As I left everyone last night: Anya is getting off the boat where she and Rhona are going to spend their honeymoon in Ozur-Soren. As Anya looks around, she sees a ship flying the banners of Tarjen with a set of students coming off, walking in formation with the jackets of their schools. Anya looks down at her jacket, crafted by Skein’s Glow. While it’s better than anything made by the hands of man, Anya reflects that there is no symbol of her School on her jacket (nor can they be, since she left them in the last book). In Tarjen, the Scholars are to which everyone aspires to be in life. You’re there, you’re set up. Better training, better food and living quarters, even a chance to wield political power. As she watches the students march by her, she sees that they regard her as a civilian (fightin’ words in Tarjen). She recognizes the ranks on the jacket, nothing that these are students fresh out of the Academies — not the ones you want with the job to guard the ranking monarch.
As the students meet with the Provost Marshal (the closest thing the Tarjentians have to an ambassador here). Anya makes her way to the gates to check in and get her weapon bound. She’s asked her name: she stumbles a little bit and finally spits out Anya Sirota (she can’t take her family name, as it would identify her as still in the Scholarship. Yeah, her bridges are burning bright). The gatekeeper asks Rhona for her name. Rhona carefully spells it out with her fingers, using the elvish naming convention of her name and the name of her new family: Rhona of the family Sirota. If you read the previous book, she always identified herself as Rhona of no family. The gatekeeper has no idea what Rhona is doing, so Anya translates, getting as close to emotional as she’s going to get. The gatekeeper asks the purpose and duration of the stay. Anya says one week it’s for celebrating.
“You picked the right time. Harvest Days are here.”
Before Anya says it’s called Exaction Day, Rhona holds up her mandolin. The gatekeeper says that Rhona will have more than enough opportunity to play and make some coin and then asks the question that Anya has been privately dreaded: are you carrying any weapons? Yet another reminder of her past. Those blades she had earlier belonged to her father — the Head Scholar of her School. Instead, she has blades made by Skein’s Glow. Again — better than even Tarjentian crafted blades with ore taken right out of the mountain, but it’s not the blades from her school. She unbuckles her baldrick (belt for holding blades, worn from shoulder to hip) and belt to hand over the sword and dagger set. The gatekeeper just shakes his head and gives her a length of knotted rope to attach to the handles of the weapons. Out of the corner of her eyes, she sees the students from Tarjen handing over their weapons. “Not everything’s bad.” She catches the eye of one of the students…and he’s not happy.
The gatekeeper takes their arrival tax (“for the health of his Royal Highness”) and they pass through into the City of Ozur-Soren. Luckily for them, the monarch has finished up a speech formally beginning the Harvest celebration, much to the jubilation of the patiently sober. Anya’s loathing for this place is similar to the loathing the Soviets had for America at the height of the Cold War. Rhona looks around and sees a bunch of people looking to party and willing to spend coin for the privilege of her company. Anya looks around and sees nothing but grasshoppers waiting for the ants to bring in the harvest. Needless to say, the pair try to make their way to the nearest tavern to wash the taste of hte sea out of their mouths.
Now, while Rhona is finding a tavern that will let her drink and play at the same time, Anya is getting some counseling from Skein’s Glow, which can be summed up in four words: suck it up, buttercup. There is no shame in not taking it easy for a week (or longer) while Anya tries to figure out her next step, even if it’s telling the fat little children of fatter lords with end of the sword goes into the enemy. Anya is stubborn — she’s not going to be some welfare case for Rhona. If Rhona is married to a Tarjentian, then she is darn well going to be married to a Daughter of the Mountains. She just needs to figure out what she wants to do to earn her keep. Saying that, she gets up to dance with Rhona who is herself singing and plying her trade.
Several hours later, Anya tries to keep her spirits up with booze and good company when the students come in — not wearing their Scholar’s jacket but the uniforms of the Monarch’s body guards — and the bodyguards they are rotating out with dressed in their jackets. Anya knows the ritual well — the students buy the leaving group’s last drink and the leaving group buys the student’s first round. As she’s gazing fondly at the group, she recognizes one of the jackets as from her Scholarship. She’s tempted to get up and approach him to get some old gossip, but she also recognizes one of the incoming students as from her Scholarship. Anya is fairly certain that she would not be received well in that group: her father no doubt would be tilling the soil with salt as it were and turning her old friends and Scholar-mates against her. This does absolutely nothing good for her mood, so she turns around and continues to drink. As she turns around, she notes that one of the other incoming students seems to be taking an undue interest in her. She shrugs it off as a mixture of contempt, lust and/or jealousy.
…and that’s where we’re going to leave this for the time being. Thank you for being patient while I work this out here. Hopefully, I’ll be able to wrap it up by tomorrow and bring you back to your regularly scheduled blathering.