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Arri- December 11, 2003

December 11, 2003
Dear Keish,
I’m so glad to hear that you’re safe! I think the best part about exchanging letters is that whenever I get a letter with your handwriting, I know immediately that you’re at least well enough to write. And after reading your last letter, I think that says a lot.
It must have been terrifying to fight someone using magic, but you handled it so quickly! It almost sounded like you had been practicing. But how could you practice fighting with magic? It isn’t like sparring with swords. I’m so glad Jace is with you.
Do you think Narls are the cause of my magic problems? Brynn has returned to Rousha, because she wants to look at a particular book in the castle library and she says she doesn’t dare send for it. She’ll come back as soon as she can. The Brio magic must be in your book for it to have changed when Brynn used her spell on me, and all Brio magic must be connected somehow. Perhaps that’s why Marigold can remember a promise even if she can’t remember who she made it to, or why. I think she made the promise to my mother, and that means that they were in contact after I was born. I wonder how long my magic has been like this. Did Mother know? Is that why she asked Marigold to protect me? Was I born like this? If I was born like this, can it be reversed? I hope Brynn finds out something at the library.
The other morning when I went out to tend Glory before breakfast, I found Imato already in the barn. He was standing in front of the bales of hay, brows furrowed in concentration, punching one bare fist after another into the dry, prickly blades.
“Imato!” I cried in shock.
Imato jumped with surprise and turned towards me. His eyebrows lifted and he lowered his fists, visibly red even in the shadows.
“Your hands,” I said, “what are you doing?”
Imato looked down and his raw-scraped knuckles. He quickly hid them behind his back.
“I don’t know where my gloves are,” he muttered, “and what are you doing out so late?”
I motioned to morning light streaming in through the barn door. “It’s not so late anymore,” I said.
“Zooks!” said Imato, accidentally brushing the back of his hand against a stable wall. I felt awkward, like I had intruded on something private, but I couldn’t ignore those hands.
“You need a poultice for that hand— I can make one,” I said. “Will you come to the kitchen?”
Imato followed me to the kitchen. I found my dry herbs in the cupboard and dampened them to make a poultice. Then I spread it over Imato’s knuckles, whispering Mother’s peace poem as I worked so the poultice would be full of goodwill. I was surprised to feel a little magic behind the familiar words this time, although I knew it lacked the strength of Mother’s voice.
Imato sighed. “It’s been a long time since I heard that poem,” he said.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Imato didn’t answer. I finished applying the poultice. Then I thought I should set some chamomile tea on the stove to heat and get the breakfast ingredients ready for when Nacks brought in the eggs and milk. But mostly I was thinking about Imato.
“Are you going back to Adya soon?” I asked finally, not looking at him.
Imato stood up from the table. He put one hand on my shoulder and made me face him.
“That’s just the point, Arri,” he said, “I’m not going back.” His face had that stoic look Father’s face has sometimes when he explains something difficult.
“But Imato…” I began in confusion. He overrode me.
“I’ve had everything backwards, Arri,” he continued firmly, “my first duty is to my family and I haven’t been doing it at all. No, just listen… it’s not me that needs to finish schooling, it’s you. All the swords and arrows in the world won’t bring Father’s memory back, but you might. Before he was interrupted by that last march, Father was interviewing tutors for you. You would have been trained in healing if things had continued. That was the most important thing.”
“But there wasn’t any money for that,” I protested, “it wasn’t your fault, and Father wanted you to become a knight. He was so proud…”
“There’s money now— I’ve been saving my salary. It’s not much, but it will get you started, and if I take a job in town— I can clerk or smithy— then I ought to be able to get you through the rest of it. I’ll go to the King for help if I have to, but you will become a healer.”
“What about Gretel?” I asked, “Aren’t you going back to Adya for her?”
Here Imato looked away. “She’ll understand,” he said slowly, “I’ve written her a letter…maybe in a few years if she hasn’t married someone else…”
“Arri, this is your time. Your life has been on hold long enough. All this time I’ve had everything I needed and you’ve had nothing. Well, look where we are now. Father needs you, and I’m going to see that you can help him.”
I stared at him. Then I looked away. I hadn’t told him about Brynn testing my magic. You’re the only one I told. I felt tears sting my eyes.
“What’s wrong?” asked Imato gently.
“I can’t do magic,” I blurted out, “I’m all torn up inside…” I explained about the crystal ball and the orange and Brynn’s hands. Imato sat back down and put his head in his hands.
“Then what can we do?” he asked, sounding helpless.
“Keish says Father needs a healer. Brynn says she can’t teach me anything, because she doesn’t understand what’s wrong with my magic.”
“Then maybe you can heal,” said Imato suddenly, “Brynn said herself that she’s never encountered anything like this before. She could be wrong about your magic— I’m sure she’s wrong!”
“But Brynn is…”
“Not Mother,” Imato interrupted quickly. “Surely if you weren’t capable of healing, Father would have known, and he wouldn’t have looked for a tutor. Brynn isn’t a healer, and Uncle W. says she has a tendency to jump to her own conclusions and then refuse to admit when she’s wrong.”
“But Uncle W. does that too…” I protested.
“You captured a griffon and rescued both Uncle W. and Father from the Narls. You have power, Arri. I’m sure of it.” And he refused to discuss the matter any further.
I thought about what Imato and Brynn had said for the rest of the day. I thought about your dream about Father and how I was the one who could heal him. I thought about Father’s sword and Imato’s knighthood and Uncle Winthrop. I felt like my head was spinning with words all jumbled up in a cyclone and contradicting each other, spreading chaos as they moved. I can’t solve this alone.
The next morning Imato announced that he was leaving for Rousha. Uncle Winthrop came out of hiding just long enough to give him a letter for the king. Imato saddled Spriggs and prepared to leave, but I just couldn’t let him go like that.
“Wait a minute!” I shouted just as he reached the gate. Imato turned back.
I ran upstairs to Uncle W.’s bedroom and pulled Father’s helmet and sword from the chest. I thought about all the trouble Uncle W. and I went to in order to keep it hidden on the way back from Onoff. I carried them down and placed them just out of sight inside the house.
“Come over here,” I told Imato. Looking puzzled, he got back down off Spriggs and walked up onto the porch.
“Arri, I really should be off…”
“This will only take a minute. Take off your sword belt and hat, and don’t ask questions.”
Imato raised one eyebrow, but he did as I said, setting the short squire’s sword and his green felt hat to one side.
“Now kneel down,” I commanded. Imato knelt.
I reached behind the door and brought out Father’s sword.
“You may not be the King’s knight,” I told him, “but I’m going to make you my knight, and Father’s knight.” I raised the sword and touched the tip of it briefly to each of his shoulders.
“You may now arise,” I told him.
Imato stood and I presented him with Father’s sword, hilt first.
“Arri!” he gasped when he realized what I was giving him.
“No questions!” I reminded, “You are now a knight of the Brio household.” I held out the helmet and Imato lowered his head so that I could put it on. It fit perfectly.
“You may now go forth on you first quest,” There were tears in my eyes again, and I wondered if I was just being a silly girl, but I felt earnest and Imato had tears in his eyes too. He hugged me.
“Take care, little sister,” he said.
“Godspeed,” I responded.
Imato remounted his horse and rode swiftly out the gate without looking back.
Do you think I did right? I wanted Imato to feel better, but maybe I should have waited until Imato’s birthday in ten days, or Christmas. But I don’t know when Imato will be back. I hope the king isn’t angry with me for giving Imato the sword and helmet too soon. I hope Father doesn’t mind. I wish I could tell him about it, but if I could do that, then I wouldn’t have had to give them to Imato anyway.
Uncle Winthrop came out of his office today. He went to speak to Lord Westridge, and when he came back he told me that we may be moving to Rousha. Lord Westridge will look for another tenant for the cottage, and Uncle W. will accept the assistance of King Trunsle. Uncle W. looks so helpless these days, and he won’t talk about anything. He helps me take care of Father, though. I asked him what Marigold’s real name was. He said it was Nysa and then refused to say anything more. It seems almost funny that we haven’t known it for so long and all I had to do was ask Uncle W. and he told me as though it were no big secret at all. It’s so hard to know what I’m allowed to talk about.
In the meantime there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do except help Nacks in the stable and try to keep Liop from doing too much magic. I never know what color things in the cottage are going to be anymore, or what size. Fortunately, Kestrel is very disturbed by these inconsistencies and always comes and gets me when Liop starts casting spells.
I’m glad you’re not seeing any snow yet. We had some, but it melted. The real winter storms should be coming soon though, so I hope you find the cave soon. I wonder which one it will be.
May the forest hide you well.

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