Dochein Hanre, beginning of the ninth week after the festival of the Most Holy Goddess Timoine

Raissei Cora, in Turenay, to Dushtanei Asa Cora astin Zameshtan, in Turenay

Dear Sister,

This morning when I was eating my breakfast, which was good and hearty: Hinla gave me four eggs, bacon and lots of fresh bread, Tylse came by. I wasn't even dressed and painted yet. If Tylse had felt beneath her new neighbours at all (which I don't think so), I think the sight of me without paint, my hair undone and wearing naught but Aidan's old shirt that is too small for him would have cured her of that. I had not understood she was so much in a hurry. But it seems she is quite poor and needs the money badly. Maybe she is in debt?

We transacted the business in the temple of the God of Money, as is proper, and I also bought a license to buy a chimney and a fireplace and made sure Lara's old house is properly registered under her name and put up for sale. It will not profit her above one or two riders, but every little bit is just a little bit more than one had before. If working as a doctor wouldn't be so interesting, and working as a midwife so delightful, then I would not be averse to working in the Temple of the God of Money, and not just because of the embroidered vestments, but also because there is a lot to be learned there, too. I am so glad I came to Valdyas and I do not mind all the wealth that I lost, because now I am much happier. Thanks are due to the mighty Queen Raisse and the mighty King Athal!

I took Tylse to the Apple for a pie and a beer to celebrate our transaction. She told me about her husband who is away so often and her sons -- the eldest one is married already but lives nearby, and the younger one has just become engaged to a girl. I told you about that before, didn't I? Tylse suffers from painful hands, especially in winter, when the weather is wet. I must ask Leva whether there are herbs that work against that. I think our Eldest Sister also rubbed her hands with a certain oil that warmed them against stiffness of the joints.

Tylse asked me also about the Síthi in the town, she feels that the Síthi do look down upon her and other Valdyans who are not noble. I told her that all Síthi, since they all have come from a house of the gods in Aumen Síth (otherwise they would have been too poor to flee for the Khas), are of a certain nobility and that for the rest, I do not notice any haughtiness on their parts. Of course, Tylse had divined correctly that I am a princess (though I have not yet told her about the Queen part), and she said that nobody could be haughty with me. This is something to think on and discuss, perhaps, with Kheti before she goes to Veray and with Sinaya: do the Síthi of Valdyas despise and disdain the Valdyans who so very generously and graciously have given them succour?

Of course, the Valdyans themselves are given to looking down on any customs of other peoples they themselves do not know. Scarcely a day goes by without me feeling not just less intelligent than the people around me, but also less civilized.

In the afternoon I finally felt able to go into the Hospital again. I have missed all those people so much! Not many of the patients who where there when I last visited the hospital were still around, only Serla, and she is almost well enough to start working again. Well, going home and perhaps making nails or something. Fortunately, Mernath and Erian together keep the bellows going. There were two new children: a girl whose blood is not red enough, which is a serious condition and can be fatal, and a boy over whom his father's haywain has driven, crushing his ribs and an arm. Fortunately, the ground was soft, so the boy was deeply pushed into the ground, which has saved his life.

There was also a room I was not allowed to enter because a girl had died from redfleck, which is deadly unless one has been infected when one was young. I have never been ill, all about whom the slightest imperfection or illness was suspected were always kept away from me. According to Toryn, this will mean that I will soon get all children's illnesses the Valdyan children have had before they were seven or eight. I am looking forward to having Aidan care for me when I am ill, but it will take a lot of time and I hope those illnesses are not disfiguring like the pox. And that they do no other lasting harm now that I am too old to properly be infected. But first I must get stronger. A priestess of Death, who had come for the dead girl, was waiting for me to ask me about Iss-Peranian mourning and funeral customs. But other than than the mourning songs everyone knows and the idea that cremation is less frightening to me than burial, I could not tell her anything. I am so ignorant, I do not know anything about my own country, nation and people! But she still wants me to visit her Temple and sing the songs for her, with Senthi in attendance to write them down.

When I met Leva she had something important to say to me: she wants me to become her full apprentice after the festival of the god of war, which would mean I would only occasionally go to school for special lessons, such as Lord Vurian's lessons in seals. Of course, Raisse will also go on teaching me. I have not yet decided, and indeed, it is not for me to decide, but for the Queen, who put me into school. I would very much like to be with Leva, as long as I can also for a few days in the week be with Lyse. I cannot decide between doctor and midwife, but Leva and Aidan think that I am more suited to becoming a doctor. Besides, one can become a doctor first and then a midwife, but the other way around seems not to occur. I will have to ask both Lyse and Leva to visit Raisse and speak with her (and me).

Let me order my thinking:

Decision Become Leva's pupil, go with Lyse for 2 days Become Lyse's pupil, go with Leva for 2 days Continue as before
  • I am very happy in the hospital
  • Leva needs someone to succeed her, and my abilities meet her expectations
  • I like making people better
  • I don't mind people dying
  • Leva also goes on rounds through town, and we visit downtown regularly
  • There are many different things to do
  • Lots of babies
  • Mostly happy people
  • I get to visit nearly every house in Turenay
  • I was born with the gift to see pregnancy
  • The queen will approve, and she has paid the apprentice fee
  • There is much I need to learn about Valdyas and about the power of the spirit
  • The teachers at the school are very good
  • I will be able to continue eating at school, which will save money when Aidan and me live together and no longer with Raisse
  • the Queen might disapprove
  • I may die, become disfigured or harmed through illnesses
  • Fewer children and nearly no babies
  • I will probably no longer have time to do sewing, weaving and embroidery
  • the Queen might disapprove
  • Not as much different things to do as with Leva
  • Lyse is still young, so she does not need a successor
  • I will probably no longer have time to do sewing, weaving and embroidery
  • I already do not have time enough for everything I must do
  • I dread the lessons in fighting and defence
  • I already know about history and languages

In the end, my heart says to ask Raisse and the Queen that I might become Leva's apprentice and be with Lyse some of the time. I learn so much when working with Leva.

This afternoon, I helped Leva to investigate a consignment of Iss-Peranian herbs that Ram, the Síthi merchant who also has a share in the bath house project, had delivered. The jars and packets were labelled, but only in the court language, which makes me suspect they might have come from a Palace apothecary. I was able to recognise several of them and to translate the names of several others into Valdyan, which enabled Leva to recognise those. Some are going to be very useful!

However, there was also Dark Spring Willow bark, and the smell and the feeling of the bark between my fingers did bring me back to my early days in my parents' palace and my husband's palace. With what I have learned from Raisse and at school I am now able to recognise what this herb is and what it is meant for: it is for opening the mind of a pupil to make it easier to teach him or her. I started to be given this herb when I was five years old, so my teachers could make me ready for my marriage and even for some years after my marriage I was given this herb in preparation for the lessons in the womanly arts.

I think it only works with people who have the gift of the spirit, and looking back it is clear I never should have tried to hold the door of the linen cupboard in the slaves' quarters closed when I was hiding from my nursemaid who wanted to punish me for playing with the slaves' children. I even have forgotten what they were called -- they were twins, about as old as I am now, I think.

Being forced to learn all that was not the problem, and it is good that I have all this knowledge now and have learned to remember many different things. But the nightmares were horrible, as was the punishment when I tried to stop the working of the herb by closing off my spirit or pushing off the teacher with my spirit when I felt unable to learn more at times.

It is now five years since I last had to use the dark spring willow bark, and I had forgotten all about it until I took it in my hands. It felt dry and dusty, though, as if all the power had gone from it. Leva resolved to steep the entire bundle in a jar of hot water to make a tea and to dry and drink of it herself, to see if there was any power left. When nothing I said could sway her from her purpose, I begged Leva to ask Raisse to come and be present, to which Leva assented.

Raisse wondered loudly whether giving this herb to Jichan might be a good experiment and teach him something, but when I told Raisse about the nightmares, she desisted. Raisse could discern the working of the herb, faintly, which is a skill I would dearly like to possess. She also told me about Kalesh, which is an abomination and a poison, but which the Valdyan sworn to the god of war take on their initiation, and which she told me she gives her apprentices before they become master in the matters of the spirit.

We went into Leva's room in the attic of the hospital where she drank from the infusion. Because she did not feel anything happen immediately, she drank more and finished it. When it started to work, which always takes some time, it worked very strongly and I made her vomit her stomach empty to avoid having even more of the strength get into her body. Leva had the same nightmare as I used to have, with the abyss, so Raisse stayed with Leva the whole night and held her fast so she did not drop into the spider's web in the abyss.

Before I went to sleep, I visited the sick girl in the hospital and comforted her. She has to wait at least a week until her medicine, which is one of the herbs Ram brought, namely blue fleck root, is ready. It needs to be made into a tincture with distilled wine and need to to stand for at least a week and not become hot. Giving her some power out of myself instead of out of the air seemed to make her stronger and sleep better. I also painted her face, which made her seem healthy and let her see herself in a mirror and told her to dream of that. She slept quietly, and the boy who was hurt by his father's hay wain wanted to be comforted, too. He is about nine years old.

Herbs from Iss-Peran

Morning of the day of the goddess of Death, in the ninth week after the festival of the most Holy Goddess Timoine

This morning I will be going into the school again, and this evening I will be teaching dancing again. Raisse, Kheti and Ebru are gone to Veray, to await the arrival of Raisse's beloved lord and master Orian and to bring Ebru to the house of the sworn of the god of war. Raisse has before she left agreed that I should be Leva's apprentice, which seems settled now.

On the day of the mother, Nanei Hanre, Leva was recovered enough to go on her rounds and she took me to meet Mernath, who is much better, and about half a dozen of her other patients. We also visited the dean of the guild of doctors in Turenay, Rayin, who seems to be very rich and lives near Lord Radan. He is friendly and well-disposed, and may be a good doctor, but he takes much money for his services, which seems wrong to me. I am quite willing to become very rich, but only through trade, not through healing!

On that day, I also visited all my friends who live across the river. Arni's extra room is nearly ready, and some boys were putting up the roof. They have promised to come and help us with our roof. The smith, the master of Erian and husband of Serla, decided to come with me, to visit his wife and look at our house to see what he could do. He also took his second son, who wanted to visit Hinla and take her dancing.

I did leave them to their measuring in our house after I had told them where I wanted doors and windows (little 8-sided windows in the pointy bit under the roof, so we have the light of Anshen on our bed!). Aidan and I visited our neighbours, and when we came back, there was also a carpenter measuring doors and the room for the table.

Our neighbours, apart from Tylse and her son Fian, are Aldin the tinker with his wife Selevi and their children. The tinsmith will repair Lara's pans and procure us a new kettle for really very little money, so little I could give it him out of pocket without counting the amount. He also wanted Lara's old kettle. I went upstairs to speak to Selevi, his wife, who was trying to becalm her children. I was allowed to hold the youngest and sing to her, which is a great honour and was very nice. The other neighbour is a very old woman, Sidhan. She is deaf, nearly blind and has trouble walking. But she is not fuddled like my late husband and her children take good care of her. I am not sure whether she understood anything of what we said, but she seemed to like us nonetheless.

Aidan and I went to an inn for dinner in the west part of town -- we wanted to be together, just the two of us. Of course, the landlady of the inn recognised us, because we had been there before. Lovely little quails and very nice young wine. But I don't think that there will be any part of town where we can be alone for long, because here we met doctor Jeran, who works near the North Gate. He also went to this inn because the food was good and he was not likely to meet people he knew. He is not married, but according to Leva, Jeran lives for his work as a doctor and for his passion for good food, but he is not fat.

Naighei Hanre, the ninth week after the festival of the Most Holy Goddess Timoine

Yesterday morning, after the temple service for the Most Holy God of War, Raisse left for Veray, taking Ebru and Kheti with her. When we took leave of each other, she once more called me her daughter. Raisse believes that the Gods have let me be born to become a doctor, but if that is so, why have they made me be born as a princess in my father's palace? Raisse says because the gods are not all-powerful. Still, it seems a bit haphazard.

I went to the bath house to meet Sinaya, for the first time in three or four weeks -- I have lost count! Aidan also likes me when I am hairy, but I do not feel comfortable. And since I have to give dancing lessons tomorrow, I must feel as Iss-Peranian as possible. Alyse and Aidan went with me, and we also took Lyse, who had never visited a bath house before, let alone been bathed in the Síthi fashion. After the bath, Alyse and I showed Sinaya and Lyse Iss-Peranian dancing.

I pity Alyse very much: she and Jichan have loved each other since they were children, but her mother and his father are sister and brother (or is it the other way around?), which makes it impossible for them to be together in Valdyas. Of course, in Iss-Peran, for noble children, this would not be a problem. And Alyse is already seventeen years old, so she is getting too old to marry, although Aidan says this is not so. He also says that because of this forbidden love, Jichan is chasing all women while Alyse stays away from all men.

The sick girl in the hospital is holding up very well, she was hungry. I knew that Erian's neighbour had just killed a pig, so Aidan and Leva went there to buy black pudding. The girl, her name is Halla, wanted to eat quite a lot of black pudding with onions, and the boy Tyan, whose ribs are crushed, ate the rest.

This was our first evening without Raisse, and I still had not spoken to Lyse, so I asked Hinla whether we could invite both to dinner. Black pudding again! I love Valdyan food, even though it is often coarse and heavy -- only cabbage still troubles my stomach when cooked without ginger. Red cabbage is better, especially when cooked with apples. But then, I love almost all food, whatever part of animal or plant it comes from and in whichever style it is prepared, if it is prepared well; in this I am a bit like doctor Jeran, it seems.

Lyse also approves of me becoming Leva's apprentice, provided that I come to her two days in the week. She has also warned me that she might need me any night for Mialle's twins, that are about to be born. So I must take care not to create too impenetrable a seal when Aidan and I want to take pleasure in each other.

My dear sister, you know better even than I that we have learned a myriad ways of pleasing a man, and there are still many ways of pleasing Aidan left that I have not used on him. Yesterday night (on Anshein hanre), I evaded Raisse's stricture about bedding each other only on the day of Timoine and of the Mother, by seducing Aidan in the dark part of the school's courtyard and climbing right onto his hips. Aidan is very strong, so could easily hold me. Our seals were strong, but apparently Hinla could tell from our rumpled clothes what we had been up to. But she only winked at me. That was after we came back from the night round in the hospital. There is a nobleman of about twenty-five years in the hospital, a Hayan, who is, Aidan says, very attractive to all girls (although he is very clumsy, he is in the hospital because he had fallen of his horse), but apparently he is too old for Alyse already.

This morning I had wanted to go to the hospital, well, actually, I had wanted to spend a few hours on the loom, making cloth for my own jacket (that I hope to be able to wear when we get married, which I certainly hope will be this festival of Anshen, in Gralen -- Aidan is already speaking of a second feast to give for all our friends in Turenay), but Leva had asked me to come to her. But that did not happen because we had a visitor who asked for Raisse.

He was too late, of course, by a day and a night, but I invited him in for breakfast anyway. He was sent by the noble lord Moryn astin Eraday (who, if I recollect correctly, drove the rebels out of Lenyas) and his wife to buy back a certain shop where they used to sell scent and Valdyan make-up before lord Moryn had to return to his Father's palace. Apparently the buying back was done succesfully, but the courier suspected that it would be necessary to clean the house from the influence of the Deceiver because servants of the Deceiver had lived in that house after they had left. So he had had instructions to ask Raisse to perform that task.

I thought immediately of Aidan and Alyse, and made bold to go up to the classroom where they were being taught by Senthi. Senthi allowed me to go in and when I had explained what my errand was, she sent the whole class to that shop to perform this work. It was necessary indeed, but after cleaning the spiritual dirt it was also necessary to clean away the material dirt, for which task I asked Lara, beause she likes cleaning, and because I suspected that this courier would pay her for that, which he did.

I am very excited about this because it seems likely that lord Moryn and his lady wife will be selling scent again, and I maybe they will know where to get that wondrous Valdyan scent the King had taken with him to give to us, the Enshah's wives. I had one small bottle and loved it very much, but I had to leave it in Albetire, in the palace.

It is now too late to go to the hospital, I will close my notebook and go to the history lesson.

Raissei Cora

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