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Arri- February 25, 2004

February 25, 2004

Dear Keish,

I've just had my first lesson with Master Imkell and he is much less like a drill sergeant than Uncle Winthrop. Honestly, I think Uncle W. was feeling the strain of having to prepare lessons and remember information he hasn't needed since he took the entrance exam himself, so many years ago when he was in his twenties and it was after he failed at farming in Onoff and "came to some sense of reason" as he puts it.

Uncle Winthrop gave me a lecture on not telling anyone about my studies until I've actually passed the entrance exam. He doesn't need to worry though. I don't want everyone knowing how foolish I am if I fail.

Aunt Nysa and I spent over an hour this morning looking at objects in the cave. There are so many! But as Imato would say, "We have nothing of interest to report."

I received a note from the young Lord Phyfe Tecsin. He returned to Rousha for a holiday this week and is renting the Anther House. He sent me an invitation to a dinner party. It's a very formal looking invitation, but at the bottom in more casual scrawl are the words: "No dancing required". I think I will accept.

February 29, 2004

It's supposed to be bad luck to study on Leap Day, so school was out for Liop and Master Imkell cancelled my lessons. It seemed like a rather silly superstition to me, but Liop and I were glad of the break. Uncle W. went to work as usual and Aunt Nysa wanted to be alone, so I let her shut herself into our room. For myself, I decided to cut up Treany's old yellow dress and use the best parts of the fabric to make doll clothes for her little sister. The Dinettes have invited me to stay with them when Glory has her foal. I'd like to have some gifts to bring with me.

It was almost time for lunch when Liop came wandering out of the big bedroom that he and Uncle W. share. He looked sad and frustrated.

"What's wrong?" I asked. He held up a vase that I'd never seen before. A large ragged crack marred one side of the red glazed porcelain.

"I promised Clive that I would fix this," he explained, "but the small repair spell won't work on it and I can't get enough magic into the big spell to make it work." His voice cracked as he admitted this.

I was surprised. Liop uses magic so often that I've always assumed he had plenty of magic. I've only used the large repair spell once, but I was able to get it to work with a lot of concentration. It does take rather more magic than most of the other spells in the Basic Spell book you gave me.

"What happened to the vase?" I asked Liop.

"Clive's new puppy knocked a side table over with this on it," Liop said, "His mother will be awfully mad if she finds out."

"Here," I said, reaching for the vase, but Liop didn't hand it to me.

"I want to do it myself," he said stubbornly.

"Okay, let me watch you," I said.

Liop ran his fingers along the crack and recited the spell three times. He frowned with concentration, creasing the cream skin between his eyebrows. I put my hand on his shoulder and felt the magic build and disperse. He was right. There wasn’t enough. It seemed strange that Liop wouldn’t be able to build up enough magic, although when I think about, I’ve never seen Liop successfully complete a spell that required this much magic.

“Maybe you just need some strengthening,” I said.

That’s when I made the mistake. I should have gotten Aunt Nysa to help, but I thought I could teach Liop myself. Actually, the idea of teaching him excited me. First I showed him the levitation spell, and he mastered that easily. It doesn’t take much magic for small things and Liop is a quick learner. Then I tried to teach him the strengthening exercise where two people pull or push.

I thought I had adjusted for not being in the cave, and we were only using a dinner roll. I set it on the floor between us and we chanted the spell together using the adjustment.

But I didn’t have it right.

The roll shot straight up into the air like and rocket and burned a hole in the ceiling almost through the roof! Liop was knocked unconscious. Keish, I almost killed him! I almost killed Liop! Aunt Nysa heard the explosion and came running. I was already kneeling next to him. Together we carried Liop to his little bed and knelt over him. I tried to think clearly.

Aunt Nysa wrung her hands together and began to pace.

“I don’t know healing,” she said, “why didn’t they teach me healing!” Her panicky cry wasn’t helpful. I shook my head, trying to clear it.

“Herbs!” I remembered, “get me some herbs and then run for a healer or a doctor.”

Aunt Nysa obeyed. She brought me all the herb jars from the kitchen cupboard jumbled into a basket. Then she disappeared out the door. I found the chamomile and sprinkled it over Liop’s face, chanting Mother’s peace poem over and over, feeling the magic build in me and willing it into Liop, unformed though it was. After several minutes, Liop slowly opened his eyes and looked around.

“Liop?” I asked.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. He reached up to rub his eye and found the crumbled herbs dusting his face, “I’m not sick.”

I was so relieved that I laughed. By the time the doctor arrived Liop was sitting up and insisting that nothing was wrong with him. The doctor examined him and agreed. He was not someone I know and I paid him without ever asking his name. He didn’t really do anything for Liop anyway.

Liop has no memory of the accident or anything after he and I decided to try the strengthening spell. He wants to try the spell again.

Keish, why is it that when my spells go wrong other people get hurt, but never me? It’s not fair. I should be the one getting hurt. Nysa says it’s my resilience. She says it’s very unusual for someone to be both magical and resistant to magic at the same time but I am. I wish I could teach it to Liop.

March 3

Last night was the dinner party with Phyfe. There were eight of us in all, including Taty who was in raptures over the whole experience. It was her first formal party since she turned sixteen and without even trying she managed to steal the evening. I was glad of her presence. She sat next to me at dinner and nudged me when I tried to use the wrong fork for my salad. Phyfe has a strong sense of style, so the dining hall was very elegant in two-tone tapestry with white porcelain accents. Lady Bashiyra said it was the height of modern fashion. It was beautiful and much simpler than the traditional decorations I saw in the castle. I liked it.

After dinner, true to his word, there was no dancing. Instead we played charades and other parlor games. Some of the guests gave performances at the harp and piano. Lady Bashiyra accompanied Taty in a song and everyone said it was the best performance of the night. And of course Taty stole the show at charades. I was my usual awkward self and stayed out of the way as much as possible. Phyfe insisted I play on his team for most of the games and sat next to me during the performances. He asked me if I liked the games better than dancing and I said that I did.

At the end of the night Phyfe insisted that Taty and I ride home in his carriage. The night was cold and clear. Taty asked me if she had behaved like a lady and I said she was much better at it than me. She insisted that she was too loud and showy. We argued this point for a minute until Taty was convinced I was telling the truth. Then she sat back in the carriage very happily and let me watch the stars the rest of the way to her house.

Taty danced up the steps to her home and the carriage driver waited until she was safely inside. The rest of the ride was quiet. I held my breath going back through the gate to Old Rousha.

I haven’t tried to do magic again since the accident with Liop. Aunt Nysa says I’m overreacting. She’s getting angry. But I’m scared. I don’t want to hurt anyone again.

I am still studying with Master Imkell. In fact, not going to the cave gives me more time to study for the exam. Uncle W. hasn’t commented on this.

I have your letter. Imato and Gretel are getting married July 26th! I’m so glad! July is a beautiful month. Liop says he will enchant the flowers again.

All those arguments with people sound exhausting. I can’t imagine how you survive them. You must like getting out of social invitations though. I’ve gotten out of some of them, but not all. So far they have all been luncheons and visiting calls—nothing formal. Fortunately, Taty gets invited to most of the same things as me, so I’m not entirely alone.

Lord Salazar and Lord Pastile sound very frustrating. It’s too bad Queen Elspeth can’t attend your meetings with you. I bet she could make them cooperate.

I wish my education had included navigation. Then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten lost when I went looking for Uncle Winthrop. The other subjects you’re going to teach sound great.

Zest sounds adorable! I can’t wait to see her. She must have so much energy! Colter is a very calm dog. When we aren’t out walking, he curls up in front of the fire to sleep. He sleeps very deeply. You must bring her with the next time you come. Blaze should be able to get used to Zest. Kestrel rather likes Colter, now that she’s discovered how warm he is. She curls up between him and the fire. She only gets frustrated if he tries to lead the way to visit Father. Then she swats him (claws sheathed) to remind him that she is in charge. Colter makes a sound like a sigh and drops back to my side.

I’m going to end and send this now. I know I need to start magic lessons again, but I’m just so afraid. I hope things are going better for you.



P.S. I’m enclosing some strands of hair from Glory’s mane. Can you perform a spell to predict what day her foal will be born? I know it’s supposed to be the first or second week in April, but I’m so afraid of missing it. I want to be there for the actual birth. I’ve never seen a foal born.

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