The Lurine floods sometimes. It's not so bad up here in the capital. I noticed the water was high, but it didn't seem bad. But further south, it creates a mess, and there was a storm in Vinton that washed out one of the roads. They should have it clear in a week, but by then it will be too late.
She was supposed to have arrived two days ago. When we didn't hear from her, Father asked at the stables, and they told him about the summer floods and the storm. Then I remembered the storm when I was ten, when I hid inside with her and we couldn't get honey for two weeks, so we had to make our supplies last, even though we could see the caravans waiting on the other side of the flood.
But the ceremony was good anyway. Father stood up and told a whole bunch of lords that I was his son and that I was entering my sixteenth year and therefore was considered an adult. Everyone cheered, and I got lots of little gifts of candy and dried meat and jewelry, most of which I didn't want to keep. But there was one thing, an armband with the crest of Vinton on it, that Father told me Mother had commissioned for me when she was up for Grandmother's funeral. So I think I will wear that.
Sinch came to the ceremony. He stayed hidden, but I saw him, and when I was up there during the ceremony, he stepped out of the shadow so I could see him smile. I looked for him after the ceremony, but he'd already left. Still, it was nice of him to come after all.
Father apologized for Haley, and told me I should have spoken up sooner. I said he wouldn't have to worry about that in the future, and that made him laugh. That kind of felt good. But then his wolf tried to be nice, and that kind of ruined things, though I think I didn't let on. I'd just put on the armband and I couldn't help it, I kept thinking that Mother should be here and not this big white wolf. I mean, when it's my turn to get married, I'm not going to be able to keep doing stuff with Sinch. I know he makes Father happy, but being a lord isn't about being happy, no matter what I thought about Haley. It's about doing the right thing for your people.
Master Ovile says if I know that, then I'm better off than half the lords we've studied in his history class. And now that I'm of age, I guess that's not such a bad place to be starting from.
I hadn't considered that Sinch would want to come to my coming-of-age. It's in the palace, and there's sure to be some security, so I don't know if he'll be able to come. Well, okay. I know he'll be able to, but I don't know if he should. He asked me just now if I want him to come, and I didn't know what to say. I do. But I don't want him to get in trouble.
So I'm thinking about that, and I'm wondering what this all means. He's pretty much the only real friend I've got. But we probably won't stay friends. When I'm a lord, I can't be friends with a thief, let alone do other stuff. Would it be leading him on to let him come to my ceremony?
On the other paw, it's my ceremony. I should be able to have anyone there I want. Father's going to be bringing him. And Volyan will be there, and a bunch of lords I don't know. So why can't I have one friend, in all that bunch?
If he's not there, I'll just have to tell him about it later anyway. So I'm going to wake him up now and tell him to come. I think.
I can't remember when I've been this happy. It's after midnight and Sinch is asleep already but I can't keep my eyes closed. I'm not going to marry Haley!
Jinna came through for me. Well, I think it was a combination of that and me finally realizing that Father had never really talked to Haley the way I have. All my Diplomacy wasn't doing any good because he thought she was just quiet and shy, and whenever her parents talk about her they talk about how wonderfully she does in her lessons, only I knew that her lessons were all about sewing and the proper angle to hold your ears in the presence of the king, or a lord, and she's always getting that wrong anyway, not that father or anyone really stands on ceremony anymore. So I arranged for Haley to come over that evening, with Father around, and I asked her simple things I'd learned in Vinton, like who would come next in the Circle when King Pontion passes on, and how many different provinces are in Tephos, and what was the name of the river that passes through Divalia (which I never would have dreamed she didn't know except we were walking by it one night and she said, “it's so pretty, I wonder if it has a pretty name,” and I told her it was called the Sparklebell River, and that's what she told Father when I asked, and she giggled, too).
Then Jinna came back with one of the wolves from Lord Tistunish's court, and his land borders Dewanne and he knows the old lord, and he said that Dewanne is such an isolated city that the nobility there doesn't like foreigners and so if I were going to be lord, they would really only accept me if I married a local vixen. So that was something Father could tell her parents, because he didn't want to tell them that their daughter was so stupid that she might actually lose her way home if someone didn't walk her, and not just to the house but up the stairs into her bedroom. I didn't see a problem with that. If it was my daughter, I'd want to know. I even offered to use Diplomacy, but Father said he could manage. The only bad part of today is that he wouldn't let me be there when he told them.
So I went out tonight and celebrated with Sinch. The locusts are all over now, and Sinch doesn't like them, even when I grabbed one and offered it to him. He says they taste too bitter. That's what I like, though. And it's not like other mice don't eat them. They don't count as meat, so it's okay.
Now I just have to look forward to my coming-of-age. I'll enjoy it a lot more now Haley doesn't have to be there. Though it would've been nice to see Mother's reaction to her. Mother never liked any vixens, or any females, really, who couldn't think for themselves. I don't mind, though. I sure hope Mother will be proud of me.
I'm still determined not to marry Haley. She's back from vacation but I'm sure there's got to be something that says I can determine who'd be the best Lady for me. I asked the Steward, Jinna, if there are any other noble vixens around my age who'd be suitable, or maybe someone from Dewanne, and she said she would check for me. After all, it might be years and years before Lord Dewanne dies, and even then he might not have named me his heir. So why should I get married at all until we know for sure?
I didn't go to jail, and neither did Sinch. We just had to go apologize to the clerk. I don't think we did a crime, actually. The clerk seemed confused about who we were. I guess the guard probably only chased us because Sinch looked suspicious and we were running from him. If we'd just acted like nothing was wrong, he wouldn't have chased us at all and we'd have gotten away with it.
Those bugs are all over now. Master Cobalt says they're locusts and Master Ovile says they come back every seventeen years. So this is the first time they've been here since I was born. There's so many of them that sometimes I don't eat anything else all day. That way I don't have to eat with Father and them. I can usually get bread from Sinch, if we don't go back to his house.
Father's also planning a celebration for my coming-of-age. I don't really care what we do as long as I can do what I want the next day. At least Mother will be coming up for it. I can't wait to see her again.
I wonder if I could get out the window. Even if I died from the fall, that would be better than going back to Divalia with Father and the guard like I'm a prisoner. Father says I'm not, even though the guards had to stop me and Sinch from leaving yesterday morning.
Someone at the inn did recognize me. They called a guard, because I'm not of age, and sent a messenger to the city for Father. He and another pair of guards arrived just before noon today to take us back to the palace. I don't know if I'm going to be placed under arrest or what. I asked him to let Sinch go, because it was all my idea, but he didn't respond, not then. We just rode all the way back to this inn and I don't think any of us said more than two or three words the whole day. These loud bugs followed us back to the city. Father grabbed one and ate it, so when he wasn't looking, I tried one too. It was sharp and bitter. I liked it.
Then Father sent Sinch down for water and closed the door, and lectured me on responsibility, and how I'm coming of age in a month, and if I'm going to be a Lord, I'll have to be a model to my people, and all of this other stuff. Like I didn't know that. I told him it was just because I didn't want to marry Haley, and he told me that if Haley was the one chosen to be my wife then I would have to marry her and be happy with it. And he said something about Sinch, then, and tried to make out like he knew what I was going through. I forgot to mention, he kept looking at Sinch the whole time we were riding. So I told him that I didn't want to go live with Sinch and abandon my wife. He got mad and said there were things I didn't understand, and I said I hoped they threw me in jail because then at least I wouldn't have to marry that useless waste of space. He told me that she wasn't a waste of space and that I needed to learn to appreciate someone who, I don't remember exactly, something about her being smart but scared to show it, and I said that if I thought she was smart enough to be scared then I wouldn't be dreading every moment I spent with her. Then he said he hoped I'd be more reasonable later and Sinch came back and he walked out.
Sinch asked what happened, but I didn't feel like talking much about it. He wanted to do stuff, but I didn't know if we'd have privacy and I still felt too worked up, so we just went to sleep.
It felt good to hold him, but that doesn't mean anything.
I was worried about staying in the same inn I stayed in on the way up, but they must see hundreds of foxes in a year and a half. Nobody recognized me. Sinch and I stayed in a little room on the second floor. I had some money in my pouch, and it's certainly enough to get to Vinton, even counting the extra Royals I had to give the merchant to let us ride with him.
The strange thing, the reason I wanted to write in the journal tonight, is that I don't feel as good as I thought I would. Yesterday, all I could think about was being free, seeing Mother again, being with Sinch on an adventure. But today I had a lot of time to think, sitting in the wagon, and I kept thinking about Father and Lord Dewanne. Father's done a lot of things I hate, but he's a lord. I see the respect the teachers give him, and something Master Xoren said to me once comes back to me even though I don't want to think about it. He said, “you're a natural at this, just like your father.”
I wish I hadn't studied so much history. So many of our lessons started with “the lord of such-and-such was a weak lord.” Father isn't weak. Neither am I. But this is weak, now, what I'm doing. I want to see Mother and Vinton again more than anything, but I don't want to do it like this, running away. My dinner isn't sitting well, and my throat is all tight. But there's nothing I can do about it now. I can't go back to Divalia.
Things could not have gone more wrong. Sinch is asleep, under my cloak. I'm sitting with my back against the wall of the city. I don't know where we'll be tomorrow, but at least I grabbed the journal before we left. I didn't want to leave it behind. Thank Canis it was at Sinch's and not at the palace.
I don't think the guard followed us out here. Sinch knew some back alleys that got us to the wall, and the guards there hadn't been alerted to us. Around the wall, off the road, there was a little stand of trees, and we stayed there all day. Sinch went out and got some food, while I looked to see if there were any caravans we could hook up with going south. I spotted a couple likely ones, but I didn't want to go out today in case the guards were still looking for us, especially since we'd got enough food.
It's possible that the guards would only be looking for Sinch, but I can't just abandon him. Sure, he was the one looking through the law clerk's chest of documents. All I was doing was talking to him, the clerk, I mean. I don't think he even noticed—weasels have small ears too. But then I went through all of my story and I didn't have anything left to ask about, so I asked the clerk to walk me outside. Sinch picked that moment to try to get out of the window. He saw me and the clerk and started running right away, so before the clerk could ask any questions, I said I had to go and walked very quickly around to meet Sinch. He had a guard chasing after him, but we lost him pretty easily—he was a big stag—and got back to Sinch's house. His mother wasn't around, so we just grabbed some things and ran outside.
In a way, this is kind of a relief. Just me and Sinch, on our own. I think we should go down to Vinton first and see if Mother will let us stay there. I'm sure she will.
Father and Volyan left last night. Sinch and I made some plans today about what we're going to do tomorrow. I don't want to write too much of it down even though Sinch is sure there won't be any danger. I don't know how he can sleep. Normally after we come back to his room, I'm pretty sleepy, but my fur feels all prickly and my stomach keeps dancing and my tail twitches every minute or so.
Today was great. I got Sinch into the palace and we had dinner in Father's chambers, all alone. Even Vinnix was gone. I wanted to just leave the plates, but Sinch insisted we clean them up, so I helped him. I took him into Father's bedroom, but the scents were too strong in there for us to stay long or do anything.
Sinch says it's nice practice for when I'm a lord and have my own rooms, so for a while I pretended I was. I told him I would have to see some of my people to settle their disputes, and then meet with a neighboring lord to talk about something boring like trade policies or farming lands. Sinch wanted to be the neighboring lord, and then we talked about things we could trade, and we ended up trading things right on my bed anyway.
But we came back to Sinch's place because we need to get up early, and his place is closer.
Sinch and I started practicing weapons together. He has a dagger that he can throw. So we can go to the shooting range and he can throw at the closer target while I shoot at the farther ones. He's better than I am, but I'm learning fast. And I practice all the time, not just when he's around. I almost beat him this time, and he said that the first time I beat him, I get to go first when we get back to his room. It doesn't really matter 'cause we both get a turn, but now I really want to get that good.
He's asked around a bit about Haley's family. There's a house where the main branch of them live, but there's an old grandmother who's infirm and always there. That makes me think of Grandmother, and how she died. But this grandmother is still alive and that makes it harder to break in. Her family does do business with a bank and a law clerk, but we're not sure how that will help. Sinch is checking his contacts and I'm telling him I'm talking to mine, which I would be doing if I could think of anyone who would be helpful. In the meantime, I'm trying to find out more about Dewanne. Like maybe Lady Dewanne has to be able to string two sentences together without giggling or folding her ears down and going all quiet.
In the meantime, I have another nice vacation coming up, because Father and Volyan are going on the King's winter retreat, and taking him along. So for two weeks I will have the chambers to myself, just lessons and Sinch and whatever else I want to do. It's going to be great.
Sinch's mom is baking again. The house smells fantastic right now, and if I weren't so tired I'd be going downstairs to get one of her small bread rolls. It's cold, but not too bad now that my winter coat is in, and it's quieter here than at the palace. If I get really disgraced, maybe I can just come live here. Maybe Lord Dewanne will hear about me and disinherit me. It wouldn't be so bad, I don't think.
I think I'm just going to keep this journal at Sinch's. I don't trust Volyan not to be looking at it. He already sniffs at me funny when I come back from Sinch's even though I wash with water and everything. He doesn't try to drag me down to the Cup and Crown anymore, so I only really see him at lessons and meals. And sometimes not even lessons, if he's got a girl of some kind hanging around.
But anyway, Sinch had a really good idea today! He said if we could show that Haley's family wasn't all respectable and noble, that I wouldn't have to marry her. He said that sometimes girls were kicked out of the palace if they had any stain on their family, even if the lord already had cubs with them. So that was good, but I didn't know how we'd prove it. He thinks we can sniff around and see if any of her relatives have been in trouble.
I got a letter from Mother a couple days ago. I guess I hadn't written her in a while because nothing was going on here, but her letter made me feel guilty and homesick again, so after classes I went and stared at the river and the boats going down it. If I jumped on one of them, they'd have to take me at least to the next port. Then I wouldn't have to worry about any of this stuff. Volyan would do that in a minute if there was some responsibility he wanted to get out of. Sometimes I wish I was more like him.
I'd miss Sinch, too. But I could send him a letter and he'd come meet me. He can read and everything.
At least, I think he'd come meet me. He's pretty attached to his mom. And I'd miss her bread, too. Even at the palace there's nothing that good. Plus I think she likes me.
I gotta think about how I can ask around about Haley's relatives. She doesn't get back for another month so there's some time.