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Arri- February 11, 2004

February 11, 2004
Dear Keish,
I went to talk to Father this morning. Aunt Nysa and I couldn’t start lessons till after Uncle Winthrop had left for the day, because I haven’t exactly discussed it with him yet. Of course, the morning would be half gone by then, so I put a leash on Coulter and walked to the hospital. Kestrel led the way and nothing remotely dangerous happened. I think Coulter was probably relieved. I told Father all about my decision to let Aunt Nysa teach me magic. Then I tried to imagine what his answer would be.
I came back to the apartment in time for breakfast. Aunt Nysa was cooking. She’s getting very good. Actually, I think she uses magic when no one’s looking, but I would use magic to cook too, if I knew how.
After breakfast Uncle W. walked Liop to school and then from there he went to his shop, so Aunt Nysa and I were left alone. It was at that moment that I realized we didn’t have a basement to practice in. I thought about this as we dried dishes. Somehow it didn’t seem right to practice in a room with breakable objects.
“Are you ready?” asked Aunt Nysa. She sounded nervous, as though afraid I might change my mind.
“We should find someplace safer,” I said, setting the last glass in the cupboard and latching the door so Nozama couldn’t get in.
“We could go to the Brio caves,” suggested Aunt Nysa.
I stared. “How would we get there?”
“Through your fairy book; you’ve done it before,” Aunt Nysa looked surprised, “The magic will resonate in the cave and you will grow stronger.”
We got my fairy book and opened it to the page with the lioness.
“Will the lioness be there?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” answered Aunt Nysa, “I’ve only seen her there once.”
I wanted to ask about that, but Aunt Nysa took my hand.
“Concentrate on the picture,” she instructed, “you shouldn’t need a magnifying glass.”
I concentrated, half-frightened, remembering my last experience in those caves. Suddenly Aunt Nysa jerked my hand so hard that my arm almost came out of its socket. I blinked and looked around. We were in the cave.
Aunt Nysa looked as surprised as I was.
“It wasn’t supposed to…” she murmured but trailed off thoughtfully. Yellow torch light flickered across her face. I looked around for its source and found it in a sconce on the far wall. Suddenly another torch lit next to it. Then another. The three torches together cast enough light that I could see other dead torches lining the rough walls of the cave. Aunt Nysa was lighting them one by one with narrowed eyes and just the slightest movement of her head. It was magic the way you do magic, Keish, wordless and full of power.
In the growing torch light I could see that this was not the cave with the dais where you defeated Gessair. It was the room full of objects that I saw in my dream and also from the first time I used the magnifying glass. I found the helmet and shield and many other objects, most bearing the crest of the hart. Many, but not all, were made of expensive materials and encrusted with multicolored jewels.
“What is all this?” I asked.
“It is the treasure of the Brio clan,” said Aunt Nysa simply.
“Can I touch it?”
“It is yours to touch,” she replied, “anyone of Brio ancestry may come to this cave and claim any objects they want.”
I picked up a helmet and ran my hand over the etchings. I studied the strange script along its edge. I could feel magic saturating the cave, though none in the helmet itself.
“Some of the things are magical,” said Aunt Nysa. She picked up a long quill of gold and handed it to me. I felt a buzz of magic as I ran the tip against my palm.
“What does this one do?”
“It never runs out of ink.”
How wonderful! I stroked the smooth surface as I continued to look about. Keish, it would take hours to describe everything in that room dishes, weapons, tools, jewelry. I hardly know where to begin. You must see it yourself. Eventually I remembered my magic lessons. Aunt Nysa led me away from the treasure hall to an empty chamber.
“How do you know so much about this place?” I asked.
“I’ve been here many times,” she answered, “It is a neutral place for fairies, not in a fairy ring, not out.”
“If you came here you must have known you were a Brio,” I thought aloud. Aunt Nysa didn’t answer, but her brows knit together thoughtfully.
“Someone brought me here first Jezreel,” she ran her hands over the walls, “It was a safe place.”
“Tell me about it.”
Aunt Nysa didn’t answer. Instead she laid her head up against the cold, rough granite and closed her eyes. Listening? Her long, blonde hair fell over her face, hiding her expression. I waited.
“I can’t remember,” she concluded sadly.
To start the magic lessons, Aunt Nysa handed me a round glass ball, hollow like the one I broke when Brynn first tested my magic. I shrunk away and didn’t take it.
“I might break it,” I said.
“You won’t,” said Aunt Nysa. She took my hand and placed the ball in it.
“What spells do you already know?” she asked me.
“Just the ones Brynn taught me the growth spell and the color change spell. I can cast them pretty well, if I concentrate.”
“The color change spell will do,” Aunt Nysa responded, “I want you to form the spell and hold it in the center of this bauble. Don’t let it actually penetrate anything. Just hold it in the center of the sphere.”
I stared at her, bewildered.
“Hold the spell in the…the air?” I asked. Could something like that be possible?
“Yes,” said Aunt Nysa simply.
“Can Keish do that?” I asked.
“I think Brynn would have taught her this,” Aunt Nysa said slowly, “all fairies learn this strengthening exercise. Haven’t you ever…” She trailed off as I shook my head.
“I’ll try though,” I said. I looked at the glass ball uncertainly. Silence gathered in the room. Sometimes I think silence has an echo.
I didn’t have the slightest idea how to begin, but I supposed a color… I thought of my favorite shade of sea green and pronounced the spell. In a moment the glass of the bauble glowed flashed green in the flickering torch light. I shook my head, reversed the spell, and tried again. Eventually I lost track of how many times the bauble turned green. Aunt Nysa never said a word, but I could feel her eyes on me. I felt stupid and frustrated. The muscles of my hand ached from gripping the ball too tightly, as though I could force the spell into the ball with mere physical strength.
Suddenly it shattered.
“Oh!” I jumped back in surprise as glass shards brushed past my arms and face. Aunt Nysa jumped too. Fortunately, as had happened that first time when Brynn tested my magic, I miraculously was unhurt. Even Aunt Nysa survived my clumsiness. She shook the glass from her skirts, snapped her fingers and returned the ball whole and undamaged to my hand.
“I don’t think this is working.” I said.
“You’re concentrating too hard on the glass. Just focus on the space between it.” Aunt Nysa replied. She frowned at me. I tried not to show how tired I was getting.
“Okay.” I stared at the inside of the ball and began the spell again, trying to keep my grip on the glass loose. It was hard not to tense my muscles as I concentrated. I thought about the air in the center of the sphere. I thought about the color green.
“There!” I shouted triumphantly as the inside of the ball turned a foggy shade of green.
Aunt Nysa didn’t answer for a few seconds.
“You’ve changed the color of the air particles,” she said finally.
All my excitement crashed and I sat down on the floor.
“No, it was a good spell,” said Aunt Nysa quickly, “it takes a lot of concentration to change air particles. She took the ball from me and turned it around. “You changed every particle,” she declared, “that’s really very good, even if it isn’t what you were trying for.”
I looked up at her. I felt like crying.
“Oh, Arri,” said Aunt Nysa, “keep trying. Please, keep trying.” she returned the bauble to me. I sat with it in my lap and closed my eyes. If I cast the spell blindfolded, I could do no worse. I tried it. When I opened my eyes, the glass was green. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be.
I held the bauble before my face. I tried not to think about glass or air or anything at all. I just said the words of the spell. I felt a little magic, but of course it had no where to go, so it faded. I said the spell again, concentrating on the magic inside me.
“That’s good,” said Aunt Nysa, breaking my concentration, “just move it into the bauble.”
I said the spell again and again and again, and finally I started to feel that I could move it, that it was a kind of object in itself. I moved it toward the bauble. It dissipated the moment it left my body, but still it seemed like progress. I tried again.
“You did it!” Aunt Nysa exclaimed as the spell moved smoothly into the sphere, a faint colorless shimmer, but nothing more.
I was exhausted, but I practiced for another hour, until I realized the day was long gone.
I did it, Keish! I can hold the spell inside the glass for several minutes before it fades. Aunt Nysa says I have to practice until I can hold the spell for over an hour. Then she will begin to teach me other spells. Is this how Brynn taught you? Did you have so much trouble at first.
That’s as much as I have energy to write tonight. It’s dark out and I’m so sleepy, but I had to write this down before I go to bed…
February 13
I fell asleep with my head on the writing desk. Magic is exhausting, Keish.
Why are all the Prens whispering about you? I had lunch with Taty today and she seems to take it for granted that you’ll be returning to Rousha soon. I don’t think she realizes that I don’t know what she already knows. But you didn’t know either the last time you wrote, so why should I know? I never know anything I’m supposed to anyway. Everyone’s always telling me that, even Liop. When Imato and I were kids and we lived in Siskyil, we had two tree houses with a talking wire strung between them. I wish someone would figure out how to make a talking wire stretch all way to Adya, so every time I wanted to talk to you, I could just pick up a sound funnel.
“I have a proposition for you, Arri,” I looked up from the novel I was reading. It was The Lady in the Forest that Taty loaned me and I was deeply engrossed in trying to figure out whether it would be better to be hung from the bell tower for treason or to commit suicide jumping over the prow of the warship and into the sea. Really I didn’t want to talk about anything until I found out what the Lady Merriam decided. But Uncle W. looked serious, so I closed the book.
“Sensational trash,” said Uncle Winthrop when he saw what I was reading, “what would your father say?”
“Taty likes it, and I’ve never read a novel before.” I really have no idea what Father would say, and I doubt Uncle W. knows either. He waved his hand dismissively.
“I’ve been thinking about your schooling and your desire to become a healer,” he began somewhat awkwardly. I sat up. Uncle W. tugged nervously on his short beard.
“Arri, I think a person should have a balanced perspective on any career they choose in life. Like I’ve told Liop many times, if you’re going to learn math, you ought to learn grammar to balance it…” Uncle W. paced before me as though delivering an important lecture. “If you want to learn magic, you ought to learn science. That’s why I’ve tried to introduce Liop to alchemy. If you want to learn healing… well, you ought to learn medicine. Understand?”
No, but I didn’t say so out loud.
“You have a good mind, Arri. I’ve thought that for a long time. You’d have done very well in an academy. You’ll do very well in college, medical school actually.”
He waited. I didn’t say anything. “Arri?” he asked.
“College?” I asked finally, “I can’t go to college! Have you ever heard of a girl who went to college?”
“Madame Athica.” Uncle Winthrop was better prepared than I thought. “She discovered the different blood types. Surely they taught you about her in history?”
It’s been three years since my last history class, but I think I’d have remembered something like that.
“But how did she get in?” I asked curiously.
“By special permission of the King.”
“Where is she?”
“She died of old age about twenty years ago, but the point is, she went medical school.”
My head was spinning. I shook it back and forth to clear my thoughts.
“But I’ll be the only girl in the whole school…”
“If I can get you in, will you at least try?” Uncle Winthrop’s voice was almost a plea. “If you promise to start medical school in the fall, I promise not to stand in your way of any magical education you want.”
It’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard, Keish. I wish I had time to get your opinion. College? Do you think maybe Uncle W. stood in the rain under a full moon last night? More importantly, if I study medicine, will it help me to cure Father? Or will it only slow down my magic studies? Maybe that’s the point…
February 15
I just got your letter and I think I understand why all of the Prens are talking now. What does it feel like to be in love, Keish? I see Imato and Gretel together, and I try to remember Mother and Father. But I really don’t understand it. I’d like to someday. Imato says I’m still too young. I suppose he’s right, but when I was watching you and Jace at the ball, I suddenly realized that it might be fun to be good at dancing.
I will go to see Jace today, right after breakfast. Well, Uncle W. says to keep things proper I have to visit Taty, but that should amount to the same thing, I think. Your encounter at the ball must have been terrifying! How are you ever going to feel safe again? You may have found all the Narls in Arrella, but what about Elcaro? At least you’re so much more powerful than they are. The times I met the Narls, I barely escaped. You could drain someone’s magic? I have to admit I shuddered when I read that. But Keish, you didn’t actually do it. That’s what counts, isn’t it?
Do you feel grown up? You’ve made a serious proposal to the king about changing life in Arrella and it’s been accepted. I wish I had been there to see! Uncle W. says education is the only way to change the world. I told him about your idea and his eyes lit up with pride. I overheard him telling his customers about it in the chemistry shop. He keeps bringing it up in all our conversations. Sometimes I wonder if he’s forgotten that you also do magic.
If I were in mourning for my intended, I wouldn’t have to accept invitations to tea with people I don’t know, would I? But Imato would be so mad! I suppose it’s better not to besides, I don’t have a black dress.
We met with the King and Queen again. This time Brynn wasn’t invited. No council table stood in the great hall. I was surprised to see Queen Elspeth since she knows now that I’m not marrying Prince Tulson. She smiled and greeted me warmly. King Trunsle was more business-like. I think he was in a hurry.
“Have you made your decision?” he asked, looking mainly at Uncle Winthrop.
“We’ve come to an agreement,” Uncle W. responded. There was a pause in which I took a deep breath. Uncle W. continued: “I have agreed to let Lady Arri study healing on condition that she balance this dangerous profession with one of sound science. To that effect, I would like to enroll her in medical school for the fall.”
I think the King would have been less surprised if Uncle W. had declared war. Like me, he seemed to think Uncle W.’s speech had lost something in translation. He waited for Uncle W. to clarify himself, but Uncle W. was silent. I felt my face turning bright red with every second and I looked desperately for some object to focus my attention on. My eyes found the national flag above the thrones and focused on its bright colors.
“Lord Brio, I don’t think this is a suitable solution for a young lady,” he said with emphasis.
“Why?” I could hear Uncle W.’s natural stubbornness in the word.
“Well, for one thing, she has never attended an academy. She doesn’t even have a Lady’s diploma nor is she enrolled the classes to obtain it. Do you really think it would be fair to waive the education requirements for medical school? How would she keep up with the other students?”
They were all very good points.
“As I understand it,” Uncle W. never faltered, “the only actual requirement is to pass an entrance exam.”
“Yes, but why put your niece through a grueling three-day exam that she can’t possibly hope to pass?”
“I think she will pass it,” Uncle W. declared.
The king looked as baffled as I felt.
“But she has no education…” he began again.
“But if she does pass it?” Uncle W. demanded.
“If she does pass it,” said Queen Elspeth, “you’ll have a much stronger argument.” She smiled at me.
Uncle W. bowed to her and she dipped her head in acknowledgement.
“I need your permission for her to take it,” he concluded.
“You had better give your word of honor to never bring another ridiculous scheme before the court again,” began the King.
“I’ll grant it,” Queen Elspeth interrupted him, “but, Lady Arri,” and her eyes became firm, “please remember you will not help your cause or the cause of women if you take this lightly.”
Frightened, I nodded. The cause of women? Keish, I think I may be in over my head. I don’t know anything about the cause of women. Do they teach it in feminine politics? At least I think I can be sure that class won’t be on the test.
I did speak with Taty and Jace this morning and Jace is waiting for your own letter before he will believe me that you’re okay. He is glad, though, that he didn’t hear through the news first. And he sends his love.
For your birthday, I am sending you a set of erasers that will magically clean any blackboard and never need to have the dust pounded out of them. Aunt Nysa helped me with the spell. Liop is adding a set if multi-colored chalk. He says they will change color every fifteen seconds as you write. (I think he got the spell right this time.) Happy birthday!
Very Happy Birthday!Love,Arri and Liop

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