Dear Sister Asa, my queen,
I have just finished a letter to great Queen Raisse to tell her what has happened, and which I want to tell you, too: I have become a journeywoman! In a mere four months, I have learned enough to go through a trial of the spirit and succeeded in distinguishing myself, I cannot wait to show myself to Ebru!
Yesterday morning (the afternoon the day before yesterday I made the rounds with Lyse and visited the following people:
All in all, I spent too much time during these visits chatting with the people we visited.)
But yesterday morning Leva, Kifis [editor's note: 'Kisif' but I'm still leaving the spelling intact for authenticity] and her children and Lyse were all present at the service, as were Aidan and me, we had carefully not spent all night awake, so as not to oversleep. The presence of the most holy God Anshen was very tangible during the service, as if the God himself were aware of the work we were intending to perform. Which may well be the case, of course.
Afterwards we went to the hospital, where we put Kifis on the examination couch. The way of healing a woman who cannot give birth because of being wounded in womb of giving birth is as follows:
Dear Sister, I was not allowed to participate in this work, only to look on and learn, and lend Leva the use of the strength of my spirit, but when the working was done, it appeared to me that the spirit of Kifis was leaving her. Leva took great fright and I went after Kifis' spirit with my spirit. Kifis had shown me previously in the spirit her herb garden, which evidently is a place she loves very much. That is where I went and where I found her, much smaller and weaker than I remembered. The way the spirit goes is very strange, because I could not go in the herb garden, but I could still reach out and hold Kifis close to me (her spirit smells of all sorts of herbs I do not know yet), and I held her tight and close until Lyse and Leva could manage to pull me back, and Kifis with me.
This was my journeywoman's trial and Aidan is very proud of me! I do hope Raisse does not mind that I have gone through this trial with Leva and not with her, but I feel that she is more likely to be just as proud as Aidan is.
Afterwards we went to the bath house with Sinaya to pamper our tired bodies and for a big, big, big lamb pastry (and vegetable pastry for Sinaya, who joined us) afterwards. Aidan went with us, too — he is getting quite used to being in the company of many women. I did try not to speak of women's things only, this time, although given what we had just done, that was our main topic. But Aidan actually knows the village where Kifis lives because he has hunted there last year and partaken of Kifis' mushroom stew. He was there with a whole company of noblemen to hunt. This year we will try to go there again, so I can see Kifis' herb garden for myself!
Aidan doesn't mind much our women's talk, yesterday afternoon or even during the evenings in our house, where Lara, Lyse, Halla, Hinla and me live now together, but I know he sometimes goes to the Apple or the Tankard to drink and chat with Jichan and perhaps some men from school or the regiment, not to escape from us, but to keep in balance, which I think is wise of him. Also, today when I was weaving my damask and had inadvertently sealed myself in, he went for a walk with Aldan, the improper man who has bad heart trouble, and they enjoyed themselves a lot and Aidan tells me he has grown to consider Aldan a friend of his.
The rest of the day of Anshen we spent being together. At least, we walked to the North Gate to see the progress on the bath house (more than half of the roof has been tiled now!) and on walking back to school we visited doctor Jeran, who was cooking a wonderful dish of vegetables and bacon, then to Lord Radan and Halla, whom we joined for a meal and to tell them I had become a journeywoman.
However, Aidan remembed that today the front door frame would be put in place and that we should be putting a silver coin for luck under the bottom part of the door frame (what is that called? A lintel, or is that the top part?). Accordingly, we hastened to our house.
I learned a lot about the Valdyan custom of putting this coin under the doorstep — it must be a silver coin, because a copper coin will guarantee perpetual poverty, which would not do, and it should never be dug up. But Aidan did dig a little before putting our coin in, a shilling, and found a very old rider, a little black from being in the soil, but not chipped at all. It was a rider bearing the face of Queen Mialle and was two hundred years old. Aidan did not see problem with keeping this rider and letting Raisse see whether she could get the imprint of the owner, but I was afraid that this would bring bad luck, so we put it back together with our own coin.
It must mean that where our shed is at present there used to be a house with its front door in the same place. The town of Turenay is a mere hundred, hundred-twenty years old, having been founded following the discovery of the hot springs. There are indeed still some low buildings in the town that look more like a farmhouse than a town-house: there used to be nothing but a farming village adjoining the river here. The town has grown a lot!
We then went to Tylse to ask her whether she remembered anything about there being a house on the place of the shed, but she merely remembers there being nothing but the ruin of a small building they fixed up to become a shed suitable for storing grain in.
From Tylse we went on to Selevi, the wife of the tinker, and there we found her preparing a fish stew for her nine children. When we left her to visit the tinker, Aidan remarked that indeed, visiting Selevi made him desire me to bear him many children, too, so he is not afraid of the chaos and noise —, for in Selevi's house there is a lot of chaos and noise! The tinker, Aldin, had just finished our pans and colanders, and on showing them to Lara she declared herself very happy that her old pans were so beautifully repaired and that they would be useful to us.
About Radan from Essle: during my evening rounds, I spent some time talking with the concussed man. I helped him remember that his name was Erian, and that he came from Essle. He loves squid with onions as much as I do, but I shall also give him deep-fried river lobster, because I think he will love that too. He is tainted with the stench of the Deceiver, and I made use of an attempt to remedy his headache to straighten his mind out a bit.
That was when he remembered that he had a son of thirteen years, Arin, who works for Radan, the merchant prince who owns the trading house called the Dawn. Radan had sent a message in a letter to Lady Rava, Headmistress of our Guild School. To this Erian, the guild of the Nameless is the Guild, and he was shocked very much that this school is the school of the Guild of the most Holy God Anshen — to him, Anshen is the Nameless! Truly, the Deceiver has earned his appellation.
Erian was honest enough to admit that he had tried to see what was written in the letter (before he lost it with his purse), but he hadn't managed, more's the pity: the letter was sealed with the power of the spirit, and also with a wax seal, and impenetrable to light.
Aidan called Master Jilan for me, who deputizes for Raisse in matters of the other guild when she is away to investigate this matter. It is very puzzling, Master Jilan agreed.
But something Master Jilan said made me wonder about myself. I will need to carefully put this down on paper before speaking to people, because they might easily misunderstand me, which still very often happens, because I am not very intelligent and my knowledge of the Valdyan language and thought is still lacking a lot.
When I called Master Jilan to the bedside of Erian from Essle, he told me that I am always "pulling people up" beyond where they were. Master Jilan is very wise and I am not sure I understand him fully. I am wondering whether this talent has to do with the art of seduction through the use of the spirit I have learned in Iss-Peran, that is to say, that all these people whom I love so much have not befriended me because I was friendly and they liked me, but because I made them like throught the force of my spirit.
This would, if I have understood Raisse correctly, be a despicable artifice of mine and a deception of all those around me, too. It is the more worrying that I have learned that I am now using semsin again without knowing it, just like before I knew about the power of the spirit.
You see, I spent time weaving last night and today; it was very good to be properly weaving again, it is good for the spirit. I am still quite fast, and that means I am accurate. As the saying goes, "fast fingers make accurate work, slow fingers are fumbling fingers that make mistakes".
That this is true is borne out by my having to undo a stretch of work I made just after my recovery, when I was working very slowly. I did manage to finish enough white damask for my design; and I have enough thread left to last me until the festival of Mizran at least. Maybe I'll make a hunting costume for me and Aidan — I have some wonderful dark red yarn.
But that is not the problem: the problem is that had sealed myself in the weaving workshop on the afternoon of Hanre Nafur, and Aidan, who had the afternoon off and wanted to walk with me, noticed that and decided not to disturb me. I had not noticed I had made a seal myself -- although I was quite glad of some hours of undisturbed work, since I finished the cloth I needed and could start on the cutting of the jacket that evening.
Which was again wrong of me, of course, since I should have been giving dancing lessons. Nobody reminded me of them: maybe they all thought I was ill again. And it is too late now, since Arni, who is already quite accomplished, leaves for Nesh, for the feast, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. She will take Tyan, the boy who was crushed by a hay wain, with her, since he needs to go to Tal-Vauryn, where his parents live.
I will miss him a lot, he was always very cheerful and very lively and full of a desire for happiness and fun. What is going to happen next?
P.S.: I was right about the vermin. It seems we are having a plague of mice at the moment, and they were even nestling in Lara and Lyse's straw pallet!
Today Rayin, the old man whose heart was failing him, died. I came back from saying goodbye to Kisif with Leva — Kisif went back to her village with her children today. I will miss her so much! And the children too. His spirit was still in his body, but for two or three days now he had hardly been awake.
When I came to him, he looked very much like he was going soon and when I held him in my arms and pressed his head to my breast, my cheek to his forehead, he woke up, looked me in the eyes and died. His spirit was taken by the most holy Goddess of Death, Naigha. I called Leva and Senthi: Leva to call the priestesses of Death and Senthi to listen to the song.
I had promised Rayin that I would sing for him when he died so he would not be alone in his death, and priestess Mialle wanted to know about the mourning songs. I am not sure when I learned them: I thought from the slaves, but since they are in the Court language, it is more likely that I learned them from our Elder Sister. I went home to change my short skirt for my long skirt and put my hair in a scarf — I do not have proper mourning clothes! — and then went back to sing for him.
The priestesses of Death do not sing when they bring the the body to the Temple, but we do, so I did sing. And in the temple, the priestesses sang, too, very beautifully, and then I sang about Rayin and his life. I did not know him very well, apart from that he has two sons in the war in Iss-Peran and was considered grumpy by Arin astin Hayan, but he never was grumpy to me.
And then the priestesses took him away to be buried under the ground, which I consider a horrible idea.
Senthi went back to school to work out her notes on the song. It felt a bit weird, as if it were a kind of lying to sing for someone and have someone else write down the words, as if I were a performer. But then, performers are paid, and I am not, thankfully, and the priestesses of Death approved.
With me was also princess Ayneth, the sister of Aidan, who had just arrived from Valdis. I met her on my way back from the North Gate. Her horse had lost a shoe which means, apparently, that one should not sit on the horse anymore, but walk. Princess Ayneth had had to walk for nearly a week, she told me. It was Leva who recognized her, although I see that there is a strong likeness between Aidan and princess Ayneth, only princess Ayneth's hair is straight, and Aidan's isn't. I took her to lady Halla to make her acquaintance, since both princess Ayneth's brother and princess Ayneth's father were at school, following lessons behind a seal.
Lady Halla approves of princess Ayneth, and princess Ayneth approves of Lady Halla, which is excellent.
I am not sure why the princess came with me to the temple, but then, I am not sure I understand much of her at all. She seems very strange to me: she told me she "sneaked away from Valdis" without even taking her leave of the King and Queen. Which also means she did not carry any letters for us, but she assured me that letters were following. The princess has governed the Kingdoms for Athal when Athal was in Iss-Peran, and likely that has tired her out. Whether that is because women should not govern in Valdyas, or whether it is because she has no husband, and the care of a country is big to carry when one does not have a husband or wife to share the burden with, I do not know. Princess Ayneth seems determined to do nothing at all while she is in Turenay, which would drive me insane, but there are many different people, although, excepting the owner of the bath house we bought, all Valdyans seem very industrious to me, which is why this kingdom is so rich.
I am determined to like her and make her like me, though, since she is Aidan's sister, and we will be family for the rest of our lives. She was grimy from her long journey, and before she went before her Father, she wanted to bathe, so I took her to the bath house near the school, which is clean and has hot water. But there was no time to ask Sinaya to come. I should have thought of that first, of course, before I went to the hospital to visit Rayin, and sent someone to ask Sinaya to come.
But the bath house lady has all the necessary things, only not the best quality and much used, and I made bold to ask the princess whether I should wash her, and do her hair and so on. I think I pleased her: she told me she often goes into the big Síthi bath house of Lady Kamari in Valdis and that she was glad I could help her.
There was another thing she said to me, namely that too much, and too many bad things, had happened to me. I am not sure I understand her: nearly nothing happened to me. When I was in my parents' palace, I got up in the morning, had lessons, had food, had lessons, had food, had lessons and slept, and later in my husband's palace, it was the same, only the afternoon and evening were not filled with lessons but with weaving. Only the palace intrigues and the certain knowledge that among the slaves and wives there would always be those who would fall in love with and desire me to return their feelings kept the days from being perfectly tranquil. And the occasional visit, such as Queen Raisse's. Only now that I am Valdyas, things happen, and I am very grateful that they do.
I do not long back to those days in the palace... Although, Sister, back then we knew we were beautiful and beloved because so many people kept falling in love with us and making us the nicest and most poetic of compliments. In Turenay, I count myself fortunate if some man in the street dares to whistle at me, or if a companion in the bath tells me I am good-looking. Valdyans do not look at a woman if she is already the servant of a man, which is very proper and commendable, of course. But it is still a pity, in some ways. I am still too vain to be properly Valdyan.
My Sister, the princess is very fond of my friend Alyse, formerly astin Eraday, whose clean clothes she borrowed, although Alyse has the advantage of the princess by about two hand-breadths. Aidan and Lord Radan were also very glad to see their sister and daughter, and we went off to the Apple to have a pie.
And in the Apple there was new apple wine already, the freshest, most light and sparkling wine I have ever drunk. I am so fond of apple wine, but I had already forgotten it had existed since we had drunk the last wine before the festival of the most Holy Goddess Timoine, because so much has happened since then.
Another thing that I should write down: yesterday I went to Selle (whom Aidan calls "my improper friend", which amuses Selle very much, as if Aidan does not have his very own "improper friend", namely Aldan) and asked her to come with me for a glass of wine. She had just been bothered by an unpleasant customer, who actually wanted that which Lady Haluwa has said is one of the three things a wife is allowed to refuse her husband (apart from the three further things that may be refused). That meant that she had been given the whole afternoon off, which fit very well with my plans.
Selle wanted to be as far away from the house for improper women as possible, so we went to have our wine in the little inn Aidan and I go to when we want to be together. I asked Selle whether she wanted to continue in her present occupation or whether she would want to marry one day. She confessed to me that though she generally enjoyed her work and the friendship with the other improper women, and liked both men and women equally (now that is a strange thing! And it is stranger still that I am not more afraid of her) she had always wanted a husband for the duration of her life. (Also, Alyse has betrayed me in one thing, namely there turned out to be a girl in my dancing lessons who loves women exclusively, as I discovered when I gave her an extra lesson, but she did not become unpleasant to me, which was good, although also makes me doubt myself.)
Then I proposed that she take a look at Arin Hayan in the hospital, who is a bit clumsy, but about whom all the Valdyan women are in agreement that he is "cute". Selle was interested, so I changed her make-up for her (the improper women are very recognizable from the clumsy way they paint their face) and took her to see the hospital. I introduced her to Rayin (who was still alive when this happened) and showed her the children's ward and the herb room — but carefully did not introduce her to Arin, who, however, was looking out of the window when we were in the yard, washing our hands under the pump. (Which was, strictly speaking, not necessary, but afforded Arin a chance of getting another eyeful of Selle).
Selle is not averse to a possible match, and Arin was rather pleased with Selle's looks, so I have invited them, together with Aidan (who has to go and fight after dinner, though), Ayneth, Lord Radan and Alyse to dinner tonight. And Lyse tells me Erian will come, too, so it will be a pleasantly crowded kitchen tonight. Maybe we will be able to drag the kitchen table outside and eat in the yard? Selle may be improper, but she is my friend and deserves a real chance, whatever Aidan says about me, and I have told him not to tease me on this subject again.
About the dancing lessons: I did give my class lessons yesterday, and those were the last lessons until I know whether Leva will leave me time for that. Most of my pupils have made very good progress, but there were two girls who have always felt they did not have the ability. I asked them to stay after the lessons, and gave them extra lessons, just like Aylin last week, only, now that I am a journeywoman, I could also make them feel in their spirit the positions and the transitions, and could make them feel the muscles they should be using. Before long, I had them moving quite correctly, and even making the sweat move along the prescribed paths. I had wanted them to try dancing for a man, and thought of Aldan, but it turns out that Aldan is also very complicated and falls in love with men and women, both, so I had to act the part of husband, and they danced for me and did very well.
Time to prepare Selle!