Kaita and I had the room to ourselves, thank goodness, Min and Gan having taken Ilesias off to show him the marble workings and Ailadas was sitting outside on the inn’s terrace, reading. I was full up with the familiar cramping and knew that this moon would not be a good one.
“Ky? I’ll get you a hot bottle from the staff and there must be an apothecary near the market, for some headache powders. Don’t worry, lass, this changes once you’ve had your first child,” Kaita said comfortingly, patted me on the shoulder and went to see if she could get something for my aching head. She was flowing too but she had had her first child and also had years more experience dealing with it all. It just made me feel so weak and frail and I hated it.
I was lying curled around the bottle, full of hot water, feeling as though someone had stabbed me in the belly. Repeatedly. The bottle sleeve was a fuzzy cloth so I not burn myself and I indulged in taking my gloves off to warm my hands on it, pressing it to me, when the boys came back. They blared in like a blast of trumpets and I flung my arm up over my eyes when they came in.
"The exalted serina should see it, it's wonderful the big blocks of stone and sometimes they have these big block come tumbling down -- "--we left the kid with granddad -- hey..."
“Hey! The shutter is closed. Kylinia? Are you all right?” I cracked open my eyes to see Minis on his knees next to the bed, his one glove hovering over my arm, worry creasing his fine blond brows. “Where’s Kai? Where’s… Aimondas? Why are you all alone here? I’ll fetch a physician if you’re sick –“
“Please close the shutter again, Gannara. Minakas, I’m fine… this just happens to women now and then… Do we need to ride anywhere? If we have to, I could but I’m happier just lying down.”
Had he never… hmmm. No, no women close to him, ever. He probably had no idea what I was talking about. I took a deep breath and did my best to be blunt. “Minakas. This is just a bad moon for me, all right?”
“A… bad moon?” He was puzzled for a long moment, then his eyes widened all around “Ohhhhhh! Um…” And then he started to blush. He went from his knees to his backside as if he’d fallen over.
“I’m not on fire, Minakas, and won’t contaminate you by breathing on you.” I was snappish because I had no patience for men’s too delicate sensibilities.
“No! Of course not! Um… is there something I can do to… um…” I heard him gulp. Silly boy. “…help?” As terrified as if I would ask him to change my blood cloths or wash one out.
“You can get the inn to re-fill my hot water bottle and then maybe get me some shokolad. It will ease things.” I thrust the cooling bottle at him and he took it as awkwardly as I’d seen him move in a long time, scrambled up and backed out of the room, Gannara following, looking a bit confused. The Yeoli boy wasn’t embarrassed at all.
“We’ll get you some more warm for your cramps, Ky,” Gannara said. It was my turn to blush. A Yeoli boy knows about monthlies? Oh, dear.
I was so embarrassed that, in my haste, I backed right into the opposite wall across from our door and nearly dropped the water bottle. Gannara closed the door softly behind himself. “What’s wrong with you? You look like she’s just told you she has a terminal illness not her linasanga.”
I didn’t know the Yeoli word but could guess. “Oh, don’t say that, even in Yeoli! It’s her privacy!”
It took me a moment to straighten up. Somehow I couldn’t help but think of the drawings in the Haian book and started coughing… they meant more to me now that I actually knew a girl… a woman. I gathered up the hot water bottle. “I’ll get this re-filled. We’ll be here a day or two longer so the serina may rest.”
“Yeah.” He snorted. “Arkans.”
“Perverse Yeoli,” I answered him as we headed downstairs.
“Oh yeah? Butt-head.” He said as solemnly as if pronouncing a benediction.
“Crotch scalp,” I shot back, grinning. He giggled and we traded insults all the way down to the kitchen.
The walls of pain in my head have really big holes in them now. They aren’t gone yet and the dark in the Tunnel made some of them worse and thicker and stronger.
The problem with holes is that the edges still hurt and when someone reaches through they, or I risk getting cut. Mostly me. I don’t say much but Minis never stops picking at them, like scabs. I love him for it and don’t tell him to stop. It’s a hurt like picking a scab now. There’s a chance of solid skin underneath instead of a wound.
I don’t care if there are scars as long as it doesn’t hurt anymore. He loves me like a brother, like his little brother Ilesias. And Ailadas and Kaita like family but thinks he doesn’t know how. It’s so silly. Ky knows she likes… maybe loves Minis. Minis is in love with her and won’t even think about it because he thinks he’s such a kyash and a bad catch now and all of that crazy Arkan kyash. He’s making himself crazy trying to get her home safe and with all her ‘honour’. I won’t kick about that because he stole a shen-load of money from the Mahid and that had to have hurt them. And it will help us, but it was all about that little silk box. And now that she has a bad menses he’s acting like she’s diseased. Arkans are so weird.
He went up to give her the hot bottle and I went out to sit with Ailadas and Ilesias and have a snack. “Hi, ‘ladas. Hi, kid.”
“Hello, --ahem—Gannara. My granddaughter complained of a headache so I came out to sit in the sun. Has that one and Minakas checked on her?” He sets the book down and picks up the… ah, he’s having a beer instead of wine and maybe feels a little embarrassed. Arkans. Everything is status. Wine is higher caste than beer somehow.
“Yes, Scholar. She has cramps and a headache.”
“Ahem. Quite.” Right, he doesn’t want to talk about women’s stuff any more than Minis does. “Ahem. Kaita should be returning shortly, ahem, with some remedy for her.”
“Sure.” I sit with him and nibble on the crisps and dips and Ailadas helps himself to some too. Ilesias has both hands full since Ailadas isn't yet enforcing manners on him. "Hey, kid, not so many at once! That's just greedy."
"Is not! They're mine!"
"At least put them on a plate, young man," Ailadas says severely. Ilesias pouts but does as he's told.
“We shall probably –ahem-- be delayed until after this little festival the town is having… ‘First Crack’ they –ahem-- call it. Ahem. The innmaster tells me the whole market will be offering various kinds of food samples and samples of their stone works and there will be stone-tossing and ‘cracking’ competitions where young men will don eye protection and see who can be the first to crack their rock in half…”
“It sounds like fun.” Minis comes out around then with a pocket-pie in each hand, looking bemused, and settles down on the stones near me, at Ailadas’s feet as is proper. He’s getting it.
“The innwife is baking, and she just gave me these because she said I looked too skinny. I’m a growing boy.”
“Ah, yes, ahem. A boy your age…” and Ailadas cast his eye on me too. “… would normally be hungry all the time.”
“Really?” He’s already eaten most of the first. He looks down at the second in his hand. He tries so hard. You can see he’s making himself think like a fessas and a polite fessas too, still. Even as he breaks it in half and offers it to me without asking. Like I said, he’s getting it. Anybody who doesn’t know him would just think he’s a thoughtful boy, not knowing what’s behind his deliberateness.
The apples in syrup inside the pastry are steaming hot, even in this warm weather, loaded with cinnamon, like mama used to make. I stop and with my mouth full of apple pie I try to remember her face. I think I might be able to. I think I do, so I eat the rest of the pie with my eyes shut, thinking of my mama. She has brown eyes like mine. Yes, I remember that. And she made the best apple pies… and fish pies too for dinner and papa made… made… good… soup… I’m remembering. I’m remembering. It’s not gone forever like they told me.
“As much as we, ahem, wish to be in Arko… we, ahem, are not in such a hurry we must miss this little festival,” Ailadas said at last. “My granddaughter should have her time in this most pleasant little inn, instead of chancing the next.”
Minis laughed. “Given thet some are right flea-inns with side-orders of bedbugs, ser, this one most heartily concurs.”
Kaita gets back and goes up to see to Ky and we have more pocket pies, and beer, in the sun. This is a little part of Selestialis, I think.