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Arri-- January 3, 2004

January 3, 2004
Dear Keish,

It was so wonderful to have you and Uncle Adlen for Christmas! I know I already asked you, but did Uncle Adlen enjoy himself? He’s so quiet that it’s hard to tell sometimes. Uncle W. keeps mentioning how glad he is that you came for Christmas, and that it’s a pity that you don’t live closer. Of course, he also hopes you’ll think more closely about the things that he told you about magic. (I thought you two had an argument? But Uncle W. seems to think of it more as a discussion.)
I know you only just left for Arella yesterday morning, but I’ve already got news for you.
Mendel found Aunt Nysa! I just finished reading a letter from him and I had to write you at once. When Imato comes in I’ll tell him and Liop about it too, because Mendel told me to get everyone ready to meet her. I just hope they don’t want to read the letter, because it’s addressed to “Sir Arriman Etautca, Captain of the Fairy Regiment” and refers to Aunt Nysa as a “prisoner of war, rescued from the villainous choke-vines”. Actually, I like this letter better than the other two. It’s less sappy.
Mendel, Sean, and Nysa are staying at an inn in Parmorrow so that the horses can rest for a while. Mendel says they will probably arrive here in Odsreq on January 6th. That’s only three day’s away! We have to prepare a room for her. If Liop and Imato move into my room, then she can have her own room, but I need to clean all the bedding and dust and wash the windows. I wonder if Uncle W. will pay Cook a little extra to help me. I don’t know if I can do everything fast enough. Maybe I ought to scrub the floors again too. I think I’ll trade curtains with the boys’ room, so that she can have white lace. No, I have a better idea. I’ll give her my room and move in with Imato and Liop. Then she can have a window seat and feel the sun when it first comes up in the morning and look out over the gardens and the pasture. I’m so excited to see her! I hope she doesn’t mind that everything’s so simple here. I’m glad Uncle W. decided to build a new door for his laboratory to replace the one I chopped down with the ax last summer.

Yesterday, after you left, Prince Tulson showed up. He invited me on a picnic in the Westridge’s greenhouse. I haven’t gone on any long walks since before we went to the cave, but Prince Tulson isn’t someone you can say no too, so I followed him along the back path that leads to the Westridge’s manor.
“Is Lady Clara coming too?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes, if I can find her,” said the Prince, “every time I ask where she is, I get vague answers from the other servants. I almost think they don’t want to tell me.”
“Why?” I asked. The Prince just shrugged.
When we arrived at the house, Prince Tulson immediately asked for “Clara” (we only use the title when we’re alone). I saw immediately what he meant by the servants being evasive. They said she might be cleaning the stables.
“I’ll go help her finish,” I said, “so she can come with us.”
The servant shifted uncomfortably. “Well,” he said, “maybe she’s done with that and working on the dusting upstairs.”
I was about to offer to help again when Prince Tulson interrupted me.
“Wherever she is, I demand that you find her and bring her here. She can finish working later.” He said it so forcefully that the servant jumped and hurried off upstairs. In a few minutes, Lady Clara came down. Her long blond hair was twisted into a tight knot on the top of her head and she was carrying a dust cloth.
“What can I do for you?” she asked a little stiffly.
“You can come on a picnic with us to the greenhouse,” responded Prince Tulson brightly.
Lady Clara looked more at me when she answered: “Lady Westridge wants me to dust upstairs.”
“I can help you finish later,” I said, “please come.” Why did she look so uncertain?
“Well after that I’m supposed to help Kitty polish the silverware,” she said.
“We’ll help you clean the whole manor this evening,” said the Prince impatiently.
Lady Clara looked around as though to see if anyone else was listening before she answered in a low voice, “In that case, I’d be delighted.”

“The Winter Festival is this month,” said Prince Tulson as we walked toward Mendel’s greenhouse, “I have invitations to deliver to you for the ball.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out two envelopes. He handed one to me. It said “Squire Imato and Lady Arietta Etautca” on the outside. He also had one for Clara. It said “Lady Clara Songson” on it in beautiful curved letters. Lady Clara smiled, but didn’t open it.
“That’s kind of you,” she said brightly, “you’ll have to tell me everything about it when you get back.”
Prince Tulson looked dismayed. “Why aren’t you coming?” he asked.
Lady Clara looked both surprised and annoyed.
“I couldn’t possibly go to a royal ball,” she said, “you know that.”
“Why?” the Prince demanded.
“I’m not nobility,” she said, “It’s one thing to pretend I have a title out here in the forest with just you and Lady Arri, but I’m not pretending to be anything for strangers.” There was bitterness in her voice now.
“Who’s going to know you’re pretending?” asked the Prince.
“What will I say when they ask me where I’m from?”
“You’re from Odsreq,” Prince Tulson grabbed a golden leaf from an overhanging branch and began crumbling it methodically.
“And when they ask who my parents are?”
“Master and Lady Songson. That’s not so difficult.”
“I’m not going to lie,” Clara responded angrily, “and I’m not going to make a mockery of myself.”
“Why is it a lie? You carry yourself with more nobility than anyone I’ve ever met,” Prince Tulson matched her anger, “If I say you’re a Lady, you’re a Lady. If I say your mother—or grandfather—or great-aunt Matilda are Ladies—and Gentlemen—then they are. I’m a Prince of Elcaro, and I say it! It’s no mockery.” He pounded his fist into his hand, “I gave you a royal invitation to a ball, Lady Clara, and I demand that you accept. It has nothing to do with anyone else. I can invite whomever I want. Since when do you care what they think about you anyway?”
Lady Clara and I stared at Prince Tulson in shock. It seemed to me that he must have been thinking about this for some time. I wasn’t sure how to react, because both of their arguments were valid. There would be people at the ball who would think it a joke for Prince Tulson to parade a servant around like a noble woman. Lady Clara’s arching eyebrows drew closer together. She was trembling slightly.
“I only care what you think, Your Highness,” she said finally, almost too low for me to hear. They stared at each other for a while; then Lady Clara turned away.
“I should get the picnic basket,” she said, and walked back toward the house very quickly.

I spent some time last night looking through the Chronicle. I read about how the King of Elcaro saved Brio of Thalthin’s son from a dragon. The son’s name was Damar and he was a young knight on his first quest for the old king. The king that saved him was also named Damar (it’s kind of confusing), and he was still just a prince, but he was in charge of the quest. The quest was to find a bird with three eyes and bring it back to the palace. I think it was a kind of good luck charm. Anyway, one of the Damars (I’m not sure which), accidentally stole a dragon’s egg. The story doesn’t explain how it’s possible to “accidentally” steal a dragon’s egg. It seems to me that since dragon’s eggs are gold with red flecks, and they lay them on cliffs that it would be hard to steal, but the book says it was an accident, and that he brought the egg back to the camp, but the dragon followed him. Then there was a terrible fight and everyone was killed except the two Damars. The dragon carried Sir Damar back to the cliff (it doesn’t say what happened to the egg), and Prince Damar followed and rescued him. The English is really old-fashioned and hard to understand, but that’s what happened. They found the bird with three eyes too, on the cliff with the dragon. I wish the story said what kind of dragon it was. It sounded too big to be a spikeback.


P.S. I was just getting ready to give this letter to Hermes, when there was a knock at the door. A messenger is here from King Trunsle. He wants an audience with Imato, Uncle W., and me. I don’t know what to do, I’m so nervous. The King sent a coach to bring us back with him immediately, and I’m writing this as I wait for Uncle W. to make arrangements for Father. Liop will come with us, but Nozama and Kestrel have to stay. It’s all so strange and sudden. Why does the King want to see me? Uncle W. was the one who found Father, and Imato is the one that has been trying to make arrangements to bring him to Rousha. I don’t know why he wants to see me too. I’ve never met the King.
I have to send this now. Uncle W. is back…

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