression is, only it is a pity that there is no bull so the cows will not bear, but bull elephants do not travel well. Maybe we should have sent some baby elephants, too?
We were just the four of us, me, Aidan and Raisse carrying Radan in a sling, with half a dozen guards walking behind us. At first, people were expressing their devotion to their queen and their pleasure in the little prince -- but when we continued our way towards the Castle of the Order, we also came through the Iss-Peranian quarter, which is near the Academy. There were many people out on the streets. They prostrated themselves, but not for Raisse and Radan, but for me!
I wonder they recognized me, because I was still wearing the hospital clothes I had donned for visiting prince Attima. I made one of them stand up, a woman, and her children also. I told her I was not a, not her, not anybody's queen, but an apprentice doctor, and nothing more.
I don't think she really believed me. I am often very slow-witted, I am afraid, and what I should have told her, namely that she should have offered Raisse her obedience, because Raisse is her Queen, is something I only thought of much too late. I also don't think Raisse is pleased when people prostrate themselves for her, but she will have to get used to that, now that her country harbours so many different nations.
Oh, there is so much to do and see in Valdis! I want to go to the Queen's Academy, and perhaps even try to attend a lecture of one of the doctor teachers. (Although I hope and trust that students in the Academy who want to become doctors do not limit themselves to lectures, but also have a master like I have in Leva.) There's the Síthi baths, about which I have heard so much. I want to go dancing with Aidan, as he has promised me (and maybe Athal and Raisse will want to join us). There is Valdie Liorys, which is not very far from Valdis, and where there is a very large and old temple to Anshen, built by the Brun Family hundreds of years ago. And I need to teach Raisse how to dance for her husband!
Note: I should tell Aidan he should feel free to go and be with the big army for a few days or a week or so. I am sure he would very much enjoy being in a big army for a while. Actually, I am not sure whether I should not tell Athal that if he wants, he should feel free to ask his brother to allow him to come with the army. Lord Vurian's son Torin was not much older when he went to Ryshas to fight, after all.
My lord husband is a very great warrior, destined to become a leader of men, and I feel so cruel thinking that I would be denying him the opportunity to be present at the greatest battle in all the history of the kingdoms of North and South. There will, I sincerely hope, never again during our lifetime be such a battle. I would miss him very much -- and I am sure he would miss me very much -- but I knew when I fell in love with him that he was the brother of the King and would have a calling and a duty that would not always be with me. And I should not always be thinking of myself, of the emptiness of our bed, my belly or the evenings.