Magic, murder, intrigue, missing relatives, secret caves, fantastical creatures, royalty, nobility, romance...
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Keish- December 7, 2003

December 7, 2003
Dear Arri,
So very much has happened, I don't know where to begin. Jace says I'd best just begin with what happened after I sent my last letter and stick to the order things happened-- hopefully it will more or less make sense.
I wrote another letter and sent it by regular post on the 2nd (you'll probably have it by the time you get this one) so I'll start with later that day.
We spent the whole day in the village (Ceinlys). We used the money we had to replenish our supplies. We had enough to not have to tell any fortunes; I was nervous about it after what happened before.
Jace says I have to tell you what else I bought. He's laughing at me, which he's been doing a great deal since that night when I told him how upset I'd been about missing his birthday. He hadn't even noticed. It was hard finding something in Ceinlys, even if it is a bigger village, and I was being picky. It was his 20th birthday, after all. Eighteen and 20 are important and I got him such a great gift for his 18th birthday. (Now Jace is laughing about modesty not being one of my stronger qualities. I glared and he laughed harder; I don't really see how he finds it so funny still with everything else that has happened)
Anyway, I managed to find him a nice blue tunic that matches his eyes and a nice dagger to go with the hunting knife he's carrying. (Okay, so it's really a short sword enchanted to look like a hunting knife as long as he doesn't draw it.) I really will have to get him something better when we get back to Adya.
The next day we were traveling, but I felt so odd we had to rest for a while. Something was wrong, but I couldn't pinpoint what. For some reason I felt I should take out the book that Darius gave me. It had changed. Not that it was bigger or smaller-- the pages were still very blank-- but it felt different. I can't really describe it. It was as if the magic had shifted. Of course after reading your letter I realize it must have something to do with what happened to you with the crystal. I don't understand it completely.
Since I'm on the topic, (Jace is reminding me that I said I'd tell things in order, but this is a nice segue) what do you think of Brynn? I loved reading your description of her! It was excellent. I wonder what happened when she and Uncle W. met-- they sure don't like each other. When we talked about him Brynn always tried to stay very neutral.
Reading her account of my parents' courtship made me laugh and cry at the same time. I remember the Condies, though they've not lived in Adya in years. When they agreed to let Mother stay with them they had no idea what they were getting into! She was overwhelming-- at least that's the word Father would use. She was restless and rebellious and really more than sweet old Lady Condie could handle. Mother used to laugh about it, though you could tell she felt at least a little bad for what she put them through. Just before her 19th birthday she left them to live on the edge of the castle grounds in a little cottage with her new tutor. (I realize now it was Brynn.) The little cottage had been a sort of guesthouse for an eccentric lady who had died some years before. It's not there anymore.
Master Jaxinamy was old and starting to fail, so Brynn really took over teaching Mother. She was certainly qualified-- more than Old Master Jax in many ways.
I found it funny that Brynn describes that time as the beginning of my parents' courtship. Father used to tease Mother that he couldn't corral (his word) her into a real courtship until the new year, though they'd known each other several months. For a whole year, every time Father would start to talk more seriously about marrying Mother would find a way to put him off. Then as soon as he backed down she would spring the idea of eloping on him. She said she was never really serious-- just wanted to scare him a little. She wasn't ready to give up her freedom, even if she was falling in love with him.
After that year, though, Mother agreed to marry Father. It was his birthday and he always says it was the greatest present he ever received. Once Mother made up her mind, though, she wouldn't stand for a long engagement. She threw the court into a frenzy preparing a wedding in just over a month-- they married February 28th.
Once they were married, Mother was true to her decision to settle down. She became the perfect wife-- following convention (well, mostly… sort of) and filling her role in the court life around her.
I had forgotten about Father's beetle collection. It had gotten so large that my mother once said we'd need to have a room just for the beetles. That's another thing he stopped doing when Mother died.
I always liked hearing your father tell the story of rescuing your mother from the dragon. It's been a long time, though, and I'd forgotten much of it. It is interesting that she was so far south-- do you think it has anything to do with the caves?
Jace says I've strayed far enough and must get back to telling things in order. I stuck my tongue out at him, but he does have a point. Where was I?
Oh yes, so I was feeling odd and that must have had something to do with you and the crystal. Brynn did use the crystal with me, but not until after she told me about teaching my mother. When Liop came I did something similar with him. It was just after I'd learned about the Brio legacy and the three gifts. I wanted to know which gift was his.
I'm sorry it went so wrong-- I don't know what that would mean. I'm sure Brynn can figure it out. I may be able to give some information to help, but I'm not sure it's related and I'll have to get to it in a little bit because it won't make sense out of order.
The next morning dawned very cold and threatened rain, if not snow. Since we were in a very sheltered spot, it seemed best to wait out the day. Midmorning I passed out and for a moment I saw you lying on the ground. I came around with Jace bending over me, clearly worried.
"I'm fine," I said, "but I'm not sure about Arri." I tried to divine what had happened to you, but the only vision I could conjure was of you sitting with Liop and Imato-- clearly safe and well-- so I let it go. Now, obviously, I know it was when Brynn tried the spell again.
Before I forget-- please remind Liop that if he tries the editing charm on anything without Brynn's supervision I really will turn him into a fire newt the moment I see him again. He consistently mixes up the wording (for some reason it comes out half in Iconese) and his parchments inevitably catch fire. I thought you'd better be warned, especially if Brynn isn't staying long. He should know better than to do it, but you know how he can be.
How far had I gotten? Oh yes, the 5th we were able to travel again. We stopped for lunch and Jace went to gather some wood. He seemed wary when he came back.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Maybe we shouldn't light a fire," he said slowly. His eyes were still scanning the area.
I went over and forced him to look at me. "What's wrong?"
He shook his head slowly. "I'm not sure. I just feel like maybe we aren't alone."
Now I was scanning the area. "Following or searching?" I asked, not doubting that someone was out there.
He shook his head again. "I don't know." He looked at me sharply. "You'd best not try divining to find out."
He knows me far too well.
"Let's eat quickly," I said, not responding to his statement.
We traveled cautiously for the rest of the day and spent a rather nervous night. We didn't dare light a fire, but I could use just a little magic to keep us warmer.
Yesterday morning Hermes found us just after we'd started out. I let Jace read your letter after I'd finished. (I hope you don't mind-- I figured I just tell him everything anyway.)
We had an interesting discussion about inheritance and the difference between Elcaro and Arella. Second sons seem to have more options in Arella. My father is a second son. He's still considered a lord and was able to pursue a position at court even though his brother inherited the family land. (My cousin's son holds it now-- both my uncle and cousin died fairly young.)
I didn't mean Mendel was a good match for you personality-wise. I've never really met him. He did show up in Adya briefly, but I didn't talk to him. And you're right, even if second sons don't have many options in Elcaro, I don't agree with Treany. If you love someone those aren't good reasons not to marry them, in my opinion. But you aren't in love with him, so it doesn't much matter.
Tulson's too busy? I would think his parents would be getting anxious for him to start considering settling down. His brothers are married, right? (Jace says yes, they are and, laughing, says that the queen would like nothing more than to have Tulson settle down sometime soon.)
As far as what I was implying about him and mental homes goes-- he can take that however he wishes, I say (smiling sweetly and being ever so innocent).
Anyway, yesterday-- this is where things got even more interesting. We were settling into camp for the night when Jace suddenly say bolt upright. I was instantly wary, shoving my hand to the bottom of my satchel where my dagger was.
"Stay here," Jace said, jumping up and plunging into the brush.
"Not likely," I muttered, leaping after him. A moment later the sound of metal on metal rang through the air as Jace drew his sword and met the blade of a rather mean-looking man. Two others were headed toward him until they caught sight of me.
"There she is," sneered the older one. His face was horribly pock-marked. He raised his hand menacingly.
I raised my dagger, still in it's sheath, and used my magic to shield me from whatever spell he sent hurtling for me. I knew what it was as soon as it hit the dagger-- a spell to paralyze.
I reformed the spell, using his own magic against him as well as my own. I don't know if he even realized what was coming, but he was down before he could cause anymore trouble. Jace had already disarmed the man he was fighting and the third man started to run. I sent the same spell after him and he fell.
I turned to Jace, breathing heavily. His arm was bleeding. I flicked the last remnants of the spell I'd used on the others at the man at Jace's feet to keep him still.
"Are you alright?" Jace asked, breathless also. When I nodded he added, "You should have stayed back there."
I went to him and made him sit so I could look at his arm. "Did you really think I would?"
"Well, no," he admitted, "but you should have." There was pride in his voice as he said it and I smiled.
"Looks like you only got a scratch. I'll bandage it."
He grabbed my arm as I started to rise. "Wait, it can wait. It's not bad, especially considering I had no armor." He grimaced. "What about them?"
"I guess we have to tie them up for now," I said slowly. "I'm not sure how long that spell will last."
"Go get the rope then," Jace said.
I shook my head. "You go. If it doesn't last long I can always cast it again."
He shook his head ruefully. "I'm supposed to be protecting you." He touched my cheek as he said it, then walked swiftly back to where our things were.
I surveyed what I'd done. It seemed unreal. They had to be Narls, but I was surprised there were only three. I mentioned it when Jace returned.
"They underestimated you," he said as he began tying up the man he'd fought.
"And you," I responded. Jace had disarmed the man without actually cutting him. "They must not have realized you trained with the king's own sons."
Jace shrugged, giving me some rope and moving towards the man that had run. I went toward the one who had used magic, trying to sense how strong his power was. His magic felt strange and I realized it must have been stolen from others.
He started to come around as I tied his wrists. The combined spell had been enough to knock him out. He narrowed his eyes at me and I shifted into a better defensive position. He muttered something and before I could react his head rolled to the other side.
I cried out and Jace came running. "What is it?"
"He's dead," I gasped. I stood, swaying slightly.
Jace caught me around the waist to keep me from falling. "What happened?"
I shook my head. "It's an awful spell. How could anyone…" I put my hand over my mouth, nearly retching.
Jace moved me away from the body. "It was the act of a desperate man." He grabbed my shoulders as I slid to a sitting position. "Keish, look at me-- you didn't do this. You couldn't have stopped him."
I nodded mutely. He made me stand again and led me to where we were camping. Then he went and dragged the other two men nearer. He had taken cloth and gagged them both. The spell had worn off, but Jace had tied them very securely.
We spent a very long night debating what to do. As my revulsion wore off I became more and more angry. The old man must have known something he didn't want us to find out. There was nothing we could do about him now, but we could get information out of the other two.

After breakfast this morning I removed the gag of the man Jace had fought. "Who are you?" I demanded.
He looked away.
I raised my hand, preparing a spell in my mind. "You may speak voluntarily or be forced," I said; my voice was so icy it surprised even me.
This was a man of the sword-- the threat of magic was enough to loosen his tongue. "My name is Omle," he said fearfully.
"You are a Narl." I didn't make it a question. "What do you want with us?"
"We were sent to find you, Lady Brio." Being addressed that way felt odd.
"And take me as you tried to take my cousin. Why?"
"The Master decided the pictures of the other Brios were enough, but he wanted you."
"Why were the pictures taken?" I asked, though I feared I already knew the answer.
"Pictures contain a part of the subject's soul," he responded superstitiously.
I felt the blood drain from my face. I've read about that kind of magic. It's very dangerous, for everyone. "Why?"
"The master has wanted the Brio magic for a long time, Lady. He has been trying to take it for nearly 25 years."
"Who is the Master?"
The man shrank in terror. "We do not speak of him," he whispered.
My temper rose and with a flick of my wrist I made the man sleep.
I removed the other man's gag. "Why does the Master want the Brio magic?"
The man looked terrified and I almost felt bad. "To conquer kingdoms," he whispered.
"And what does he know of the prophecy?"
The man shuddered at the tone of my voice. "They say a Brio child can call back the power and make it so that the Master cannot ever take it."
I knew he wasn't going to tell me who the Master is, but I asked one more question. "Who killed my mother?"
The man cringed again. "The Master," he practically whimpered.
I flicked my wrist again, causing him to sleep as well. I moved away from the men and sank to my knees, covering my face with my hands. My tears were hot on my face.
I don't know how much time passed that way. Jace put his arms around me and just let me cry.
Eventually I was out of tears. I wiped my face on my scarf and stood facing Jace.
"There is a spell of loyalty on both men. If I release them they will remember nothing of the Narls."
He nodded. "Should we wait until tomorrow?"
I glanced around. The sun was already getting low in the west. How had the whole day passed? I nodded and Jace began preparing dinner. I sat down and started writing this letter.
Jace and I have been talking as I write. I want to try divining to discover who the Master is, but Jace thinks it's a bad idea. I've used so much magic in the last two days, maybe he's right. And yet I don't feel drained at all.

December 8th
It's morning now. I decided I had to risk trying. Jace was clearly concerned, but he finally agreed as long as I was careful. I didn't really learn much. The Master must have spells protecting him from such things. I did learn one thing which could prove helpful-- he's a fairy, one that's left the ring.
I hope you'll talk to Brynn about all this if she's still with you. Perhaps it will help her think of something important. I also thought that the Narls trying to drain Brio magic for so long could help her with figuring out your magic. Especially if they're using the picture of you now. If they've been after Brio magic for 25 years it could have affected our grandparents and parents also.
I released the two men from the spell, but made sure they will not wake for several hours. That way we will not be close. I feel strongly we will reach the cave in just a few days. I still don't know what I'm supposed to do, though.
I'd better end this so I can send Hermes back to you. You will probably be anxious.
I know Uncle W. doesn't like her, but you can trust Brynn, Arri.
May you find the truth you seek.
Love always,

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