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Arri- November 28, 2004

November 28, 2004
Dear Keish,

Snow, snow, snow.  Taty is curled up in the parlor with the latest novel, but I am darning a wool stocking because it takes two layers of socks to keep my feet warm and I haven’t time to make more. I will make some over Christmas break. There is so much snow that Sprigs looks reproachfully at me when I saddle him in the morning and Kestrel no longer sees me off at the gate. Clotho and Hermes have reluctantly agreed to spend their nights in a cage in the parlor with Lady Pren’s finches. The public schools closed for a day last week (much to Liop’s joy), but the university forges on. With finals approaching, no one dares to complain: one less day of lectures means being that much less prepared for the finals. No one is sending invitations to parties, because no one wants to go out. This winter is certainly much worse than last year.
To add to everything, there have been more skirmishes on the border with Greste, and that makes Imato restless and Gretel worried. How anyone can fight in a blizzard is beyond me, but Imato says there isn’t as much snow in the desert.

Weather permitting, Liop and I will leave on December 11th, the day after I take my last final. I have arranged passage on a coach. Uncle W., Nysa, Imato, and Gretel will arrive one week later with a supply of New Year’s fireworks to sell in Adya after Christmas. We can stay through the New Year, but have to return on January 2nd so that Liop and I can return to classes.
Imato and I have had to suspend self-defense as there is no appropriate place to practice with the snow so high. It’s rather a relief to me. Don’t tell Imato, but his lessons are my least favorite of any subject I’m taking. Sadly, I know this after only a few lessons.

December 2nd

I received a letter from Tish today with a translation of the article from Dr. Ecrue’s magazine. It seems that the experiment was an attempt to build a ward that would keep bacteria from entering a space. The idea was to create wards for preventing illness. The experiment all failed because any field strong enough to keep bacteria out was also strong enough to keep anything else out too. It was very interesting to read about. I showed the article to Imato and he was just as intrigued as I was, considering the experiment involved wards. He’s going to see if we can borrow a room at the University, or maybe at the medical research center to try and duplicate the experiment after New Year.
Imato has not mentioned Donald Allbox again, and Master Allbox has not come anywhere near me again. In fact, I haven’t seen him in class at all since Imato threatened him. I would feel bad about him missing class so much, except that he missed so much before that I don’t think he could have expected to pass anyway. I wonder why he attends college at all.
For a carpentry assignment, I went into town to look at examples of furniture and other forms of carved wood. I found a wonderful little shop on Main Street that sells mostly cuckoo clocks, jewelry boxes, and wooden toys. The cuckoo clocks were my favorites with intricate mechanical parts and fanciful designs. I picked up the pieces and copied the creators’ signature marks onto my paper to prove that I had done the assignment. I had more marks collected than I needed. I made a game out of seeing if I could guess what signature would be on a piece just by looking at the design. It was harder than I thought. One artist, however, was easy to spot. Almost everything he made had a fanciful scene on it. I found a screen with a tall slender fairy watching protectively over a child. Her long hair and fine features reminded me of Nysa. Her wings were inlaid with mother-of-pearl and her gown edged with gold paint. The same signature was also on a small jewelry box carved with a girl riding a female griffon. Her hair streamed behind her in two long braids. The wings of the griffon were inlaid with multicolored stones.
“She looks like you,” the shopkeeper volunteered kindly.
I smiled and put the jewelry box down. I searched among the jewelry boxes for something else that might be the same artist. A box with another fairy scene caught my eye.
“You like this artist?” asked the shopkeeper, “You have excellent taste.”
“What’s his name?” I asked, politely. The signature mark was an intricate knot that contained no initials.
“Ah,” said the shopkeeper, smiling, “this artist likes his privacy. He does not give his name. I don’t blame him either. I receive rarely get more than a piece a month from him. I think he would be overwhelmed with commissions if anyone knew his name.”
“Wouldn’t that be good?” I asked.
“Well, I guess he’s the temperamental type, who doesn’t like to be told what to carve. I wish I could get him to do more screens though. They sell almost as fast as I get them. That one has only been here a few days. Most of his pieces are small, though: jewelry boxes, book boxes, bookends…”
The shopkeeper told me the stories of some of the other artists and I quite enjoyed myself. He seemed to understand and not mind that I wasn’t shopping to buy.

December 3rd
Mendel and Gordo have shaven their beards. Mendel’s scalp has lost the vegetable dye pattern and his hair starting to look better, although he still wears a hat all the time. I would never see the progress except that Gordo is fascinated and demands that Mendel remove his hat for a minute every time we meet.
“You’re not thinking of shaving your head and dying it too,” I said to him.
Gordo glanced enviously in Mendel’s direction.
“No,” he said, “seeing Mendel is enough.”
Mendel overheard us and grinned.
“You just wait,” he said, “I’m a trend setter. Everyone will be doing it next year.”
Gordo laughed.
“So what are you going to do next?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Mendel, “studying for finals stifles my imagination.”
“I wouldn’t think you’d care so much,” said Gordo, “I mean, you’re a gentleman of leisure. This is all just a game. Whether you get good grades doesn’t matter.”
I expected Mendel to laugh and agree, but he didn’t. Instead he went very still and glanced at me, a quick painful glance. Then he got up and walked away.
“Mendel!” cried Gordo, startled and confused, “I meant no offense.”
Mendel turned back. He smiled, but his eyes were serious.
“None taken,” he said, “I know what I am.” He paused. “But don’t you ever put me on a level with Donald Allbox,” he said seriously, “I have nothing to do with his kind.”
Gordo looked stricken.
“I wasn’t even thinking of him,” he stammered, “I was only thinking of the money… and the social status… and…”
“All of which means nothing if I don’t have honor to go with it,” said Mendel, retaking his seat.
Gordo stared at him in astonishment.
“I…” he struggled, “what you told me about Master Donald Allbox the other day…” he reddened as he spoke, “I know you don’t want those things.” He glanced at me.
Mendel said nothing.
“Mendel,” said Gordo, “what do you want?” He cocked his head to one side. “You have honor. That isn’t why you attend college.”
Mendel was silent for a minute. He looked toward a window. We waited. He shook himself and when he turned back he was smiling.
“I want to learn, of course. What better place than here? And what better subject than philosophy, the subject that encompasses all other subjects?” he spread his arms.
Gordo looked doubtful.
“What do you want?” ask Mendel.
“To be able to support my family,” he said simply, “my mother and siblings, and my own wife and kids when the time comes.” He shrugged.
Mendel and I looked at each other soberly. Even I, at my poorest, have never known poverty like Gordo.
“Worthy goals,” said Mendel, “On that note, perhaps we should all study. Now, when are your finals? We should have a plan for when we can meet.”
Gordo and I have Biology together on Thursday. My carpentry final is Monday and algebra is Friday. Gordo’s writing final is Monday, geology is Wednesday, and algebra is also Thursday. Mendel drew a calendar on a sheet of paper which reminded me vaguely of a blueprint.
“My philosophy and writing finals are Tuesday,” Mendel told us, “Trig is Friday.” He penciled the finals in.
“You’re forgetting one,” said Gordo.
“No,” Mendel responded, “see they’re all here.”
“But you only have three finals,” Gordo said.
Mendel glanced at me.
“I know that,” he said, “Now I think we should tackle the writing first…”
But I’ve known Mendel too long and I was too curious to let it pass.
“You have a fourth class,” I said, “What is it?”
“A gentleman—“ began Mendel, but I cut him off.
“What is it?” I demanded.
Mendel reddened. Gordo paled.
“Mendel,” he began unhappily, “I didn’t know…”
Mendel waved his hand.
“Arri can know,” he said slowly, “It’s really my father who doesn’t…” he trailed off and turned to me.
“Something utterly useless, of course,” he said, grinning, his hand on the paper. I looked at it, at the straight lines, the wide margins, the lead pencil so different from the quill pens most students prefer. Suddenly, the whole situation became incredibly funny.
“You’re taking architecture,” I said, “That’s perfect!”
Mendel laughed with me and Gordo joined in, though awkwardly.
“But why can’t Lord Westridge know?” I asked.
“Architecture,” said Mendel, forcing his voice down a notch, “is one of those most dangerous of majors, the kind that leads to a career.”
“Surely Lord Westridge didn’t say that!” I said in astonishment.
“Of course not,” Mendel nodded, “I never gave him the chance. “
I frowned; once again the fact that Mendel hid so much from his parents bothered me.
“Arri,” said Mendel, as though I had spoken my thoughts aloud, “it’s not like I’m a thief or, or worse. The things I want are good. They’re just not what I’m supposed to want.”
I didn’t say anything.
“I only need this one year. For one year I’m a model son. I go to all the most popular parties. I’m seen at the opera, ballet, theatre, symphony… I wear the most fashionable clothes,” (brushing his fingers proudly on his jacket), “I dance all the latest dances. I have a valet and the top floor of student housing. I’m a model son, a gentleman of leisure,” (he frowned slightly) “that they brag about.”
“And then?” I asked.
“After that,” Mendel sighed, “They’ll have to accept me on my terms. They can cut me off—I’ll have enough saved and a minor source of income. In short, if they want nothing to do with me, I’ll still be able to finish my degree. I’ll be free to become what I want to be.”
He smiled, but the smile was troubled. I wondered at his income if all that still allowed him to save. Then I remembered the conversation between his parents that I overheard not long ago. Mendel does not always spend like this.
Gordo was staring at him in amazement.
“You want a career?” he asked at the same time I said: “Don’t you think they’ll be more upset that you lied to them?”
“This year I’m going to be a model son. Just keep my secret that long,” said Mendel, “please. Now, back to finals…”
As we planned our study schedules, it occurred to me that Mendel and Gordo were making sure that I was never alone on campus. Why else, when we have such different classes, would it be necessary to coordinate our studying? I thought about Imato and looked at them suspiciously.
“Has Imato talked to you?” I asked.
Gordo glanced at Mendel, who nodded, grinning.
“He offered to get me a sword,” said Mendel brightly, “but I don’t think it would look right with my college suit. Perhaps I should ask him for a suit of armor to go with it…”
I thought about your letter.
“Is it that bad?” I asked.
“Imato and Jace are over-protective,” said Mendel, laughing, “Can you really imagine Allbox fighting, Arri? He’s all talk, and Imato scared him pretty badly.”
Gordo nodded earnestly, “We can handle him. Mendel says you exercise with bricks.”

Caden is a strange person. At least he doesn’t write the articles about you. The article about influences from Rousha is also strange. What do they mean by influences? Gretel tells me Adya fashion is and always has been influenced by Rousha fashion. Imato says that there are always rumors but that both governments are wise enough to ignore them. He’s much more concerned about the skirmishes with Greste. He agreed though, that it was unusual for an article like that to show up in the Gazette and wondered if he should read the last few issues of the Fly-by to see if they said anything similar. He asked if I would help him, but I refused. I don’t care what they say about anything.
It sounds like Keaton’s magic training is coming along very nicely and that he’s happy living with you. It also sounds like he has found a friend in Caden. I hope they had a good time at the new science museum. Maybe we can see it too when we come for Christmas.

If I don’t send this now, I might as well bring it with me.  Poor Hermes and Clotho. I feel bad sending them out in this weather…

I hope you are staying warm and dry. Liop and I will see you in just over a week.


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