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Arri- November 16, 2003

November 16, 2004
Dear Keish,

You shouldn’t judge yourself so harshly, Keish. You’ve given me tons of good advice. And you’ve been under so much stress, what with having to hide so much knowledge from people and keep up a good appearance for the people in the palace. People expect so much of you, that I wonder sometimes how you manage it all so well. No one ever expects much of me except that I mind my manners. I’m glad you have Jace to help you now. You need him.

Uncle Winthrop showed up just a couple of hours after I sent Hermes off with my last letter. It was a stormy gray evening, full of dry lightning and scattered raindrops that could hardly quench the thirsty ground.

I was sitting by the fireplace and playing with Kestrel who is looking less like a kitten and more like a young cat everyday. When Uncle W. walked in looking dirty and wind-blown I jumped up to meet him.

“Are you all right? Did you find Father? Where is he? I want to see him!” My mouth wouldn’t move fast enough for all my questions.

“Calm down, Arri, and run and fetch your brother!”

“Did you find Father?” I demanded.

“Your father is safe, but I won’t say another word about it till you fetch Imato.”

I could see that he meant it so I darted out into the streets to find Imato. There weren’t many places to look. I found him in the first place I chose, the blacksmith shop where he was talking to the smith while he fitted a new shoe to Spriggs. Imato has always been fascinated by blacksmithing. He never leaves a horse and comes back later, but hangs around to talk and watch the work. The blacksmith in Rousha used to let him try using the tools himself. Anyway, I raced right up to him and made such a fuss that he thought there was an emergency and came running back to the inn with me.

Journey Inn isn’t fancy enough to have sitting rooms or a den, so we all went into Imato’s room to talk.

“Where’s Father?” demanded Imato.

Uncle W. frowned at him.

“I’ll tell you everything, but only in the order I want to tell it.”

Imato folded his arms and tilted his chin up, the way he does when someone insults him. It wasn’t a good beginning.

“First things first, your father’s memory is gone. No interruptions, Arri!” (I shut my mouth. This was a much grimmer and more stoic Uncle W. than I was used to.)

“I’m pretty sure it happened during the battle that we thought killed him. I can’t sense any magical connections. He has a long scar down the side of his head where the hair won’t grow back. His nose is broken and badly healed, and there are burn scars on his face and arms. I think trauma to the head will account for the memory loss.”

I sat back on the bed, my eyes wide, and my hands trembling.

“Now, I’ve been keeping a sack over his head. He’s not rational and sudden movement and bright colors make him violent. The sack keeps him quiet. I don’t think I would have been able to convince the Narls to keep him alive if I hadn’t found a way to restrain him. Now I brought him back with me and gave him to the jailer for safe keeping…”

“You can’t jail Sir Quin!” Imato interrupted indignantly.

“Would you rather tie him up! Or drug him? The Journeys are good people, but they draw the line at letting dangerous mad men run loose in their inn. And he is dangerous, Arri! He has no memory, and his judgment is completely gone. I’ve spoken with the jailer. He has a fine mattress to sleep on and will be served the best food from Mrs. Journey’s kitchen.”

“It’s still not right…”

“I will not be interrupted, Imato,” but Uncle Winthrop was starting to sound tired. “This is my plan: We will take him back to Odsreq with us. I have a friend who is a physician. He won’t be able to treat Sir Quin, but he will be able to recommend someone who can. We will spare no expense. Your father will have the best treatment available. I wish I could promise you more than that.”

Outside we could hear a dog baying. Inside, we could hear Kestrel pawing at the door. Uncle Winthrop let her in and set her in my lap where she purred at batted at my braids, but none of us said anything. Imato looked frustrated. Uncle W. looked depressed. I felt like my father was found and lost at the same time, and I didn’t know whether to rejoice or mourn.

“What about healers?” I asked finally, “He can see the best healers too.”

“We’ll talk about that later,” said Uncle W. dismissively. Imato humphed.

“In the mean time,” Uncle W. continued, “I will take you to see him.”

The main road that runs through Onoff is not paved, but there are wooden sidewalks along either side. Uncle W. moved quickly with his head down. Imato walked at his side with his arms folded and his mouth set in a firm line that betrayed no emotion. I followed, trying not to run in my effort to match their long strides, trying not to let my heart beat too swiftly, trying not think of anything specific. The whole city was gray and black. Uncertain what the storm would bring, most people were inside, and only bits of yellow lamplight broke through the closed storm shutters. It was cold and the wind blew in a tired sort of way with sudden gusts punctuating the stillness like a man gasping for air. I didn’t like being out in it.

The jailhouse is a small, square, stone building at the edge of town. It is completely bare and uninteresting on the outside, without even grass or a flowerbed. On the inside it is much the same. The jailer let us in with polite friendly movements, and then discreetly left us alone for our visit.

At first I thought the one jail cell was empty, but then a movement of the quilts in the far corner corrected my impression.

“Father?” I asked, coming close to the bars and putting my hands on them. I fully expected to hear my name. Somehow, without meaning to, I had convinced myself that all would be well the moment he heard my voice.

From the blankets a gray, frizzy head emerged. I jumped back. It was not Father at all—it couldn’t be; his hair was dark brown and straight. This man was dirty and haggard with only traces of that once fine hair. No clean-shaven face, but a long brindled beard of uncertain color. The long straight nose that was my inheritance had a permanent bump, and his scars were just as Uncle W. described them.

“Turn away, Arri,” said Imato in a rough voice, “we mustn’t see him like this.”

But I didn’t turn, and my hands closed tightly around the bars of his cell.

“I’m sorry, Arri,” said Uncle W., “I’m sorry.” Thunder sounded in the distance, and the dry crackle of lightning across the sky.

The next day was filled with plans and preparations for the return to Odsreq. Uncle W. returned Treythan’s horse, laden down with a number of useful gifts of gratitude. As he did this he explained to me that Treythan is of the Rausan Order and will not deal in money, nor will he accept payment for lodging. But he will accept useful gifts.

The loss of the gelding meant that it was necessary to obtain another mount. Imato’s party had brought two extra horses for Uncle W. and I, but they hadn’t know about father, so Imato and Prince Tulson immediately set out in search of another horse. But Onoff is small, and all they could find was a sturdy looking brown mule named Buster.

I’ve never ridden a mule, so I immediately offered to ride him, but Imato refused. He said it would look very demeaning for him to let his sister ride the humblest animal in the party. Instead he gave me a pretty palomino mare named Kelly. She isn’t as fine as Glory or Prince Tulson’s stallion, but she’s well mannered and can hold her own with the rest of the party horses. Imato said that he would ride Buster himself, but Prince Tulson quickly vetoed this as inappropriate. Finally the matter was settled when Squire Leonard Thorn offered to ride him, being the youngest and lowest ranking member of the party (excluding Uncle W., the Westridges who were off somewhere and didn’t hear the argument, and myself).

In the afternoon Imato settled all of our debts (since Uncle W. lost all his traveling money when he was kidnapped) and then he and Uncle W. got into an argument over whether or not Uncle W. would pay him back when we got home. I didn’t stick around to hear the outcome, but what I did hear made me rather dread the return trip. Both Imato and Uncle W. seem to think they’re in charge.

We left in the first light of morning, going slowly for Father with his head covered and Glory whose pregnancy is starting to show. Mendel and Sean were in high spirits, racing their horses and charging off into the brush for an hour or more, only to return with ridiculous reports for Imato. Sometimes they pretended to be spies and other times scouts, either way they kept Imato in a foul temper.

“Couldn’t you just leave him alone?” I asked toward lunchtime after watching them return from yet another excursion.

“I would,” Mendel said brightly, “if he wouldn’t act so owlish. Doesn’t he realize we’re returning home in triumph? Not only did we find you and Lord Brio, but we also have Sir Etautca, Captain of the king’s army. The squire should be exultant!”

“Imato isn’t owlish,” I defended, “and Marigold is still missing and someone is trying to kill Keish…”

Mendel leaned in toward me, “Why do you think Sean and I keep taking off? We have to figure out where she was when she stepped out of the fairy circle. It must have been somewhere in this area so she could be near you. Besides, this party moves like a snail.”

“Imato is trying to keep us all safe,” I said.

“He’s trying to be his father, but I don’t remember ever hearing that Sir Quin was stoic.”

I humphed and moved my horse away. Mendel laughed and took off into the brush. Infuriated, I concentrated on working a tangle out of Kelly’s mane as I rode, but eventually my eyes strayed to Imato and I found Mendel’s words echoing in my ears.

Imato sat stiffly upright on Spriggs’s dapple-gray back. His entire face was stiff and concentrated. When someone spoke to him, he hardly turned in their direction, but listened with one ear and one eye, while the others focused firmly on his surroundings. Imato’s face is a well-organized combination of Mother and Father’s features. He has Mother’s small, fine nose and Father’s sturdy, cleft chin. His eyebrows are thick, arched, and expressive, his cheekbones high and well defined. Some men look chiseled and stony all the time. Imato only looks like this when he’s concentrating. Most of the time his face is soft and expressive, especially when he laughs. Lately he looks strained and tired, but I would not use the word owlish. Mendel is exaggerating.
That evening Mendel apologized to Imato. Then he suggested that he and Sean take a different route back to Odsreq. Imato was so haughty in his acceptance of the apology that he never asked why Mendel wanted to take a different path.

The next morning as we were setting off, Mendel pulled his tall gray stallion up to Kelly. He leaned over and whispered, “I’ve found traces of fairy magic; I’ll send you word as often as I can.” Then he pulled away before I could respond. Most of the company expressed relief at their disappearance, but I could only feel concern, torn between my desire to help Father and my fears for Marigold.

A couple days ago we decided to take the afternoon off, to rest Father and Glory. Uncle W., Prince Tulson, and Imato took off into the brush to hunt rabbits for stew, and I was left with Leonard and the soldiers. Leonard sat next to me and made small talk as if we were acquaintances meeting at a party after a long time. I never did know Leonard very well, and it’s been a couple of years since I last saw him, so maybe the awkward politeness makes sense. He’s taller than I remember and more muscular, but he still has the same pale green eyes and straw yellow hair that won’t quite lie flat. Neither of us mentioned my quest or our reason for traveling together. Leonard has always been a little shy, and today I felt shy too. I don’t know why.

Eventually I decided to wander along the edges of the shallow gully where we camped. I picked my way slowly without any real direction, without wandering very far from the campfire. When I got to the northern side of the gully I heard loud voices. Uncle W. and Imato were arguing. I would have turned right around and gone back to the fire, but I heard my name, and that made the conversation impossible to ignore.

“You can’t just lock Arri up in her bedroom for the rest of her life!” Imato was almost shouting,
“She won’t stand for it and neither will I.”

“Not using magic is not confining. Do you feel confined without magic?”

“What I have is hardly worth using and you know it. My best spell will make Gretel’s bouquets live a week or two longer before withering in the vase. Arri is different, and even you have been known to call dragons to your aid.”

“Only when death is preferable to my problem. Desert dragons have no qualms about eating their benefactors. I saw no other choice.”

“Arri will make the same argument. She’s too much like her mother. She has magic and she will
use it; she must use it.”

“Lady Arri,” I jumped and turned around. Prince Tulson smiled at me.

“I just wondered if you’d like to start the water boiling while I skin my rabbit,” he said, holding the poor thing up by the ears. I shuddered and looked away.

“It isn’t a dragon, my Lady,” he grinned. Why did he say that? It doesn’t really matter; I turned and followed him back to the campfire.

When we get back to Odsreq, I’m going to try to find the Solotun Mountains. With Imato, Uncle W., and the prince helping me, I’m sure we can figure out where you are, especially if you send me the names of the villages you have passed through. Then we can chart your course. I wish I could give you some help, but I’m not sure what you need.
I have to end now. It’s dark and I’m terribly tired. I can’t wait to get back to Odsreq. I will send for Liop at once, I miss him so.

May your path be warm and easy, and may winter be slow in coming.


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