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Arri-- January 7, 2004

January 7, 2004

Dear Keish,

I got your letter and also Gretel’s. It must have been awful facing Gessair in front of King Menion. I’m glad he didn’t get away or have any magic left. I’m glad you had your father and Jace to back you up. Jace really is indispensable. I think there must be a way for you to stay close to him and still be able to do the things you want to do. Maybe staying close to him is more important than the other things. I don’t know. It’s a lot to decide.

What are you going to do with Gessair now? Is he going to prison? For how long? It seems dangerous to ever let him out again, but maybe he could repent. I don’t know.

I think my last letter explained about Imato and Gretel, so I don’t need to respond to Gretel’s letter. I’m not sure what I would say anyway, except that I’m excited to see her at the ball, and I hope she isn’t too mad at Imato. I thought that maybe we would see Gretel some more before then, but she had to go back to Arella with her father. I didn’t see her before she left, but Imato seemed cheerful.

I slept most of the way home. Staying up most of the night isn’t easy for me. I don’t have as much practice as you do. Kestrel was very happy to see me. She would rather I didn’t go on adventures at all, but if I have to, then she thinks she ought to come too. I think Nozama feels the same way.

Yesterday, I woke up very early. The cottage was very quiet and full of soft blue morning light. I went out to the stables and began caring for the animals. Nacks woke up and joined me after a few minutes. I saddled Sprigs and rode him down to the river and back for exercise. I tried to be busy enough to make time pass quickly, but lunch was slow in coming.

After lunch I went up to my room and started gathering my things so that I could move in with Liop, but Uncle W. stopped me. He said we’d talk to Aunt Nysa first, but he thought that I should share my room with her and leave Liop and Imato as they were. I went and found Cook and asked if we could have a big dinner and could I help her make it, but she said Aunt Nysa would be tired from traveling and that dinner should be simple and light, so that she could go to bed early. It seemed like no one wanted me to do anything, so I went outside. I brushed Glory (though I could tell Nacks had already done it). Nacks, himself, was holed up in the servant’s quarters off the stables. He wouldn’t come out, and he wouldn’t give me anything to do. He just wanted to hibernate.

I went up to my bedroom and found my embroidery (sorely neglected for the last few months) and tried to satisfy myself with the rhythmic in and out of the needle. It’s nice on cold, lazy evenings, but frustrating when I’m trying to keep my mind off something else. I don’t know how the time passed, but it finally did, and I heard horses trotting up the rode.

I recognized Aunt Nysa the moment I saw her, though she was buried in blankets and clung tight to reigns of her pale dappled mount. Mendel and Sean rode on either side of her. Mendel waved to me as I dashed out to meet them. He jumped down from his tall stallion, took the reigns from Aunt Nysa and led the horses forward. I stood on the porch and tried to think of something to say. Mendel bowed deeply.

“Lady Arri,” he said, with a broad smile, “may I present your aunt, Lady Marigold.”

“Oh!” I said as it suddenly occurred to me that Aunt Nysa still didn’t know her name. I was trying to decide how to tell her when I felt someone standing behind me. A trembling hand steadied itself on my shoulder.

“Nysa?” asked Uncle Winthrop, his voice cracking.

The woman on the horse looked troubled. She dipped her face gracefully and stared at Uncle W. with large, hazel eyes.

“Do you know me?” she asked, her voice barely reaching our ears.

Uncle W. was crying. “Since the day you were born, I’ve held your face in my heart. Time has not changed it. Do you know me, little sister?”

Aunt Nysa looked at Mendel. He glanced awkwardly towards us.

“She still doesn’t remember much,” he explained.

“I’m sorry,” said the lady, dropping her head until the blankets around face hid her from view.

“Fairy,” said Mendel, “it’s all right, just as I said.” He reached up and found her hand. Aunt Nysa allowed Mendel to help her down from the horse. Every movement she made was graceful.

“Come in,” said Uncle W., “it’s alright; it’s alright.” He walked down and tried to put his arm around her, but she shied away closer to Mendel.

“Arri, come take her hand,” Mendel told me. I did so and together we guided her into the living room. I helped her out from the bundle of blankets around her. She was thinner than anyone I’ve ever seen, and her skin was almost white. From her post in the kitchen, I heard Cook gasp. Later she apologized for refusing to help me make a large dinner (“The poor bird’s starving!”). Imato added wood to the fire to make it blaze, and moved the sofa closer to it. Aunt Nysa held her hands out toward the warmth. She looked at me and at Mendel, but shied away from anyone else’s glance. I sat down at her feet so that I could look up into her face. It was the face of the woman in the cave, but melancholy.

For a long time none of us said anything. Cook brought in a tray of hot chamomile. Liop began as if to interrogate her, but before he finished the first sentence, Imato grabbed him and took him out of the room. Aunt Nysa watched them leave, and then turned her gaze back to me.

“I remember you,” she said, “Jesse brought you to me when you were just a baby… she bade me watch you… I never knew why.”

“I’m your niece,” I said. She smiled.

“I think she told me that, but I forgot it,” she murmured, “Some fairies remember everything, but I was never important enough for memories.”

“I thought that fairies who remember their old life leave the ring and become house fairies.”

“Yes, the less powerful ones do,” said Nysa, “but there are other fairies, powerful ones, called listening fairies. They lose the memory of their former life, but they keep all of their memories after that. They are the leaders of the fairies. I am very powerful, but I’m not a listening fairy.”

“Where are your wings?” I asked.

She sighed deeply. “I lost them when I left the ring. They never told me that would happen.”

“Nysa,” asked Uncle Winthrop. She turned her large, sad eyes on him. “Nysa, do you know who I am?”

“I saw you in the cave,” she said, “you were one of many.”

“I’m your brother Winthrop.”

She didn’t say anything, just sat looking in the fire.

“Will you still forget things?” I asked.

“I don’t know…”

Mendel knelt down next to me.

“I think Fairy’s memory is getting better—not worse. When I found her she couldn’t remember why she left the ring, but now she remembers your mother. And she remembers everything about me. It’s a good thing she still has her magic, because she’s been wandering in the forest for the past month, and she probably would have starved if she hadn’t bee able to use magic.”

“Will you stay for dinner?” asked Uncle Winthrop.

Mendel accepted, but Sean declined, giving his worrying mother as his excuse. We ate quietly. I was bursting inside with questions, but Aunt Nysa looked so tired that I didn’t want to do anything that would keep her up late. Aunt Nysa said she liked the idea of sharing her room with me. The problem was we didn’t have an extra bed. It turned into something of an argument, but finally everyone decided that the thing to do was to move Uncle W.’s big bed into my room for Aunt Nysa and I to share, and my bed became Uncle W.’s. Mendel stayed long enough to help move the furniture around. Then he went home.

This morning when I went out to help Nacks in the stables, I found Mendel waiting for me. He asked if “Fairy” was awake yet, and when he found out she wasn’t , he offered to help me with the animals. So I woke Nacks up and told him he could sleep in, which he very much appreciated. While we worked, Mendel told me all about his search for Aunt Nysa and how he found her. It wasn’t very easy, because when she left the ring, Aunt Nysa lost her memory of why she left it, so she wandered for a long time before Mendel and Sean found her. Mendel says she remembers a little more everyday. I told Mendel about the cave and Gessair, and he was surprised to hear about it and said that Aunt Nysa hadn’t said anything to him about it.

After the stable work, it only seemed fair to invite Mendel to breakfast. He wanted to help me make it, and I would have let him, except it soon became obvious that he hadn’t ever cooked anything before except wild game on a spit while traveling.

“It must be great to be useful to you uncle,” he said, sampling an omelet.

“Well,” I said slowly, “before Liop and I came, Uncle Winthrop could afford to hire Cook to make all his meals. But with us, it’s different.” I felt a little embarrassed to say such a thing, but it seemed best to be honest.

“Still, you’re not like other young ladies who wouldn’t have known what to do, and would have been ashamed to do it.”

“I didn’t know what to do at first. Cook had to teach me.” I said.

Mendel grinned. “I’m glad you’re not so well-bred as other girls,” he told me. It sounded like a compliment, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I turned back to the stove, and Imato came down and rescued me from having to respond.

When Aunt Nysa came down, she still looked tired, and she ate slowly. When Liop tried to ask her questions, Uncle Winthrop shushed him. I agreed. It seemed like Aunt Nysa would answer everything in her own time. Often she looked from me to Mendel and back again. After breakfast, I excused myself to practice the magic exercises that Brynn gave me. I have a note from Brynn saying that she come on the eighth to test my magic again, although I’m a little afraid. She already has to where gloves because of me. What if I accidentally change something else orange?

After lunch, Imato and I walked to the market. It was clear and chilly, but the dirt roads were frozen hard and that made it good for walking.

I asked Imato how his magic test went, but he just shrugged. “It’s a good thing I want to be an knight instead of a healer,” he told me, and changed the subject.

“You know, Arri, you’re really setting yourself up for a catastrophe,” he told me. We were walking back from the market with ingredients for dinner.

“How?” I asked.

“Well,” said Imato, “it seems like you have at least two young men trying to court you.” He looked amused. I was at a loss.

“Don’t you already know who?” he demanded.

“No,” I said.

“Prince Tulson and Mendel,” said Imato.

“What? That stuff about the prince and me eloping was a rumor. You know that.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t erase the fact that three young men, two of them with plenty of other business to attend to, dropped everything to help me rescue you. Grant it one may have been mainly helping his brother, but I wouldn’t dismiss any of them entirely.”

“Prince Tulson and I are friends, and Mendel was helping Aunt Nysa, and Sean hardly ever speaks to me directly.”

“Do you know why the Queen attended our audience with the King? She doesn’t normally do that.”

My mind was blank.

“She wanted,” Imato grinned, “to get a good look at you, to see if you were worthy of her son.” He gave me a chance to respond, but I didn’t.

“I wish I knew her well enough to tell you what she concluded, but I think the fact that Prince Tulson is back in Odsreq is a good sign.”

“Is he?” I asked.

“Yep,” Imato touched the brim of his cap as though in salute, “that’s quite a conquest, Arri, if it’s true.”

“I think you’re mistaken,” I shook my head doubtfully.

“Now the next suitor is Mendel.”

I made a face and Imato laughed.

“Perhaps we’ll leave him alone for a while. After all, you’re a highly eligible young lady and have much greater prospects to consider.”

“Sean?” I asked, feeling increasingly uncomfortable.

“Sean,” said Imato knowingly, “who sold you a tamarin for half its value and needed no incentive to ride out with Mendel in search of you.”

“He’s just a good guy,” I said.

“He’s a gentleman with a valuable inheritance, and parents who would love nothing more than for him to marry a lady of high birth.”

“Yes, Treany said something like that once,” I said, “but I don’t see how Sean could be interested in me. Wouldn’t he have to court me first?”

Imato put his arm around me as we walked.

“I don’t want you to marry anyone you’re not in love with,” he said seriously, “what I’m doing is warning you, so you don’t get pulled into something you don’t like. Prince Tulson and Lord Sean are both good matches, but only if you really like them. Mendel is something else, but I think you’ve already figured that out.”

“Then why are you telling me this?” I asked.

“You need to be more careful about spending time alone with young men you aren’t interested in. You could be leading someone on unintentionally.”

“I’m never alone with Prince Tulson. Clara is there, and I think he likes her more than he likes me. Besides, if I did like someone, wouldn’t I need a chaperone to be with them?”

“It’s unlikely the prince is interested in a servant,” Imato told me, “and you’re right, you should always have chaperone.”

“Well, I’ll remember that if I’m ever alone with Sean,” I said.

“What about Mendel?” asked Imato seriously.

“I’ve never intentionally been alone with Mendel. It just seems to happen, no matter what I do.”

Imato laughed, and that was the end of the conversation.

Keish, do think Sean might like me? It seems so unlikely, and I’ve never thought about it before. I’m too young for marriage. No one has ever wanted to court me. The whole idea is just as frightening as facing the Narls was in the desert. I’m not worried about the prince or Mendel. But I wish Imato hadn’t said anything about Sean. How am I ever going to speak to him again without thinking about it? I can’t even write this without my face turning red. I didn’t know he gave me such a good price for Nozama. Why did he do that?

I think Imato thinks about marriage and courtship too much. He should get married soon, so he doesn’t have to think about it anymore. You probably feel the same way about Prince Euan and Vanessa, right? Having lunch with Vanessa must have really tried your patience. At least most people only get married once, so once Vanessa picks her dress and fabric and everything, that ought to be the end of it. I guess she picked on you, because you do have nice taste in dresses—Imato told me that once. I love the ribbons you gave me. I don’t know what I’m going to wear to the ball yet. The nicest thing I have that still fits me is the dress Treany gave me, but Imato says I ought to have something new. Or I might alter something of Aunt Rawnal’s. I’m going to get Treany’s advice.

If Prince Tulson doesn’t tell me about the container of honey, I’m going to ask him the next time I see him. After all, he can’t make me build any traps for you! Arella is too far away.

I have a note from Lady Pren asking me to join everyone for the festival the day after the ball. It sounds like a lot of fun. I asked Uncle Winthrop and he thinks it will be all right. I haven’t been to the Winter Festival since I moved away from Rousha.

Imato likes the talisman. He attached it to his mail shirt. Liop is so glad that you like the hat. He says his next project is to make a hat that acts like an umbrella.

I wish you well with trying to decide what to do with your life. I’m having similar problems. Magic really complicates things. Without it we would probably just get married and become wives. What do wives of noblemen do, I wonder? It would get boring to just hold tea parties all the time. Maybe if I’ll find out when I move back to Rousha. Uncle Winthrop says we’ll move the week before the ball. That’s only two weeks away.

I have to end this letter now, so I can sleep. May the winter snow be light and peaceful.



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