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Arri- Sept. 18, 2003

September 18, 2003

Dear Keish,

That crazy Liop! I don’t know what he was thinking, but I’m glad he made it to Imato safely. He cried terribly the first night Imato was gone, but after that he seemed okay, so I didn’t suspect anything. It’s hard not having any adults around to take care of things. Cook comes in the afternoons, of course, but she’s always so busy and there are so many things going on that I don’t dare tell her about. I’m glad you’re taking care of Liop. Maybe with you and Imato nearby he won’t worry so much. I think sometimes Liop’s big vocabulary and language skills make him overconfident about traveling—as if being able to speak in someone’s language automatically protects him from them.

I miss Imato too, but he wrote me to say that Sir Aoweir has applied to be his personal trainer, and that all they’re waiting for is the reply of acceptance. Sir Aoweir doesn’t want to wait two more months to begin training and is anxious to have Imato with him now. Imato is honored, but the urgency confuses him. After all, this is a time of peace.

I’m afraid that most of your warnings came too late for me to follow them. When Liop didn’t come home from school, I went over to see if he’d been held after. When I found out he never arrived at school I panicked. I went straight over to the Westridge manor to tell Prince Tulson. The butler who answered the door was followed by Mendel. I asked for Prince Tulson, but the butler didn’t know where he was. I guess I must have looked upset, because Mendel came to the door and asked me what was wrong. I told him about Liop disappearing. Mendel’s eyes widened and he told the butler to help saddle some horses and gather the servants to organize a search at the Brio cottage. Then he went with me to find the Prince. I think sometimes I’m too hard on Mendel about things. Anyway, he took Liop’s disappearance seriously.

We found Prince Tulson shelling peas with Lady Clara and a couple of other serving girls in the backyard near the kitchen. Looking back I realize how strange it was to see a prince kneeling in the grass helping servants prepare dinner, but at the time all I could think about was Liop. Lady Clara saw us first and she jumped to her feet, letting the shelled peas fall from her basket into the long grass.

"Lady Arri, what’s wrong?" she cried.

I think I started crying. Mendel, looking nervous, stepped away from me, but Clara just put her arms around me, and I told her about Liop being missing. Prince Tulson started shouting orders right and left while Mendel tried to interrupt him to say what he’d already done. The servants scattered in all directions, except for Lady Clara who led me into the house, telling me everything would be all right and not to worry, because Mendel was a good tracker and the Prince could command an army if he needed to.

We went back to the cottage and tried to explain what was happening to Aegolius. When we finally got him to understand, he became very upset and said lots of things very quickly that nobody understood. Not being understood made him frustrated and angry, so he started shouting, but foreign words aren’t any easier to understand when someone shouts them frantically than when they’re whispered, so eventually he had to give up. Prince Tulson tried to get him to help search with the servants on foot, but either he didn’t understand or he didn’t want to go, because he covered his ears with his hands and ran into the basement. I told people to leave him alone. So many people came! – Not because of me, but because of Prince Tulson’s orders.

Prince Tulson, Lady Clara, and Mendel stayed with me the entire night. I kept telling them to go help search, but Prince Tulson said I couldn’t be left alone. I refused to wait in the cottage, so they went out with me and we searched the bushes. We hadn’t gone very far before Mendel turned to me and asked: "Have you been to the griffon trap lately?"

Startled, I stopped and looked at him, "Did Prince Tulson tell you about that?"

Mendel turned very red.

"No," he said, "I knew about it a long time before Tulson came."


"Well, it’s near where I go fishing," he explained, "Anyway, have you checked it lately?"

"Not since sunrise when I changed the rosehips."

"Maybe we should look there," suggested Mendel.

We looked, but everything was exactly how I left it. Mendel spent a lot of time going over the ground all around the trap, but of course he didn’t find anything. Soon after that he left to help the servants with their efforts.

We searched all night, but I don’t remember much of it. I was too scared and tired. Cook pulled the New Year’s Day ham out of the pantry and chopped it up to make sandwiches for people as they came back to report their progress, but the reports were dismal. Finally, towards daybreak people started giving up and leaving. They were tired and not one had found so much as a clue. By mid-day everyone was gone, leaving only Prince Tulson, Lady Clara, Mendel, Cook, and me to clean up. I tried to send Cook home, but she refused—saying the house was too chaotic. She pulled out a broom and started sweeping the halls, dusty from so many boots coming and going. Lady Clara tried to send me to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I watched Cook move from the halls into the dining room. She started as always with the corners behind the potted plants. Suddenly there was a loud screech and Kestrel came darting around the corner with Nozama in hot pursuit. I jumped up to chase him away from her. In the tamarin’s hand was a wadded up piece of paper, which he threw at me in irritation. I caught it in mid-air and looked at it. There was ink smudged on one edge. I opened it up and found Liop’s note that he left to tell me where he was going and how he was getting there. I’m not sure whether I wanted to kill Nozama or hug him—that awful creature! I started to cry and handed the note to Prince Tulson. He read it out loud and immediately burst into laughter. I don’t think it was so funny. Your letter came the next afternoon, and we sent word through the town that Liop was safe, but it was too late to make it seem unexpected. I imagine lots of other people laughed too, but I think it will take me a few years to find the humor in it myself.

Since your letter told me to, I told Prince Tulson everything about your mother and the dreams and Uncle Winthrop’s disappearance. The part about Uncle W. he already knew, and he told me that he was already under orders from his parents to keep an eye on me because the Brio name is associated with danger and bad luck. They told him those things in a letter when he first wrote them about me. I asked him why it was bad luck, and he said he didn’t know, but when he went back to the palace he would try to find out. I swore him to secrecy, although he really didn’t understand why Lady Clara and Mendel couldn’t be told. I didn’t dare tell him you specifically forbade me from telling Mendel, because the Prince likes Mendel—he wouldn’t spend his summers here if he didn’t—and after having Mendel help search for Liop all night, it seemed kind of wrong to point my finger at him like that. I tried to get Prince Tulson to promise to stay another month, but he said it wouldn’t work, because he’d already stayed longer than the King and Queen wanted him to and there wasn’t anything obviously dangerous to protect me from. He’s right too, Keish. Dreams don’t make very good evidence for most people.

Prince Tulson left three days ago; he tried to get out of it, but his parents insisted that he had taken too long of a vacation already and that he must continue his schooling. It’s rather sad, because we only just finished digging the hole for Mendel and I’m still working out the details for the rest of the trap. Prince Tulson made Lady Clara and I promise to finish it on our own and write him as soon as Mendel gets caught. The Prince also made me write my signature on a piece of parchment for him. He’s going to try to get another passenger pigeon. He’ll send it back to me with any information he can find about the Brio family. Then I’m supposed to keep it with me. If there’s an emergency, I can send it to him, and it will be faster than any other kind of mail.

Most of the day I’m home alone now with Aegolius, but even he’s leaving soon. Prince Tulson offered him a position at the palace and after negotiating where he would live, and how to bring his wife to live with him, Aegolius agreed. Aegolius is traveling to Iconei to get his wife and then he and his wife will return to live in a house near the palace in the royal city. I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed. Aegolius never intended to stay very long. He misses his family. Things will be very quiet here. They wanted to take Liop with them as a personal translator, but I refused. They’ll just have to figure things out without him.

I do have some interesting news to relate. Yesterday, Aegolius came up to my room and knocked on the door. When I opened it he made hand gestures and said a few words to make me understand that I should follow him. Then he led me down into the basement where I hadn’t ventured since the day of the smoke monster. The lab was clean and orderly again. (Aegolius must have cleaned it, because Liop promised not to go in there.) Uncle W.’s large black alchemy cauldron sat in the center of the room with a dark blue mixture boiling slowly inside it. Next to the cauldron was a book written in a language I didn’t recognize. Aegolius turned a couple of pages in it, and then he spoke to me in Iconese. After listening a few minutes, I began to understand that he was explaining what went wrong when he and Liop tried to conjure the oracle. Then he took a handful of white powder and made as if to sprinkle it in the cauldron. I hastily grabbed his hand and pulled it away. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to call an oracle or do any other magic. Aegolius put a hand on my shoulder and spoke earnestly. He again lifted his hand to release the powder; I tried to stop him, but he pulled me away and dropped it in. Then he stirred the mixture slowly with a glass rod. The mixture swirled heavily like molasses, and a strange sucking sound filled the air. I tried to run away, but Aegolius held me by the shoulder, forcing me to look into the mixture. I kept waiting for an explosion, but as the seconds turned into minutes, the sucking sound faded, and I started to relax. I focused on the center of the cauldron, to which Aegolius kept pointing. Gradually the deep blue of the mixture fell away and I felt like I was looking at a pond with rippling reflections of a meadow. My vision blurred suddenly and I blinked; then everything became clear as a rainbow projected on a wall by a prism. I was looking down on a green summer meadow where a great herd of deer grazed peacefully. Aegolius pointed to the deer and then to me and then back again, talking all the while. As I watched the scene, dark objects moved on the horizon of the scene. Gradually they crept closer and closer until they became a pack of wolves, dark gray with narrow yellow eyes, circling the deer. Some of the harts noticed them and moved to the outer edges of the herd, lowering their gorgeous copper-colored antlers defensively. The wolves howled, although I couldn’t actually hear anything. Then, as though on a single command, they rushed in on the deer and began killing them. At first I justified the wolves, because they must be hungry, but then I realized the wolves weren’t eating what they killed. They were killing purely for the sport of it, leaving the ground strewn with the bodies of harts, hinds, and fawns. Again and again the harts lowered their antlers and tried to defend the herd, but though they killed a few wolves, the majority of the pack continued to kill wantonly. It was horrible, and I would have looked away, but Aegolius held me firmly by the shoulder. Then, for reasons I didn’t understand, the wolves diminished, and harts began to drive them away. Still, deer continued to die until only a handful was left. I could only see two harts, a young two-point looking around with fear and confusion, and an older hart with many scars. There were also a few does and fawns. The wolves removed back to the horizon, I assume to wait for the herd to recover. They made no effort to eat any of the meat. It was left for crows and magpies. Aegolius stopped stirring the cauldron and the vision vanished. He pointed from me to the cauldron and back again, talking firmly and slowly, but though I knew he was concerned, I didn’t know what he meant. I wondered why he hadn’t waited for Liop to translate for him; then I realized what he was telling me must be too terrible for a small boy’s ear and I shuddered.

Aegolius led me back upstairs into Uncle Winthrop’s room. He pointed to the chest where father’s sword was and indicated I should open it. I hesitated at first, but then retrieved the key and opened it for him. Aegolius took out the helmet and put it on my head. It was too big, so he removed it again. He pulled out the sword in its sheath with the buckler. These, he instructed me to put on. I refused, trying to explain that they were for Imato, not me. Aegolius refused to understand me. Finally, in exasperation, I fastened the buckler around my waist. The end of the sword dragged along the ground. Aegolius made me adjust the straps until it fit properly—well, better than before, at least—it felt very awkward. Aegolius strapped a short dagger to my left leg. He stood back and looked at the effect, nodding with satisfaction. I felt really strange, looking at my reflection in the long hallway mirror. I looked ridiculous in my long dress with a sword around my waist, the hilt almost up to my shoulder and the point almost touching the ground. Finally, after much begging, Aegolius let me take everything off again. By then it was lunchtime and Cook showed up to help with the chores. Aegolius left to work on his packing.

The next morning, I got up just before sunrise and went outside to brush Glory. She’s been very sad since Spriggs went away and left her with only the milk cow, Aegolius’ mule, and the chickens for company. I brushed slowly, enjoying the feel of her sleek coat under my fingers. Suddenly, I heard a sound and looked up. It was Aegolius, looking rather guilty and apologetic. He said a few things softly, and then indicated that he wanted to make a reflection of me. I agreed, and he indicated I should put on a nicer dress. I went up to my room and put on my pale blue school dress, which is my favorite. When I returned, Aegolius led Glory out of her stall and posed us facing each other in the garden. He set up the reflection maker, but didn’t actually make the reflection. He shook his head indicating that something wasn’t quite right. I thought about it, and then told him to wait a minute. I ran up to Uncle W.’s room and got the golden bridle. I put it on Glory. The gold sparkled against her dark chocolate hide. Aegolius posed us again and made the reflection. Then he went into the basement to develop it. It took a good hour, and I had time to make breakfast and put the bridle back. Before he left, Aegolius gave me the reflection and also the one of my father. Then he hugged me quickly. I watched as he packed up the rest of his equipment and led the mule with its cart away down the road. I wonder when I’ll see them again.

I remember Taty, but I didn’t know her well. She was two grades behind me in grammar school in Rousha. I was ten when we moved to Rousha for Father to take command of the northern armies, so Taty must have been nine. I think I would have had more contact with her once we left grammar school, if we hadn’t moved again when Father died. Father had their family over for dinner once and Taty showed me a song on the harpsichord. She and Jace sang for us.

I’m sorry that you’ll be losing Brynn. Hopefully the weather will be mild this winter, so she can travel back and forth easily.

Do you think Father’s death and Uncle W.’s disappearance are related? Father died in the war with the Mountain Trolls of Greste; the soldiers brought back his helmet and sword, but nothing else. Uncle W. is a pacifist; he doesn’t own any weapons except a fishing knife. Maybe they both are connected with the danger and bad luck—Uncle W. because he is a Brio and Father because he married one. The idea that their disappearances might be connected frightens me. I keep thinking about your mother and Pricille and her son. Could they be connected to the bad luck Prince Tulson told me about? I hope he finds something in the castle. I hope you’re right about Pricille’s son being alive.

The meteors were beautiful! Liop and I sat up and watched them together a few nights before he disappeared. I don’t stay up late very often, but this was well worth it. I counted and in the last hour before we went to bed we saw thirty-two meteors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many before. They looked like sparks from a distant campfire.

I haven’t seen the hart again, but don’t worry, I won’t follow it.

I’m glad that Taty and her family came to visit you. It must have been fun playing hostess to such great people. Do you really think your father might try to betroth you? I’m glad you like Jace better than the prince, but I hope you can get out of it until you feel ready.

I hope your days are peaceful and that Brynn doesn’t have to leave soon.



P. S. I’m also sending a letter to Liop, but I have to send it through the regular post, because Hermes refuses to take it. I think the magic prevents him from taking any mail addressed to someone other than you or me. Adding a seventh page probably would have made the letter too heavy for him to carry anyway.

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