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Arri- October 24, 2003

October 24, 2003
Dear Keish,

I’m out of food, Keish. I had plenty for a few days for just me, but dividing it with Nozama and the hooded man… well, it’s gone now. Three days ago Nozama, Glory, and I went searching for Kestrel and Uncle Winthrop. We left the hooded man tied up, and when I came to a patch of grass near a stream, I put a rope around Glory’s neck. She’s a good horse; the rope is just to let her know I want her to stay in the clearing. I would have left Nozama with her, but he wouldn’t stay. With Glory safe, I trekked up the nearest mountain for a while, looking for some kind of trail to follow, but I’m not a tracker, so I didn’t find much.

I also kept my eyes open for anything edible. Eventually I came upon a plant that looked a little like a type of wild tuber. Curious and hopeful, I dug it up and brushed the dirt off. The root was as thick as a large carrot and bright yellow. It looked like a smaller relative of the yellow sweet potatoes that Uncle W. is so fond of. My stomach growled as I sliced into it with my knife and smelled it, trying to decide if taking a bite was too risky. Suddenly Nozama jumped from my shoulder and jerked the tuber away from me. Then the greedy little creature dashed up the nearest tree where he devoured the tuber hungrily while I struggled up through the thorny branches after him. I was halfway up the tree, when a branch broke beneath me and I tumbled down. Nozama chattered with amusement and rubbed his belly. I rubbed my bruises and stared up at him, watching to see if he got sick, and feeling miserable with worry. Nozama groomed himself thoroughly and then began picking through the waxy tree leaves for insects. I waited for more than two hours, but the tamarin never even coughed. Finally, feeling hopeful, I began searching for another tuber, but I didn’t find any.

Nozama and I searched most of the day, but we didn’t find any signs of Uncle W., so in the late afternoon we went back to the clearing where I left Glory. The mare nickered when she saw me, and on her back Kestrel stretched and meowed. I was so glad to see Kestrel that I started crying. I sat her on my lap and brushed through her soft fur while she purred and batted at my braided hair. She didn’t seem hungry, and that was good, because I didn’t have anything for her. Next I tried to brush Nozama, but he clambered up a tree, and refused to come down. Finally I rubbed Glory all over with the piece of cloth from my petticoat and we all set off back to where I left the hooded man.

But he wasn’t there.

Keish, I’m sure I tied him securely. I’m very good with knots—Father taught me. I looked all over, but I couldn’t find any sign of him, not even any footprints. My whole body felt cold as ice, and I slept that night sitting up against the trunk of a tree with Father’s sword unsheathed on my lap. Actually, I didn’t sleep very much, and I woke up more tired than I went to bed.

There’s nothing to tell about today. I kept Glory with me and together we all wandered until I had no idea where we were in relation to where the griffon abandoned us. I found a grove with some elderberries, which Nozama and I ate until I had a stomachache. Then I helped Kestrel catch insects. We stayed close to the stream so Glory would have plenty of grass and water. I was so lost I didn’t know what to do. There was no sign of human life anywhere. Keish, I know I get myself into messes sometimes, but usually Imato or Father figures out how to get me out again. I guess I didn’t think about what I was doing as thoroughly as I should have.

October 28, 2004

You’re letter is the greatest relief to me. If Imato hadn’t told me that he is on his way, I would have asked you to send him. It’s awful to think how much trouble I’m causing people. I thought I was going to be a hero, but all I really am is a maiden in distress, and it’s not the least bit romantic, or even fun. It's terrifying.

By evening I was so hungry I could hardly walk anymore, and little Nozama was curled up on Glory’s back looking very limp. It’s not good for tamarins to go so long without food. Only Glory and Kestrel seemed okay. The sky darkened and I could see another storm coming in with lots of dry lightning and very little rain. The trail we were following turned away from the stream to go around what looked in the twilight like a pile of boulders. We could have crossed the stream and followed on the other side of it, but it was dark and I wasn’t sure how slippery the stones in the streambed would be, so we stayed on the trail. I thought we’d come back to the stream again, but after a couple of hours when we didn’t see any sign of water I began to get worried for Glory. I’ve been trying very hard not to let her have any more stress than she already has had. I can’t tell if she’s already lost the foal, but I hope she hasn’t.

We walked a long time and I don’t remember very much about it. I only remember thinking over and over that Glory needed water. Sometimes I saw the golden bridle she was wearing sparkle with the flashes of lightning. I don’t remember when we stopped.

The first thing I remember next was light all around me and a feeling of great comfort. It felt like I was back home in my own bed and all of the desert and storms were part of some terrible nightmare. I wasn’t cold, but I was still hungry. I moved a little, thinking how strange the dream of the griffon had been and wondering if it was a warning. Then I opened my eyes.

I wasn’t in my room. Overhead the bare wooden beams of a cabin arched across a steep vaulted ceiling. I jerked up in bed with such force that my head spun and my eyes blacked out for a few seconds.

“Oh!” cried an unfamiliar voice, and in moment a young girl, maybe twelve years old, dashed across the room and knelt beside me.

“Are you awake now, miss?” she asked anxiously. She was not very tall, maybe an inch or two shorter than I am. She had black curly hair, dark eyes, and a beautiful tan complexion.

My voice failed me; I just stared.

“Grandfather found you in the woods last night,” the girl spoke rapidly, “you had a horse, a cat, and a baby elf with you. He put the horse in the stable, but the cat and the elf are here asleep. My name is Flora, and Grandfather’s name is Treythan. Do you speak English?”

“Yes,” I faltered, wondering about the baby elf and feeling very disoriented.

“Oh, I’m glad of that! Grandfather said you mightn’t, and we never have visitors, so I was afraid I couldn’t talk to you at all, which would have been very dismal, since I never have anyone to talk to except Grandfather—I like talking to him, but he knows so much more than me that sometimes I wonder if I have anything worthwhile to say…” Her smile faltered briefly and then brightened.

“I have bread dough on the table and fish in the oven. Do you like fish? Grandfather says some people do and some don’t—which is how it is about most things in this world. Grandfather goes fishing every morning and brings home rainbow trout for breakfast. He’s in the stable tending your mare now. Did you know that she’s with foal? Please don’t be offended, but I thought you should know that it isn’t good to ride a mare that’s with foal. Grandfather said you might already know that and be offended by my telling you, but you aren’t offended are you?”

“No,” I said, and she took off talking again while I tried to focus my thoughts enough to get a word in edgewise. I wanted two things—to tell her I was hungry and to ask where I was. My stomach was twisting inside of me angrily and I felt faint. I won’t repeat everything she said for you; I don’t remember all of it, but by listening I eventually had several of my questions answered without even having to ask them. Flora and Treythan live in a cabin on the south side of Mount Nescer a couple of days west of a village called Onoff. I can’t give you a more exact location, because they don’t have any maps. Treythan traveled widely in his youth, but Flora has never ventured more than a mile or two from the cabin. They have very few books. I eventually figured out that the “elf” was actually Nozama. Flora and Treythan have never seen a tamarin or any other type of small primate before, so when they found Nozama they made the best guess they could, or more correctly Flora guessed and Treythan went along with it.

Flora’s grandfather, Treythan, is a tall, thin gentleman, somewhat darker than his granddaughter with a stern, but kind face. I think he’s in his sixties, but full of energy with eyes exactly like Flora’s, only much more serious. He found me alone, lying curled up in a small clearing just beyond the front yard of the cabin. What brought him to me was the sound of Glory whinnying repeatedly, which woke him up. She calmed down the minute he found her.
They kept me in bed most of the day, feeding me fish, berries, and a variety of squashes and tubers, including the yellow one Nozama ate. They were very nice and patient with Nozama who, as soon as he had a few berries inside him, began tearing around the room and wrecking havoc among the pots and pans that hung on hooks from the ceiling. The cabin has only three rooms: a large room that works for cooking, dining, and general living; and two small bedrooms. There is also a dirt cellar for food storage under the main room. They access it through a trap door with a ladder. The entire cabin would fit inside the top floor of the tower where you live (at least it would fit inside the old one; I haven’t seen your new tower yet). It is made of split logs and white mortar made from glacial till.

When I offered them a silver coin to pay for my room and board, they examined the coin very carefully and then returned it, politely informing me that they already had two in their collection just like it. Then they asked if they could see the rest of my coins and perhaps trade for any they didn’t have yet. I let them look, but they were terribly disappointed, because they already had at least two of each kind. So they didn’t let me give them any money and since I had nothing else of value to offer, I attempted to repay them by helping Flora card wool and mend clothing. Cook would be very proud of me, because she is the one I learned from.

Only after I was fed and rested could I get them to listen seriously to anything I said. I think it is part of their culture to tend to a guest’s physical needs before anything else. Eventually, however, I was allowed to explain myself. I didn’t tell them everything, because I don’t really know them. They seem trustworthy, but I don’t want to act rashly. I told them that I was looking for Winthrop Brio, who had disappeared some months previously. I said that their cabin was near his last know location and asked if they had seen anything unusual. Flora immediately burst into a flurry of talk that moved so quickly it was hard to listen to. It ended, though, with her admitting that she hadn’t seen any trace of human life in months. Treythan, after patiently listening to his granddaughter, sent her to check on the horses. Then he began to talk.

“Is Winthrop Brio a descendent of Brio of Thalthin?” he asked first. I nodded.

“Well that explains something,” he paused thoughtfully, and I waited.

“I am the last magical descendent of the Maurisald line,” he continued hesitantly, “but don’t expect much of it. The magic I’m detecting in you is much more powerful than my own.”

“You have magic?” I asked.

“Only a little,” he said slowly, “Magic is mainly inherited, but it can still be lost over generations if no one takes steps to strengthen it, and no one has attempted to strengthen the Maurisald line for over a hundred years.”

“Why?” I asked, but he ignored the question.

“I tell you this now, because you are Brio, and bound to start asking me questions anyway.” He sighed wistfully. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t know how to respond. For a few minutes silence grew between us. Treythan walked to a nearby window and looked out.

“You cannot stay here,” he said finally, “—more than a few days. I will send a crow to look for your uncle. Someone called on the dusties a few days ago, and I can only think it was him, because no dragon would respond to a Narl. When the crow returns, he will take you to your uncle, or if he found nothing, he will guide you to Onoff. You can borrow my gelding and spare your poor mare. She’s still with foal, but she needs rest and comfort. I’m not strong, Miss. My only purpose is to protect my granddaughter from the evil that haunts all magical families.”

“Magic isn’t evil,” I said, thinking of Uncle Winthrop.

“Of course not!” he responded, “but it attracts evil like wasps around a sweet, stagnant puddle of water. I’ve already lost my wife and son to it.” He kept his back turned toward me so I couldn’t see his face, but his voice was harsh and angry.

“I’m sorry, sir,” I whispered.

“Well, they got what they were looking for, I suppose,” he grumbled, “but they might have thought about the baby—no one thinks about the next generation when it comes to magic.”
He wasn’t talking to me anymore. He was talking to someone just beyond my range of perception, a memory perhaps. I wanted to ask more questions, but I didn’t dare. He walked out of the cabin without another word, and I was left to wonder about things.

I have to finish this letter quickly now, so I can send it back to you. The new pigeon Clotho is beautiful. Hermes keeps inching closer to her and coo-ing softly, but she’s a proud little thing and won’t let him get too close.

Your mother’s fairy story is amazingly like my mother’s. I really enjoyed reading it—it seems like proof that we’re on the right track to finding out what happened to Marigold/Mariel. I wish I knew her real name, and where she is right now. At least we know that she isn’t Pricille. I hope Pricille is alive; I wonder if we could try to contact her son. If he’s a fairy, he might know something about Marigold.

The dreams about your mother are back? I wish I knew more about dreams and could tell you if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t like omens—well not bad ones, anyway.
I hope your father is doing better. I’ve been praying for him. I wish I could do more.

If you can get a message to Imato, please tell him that I will try to get to the swan formation in seven days—that’s how long Treythan thinks it will take him to catch up to me. I really did jump a long ways, didn’t I? It didn’t seem so far from the griffon’s back. Tell the Prince and Mendel they have my gratitude for coming after me. I’m so anxious to them (even Mendel!) that I can hardly put pen to paper to write this.

Keish please keep an eye on Liop and don’t let him go chasing after Imato. Tell him I am all right, and that I love him. I’m glad Jace is staying. I remember Imato praising his courage once, although I don’t remember the reason. Tell Gretel thank you for the clothing—I can think of little I would appreciate more right now since my dress is in tatters. I am glad that Brynn and Taty are with you to help with everything. I would like to see Taty again.

Now I think I am going to try and sneak out of the cabin to see Glory. Kestrel and Nozama are chasing each other’s tails, and Flora is laughing at them, so I think I can get away with it.
I hope that your Father gets well soon. Give everyone my love.



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