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Arri- November 26, 2003

November 26, 2003
Dear Keish,

Do your feet hurt? My feet are so sore they feel numb, and I think you’ve been doing a lot more walking than I have. I’ve never been as far south as you are traveling. Father has always been stationed in the northwest or the central part of Elcaro. Is it warmer where you are? Are you traveling on roads, or criss-crossing through the countryside? Uncle Winthrop says I should have new shoes—work shoes like servants wear. The day shoes I wore when I left Odsreq are meant for ladies who don’t have adventures. Are your shoes good? Perhaps I could send you some new ones…

Kelly is a good horse for riding, but I’m not used to riding all day, so I kept getting off and walking because my back ached, and then I would ride again because my feet hurt. Imato and the others are invincible. They stayed on their horses and never even looked tired. I guess I’ll get used to adventures in time. Imato says he hopes I won’t.

We arrived back in Odsreq two days ago. We spent a couple of hours moving Imato’s things into Liop’s room and then preparing Imato’s room for Father. Uncle W. installed the security bars on all the windows (because it would look strange if we only put one on Father’s bedroom window). Then Uncle Winthrop sent a message for the doctor to come look at Father the next morning. Then we all went to bed without dinner, while Cook scolded us for being too tired to eat.

It was nearly noon before Doctor Stoddart wandered up the long cobblestone road to the cottage with his black bag in one hand and a nasty looking pipe in the other. He wore a black trench coat and stylish top hat with a white feather. Uncle W. and Imato both pounced on me before I could even get to the door to greet him. They insisted I take a walk in the garden and wait until after the examination.

“You make sure he leaves that dirty pipe outside,” I warned.

It was more than I could resist, so out I went, but I circled around the cottage and sat on the front steps under Father’s window in hopes of hearing something. I would have climbed out onto the roof, but I knew Uncle W. would catch me. They were awfully quiet up there for a long time, and I was afraid Uncle W. and Imato would try to sneak the doctor back outside without my noticing, but they didn’t. After an hour the door opened and Imato poked his head out.

“You can stop trying to eavesdrop and come back in,” he said.

I followed Imato into the den where I found Uncle W. and Doctor Stoddard sitting in the den chairs. Two more chairs had been brought in from the kitchen for Imato and I. We sat down.

“I haven’t touched my pipe,” Dr. Stoddard began (we had that discussion when he came to treat Aegolius so many months ago).

“Yes, thank you,” said Uncle W.

“What is your prognosis?” asked Uncle W. I opened my eyes wider than before. Hadn’t the doctor already told them? Hadn’t they already discussed what was fit for my ears?
No, they hadn’t. It was evident on their anxious faces, and the awkward, unhappy look of the doctor.

“It’s really a very complicated case,” he began, “much too complicated for a country doctor.” He reached for his pipe, shook himself, and folded his hands in his lap.

“Trauma to the head, as you suspected,” he said finally, “the other damaged has healed over. I know it looks bad, but there isn’t anything that anyone can do about the scars.”

“And his memory?” asked Imato.

The doctor shook his head slowly, “Not that there isn’t hope,” he continued, “I have a friend, an expert in these cases, a mental physician in Rousha. He is the master physician of the mental home there. I suggest you take Sir Etautca to him, but you need to understand that this is a long-term commitment.”

“Long term?” asked Uncle W.

“Yes, I’m suggesting Doctor Rascada for two reasons: first, he knows more about head trauma and memory loss than anyone else in Elcaro; second, his facility will provide your father with a safe comfortable home for as long as he is there.”

“A mental house,” Imato murmured, dropping his head on his chest.

“I’m sorry,” said Doctor Stoddard.

“Do they have a healer there?” I asked.

“I don’t know—healers are rare, Arri,” he told me, “but I’m sure if you contact King Trunsle, he will be more than willing to put you in touch with one. Sir Etautca was, after all, the captain of his army, and one of the finest Elcaro has seen in a long time.”

“Thank you,” said Uncle Winthrop, rising. He escorted the doctor to the door before I could ask any more questions. As soon as he was beyond the gate, I turn to Uncle W.

“We will send for a healer, won’t we?” I asked.

“I won’t discuss anything with you right now, Arri,” Uncle W. responded, “This treatment will be very expensive… I need some time to think about how I will pay for it.”

“The King will help,” began Imato.

“You can sell my jewelry,” I volunteered.

“Thank you, Arri, and the King will do no such thing. Not while I’m the head of this household. We’re not beggars. We can take care of ourselves.”

“This is Sir Quin Etautca, Captain of the Royal Army! It’s not charity we’re asking for.”

“It is as far as I’m concerned. Now I asked you to let me think.” Uncle W. shut the door of the den in our faces.

“Stubborn, proud, narrow-minded camel!” Imato yelled at the door, “Do you really think the water in your humps will last forever? I’ll write to King Trunsle myself if you won’t.”
Uncle Winthrop didn’t answer.

Imato stormed through the house for a while, muttering under his breath. Then he decided to walk into town and check the post office, and I decided to walk over to the Westridge’s manor and visit Lady Clara. I walked slowly, thinking about the advice you gave me about making sure that Father is tended to by a healer. Dr. Stoddard is right; there aren’t many healers in Elcaro, maybe a dozen at the most. Mother had an apprentice named Miss Perlita Trenholme when I was young. She stayed with us until Liop was two months old, teaching me how to care for him. I don’t know what I would have done without her, especially those first few weeks after Mother died. I wish I knew where Miss Perlita is now.

I met Lady Clara halfway there. She had heard that we were back and was on her way to see me. We found an old log to sit on and talked until the sun started to set and the air grew uncomfortably chilly. I told her everything that had happened. Clara is a great listener. She advised me to focus on getting Father to the mental home in Rousha. She said that in a big city like that—and especially with the palace so close by—I should be able to find a healer to help me. She said I might even be able to go behind Uncle W.’s back, but I don’t like that idea at all.

When I returned home that evening, I found a letter waiting for me from Mendel. Imato seemed surprised that Mendel and Sean weren’t back yet, and asked about it. I said I never knew what Mendel was thinking. I took the letter upstairs to my bedroom to read it and I’m glad I did!

“My dearest, darling-est, flowery-est Arri,” the letter began in loopy, exaggerated handwriting.

I felt my face begin to burn, and I almost tossed the letter away without reading anymore. But I really wanted to hear something about Marigold. The letter continued in the most ridiculous language to describe Mendel’s decision that he would travel the world in search of some seeds from the “Rare White Marigold” to plant for me in my garden. Although many miles of searching had produced no sign of the plant, he felt certain that if he continued traveling in a southeasterly direction, using Muriel’s Constellation for guidance, that he would ultimately find the “Lost Star”. Throughout the journey, he hoped to “thrill” me many times with his daring and courage.

I hid the letter under my mattress. Surely Mendel could think of some better way of disguising his letter than with sappy romantic prose! I knew the minute I walked downstairs Imato would ask me about the letter, and if I didn’t have a ready explanation, I would turn bright red trying to think of one and then Imato would suspect all sorts of things that weren’t true. But what could I say? I feel sorry for Mendel’s future girlfriend, if that’s how he chooses to address her. In the end I was spared the trouble by Imato inviting the other knights to dinner before sending them back to their original duties. It wasn’t until the next morning that he made reference to the letter.

“I hope you don’t take Mendel seriously,” he said to me as I ran my hands over Glory, feeling the foal move beneath her ribs.

“No more than I have to,” I responded.

“Then you’re not interested in him?” asked Imato.

“As what?” I asked.

“As a beau,” Imato can be very straightforward about some things.

“No,” I said, and Imato smiled with relief. He never did ask me what was in the letter.

After breakfast I paid a call on Treany to apologize for abandoning her and to find out the local gossip. Fortunately, Treany is a very forgiving person. She told me that the village was full of rumors that I had eloped with Prince Tulson. She was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t true.
There isn’t much left to say about what is happening here, but there’s a lot to say about what isn’t happening. Uncle W. and Imato aren’t speaking to each other. Father can’t be let out of his room. And Nozama is too exhausted from the adventure to torment Kestrel. In fact, I think Kestrel is the only one of us who feels like her problems are over, and she’s very smug about it.
I don’t know what to do Keish. I want to help Father and I want to find Marigold. Do you think Marigold may go to the society of fairies that you found in the Solotun Mountains? How do the fairies find that place? Do they just wander in that direction? Mendel said that Marigold seems to be traveling southeast. I found the Solotuns in one of Uncle W.’s atlases. They are southeast (but mostly south) of where we were when Mendel left us. If Marigold is going to the Solotuns, then maybe you should delay your journey to the Midaeans. Or maybe she is going to the Midaeans too. Or maybe she is still looking for me, and making a roundabout journey to Odsreq. Or maybe she is just wandering aimlessly or has been kidnapped, or something else. Or maybe I’m just wasting my ink on worries.

Darius must be a very kind person to be helping the other fairies. It sounds like he has the same gift of divination that you do. Are there very many of them? Did you see how they are living? I always thought of fairies as very rare, but maybe they aren’t.

Imato just walked in. He said to ask you if it would be appropriate to ask Brynn to escort Liop back to Odsreq. He would rather ask Gretel, but he knows that her parents would never allow it. The only other choice is for Imato to go and get him, but that would mean leaving father in the hands of that “camel-minded uncle of ours”.

Imato just told me to scratch that last sentence out—it’s military slang, and not appropriate for young ladies. I’m glad he cant see the third page of this letter!

I’m running out of space to write again. Sometimes I wish Hermes were a raven or some other large bird that can carry more weight. I feel bad for him having to fly so far all the time, but I know the magic makes his journeys fast and safer than they would be otherwise.

I’m glad that you are meeting good people and finding help along your way. Someday when all our adventures our over, we should go back and visit them. I would like to meet them.

The first snow of winter is starting to fall. It is warm and will melt soon. I hope you aren’t seeing any of it.

May your travels be warm and dry.


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