“You can sleep here,” said Kholack. There’s five of us, altogether, but Mackah mostly stays in the library. She’ll enjoy the excuse to stay there. You can use her ledge. It’s Mackah, Daisy, and me in the outer room and Mother and her sister Chat in the inner room. We only go in there if we’re invited.”
Morganzer looked around the room. It was rectangular, with a ledge in each of the walls and a door in the back, left corner, just opposite the entry door. The front and rear walls were longer to accommodate the doors without making the ledges shorter. The door to the common hallway had two fabric hangings looped back onto hooks on either side of the door. If they were let down, they would overlap almost completely. The fabric was undyed goat hair, from one of the cream colored goats. She didn’t see any fabric in the far doorway.
There was a round table with a dark stone top in the center of the room and five armed but backless chairs around it. There were pegs and hooks and shelves on all of the walls. The arrangement was different on each wall. On the hall-side wall, hooks were arranged on either side of the ledge in two lines, top to bottom. The hooks held mesh bags holding food and gear. There were five roundels over the ledge, with painting or mosaic on each. They appeared to be for decoration.
Morganzer had been led to the ledge on the right wall. Two shelves topped the ledge and they were covered with piles of stacked books, papers, and boxes. There were hooks and pegs placed here and there, some of them holding clothing. A drape covered the ledge area and when Morganzer pulled it back she saw that a tall chest of shelves had been installed into the foot of the ledge. No, it must be the head. It was hard to decide. There were three pillows and a blanket shoved in a corner. Bits of paper and feathers poked out here and there.
“If you can’t find someplace to stick anything you don’t want to lie on, I’ll lend you a basket.”
Morganzer looked across the room. The left wall of the room was neat. The bedding was folded in place and the drapes were pulled back to show it. The wall had eight rows of small shelves on one side and eight hooks on the other. Square baskets with lids, but no handles sat on the shelves. Handled baskets of various types hung from the hooks. There was a flat wooden box on the floor, ready to be used as both storage and step.
The final wall was a bit more ornate. Perhaps it was too muddled, but it was wonderful. Swaths of cloth and decorative cord draped from a point high on the wall to the sides of the ledge and down to the floor. Small shelves held all manner of constructed things. The ledge was hidden by as stiff tapestry with a view of the edge of Topside looking out over the ocean. Everything swam with bright colors and different textures. Glass! There was a blue glass container that held shells and feathers. There were small boxes with glass set into their doors. There were two red glass containers bolted to the wall with metal straps. The looked to hold liquid and there was something floating – was that a wick? Was that a red lantern? That was beyond marvellous. Downside had glass. Morganzer was glad that they kept it away from the nemen.”
“Does it look like it will do you?”
“Yes. It’s fine. Nice and warm.”
“Yes, pretty much everything down here is warm. My old bones appreciate it.”
“How old are you?”
“Just sixty-two. Mother’s ninety. I had two sisters and still have one. That’s Mackah. She came down permanently about five years ago. Daisy came at the same time. She’s my daughter and she was a little young for it. But her hair had gone grey and she got away with it.”
“Is that her ledge, there?”
“Yes, as you can see, she does indoor stuff. Most of Topside is arranged so that if you’re inside you’re either doing laundry, cooking, tending lambs, or bathing someone. Not a whole lot of room for making Topside, at least not for the kind of making that Daisy does?” Kholack sounded pleased.
“Why does she use her father name?”
“She likes it. She likes pretty things and she was named after a flower. It suites her. Always has. I never really got around to giving her a mother name.” Kholack turned to straighten something on her ledge.
This didn’t seem necessary to Morganzer. The silence while she straightened seemed significant, so Morganzer left it alone. After a bit, her aunt continued.
“It was after the change, you see. Before then a man and a woman would have a child and the child’s name would have elements of both their names. After the change. Well, our men were gone and some of us didn’t want our children to have nemen bits in their names. I was considering mixing my father’s name with mine, or just making up a new name. Before I got around to something like an opinion on the subject, I was pregnant again and everyone was calling her Daisy. It seemed to suit her. I think it comforted some of us that a child could have a completely nemen name and still be completely one of us.
Not that there weren’t some who decided that she had to be nemen if she had a nemen name. But the consensus was that the name suited her. Most thought of it as a flower name rather than a nemen name.”
“Their names for girls are all pretty and weak. I’m not pretty and I don’t want to be weak.”
“You think Daisy is weak?”
“No. I haven’t met her, so I don’t really know. But she makes wonderful things. I don’t think someone could be weak and still make those.”
Kholack seemed content with that.
“I should bring out the genealogies and let you look at them. Sometimes people set a great store by knowing their kin and forebears. You could get questions as you travel.”
“I’d like that, but I think I need to learn about Farside and how to reach there. And I need to learn more about the prophecy. And the old woman said I should see a map.”
“Mackah will bring a map once she’s settled in. She may think to bring one of the commentaries about the prophecy. Make a note on the table of anything you think you need. That way we won’t forget.”
“On the table?”
“It’s slate. There should be a bowl of chalk chips there. You know how to use those?”
“Yes.” Morganzer picked out a likely chip and began to write.
learn about Farside
how to reach Farside
food on way
who scried and what did they see
She sat down and re-read her list. She added a question mark after the last item.
“I’m leaving something out.”
“Oh, yes.” She wrote “genealogy” at the end. “Am I really likely to need that information?
“Well, if you’re going to Farside, you’re going to be meeting relatives. Not bothering to know who they are would seem a bit dismissive. You wouldn’t be the first woman from Topside they’ve met who didn’t think that anyone from Farside had the least importance. They’ll be prepared to be snippy about it. At least some of them.”
Morganzer frowned. “I suppose I can understand that. Do any of them scry”
“A fair few of them do. Men don’t scry as well as women, on the whole, but a few are pretty good at it.
Of course what they’re used to scrying after is different. They don’t get barrels of fish from the nemen, or skins. They do their own fishing and hunting. Being able to find food efficiently is their main aim. That and avoiding injury.”
“Can’t you do that by scrying on the hunters, that’s what we’d do?”
“I couldn’t tell you that. I’ve never been to Farside. I’ve scried on my brother, there, and sometimes one of them is scrying back. That can make an interesting link, I tell you. Sometimes you can almost talk back and forth. But I can’t tell you how they scry. I’ve only heard that there have been words exchanged between Topside women and Farside folk about the differences. I’m just warning you not to belittle them.”
“I’ll try to remember.” Morganzer mood shifted. Suddenly everything just seemed unfair and overwhelming. “Aargg! Fifteen is a horrible age!”
Morganzer screwed her eyes shut. She had never said that aloud before. At least not anywhere without more loud waves and fewer people to listen.
She felt a warm, stiff hand pat her shoulder. “Yes. You have that right. It’s been awhile, but I remember. It’s a hard thing that you’re being saddled with something so important while you’re still working at finishing yourself, but it can’t be helped.”
Morganzer wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “What’s saddled.”
“A saddle is something you tie onto the back of a horse or other beast to give you a good seat to ride on.”
“What’s a horse?”
“Add ‘read bestiary’ onto that list of yours. And maybe ‘foreign foods’ too.”