To my Sister Asa,
Dear Sister, only a few days and we will be properly a woman again! We arrived yesterday in Gralen, in the summer residence of the royal family of Valdyas, which is, actually, the brewery where the Queen was born and which is owned by her family. I have not yet seen anything of the village, but the brewery is huge. There are buildings and buildings and outhouses and sheds and things like the "drying tower". There must be more than sixty people working and living here at all times -- and there are so many children!
And there is plenty to do; I do not have to be idle, and the people in the house really want me to help. Yesterday, when we arrived and after we had had our first glass of small beer and something to eat, I was allowed to help with the washing, to peel turnips in the kitchen, feed the pigs (I met Master Ervan, who takes care of the brewery because old Master Torin, Rava's father is too old) and help setting the table. I think that more than eighty people sat down to eat in the courtyard -- there was bread, and soup, and Lord Vurian had made Iss-Perianian sticky sweets: he tells me he learned that when he worked in the Kitchen of the Orange Blossom brothel in Albetire.
At night, the brewery is never really quiet. Lady Aine, who is the wife of Master Torin and the mother, grandmother or great-grandmother of almost everyone here, had a little broom shed cleared out and cleaned for us. There is just room for our pallet and bundles with clothes, but, as she said, "dears, if you're going to be married, you'll want a little place for yourself." We sat outside on the floor-on-sticks-in-the-water (I have forgotten the Ilaini word) for a long time, shooing away curious children through telling them we were going to be really soppy kissing real soon now -- and they went! I think I would have stayed, but then, I am not a boy.
I bet most of those boys -- and some of the men -- won't be sleeping all that much this night! This morning, after Aidan had let me sit on a horse (more of that later), we went to a quiet cove near the riverbank, where there were a lot of people swimming already. Just as we arrived, Master Ervan was leaving the water. Well, keeping in mind that Valdyans do not mind when men and women are naked together when it is for a purpose such as swimming I undressed to go into the water. Everything male over six years old was staring at me as if they'd never seen a woman before! And many of the girls were looking, too. I also saw one of the girls pinch a boy and he looked hastily away. During the afternoon meal, one of those boys sat opposite me and had to blush when I looked at him, which makes Aidan grin, and did please me.
But before that we went into the water, which felt very nice, just like in Veray. Aidan took me by the buttocks and the shoulders and lifted me up -- and then let go. I did indeed float on my back, to my surprise. Curiously enough, my hair did not float because it became wet and dragged my head backwards into the water. This was uncomfortably, but could be remedied by fixing my braids on my head and wearing a tightly knotted headscarf. With this arrangement, swimming is not at all uncomfortable.
What is uncomfortable is sitting on a horse. There is a small, very old horse that cannot run anymore and Aidan let me sit on this horse while it walked. I did not fall off, but I did wear a skirt and the back of the horse was broad and flat and I could not sit comfortably and decently , not even with my wide skirt, so I went and borrowed a pair of trousers from Aidan, which made sitting on the horse easier and more decent. About two dozen children were watching, although they were interested more in the horse than in me. Tomorrow I will sit on the horse again.
Yesterday night, I went to Jeran, who is married to a sister of Rava, and who had stepped into a pothole, and dislocated a round piece of bone in his knee. I was not sure I dared to help him, since I have never treated anyone without a real doctor around to help me, and I have not even properly started my apprenticeship even. Indeed, I am not sure it is allowed. But it did look very simple, and Jeran was in pain, so I distracted him and pushed the bone into place. Since I feared that were he to put his weight on that knee again it would move out of its proper place again, I splinted his leg. I am not sure whether that was necessary; but it cannot hurt, and Leva will be here soon to look after him.
Yesterday morning, because we left in such a hurry, and the day before yesterday, because we slept until midday, I had forgotten to drink the infusion of the herbs that make my body think it is pregnant. But I do not see life in my belly (apart from my own, of course), and this morning I took the tea. I must guard against laxness in this matter because it would not do to return to Leva pregnant. And Aidan is very arduous, from evening to morning to afternoon, he does not let a single chance slip to love me, which pleases me, too.