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Arri- October 13, 2003

October 13, 2003
Dear Keish,

First I have to tell you that I’m all right, because I know you will be worried when I don’t show up on the 15th like I said I would. A lot has happened since I last wrote, but I’m going to write everything in the order it happened so it makes a little sense.

I’m sorry your father is ill. Is he better yet? What’s wrong with him? I hope you’re giving him lots of chamomile and lemon tea to drink. Have you had a healer look at him? I know you’re doing a wonderful job nursing him. I hope he gets better soon.

For the past couple of weeks I have been scouring Uncle Winthrop’s library for books about fairies, but except for one encyclopedia article stating that fairies cannot step outside of a fairy ring without sacrificing their ability to return to one, I didn’t find anything we don’t already know. Fairies are among the most powerful of all magical people. No one knows where they live. They occasionally steal children, and the children become fairies themselves and gradually forget everything about their former life.

If Pricille is our mothers’ lost sister, then she must have left one of the fairy rings. Do you think that leaving the ring would have restored her memory? Or that maybe she never fully lost it to begin with? Or maybe her memory is still lost and that’s why we never found out she was our aunt? I never met Pricille, so I don’t know what she looked like, but she may have been disguised so that no one would recognize her. She would have been a powerful fairy. If Pricille is our aunt, and the woman I saw in my dream, then it sounds like she is still alive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone we think is dead turned out to be alive and hiding somewhere, waiting for us to find them? I know that isn’t possible, but sometimes I wish it were. Mother told me so many fairy stories that I doubt I can remember them all. The characters were usually different from one story to the next, but she used the characters of Iris, Aster, and Marigold more often than the others. Iris had healing powers and Aster had powers of divination. Marigold never leaves a fairy ring in any of the stories, but the girls rescued animals from hunters and experimented with magic spells that didn’t always work correctly. Most of the stories were meant to make me laugh.

I received a letter from Prince Tulson the same day your letter arrived. He told me that he went to the Royal Library of Rousha, which is the largest library in Elcaro. There he recruited three librarians to search for information about the Brio family. They found two old genealogies starting with Brio of Thalthin who was the founder of the clan, nineteen generations away from us and ending with our great-grandfather Imato. The prince also found a large book of legends, many of which are about the Brio clan. There is a story about how the king of Elcaro saved the life of Brio of Thalthin’s son, and how the family pledged themselves and all their posterity as servants to the royal family. Unfortunately Prince Tulson didn’t write any details. He isn’t fond of writing, so he kept everything brief. He told me that there is another copy of this book in the castle library in Arella, so maybe you can look at it. It’s called “An Ancient History of Agamem, as copied from the Ancient Scrolls of the Minstrel Milo.” Prince Tulson wanted to send the book to me, but it is so old and valuable that the library won’t lend it (even to a prince). Parts of it are written in Old Cairdish, so you will need Liop’s help to decipher it unless you remember more from your Ancient Languages class than I do.

The Prince found one more thing of interest. It was an old collection of censuses from Rousha. The older one lists our grandparents and four children: Winthrop, age 10; Jezreel, age 8; Ellean, age 6; and one baby (not named). The next census, taken five years later, lists only Winthrop, Jezreel, and Ellean. Prince Tulson found no record of what happened to the baby. He asked me about it. That is the bulk of his letter. The rest discusses his latest experiments with reflections. Apparently holding a magnifying glass up to a camera lens doesn’t work, but reading about it gave me an idea.

I held a magnifying glass up to the painting with the lioness in the cave in Mother’s book and the strangest thing happened. All of a sudden I felt like I was kneeling in the same cave I saw in my dream. It was dark with only a single candle to cast rippling light around the room. Before me on the ground was the helmet from my dream. It was gold plated with etchings all around the brim in the shapes of antlers. On the front of the helmet was an etching of a hart rearing. It was beautiful and there is no doubt it is the same helmet I saw in my dream. I was so startled that I dropped the magnifying glass and the vision shattered all around me in narrow triangular shards. I intended to borrow a new magnifying glass to look at the book again more carefully, but the next morning I changed my plans. This is why:

This morning Lady Clara left early in the morning, because she was needed in the kitchen at the Westridge manor. After she left, I put on my housedress and carried a fresh batch of tea out to the garden. I knew something was different the minute I stepped outside. I can’t explain it, because I didn’t hear anything, but I’m outside so much in the morning that I can tell when things aren’t normal. I approached the griffon trap cautiously, so nervous I could hear my own heart pounding. As I neared the trap, I could see something dark and heavy through the branches.

“Is anyone there?” I asked tentatively. There was a low moan, and then I heard words, a sort of high-pitched whining sound:

“Mother told me to stay away from strange tea cups. Mother always told me…”

Creeping closer, I saw a patch of fur, golden in the light. “Are you okay in there?” I asked.

“I’m in a trap,” sighed the creature, “Mother always told me…” It gave a half-hearted struggle and then collapsed on the ground.

I didn’t know what to do. “Are you caught?” I asked.

“Well, I can’t get away,” the voice said with a touch of irritation.

Gaining confidence, I pushed through the bushes and found myself standing before the strangest creature I have ever seen. It had a sharp, yellow beak like an eagle, and a head covered in sleek brown feathers. The pupils in its eyes were large and black, surrounded by gold iris. Its forelegs were long and slender with brown and gold scales like an eastern dragon’s and long sickle-shaped claws. I couldn’t see the rest of it.

“Aren’t you going to let me out?” asked the creature. It looked so miserable that I felt guilt mixing with the fear in my stomach—not a pleasant feeling.

“Are you a griffon?” I asked.

“No, I’m a giraffe,” the griffon snapped.

I felt foolish. I backed away, thinking I should get the golden bridle before I did anything else.

“Where are you going?” asked the griffon anxiously.

I told him about the bridle, and he clicked his beak with interest. He told me to hurry. I ran as fast as I could, but when I got back with the bridle, the griffon gave a screech of disappointment.
“That’s a unicorn bridle!” he told me. I held up the bridle and studied it, feeling more and more ridiculous by the second. It was easy, when I held it up to his head, to see that it would never fit. It was all I could do not to cry.

“Well, you’ll just have to find a unicorn for it, is all,” said the griffon resignedly.

“But I need you to take me somewhere,” I whispered, “and I don’t think I can get another bridle for you.”

The griffon sighed. “Mother always said those bridles were rare,” he mourned, “I never really thought I’d find one. You’ll just have to pull all my feathers out like most people do.”

“Then you’ll still take me?” I asked.

“The magic says you caught me, so I have to take you somewhere,” the griffon responded, narrowing his eyes and lifting his head, “and I don’t want to wait for you to find another bridle.”

I cut the ropes with my kitchen knife. I was terrified that he would fly away from me, but he didn’t. He stood patiently while I moved around his body cutting cords and untying knots. His back was covered with short, sharp horns made out of bony material like a deer’s antlers. His hind legs were tawny like a lion’s, but he had a dragon’s tail. It was strange to see gold scales merging seamlessly into soft fur.

“You have no wings!” I said in surprise.

“Well, I’m not a female, am I,” said the griffon, “Only my mother and sisters have wings.”

“But how do you fly?”

“I don’t.”

“Oh,” I hid my disappointment.

“Where do you want me to take you?” asked the griffon. Removing the ropes didn’t seem to help his mournful voice.

“To my uncle, Lord Winthrop Brio,” I said, “he’s been missing for several months.”

“I’d rather not,” said the griffon immediately.


“Someone who’s been missing that long is probably dead. I hate taking people to corpses,” he shook his head sadly, “you have no idea…” I felt chills wash through me.

“Uncle Winthrop isn’t dead,” I half-shouted.

“Are you sure?” he demanded.


But the griffon looked doubtful. “Well let’s get going,” he said in a resigned voice.

“Right now?” I asked nervously, “Can’t I get ready first? I should leave a note. How long will we be gone?”

The griffon clacked his beak in annoyance. “I have no idea—days, weeks, months—I hope he’s not lost at sea. I hate getting wet,” he said.

“Please give me an hour,” I pleaded.

“I suppose it won’t make much difference to a corpse,” said the griffon. I shuddered and hurried back to the house. At the house I tried to imagine every disaster that might happen and plan for it. Thinking of Aegolius’s warning, I grabbed father’s sword and strapped it around my waist although it looked ridiculous, and it was hard to keep the point of the sheath from hitting the ground. I wrote a note for Lady Clara and Cook. Then I took a satchel and went down into the basement and stared at Uncle W.’s chemicals, wondering which ones would be useful. I found some fireworks powder that makes flames turn green, a little horn of explosive powder, some herbs for burns and bruises, a sleeping draft, and a long coil of narrow rope. From the kitchen I took a sturdy knife and wrapped it in leather since it didn’t have a sheath. I also took some food (dried fruits, jerky, and Cook’s journey-bread, which is very filling and doesn’t take up much space), some rosehips and pennyroyal, some money, a hairbrush, paper, my griffon quill pen, the gold bridle, and a water pouch, which I filled at the well. I locked Nozama up in Liop’s bedroom.
Then I hurried back out to the griffon with Hermes on my shoulder. I found the creature sleeping under the trees, snoring loudly. I had to nudge him several times to get him to wake up.

“Never fails,” he muttered sleepily, “just as I was about to drink some.”

“I brought more rosehips,” I said hopefully. His tailed twitched and for a second I thought he would smile, but he didn’t.

“Well let’s go,” he said resignedly. Then suddenly he let out a startled scream and jumped ten feet into the air. I looked around and saw Kestrel staring up at me, looking confused. The griffon came back down to the ground heavily.

“Didn’t say you had a cat,” he said reprovingly, “never saw lavender stripes before. Is it cursed?”

“No, and she’s not coming,” I said quickly, gathering Kestrel into my arms, “I’ll take her back to the barn.”

The griffon sighed. “Cats are good luck on a trip,” he said. I stopped.

“Do you think I should take her?” I asked.

“Couldn’t hurt.”

I thought about it, and then put Kestrel into my satchel. Do you think that was wise? I don’t want her to get lost or hurt. I put Hermes in a separate small satchel at my waist so he could see where we were going. I thought it was only fair for him to see since he has to find his way back
with my letters. The griffon led me over to a stone, and I climbed onto his back. I had to sit as far forward as possible to avoid the spikes.

“Hold on tight,” said the griffon, “wish I had a bridle.”

I wrapped my fingers around his feathers. The griffon sat back a bit and wiggled his tail. I felt a jerking sensation, and then we were in the air. I closed my eyes, feeling air rushing all around me, blowing my braids out and into tangles. I don’t know how long the leap lasted, but it seemed like several minutes. For the first few minutes we shot almost straight up like an arrow. Then we fell. I wanted to scream. All of my insides pressed up against my neck and my head felt dizzy. I kept my eyes shut tight the whole time. We hit the ground with a sharp thud. Then I heard monkey-like screams and opened my eyes. We were in a different part of the forest. The griffon made an eagle-like cry and began chasing his tail shouting, “Get it off—get it off—get it off!” The monkey-eagle-screeches continued and, in the midst of all our spinning, I realized that Nozama was holding fast to the griffon’s tail. I reached out for the tamarin, grabbed his tail, and tumbled onto the ground. The trees staggered all around me and I felt sick. For a while the griffon kept circling madly, even though I had Nozama in my arms. Finally, he slowed to a stop, and looked at me.

“I’m sorry,” I cried, “I thought I locked him up!” I tried to move Nozama behind my back, because I was afraid the griffon would eat him, he looked so angry.

“Well, you didn’t,” snapped the griffon. He collapsed onto the ground, breathing hard.

“Primates…” he gasped, “are bad luck on a trip!”

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Mother says I’m tougher than I look,” the griffon informed me doubtfully.

“I thought you said you couldn’t fly,” I was looking around at the forest.

“I leaped,” panted the griffon.

I immediately began looking around for Uncle Winthrop, but I only saw trees.

“Where is he?” I asked finally.

“Well I can’t get there in one leap,” the griffon panted. He nosed his tail where Nozama had gripped it. A large bruise was forming. I found the herbs in my satchel, mixed them with water from my pouch and spread them over the bruise. The griffon sighed.

“How many leaps will it take to get to Uncle Winthrop?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but we have to rest here for a while.”

I pulled Kestrel out of the bag and brushed out her ruffled fur. She hissed at Nozama. We stayed on the ground for nearly an hour while the griffon regained strength for another leap. When he was finally ready, he tried to tell me I couldn’t take Nozama, but I wouldn’t leave the tamarin behind, so he finally gave in. I couldn’t get Nozama to sit quietly in the bag with Kestrel, so I put him on my lap and let him hold onto the griffon’s feathers like I was doing. In a moment we were in the sky again. This time I kept my eyes open.

Leaping on a griffon is incredible! When you first start up all the trees blur together in a streak of green, like an impressionist painting. Then as you reach the top of the leap, the whole world spreads out below you, and you feel like you can see forever. I kept my head turned slightly backward so the wind wouldn’t get in my eyes. We were traveling northwest toward the Torca Mountains. For a minute I thought I glimpsed the ocean, but I wasn’t sure. Once we reached the pinnacle of the leap, we started to fall. I didn’t like that part, because it made my insides feel so warped and compressed. Landing is terrible—just a sudden jerk that almost hurts. The griffon says if he had wings we could go farther and faster between rests, but he has to rest often. In all we leaped six times today. I don’t know where we are, but the griffon says we have to stop because the sun is setting and he can only see to leap in broad daylight.

Right now, I’m sitting with my back against a tree. I ate a little food and found a stream to refill my water pouch. I forgot a teapot for the griffon, but he said he likes raw rosehips, so I gave them to him. I think it improved his mood a little. He’s asleep now, and every once in a while he mumbles something about his mother. We’ll leave again tomorrow as soon as it’s light enough, and I will send Hermes back to you. I’m glad the magic will let him find me wherever I am.
That’s all I have to tell you now. I want to send letters to Imato, Clara, and Prince Tulson, but Hermes will only carry letters to you, so you will have to tell them for me. Please let Imato know quickly, so he won’t worry too much.

I hope your father is feeling better, and that Liop is staying out of trouble, and that Imato’s exhibition is wonderful—I wish I could see it. Please tell Gretel to thank her father again for the soldiers (I already sent him one letter), and to let him know that they don’t need to stay anymore, because I’m not coming back without Uncle W. Please don’t tell Imato that I took Father’s sword. I know it’s not really mine and I wouldn’t have taken it, except it was the only sword in the cottage. I hope to return it before Imato becomes a knight, so that he can be knighted with it as planned. You can tell him about the knife instead, if he’s worried about me defending myself.

Give my love to everyone. I hope everything is well with you.


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