Oh, Sister, my sister, my sister Asa -- we are allowed to get married this Festival of Anshen! The King has made a proclamation and the Queen has written me a letter. We are allowed to get married! I am so deliriously happy that for the past day or two, three (it is hard to account the days properly) I have gone about thinking about nothing else, telling everyone over and over about it and feeling as if I want to kiss and lift up all of Turenay and maybe the whole world and kiss everyone. We are allowed to be married this summer!
It happened like this -- but perhaps I ought to put my thoughts in order and put what has happened in the right sequence of events, because otherwise I will remain confused -- but what a wonderful confusion! But since one thing led to another...
My sister, as I wrote to you in my last letter, we were preparing to have a dinner in honour of my friend Selle, to allow her to meet Arin astin Hayan. Since we had just met the princess Ayneth that day, we invited her, too, and since Lord Radan and Lady Halla were present, we invited them, too. Halla who suffers from weak blood, too, since she stays in our house. And Lyse had already invited her friend, Erian, whom I apprenticed to the smith, and the son of the smith, Jeran, who is in love with Hinla, had already promised Hinla to be with her that night. And having Ayneth without having Alyse would be cruel, the first day that Ayneth was in Turenay. And then, inviting Aldan seemed like a good thing to do, too, because he is nice and can dance and sing, and he's not so ill that he should be in bed all the time.
That made -- let me count -- fourteen people sitting down. Too much for the kitchen! Selle (who is quite strong!) and Aidan carried the kitchen table outside, under the old chestnut tree that dates back from when this was a noble manor house, instead of a compound of school, hospital and weavery. The food in the kitchen was smelling divine, the weather lovely and warm, it being almost mid summer -- when we will be married! (although I did not know that back then.) Selle arrived then, and she had brought an enormous basket of Síthi sweatmeats. When I had prepared Selle, done her hair and make-up (Selle did wear more appropriate clothes, not quite so indecently see-through, although I would give a lot for a shirt like hers, of that very, very, very thin linen), and went down together, everyone had assembled.
Then Lord Radan and Lady Halla arrived, bringing a big, big basket filled with little meat and vegetable pasties, and when I saw those I just knew who was missing: Sidhan, the old lady who lives opposite our new front door, who is a bit deaf and has nearly no teeth left, but is also quite formidable and still loves life very much. Aidan and me went to fetch her, and she graciously consented to come. We put her in the shade, in a nice, big armchair from the front room.
It was a wonderful evening: when we had eaten our fill, and dusk had fallen (although it wasn't quite dark-dark), we packed up. Erian had gotten the idea of fetching the donkey cart so we could bring Sidhan, Aldan and Arin to the river bank, where we could have music and dance, and drink some more wine. When I suggested that I would like a campfire too, like in the ancient stories, everyone agreed. On going down the east road, towards the kissing bridge, more people from school followed us. We will have to replace Raisse's wine stock before we return to Turenay! (Although I believe Jichan has suggested that his father, Lord Vurian, will want to take care of that, because he is rich and still loves Raisse very much, I wonder that his wife, Lady Rava isn't jealous.)
We weren't the only people who had gone down to the river: on both sides, south of the kissing bridge (where on the west side, there's a large tract of land that is still not built on, but which is hemmed in by the palissade nonetheless), on both banks, there were groups of people sitting around a campfire, dancing, singing, drinking and kissing. I asked for boughs and twigs and branches, as green and living as possible, and we built a campfire that I lit with my spirit, it was wonderful to make fire again. Alyse and Ayneth were very impressed, but to me it's wonderful and very satisfying to do, but not difficult at all. (Lord Vurian has seen my making fire in my spirit, and tells me he will try to let me light the midsummer fire at the festival of the Most Holy God Anshen in Gralen.) Alyse played the lute, and when she became too tired, Ayneth took over.
We had music, we danced, old lady Sidhan had a wonderful night, too, she so loves having young and lively things around. I visited the other groups of people, because almost everywhere there was someone I knew, and there was even a boy who came wading through the river, whom I had cured of infected wounds in his feet (and now I know where he got those wounds! Wading through the river over sharp stones with the rats nibbling his ankles, I don't doubt), and we danced together, too. He was wondering why the girls all fled for him when he wanted to dance or kiss, but, well! I asked Aidan to tell him about that! He has fleas and lice, he stinks from his mouth and his hands are coarse and gritty, not with callouses from working hard (Aidan, too, has callouses on his right hand, from handling his sword, which means I want him to use his left hand when tickling me between my legs, but more about that later), but from dirt. His hair is lanky, and I mean really lanky. But I still danced with him, since he liked me, and apart from being dirty and reeking of a cesspit, he's nice and considerate and not a drunk or something like that, so Aidan told him he needed to clean up if he wanted to ever kiss a girl, and gave him two shillings to go to a bath house. Today Selle found a couple of lice and two fleas on me, though.
And then we went home, to bring Aldan and Arin to the hospital and Sidhan to her home. We had the house to ourselves, everyone else still being near the river bank. I danced for Aidan in the kitchen, undressing as I went, and he was already naked when we went up. There I made a proposal to him, namely that tonight he should enter my mind with his spirit and feel what he made me feel, and next time, I would enter his mind. I felt that this should be safe now that I am a journeywoman. I let him feel the press of his cheek against my cheek, his breast and hand against my breasts, his belly against my belly, the top of his feet (what is that called in Ilaini?) against the soles of my feet, his weight on my body, and his fullness filling me: and of course how much more pleasant his left thumb feels opening my rose than his right!
This immediately made him break the clouds, and the same happened to me. We had not been enjoying ourselves for long, but we felt we wanted to go down and have some wine and talk to each other, more than trying to arouse his interest again. Besides, I was tired out spiritiually with this effort combined with keeping up my seals.
Downstairs, we found Lara and Jichan, giggling and kissing, which was a lovely and very pleasing sight. Just like my own lord and master, Jichan is strong and full of purpose, and sharp and considerate, and, of course, gifted. Unlike Arin astin Hayan, who is nice and good-looking, but also fumbling and "cute". I can do cute and cuddly for both of us! Lara isn't cute or cuddly at all, but she still seems to fit Jichan very well -- there is something about their spirits that seems to say to me that they fit together very well, as if they are one eggshell in two parts. I wonder if Aidan and me look that way to other people, too, I hope so.
In any case, I immediately became very afraid lest I would be taking a pregnant Lara to Raisse in Veray, Raisse would tan my hide for me! (Or so I believe the Valdyan expression goes) So I took Lara to the wash house, and explained about the tea. I told Lara that she should use her fingers, her hands, her mouth and her breasts, but not her rose, and that I expected Jichan to be similarly instructed by Aidan. (Although that perhaps wouldn't be necessary: Jichan has been to the improper women with Aidan, too, and he's had lovers all over Turenay ever since he came down, but perhaps he didn't know that Lara does not drink the tea, nor has had a lover before.)
Then, since Hinla had gone to Jeran's place to be together with him, they went to Hinla's room, and spent the night together. Aidan and me, we went back to bed again and did not sleep for some time, either.
Next morning, I took Lara to Lady Halla to buy the tea that makes your body think it is pregnant (I know it has given me a different body scent), and ginger for our kitchen, because we had run out. It will be a few days before the tea has rendered Lara temporarily barren (I have been very blessed indeed, because I did not know this, nor did Aidan, and we took our pleasure in each other immediately after having drunk the tea for the first time, but indeed, we could not have waited), but Jichan is a serious young man, and can wait, and Lara, she still has to learn everything and can get started with a few nights of exploring her lover and herself.
I somehow am a little jealous of her, as I told her, since for her being with her lover is one discovery after another, and I know all the options, all the technical possibilities and all the usual and less usual proclivities already, having been taught by lady Haluwa. It is difficult to say which is preferable: being sure of not missing one way or another of pleasing one's lord and master, or giving him the pleasure of being the teacher and of allowing him to make one discover everything afresh. (But what is learned cannot be unlearned, and it was pleasant to see this evening that Lara did wash her lord and master after he and Aidan came back from fighting in much the same way as I do, although I do not think she enjoys his sweat in quite the same way as I do. My preference for Aidan's sweat may be an unusual proclivity in Valdyas, I should ask Erne or Selle about that.)
When Lara and I came back from Lady Halla and were on the Market Place, a girl made her horse halt near the Town Guard's Captain's house, shouting over her shoulder, "I've won, I've won, I've won!". Then she looked wonderingly at me and came down from her horse and said she was Aine, and was I Khora? I answered that I was her, yes -- and she gave me a letter, a letter from the Queen! I did not dare open it there and then, for it were a letter telling me no, then I would surely have drowned all of Turenay in my despair, and if it were yes, then it would have been the same as the day Aidan and I declared ourselves to each other.
Instead, I went with Lord Vurian, who had ridden out in advance of his wife, Rava, who is bringing her little children, in order to have a match with his daughter Aine and with the royal courier who ought to have given me my letter, and who is going on to Iss-Peran to tell Koll Konandé he's a low, vile, base, disgusting traitor unworthy of being called Enshah, ever (or so I overheard Lord Vurian tell Ayneth, later on). I went with him, because his daughter, princess Aine, wanted to be there when I opened my letter. Valdyan girls do not differ from Iss-Peranian girls in curiosity! And I get the impression she may have heard some stories about me.
On our way to Lord Vurian's town mansion, I made bold to call Aidan and Jichan, especially Jichan, since neither I nor Lara knew how to explain to Lord Vurian how his son had fallen in love with a girl who cannot even write her own name, although Lara has learned very fast over the past few weeks, and I am sure that once Lady Rava starts her class, she will learn her letters very quickly and in any case she's a strong and good friend and full of the love of life. But it was awkward all the same, seeing that Lord Vurian is such a great and rich prince, and very overwhelmingly male.
We arrived at the house together, and it was a good thing that we were inside, because as soon as I had skimmed the letter and seen the Royal Proclamation, I knew we would be married this summer (barring mishaps with the childpox, which is in the children's wing of the hospital now), and I embraced Aidan -- and Lord Vurian had to hastily put up strong seals. When I looked up, Lara was sitting in Jichan's lap, kissing him and him kissing her, and that was one explanation less I had to make!
I have felt as if drunk with Erne's wine ever since!
Quick note: Selle has made a wise decision and has left the house for improper women. Her mistress is not angry with me, though she maintains she will sorely miss Selle, and not just because of the money she brought in, but also because of her cheerful and practical disposition. Selle now sleeps over the hospital and has requested the loan of my hospital clothes for the summer.
She wondered why they were white -- and I told her that that was cheapest. She may not yet have realized that one does not earn much money working in the hospital. But she will be close to Arin, who asked me whether he had a chance if he asked Selle. I answered him yes, if his question were the right one: not to ask Selle to spend some months with him as his concubine in his parents' hunting lodge, but to marry him. To that question, I told him, he could be sure of the answer he desired. At least, if his desire would be for the answer "yes" -- if he wanted "yes" to the first question he had better not pose it!
Not everyone is as sure and certain as my beloved lord and master! But Selle will be very well suited, she is a strong and strong-willed woman. I hope they will not be gone when we return, but in any case, the hunting lodge where Arin intends to take his bride to live is on the way to Kisif's village, so we will pass through there in the autumn.
Tomorrow we will go: my beloved lord and master is packing my clothes -- except for my hospital clothes, that Selle needs. I think I will have time a-plenty in Veray to make me some skirts and shirts to use during the fighting, and cloth is very cheap in Veray, Raisse has told me.
Now I will go on my rounds: tonight I will do the other twenty ells of blue-and-white damask for the Queen's friend -- I did the other twenty ells last night. But I will be able to sleep in the cart tomorrow, I am sure of that.