Magic, murder, intrigue, missing relatives, secret caves, fantastical creatures, royalty, nobility, romance...
Who ever said our lives were dull?
To follow our story, use the sidebar links and start at the beginning of it all...

Keish- August 4, 2004

August 4, 2004
Dear Arri,

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I took Argentum to Rousha.  The weather on our return trip was far too lovely to be cooped up in a carriage.  Even if it was very warm.
I also cannot express my great relief that the feed-loop spell that Brynn and Nysa devised and cast on Malia and Ryland when we arrived in Rousha continues to effectively solve all problems of leaking magic.  Ryland absorbs is and it feeds right back into Malia-- perfect symbiosis.

Our arrival this afternoon was as quiet as we could make it.  There are, of course, piles of work to be done tomorrow, but for today, why invite trouble?
There’s enough to be done with unpacking, I say.  Which is what Malia’s doing, having told me pointedly to go find something else to do when I tried to help.  Traveling together has of necessity made her far less reserved and formal and I must say I’m grateful.  Though I suppose it has also made her bossy.
So I sit here, beginning a languid letter to you and looking at what post we received while we were gone, with Zest laying across my feet.  Nothing of interest in the post, but that is hardly surprising.
I take that back, Jace has a letter from Tulson.  I shall have to go find him so that I may also read it.  After all, I would never open my husband’s mail.  Well, yes I would, but not under such silly circumstances.  It’s only Tulson.

Tulson’s letter, like most of his erratic correspondence, was brief.  I present it here, in it’s entirety:

I don’t know what you and Keish did, but I swear you are more dangerous married.  Here I thought married life was supposed to be stabilizing; make men settle down and attend to things other than driving their friends mad.
I’ve been completely on tenterhooks since Sunday and I think my man’s about ready to give notice, but I know that as soon as I relax, some piece of luggage is bound to explode in my face.
Luckily with my tension focused on my luggage I’ve been able to keep it from disturbing my bride but I’m sure you see my quandary.
Put me out of my misery already!
--- Tulson

One could almost feel badly for him.  Though after what he put everyone through for those reflections of his he deserves to be a bit jumpy.
The funniest part of the whole thing is there’s nothing for him to be jumpy about.  Jace and I enjoyed the wedding (though I was absolutely in agreement with Tulson’s niece when she shouted) and we danced our way through the evening without tampering with Tulson’s luggage, carriage or person.  I think we should be commended for our forbearance.
(Speaking of dancing, one decided benefit of matrimony is that no one finds it at all remarkable if I choose to dance only with my husband.  Jace laughs and says that’s because we’re still newlyweds and that in another year it will draw all sorts of comments.  He’s probably right.)
Jace laughed at Tulson’s hasty missive.  “I suppose I should write to reassure him, though knowing Tulson he will have forgotten all about it by the time a letter reaches him.  Especially since he’s neglected to give me his direction for a response.”
I was already laughing, but this made me laugh even harder.  Just like Tulson-- demanding a response without saying where to send it.
Later Still

After completing the unpacking in record time (there are perhaps benefits to having maids and valets after all), Ryland requested an audience with us.  Intrigued, we met him and Malia in our sitting room.
“My brother has something to report, Mistress,” Malia said.
Ryland’s eyes remained glued to the floor.
“Go on, tell her,” Malia said, nudging him.  Her eyes glittered with suppressed mirth.  “She’ll not roar at you for giving her information.”
By this point my curiosity was certainly piqued.  I don’t make a habit of roaring at servants for any reason, least of all information I asked for.  (Noblemen are an entirely different kettle of fish-- they deserve to be roared at more often than not.)
“He got Mr. Brooksby in a particularly forthcoming mood, Mistress,” Malia informed me.
“Well, out with it, man,” Jace told Ryland.  “No one’s going to fault you for whatever tale you got out of Brooksby.”
Ryland squared his shoulders, looking for all the world like a man preparing to meet his doom.  Still, he wouldn’t look me directly in the eye, but rather focused his gaze somewhere past my left ear.
“As Malia said, I found Mr. Brooksby to be particularly forthcoming this evening when I took Master Jace’s luggage back to the box room.  With some little prompting on my part, he expressed a great relief that it was I and my sister who had to travel with you, Mistress, and not himself.  I must have caught him at a very vulnerable moment, because a noncommittal response on my part was all it took for him to launch into a peculiar explanation.”  He paused here, looking uneasily at Jace who motioned for him to continue.  “It seems, Mistress, that Mr. Brooksby was previously employed at Ekin Lodge, a Leilani family holding.  Apparently he was even once valet to Lord Adlen, after your grandparents were killed in a carriage accident.”
I nodded.  “When Papa was faced with finding a butler, he simply sent a letter to his  great-grandnephew, the current Marquis of Leilan, requesting Brooksby.”  That much I had gotten out of Papa.
Ryland cleared his throat nervously.  “Yes, well.  Apparently there were… rumors when Lord Adlen began courting Lady Ellean.”
I raised an eyebrow.  I possibly knew where he was going with all of this.
“It seems that when they married many of the servants, particularly, thought that she had enchanted him and that was the reason he married her.  They speculated that she wanted his money and connections to further her sorcery.” (I confess I snorted there.  As if a Brio needed anyone else’s money or connections!)  “From there…” he trailed off, looking pained.  “The gossip about you is even more ridiculous, Mistress.  Especially since the Palace Gazette is delivered to the Manor regularly even if it does arrive several days late.”
I couldn’t help it-- I burst out laughing.
Ryland looked rather disconcerted, but both Jace and Malia laughed with me.
“So… what?  He’s afraid of being turned into a fire newt?” I asked.
“’Being ensorcelled’ were his words, I believe,” Ryland replied with a small smile.
“Heavens,” Jace said, “Arri’s right-- why did he take the position then?”
Here Ryland looked a little nervous again.  “It seems he was under the impression that the newly married Lady would be setting up housekeeping in her own residence,” he answered.
“Ah, of course.  Papa wouldn’t have thought to mention it.  Brooksby would have just assumed.”
“And by the time he realized,” Jace continued, “he had already accepted the position and left Ekin Lodge.”
I sighed.  “Despite the amusement, this still means I’m going to have to find a way to win him over.”
“And since I suppose he thinks I’m ‘ensorcelled’ as well there’s probably nothing I can say to reason with him,” Jace said.
We sent Ryland and Malia on their way.  Ryland’s relief was palpable while his sister continued to tease him about being just as scared of me as Brooksby.
After an hour’s debate, neither Jace nor I had come up with a valid option for convincing Brooksby that I’m not likely to turn him into a tree or something.  Eventually we’re bound to come up with a plan, though.  Right?
Aug. 5th
What a day.
This morning I…
No, blast it all, I’m not coherent enough to write.
I’m going to bed.
Aug. 6th

I shouldn’t have attempted writing anything last night.  Malia barely got me out of my dress as it was.
Untold weeks ago (it feels like years) I wrote that we would have practice courses to teach for about six weeks this summer.  That was the plan but then the fairies took Liop.  At which point everything was put on hold.
So rather than have a chance to practice teaching, I have a mere three weeks in which to make everything ready.  We begin classes September 1st.
A frustration to be sure, but at least I haven’t spent the summer deciding that I can’t do this.
While we were in Rousha, Master Byra reviewed our lesson plans.  As a result we returned to piles of notes and suggestions to use in refining our work.  Neither Jace nor I has even looked at any of it yet.  We must trudge through it today.
Yesterday was spent entirely in meetings-- with Master Byra, other teachers, nobles who wish to support us in our grand cause (mostly noblewomen), and, of course, detractors.  Several of whom are lucky to have retained their natural shape, color and general state of being after subjecting me to their inane arguments.
See, my temper is improving.  I didn’t even throw a quill.
Besides, if I enchant someone, I’ll never win over my recalcitrant butler.  (That’s an unfair description.  He’s not resistant, just… reluctant, shall we say.)
I don’t know what any of the naysayers actually hoped to accomplish.  The king has given us his support and that is that.  If they’re hoping to intimidate me… well then they don’t know me, do they?
Jace nearly had to forcibly remove one man who, as near as I can tell, thought I was really going to be teaching servants to spy on their masters for my own nefarious purposes.  What such purposes would be he didn’t seem to know.
“I doubt they’d be anything fit for a proper gentleman to know,” he said with a sniff, at which point Jace rose from his seat with a particularly dangerous look on his face.
Master Byra asked if that was all and, with a glance at Jace, the odious little man beat a hasty retreat.
I have never heard Jace (or Imato for that matter) use any of the more vulgar language that one hears in the training yards, but I promise you something of that sort was on the tip of Jace’s tongue.  He sat down slowly, taking a moment to compose himself.
The comment was shockingly rude, of course, but I think even Jace was surprised at the intensity of his emotion in defending me.  I must say I was touched.
He started to apologize, but Master Byra waved it off.  “Nonsense.  Rather wanted to hit the man, myself.  Possibly would have at your age.”
I had a hard time picturing Master Byra striking anyone.  But then I was also having a hard time picturing him as a young man.
Sadly, that was the most exciting thing that happened all day.
By the time I retired last night I was exhausted (as I’m sure you could tell from my aborted attempt at writing.)
Now I suppose I shall have to start in on final lesson plans, since I cannot justify lingering any longer over breakfast.  However, I refuse to remain indoors on such a beautiful day.  I shall cart all my piles of paper out to the garden instead.

If ever there was a time to be grateful for the gift of divination…
Okay, so there are many such times, but knowing that you’re about to receive a visit from the queen of the fairies before she arrives is definitely near the top of the list.
The frisson of magic I felt built gradually enough that I was able to throw a hasty glamour around the garden.  There are enough crazy rumors about me without half the palace seeing me argue with the Fairy Queen.  Somehow I really didn’t think she was coming to make polite conversation.
With my glamour firmly in place, I continued making notes as I listened to mushroom pop up in front of me, trying not to think of what havoc was being wreaked upon my pennyroyal.
When the queen herself finally appeared it was clear how she felt.  Irate is too mild a word.  Anger rolled off her in waves.
“I do hope you’ve come to see to my oregano.  And apparently my pennyroyal as well.  Though I’m sure you needn’t have come yourself,” I said calmly.
Her response could really only be considered rude.
Luckily, casting my glamour had also served to allow me to activate Imato’s ward without it being noticed.  As a result, her angry spell had no effect.
She made a noise I can only describe as a shriek.
“Such a lack of manners,” I observed.  “If you’re that upset I’m surprised to just be hearing from you now.  I do hope you haven’t been trying to disrupt Imato’s wedding trip.”
“No fairy ring can be used within a mile of him, as you well know,” she practically spat at me.
I smiled.  “Ah, so he did take my advice.”
Her eyes narrowed dangerously.  “I knew you were behind both spells.  Just like your mother.”
I shook my head.  “Neither I nor my mother had any part in writing the spell cast in Rousha.  Surely you must have recognized its age.”
“You cannot deny us what is ours!”  Her voice was like venom.
My voice became equally harsh.  “No child born in this world is yours by right.  A thief’s goods are not rightly gained.”
She began throwing spells at me nearly faster than I could react.  Unfortunately, none of my spells penetrated the ring any better than her spells penetrated Imato’s ward.
Finally, heartily sick of her presence, I pushed Imato’s ward outward, filling the garden with it.
The Fairy Queen gave a cry of alarm and with a flash of light she was gone along with her ring.
Only once she was gone did I hear her parting words.  “This is not over.”
“Oh but I think it is,” I said softly.
Jace was at my side almost immediately.  Imato linked the wards he put on us so that when I activated mine it brought Jace’s to bear also.  (I know, I owe you a full explanation.  One thing at a time.)
I sat on the bench and slowly let the glamour fade, looking in despair at my garden.  Or what was left of it.  Malia is likely to go into mourning.
“Are you okay?” Jace asked, his face a mask of worry.
I nodded as I carefully released Imato’s ward.  He continued to hold me in his arms, though I wasn’t sure if he was reassuring me or himself.  Not that I objected to either.
“Imato’s wards are second to none,” I said with a small smile.  I explained how it was the expanding ward that finally put a decisive end to what could have become a deadly battle.
Jace gave a low whistle.  “I expect we’ll be hearing from Imato.  He’d have to have felt that, right?”
“Oh, certainly.  The only question is will he be concerned or irritated.”
Jace chuckled.  “Both, I would imagine.”
Despite what Imato says, Arri, I have no delusions of grandeur.  I am thoroughly aware that had such a confrontation taken place in her world I would not be here to write this letter.  But in this world, with your brother’s help, I am most certainly a match for even the queen of the fairies.
Later Still

After what happened in the garden this morning I was drained enough to let Jace help me inside where Marta, Malia and even Cook fussed over me while Jace insisted that I at least rest on the chaise lounge in the sitting room if I wouldn’t agree to go to bed.  I agreed to the sitting room, on the condition that in addition to a tray for lunch I have my small lap desk to continue both this letter and my work.
I confess, however, that after writing the above I fell asleep for a substantial part of the afternoon.  I shall have to go down for dinner soon, but I am determined to give the explanation I promised.
First, though, a heartfelt apology for not telling you sooner.  I didn’t want to worry you and Imato and Jace both deferred to me on that score.  It was wrong of me and I am sorry.  It’s the kind of thing Uncle W.’s been doing all this time and I am rather ashamed of myself.
Here then is a full account.
Saturday afternoon, you recall, I begged off shopping with you, Nysa, Gretel and Taty, saying that I felt unwell.  While this was certainly true, I allowed everyone to assume the ailment was physical and returned to our rooms at the Pren house, waving off Jace’s concern and insisting he remain with Imato and Liop.
Once I was sure you would be safely gone, though, I returned, having spent the time at the Prens’ divining rather than resting.
I convinced Papa to take Liop out and find the most exotic delicacies they could for your birthday.  (Not that it took much convincing.)  Since Uncle W. was elsewhere we soon had complete privacy and I explained my unease to Imato and Jace.  (Who were, at that point, suspicious and concerned, respectively.)
A serious pall of danger had settled of Imato and myself and, to a lesser extent, Jace.
The fairies, it would seem, were not at all pleased with what we had done.
Interestingly, there was no sense of danger around anyone else, except some around Gretel that was more to do with Imato.  (Just as the danger to Jace was incidental to the fury focused on me.)
“You’re sure the fairies are not going to do anything to anyone else?” Imato asked, rather unconvinced.
“As sure as I can be.  I don’t think they’re going to get involved with Arri or Liop again after what happened.  It seems they blame you and I for the spell.”
Imato gave me a rueful grin.  “Well, I can certainly sympathize with the desire to blame magic on you.”
I stuck my tongue out at him briefly.
“What do we do?” ask my ever-practical husband.
“Wards,” Imato said promptly, with a confidence that surprised me a little.  “If I ward you both now isn’t there some way for you to activate that ward when you need it?”
I nodded.  “Certainly.  And we can link the wards so that activating mine activates them both.  I doubt they’ll seek Jace out alone.”
We spent an hour debating theory and setting up the spell-- including a way for Jace to recognize that the ward was active.  Imato then cast it with his characteristic decisiveness.  As I wrote to Brynn Sunday, your brother has become a force to be reckoned with.
With that settled, we turned our attention to how Imato would protect himself (and, by extension, Gretel).
“It’s simple enough to ward one’s self, Keish,” Imato said, slightly exasperated.  “I’m fairly certain even I can manage that.”
I laughed, remembering how just months ago I was lamenting the strength of his shielding spell-- the most basic of wards.  Little did I know how strong he really is!
“Yes, but do you really want to deal with fairies at all?  What if we could create a ward that would prevent fairy rings from appearing or being used anywhere near you?  It wouldn’t be a long-term solution-- it would never be enough to protect a child-- but I think I can work out a spell to prevent unfortunate interruptions to your wedding trip.”
Imato had started to argue but shut his mouth with a snap.  He nodded, blushing slightly.
Papa and Liop returned before we got very far, so Jace had Liop show him everything they’d found while Imato and I retreated to Uncle W.’s study.  It took another two hours to work out a usable spell.  There was no real way to test it, but I reviewed everything in painful detail and felt confident.
Imato seemed thoughtful when we finished.  I think the broader implications of his power gave him plenty to think about.  Naturally his wards will always be strongest on family members, but as a knight there are certainly many other useful applications.
We briefly debated warding you and Liop, but there was just no sense of danger around either of you, so Imato was finally appeased by the idea that if by chance something happened that you couldn’t handle, Nysa and Uncle W. were with you.

You know, this isn’t a very languid letter after all.
Aug. 7th
Today was very dull after yesterday.  I think I like dull.
Aug. 8th

Your letter arrived while we were eating breakfast this morning.  We’ve taken to eating in our sitting room, since it is intended as a private breakfast room also.  Without Imato and Gretel to eat with it is usually just Jace and me and it seemed silly to use the larger breakfast room downstairs.
One thing at a time, though, because before I could even read your letter, Marta tapped on the door and entered.  “White is insisting on seeing you, Milady,” she said in a rather disapproving tone.  “He’s brought this.”  She handed me a letter.
It was, not surprisingly, from Imato.  Apparently I underestimated how concerned your brother would be.
I scanned it quickly and handed it to Jace.
“Shall I send him back downstairs, Milady,” Marta said in a tone that indicated she very much wanted to.
“No, better send him in.  Imato gave him some pretty strict orders,” I replied.
“I didn’t think we’d worried him so much he’d send White,” Jace commented as he folded Imato’s letter.
Really, it was more of a note.  A terse one.  In essence it said that White was to see for himself that we were alive and unharmed and that if we didn’t send a full explanation back with him quickly Imato himself would come to demand one.
White entered and closed the door quietly.  “Sir, My lady,” he said with a very proper bow.  “Sir Imato sent me to ascertain the extent of any damage to your persons.”
I had to stifle a giggle.
“We suffered no ill effects,” Jace replied.  “How did you arrive so quickly?  You must be exhausted.”
“On the contrary, sir, I was with my master in Dock-on-Green.  I’d have been here sooner but Sir Imato insisted that if I arrived exhausted I would be of no help.”
The man managed to make words like “contrary” sound perfectly respectful.  I still wonder where on earth Jace found him.
“I had no idea they were going there.  Interesting.  Well, you must at least be hungry.  Cook will have something for you in the kitchen and as soon as our letter is ready we’ll call for you,” I told him.
He bowed again and left.
Jace grinned.  “Our letter?  Meaning you’re going to make me write it.”
I shrugged.  “I have a letter from Arri to read,” I said loftily.  “Besides, I wrote out an account for Arri.”
This made him laugh, but he dutifully took over the task of reassuring your brother while I read your letter, which was a far more interesting task.

I’m glad you’ve recorded Trena’s story.  You’re good with details.  I shudder to think of the result if the Chronicle were MY responsibility.
I would most certainly see Queen Elspeth.  How ridiculous that you need a different address.  I wouldn’t put too much hope in the Dean, either, with the attitudes you’ve encountered so far.  At least we know Queen Elspeth is firmly on your side.  Good luck.  It will work out.
You absolutely deserved a wonderful birthday.  I’m glad we were there for it.  (Of course you don’t feel any older, though.  That’s one of the great myths about adulthood.)

I really must close.  Hermes is already looking askance at the number of pages I have.  I wouldn’t have thought a bird could look askance, but there you have it.

Love Always,

Go to NEXT Letter

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave us a little note-- Hermes or Clotho will be sure to deliver it!