It is said that a woman’s weapon is poison, and perhaps that is so. I have never poisoned anyone. I think perhaps my husband has, though I have never asked. I am working on my letters to Dri and Min, and my weapon is kindness. To their protestations, I offer gratitude. To their guilt, forgiveness.
I do not know if anything I write is true. Here is something true, at least, and that truth is that I think them dishonorable and unworthy of trust. I think they look at friends as someone to use, and I think I should never like to think that way. Friendship is sacred, in the same way that forgiveness is sacred. When I stand before the gods on my dying day, I would like them to think me honorable, as I am sure my friend Nimaseki went to the gods clad in honor fit for a queen.
Meyni is an interesting case of honor, because she has yet to find hers, I think. Her honor limps in the dark, wounded by her thievery and the necessity which she holds it was. She went against the order of the world, targeting the nobility with her thefts.
The children went out today and came home bearing gifts – two fish to flavor our porridge with, a gaudy necklace of green beads that Pang gave his sister, and Heiye supplied four fruits for the table, speaking of thievery.
Nov 22, 2008
No one went about today who did not have to, as the rain washed the streets clean and the hail made them shine. I looked out, this morning, at the street usually busy at all hours with common men and a few women going about their business with their wares. The shutters, on the buildings that had them, were all closed. Some buildings had only cloth and mats drawn over their windows, and I should not like to experience that in this weather.
Sev meant to be away, but he has stayed and kept the children distracted by his existence in so doing. He is still a novelty to them, even now. For that reason, I have not had to write back to my very dear friends.
The hail looked like piled up gemstones, or perhaps the eggs of some exotic creature from the sea. I believe they have these things called turtles, though I have only eaten a bit of one at a high feastday and never seen one living myself. I wonder if their eggs glitter.
Nov 21, 2008
Folded letters pressed between two pages:
I fear I must be direct, as your husband does not wish me to be. I asked him seven days past if you would come and stay, though I did not make of it an order. I would have it in your own hand that you do not wish to come enjoy some of the protections and privileges that I can afford you. I suppose you must have seen, but there were riots in the city in very recent memory and it is not a good place for one I should not like to see us lose, or for children.
Say you will come.
Wishing you the very best,
Our mutual friend tells me I must not use names, but yours is a common one, so I think that is fine! I would have written sooner, but I thought for sure that you were hurt and would not wish to hear from me. I was quite paralyzed by it, but our friend assures me that you are in good spirits, high spirits, so nothing could please me more than to write to you. I miss you, my dear, we all do, everyone would definitely speak of you and be most unhappy about everything except that no one can, you know. Your husband’s brother has been most incensed, and his wife has not been seen in public in ages. Rumors are that she’s left him, though I do not know how much credence to give that, your family is so traditional.
Our other friend – this is so confusing without names – the one who recently became closer to her husband, the one who is going to have a baby soon? She is heartbroken, I think, and I barely see her anymore, though of course I am so busy now with everything. I miss you.
He tells me that you could come and stay with him, and the children too. It would be too good to see you, and my son would love it as well. You really must come.
Thinking of you fondly,
I cannot decide which is worse, protestations that she misses me when she is the one avoiding me or heartfelt pleas that I not hate her even while she would never dream of apologizing for blackmail.
I liked her very dearly. I am not sure I remember why anymore. I must be polite, but having heard from her, my desire to hear from her is gone.
I asked Sev if he had read this set of letters and he said, “No, Duke Adri looks at me as if I were beating children whenever I read your letters.”
“Is his country this odd, or is it just him?”
“I could not tell you, never having fought there. Still, he is unusual.”
His tone at the last was more complementary than not. I offered him the letters to read, which he did.
“Well,” he said. “They are being very manipulative.”
“Dri did say he would be direct. He is very directly manipulative.”
“How are you?” he asked me.
I considered this.
“You’ve been angry for a while,” he observed. “Are you angry with me?”
“I haven’t been angry for a while,” I contradicted.
“You just argued with me.”
I hesitated. I remember shock, and a little fear, and then feeling embarrassed by the fear. He is not my father.
“I like it when you argue with me,” he offered softly. “Remember?”
“I remember,” I said, and I sat down on the edge of our bed. He sat next to me, and we were together for a while, with no words and no need for them.
After that, I said, “Have I really been angry?”
“I think so.”
“I suppose perhaps I have. It’s hard for me to see, because I don’t shout or hit people.”
“Women are angry differently than men,” he observed. “Well, some men do it too. Duke Adri gets angry the same way you do, like a drop of water falling into a still pool and the ripples turning into tidal waves.”
I haven’t written back to our dear friends as yet. Now that I know I’m angry, I can set it aside and respond according to our best interests, not my feelings. Once I decide what those best interests are.
Nov 20, 2008
Pen spent much of today angry with me, to the extent her father took her aside. After that she was quiet and angry with me, which was at least more restful.
This, however, is what I want to remember from today.
I invited Heiye to what is becoming my sewing room, Nima’s old room. He’s not very good with a needle, but one project involved tearing out old seams and making them anew, and that he could do once I showed him how.
“What was it like, when you stayed in the market?” I asked.
“I was treated well.”
“You’re a good boy.”
“Were other people treated less well?”
I don’t think I know what he was thinking, there.
He continued, “You called us people, mistress.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We are slaves.”
“Slaves are people.”
He looked at me. I found myself uncomfortable meeting his gaze. I studied my sewing.
I continued, “Do you know the concept of fate?”
“Yes, mistress. We all have fates decreed by the gods.”
He pays attention in his lessons. I like that.
“Exactly. Some say… some say the gods give you your fate at birth, and that is what you must do. You follow your father. If I am being – fair – I must admit my husband disagrees. He thinks you cannot know the fate gods have given you, so you might as well go find out. That is how he puts it.”
“Lord Uru is very wise.”
“I think so. Wise but proud.”
“Yes, mistress,” he said in a kind tone. I glanced up fast enough that I saw a smile being hidden. Carefully tucked away, to be brought out for another time, I think. Such is how we are around our lords and ladies. He reminds me of myself.
“Slaves are people with a particular fate. That’s all.”
“If you say so, mistress.”
He would not speak more on the subject afterwards. Again I fail somehow, though I know not quite how. Well, I have hold of the problem now. I shall not let go again.
I shall think on why the way he looked at me made me uncomfortable. It reminded me of Sev asking me to justify my thoughts, too often and too pointedly. I should not be uncomfortable if I am right. I see no fault in my logic, but I feel uneasy.
Nov 19, 2008
The water started coming through the roof today, so we were well occupied fixing that. Sev helped, clambering about on the roof. He seems to love the heights, and is far too familiar with them. I did not before realize that his secret ways took him up above, not down to hidden tunnels or via disguise in the streets. I could wish that he would not travel by such roads. My dreams shall not be lighter with him balancing on rain-slick pottery in the downpour.
I talked to Heiye. He was reticent. I shall try again.
Nov 18, 2008
I did not speak to Heiye today. Call me a coward, I will agree with you.
Nov 17, 2008
I gave the children the day off from their lessons, but had them stay indoors. It was raining very hard today. Today was relatively peaceful. Sev did not come home last night or tonight, so I have yet to speak to him about the children’s latest discovery of the world.
I don’t know if I will tell him. He hates slavery. We don’t argue about it, because it is not something you can argue about and disagree charitably, not with his strength of feeling.
I did spend the day in meditation. I failed to clear my mind, for the most part, between the children making noise and arguing and the constant little tasks I am still not entirely used to doing – picking things up, cooking, finding things, taking things away when they are about to be used in violence.
Heiye meditated with me. It actually became something of a lesson. I think I should talk to him about the market trip, but not today. When the children are otherwise occupied, perhaps when their father is here. I don’t want to have that talk with them yet.
Nov 16, 2008
I don’t know what possessed them. Possession is a strong word. I do not know what fancy took them, that they would think visiting the slave market was a good idea. I have been dealing with three very upset children since they came tumbling through the door, and I do not know if they will sleep tonight.
I think I understand why they are upset. It is an ugly place. I do not remember being so upset as all that, when I have visited there. I don’t want to think about it.
Nov 15, 2008
Having the day almost entirely to myself illustrated something to me. No, it did not illustrate it. It invited a choir to sing of it. It lit the streets with fireworks and the halls with glory. I think the only way it could have been more clear was if a saint had come to my door with a message of its truth. I need to take a day a week to myself, as I did before life changed for us. For meditation, prayer, and right thought. I start the day after tomorrow, as that day was my usual day for such things and I see no reason it should not be such now. My education of my children is haphazard in any case, and will not be greatly harmed by a day a week they do not learn. They will be delayed by this adventure of ours and I accept that. I shall not rush them towards their adult responsibilities. Perhaps this will cause fewer arguments for us.
The children demonstrated for Sev today their continued mastery of pickpocketing and thievery. I found it very uncomfortable, but Sev was thrilled. He laughed, and had Pang teach him for a while. Then they fell back into old habits, stone soldiers and little carved ships arrayed across a fan-shaped cloth. Our empire is the shape of a fan, half-opened, pointing towards the sun. At the hilt is this city and our oldest province. The next provinces are quiet in Sev’s imaginings, stirring only with a strategic one or two pieces. The outer provinces, near the edge of the fan, were the most complex.
Pen joined in, but it took some encouragement and time. I thought it a very clever way to interest them in geography.
Nov 14, 2008
Dri invited us to live someplace within his sphere of protection. With him, in effect. It made Sev and I practice our plain-speaking.
“Do you trust him?” I asked.
“As much as I trust most people, at least. Do you?”
“I don’t know. You’ve worked with him, these past months. What’s he really like?”
“Driven. Not very charismatic, despite his following. I’m not quite sure what people see in him.”
“What do you see?”
“A vision. A better one. A freer, fairer one.”
“I suppose. And he hasn’t moved against us, these past months. We are, at least for now, on the same side.”
“I would trust Dri with my own safety, at least and mostly as a show of faith, to make him feel secure. I do not think he feels comfortable with you, yet.”
“He doesn’t. Go on.”
“I wouldn’t trust him with the children.”
“Then it’s settled then, isn’t it?”
“As long as you aren’t going to argue?”
“How do you always put it? Separate spheres? The children are yours. It’s your decision.”
I also spent a while talking to Meyni today, and some four hour sewing. Between that and the children I suppose it is no wonder I am tired. I am looking forward to Sev taking a turn at lessons tomorrow.
Meyni intends to seek out further custom for my sewing, since I am making such progress on the lingering projects Nima left behind. Meyni is making a good mark selling them on to folk at the market, apparently. The profits are small compared to the numbers I am used to working with, but so are our expenses. It is simply a different order, and must be handled in the same manner – with precision.
Meyni is blessed because she was taught her numbers and letters early. It is not common to a girl of her class. It makes one less marriageable, but she did not think she would marry. I really should be less educated than I am, but Sev’s mother persisted in tutoring us in odd things and odd hours. I think she would have liked it better if I were more like her, and asked her less often why it was necessary that I learn such things. I learned not to argue too much. It just made Sev cross. I think she was probably a good person, to take the term Dri does not think exists, even if probably heretical.