Ano7749 Mon10 Day6: Received commission from R/Magenta. Range said it was a vital, intriguing job that will demand all my skills. Notified Kanan and arranged O’bronnee overseer to manage stables under guidance of T’sholpan until my shuz’ha can be taken to new stables. Packed. Fitted out Scout.
Ano7749 Mon10 Day7: Temple. Said my goodbyes to K/Daffeed and Q/Coryl, Alluff and others; also advised Blue – Hunter said we’ll still be neighbours and Asha said Lake of the Land is perfect for me. Everyone offered help whenever I need it. Good friends, all of them.
Ano7750 Mon1 Day1: Dawn. I leave Ob’ronn in a few sha’as. A new ano, a new season, a new life. The initial shock when Magenta turned my life upside down has been replaced by feelings of intense curiosity and a deep desire to make this work! Feelings I haven’t felt since The Triangle; Zhrebat was different – didn’t care what happened to me then. I wanted only to strike back. Suddenly, now, I am out of my comfort zone and totally alive again. Is this to be my real tal’qut, El’b’ith? Zhrebat wasn’t, not fully.
Reached Lake of the Land around midday. Hovering now over the lake (beautiful, blue, two boats in the distance) looking at southern end of Estate. Not many people about – an old woman asleep in a chair in her dusty yard, a few workers planting seedlings on the hillside – surely it’s too early? Patches of snow still on the heights. Dramatic setting but the land looks tired. Above the village just below me is the Estate mansion – huge but dark and set in unkempt grounds – not a good look.
Evening: What a day this has been. I saw many villagers gathered in the grounds of the mansion, obviously waiting for something. Orders from Gaelu’un, perhaps. I made a point of arriving a day earlier than Magenta had advised the old sharath (now deposed and disentitled), as a sort of pre-emptive strike, anticipating resistance.
Landed in the back area where other craft were docked and stock were running loose and approached a terrified sakir named Altha. She was afraid of the overseers even more than Gaelu’un but showed me to their door. The Kalbans are a hard pair. Siblings. I’ve ordered them to face Judge Kerul. A lot of noise came from the room they were standing guard over and when I opened the door I felt as though I’d stepped back in time, several thousand anos, to an age when ‘lords’ indulged their lusts and their friends with huge banquets and harlots. The men were shouting to be heard, slobbering over squealing girls young enough to be their daughters, and enormous meals and jugs of elp. The worst part, though, was six very young boys in ridiculous costumes lined up along one wall, just waiting. They noticed me first, but their only reaction was in their eyes. Finally someone noticed that and turned to see what they were looking at.
Gaelu’un was caught totally off-guard and attempted to flatter me, which didn’t work, then ordered his men to take me. Yhat didn’t work, either…. I told him to present himself to his Ruler and I would deal with the others in due time. The men blustered, the girls ran off and the boys reacted uneasily but didn’t move – though they had no idea what sort of man I am; or maybe the fact that I used a stunner on Gaelu’un impressed them… These boys were the focus of the bootmaker’s concerns, even more than the other abuses he reported to Magenta, instigating my mission. Gaelu’un demanded that the boys go with him, claiming them as his personal property, which sickened and infuriated me, as it would any true man. I told the boys to find two strong men to send Gaelu’un on his way. They had some influence apparently, as the two sakirs they chose followed their direction immediately; Gaelu’un had recovered from the stun and flew away, but not to The Edj as ordered. I will deal with him soon.
I sent the boys to dress normally and return. I told them they would be my aides. They came back wearing white tunics and bright sashes, still bizarre in that setting but at least they weren’t near-naked and shivering anymore. They seemed eager to please and followed my instructions quickly; they were a big help and the locals did not mock them, although they obviously regarded them as very strange.
The people in general seemed dispirited. I introduced myself and the change of authority and asked the cook to prepare luch for everyone from the left-overs of Gaelu’un’s feast. That had a good effect. The boys set up an interview space on the verandah for me, discreet but in sight of everyone. I wanted them to understand that things will be done openly now.
The interviews (all recorded in the Estate Diary) began with the agriculture overseer, Benn. It’s no wonder that the land looks tired. It is tired. I paid out overdue wages to the overseer and his workers, plus extra to bring them up to the national standard – that brought some joy to the crowd when he handed it out to his men. Everyone has a lot of change and hard work ahead of them but their reward will be theirs, not stolen by Gaelu’un any more. There is a lot to be done.
The boy, Kyle, my note-taker, understood quickly what I wished to record. All the boys are very bright. They are my wards now. I desire to restore what childhood they have left but they need healing. When Magenta brings my supplies, she will see it and do it. Then they will grow into strong young men and they will achieve greatness.
The youngest, Danael, has no child left in his eyes. Albyn, the blond one, has a quick smile but Kyle told me that today was the first day he’d seen him smile so often; Albyn is keen on art. Ky’yl and Ez’zha are the middle pair. Ky’yl is quick-witted, with a strength that seems at odds with his prettiness. Ez’zha has a stillness about him that tells me he thinks before acting and afterwards, too – an unusual attribute. Mez’tha and Shadron are the oldest, though there is only an ano between them and the youngest pair. Mez’thah, the redhead, is a natural encourager and Shadron has been their rock, a born leader. He’s kept them focussed on helping each other through this terrible time in their short lives.
I must teach them that adults are not monsters although they have witnessed little else these past few anos. They will never see their despicable ‘parents’ again. Gyrtza, the cook, told me, with tears, in a brief moment I had with her, that those betrayers had little time to enjoy Gaelu’un’s favors – he’d killed them and sold their lotls to recoup his ‘losses’, claiming the boys were ‘overpriced’. She told me she did what she could for them whenever they were here, but Gaelu’un made it impossible for anyone to contact the outside world about those abuses or anything else. Still, when she confided in the bootmaker, a newcomer, he managed to send an impassioned plea to Ruler Magenta – and I was sent here to fix things. The boys are what I shall fix first and always. We will start with proper clothes and Qataq – the training and discipline will be good for them.
It is late and I am more weary than I’ve ever been, since I lost my beloved Tha’ya.