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Arri- October 3, 2003

October 3, 2003
Dear Keish,
I’m so glad you’re okay. I’ve been very worried about you. Your visions are amazing! I had no idea that our family had so much power. Uncle Winthrop can communicate with animals? If he knows how, he never uses it. Of course Uncle W. doesn’t like magic very much. When we first came here, Imato was always playing with spells—he tried to invent them, but Uncle W. put a stop to it. I don’t think he was very happy about Imato training to be a knight either, but he couldn’t do anything about that. Everyone knew that Imato was just like Father and destined to follow him. Imato is a wonderful horseman, and Father started teaching him swordplay when he was only four years old (wooden swords, of course). I don’t know how Imato feels about magic these days. Uncle W. tried teaching him some alchemy, but he lost interest, and I haven’t heard of him doing anything with magic since shortly after Father died. Father didn’t have any magical ability at all. Sometimes I wonder if a long time ago something terrible happened to Uncle W. that involved magic and maybe soldiers that made him determined to stay away from them. It’s very confusing, because a lot of Uncle W.’s alchemy supplies are used in magic as well, and most of the time I can’t tell the difference between the two. Once I asked Uncle W., and he told me about something called “scientific theory,” but most of it went over my head.
I’m rather overwhelmed by the idea of my having the healing ability. I always knew that you were magical, and it seemed like Liop would be too, but I don’t think I’ve ever shown any magical ability. None of the spells Imato used to make for me ever worked. When something works for me, it always seems like a kind of good accident. I would like to develop my healing ability. You’re right about my mother having it. I used to think she could heal anything. But when she died I realized I was wrong. She couldn’t heal herself. I wish I had known that I had the ability too; maybe I could have healed her. When I come visit you I want you to tell me everything you can about it. If Brynn were there, that would be nice too.
I don’t understand why Mother never told me about having another sister. It doesn’t make sense. For the past two days I’ve been scouring Uncle Winthrop’s library for anything that might tell us about our missing aunt. Lady Clara is helping me, but it’s harder for her, because she doesn’t know as much about our family. I told her all about the griffon trap, and your mother’s death, and anything else that seemed important. She says we ought to talk to your father about it, but I think you know best about that. Anyway, between the two of us we’ve looked at every book in the library (if you count the books I’ve already searched through over the past couple of months). I thought it was hopeless, but then last night I was looking at the bookshelf in my room when I noticed the storybook Mother made me when I was a small child, before Liop was born. Mother used to tell me beautiful fairy stories about animals and people. Once for Christmas, two years before she died, she gave me a little handmade book with a leather cover and her own beautiful script inside. On the outside cover are hand-painted irises, asters, and marigolds. Last night, because I wanted to remember her and because I was feeling lonely, I picked it up and opened to the inside cover. There’s an inscription there that I’ve read a hundred times, but last night it sounded different. It reads: “To my beautiful daughter, so that she can remember her mother and her aunts, to tell her daughters when she is grown.” I always thought that meant your mother and Aunt Rawnal, Uncle Winthrop’s wife who lived with us as sort of lady-in-waiting for my mother until I was almost five. She was several years older than Mother, and she only lived a year after she married Uncle W. Anyway, she loved to cook and she used to let me make animal shapes out of bread dough and cookie dough. So that’s who I always thought the second aunt was, since Father was an only child. Last night when I read the inscription I had a different thought, so I decided to read the whole story again. Now I’m going to tell it to you, and you can tell me what you think about it. It’s a kind of fairy story.
“Once upon a time there were three beautiful little girls. The oldest was called Iris because she was born in the morning in the spring, and she was nine years old. The second was called Aster because she was born in the evening in the fall, and she was seven years old. The third was called Marigold because she was born at mid-day in summer, and she was three years old.”
On the next page there is a drawing of the three little girls. Iris is holding a book with a painted leather cover like the one covering my storybook. Her dress is pale blue with a small white collar. Aster is holding a small mirror. Her dress is dark blue and painted with stars. Marigold is standing between them holding their hands. Her dress is painted like a rainbow.
“The three little girls lived together in a small manor near the castle of Rousha. Their father was a councilor to the King, and their mother was a musician whose singing could call the birds from the trees. In the mornings the girls would wake up to the gentle sounds of the harp and their mother’s sweet voice. In the evenings they slept to the sounds of flutes and lyres, because their father would play with their mother. The girls loved the music, because it told them they were safe.
“One day the girls discovered a circle of white mushrooms in the center of the garden. Their mother told them it was a magic ring, where the fairies come to dance under the stars. Aster wanted to see the fairies dance, so that night after everyone was asleep she and her sister slipped out of the house and hid in the roses next to the fairy ring. It was a clear, starry night and the girls lay on their backs. Aster traced the patterns of the constellations for Iris until their eyelids drooped and the children fell asleep. They awoke to a sound like bells, and the first light of morning in their eyes. Iris looked at the fairy ring shimmering with dew and spider webs hanging like curtains.
“‘Look,’ whispered Aster at her side, and Iris noticed Marigold standing on the back porch of the house watching them with her large blue eyes. Iris called for the baby to come to them. Marigold ran on pudgy legs, and Iris held out her arms to encourage her.
“‘Marigold, wait!’ cried Aster suddenly, and both girls noticed that the baby was headed for the fairy ring. Aster jumped up to catch her, but she wasn’t fast enough.
“When Marigold crossed into the fairy ring, a blinding flash of light filled the sky so that Iris could only see stars swimming like fireflies around her head. When the light faded, the girls saw only a large golden toad sitting in the middle of the ring.
“‘Where is Marigold?’ cried Iris, her heart racing.
“‘She has gone to the land of the fairies,’ the toad responded.
“Aster sent up a wail of despair, and Iris hugged her in fear. Then Iris asked the toad how they could get their sister back. He told them they must find a winged lion to take them to the land of the fairies, and that they must find something to trade to the fairy queen in return for their sister.
“Aster’s crying soon awakened their parents who came running to find out what happened. When Iris told them about Marigold, the girls’ father saddled his horse immediately, declaring that he would not return until their sister was safely returned to them. Their mother insisted on going too, so in a few hours Iris and Aster were left alone in the care of her father’s most trusted servants. Iris was so angry that she destroyed the fairy ring. Aster went into her room and wept for her lost sister.
“Late that night, Iris and Aster saddled their two ponies. They were determined to find a winged lion themselves. They took only Aster’s small mirror. They traveled all night and all the next morning without food or water until they were tired and lost. That night they slept in the hollow of a tree with wolves howling all around them. The next day they continued traveling, always searching for a winged lion or another fairy ring.
“They traveled many days and ate only berries until finally they came to the mouth of a great cave. In the mouth of the cave, a winged lioness lounged. Iris asked her if she knew where the land of the fairies was. The lioness yawned and showed all her teeth.
“‘I will take you to the land of the fairies,’ she said to Aster, ‘if you will give me your mirror.’ Aster gave her the mirror.
“The lioness told the girls to climb on her back. Then she stretched her wings and flew with them straight up into the sky until they were so high up that they could only see clouds below them. Together they flew through cool moist whiteness and blinding light until suddenly an island appeared before them, floating among the clouds like a fish in the sea. The lioness landed lightly in the midst of a beautiful garden. The children climbed off her back and stared about themselves in wonder. Flowers, like trees, bobbed gently in the cool air. Soft gray-green moss seeped water up through their bare toes, and ladybugs the size of carriages paused in their wandering to wave curious antennae at the girls.
“The lioness led them through the garden to a castle built out of mushrooms and toadstools with ants standing sentinel at the gate. Iris politely asked to see the queen. The ants called for a shiny black spider to take them into the great hall where the queen held court. The great hall was lined with tiny snowdrops and four-o’clocks. The air smelled of thyme and lavender. The fairy queen had wings like a butterfly and Iris was so caught up in her beauty that she could hardly speak, so Aster spoke for them.
“‘We’re looking for our sister, Marigold,’ she said shyly.
The queen did not answer for a long time, and the girls stood uneasily, shifting their weight from one foot to another. Then finally she raised her hands into the air.
“‘Once in every generation we dance in the ring of fairies,’ she paused, looking at each of the girls in turn, ‘once in a generation we call to ourselves the child that is most like us—the child who can join our dance.’
“‘Then Marigold danced with you,’ said Aster, ‘can she come home now?’
“The fairy queen smiled sadly.
“‘You must love your sister dearly or you would not have given up the mirror,’ she said, ‘For that I will let you see her again, but Aster, your sister is one of us now. She cannot go home with you.’
“Then the fairy queen blew on a set of pipes and Marigold dashed into the room. Iris caught her up in her arms, but as she hugged her, she saw a pair of translucent wings growing from the child’s back.
“‘Why can’t she come home with us?’ Iris asked, ‘we could take care of her.’
“‘Because, child, she can only go where there is a fairy ring, and you destroyed the one we gave you.’
“Then Iris began to cry and begged the fairy queen to place another ring, but the fairy queen said she could not. However, she told the girls that wherever they found such a ring they could call their sister to them. The three sisters spent the rest of the day together, but when night came, the lioness flew Iris and Aster home without their sister. Then, seeing the tears in the young girls eyes, the lioness offered to visit them. Iris begged her to take them often to the fairies, but the lioness said that humans could only go there once in a lifetime. Then, seeing their tears, she promised to show them where all the fairy rings were in the kingdom, and later she sent them one of her sons to serve them. But the lioness kept the mirror in token of their friendship.”
It’s a rather sad story. Mother used to tell me fairy stories all the time, but she only told me this one once. It was on a day when I asked her where fairies come from. I don’t know why she chose this story to write in my storybook. Most of the other stories were happier. Every other page in the book has a painting to illustrate the scene. Actually, now that I look at it, there is a painting of the winged lioness in front of her cave, and the cave seems to have other objects in it. There’s a helmet, shield, and sword leaning against one side of the entrance, and the lioness has her paw on a large book. I guess she must have collected things. There’s a picture of Iris and Aster flying on the lioness with clouds swirling around them. All the other pictures are of Fairyland. I like the pictures; they’re beautiful. I never knew Mother could draw until she gave me this book.
Actually these are the only drawings of hers I’ve ever seen. Mother’s handwriting has all sorts of wonderful flourishes.
I don’t think this story is exactly what happened to our mothers’ sister, but maybe it has some clues in it. You can probably tell better than I can. Some things in the story don’t make sense. For example, Iris and Aster can talk to the winged lioness. We had a winged lion when I was very small. I don’t know where he came from, but Mother loved him very much, and she used to say that she wished she could talk to him. On the day Mother died the lion flew away and we never saw him again. There’s also the part about the fairies stealing one child from each generation, but the only missing child in our generation I know about is Pricille’s son (you said he might still be alive somewhere). Also, the story doesn’t say anything about a son in the family, and Uncle W. is two years older than Mother.
I’ve been trying to remember everything I can about when Uncle W. left. He was going north to pick up a package of alchemy supplies that were too valuable to trust with a servant. Of course Uncle W. liked traveling so that may have just been an excuse. At first we had a letter from him every two weeks. I reread all the letters this morning, but I can’t find anything unusual about them. They mainly list the cities he passed through. They’re not very long. The last letter came three months after he left. All it says is that he’s going to come through Goatsyard on the way to Clarvin and that he’ll send us a letter when he gets to Clarvin. He must not have made it. He promises to have new outfits made up for Liop and me when he gets home. I asked once and it usually takes a week to get from Goatsyard to Clarvin. Both cities are in the desert on the northeast edge of Elcaro. The problem is that Uncle W. doesn’t say where he’s sending the letter from. So I don’t know how long it took him to get to Goatsyard, or if he ever made it. So that’s all I know about Uncle W.’s disappearance.
Speaking of disappearances, Mendel won’t tell Lady Clara anything about where he was the night the cottage was broken into. He keeps sticking to the same story. Lady Clara’s very mad at him. She says he acts guilty about something, but she can’t imagine why. There are soldiers everywhere, Keish! They’re making the whole town nervous. Cook is convinced they’re part of a government conspiracy, because it would be ridiculous to send so many knights after one horse. If you listen to her talk, it sounds like there are dozens of knights, but I’ve only counted five. (Not that they aren’t making their presence felt everywhere.) It didn’t take them long to figure out that I’m still in the cottage. I can’t walk outside anymore without someone watching me. They showed up two nights ago. The first morning I walked outside and saw one, I almost screamed. Then I ran back inside. Twenty minutes later I heard a soft knock at my door. When I cracked it open, there was the soldier with a bouquet of wildflowers. He said he was sorry for frightening me. His name is Kaplan. I don’t mind seeing him anymore, but a couple of the other soldiers are as scary-looking as the thieves were. Kaplan says not to mind them.
Glory is still missing. Fortunately, the foal isn’t due until next spring, but that’s also one of the reasons I’m worried. You see, she doesn’t look pregnant yet. I can only tell because I’ve been around her everyday. I hope you’re right about the man who pushed me out the window. I would like to think someone is looking out for her.
I’m really excited to see Imato’s performance in the exhibition. The last time I saw Imato perform was the last time Uncle W. brought Liop and I to visit you, and that was a couple of months before Uncle W. left on his trip north. I’m really excited about the whole thing. I wish Lady Clara could come with. The coach leaves October thirteenth. Treany is still trying to convince her parents to let her come. If she does come, she’ll stay with her relatives and not with us, but she will want to spend a lot of time with us, especially if Imato is with us.
Tell everybody I’m okay, and that the soldiers are keeping everyone awake at night (this village doesn’t see soldiers very often), so I don’t think the thieves will dare to come back until things quiet down.
Give my love to everyone, and may your dreams be beautiful.

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