Sesskia’s Diary, part 16

21 Senessay (continued)

Sovrin and Audryn both had plain green dressing gowns to wear, but I had to put on my own clothes for the walk back to Sovrin’s room, and I couldn’t believe how filthy they felt now I was clean. I don’t think I’ve ever been this clean in my whole life. Sovrin’s room was a surprise. The furniture was all the same as the other bedrooms, just that one narrow bed and the wardrobe and dresser that looked like they’d seen a lot of wear, but Sovrin’s bed was unmade and her white robe lay crumpled on the floor, and her black trousers were draped over a corner of the dresser. “Yes, Sovrin is a slob,” Audryn said, seeing my expression.

“No point in making a bed you’re just going to get back into later,” Sovrin said. She opened dresser drawers and began pulling out clothes that were definitely not white robes and black trousers.

“I’ve never seen you all wear anything but the uniform,” I said, and Audryn said, “We rarely have the chance to, but sometimes there are rest days, once every two weeks now. It used to be more often, but…our work has more urgency than it used to, and I think we might never stop if Sai Aleynten didn’t insist we take breaks.”

I have to stop underestimating Sai Aleynten. True, I think he’d push himself past the breaking point if he had to, but I’d assumed he treated his subordinates (is that what they are?) the same way.

Sovrin came up with a long-sleeved shirt with a wide neck and tossed it at me. “If it fits, you can have it,” she said. “I don’t like how tight it is across the chest, on me, and you’re nice and slender.” Which is a polite way of saying “flat-chested,” but I’m sure she meant it as a compliment.

She found a few more shirts, then some trousers and even a skirt, which I don’t normally wear because they’re hard to run in and even harder to climb the outside of a building in, even when you don’t care if people can see your underwear. And speaking of underwear, there was a moment of embarrassment for all of us when Sovrin handed me some short pants made of soft unbleached cotton, and said, “I don’t know if…you didn’t seem to….”

I took them graciously and said, “Yes, I do wear undershorts, and I wore through my last pair about two weeks before I came here, and I wasn’t in a position to buy more. So thank you.”

Sovrin chuckled, and said, “That’s a relief, and I hope you don’t wear breast bands, because I’m damn sure mine won’t fit you.” So we all laughed at that. She’s got a very generous figure, but the undershorts are only a little too large. And, not that I’m not grateful, but I can admit in the privacy of this book that I hope someday I’ll have clothes that really fit again.

There were a lot of other things we talked about that I forgot to put in before. Like, Sovrin told me more about the construction of the bathing chamber, how the earliest mages built it when they carved out the rest of the Darssan, and how the wall between the sections was erected only eighty years ago, when the trend for separate bathing spread to all levels of society. And I learned nobody starts work early in the Darssan. Leisurely breakfasts and chores and bathing all get done before work begins, on the theory that minds will be properly limbered up if they are well awake and aren’t burdened by worry about other responsibilities. Though I would bet hard money, if I had any, that Sai Aleynten is an early riser. I don’t think that’s just me being spiteful.

And somewhere in all of this, I asked them to call me by my praenoma, Sesskia, instead of my placename. I tried to make it sound casual, so it wouldn’t embarrass them to know how much it meant to me, but…I felt comfortable with them in a way I’ve never felt with anyone but my family before. Maybe not friends, yet, but I think they will be, and I wanted to give them something in exchange for how kind they’ve been to me. They of course didn’t think anything of it, and wanted to know about placenames, and exchanged glances when I explained that Thalessi Scales refers to my work in the fishery and I’d kept it as camouflage even though I no longer worked in the fishery. I couldn’t exactly call myself Thalessi Mage.

Then Sovrin went to join her group—she’s group leader, which is why she said her group couldn’t really do anything about her being late, but I think she was exaggerating, because she didn’t waste any time getting dressed—and Audryn and I went to her room, where she loaned me a comb and I managed to get it through my tangle of hair, and I admired her collection of hairpins and clips. I think it surprised her that I was so knowledgeable about the quality of most of her pieces (none of them are inexpensive, and one or two look old), but I chose not to tell her I’m more a thief than I am a mage, even if I only became a thief to steal books that would teach me magery. No, that’s a lie, I became a thief so Mam and Bridie and I wouldn’t starve to death. Damn it. I swore I wouldn’t think about Bridie again, because I get so furious with Mam

More fire-summoning pouvra. That painting is all but obliterated now. I’m calm. I’m rational. Time for another list.

What I did today:

  1. Read a lot of books. At least, read the first pages of a lot of books.
  2. Argued with Sai Aleynten about which books were important. I realize he’s been studying this for a long time, but I’ve been reading ancient tomes for at least as long as he has and I’ve learned to recognize when a writer knows what she is talking about.
  3. Had lunch and bitched to Terrael and Audryn about how unreasonable Sai Aleynten is, which got no sympathy because they think the sun shines out of his ass.
  4. Felt guilty about once again being overly critical of Sai Aleynten, who after all doesn’t know what I’m capable of. As far as he can tell, I’m just a strange mage who knows some tricks he doesn’t and happens to be able to read a language he can’t.
  5. Made peace with Sai Aleynten, who unbent so far as to admit he wasn’t taking my input seriously. We altered our method of study accordingly. He tells me what matters to him, and I read not only the first pages but skim some of the others as well, looking for those things. I also tell him when I find something that would be meaningful to my magic, which isn’t often, but I’ve found at least one book that might give me a new pouvra, and I got to keep that one. Sai Aleynten was excited about that book, though he only shows excitement by becoming very still and expressionless.

5a. I really wonder, now, what made Sai Aleynten the way he is. I would have sworn he was indifferent to practically everything, but the more I interact with him, the more I realize he’s just so self-contained it’s a wonder he doesn’t erupt. He gets sarcastic instead. Good thing he doesn’t turn that on me, because I would shout at him, since I don’t share the respect the other mages have for him.

And that’s not entirely true, either. True, yes, in the sense that I don’t venerate him—and I don’t mean that slightingly, it’s just that I know the mages respect his person and not just his role—but I’m beginning to see just how good he is at what he does. He’s quick to grasp the implications of what I’m reading, and I know he’s already memorized the new configuration of the library, and of course he can write th’an on air. Which reminds me I still haven’t seen a real kathana. I keep forgetting to ask someone when that will happen, there’s always so much else going on. Besides, Terrael is almost totally occupied with translating the Eddon book. Audryn had to drag him to the refectory (this is what they call the eating room) so he’d leave the book behind, because of course you wouldn’t eat while you were touching it. Audryn is in Terrael’s working group, by which I mean that Terrael is the leader, and I think one of her jobs is keeping him either focused on a problem instead of flitting about, or not focused on a problem to the point of forgetting to eat or, and I sympathize with this, bathe.