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Arri- August 6, 2003

August 6, 2003

Dear Keish,

All right. This is my first attempt using the passenger pigeon that Prince Tulson gave me for my birthday. I followed his instructions exactly, so I hope it works right. I named the pigeon Hermes. Then I signed my name on the piece of parchment underneath your signature, and ground it up into a very fine powder which I mixed into Hermes’s birdseed. Then I recited the spell over and over again while he ate it. Hermes is a very slow eater. Now we can send letters to each other no matter where we go. I wish Uncle Winthrop had thought of that before he disappeared. It would have saved a lot of trouble. Of course passenger pigeons are very hard to get. Prince Tulson said that you can use a regular pigeon, but the spell wears off quickly—sometimes before the bird even finishes its first trip. It’s too bad you have to have a real signature to make the spell work, or I’d have tried forging Uncle W.’s, but this is going to be great fun anyway. Prince Tulson has the best gift ideas, don’t you think?

Having you and Gretel come for my birthday was fantastic! I had so much fun! Cook, Liop, and I are still finding rice from the prank you played on Prince Tulson. He says that it wasn’t fair of you to play it on the same day you left, because now he can’t get back at you.

I had a dream last night that I ought to tell you about. It was about the bridle. I still don’t know who sent it to me. Prince Tulson seems as surprised about it as I was, but we’ve already discussed that. I want to tell you about my dream. I dreamt it was the morning of my birthday all over again. I woke up about an hour before sunrise and sat down on the windowsill. The whole house was still asleep and even Cook hadn’t arrived yet to make breakfast. Suddenly I saw the hart emerge from the forest and begin browsing in the garden. He especially liked the apricot tree. I jumped up from the window and ran downstairs and outside to see him. Once again, I forgot to wake you up to come with me, although this time I was vaguely aware of it. After that the dream became different from what really happened. Instead of watching the deer for several minutes until he casually returned to the forest as I did in real life, I watched for only seconds and when he went into the trees, I followed him. I could see the white flash of his tail ahead of me and the earth was soft beneath my bare feet. He led me to the griffon trap as though he knew I was supposed to go there, and I found the golden bridle again in the same spot it was before, pushed under the bushes next to the stump with the rosehip tea on it. I picked up the bridle and stared at it, as though it were my first time finding it. Then I looked up and saw the hart waiting for me just a few feet away. I could feel his brown eyes watching me, and his fur looked like it was on fire where the rays of the morning sun hit it. It occurred to me vaguely that when I found the bridle the first time, the hart did not watch me, and the idea caused some confusion. I think I started to wake up. Then the hart tossed his head and sent a shower of green leaves onto me with his antlers. I forgot that I was dreaming, and that I had found the bridle before. I followed the hart into the forest to a thick stand of trees not far away. He disappeared into the trees and I raced after him. Suddenly I was in a large cave. I looked around, but it was very dark and cold. The hart was gone and I couldn’t see anything. I took a couple of steps, but I tripped and fell. Moving became very difficult. Somehow I found a candle and lit it. From the dim light I could tell I was in an underground cavern. The sides were lined with objects, but I couldn’t tell what they were. I held the candle as close to one of them as I could. It seemed to be a helmet. A little bit of gold sparkled on its edge. I reached out to pick it up, but then suddenly I wasn’t alone in the room anymore. A woman, tall and slender, dressed in dark blue stood over me with an angry, terrified look on her young face.

"What are you doing here?" she screamed, knocking the helmet away, "You can’t come here yet! It’s not time!"

"Is this the Cave of Wishes?" I asked. My mouth felt dry, making talking difficult.

"Of course not, girl! That cave is miles from here! What are you thinking?"

She blew on my candle and it went out. I tried to scream, but no sound came out. Then for just an instance I thought I saw the hart. Then I felt claws through the thin fabric of my nightdress. I woke up with Liop’s tamarin, Nozama, chasing Kestrel across my stomach. I caught the creature and put him back in Liop’s room. Then I rushed into Uncle W.’s bedroom. The bridle was right where you told me to hide it, underneath Father’s sword and helmet in the trunk at the foot of Uncle W.’s bed. It was still locked.

I went outside. I walked all over the garden, but I didn’t see any fresh deer tracks. Then I went to the griffon trap. There were the same deer tracks all around it that were there on my birthday. I found the thick patch of woods I saw in the dream and walked all through it back and forth for nearly two hours, but I didn’t find any sign of a cave. I would have kept searching, but Liop came looking for me, because it was breakfast time and I hadn’t made it yet. Cook only works in the morning when we have company. Other than that she works from lunch until dinner, which Liop and I clean up for her.

I don’t know what else to tell you about the dream. Probably it was just like the Rumpelstiltskin dream, and doesn’t mean anything except that I’m nervous.

Prince Tulson came to my house again. This time he came to the front door, and when Liop answered it, the Prince formally asked if I were at home. Liop dashed up the stairs where I was using a daisy to play with Kestrel.

"Prince Tulson is here to see you," shouted Liop breathlessly, "are you going to disappear all day again? Can I come? Imato told me you should have a chaperone."

"I don’t need a chaperone," I responded irritably, but really I wanted Liop to come. I followed Liop downstairs to where the prince stood in the doorway.

"Lady Arri," said Prince Tulson, bowing, "will you come walking with me?"

"Yes, Your Highness," I curtsied. Sometimes Prince Tulson makes me feel like a real lady. I’ve decided I don’t mind the title so much.

"Can I come?" asked Liop, "We can borrow some daguerreotypes to look at."

That was a great idea. Prince Tulson didn’t know what a daguerreotype was, so Liop dashed upstairs to get some. Soon he and the prince were sitting side-by-side on the sofa flipping through the pile of reflections while Liop gave long, technical repetitions of what Aegolius had told him. Prince Tulson was as fascinated as I was. Soon Aegolius, looking rather pale, joined us. The prince was worried and demanded if our physician had looked at him, but Aegolius insisted he was feeling much better. I kept waiting for Prince Tulson to ask Liop how he learned to speak Iconese, but he never did.

Prince Tulson stayed for dinner. Cook roasted a chicken for him in orange sauce. He told her she should give instructions to the palace cooks, and she turned very red at the idea. Then she made chocolate-cream pudding, which we normally only get for the New Year, for dessert. After dinner, Prince Tulson asked me to go walking with him, and when Liop asked to come, politely refused him. We walked out behind the garden carrying candles to light the paths. Kestrel padded softly behind us, her lavender tail flicking back and forth conversationally. It was warm and humid from an approaching storm.

"We need a new prank to play on Mendel," said the prince as soon as we were alone, "your trap was good, but he figured it out without getting caught."

"Yes," I said, uncertainly.

"It has to be different from your traps, because Mendel recognizes those."

I didn’t know what to say. I’ve never played pranks on people before, so I’m not very practiced at coming up with new ideas for them. Mendel sounds very accomplished at pranks, and I doubt I can think of anything he hasn’t already tried.

"We can get Clara to help us again," the Prince continued without noticing my silence, "she was almost as angry as I was when the trap didn’t work."

"Why didn’t it work?" I ventured, hoping for ideas.

"He saw one of the ropes and suspected the trap, so he sent one the kuvaszes in to retrieve it. It got caught instead."

"Kuvasz?" I asked.

"You’ve seen his dogs--they look a little like retrievers."

"Oh, yes."

"They’re not retrievers, of course. Lord Westridge would never own anything so ordinary as a retriever."

"I like retrievers," I said.

"So does Mendel, but like I said, he can’t have one; that’s why he got the kuvaszes. Sean, of course, keeps tamarins. By the way, how does Liop like his?"

"He likes it a lot, but Kestrel is terrified, because he keeps trying to groom her."

"You should get Mendel to help you with them. He’s very good with animals."

"Yes, perhaps," I responded noncommittally. Even if I weren’t trying to avoid Mendel, it seems strange to ask help from someone I’m plotting revenge on.

"Do you have any ideas for our next prank?"

"Can I have a couple of days to think about it?"

"You’ve already had several days!" Prince Tulson exclaimed.

"I’m sorry, but I didn’t know you’d want my help again," I murmured.

"Even if the trap worked, we’d have to come up with a new attack to get even with his counter attack."

It amazes me how quickly Prince Tulson makes his problems mine as well. Do all royalty act like that? We walked out beyond the garden and looked at the griffon trap, but there was no sign of any disturbance to it. We walked further in the direction of Mendel’s house. As we approached the back hedge, I heard someone calling: "Prince Tulson!"

I jumped, recognizing Mendel’s voice. How did he know we were there?

"Over here, Mendel!" the Prince responded.

"Should we be seen together?" I asked, "Mendel might get suspicious."

"Oh, he already knows you helped me with the trap," said Prince Tulson.

"Did you tell him?"

"Over here!" called the Prince again, ignoring my question.

In a minute Mendel appeared.

"Councilor Morphan is looking for you, Tulson. Hello, Lady Arri," he bowed at me with a funny expression on his face.

"Is it important?" asked the Prince.

"It’s Morphan—that speaks for itself," Mendel responded, smiling.

"Well, alright," Prince Tulson turned to me, "Would you mind if Mendel escorts you home, Lady Arri?"

"Oh, no, thank you," I said, trying to force the alarm out of my voice.

"You should have an escort," Prince Tulson responded authoritatively.

"I can escort you, Lady Arri," said Mendel. Hearing him call me Lady sounded funny.

"I really think…" but I didn’t have a chance to finish, because Prince Tulson bade us farewell and disappeared in the direction of the house.

"Come on, Lady Arri," said Mendel.

"Just Arri, please," I said nervously.

"Okay, Just Arri," said Mendel. We walked toward Uncle W.’s cottage.

"Tulson says you have a new horse," said Mendel, after a few minutes.

"Imato has a new mare," I corrected, "and it’s Prince Tulson."

"I don’t like titles. What kind of mare?" Mendel pulled up a long piece of wild wheat and trailed it along the ground for Kestrel to chase.

"She’s three-quarters trakehner and one quarter oldenburg," I told him.

"Wow! She must be beautiful; what color is she? what’s her name?"

"She’s chocolate-colored and her name is Morning Glade."

Mendel frowned, "That’s kind of awkward for a name."

That’s what Imato said, I thought, but out loud I said, "I think it’s beautiful."

"Oh, it’s pretty, alright," said Mendel, "but awkward to say all the time. Did Imato give her a nickname?"

"Glory," I told him.

"I like that much better," Mendel observed, as if his opinion mattered.

We continued walking in awkward silence for a few minutes with Kestrel chasing us.

"What are you and Tulson planning?" Mendel asked suddenly.

"Nothing," I told him, watching the flame flicker on the end of my candle.

"Tulson has been trying to get me back all summer," said Mendel, grinning, "he did better last summer when we were at his castle."

I tried to imagine Mendel and Prince Tulson playing pranks on each other in a castle full of knights and ladies and noblemen, not to mention the King and Queen. Mendel’s arrogance angered me.

"Prince Tulson is pretty smart," I defended.

Mendel met my hazel eyes with his blue ones. He grinned.

"Not so smart as some people I know, but if anyone can help him, you can."

We were back in my garden and I suppressed a sigh of relief.

"Well, goodnight," I said, motioning toward the cottage.

"Goodnight, Arri," said Mendel.

It took great effort not to run for the cottage door. Just before entering the cottage I turned back to look at Mendel. He stomped his feet a few times, and then, singing the White Lion’s Victory Song at the top of his lungs, he disappeared into the forest. My face turned very red and I shut the door on the sound. Then I saw Imato standing on the staircase.

"Are you okay, Arri?" he asked.

"Yes," I responded, angry with Mendel for embarrassing me.

Imato’s eyes narrowed, "What have you and the Prince been talking about?"

I cast about in my mind for an appropriate answer. "Dogs," I said finally.


"Yeah, you know—retrievers and kuvaszes. Prince Tulson knows all about different dog breeds. In fact, I was thinking maybe we should get one."

"A dog?"

"A retriever, or maybe a poodle. I don’t know; I’m too tired to think about it anymore." I swept past him and into my bedroom, ignoring his puzzled expression.

I think that helping Prince Tulson play pranks on Mendel is counterproductive to my earlier resolution to avoid Mendel at all costs. I don’t have a crush on him! How can you even think that? The sight of him fills me with terror, and I haven’t been able to get the White Lion’s Victory Song out of my head for days. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I do want to get back at him somehow. Maybe if I can finally get one of the pranks to work, he’ll leave me alone.

What you understand about knight training is true, except that Imato isn’t following the normal plan, because his training got interrupted by Father’s death and he’s been trying to make up for all the time he lost while he was helping Liop and me get settled with Uncle W. He should have graduated when he turned twenty. He only has eight months left of training now, and he’s going to spend them all in Arella as soon as he goes back in September. His last six months will be with a personal trainer, but we don’t know whom yet. I like the idea of Sir Aoweir training him, but don’t worry; I won’t say anything to Imato.

I don’t know what to make of your dream about my marriage. Nobody’s ever even courted me, so I think it must be way off in the future. Have you dreamt about Imato at all? I hope he marries Gretel. I asked Imato about it, but he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

I’ve been going through the books in Uncle W.’s library to see if I can find a family history, but I can’t find one. I thought maybe if there was one that was up to date, we might find something useful in it about your mother’s death. I hope you’re having better luck with the investigation. Why do you think Pricille’s son might be alive? How old would he be? Do you remember him? I hope he is alive, and that we can find him.

Well, I’m getting tired and I have to end here. It was wonderful having you come visit. I hope you can come again. I hope your sleep is deep and dreamless.


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