I have pried no more sense from fiction amongst the talkers of the market and the cookhouse, though I managed to get myself soaked with damp going out and about in the pale fog, and half expected to see ghosts lining the streets. It is not healthful to breathe fog too deeply.
There is a disconnect in my heart when I think about Sev, my Sev, who came to duty late and sideways, responsible for armies of men and their fortunes. Certainly he is sensible, which is more than can be said for most politicians and generals, though he has his share of odd ideas.
If I had to name this feeling, it is trust. I trust him to do right, even if I cannot be there to see him and discuss it. Sometimes I forget in the bustle of the day-to-day that I have a husband who is trustworthy. It calms my racing nerves.
Sometimes I understand my children’s impulse to set things on fire. I make every effort to establish order, and all that comes of it is chaos. There is a great deal to do to catch up in the household, and I must pry from the children why they came home smug and bloody today, so like their father it was frightening.
In addition, I should like to know why my daughter participated.
Word is filtering in from the provinces that things are moving faster than planned. There is fighting in Ojia, though the details are so obviously false as to be maddening. Giants do not exist. I must have patience.
The children interrupt their warfare to take care of me. It is very sweet, but I want my husband. He is always at his best when I am ill.
I shall write him a letter. I shall include erotic poetry. He likes that.
I think the fever is not good.
A busy day. Heiye has asked permission to go out at night and set a trap for our rival gang.
I believe I said something like, “We are engaged in a rebellion, surely that is enough warfare for anyone.”
“You said it was good practice, lady.”
“I did not.”
“As you say, lady mistress.”
“Oh, maybe I did. I don’t know.”
“You are ill,” he said. “I will put you to bed.”
I am in bed. I am ill, apparently, having caught something from the babe. It is unacceptable.
The babe is still ill, I have not slept, and Pang came home covered in bruises and grinning, missing a tooth. He assures me it was loose anyway and not to worry, but worry I must.
The babe took an ill turn today, sick and crying and other ailments. I spent my day watching her and praying for luck.
A brief break in the rains drew me out into the market today to wander in the afternoon sun. I brought no coin with me so that it would not be stolen. The market is still loud and ever-moving, but I have found the stillness within myself again. I used to use my inner stillness to weather more fearsome fears than a marketplace with bare-chested men and caged monkeys.
Sev always disrupts my inner stillness, but he has never disrupted it so badly before. I think I did blame him for a time, for I was very angry, but I’m not angry with him now. I still feel nothing but a cold fury like a soaking rain for the Duke Dri Taras and for Lady Jai Minerva. They – no, that is unfair. I can see a core of honor in his actions. She does not seem so to me. I try to see if she ever had that core of honor and it was tempted, or if she has always been flawed.
They sell snake skins like jewels in the marketplace. I wonder if the children’s new friend is still hale.
I have made some strides in establishing a routine. We wake in the morning and drink tea with our millet porridge. I settle the twins to their pursuits of writing, languages, history, or geography. Often during this time I have been telling them a useful parable to occupy their minds. Once I am satisfied that some part of their minds are engaged with the wider world, I let them go their way. I creep downstairs to eat my luncheon at Meyni’s table, and help in the kitchen for a time to give her time to sit. Once I tire of that, in a few hours, I retreat to sew by rush light. The children return before it grows truly dark, these days often bearing strange and horrifying gifts. Most often they bear something to liven the supper table, such as a fresh lake fish.
Sev is about his business and I have made resolution not to waste silver watching him, despite my wishes. Rumors from off the rain-soaked roads say things are uneasy in some of the highland provinces. I hear their hills are almost as tall as our Great Cliff. I should like to see that.
Pen’s studies should be no longer my concern, and I had not planned so far ahead. I should not let her study so much of what her brother learns, but they are hard to separate, and they are growing more so. They have been arguing less and less often in my sight.
Pang’s studies conform to the martial, and he still hurries around the room swinging his blade. Still, he is very focused on his street war at the moment. No injuries on his side have been reported.
Heiye brings home such other oddments as are necessary for us – soap, cloth, and grain, as I need it. He grows more and more steady.
I visit the temple again in two days and hope for news.
To conclude my notes on routine, after I feed the children in the evening I sit and write while they talk and play. Pen most often paints. We all sleep early, for the quality of light here does not invite wakefulness.
None of this brings me any closer to guessing what to do for the twin’s birthday. A futile effort at organizing my thoughts, in the end.
I am justly punished for failing compassion and then failing to feel guilty.
Today, by way of object lesson from the gods, my two children, not soaked by the rain this time but wearing sensible cloaks and straw hats, came in from the streets with much clatter, to tell me, “Lady mother, look what we’ve found! Can you tell us what it is?”
It was a poisonous snake, of the most deadly colorful banded variety. It seemed small for its type, and secure in Pen’s hands, and I did not scream. I was very proud of myself for not screaming.
“Daughter, we must very carefully let that snake go its way,” I told her. “It has a life of its own to get back to.”
“But, lady mother-”
“Now, daughter. Obey.”
She scowled at me, but her brother advised, “We may always catch another one, Pen-Pen.”
Thus was the snake taken back outside and gently released, to wend its way back to its home – in the canals and waterways of the city, as if I needed more nightmares.
“That was poison such as kills a man in three paces,” I said idly, standing in the streets of the lower city with my children, mist painting my hair to my head. “We are very lucky today.”
I hugged them both to me in close embrace, for I was frightened and we might have died all unknown to their father, my husband, all plots and plans to the contrary.
I will do justice by the god’s warning and be more compassionate.
The little ground pig has disappeared, as wild animals are wont to do, and the children are disconsolate. It is a good reminder to me that their worries are far more immediate and close than mine. They do not consider the great sweep of the inner and outer provinces and the newly conquered provinces by the eastern ocean. They are concerned with friends and animals, things very firmly in the now and the real.
In any case, it is very trying, and an infusion of funds brought on by my sewing did not make matters more pleasant today.
Heiye is in my camp, which I find a novelty and a pleasure. He has seen a little too much of the world to get attach to a small, injured animal.
I think it might be an exercise in compassion that I have failed, but I am not perturbed by this.