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Keish- April 18, 2005

April 18, 2005
Dear Arri,
It would appear we have rattled Martin Cobbles a bit.
Caden was called to another meeting last night.  They aren’t usually so close together, which made Caden nervous, but he went with a story prepared about my plans to attempt to divine Grestean troop movement.
(Not that I actually have such plans.  Unless I used a calling spell the information would be nearly useless by the time it got to the knights and soldiers at the border.)
It didn’t matter, though, because Cobbles brushed off Caden’s attempt to explain this and instead focused on my supposed divination about Grestean spies.
“So H’ma probably is real then,” Jace said thoughtfully.  “Otherwise there would be no reason to be so interested.”
Caden nodded.  “I think so, but you’re not going to like what Cobbles wants me to do.”
Jace raised an eyebrow at Caden, who bit his lip, stared at the carpet and took a full minute to finally speak again.
“They want to talk to Keish.  He thinks this information needs to be had more quickly than I can charm it out of her.”
“And I suppose they’ll just apply to Brooksby for an appointment and ask me nicely,” I said, my voice low but thick with sarcasm.
Slowly, haltingly, he described what Cobbles had outlined.
Jace was dangerously quiet throughout.
To be short-- the Gresteans want to abduct and interrogate me quietly, using the threat of scandal to keep me quiet.
I couldn’t help but laugh a little.  “And without a magician among them how do they expect to stop me from blasting them before they can even get a question out?” I asked incredulously.
Caden reddened a little.  “They might be under the impression that you can’t perform magic without a mirror,” he responded, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.
I smiled.  “They might be under that impression?”
His color deepened.  “I may have told them something to that effect.  They think you carry a small mirror with you,” he mumbled.
“Well, that proves they’re not magic workers.  Anyone with a little knowledge wouldn’t have believed you.  You took a gamble telling them something like that, but it works to our advantage.”
Jace still hadn’t even moved.  Caden kept glancing at him nervously.
Finally, softly but firmly, Jace said, “No.”  He looked at me.  “No.”
“Jace, I think we have to consider it,” I replied just as softly.
He shook his head.  “No.  It’s too dangerous.  How can you say that?”
“There’s a danger to Caden if we don’t at least consider all of the options,” I said.
Caden seemed to shrink away from us, his nervousness palpable.
Jace didn’t even glance his way.  “It’s too dangerous,” he repeated.
I sighed.  “It is a risk.  But it’s my risk to take if I think it needs to be done.  Right now Cobbles isn’t insisting on questioning me himself and they don’t have a magician.  They’ll take my reticule with a small mirror and they’ll think I’m helpless.  I’ll be anything but.”
“Cobbles sent a request for a magician last week,” Caden said, nearly whispering.
I gave Jace a moment to think about that before saying, “I think we need to do this.”
Jace stood so abruptly that his chair went flying.  “No.  This is where I draw the line, Keish.”
I gave him a small smile.  “You’re going to choose now to play the stern husband?”
He stormed from the room without another word.
Caden stood slowly.  “Should I…?”
I shook my head.  “No.  Let him be.”
We were silent a moment, then Caden murmured some apology and slipped out.
As the door shut behind him, I felt the tears on my face.

That was just after lunch.  It’s late now, but Jace still hasn’t returned.
I’ve seen Jace upset, but never with me.  We’ve never really fought before.
But I also know he wouldn’t be so upset if he didn’t know I’m right about this.
April 19th
It must have been two am before I heard Jace come in from his dressing room.
I hadn’t been able to sleep, so I turned to him as he slipped into bed.  “It will be more dangerous to wait,” I said simply.
He sighed heavily.  “I know,” was his only reply before he wrapped his arms around me and I finally found sleep.

This morning neither of us had early classes so we took breakfast in my study along with Caden and Papa and we had ourselves a little council.
Jace is still very unhappy with the situation and Papa wasn’t thrilled either, but we all agreed that if we do this now we’ll have more control.
If Caden goes back to Cobbles and says he can’t lure me away for them to get their hands on me, they’ll find another way.  And if they wait until their magician arrives, I could be completely outmatched.
I don’t like being outmatched.
“I’ll follow you.  To keep an eye on things,” Jace said at one point.
Papa shook his head.  “I appreciate the sentiment, Jace, but it won’t do.  If you’re spotted things may become even more dangerous.  A scrying spell would be better.”
Jace blew out his breath in frustration.  “The one thing I can’t do.”
“I’ll have it all set up and Ryland can monitor everything, start to finish..”
“And the king wants to set up a signal so that the palace guards can rush to the rescue,” Papa added.  “Sir Kinley has enough magic for something to be arranged.  He’ll be leading.”
I nodded and made a note to coordinate with him as well.  “I’ll need a few days to work with Ryland on the scrying spell.”
“They expect it to take me a week or so to set this up anyway,” Caden put in.
I shook my head ruefully.  “These men have a very interesting opinion of me.”
Jace grunted.  Rather un-Jace-like.  Caden was instantly on guard again.  I think he’s convinced that Jace blames this whole mess on him.
“Everyone has an interesting opinion of you, my dear,” Papa said fondly.  “Just as they did of your mother.”
I smiled.
“We must protect Caden in all this as well,” Papa said.  “If you do magic without a mirror…”
“Then either he lied to them or I don’t trust him enough to be useful to them,” I finished.  “Yes I’d considered that.  I think it would be better to glamour one, though.  Then I don’t have to worry about actually concealing one.”

At one point, Caden and Papa left the room to retrieve books that would be useful.
“I need to do this,” I said softly to Jace, who was still looking pained.
He sighed.  “I know.”  He gave me a crooked grin.  “It’s part of why I love you.”

In the end we agreed on the 26th, which means I have a week to work with Ryland, go over everything with Sir Kinley, and divine dates for all of the royal births.  Yes, all of them.  Despite hopes to the contrary, I’ve received requests from all five expecting mothers.

In the afternoon post we finally received a response from Brinden and Dameka-- Keaton is to stay with us for another year!  Cook made a special dessert to celebrate.
They’ve also asked Jace and me to spend a couple of weeks in Leilan while Keaton is home this summer.  I should like to see it, assuming all of this Grestean nonsense is ever resolved.

April 20th
Your letter came just as I was making my way down to breakfast.
I’m intrigued by the enclosed note for Jace, but he’s already off to an early self defense class and as I’m certain you will explain it I will wait and let him open it.
Master Ujifil’s explanation of the healing stone is very interesting.  Particularly his explanation of how it could be used as a weapon.  A soldier whose wounds were healed immediately in battle would be quite a foe indeed.
I had never really considered the shapes on a globe, but they do look a bit like a puzzle, don’t they?  Such questions are certain to make you Dr. Smith’s favorite.
I am glad Nuicui is no longer so dependent on the stone for her health.  Who knows what we’ll have to do with it by the end of all this.
As to her magic, I imagine Liop would be thrilled to spend time trading strengthening spells with a winged lion.  If I’m wrong, send her here-- Keaton would certainly be game.
Gordo is a good friend.  You should be able to tell him everything soon, I think.

I had gotten just that far in your letter when a bleary-eyed Caden stumbled in for some breakfast.
I raised an eyebrow at him.  “Good morning.  Trouble sleeping?”
He shook his head and winced.  “Your father asked Tish up to the observatory last night, so I tagged along.  I thought they’d never tire, but I had insisted I would escort Tish home.  I only stumbled to bed a few hours ago.”
I laughed.  “Papa often doesn’t tire until the sun is up.  You’re lucky to have gotten that much sleep.”
He shuddered.  Then he spotted your letter.  “What does Arri have to say?”
I read your account of Sir Raporty’s report.
“They wanted to abduct Euan?”  Caden laughed loudly.  “Other than upsetting the queen, I’m not at all sure that would have accomplished anything.”
“Well they wanted to blame me.  Or Jace and me, at any rate.  If they weren’t trying to make it a Roushan plot that could have worked.  Heaven knows I’ve threatened to do worse.”
“But even at the worst of the Gazette rumors, no one would have believed that kind of cold-bloodedness from Jace.  The court may have been cool to him because he’s Elcaran, but he was still too well respected for any of that.”
I nodded.  While a few in Adya would have been suspicious, most would have scoffed at the idea.
If only because I wouldn’t need anyone controlling me to make me do something to Euan.
“If nothing else, this will give me something else to report back to Cobbles.  He wants to see me again tomorrow,” Caden said with a grimace.
My nod was absent as I was continuing to read your letter to myself.
Mendel having actually attracted the dragons is a frightening thought.  Hopefully he learns to be very very careful of such things in the future.  Heavens.
In light of Cobbles’ questions for me, I think we can assume that H’ma is real and simply a well-kept secret.  We’ve debated various other alternatives, but none make much sense.
I summarized the council bit by bit for Caden as I ate.
I am inclined to write a letter to Uncle W. demanding a copy of that cloaking spell.  Ten hours is very impressive.
Caden says that if Mendel really wants to train in fighting he should spend part of the summer here and “let Jace torture him”.
“I suppose it’s best that Arri isn’t going,” I said slowly.  “If only because she’d miss too much school.”
Caden nodded.  “And Imato would be furious.”
“That too.”  I kept reading.  “Oh, but Uncle Quin asked Nysa to go.”
“Only fair.  She hasn’t really gotten a quest yet,” Caden responded with a smile.
Instead of responding I dropped my fork, my hand jerking and spilling my tea.
“What’s wrong?” Caden asked in alarm.
“They want Jace,” I said softly, rereading the crown prince’s words.
Caden pried your letter out of my hands and read that part himself.  After a moment he sat back, looking stunned, though not nearly as stunned as I felt.  “I suppose that’s to be expected since Jace is in fact that skilled.”
I nodded mutely.  My hands were cold and I must have looked even paler than usual, because Caden gave me an appraising look and called for Malia.
“Take her upstairs and get her some chamomile,” he told her quietly.  “I’m going for Jace.”
“What’s wrong?” Malia asked, somewhat alarmed.
Caden shook his head.  “Just a surprise in Arri’s letter that’s not very welcome.  You and Ryland should stay close, though, in case anything else is needed.”
He left and Malia guided me upstairs, carrying your letter and the note for Jace.  When I was settled on my favorite chaise in the sitting room, she left to get a tea tray and I read the last of your letter.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been so shocked at the idea of Jace going.  Imato is his best friend, he certainly has every right to go.
Caden clearly hadn’t explained everything to Jace because he burst into the sitting room with concern etched on his face.
I gave him a small smile and handed him the note from your father.
Jace read it then looked back to me in disbelief.  “Captain Etautca wants… me?”
Caden laughed from the doorway.  “You’d better let him read Arri’s account, Keish.”
I handed Jace your letter.  As he read he sat slowly on the chaise with me.
“Prince Dedric specifically recommended me?” Jace shook his head, amazed.  “Second best since your uncle is surely an exaggeration.”
That got a snort from Caden.  “You’re ridiculously modest, you know that?”
Jace just rolled his eyes at him.  “I’d like to read the whole letter before we discuss this,” he told me gently.
I nodded, leaning back and closing my eyes while he read.
When he had finished I was feeling more settled about the whole thing.
He handed me your father’s invitation.  “I am being given a choice,” Jace said carefully.
I read through it and laughed a little.  “Imato would certainly have phrased that last bit differently.”
Jace smiled, but thinking about Imato made us both sober again quickly.
We sat in silence.  Caden drifted out, muttering something about having no place in such a decision.
Finally I forced out the words I knew I needed to say.  “You should go.”
Jace blew out his breath.  “If it were any other week…” he trailed off, then looked deeply into my eyes.  “I don’t want to leave you alone next week.”
“I know.  But I won’t be alone.  Imato is the one who’s alone.”
Jace closed his eyes and nodded.  “I should go.  Captain Etautca wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t think it was important.”
I giggled.
Jace looked at me in surprise.
“Sorry, it just sounds so funny to hear you talk about Uncle Quin so formally.”
He gave me a playful glare, than laughed lightly.  “I suppose I’ll have to ask what I should call him.”  Then he sighed.  “I don’t want to leave you at all.”
I leaned forward to put my head on his shoulder.  I didn’t want him to leave either.  We haven’t spent any real time apart since the wedding, and even before that he was living in the tower for months.
Jace echoed my thoughts.  “We haven’t been apart in over a year.”
I buried my face deeper into his shoulder.
Jace wrapped his arms around me and just held me.
“I need to do this,” he said finally.
“I know.”  I lifted my head and gave him the best smile I could manage.  “It’s part of why I love you.”
He laughed a little and then kissed me fiercely.
I was breathless when he broke away from me, striding quickly to the door of our bedroom and through to his dressing room.
I trailed behind him, hearing Ryland’s voice from the dressing room.
“Are you well, Mistress?” Malia asked, peeking out of my dressing room nervously.
I nodded.  “I’ll be fine.  Jace has been called away and it was a bit of a shock, that’s all.”
She nodded, looking relieved, and retreated again.
A moment later, Jace emerged from his dressing room holding a rather intricate scabbard.  He set it on the bed.  Ryland followed with a set of simple soldier’s armor.  It wasn’t fancy or heavy like Imato’s knightly suit, but the workmanship was obviously very fine and it matched the scabbard.
Curious, I slowly drew the sword out.  It was beautiful.
Jace saw the question in my eyes.  “A gift from Tulson and his brothers.  After I beat the fencing master at 16.”
My eyebrows went up.  I studied the sword more closely.  It wasn’t the weapon he took when we took our quest to the cave.  Obviously it had still been in Rousha then.  I couldn’t believe I’d never seen these things.
“What other secrets are hidden in that dressing room?” I queried, replacing the sword.
Jace laughed.  “No secrets, love.  All this just… embarrassed me, I guess.  I’ve never wanted to be a soldier.”
“You’re ridiculously good at it.”
He shrugged, uncomfortable.  “It will be useful now, if nothing else.”
Behind him, Ryland cleared his throat.  “Will you be requiring me to accompany you, sir?”
Jace shook his head fervently.  “No, Keish needs you here.  I’m counting on you to keep her safe through that scrying spell next week.”
Ryland nodded and retreated to attend to the rest of Jace’s packing.
Jace kissed my forehead.  “I need to find Kaplan and make arrangements for my classes.”
I nodded.  “I’ll go talk to Keaton.  He’s bound to hear something soon and I’d rather tell him what’s going on first.”
Jace considered.  “I’ll go with you and talk to him first.”
We found Keaton and Master Zart at their lessons.  Jace explained the situation, giving Keaton firm instructions that it would be his job not only to help keep me safe in Jace’s absence but to keep my spirits up.  Keaton accepted this all very solemnly, squeezing my hand before we left his study.
Jace went off to make his arrangements and I went down to the kitchen to ask Cook to have something ready for Jace to take with him.  I’m sure he’ll end up waiting until morning to leave, but it was better than doing nothing and I had no classes to teach because I’d given everyone a study day.
When Jace had everything settled to his satisfaction he found me in my study, trying to call Imato just to give myself something else to do.
“I’ve worked out the details for all of my classes, love, but Caden is off somewhere, so will you help me remember to tell him that Kaplan will be coming daily to continue our sessions for me.”
I smiled.  “He’ll be thrilled.”
Jace smirked.  “Yes, well, he needs the help.”
“I’ve been thinking,” I said quickly as he turned to leave the room, “I want you to take Argentum.”
Jace turned back to me slowly.
“Argyros is a wonderful mount, but Argentum is stronger.  He’ll bring you back safely.”
He considered me for a moment then put a hand on my cheek.  “If you’re certain.”
I nodded.
With that, Jace went to check Ryland’s progress and send word to Bryce to have Argentum saddled and ready at first light.
I sat down at my desk to write Gretel a rather stern letter.  I don’t care how unfair it seems, she cannot try to follow them.  I’m ordering her to stay in Rousha or come to Adya.  In case you find that you need to ward the house to keep track of her I’m including a couple of helpful spells.
Not much of a birthday for her, I know, and certainly this is ironic coming from me, but she had better stay put.  Imato would never forgive any of us if anything happened to her.  Or the baby.

It’s not too late yet, but Jace wants an early start tomorrow.
He asks that information on the route being taken and anything else he needs to know be sent to Sean in Odsreq since he’ll likely have to catch up to the main party.  He hopes to make Odsreq by midday the 22nd, but doesn’t want to push too hard too early on.
I’d best send Hermes off now if you are to receive this before your father wants to leave.
My love to everyone, of course.

Love Always,

PS: I shall, of course, write and tell you everything that happens next week.  Jace is not happy about my going through with it while he isn’t even here, but things have already been set in motion and he understands that.  He has made me promise to use a calling spell to let him know I’m safe when it’s all over.

Quin to Jace- April 18, 2005

April 18, 2005
Master Jace Pren,

I would like to extend a formal invitation for you to join the quest to rescue Imato from the Grestians. I believe your skills as a swordsman and fighter will be invaluable in our success.
Jace, I know that this is a difficult decision and I will abide by your decision if you choose not to join. I have heard so much good of you from Arri and Gretel that I am sure you will make the right decision. I am not your captain, but if you choose to come, I will be your captain during the quest and consider it an honor. If you stay, I will look forward to meeting and getting to know you as my nephew. I have heard that you and Lakeisha are ingenious at helping even at a distance.

Quin Etautca, Captain of the Elcaran Army

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Arri- April 13, 2005

April 13, 2005
Dear Keish,

I woke up early to study. I had no hope of really finishing, but I got as far as I could. Father surprised Gretel and I by cooking breakfast and bringing it to us in our rooms. He said he thought I would be studying and Gretel was exhausted from stress.
It felt strange to sit in biology. The class has moved on from cells and Dr. Ecrue had a long line of animal skulls on tables for us to compare and consider. He particularly wanted us to consider the size of the brain in relation to the animal. For example, the brain of a cat is much bigger than the brain of a possum despite that fact that they are similarly sized. It was fascinating. He had several dragon skulls and I noticed that the brain cavity of the great green skull was no bigger than a cat’s. However, the brain size of a Beri whitescale dragon is nearly twice the size of a great green, despite the whitescale being smaller overall. Dr. Ecrue said the in general a bigger brain meant a smarter animal, but not always. It was fascinating, but he never mentioned memory or memory brain cells.
Mendel was waiting for me at eleven when biology got out.
“Gordo isn’t expecting to meet for lunch today. Also, you should know that Gordo knows we were on a quest, but I didn’t tell him why or what or anything,” said Mendel.
“Why not?” I asked, “He’s trustworthy.”
“Yes, that’s true,” said Mendel, “but the more people know, the more risk we take of the information leaking.”
He had a point, I suppose. I promised to let Mendel know when the next council was and rode Sprigs to the castle. My next class was with Master Ujifil. I had T’ay in my satchel and permission from Father to show it to him.

“A Yugliv healing stone,” said Master Ujifil, respectfully lifting it with both hands and holding it to the light, “Where did you get it?”
“I can’t tell you,” I said, reddening.
Master Ujifil looked at me thoughtfully. Then he nodded.
“Why did you bring it to me?”
“To see what you know about it,” I said, “I don’t know anything about healing stones.”
Master Ujifil set the stone on the exam table and walked carefully around it.
“Healing stones are made by healers,” he said, looking at me, “The creation process is similar to the creation process for a wand with one major exception.”
“A wand?” I asked nervously.
“Yes,” he said, “The major exception is that a healing stone contains a preset amount of magic. A wand is basically a conduit. The magic it contains is merely enough to access the magic of the magician who made it. The magician uses the wand to focus magic and draw it out of him or herself. Someone else can use the wand, but it will draw magic from the person who created it, which is why wands are so dangerous. A wand can literally drain a magician of all magic. The Yugliv healing stones are better designed. In creating a healing stone, the healer begins by endowing it with a specific amount of magic. The stone is a conduit, but it’s limited in how much magic it can draw from the magician, and it draws magic from the magician using it, not necessarily the magician who made it. The magic drawn from the healer using the stone is mixed with predesigned magic placed in the stone. A healer can prepare a complex healing spell, place it in the stone, and then draw it out later with minimal effort, or a weaker magician can draw out the healer’s spell and use it, even though he might not be capable of creating that spell on his own.”
It’s amazing, Keish. If you don’t know how to perform a healing spell, you can have a better healer perform it and store it in the stone for you. Then you can use it.
“Why don’t all healers use healing stones?” I asked.
“One reason, Lady Arri,” said Master Ujifil, his voice stern, “The stones are very addictive. You can actually weaken your own magic by using a stone too often. The more you use it, the more you will want to use it, and the more difficult it will become to use your magic without the stone.”
“Then the stones aren’t good at all,” I said.
“In the right hands, used carefully and sparingly, the stones are very powerful and good. Used recklessly, they are dangerous. There’s a trick to knowing exactly how much you can use them safely, but few healers are skilled enough.” He paused. “Your mother was one of those,” he added, thoughtfully, “I believe she had a stone at one time. Was this it?”
I didn’t answer. Gingerly, I picked up T’ay and looked at it. Light passed through the clear emerald facets and sparkled. It was beautiful. I could feel magic pulsing in it. Poor Nuicui.
There are few people in the world as patient as Master Ujifil. He waited quietly as I thought about his words.
“Master Ujifil,” I said finally, slowly, “is there any way that a healing stone could be used as a weapon?”
He looked surprised.
“I read an old theoretical document a long time ago,” he said finally, “that suggested a healing stone could be set into the handle of a sword. It would be filled in advance with spells for healing wounds. The idea was that the sword could then heal the wounds of a soldier while he was in the very act of fighting.”
“That would be a powerful weapon,” I said.
“Yes, but to my knowledge it’s never been successfully accomplished. A healing stone would be naturally adverse to being installed in a injurious weapon. It would take a powerful amount of magic and skill to accomplish. What are you thinking about, Lady Arri?” His voice became worried.
“I’m not making a weapon,” I assured him, “just trying to understand something.”
“Something you’re not allowed to talk about?”
I reddened, “I’m sorry.”
“Not to worry, my dear. I trust you. Not to worry.” He put a hand on my shoulder, “Just don’t try the stone until you’re more practiced at healing, okay?”
I nodded.

I rode Sprigs home. Emily was back to greet me. She didn’t say much, but helped me with my things. As I passed the kitchen I could hear Cook going over the week’s reading vocabulary with her daughter. It was a nice sound. Father must have completed the interviews and found them all innocent.
Father was at the castle and Gretel was taking apart the quilt blocks that she had sewed together wrongly the previous day. Her bow and quiver of white goose-feather fletched arrows was by the door.
“We need distraction, Arri,” said Gretel, tugging violently at the flowered fabric with her seam ripper.
“Yeah,” I agreed and told her what I learned about Yugliv healing stones. She was fascinated, but didn’t know what to say.
After that I brought my homework into the sitting room and Gretel quizzed me on the kinds of rocks which wasn’t really distracting enough, but I tried to make it so.

April 14th
This morning when Father brought me breakfast (prepared by Cook) I was staring at Imato’s old globe trying to memorize the different places where different minerals are found.
“I’ve always thought the continents look like giants puzzle pieces that got pulled apart from each other,” said Father.
I examined the globe. He was right. They do look like they could fit together if you got rid of the oceans between them.
“Do you know why that is?” he asked.
Father shrugged. “I was hoping you knew,” he said.
“I’ll ask in geology today,” I said, staring at the globe in fascination.

Dr. Smith, the geology professor, loves rocks. He thinks everyone should love rocks. He usually begins each lecture by showing us a rock and giving an anecdote on how he found it. Gordo took a class from him Fall Term. He told me to be careful about insulting the rocks, which apparently one of the other students did, much to his detriment. I am not quite sure how to insult a rock.
Today Dr. Smith was lecturing on the fascinating qualities of obsidian, which is a beautiful shiny black kind of rock that doesn’t have any large minerals in it like granite. He said it forms when lava from a volcano cools very rapidly. He passed an example around for us to look at. Passing around the rock is also his way of giving everyone in the class a chance to ask a question. When the rock comes to you, you should ask a question. If Dr. Smith likes your question, and he usually does if it’s a question about rocks, he gives you a point towards your grade.
When the rock came to me, I asked: “Why do all the continents looks like a great big puzzle that came apart?”
I could tell immediately that this was a good question to ask, because Dr. Smith’s smile became very wide and Dr. Smith has rather a wide face to begin with.
“That is a two-point question, Miss Etautca,” he said, “It shows you’re thinking beyond the lessons. The fact is that we don’t know why the continents look the way they do. The most popular theory is that the oceans carved them, much like rivers carve grooves in canyons. It would have taken a long time, but it seems possible. Another theory is that the earth was originally much smaller than it is now, but there was an internal explosion, maybe a gas explosion, and the earth expanded like a balloon, cracking the land in pieces.”
I didn’t know what to say to either of those theories, but when I got home I showed my notes to Father. He was fascinated and spent a while debating the merits of the ideas. He seemed to think they were both a little flawed, but he didn’t have anything better to offer. In the end he gave me a new question to ask in class the next day. His question was to ask if oceans carved the continents like rivers, where all the earth that they washed away went. Shouldn’t the edges of the continents be piled high with it? Some continents do have mountains one their edges, but not all. It’s a good question.
When I got home I found that Banquo and Nuicui were in the stables. I sat and told them everything Master Ujifil had told me about healing stones. Nuicui kept her head ducked, nodding occasionally. Banquo crouched, his tail twitching with agitation, his expression troubled. When I finished Banquo gave a kind of shrug with his shoulders.
“Do you still need the stone?” I asked Nuicui. I set the stone cautiously in front of her.
She shook her head slowly. Banquo growled lowly at her. She growled back and they seemed to argue for a minute. Finally Nuicui swatted the stone, sending it flying through the stable door and startling the horses who whinnied and reared up in their stalls. Banquo and I followed the stones progress until it disappeared. Banquo gave a frustrated snort.
“What happens if you don’t have it?” I asked Nuicui.
She frowned. I felt a bit of magic build and dissipate as she attempted to talk. She shook herself and went outside. A minute later she returned carrying both T’ay and a plain stone from the edge of the flower beds. She set T’ay in front of herself, motioning to herself and then the stone. Then she made a show of shoving the healing stone aside and replacing it with the plain stone. She motioned to that stone and then herself.
I had to think about it.
“The stone is losing magic?” I asked.
She nodded, then shook her head, then made a frustrated sound. She motioned to the plain stone and back to herself several times.
“You lose magic too?” I asked finally.
She nodded smiling slightly, but Banquo shook his head. He stood up and threw a spell at Nuicui, a kind of glowing round ball. Unprepared, the lioness fell to her side when it hit her, startled.
Banquo threw the spell at her again. It was a strange spell; I couldn’t recognize it. This time Nuicui caught it. She held it neatly in her paws for a moment and then threw it to me. The ball hit me full force in the stomach and I fell backward with a jolt. The spell dissipated, but not before I recognized it: a strengthening spell.
Nuicui gave a moan of apology as I picked myself up, unhurt.
“Banquo says you can overcome the loss of magic,” I concluded.
Nuicui shrugged, her blue eyes narrow, but Banquo nodded, growling at her.
“And your health?” I asked.
Nuicui nodded, as did Banquo.
What I gathered was that Nuicui’s need of the stone for her health gradually diminished, but her addiction to the stone’s magic grew. It’s the addiction that she needs to overcome, and she is determined to do it. However, the stone has damage Nuicui’s magic to the point that without the stone she has difficultly using it.

We are all waiting for Sir Raporty to finish translating the documents and for Uncle W. to finish the cloaking spell. Then we will hold council again. It is hard waiting.

April 15th
I had lunch with Gordo today. He asked if there was anything he could do to help with whatever was going one that he couldn’t know about. He asked it so politely and sincerely that I felt awful telling him no, that there wasn’t anything I could think of to do.
“If I had become a page,” he said thoughtfully, “I would be close to becoming a squire now, and then I would be of more help.”
“You’re helping me concentrate on algebra,” I said, “and I really need help with that.”
Gordo looked doubtful.
“Really,” I said, “that’s what I need most.”
He nodded, “I mean it though, Lady Arri, anything I can do. I could even talk to my brother Taxon—he’s a squire, and I’m sure he could help.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“In the meantime, we’ll make sure Dr. Kondamuri eats his words about you.”
“I don’t think it will happen this term,” I said dismally, staring at the pages and pages of practice problems before me. I don’t think my professors would have given me the make-up work if my excuse had come from anyone less than the King. They’re rather of the opinion that I’ve missed too much school this term.
“You’ll do well,” said Gordo earnestly, “I’m sure.”

When I arrived home, Gretel was waiting for me.
“Sir Raporty is ready to give his report,” she said.
I didn’t remove my cloak. Instead I went back out to re-saddle Sprigs. We raced to the castle, arriving nearly at the same time as Nysa. Uncle W. couldn’t come because of where he was in his work on the cloaking spell.

Sir Raporty is round and elderly with small blue eyes in a broad, stern face. No one seemed particularly glad to see him. The King’s councilors sat at the long, narrow jury table with arms folded and eyes narrowed. King Trunsle, Queen Elspeth, and Crown Prince Dedric sat on their thrones. Father sat with the councilors. Nysa and I were the last to enter. Father smiled and motioned for us to join him at the table. He handed us each a quill and sheet of paper.
Sir Raporty’s voice was monotone. He almost sounded bored with the information he related. The first councilor to interrupt him with a question was treated with a dismissive wave of the hand.
“I will finish the report first. Then you may interrogate me,” he said in annoyance. We all complied.
The Grestian papers consist of several separate correspondences to different spies. The oldest refers to the failed attempt at abducting Father during the tournament, though it does not mention the attempt on the Queen’s life. It contains a rather long rant against Father for his interference in the war against Yuglicov. The mention of T’ay is simply that they want it back, and it is clear they’re expecting to recover a sword, not just a stone. The next piece of correspondence was intended for K’Lei. It is a set of instructions for renewing the controlling spell on White. What exactly K’Lei’s mission was beyond that isn’t given. The third document is a lengthy discussion of a plot to abduct Prince Euan.
“Abduct Prince Euan?” several of us voiced at once when Sir Raporty finally allowed us to speak.
“This is about starting a war between Elcaro and Arrella,” said Sir Raporty in a bored tone, “They need a probable cause, preferably one that’s easy to control.”
“Euan is incompetent,” said Gretel.
“As I said,” Sir Raporty set the papers on the table. He leaned back against the nearest wall and closed his eyes.
“How likely is the Arrellan court to believe that Jace Pren is a spy?” asked Father. He picked up the papers and flipped through them slowly.
“Not likely,” said Nysa and I together.
“How likely are they to believe that he’s controlling Keish through magic?” asked Father.
Nysa laughed outright. Father nodded, looking amused.
“If they succeed in recruiting a new spy in the Arrellan Court to help them…” began Father thoughtfully.
“It’s still an idiotic plan,” said the Crown Prince, “If Prince Euan does go missing (and it will take a while for anyone to realize he didn’t just make a wrong turn on the way to the drawing room); no one in their right mind is going to think that Jace Pren put a spell on Lakeisha and forced her to help him with an evil plot to abduct Euan and… what is it they’re going to do with Euan again?”
“Hold him in reserve,” said Sir Raporty.
“What does that mean?” asked Nysa.
“It means they don’t really know yet,” Sir Raporty sighed.
“It’s almost a good strategy,” said Crown Prince Dedric thoughtfully, “Lady Lakeisha has been avoiding, or failing to avoid, Euan for years. She tries to be discreet about it, but it’s been noticed on occasion. So, if it weren’t for King Menion trusting her so much, she’d make a good suspect in Prince Euan’s disappearance.”
“Lakeisha is not important,” said Sir Raporty. We all looked at him.
“Jace Pren is the key. Make him look like a spy, heartless. Kill Lakeisha after the abduction. That would be the proper strategy.”
“No,” said Nysa, standing.
Sir Raporty shrugged at her and closed his eyes again.
“The documents say that?” asked one of the councilors.
“I told you what they said before. Now I tell you what I think,” said Sir Raporty, “Make what you will of it.”
“But you’re not sure?” asked Father.
“The Grestians are not strategists. The government loses its best thinkers to emigration.”
“Yes, they act first and plan later,” said Father slowly, “but this is rather elaborate for them.”
“Not really. We all sit around here for five minutes and find enough flaws in the Grestians’ plan to fill more pages than the documents that explained it to us.”
Enthusiastic discussions of the Grestian government’s flaws followed for several minutes. It seems the royal government of Greste is jealous of any citizen they think might be smarter than they are. They prefer to keep that majority of their people as ignorant and uneducated as possible. And so the people are easier to influence and dominate. It is a deep-rooted problem that goes back for generations. No one seems quite sure how to solve it.

April 18th
I have your letter, and I have also just returned from the council to determine how to rescue Imato. Uncle Winthrop has finished the cloaking spell. I will respond to your letter first. Then I will tell you about the council.
Tell Sir Byra congratulations for his new post. He certainly deserves it. I hope one day Elcaro will add girl’s classes to the public schools too.
I’m going to tell Master Grant and Dr. Ecrue about my spell once Imato is rescued. It would be nice if Tish could be there too, but if not, I will write her a letter.
I asked Father if his promise to Mendel that he would encounter a dragon was why all the great greens attacked us.
“I have little magic, Arri,” he reminded me, “and no direct control over it.” He stood up from his seat as the desk in Gretel’s sitting room and walked to the window. “However,” he said, “that promise may have made us more attractive to any dragons in the area. I had no idea of attracting seven great greens. I was actually wondering if Mendel’s magical talent for finding things also played a role. We will definitely have to be more careful in the future.”
“Isn’t it breeding season for great greens?” I asked, “Wouldn’t they be more likely to be in flights this time of year.”
“Good point,” he nodded, “the number may have been coincidental.”
“What about the gomorph?” I asked.
“That,” said Father firmly, “had no business being so near a city. We alerted the foresters, so hopefully they will track it down before it builds up enough magic to attack someone else.”
Gretel was very relieved to hear that White is not to blame for Imato’s abduction, although it adds to the embarrassment of sending Emily and Cook away. After the interviews with Father, Gretel apologized to everyone. Cook says it was all very understandable and that Gretel treated them as well as she could have under the circumstances. Emily didn’t say much, just that she was glad Gretel was okay now.
I do not think my spell to restore Father will work for White, since my spell depended on us having shared memories from before the battle. However, I would like to look at White. I understand so much more than I did before, so maybe I can make a spell for him. Maybe I could fix other people’s memories too…
Father is amused to think that H’ma might not be real. He says it definitely kept a number of soldiers busy over the years. But Martin Cobbles reaction was interesting. I hope he doesn’t suspect the truth about Caden because of it. After all, why would you divine a false name. Or maybe, Father says, there really is a H’ma, so secret even the other Grestian spies didn’t know about him.

Now I’m going to tell you about the council. These are the people who attended: King Trunsle, Queen Elspeth, Crown Prince Dedric, several of the King’s councilors, Sergeant Maltese, Brynn (who was called back from Marobury), Uncle Winthrop, Nysa, Mendel, Gretel, Father, Banquo, Liop, and me. It was a lot of people and rather overwhelming.
First we went over all the facts. Everything that we knew about Imato’s abduction, T’ay, the Grestian spies, White, and Father’s recovery. Everyone was given a chance to speak. Since Father has been going to the castle every day since we returned from finding Nuicui, I knew that there had already been a lot of discussion that I didn’t hear about. Finally Father stood up, taking control of the meeting.
“I believe the rescue party should consist of at least six people, no more than twelve. Ability to hide inside the Gretian border will be paramount. Winthop, may I examine your cloaking spell?”
Uncle W. stood importantly. In his hand was a scroll that almost glowed with magic.
“This spell contains exactly ten hours of complete cloaking magic,” he said, “It can be used by multiple people for fractions of that time, or one person for the whole time. For example five people could use the spell for two hours, or twenty people for half an hour, or one person could use the spell for ten hours. You can turn the spell on and off and switch the person it is applied to. However, once the ten hours are used up, it’s gone.”
“Ten hours is more than I expected,” said Father, examining the scroll, “Brilliant work, Winthrop.”
Uncle W. nodded and returned to his seat.
After that Father went into great detail about the skills he would need in the people he selected for the quest. When he mentioned tracking skills, I saw Mendel sit up straighter in his seat, but as Father emphasized the need for each person to also have fighting capability, his shoulders slumped and he shook his head, frustrated.
“I should have paid more attention to the fencing lessons Father sent Sean and I too,” he muttered.
By the time Father finished I was beginning to wonder if anyone had the skills he was looking for. It seemed an impossible list of qualifications. I looked around and saw the councilors nodding at him as he spoke, attention riveted. Father knows how to command an audience.
“Now,” he concluded, “I would like suggestions on who can fulfill this mission.”
He folded his arms and waited. I looked around uncomfortably.
“I recommend Sir Stoddart,” said one of the councilors.
Father nodded, “Yes, I would like him very much.”
“Sir Wooldridge,” said another councelor, “would make an excellent tracker.”
Father and I both looked at Mendel. He squirmed a bit.
“Can he track as well as I can?” he asked.
“You’re a fine tracker, Mendel, certainly one of the best I’ve seen,” said Father.
“But I can’t fight,” said Mendel.
“I’d like you and Sir Wooldridge to collaborate before we leave. I’d like him to see some of your spells.”
“I’d be honored, Captain,” said Mendel.
It was then that I realized I wouldn’t be going on the quest either. Father wanted soldiers. He had good reasons for it.
“Winthrop, I would like to invite you to join the quest,” said Father formally.
Uncle W. looked surprised.
“Your knowledge of magic and desert survival skills will be invaluable.”
“Thank you,” said Uncle W.
Banquo growled.
“Winged Lions Banquo and Nuicui will also accompany us,” said Father with a slight bow in Banquo’s direction.
“Sir Aoweir,” said King Trunsle.
“Yes,” Father agreed, “and I’d also like to extend the invitation to White.”
This sparked some disagreement among the councilors, but ultimately they agreed with Father. Then Father suggested someone else, but that person was rejected by the councilors. Father looked surprised, but they held their ground and he deferred to their better knowledge of the knight’s current circumstances.
Father turned to Nysa.
“This is a family concern,” he said softly, “I did not allow you to come on the last quest, but I would like to invite you on this one. It will be much more dangerous. However, I believe you have the right to come if you wish.”
Nysa was silent.
“May I consider for a day?” she asked softly, pulling the hair away from her face, eyes intense.
“Yes, of course,” said Father.
“I’d like to suggest another family member,” said the Crown Prince.
We all looked at him.
“It’s well known that Imato was the best squire in terms of fighting that Elcaro has seen since you were yourself in his place, Captain.”
Father didn’t respond.
“However, the second best fighter the squires have seen was not actually numbered among them.”
“Oh?” asked Father.
Prince Dedric nodded, his eyes serious. “I’d like to recommend Master Jace Pren, as the second best fighter Elcaro has seen in at least twenty years.”
I blinked a couple of times and looked at Uncle W. He was nodding thoughtfully, as was Gretel, though she looked rather more worried.
“I will send him an invitation,” said Father.
Another half hour was spent discussing other possible knights. In the end they decided on a knight named Sir Tureo who is also a healer.
You will see Father’s formal invitation to Jace enclosed with this letter.

I wish I could go too, but Father won’t hear of it. He says that taking me into western Elcaro to search for a winged lioness was one thing, but taking me across the border into Greste is too dangerous. Hearing the qualifications of all the other participants, I can see his point.
Mendel has added swordsmanship to his list of things he wants to study. Liop, surprisingly, made no protest about not being allowed to go. He did a few translations for Banquo but was quiet through most of the council. Nysa deliberated for most of the evening, but has decided to go. Letters of invitation have been sent by bird or footman to everyone else. They all have Father’s signature. No one is expected to decline. Everyone who joins the quest will be provided with at least one passenger pigeon for use during the quest.
I need to send this letter as quickly as possible. Father would like to leave in three days. If Jace goes on the quest, how will that affect your spy work with Caden? I know Jace is more than qualified to go, but I was really surprised when he was suggested. Gretel is envious. She has been fiddling her bow all evening. She makes Father nervous. I think he’s afraid she will try to follow.
I can’t think what else to say—just to post this and wait for your reply.
Give my love to everyone.


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