To my dear Sister Asa,
We are in Veray now, in a farm Lord Orian owns where wine is made from grapes. In fact, we sleep in a large room where there are many great tuns filled with wine. As I am writing this I am sitting at the big table in the yard, in the shade of a great chestnut tree with a pitcher of last year's wine diluted with fresh spring water next to me. I have just finished the second set of hospital clothes for when the fights start the day after tomorrow.
Originally I had wanted to just make the simplest of shirts and skirts, but I was very irked because everyone I spoke to found it necessary to tell me that the fighting starts the day after tomorrow, so very soon, so wasn't I too late in making my preparations.
Well, how could I have known that Selle would want to work in the hospital and how could I have refused her the loan of my hospital clothes? We have the same shape and she thought I would not be needing them. And I didn't have time (nor the linen) to get started earlier since I had to prepare the damask for the Queen's friend.
Oh, I am so ashamed! I thought I had made her forty ells, but today in the shop where I bought my linen I discovered that the Valdyans count the ell from the left shoulder to the tip of the finger of the outstretched right hand, while I have always counted from my finger to just beyond my elbow, so I have only sent the Queen twenty ells. I hope it will suffice, but I must write her majesty and offer her to make more.
But even so, I have had this afternoon and most of tomorrow to make my three jackets and skirts (I did not have money for more cloth, nor could I afford the very thin and fine linen I bought for Selle for myself, since it is six riders for just enough to make a long shirt, I do fear that Selle will have to learn once again the worth (or is that value?) of money.
|- 1/16/-||Linen for 3 skirts and jackets|
I have decided to make these clothes somewhat nicer, so I have just spent an hour adding little seams and folds so the shirt holds up my breasts a bit and folds over my hips in quite a becoming way, and also a little more shape to the skirt. There will be no sleeves, just a very slight piece set at the shoulder. I will also embroider them a bit, but I can do that wherever I am, it need not be done right now at the table. I would not want people to think that Aidan is going to marry a dowdy woman with no sense for dressing! And Aidan is going to fight in the second division, and being the King's brother, all eyes will be on him, so I want to look my best.
Today I have offered Leva's letter to Lord Vurian, who is the master of the fights, and he has accepted the letter and allowed me to work here. I must carefully review what I have done before so I am prepared to show that I really can do what Leva has written. Doctor Rayin keeps a book with all his cases, and I should do the same, not just for babies I have helped deliver. In the past three months I have treated the following cases:
These are the cases where I have helped with treatment or been present in the spirit when treatment was meted out. I have also assisted the doctors Leva, Erne and Jeran at rounds and consultation hours and I have studied the properties of several dozen herbs, though I have not worked in the herb garden yet or prepared remedies made from more than one herb.
Dear sister, for three months, ever since we came back from our pilgrimage to Veray, I have longed to go back to Veray to visit the temple of the Most Holy Goddess Dayati, and I have made sure that there is place for a small temple of Dayati next to our bath house. But when I came to the temple this morning, it felt very strange. I will try to find words for this so it becomes clear in my mind.
I did feel the presence of the most holy Goddess, but it was as if there was but the slenderest of links or connections between Her and me. There was no divine displeasure that I could feel, so this separation cannot be because I have forsaken my devotional duties, rather I think the following is what happened: in Valdyas, only the children and the makers of music are devoted to Timoine, and now that my marriage is imminent and that I have become a journeywoman in the service of the God of War, have decided to become a doctor instead of a midwife, and in general have even stopped thinking in our common language, Sister, I am too Valdyan and not enough of a child anymore to be interesting to Dayati. Maybe we will be closer once I am again with child.
Afterwards, we went to the temple of Anshen, next to the house of Order of the Sworn where Ebru is so happy, and there I did feel not just the presence, but also that I am now rooted in Anshen with deep growing, strong roots.
All this happened this morning: the visit to the temple of Dayati, the buying of fine linen for Selle, the visit to the temple of Anshen, the buying of linen for my hospital clothes, the registering as nurse with the fights. We were a group of ten going into Veray: Me, Aidan, Jichan, Lara, Lyse, Alyse, Ayneth, Ceti, Arin, Ebru. It is a source of immense pleasure to me that I have so many friends. Ceti and Arin hope to be married here, this week, in Veray, and are going to ask Raisse to perform the ceremony. When we are all back in Turenay, we will join for a great feast, to be given in the street in front of our house for all our friends from school, from town, for all the family of Arin and Aidan that can be present.
Aidan proposed that we be going back to the farm to enjoy ourselves near the river, and I agreed, but said we should take Lyse, so Lara and Jichan could be together, just the two of them, for the afternoon. Aidan is very sweet and courteous, and though I could see he had wanted to be together with just me for the afternoon, he agreed without giving a single objection. Instead he proposed to teach us how to swim in a place where the river flows not quite so rapid.
Whether this was to punish me for proposing to take Lyse, I do not know: I did not dare to swim yet, but I did go into the water, and it was very nice. The water was cool, and did not tug at my legs as much as the water did in the place where we washed ourselves yesterday, and there were ducks, fish and even a cat-like water animal called "otter" that was very charming. On the riverbank there were large willow trees with a soft carpet of fallen willow leaves underneath. Lyse did learn how to float on her back and to propel herself with her feet and hands. I doubt I will be able to float, since my hips are wide and my buttocks and breasts round as the moon at its fullest, so I will no doubt sink, while Lyse is still a tiny thing, weighing next to nothing.
But when the swimming lessons were done, and I had had a nap in Aidan's lap (Lyse was climbing trees while we were sleeping), I sent Lyse to the farm to get us some wine and bread, and then rewarded my beloved lord and master and soon husband, for his forbearance with Lyse and he was very vigorous, and also quick enough, since he was done before Lyse returned, who, however, was aware of my intent from the moment I told her she did not have to hurry too much.
This is strange in Valdyas regarding lovers and making love: people are very strict with regards to fidelity, it is very much frowned upon if someone, even a man, goes out and is intimate with someone else than his own wife, and the same goes for a woman (although that is the same in Iss-Peran). It does happen, but the disapproval is strong.
On the other hand, it does not seem to matter whether a man and another man, or a woman and another woman or a man and woman fall in love, no matter their respective class. One of the linen shops I visited with Ceti this morning was owned by two young men obviously in love with each other, one of them is a war hero who was wounded fighting the Khas in Idanyas. And it also does not seem to matter whether one is married or not, fidelity remains required. But it is allowed to be very intimate, and there is no reason to hide this intimacy.
Indeed, there is no stricture at all against being intimate, all that Lyse gave us was a bit of a grin and a giggle, she does not intend to be that intimate with her Erian yet, they kiss, but kiss as children, she did not think us improper, but rather it was a proper thing to do on a summer afternoon. And it is not considered improper for men and women to be together when they are naked, even if they do not belong together, and it is not considered infidelity to be naked for a man around other women or the other way around, as long as, in Hinla's words "nothing happens".
After drinking some wine and eating the bread and cheese, we had another bath in the pool, another nap, and then went back to the farm, where I am writing this letter. I will soon put down the pen to start working on my jacket and skirts again.
Summer in Valdyas, my dear sister, is the most happy and magnificent thing in the world. We travelled from Turenay to Veray in two days, and the first day, that was Nanei Hanre, we stopped early in the afternoon in a little field near the river. The river was full of fish, trout and pike, and we made a campfire where I prepared the great pike Jichan had caught through taking all the bones out and making little balls of fish-on-a-stick. We wrapped the trout in leaves and also had sausages-on-a-stick and bread-on-a-stick. I was also allowed to make the fire, which was very reassuring to do, and I could raise the ashes the next morning to a respectable level of heat.
We were not alone: two noblemen and a noblewoman were also having their camp on this field, on the other side. I did think it but courteous to invite them over, and they brought wine and more sausages. We had a very nice evening, with fire, wine, food and music and dancing, and when it was night and everyone else (except for Lara and Jichan, who were giggling under the cart, the tea must be working now), we very quietly made love and slept in the open night. When I woke up I was all wet with morning dew, but not cold at all.
And that day, yesterday, the day of Anshen, we arrived in Veray, where we found Raisse and Lord Orian, Ceti, Arin and Ebru being in town, dancing. Tonight we will go dancing again. And also Pnimah and Rikhi, with their children, who are staying in one of the stable huts which is made right inside the sides of the hill. Words fail me to describe how happy I was to see them again, and they are looking very well, too.
Ps. I must not forget to tell Raisse about Erian from Essle. And Raisse has told me she has discovered that Lara and Lyse's father is dead. Tomorrow we will visit the temple of Naigha to pray and also the Síthi bath house.