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Arri- July 2, 2003

July 2, 2003

Dear Keish,

Gretel is coming here!?! What if she doesn’t like us? What if she doesn’t like the cottage? It’s a lot smaller than the houses most knights’ families live in. What if Cook makes me cook breakfast (like she normally does) and I accidentally ruin everything? What if Gretel finds my griffon trap or notices that the basement no longer has a door and that it’s filled with alchemy supplies? She’s going to think we’re very strange! What if Imato decides to marry her and I have to be a bride’s maid and make my own dress? Cook is laughing at me now, so I’ll stop here.

Liop is really excited to meet Gretel. He says he’s going to enchant the roses in the garden to make them twice as big as normal. Cook says that she’ll make us roast goose for dinner and strawberry pie for dessert. She says I won’t have to cook anything, because I’ll have to pretend I’m a lady and ladies don’t cook. I think I’d better repaint the picket fence out front. It would be lovely if it were pale yellow. Liop is writing Gretel a poem to welcome her, and Nacks says I can pick some of his favorite flowers to put in the vases. I wish I had a crystal bowl for the newts.

I hope that when Gretel comes that you can come with her. You can keep me from causing any disasters. I promise not to tell Imato that Gretel is coming, but Liop isn’t very good at keeping secrets, so I don’t know if it will work. I can show you the griffon trap and Aegolius’s copper reflections if you come. You’ll just love them! I know you will! I’m very excited about the kitten too. Thank you for thinking of me.

Liop’s birthday is July 10, so if you could, mention that to Gretel. Liop would be thrilled if you and her were there for his birthday party. I already know what he’s getting. I braved the long walk to Mendel’s house for it – Mendel’s older brother Sean raises golden tamarins. I spied on the house yesterday morning for two hours until I saw Mendel leave. Then I marched up to the door and made arrangements with Sean to buy one. Liop is going to be thrilled. He’s wanted for one for years.

I don’t know what to tell you about your dream. Mother used to give us chamomile tea when we had bad dreams. She said it opens the mind to understanding them better, and that understanding dreams makes them less frightening. I don’t think she was talking about dream interpretation like what you’re learning from Brynn, but I do know the tea is soothing. I promise I won’t tell anyone about the dream, or your suspicions. I think even Liop should be kept away from this knowledge. I can’t imagine how terrible it must be to suspect your mother was murdered! I wonder what it all means. I wish I could send Imato back to your castle to guard you, but I know that isn’t what you need right now. Please be careful. Even if the murderer has no desire to kill you now, he may as you come closer to the truth. I don’t know what I’d do if I were in your place. It’s very scary, isn’t it? But I don’t understand what could be so terrible about the King’s obsession with omens. It doesn’t make sense.

As for my own father, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot I can find out. Aegolius woke up a few days ago, so I took him the picture as soon as I dared disturb him. He’s very sick – I think he really was allergic to something down there. With Liop translating, I showed him the picture. He was very surprised to learn that Sir Quin was my father. He doesn’t remember exactly when he took the picture – only that he ran into Father and the other two men in the spring about three years ago, which is right around the time that Father died. Since Imato wasn’t around to catch us, I opened the trunk in Uncle W.’s bedroom and took out Father’s helmet and sword to show Aegolius, hoping it would jog his memory. Of course, Imato knows about the helmet, because that’s what the soldiers brought back when they came to inform us of his death. But Imato doesn’t know that Father’s sword was recovered too. King Trunsle asked Uncle W. to keep it a secret. You see, the greatest honor that a knight can receive is to have his son knighted with his father’s sword. When Imato is knighted, King Trunsle will use Father’s sword to do the ceremony. It will be a great honor for Imato, and the King doesn’t want him to be expecting it. It is the King’s way of honoring Father’s memory. Imato will get to keep the sword.

Even with the sword and helmet to look at, Aegolius couldn’t remember very much about Father – they only spent one evening together, and most of it was spent discussing reflectography. Our conversation exhausted him, and he felt bad about not having more to say, so Liop and I slipped out quietly to let him sleep.

Two nights ago it was warm enough for me to sleep with the windows open and the breeze flowed right through the window and across my bed. I woke up long before dawn and decided to sit in the window seat to watch the sunrise. It wasn’t long before the whole sky developed a soft blue glow, almost like being underwater, but without any of the distortion. Just for an instance at the edge of the forest, I thought I saw the hart. I grabbed my robe and ran downstairs into the garden to see if I could get another glimpse of him, but he was gone, so I curled up on one of the garden benches to watch the remainder of the sunrise. It was very peaceful. I started to doze off again.

Just as the sun started up over the horizon, I heard a terrible scream – half angry, half afraid. I leaped up in a panic and looked around. The voice shouted again – this time mostly angry, and I realized the sound was coming from the direction of my griffon trap. I whirled around in a small circle, unable to decide whether to be excited or frightened. It occurred to me that without a golden bridle, a griffon might be a dangerous creature, so I took the ax from the garden shed and proceeded across the yard very cautiously. All the while, I tried to think of where I was going to keep the griffon until I could get a bridle for it, and how I was going to get the bridle. I needn’t have bothered.

I placed the griffon trap in a very dense part of the forest out beyond the cottage, but not far from the garden, where I figured no one would find it. It’s made with the knots Father used to teach me to make when I was a child. Father loved knots, and he was always learning new ones and teaching them to me.

Every evening before bed I sneak out of the cottage to replace the old rosehip tea with a fresh batch. The pennyroyal makes the scent strong enough that even my poor nose can detect it when I get within a few yards of the brush I hid it in. Next to the tea, I rigged a sturdy net and set it to trigger when something larger than a rabbit disturbs it. (At first, the trap was too easy to trigger and I was always rescuing squirrels and rabbits from it, but I solved that problem.) Remembering that griffons can be dangerous, I approached the trap slowly, craning my neck to get a glimpse of its occupant. Soon I could see a patch of deep blue fabric. That’s odd, I thought.

"Who’s there?" someone shouted.

I jumped a little.

"Just me," I said.

"Well, are you going to help me out?" came the voice in a tone of great annoyance.

"What’s your name?" I asked. I still couldn’t see the trap. It was tangled up in the bushes, and I was afraid to get too close.

"Prince Tulson," came the response, "now, get me out!"

Prince Tulson! I felt all the color drain from my face and I nearly turned around and ran away, visions of iron maidens, shackles, dungeons, and other torture devices flashing through my imagination. But I couldn’t just leave him for someone else to find. I jumped backward, with my eyes on the tops of the trees. Then I took a deep breath and rushed forward through the bushes, stopping just short of the trap.

Prince Tulson, the King’s third son, was lying on his back with his feet straight up in the air and long pieces of my griffon trap tangled all around him. He had a knife with which he had already cut some of the rope (not to mention his clothing) to pieces. All I had was the ax. When the Prince saw it, he raised his knife defensively like he thought I was going to attack him. I set the ax down, and he relaxed.

"Are you going to help me?" he demanded.

I nodded mutely, retrieved the ax and began cutting through the ropes by running them across the ax blade as if it were a saw. I didn’t dare swing the ax for fear of hitting the Prince with it. It took several minutes (it was an excellent trap) to free him. Finally, he stood up, shaking free of the last pieces of rope. He was dressed very plainly (for a prince) in gray and dark blue. He had a traveler’s sack (now with a large hole in it) and sturdy black boots. His hair was black, but his eyes were green. He looks a lot like his father, only younger. I should have bowed or curtsied, but I was in too much shock.

"What’s your name?" he demanded.

I thought that I probably shouldn’t tell him, so I couldn’t bring shame on my family, so I didn’t say anything. It didn’t matter anyway, since I was sure he would kill me.

"Are you mute?" he asked, a little more softly, "Was it a ghost I heard speaking before?"

Like an idiot, I just shook my head.

"You have a name, right?"

Probably better just own up to it.

"Yes, and I’m very sorry."

He laughed, and it was a nicer laugh than I expected.

"Pleased to meet you, Very Sorry," he said. He bowed.

I tried to bow back, tripped on a piece of rope, regained my balance, and returned to staring at him.

"Do you know what this is?" he asked, holding up a piece of rope.

"It’s a griffon trap."

He looked surprised.

"It was my fault," I added quickly, "no one knows about it except me. I put it here, because I didn’t think anyone would find it – except a griffon of course. I’m really very sorry. I can pay for anything that got damaged – you can take my jewelry." I wanted to make sure he would only punish me and not Imato.

Then, suddenly, something very unexpected happened. Prince Tulson’s face became very red, and he shifted uncomfortably.

"I got caught in a griffon trap!?!" he exclaimed in horror, "That ruffian… please don’t tell anyone about this! The tea looked harmless, and I was very thirsty. I didn’t even think! I thought maybe it was part of the garden, and someone left it from the afternoon." He stopped, looking at me with a very worried and embarrassed expression. I didn’t know what to say. It suddenly occurred to me how strange it was to have a prince prowling around at the back of my garden at sunrise.

"Very Sorry," said the Prince with slow smile, "could I call you something different?"

I think I blushed.

"Arri," I stammered.

"Lady Arri?"

I’ve never been called that in my life.

"Just Arri," I said, but then I remembered my manners, "Arietta Fae Etautca of Rousha, Your Highness."

He stared.

"The daughter of Sir Quin Etautca?" he asked.


"Drat! You won’t tell anyone will you? No one in the court – or the royal family?"

"No, Your Highness," then I realized I had some kind of advantage, "if you won’t tell anyone I made a griffon trap?" I waited nervously for a response.

Prince Tulson smiled.

"I can do better than that, Lady," he said, "I can help you rebuild it." He bowed again. When he stood back up, his smile was even larger. I felt my face redden.

"Do you think you could help me design another one of these?" he asked.

"Another one?"

"I want to get even with someone."

He didn’t elaborate, and I thought maybe I shouldn’t ask. I hope it’s not me.

I invited the prince to eat breakfast, but fortunately, he politely refused. He made me promise to meet with him in three days behind our cottage at sunrise. We’ll fix my griffon trap, and then the prince will tell me whom he wants to get even with.

Don’t worry about Imato. I think he already felt bad about getting angry with me, and he’s been very nice to Aegolius since he came back. King Trunsle gave Imato permission to stay home for the next two months! That means that not only will Imato be home for Liop’s birthday, but mine also. I’m so excited! Imato hasn’t spent a summer home with us for almost four years. He’s excited too. The first day he returned, he took Nacks around the entire yard. Between the two of them, I think the entire outside of the cottage will get remodeled. Imato loves building and fixing things.

Imato showed me his new mare. She’s gorgeous! Her coat is sleek dark chocolate with a white blaze down her nose. Her name is Evening Glade, but Imato calls her Glory, because he’s very fond of her. Imato says we shouldn’t ride her, since she’s due to have a foal next spring. He’s going to leave her here for me to look after, and take his gelding Sprigs back to training with him. Spriggs is a good, sturdy gray horse. Father gave him to Imato when he turned twelve. I can’t wait for the foal to be born.

I think that making an alliance with one of the other court girls is a great idea for your prince problem. I’m glad the king is already aware of your problem. Hopefully, by the time Brynn’s done with you, the prince will be entirely frightened away. Maybe you could offer to read his palm and then make all sorts of horrible predictions about your future together?

Well, it’s getting late, and I need to get up early tomorrow to meet Prince Tulson. I hope he doesn’t turn out like your prince.

May the positions of Jupiter be favorable to your future.


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