Dear sister! Weep with me. Let your tears and my tears become one torrent that drowns our sadness. Aidan is going to the war! As I had feared before we went to Valdis, there is no way to keep my husband with me and still keep my honour and his love. I had seen him yesterday, and today (have we only been in Valdis for two days? it seems longer, but my fingers do not deceive me, and we indeed arrived the day before yesterday) come home from the manoeuvres with the army, looking happy, strong, fresh and vigorous. And then, when he saw me, he would try to look as if all this pleasure he had derived from being with the army had not happened!
If he had been an older man, a man with a little more life behind him and a little more of a poet in him, he'd have been able to say what he needed to say. But Valdyan boys are curiously untutored, and it was for me to tell him that I had seen his yearning for the army, the battle and the glory, and that I released him of his promise to stay with me.
Even so, he could not but try to make me decide for him whether he should go or not; which I refused, emboldened by my beloved sister Raisse, who also told him that a man ought to make his own decisions. After all, as I remonstrated with my beloved lord husband, if a man cannot decide for himself whether to sail to the battle or not, is he fit to lead men into battle? So he decided.
In half a year, or maybe a year, I hope to be embraced by my lord husband again, when he returns victorious from the greatest battle in our lifetime, when he returns with glory, fame and renown. He will be changed, of that I am sure. But I love my lord husband, and I am sure that he will be true to me, and that when he comes home to me, he will be more like his father or Lord Vurian, more a grown-up man and master of men, less the impetuous boy who can be so blithely inattentive. It will be good for him; and I will be able to bear my solitude, I expect. It is a woman's lot anyway, and so it is mine.
And when he comes home, I will be bearing his child, in my belly or on my arms. That I have promised myself: no more tea in the mornings for me now. I am not sure how long the effects of the tea will last, but if I do not get pregnant in time, I will go to Khastana and ask her to do to me what the dandar did to me when I was married to my previous husband. If anything, the dandar in Valdyas should be able to earn their living as midwives!
But I will expect my lord husband to pay his tenderest attentions to me for the two weeks we will remain together!
I admit I was shocked by the separation of the various peoples under Athal's reign in Valdis, and I had conceived of an idea to start putting this right. Am I too meddlesome? When in Valdis, I almost feel like a reigning queen, not just when people prostrate themselves for me in the street, but also in that Raisse takes me into her confidence in her most important counsels and listens to me, and tells me she agrees or disagrees with me.
In any case, I had decided to sell some of the jewelry we I had been given by the Iss-Peranians and give the proceeds to the Temple of Dayati. I had selected the nose rings (which I cannot wear, not having been pierced in the nose because when I left I was not fourteen years old), and four of the earrings that were of a design or a material not suited to my comeliness.
Raisse's secretary, a woman named Halla whom I admire very much, advised me to go to a certain Perain, a silversmith from Ildis, testifying of his honesty and competence. Raisse and me, she carrying Radan, I carrying Rovan, with Senthi, carrying Vurian and some soldiers went there, this afternoon after we had returned from Khastana.
This Perain serves the Deceiver, but if he has deceived me, I can only say that I was already surprised at getting ten times what I had thought I would get for these trinkets! I received three hundred riders, in gold and silver. I told Raisse that I had intended to give the proceeds to the Temple, and she wondered aloud whether I should give so much more than I had intended, telling me to search in my conscience.
But the Gods cannot be trifled with, besides, it would be dishonourable to go back on a promise, even if it was only made in the confines of my own mind. So we took this money to the Temple.
We had to make a small detour, though, because Raisse had bought two silver medals, engraved with the sign of the most Holy God of War, one for her and one for Athal. These medals are imbued with protective power, much like the cloth Raisse in Turenay weaves. When I said, in jest, that I would like to learn how to make jewelry in this way, doing the same to it that I do to my woven cloth, Raisse blanched and told me to go on learning for a doctor! I think I would be rather good at it, though, but I am probably too old to start learning.
In any case, at the Temple Raisse went to get the money she had borrowed off me for the medals, wanting to keep them a secret against Athal's departure, so she didn't want the jeweller to send a bill to the Palace. At the temple I learned that the temple provides for the poor of the city in the form of free food bought out of the common donations. This is a very worthy work, but the poor have to come and fetch it.
I have given two hundred and ninety riders to the Temple of Dayati, keeping ten to take Athal and Raisse out to a place to eat and to dance. The temple of Dayati in Valdis is a very pleasant place, with many, many children playing and paying obeisance to the Deity. Vurian and Rovan immediately went their way, but the Temple is bound to be safe, so I was not worried. Raisse went for a discussion with the High Priestess, Garmi, and I asked a young priestess, Kamale, to receive me and draw up my deed of giving.
My idea was as follows: the money I donated to the cause of the most Holy Goddess is for providing those children who become, as the Valdyans reckon, superannuated to Her service, and need to learn a trade. Their apprentice price should be paid from my donation. But only on the condition that they do not take a master among their own nation, but go and learn with someone else. Which means that Síthi children can seek a place with Iss-Peranians or Valdyans or Ishey, but not with Síthi masters. And the same for all the other nations that are protected by the mighty King. Raisse declared, when she heard of this, that this was an admirable plan, and I had a discussion with a Khas boy who was all for it, too -- he wanted to become a blacksmith, but didn't dare tell anyone outside the Temple that he was Khas, and even Priestess Kamale thought he was Ishey.
Note: this boy is related to Selmet, who works for the Queen. His family is very poor, so wheedle Raisse into helping them out. Also, I want to share a meal with them and learn from them what I can.
Tonight, Aidan and me, we went out for a dinner and dancing with Athal and Raisse. I thought it would be an appropriate way of repaying their kindness and hospitality, and a good way of being able to have an unaffected discussion. So it turned out! The dinner was very good, and Athal and Raisse were able to relive the days of their early courtship. Dancing was a lot of fun, too, and I danced not just with my lord husband and Athal, but also with plenty of other people from Valdis, even with a boy who had bet with his friends that he would dare to ask me to a dance. He was a nice boy though, and a good dancer, and so won his bet. And I felt it a nice compliment, worth remembering.
We are home now, and Aidan is asleep, he has spent himself in giving me pleasure, but from the way he tosses in his sleep, he is not easy in himself yet. My lord husband is still very young, and vigorous. It will be good for him to do this work, and go to the war. After all, if I ask myself in all honesty: if I am called to go on a long journey to save a patient from an illness and leave him alone, would I hesitate? I think I would not. We have a calling, and it is a bad, graceless and ungrateful wife who denies her lord and husband his calling.
But I will miss him!