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Arri- Sept. 5, 2003

September 5, 2003

Dear Keish,

I hope everything is all right with you. Your last letter seemed rushed. Please tell me if there is anything I can do to help. Are you having any luck finding information about your mother’s death? I’m not. I started thinking that maybe the information we need was hidden deliberately, and that made me look in lots of places I normally don’t look for books, but Uncle Winthrop is incredibly careful with his books, so I haven’t found any that were out of place. I think I’ll start flipping through them at random to see if they really contain what the spine says they do. Imato told me a story once about a magician who hid all of his best spells in arithmetic books where he was sure no one would ever look for them.

I’m not sure if I can give you any more details about the dream. My memory is all blurry, and if I hadn’t written you about it so quickly, I think I would have forgotten it entirely. It’s not normal for me to remember dreams. Maybe it comes from reading about your dreams. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a dream that meant anything, so maybe this one doesn’t either. I’ve had caves on my mind for so long, it’s a wonder I haven’t dreamed about them before. As for what the woman in the dream said, I think I quoted her exactly. I’ve been trying to decide exactly what she looked like. I think, maybe, she looked like my mother, except her hair was lighter and she had a very old-fashioned accent. She also looked like your mother, except her ears and nose were too big. She also reminded me a little of Great-Grandma Brio who died when I was five, except her eyes were the wrong color. Her eyes were hazel and Great-Grandma’s were brown. She didn’t look exactly like anyone I know now, or any of the paintings of ancestors in Uncle Winthrop’s library. She did look like someone we would be related to – something in her eyes and her chin that seemed familiar. I wish I could remember better. She was wearing a dress, or a robe. I think it was blue, or green. It wasn’t red; I’m sure I would remember any bright kind of color. Her dress wasn’t fancy, but it wasn’t a peasant dress either. The helmet – well, I’m not really sure it was even a helmet. But it might have had some etching on it, or at least it was all scratched up, and I’m pretty sure about the gold part. There were lots of other objects in the cave, but all I remember are dark shadows. I know that probably doesn’t help you much. I’m sorry. Are your dreams always so clear as you describe them? I wish mine were.

A few days ago Prince Tulson arrived with Clara. It was early morning again and I was out back with Imato brushing Glory and Spriggs. Prince Tulson bowed to us and Clara curtsied. This time Imato did not look surprised. He told us to "run along" and he’d make breakfast.

Once we were out of sight, the Prince turned to me.

"He got away again," Prince Tulson pulled a handful of green leaves from one of the forest trees and began shredding them methodically.

"Again?" I asked in dismay, "But I covered every inch of the ropes with leaves. There was nothing to find!"

"He filled my slippers with honey this morning," Prince Tulson added.

"He rigged the trap door in the hay loft to dump on me when I went to feed the horses yesterday. I fell backwards and stained my work dress – not that it wasn’t stained already," Clara said, "but ruining a pair of silk slippers!" She shook her head in disgust.

"I already said I’ll get you a new one, Clara," Prince Tulson commented, "Do you have any new ideas, Lady Arri?"

"I don’t think traps are working, Your Highness," I said unhappily.

"I was thinking if we dug a pit…" Clara commented thoughtfully. Prince Tulson pounced on the idea.

"Yes, a pit! He’d be trapped all day."

"A pit?" I asked. I considered, "We could build another trap nearby to throw him off. Then maybe he’d fall in the pit while trying to avoid the trap."

"That’s brilliant!" Prince Tulson shouted.

"No it’s not," I protested, "Where could we dig and be sure nothing else could fall in before Mendel?"

"Do you know any good places, Clara?" Prince Tulson asked. Hearing him use her name without a title made me think of something else that had been bothering me lately.

"Why is it," I asked the Prince, changing the subject, "that you have to call me ‘Lady’, but not Clara?"

They both stared at me in shock, as though my head had fallen off.

"Clara isn’t a ‘La…" began Prince Tulson, but he stopped in confusion, "I mean, ‘Lady’ is a title for noble women."

"I’m not a ‘Lady’," Clara said it for him, "There’s not a drop of noble blood in me." She didn’t sound like it bothered her very much.

I felt embarrassed, so I didn’t say anything.

"Why do you think I should call her Lady?" asked Prince Tulson. He looked genuinely interested.

I hesitated, but as Father says, you can’t put a firework back in its shell, so I continued my argument.

"Well, you told me that using my title was a sign of respect," I said. I remembered that it also differentiated me from a servant, but I didn’t say that outloud because it doesn’t make sense to me. After all, I am a servant of the Crown, aren’t I? And Prince Tulson is… well, a prince, so I’m his servant the same as Clara is his servant.

"You’re not a servant, Lady Arri," said Clara.

"I’m a servant of the Crown – the royal family," I argued, "the same as you."

"Lady Arri, I don’t want…," began Clara, but the Prince interrupted her.

"I never thought of that," he said. Then he smiled, "All right, I’ll call her Lady Clara." And he bowed to her the way he bows to me.

Clara’s face became very red, and she looked confused for a minute.

"It seems silly," she muttered, frowning at us. Then she turned away, "I think we’ll have to dig the pit in the woods, Lady Arri. It’s going to be hard finding a way to make sure Mendel has to walk through it, but if we spend today looking, I bet we can find a place. Come on!"

She brushed past us and disappeared into the trees. Prince Tulson and I almost had to run to keep up with her.

I don’t know if Clara – Lady Clara – likes her title very much; she’s hard to figure out sometimes, but I feel better not being the only Lady anymore. I figure if Prince Tulson likes titles, then I’m going to make sure he uses them all the time – not just with Imato and me.

Plotting revenge on Mendel isn’t the only thing that Prince Tulson has been doing lately. Ever since Liop showed him the daguerreotypes, he’s been hiring Aegolius to follow him around the village making reflections of everything. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Aegolius so happy. They showed me some of their reflections yesterday, and it was amazing. There are reflections of chickens and fence posts, fine upper class ladies and peasant children, lots of reflections of sunsets and sunrises but most of those didn’t work very well. Today Aegolius ran out of copper sheets, so Prince Tulson sent an order to a metal smith in Dovery to make more. In the meantime, I’ve been shown so many reflections that sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in them. Prince Tulson is very obsessed with the way different textures show up on the copper, and the shapes of things. I think Lady Clara understands what he’s talking about better than I do, because she makes suggestions of how the reflections might look better if he arranged the objects differently, so Prince Tulson then makes Aegolius go out and remake everything. The Prince pays for all the daguerreotypes, of course, and Aegolius is giving part of the money to Imato for boarding him. Imato adds it to the funds Uncle Winthrop left us. He won’t keep any for himself.

Imato returns to Arella in a few days. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. It’s been nice having him handle all the money and financial kinds of decisions. Liop isn’t old enough to do it yet, and I don’t feel like I know enough. Imato says I should have an accounting class, but they only teach accounting in the boys’ schools. Mostly, I’m going to miss Imato’s stories, and knowing that if anything goes wrong he’s nearby to help me solve it. Prince Tulson is leaving soon too, but he keeps moving the date back, so that he can spend more time building traps for Mendel. I see the Prince almost every day, and Mendel always seems to be lurking nearby somewhere. It’s hard to keep secrets from him. I’m surprised he hasn’t played any pranks on me yet.

That’s all I have to write today. Tomorrow I’m going with Prince Tulson and Lady Clara to look for places to dig holes. I wonder how the Prince will feel about letting me help dig. He’s been letting me climb trees lately, so I think he’s becoming more relaxed about the rules of genteel conduct. We eat regular meals now too, but that’s not because of the Prince – he never thinks about eating. Lady Clara makes sure that we always have plenty to eat, and she eats with us. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

I hope you’re having better luck at finding information than I am. Good luck with everything. May your evenings be warm and cloudless.


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