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Arri- July 12, 2003

July 12, 2003

Dear Keish,

Thank you for you letter; it made me feel much better about Gretel coming to visit. I’ve had so much to do lately, that it feels overwhelming.

The morning after I wrote your last letter, Prince Tulson came to help me reconstruct the trap. To make sure no one knew what we were doing, he said he’d meet me in the garden at sunrise. I got up before sunrise, because I wanted to brush Glory and give her some exercise. Imato heard me opening the creaky stable door, and it woke him up, so he came out with me. Imato brushed Spriggs until his coat shone. I brushed Glory, but she stomped and tossed her head impatiently, wanting to be let out into the pasture. Imato told me funny stories about his knight training, and I entirely forgot that Prince Tulson was coming. I guess I should have paid better attention, because suddenly the door of the stable opened and there was Prince Tulson, dressed in similar blue and gray traveling clothes.

“Hello, Lady Arrietta,” he said, bowing. Then he saw Imato, and his eyebrows lifted, but he bowed again. “Good morning, Squire Imato.”

“Good morning, Your Highness,” Imato responded, bowing deeply and trying to hide his surprise. “What can we do for you?”

The prince didn’t say anything for a minute.

“Good morning, Your Highness.” I curtsied, but the Prince couldn’t see it because Glory was in the way. He looked thoughtfully at my face over her back.

“I wondered if Lady Arrietta would like to take a morning stroll with me,” he said finally, with a small smile.

Imato threw me a questioning look, and I nodded slightly. The Prince’s formality made me uncomfortable. I thought I should say something, but my mind was completely blank.

“Yes, of course, Your Highness,” said Imato, “and will you join us for breakfast afterwards?”

“It would be a pleasure, but I’m not sure I’ll have the time,” Prince Tulson responded slowly. I suppressed a sigh of relief. The prince looked at me expectantly and I suddenly realized I was staring at him. I jumped out from behind Glory and walked over to him. He took my arm very formally and escorted me out of the barn. We made a wide circle of the yard, entered the forest, and made our way toward the remains of my trap. Prince Tulson kept calling me Lady Arrietta, which sounded very strange, like the name of someone else. Finally I told him that in my village, people don’t start using titles until they turn eighteen.

“If you still lived in Rousha, people would have started calling you Lady when you turned sixteen,” Prince Tulson informed me.

“But we’re not in Rousha,” I protested, “I haven’t lived there for three years.”

“If I don’t use your title, it sounds like you’re a servant,” Prince Tulson responded. He talked of other differences between here and Rousha. I finally got him to agree to call me Lady Arri, which is a slight improvement.

Prince Tulson had brought several loops of new rope with him, so fixing the trap was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. He asked lots of questions and made countless suggestions, most of which were worthless, but when I explained to him why his ideas wouldn’t work, he immediately agreed with me, and followed my instructions exactly. We worked quickly, finishing much sooner thank I could have by myself. I told the Prince about Uncle W.’s disappearance, and wanting a griffon to help me find him. He didn’t know anything about golden bridles or rosehip tea.

By the time we were finished, I wanted to eat breakfast, but Prince Tulson said there wasn’t any time for that. He told me to follow him. I followed him for more than half an hour as we moved through the forest around the outskirts of the village. Finally, I recognized where he was leading me as we made our way along the edge of a large backyard.

“This is Mendel’s house,” I said.

“I stole his fishing rod last night,” Prince Tulson responded.

I felt color rising into my face.

“I can’t play a prank on Mendel!” I protested.


“Because…” I couldn’t think of anything.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I’m the Prince, and I’m ordering you to,” he smiled at me. Prince Tulson has a nice smile.

“Why do you want to play a prank on Mendel?” I asked.

“Because he played two on me last week.”

“Mendel played a prank on you!” I couldn’t believe it.

“He rigged a bucket of water to dump on me when I pulled back the curtains in my bedroom. Then he loosened all the straps on my saddle, so when I tried to mount my horse I fell off,” Prince Tulson frowned. “He’s my cousin, you know,” he added.

Suddenly things started making sense.

“Are you staying with him?”

“Just until the end of August. Last summer, he and Sean visited me.”

Prince Tulson showed me where he stashed Mendel’s fishing pole. Then we sat down just behind the hedge that lined Mendel’s back property while I decided how to rig the trap. We discussed several ideas as they came to me, and finally decided to use the fishing pole itself to trigger the trap, so that when Mendel picked up the pole, he would be caught. Prince Tulson insisted that the ropes drag Mendel up into the air and leave him hanging-- something I had never tried before. It took most of the morning to figure out. I was getting very hungry, but I didn’t say anything, because I figured the prince must be hungry too and would stop soon. He didn’t.

A little after lunchtime, I found myself standing beneath a tall tree directing the Prince as he climbed slowly upward, attempting to loop a piece of rope around the top-most branches. Suddenly, his eyes widened and his face became red with anger.

“Hey!” he shouted. “What are you doing there?”

I looked around, but couldn’t see anyone.

“Come over here right now! I’m ordering you.”

Prince Tulson dropped his rope and climbed back down from the tree. I heard movement behind me and turned to see a young woman moving toward us. She was taller than me, almost as tall as the prince. She looked slightly nervous, pulling her long blond hair behind her head and brushing leaves from her servant’s dress.

“You were spying on us!” accused Prince Tulson angrily.

“I was trimming the hedges, Your Highness,” the girl shot back defensively.

“How dare you spy on us!”

She glanced at me uncertainly. I felt bad for her.

“I was trimming the hedges,” she repeated, “on Lord Westridge’s orders.”

Prince Tulson frowned deeply. “But you saw what we were doing,” he insisted.

“Yes,” she admitted slowly.

“Then I’m ordering you not to tell anyone.”

“Who would I tell, Your Highness?” she asked. “Mendel plays pranks on me as often as he does on you.”

Prince Tulson raised his eyebrows suddenly and laughed.

“You can help us then,” he decided. The girl smile suddenly.

“It would be an honor, Your Highness,” and she curtsied.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Clara,” she said, “and you are Lord Winthrop’s niece Arri, am I right?”

“Lady Arri,” Prince Tulson corrected her with a touch of irritation.

“How do you know who I am?” I asked, ignoring Prince Tulson.

“Mendel speaks of you, Lady Arri,” she responded.

I didn’t have time to wonder about that, because Prince Tulson ordered us back to work on the trap. Clara was very helpful. I noticed that while Prince Tulson ordered her up trees and climbed trees himself, he left me to figure out the details and do the groundwork. Doesn’t he realize that I climbed lots of trees when I made the griffon trap? With evening approaching, Prince Tulson tested the trap by catching himself in it. Then Clara and I let him down and reset the ropes for Mendel.

“This is excellent,” said the prince, smiling at me.

“Lady Arri must be very hungry,” suggested Clara, looking at me. My stomach was growling. Prince Tulson looked startled.

“Yes, of course,” he said, “will you join me for dinner with the Westridges, Lady Arri?”

The idea of eating with Mendel was not pleasant. I was afraid he’d start singing the White Lion’s Victory Song at me, or ask more questions about Liop.

“What if Mendel sees me and suspects something?” I asked.

“Oh,” said Prince Tulson, “I didn’t think of that.” He looked awkward. Clara frowned at him.

“I will bring you some sandwiches from the kitchen, Your Highness,” she suggested finally. She turned on her heel and disappeared toward the house. Prince Tulson started praising me for my ideas for the trap until my face felt very red. Clara came back very soon with a basket filled with sandwiches, fruit, and pastries which she spread out for us on a blanket. Then she started to leave.

“Don’t you want to eat too?” I asked. Both she and Prince Tulson looked startled.

“I’ll eat later in the kitchen,” she said slowly, her eyes on Prince Tulson.

“There’s plenty,” I protested. Prince Tulson looked at me and smiled.

“You may eat with us, Clara,” he said. I noticed that he didn’t seem to feel a need to say “lady” to her like he did to me.

Clara gave us one of her large smiles. She sat down at the very edge of the blanket and we ate together. Soon she and Prince Tulson were exchanging stories about Mendel’s pranks with each other and we were all laughing wonderfully. It was a great evening.

When I returned home, Imato pestered me with a hundred questions about what we did all day. I told him about the picnic with Clara and waling around the village, but I kept my word and didn’t tell about the trap. Finally, I told Imato I was tired and went to bed.

The next day as I was out walking, I came across Mendel.

“Hi, Arri,” he said, “that was a great trap you built!”

Startled, I stared at him, “Did you get caught?” I asked.

“Almost,” he grinned, “Tulson will have to try again.”

Then he walked away whistling while I tried to decide what to say next. Why is it that I always run into Mendel when I least expect it?

The crystal bowl arrived just fine, and it’s comforting to know that it has an unbreakable spell on it. The first night it came, Liop and I put his red and blue newts in it with the candles. It was gorgeous! Thank you for sending it to us. Liop commented that the only thing we didn’t have to make the arrangement complete was a gold newt. I smiled and didn’t say anything.

The day before Gretel’s visit, Cook, Liop and I spent the entire day cleaning to cottage while Imato (who was becoming suspicious since Liop used your spell to enchant the roses) repaired shingles on the roof with Nacks. Most of Imato’s plans for the cottage are related to repairs, because he wouldn’t change things too much without Uncle Winthrop’s approval.

Gretel arrived with her parents, Lady and Sir Aoweir. Imato was up on\the roof again with Nacks, and I was outside trying to think of a good excuse to get him down before they arrived. When he saw her climb out of the carriage, he was so surprised he fell off and landed in the rose bushes. He wasn’t hurt at all. He stood up and managed to stammer an invitation to come inside. We went into the drawing room and invited them to sit down. Sir Aoweir was very pleased to meet us and shook all of our hands including Liop’s. He told Liop he reminded him of Father.

Lady Aoweir seemed much more nervous, however. She sat down on the sofa, but thirty seconds later stood up again, declaring it was too far away from the window. Imato and Sir Aoweir offered to move it for her. When they lifter the sofa, I gasped, because the floor underneath it was covered in yellow dust. Imato stared at the floor in embarrassed bewilderment.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Probably what Aegolius is allergic to,” said Liop before I could stop him.

“Don’t worry,” shouted Cook from the kitchen, “ I’ll have it brushed up in a minute.” She bustled into the room with a dustpan and broom and swept the powder up in less than a minute, casting question looks at me while I tried to act innocent. I decided to change the subject. Lady Aoweir decided to sit in the rocking chair.

“Liop wrote a poem for you, Lady Gretel,” I said quickly.

“Just Gretel,” she corrected me, and I smiled.

Liop recited his poem and Sir Aoweir clapped very hard, while Lady Aoweir looked at him with a mixture of confusion and terror. Gretel told him it was wonderful, but an hour later, she drew me aside to ask what it meant. The problem with Liop’s poetry is that he cares more about making things rhyme than about using words from all the same language. I think Lady Aoweir thought he was babbling.

We had a very nice dinner, but Sir Aoweir said that they could only stay that evening, because he had been called away on business. Imato offered to let Lady Aoweir and Gretel stay with us, but Lady Aoweir said there were other people they needed to visit. Both Gretel and Imato looked terribly disappointed. Gretel even asked if just she could stay, but Lady Aoweir flatly refused. I really like Gretel. I wish they had stayed longer, but I don’t think Lady Aoweir liked us very much. She hardly said anything the whole evening. Sir Aoweir talked a lot, though. He told us stories about Father, until I wanted to go into a room by myself and cry-- not because they were bad stories, but because I miss Father so much.

Gretel gave Liop the golden newt and he was thrilled. He put it in the crystal bowl with the other newts and said everything was perfect. He told me to send you his thanks in twenty languages. I love the kitten-- thank you! I named her Kestrel because that’s what her colors remind me of a little. Liop told me I have to keep her away from his newts.

Without telling Imato why, I carefully asked him what he knew about your mother’s death. He didn’t know very much-- he said she died of a sudden fever. He said she must have gotten it from one of the servants, Pricille, who was also a good friend of hers. Pricille died of similar symptoms the day before, and her young son died the day afterwards. I don’t know if that’s useful to you, but it’s all I could find out. I didn’t dare ask about the cave.

You have dreams about the future? That’s amazing! I wonder if all the studying you’ve been doing about dream interpretation has made the skill stronger, which is why you’re having so many dreams. I wonder why you’re having dreams about bother the future and the past. Could the events maybe be connected? I don’t now very much about dreams. I don’t often remember mine.

I haven’t had any dreams about the hart that I can remember, nor have I seen him again, but he seemed very real that night in the garden when I made my wish. I keep looking for him. He made me feel so peaceful inside.

I’m glad your prince is finding other ladies to interest him. I bet it’s a relief to not have to worry about him so much.

I hope your search of the castle records goes well. I’ve been thinking, and maybe you really should tell Brynn what’s going on. I don’t know her personally, but she seems trustworthy, and she might be able to do more research without arousing other people’s suspicions than you can alone. Maybe she could help you.

I have to end this letter now, because I’m out of paper. I hope your nights are dreamless , and that the comet was beautiful. I saw it too. I wish you could have come to visit, but I understand how important comets are to your father’s work. Take care of yourself.


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