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Arri- November 3, 2003

November 3, 2003
Dear Keish,

Are you all right? Where are you? What are you doing? I know I ran off too, but I’m so worried. Adventuring is so much harder than it looks. I feel like my whole world is upside down again. It’s not quite the same as when Father died, or Mother, but it’s frightening, and I feel so small. I hope you feel brave and strong, and that you know what you’re doing. I’m glad Jace is with you. He won’t abandon you. You won’t be alone.

How are you traveling? Do you have horses to ride? Does Uncle Adlen know you’re gone? I have a letter from Gretel explaining everything that happened. She says you got a letter from Uncle W., and that someone tried to poison you. Do you know who? Have you had any visions about it? Do you know anything more about Brynn’s prophecy? I have too many questions.

I will pause here and think, because I have so much to tell you, but I have to tell it in order or it won’t make sense. Besides, Nozama just came inside covered in dirt and he’s scattering it all through Treythan and Flora’s cabin. I need to catch him and clean up.

The morning after I got your letter, I woke up just at dawn. Treythan and Flora were still asleep, so I stepped quietly out to the stables to see Glory. Glory looks marvelously better now that she’s rested and had some oats to eat. I found a brush and set to work making her chocolate coat shine as much as possible. She’s looking rounder now, and when I held my hand up against her belly, I could feel movement. The foal isn’t due until April, but sometimes I feel like I can almost feel its presence. After I brushed Glory, I brushed Treythan’s gelding and the pair of nanny goats. Nozama and Kestrel chased each other playfully around hay bales, and I found a rake to clean out the stables. Then I gave everyone fresh hay, and found an apple for Nozama.I was headed back to the cabin to see about a milking pail when I almost ran into Treythan coming around the side of the house. He still looked a little sleepy and very surprised to see me.

“There you are!” he said, “what have you been up to?”

“Taking care of the animals,” I told him. He looked me up and down.

“Do noble young ladies do stable work these days?” he asked.

I felt my face turn bright red. I put my hands behind my back to hide the dirt in my fingernails and looked down. I couldn’t help it. Treythan clucked thoughtfully.

“Well there isn’t any harm in it,” he said more kindly, “but you’ll want to scrub that dress and clean your hands before Lord Brio arrives.”

That struck me as funny, because Uncle W. is the one who gave me permission to learn about stable work in the first place. I looked boldly back up at Treythan.

“What should I do?” I asked.

“Whatever pleases you,” Treythan responded, and he walked away from me. I thought that stable work pleases me very much, but I didn’t dare say so out loud. Instead I went inside to see
if Flora was awake yet.

I found Flora sitting on the floor of the cabin with my satchel open and Mother’s fairy book open in her lap. She looked up at me with a bright smile.

“Good morning, Arri!” she exclaimed, “Your fairytales are wonderful!”
She looked down at the book with a child-like expression of joy. I sat down next to her and together we read a couple of the stories. Flora had never heard anything like them before. She was enchanted. After we finished, Flora made pancakes and we drenched them in apricot jam. Treythan joined us, and we had a pleasant breakfast. I started to help Flora with the dishes, but Treythan stopped me. He seemed convinced that Uncle W. would be upset if he found out what I’d been up to. Keish, sometimes I really feel confused about what’s expected of me.

After breakfast, Flora pulled me outside to talk. She led me around the cabin, telling stories about the garden and pointing out the remains of summer birds’ nests. Then, with a secretive smile she led me into the woods to the crumbling remains of a lightning struck tree. The circumference of the stump was like a wagon wheel; most of the bark had disintegrated, leaving smooth yellow wood streaked black where the lightning burned it. Flora began removing clusters of dry gray moss from the top of the stump.

“You showed me your treasures, so I’m going to show you mine,” she explained eagerly. I knelt down in the leaves near the stump and watched. I soon discovered that the stump was hollow inside, and that Flora hid her treasures inside it.

The first thing Flora showed me was a creamy white conch shell the size of a small summer squash. The outside of the shell looked rougher than it really was. Flora set in my hand and gave me a long history of its origins while I listened to the murmur of the sea. It reminded me of mother and father and the house we lived in near Dock-and-Green just two hours by carriage from your palace in Arella. I was only five and we only lived there a year, but I remember it. I bought a shell like Flora’s from a shop in town. Imato told me that if I sang into it, mermaids would be able to hear me out in the ocean. I’d like to see that house again.

The second thing Flora withdrew was a long slender piece of well polished wood.

“A magic wand,” I breathed in wonder, and I felt a chill as I said it.

“There isn’t any magic left,” Flora said as she handed it to me, “Grandfather wouldn’t let me keep it if it still had magic.” She sighed with disappointment.

“Whose was it?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Flora said, “I found it in the woods. It was all dry and starting to crack, so I sanded it and polished it. It looks almost new, don’t you think?”

I’ve never seen a wand before, though of course I know about them. They can be terribly dangerous. Imato asked Uncle W. about them once and he said that most people make wands to use as tools for focusing and strengthening their magic, but if someone steals your wand, they can use it to drain all of your magic. That’s why wands are so rare. Once you make one, it’s hard to destroy. Listening to Uncle W., I sometimes wonder why anyone would want to make a wand.Flora’s wand felt strangely hollow in my hand. I didn’t like the sensation, so I returned it to her quickly. Flora explained to me that even though she doesn’t have any magic of her own, that she’s “magic sensitive”, and can tell when people or things have magic in them. I guess it’s the last trace of her magical heritage, and it makes me sad to think of her being able to sense magic without being able to use it.

Flora returned the wand carefully to the stump. Her smile turned secretive again.
“This is the best thing,” she said dramatically, “I found it, but I never showed Grandfather. It still has magic in it, you see, so Grandfather would never let me keep it.”

Slowly and reverently, she withdrew a large, slightly concave piece of metal. It was so highly polished that I could see my reflection upside-down like in a spoon, but much larger. I took the metal into my hand and immediately felt a surge of strong magic. It was a piece of silvered steel armor. I don’t know for sure what part of the suit it came from because the piece wasn’t whole. However, the broken edges were so smooth that it must have been broken a long time ago. I turned the piece over to look for etchings which would tell me where it came from and how old it was, but the piece was smooth on both sides, completely featureless.

“Do you know what it is?” asked Flora eagerly.

I told her it was a piece of armor. This excited her and she asked a flurry of questions about it, but I couldn’t answer most of them. I know a lot about armor normally, but this piece baffled me. I kept thinking that it must have had etchings at one time and they wore off. I told Flora this and she got a broad smile on her face, but she didn’t say anything.

Much later that night, I was sleeping very soundly with Nozama and Kestrel curled up next to me, when I felt someone shake me gently. I opened my eyes to see Flora grinning at me.
“Come outside,” she whispered, “but don’t wake Grandfather!”

I gently moved Nozama to my pillow, and followed Flora outside with Kestrel prancing alongside us, delighted to be allowed outside in the moonlight. Flora led me back to the stump in the woods. The night air was chilly and we were both wrapped in patchwork quilts. Dramatically, Flora cleared off the moss from the stump. Then she lifted something out, keeping it hidden behind her quilt while she led me to clearing filled with dewy, yellow grass sparkling in the moonlight.

“Look!” said Flora, and she opened her blanket to reveal the piece of armor she had shown me that morning.

But the silvered steel was no longer smooth and featureless. I took the cold metal into my hands and held it out before my face. It was a piece of breast-plate with a large, intricately etched coat of arms in the center—a hart rearing over a shield shape. The hart was exactly like the one on the helmet I saw in the cave the first time I held a magnifying glass over my fairy book. The shield contained a pair of flowers on long intertwined stems and three stars at the top. Of course you will recognize this design—it is the Brio Family Crest. But I’ve never seen our crest paired with a hart before. The hart doesn’t belong to any crest I’m familiar with. I think maybe it’s a very old symbol that isn’t used anymore. Father has a book in his library that might tell us about it, but it’s in storage with the rest of Imato’s, Liop’s, and my inheritance. We can’t have it until Imato gains his knighthood. I didn’t say very much to Flora about the piece of armor. I didn’t know what to say.

The next day, I got up early and went out to the stable to brush Glory. I didn’t dare do anything else though. Then I went back inside. Flora heated some water in their brick oven so I could bathe myself. After all my adventures, it felt wonderful to be clean again! While I was bathing, Flora scrubbed my cotton traveling dress. Most of the stains came out, but it is starting to look rather worn, and the lace collar is ruined beyond repair, so I removed it from the dress and gave it to Kestrel to play with. Once I was dressed again I spent most of the remainder of the day helping Flora card wool (apparently Treythan considers this a lady-like activity). Not much else happened until evening.

Flora had just put soup over the hearth for dinner when someone knocked at the door. We all looked up, and Treythan opened the door.

“Excuse me,” came a man’s voice, “I’m looking for…” but I didn’t give him time to finish.

“Uncle W.!” I shouted, racing for the door. I pushed Treythan out of my way so that I could throw my arms around Uncle Winthrop. He laughed and hugged me back.

“Are you well, Arri?” he demanded when I finally let go of him.

I immediately started trying to fill him in on everything that had happened since his disappearance, but he stopped me.

“You must be well if you can talk that fast!” he laughed, “but let’s save explanations for later, child.” I fell silent while Uncle W. and Treythan introduced themselves and Flora jumped in with her own introductions. Then Treythan and Flora insisted we all rest in front of the fire until dinner was ready. It was the same sort of treatment I received when I first arrived—physical needs first, explanations later. Uncle W. accepted everything they offered with respect and gratitude. I expected him to try and offer them money, as I had, but he didn’t offer them anything. Only after he had answered all of their polite (and not too personal) questions, did he ask permission to walk outside with me for a while.

By the time we got outside, I felt like I was going to explode with everything I wanted to tell him, and it seemed impossible to get everything said quickly enough. Uncle W. kept stopping me to ask questions and to slow me down. I tried to ask him questions from time to time, but he just shook his head and told me continue my tale. Occasionally my words surprised him, but not often. And he wasn’t at all angry at me for coming after him. In fact, he didn’t scold me about anything. Only after he had heard my side of the story was he willing to tell me his, and then he spoke with great reluctance. I stayed quiet through all of it, feeling that questions might only make him more reluctant.

All this happened October 30th, so I didn’t have Gretel’s letter yet, and I didn’t know anything. Everything Uncle W. said was new to me. He told me about hearing an impossible rumor that my father was alive, and about being captured by the Narls. He told me about everything, except one thing. Not once did he mention the hooded man, or even suggest he ever existed. Finally, I couldn’t stand this anymore.

“What about the hooded man?” I asked.

Uncle W. said nothing.

“Do you know who he is?” I asked.

“He doesn’t know who he is himself,” said Uncle W. quietly. He put his arm around me. “He attacked the camp one night shortly after the Narls returned from trying to kidnap you. I don’t know why—he hardly seemed aware of what he was doing. I think the Narls would have killed him in a moment if I hadn’t stopped them.”

“How did you stop them if you were all tied up with rope and spells?” I asked immediately.Silence. I felt a chill run through me.

“How?” I asked again, more softly.

“I told them who he was,” said Uncle Winthrop.

I didn’t understand.

“You recognized him?” I asked.

“The moment I saw him, I knew who he was, and when I told the Narls, they saw that keeping him alive might be useful.”

“Who— ?” I stopped short. Tears were rolling down Uncle Winthrop’s face and into his short, coarsely cut beard.

“It is Quin,” he whispered, “your father, Arri.”

We had been walking along the edge of Treythan’s vegetable patch. I stopped short. I think Ialmost fainted. I didn’t say anything; my mind was completely blank.

“Oh, Arri, I’m so sorry for telling you,” said Uncle W., “I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t even know how to help him. He’s lost all his memories.” Uncle W. put his large, strong hands over his face and began to sob. In the moonlight, his light brown hair looked gray and he looked much older than I have ever seen him look.

It took a long time for me to pull my thoughts together, but when I did, I started to shout in a kind of desperation.

“Where is he?” I demanded, “We have to find him! What happened to him? Has he seen a healer?”

Uncle W. let me shout myself hoarse. Then he shook his head sadly.

“Of course we’ll find him, Arri,” he said finally, “but you have to understand that it isn’t Sir Quin we’re looking for—it’s a mad woodsman. He won’t just come running when we call, and he won’t come willingly when we find him.”

“He’ll come,” I said helplessly.

“No, Arri,” said Uncle W. gently, “but don’t worry. We’ll get him to a doctor, and a home for people with troubles like his. Perhaps they can help him.”

I didn’t say anything. I felt like the ground was moving underneath me—like the world was turning upside-down. My father was back, but not really.

I won’t say anything more about that night, Keish. I need to finish this letter and send it.The next morning, Uncle W. and Treythan had a long talk that I wasn’t allowed to listen to, so I went out to the garden with Flora. But I didn’t want to play. Flora chattered until she realized I wasn’t listening. Then she fell silent.

Eventually they came out to the garden with us and told us their plans. Uncle W. and I would leave for Onoff the next morning. Then Uncle W. would leave me at an inn while he returned to search for my father. He promised to return in a week if he didn’t find father to tell me about the search. He also promised not to give up until Father was found. And he said I could stay at the inn until then.

Flora threw a temper tantrum when she heard the plan and insisted that I could stay with her, but Treythan stood firm and though I could see that it pained him to refuse her, he did so. Finally she ran off in a temper, and I was left alone to pack.

We left the next morning, borrowing Treythan’s gelding for me to ride, and leading Glory with Kestrel and Nozama on her back. Gretel’s letter came when we were in Onoff. I read it first and then gave it Uncle W., explaining who Gretel was. He read it slowly with a worried frown on his face. Then he handed it back to me.

“Keish really should have confided in her father,” he said.

“But Uncle Adlen hasn’t been well,” I defended you.

Uncle W. shook his head, and didn’t say anything else. I tried to ask about the prophecy, but he told me to wait until later, whenever that is.

So I am here in an inn in Onoff with orders to wait for Imato to arrive. I feel like I’m about to go crazy. The innkeeper, a man named Franz Journey, has been promised money to keep track of me. In order to comply with this, he ordered me into the kitchen to help his wife prepare meals. Mrs. Journey is a nice lady, but I’m not used to being watched so much, and I long to go walking alone sometimes, but of course that isn’t allowed.

Keish, I will do anything to help my father. Surely there must be something I can do to restore his memory—a potion, a spell, something…! Please help me! I wish I had Mother’s healing skills. I feel ready to brave the desert and mountains again, if it will help me find a cure. I feel so desperate!

I know that you have a lot on your mind already, and that you’re having your own adventure, but maybe our adventures are connected. Maybe you feel drawn to the Cave of Wishes because the cure for my father is there. I don’t know. I’ve always been told that the water is dangerous, but Liop drank it, and he’s all right. Maybe… maybe…

Please write back soon and let me know how you are. I’ve lost so many people; I don’t want to lose you too. Be careful!


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