It would have taken eight or nine days to Sassinoth in regular circumstances, but we made the journey slower than I had planned. It looks like it will take us a whole week: thirteen days between Kurkurast and Sassinoth. I had not guessed how ill the roadpackers and the powersledges and every kind of moving vehicle and even simple walking and skiing would make me. It’s infuriating. I have never been carsick or seasick in my life, and now I have the most loathsome, stupid nausea and can only stand to travel a few hours a day. I tried to stay up late nights so that I would be forced to sleep while in transit, and not suffer so much, but the only effect it had was to make me tired as a surplus to my sickness. My stomach tries to empty itself at the slightest provocation. More fool it, since there is so little to empty.
Eating is difficult. I can manage some bread in small chunks, or a couple spoonfuls of the most insipid kadik porridge, or water in small sips throughout the day, but not much more. My head hurts often. My chest hurts sometimes. My heart runs fast. My mind fogs and my patience is gone.
Since we are traveling slowly, I have the time to write. I would write more, but I am weary and in ill humors.
Genly is patient, and insists we should not push ourselves to travel too fast. By “we,” he plainly means me. I remind myself people in his culture are not offended by advice. He says it out of concern, after all.
At times I fear I may lose control over the tight coil of frustration I hold within myself. At other times I feel I lack enough energy to truly snap.
My voice comes out of my throat and I scarcely recognize it. Riding on the back of a roadpacker a few miles outside Sassinoth, I tell Genly,
“I didn’t get nausea last time,” and I sound pitiful, like I’m about to cry.
I close my eyes and do not cry, because the windows of the packer are down so I can get fresh air but it’s so cold, and snot freezing to my face is another thing I don’t need.
Next to me on the bench, he puts his arms around me and I rest my head on his shoulder.
“You’ve done this before, then?” he asks.
“I guess I didn’t think...but I should have. Foreth rem ir Osborth did say to tell you the children were well. I didn’t realize…”
“No, they’re both Ashe’s. He bore them. I’m only the father.”
I do not say, these days, I have been missing them as though they were my own.
“My child—my son, I should say; He’s not a child, he’ll be twenty come spring. He lives in Estre.”
I do not wish to turn my thoughts towards my Hearth and son, but lately, I cannot help thinking of Sorve. I don’t know what he looks like now, as a young adult, so in all my recent dreams he has been a baby at my breast, or smaller still and hidden within me. In my dreams, I do not know whether I am nineteen again or forty. It is an appalling state, to be unhitched from time, and to have your wounds unstitched. My mind does not dare do this to me while I am awake, and so waits till I am asleep and guardless, like a coward. Genly does not ask about my Hearth and family. The subject is a difficult one for me to speak of. I think he knows this, but I am certain he does not know why. There is much I have not told him.
“We can stop at the next stop and get off the road packer,” he says, (with an endearing space in the middle as if it were two words; he speaks Karhidish well but it is not his native tongue), “if you’re feeling bad.”
I answer the same thing I’ve answered every time for the past few days.
“It’s not practical to stop whenever I feel bad. I’m only feeling bad because we’re moving forward. We must push through a little longer.”
This was the opposite of what I had told him when he had a panic attack on the all-white unshadow of the glacier. I had stopped then, and pitched the tent. I do not follow my own advice now. I am desperate to be done with vehicles and to have his ship’s landing secured.
“All right,” he says, hesitantly. “You know your limits.”
But in the afternoon, perhaps to spare my pride, Genly claims he needs to stretch his legs and eat, so we stop in the tiny Hearth of Pinth by the roadside, where we spend the night. I manage to eat a watery cup of bean and fish skin soup. It stays eaten, praise creation unfinished.
It is a mercy, I suppose, that if I had to get ill, I got ill now and not while we were crossing the ice. It is altogether too easy to imagine that if we had slowed our journey, we would have died. I will not dwell on that. We are but a day or two from Sassinoth at our current pace. I expect to be there by Netherhad Irrem.
I cannot bring myself to keep writing about plans and the future. At Rotherer fastness, as a youth, I was taught to live with uncertainty, even to love it. It is as necessary for life as water and like water, an excess will stop your heart and froth your lungs. My only gift, foresight, wanes again. I do not know what comes next.
I tell Genly that I will return to Orgoreyn and that the Orgota have no quarrel with me, but this is only partly true, and only true if I can pass my forged papers off as legitimate and if I can disguise my Karhidish accent. (I can do a passable Sekeve District accent by doing an impression of Obsle, dear old coward, though I can’t keep it up for long periods of time.) They have no quarrel with the invented fur trapper Thener Benth. But even then, he did desert his post at Pulefen Voluntary. He may find himself in some trouble. Therem Harth, on the other hand, is no friend of the Sarf’s. He will find himself in considerably more trouble if discovered.
I must think of something. But it does not follow that I will . I have become like a hunted animal. All I can think to do is hide.