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Arri- October 27, 2004

October 27, 2004
Dear Keish,

Keaton sounds like an interesting boy. It seems like he hasn’t had much of a childhood though. I’m sure you’ll be able to help him relax and have fun. It will be good for him to not be so formal all the time.
It’s probably good that neither of his siblings as any active magic right now. It would be harder if you had to take more than child. He must be very nervous. Is this his first time away from home? I remember how I felt when I went to live with Uncle Winthrop. At least I had met him before, even if I didn’t know him very well. I’m glad you gave Keaton a puppy. I’m sure it will be very comforting. I’m also glad that Keaton gets to go home for Christmas.
Uncle Winthrop is suggesting that we spend Christmas in Adya this year. What do you think? Of course, you are welcome to come here like you did last year. Imato is still worrying about the severity of the winter. He thinks it might make travel in any direction difficult. We had a bit more than a flurry three days ago. It’s all melted today though.
Having a house full of puppies for a few days must have been fun. Mendel brought Lexie inside the Prens’ house the other day. Kestrel announced instant hatred for her. They had to be separated. I think the puppy was too uncontrolled. Kestrel gets along fine with Coulter.
I’m glad Tish could show you cells through the microscope. It’s amazing that something so small can come in so many varieties. I’m so glad the university requires Introduction to Biology. I wonder if I can take more classes after this one…

October 30th
Mendel was almost expelled from philosophy today. He met me and Gordo for lunch looking very humble.
“I do not think this professor appreciates modern philosophy,” he sighed, reddening a little.
“What did you do?” asked Gordo eagerly. I worry about Gordo sometimes. He seems to admire Mendel and imitates as much of his fashion as his much more limited budget will allow.
Mendel put his hand to his chin and rubbed uncomfortably at the very short beard he has been attempting to grow for the last few weeks. It isn’t noticeable from a distance, being too thin and too blonde. Gordo’s beard is better, much to Mendel’s annoyance.
It was at that moment that I realized Mendel was wearing a knit cap on top of his head. He reached up and slowly removed it. His entire head was shaved down to a quarter of an inch with an abstract pattern added in a dark color.
“Rumbustical,” ejaculated Gordo, using a word he heard Liop say the other day, “I hope that’s vegetable dye.”
“I’m not an idiot,” said Mendel, quickly covering his head.
I simply stared in astonishment.
“I hear it’s what all the philosophers in Neámh are doing,” Mendel lifted his chin, “although I think it was my bare feet that got me in the most trouble.” He shook his head disappointedly.
I looked outside the café at the rain and shivered.
“How long does it last?” asked Gordo.
“The dye will be gone in a couple of weeks,” said Mendel, “my hair will take a little longer.” He sighed with genuine regret. Gordo laughed hard.
“I don’t think you were cut out to be a philosopher,” he said.
“All mankind are philosophers,” Mendel responded loftily, “I am a philosopher of style. Unfortunately, Dr. Dabagia is a philosopher of conformity.”

“Dr. Ecrue?” He was meticulously cleaning the chalk from the blackboard. Literature class had just ended and I had raced back to the biology building to try and catch the biology professor during his break.
“Dr. Ecrue?” I repeated a little louder.
He stopped and turned around, peering at me absently over the top rims of his square spectacles.
“Yes, Miss…”
“Etautca,” I supplied for him.
“Ah, Miss Etautca, my student.” It seemed that he was actually looking at me for the first time, though I have never missed one of his lectures.
“I was wondering if I could ask you about the animal cells we looked at today in class,” I continued.
“Male mallard duck,” he said, “lovely creature, from the left triceps.”
“Oh, I see,” I paused, reconsidering how to phrase my question.
“Is it possible to look at cells, under a microscope, that are still alive?”
“Of course, very possible, bacteria are excellent examples,” he responded.
“Will we see them in class?”
“What class do you attend?” he asked.
“Introduction to Biology, at seven in the morning.”
“Terribly sorry, we do not cover living tissue in that class,” he looked distractedly out the window.
“Oh,” I said, disappointed, “is there any way I could borrow a microscope and look at cells myself?”
“It’s very expensive equipment. I’m not allowed to lend it. My apologies, of course.” He was walking away.
“I wanted to see if I could watch them exchange energy,” I murmured.
He stopped, turned, and looked at me closely.
“What is that? You want to electrocute them?” he queried, “I have tried that. They died.”
“No, exchange the energy they already have. I want to see how that energy reacts to magic.”
He cocked his head and looked at me.
“This is not a freshman level exercise,” he concluded, tugging at his beard.
“Has it been done?” I asked eagerly.
“In my Iconese Science magazine, I believe I saw reference to such an experiment. I have no magical ability, however, to recreate it.”
“Could I borrow the magazine?”
“It is not written in English.”
“That’s okay, I know a translator.”

I took the copy of the May issue of Troilubus Iconetha to Uncle W.’s apartment. Liop sat down next to me on the couch and we spread it open on my trapezoid coffee table which Mendel says is the next modern trend in home furnishings. It is a large magazine, more like the Chronicle in page size but no thicker than an ordinary magazine. The reason is the large diagrams and illustrations included with the articles.
The magazine contained six articles: one on astronomy, two on chemistry, one on anthropology, and two on biology. One biology article compared embryos of various vertebrate animals. The second was the article that interested me. It was an experiment with using magic to manipulate bacteria.
It was not an easy article for Liop to translate. Although he knew the definitions of all the words, the concepts were well beyond his eight years. He would read a sentence, but it wouldn’t make any sense because he didn’t really understand it himself. I found myself drawing sketches of cells which really didn’t accomplish much for Liop. Next I tried to teach him my awareness exercises but after five minutes he completely rebelled.
“This is brobdingnagianly boring,” he informed me.
Finally I had to accept that advanced biology does not translate for eight year olds. Another problem seemed to be that the concepts were so new that there weren’t any words in our language to describe them. All I got out of the article was that a spell was set to prevent the bacteria from crossing a line of some sort. It might have been a barrier. The article did not include the actual spell and Liop couldn’t figure out if the experiment worked.
“But you could do that, couldn’t you, Arri?” Liop asked, while I turned the pages of the magazine and studied the various diagrams in each article, fascinating even when you can’t read what they’re about.
“If I could figure out what they did exactly and how they did it,” I muttered, frustrated.
“But you could put a spell on bacteria,” Liop insisted, “It doesn’t have to be this spell.”
He had a point.
But what kind of spell would I put on them? I’ve never tried to force a living thing to do something and I’m not sure that’s really what I want to do anyway. I have no idea what any of this will accomplish beyond satisfying my curiosity.
I took the magazine back to Dr. Ecrue the next morning. He had already forgotten that I borrowed it.

October 31st
Liop dressed up as a winged lion (complete with a black mane and magically colored goose feather wings) and went guising for candy today. Gretel took him over to the palace for the best candy. He spent quite a long time debating between a winged lion and a giant ant for a costume. (I suggested a bacteria costume, but he only looked at me like I was crazy.)  Last year was so crazy that it wasn’t until Liop reminded me last week that I remembered we missed the holiday entirely.

November 3rd
Master Donald has developed a habit of walking me back to the stables after algebra on the days that he decides to attend class (once or twice a week). On the way to the stables he usually begins by complaining about Dr. Kondamuri’s arrogance and treatment of me and ends by complimenting me on whatever outfit I am wearing. Once he invited me to a party, but I had already promised to spend the evening with Uncle W., Nysa, and Liop.
Yesterday, I found Mendel waiting at the stables too, Lexie dancing happily around his feet with a very stylish, much chewed shoe. He greeted Master Donald politely.
Master Donald held out his hand, “Congratulations on outwitting Dr. Stansbury the other day in class. Master Greenwood has not stopped talking of it for three days.”
“Oh, Dr. Stansbury will get even,” said Mendel, keeping his hands behind his back, “He always does.”
“Yes, well,” he turned to me, “I hope you have a lovely evening, Lady Arri.”
“Arri,” said Mendel, watching at the retreating figure of Master Donald warily, “I just wanted to tell you…” his face grew increasingly red, “Donald Allbox is… well, he’s not the best sort of fellow…”
It’s unusual to see Mendel so uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable too.
“What do you mean?” I asked, “He’s been very kind to me.”
“Well,” said Mendel slowly, “he’s a gentleman of leisure.”
I didn’t like that argument. “So are you,” I reminded him.
Mendel frowned and looked briefly insulted. Then he shook his head.
“The thing is,” he continued, doggedly, “Allbox actually lives up to his reputation. That’s the whole of it.” He waved one hand vaguely in the air and looked at me.
“Don’t let him get you alone,” said Mendel, seriously, “and don’t go to any of his ‘parties’. You wouldn’t like them.”
I reddened. “Have you been to one?” I asked.
“Briefly,” admitted Mendel, frowning, “I didn’t realize at the time… Anyway, I left after a few minutes. It was too much. Just trust me on this, Arri. He talks well enough, but he’s trouble.”
“All right,” I said. He was too much in earnest for me to argue, and too obviously uncomfortable with the subject.
Mendel looked relieved and immediately began describing Lexie’s latest escapade. It seems that rather than being a burier of valuable objects, she is an un-burier, pulling clothing out of drawers and closets, scattering them about the room. Mendel’s normally fastidious appearance has been increasingly rumpled since she arrived. He takes all of this with a surprising amount of amusement.

It was only the today that Master Donald invited me to another party. This time I didn’t have the excuse of pre-existing commitment.
“I’m sorry,” I told him, failing to keep my color from rising as I spoke, “but I have another commitment.”
“Which is?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.
At that moment I spoiled the excuse by fumbling for an answer.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re a terrible liar?” asked Master Donald, smiling, “It’s a trait to be proud of. Now, who warned you away from me?”
I didn’t answer.
“Not that it matters,” he continued, “What matters most is your own opinion. Do you trust me?”
I hardly knew how to answer that either.
“I see,” he looked hurt, “I suppose you haven’t known me long enough. Well, this party will help you get to know me.”
Did I trust him? Actually, the more important question seemed to be, did I trust Mendel? He has never warned me away from anyone before. I rarely see him so serious.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go,” I repeated.
“I thought you were a liberated woman,” he said.
That bugged me. For the first time, Master Donald Allox was making me nervous.
“I don’t think that attending your party amounts to liberation,” I said.
He blinked in surprise.
“Not liberated, after all,” he concluded, “Well, in that case, I bid you good day.” He was no longer looking at me, but at the stables beyond. His eyes were hard. As soon as he was far enough away for me to feel safe I looked behind myself. I saw no one.
I looked back in the direction Master Allbox had taken and shuddered. I hope I never have to talk to him again. How is it, Keish, that he seemed so kind before? People are so confusing.

November 8th
Since I refused Master Allbox’s last invitation, Gordo has been showing up at the end of my algebra classes. He walks me to the stables. If I’m staying on campus for carpentry, we study together until Mendel meets up with us for lunch. Master Allbox has not bothered me again, neither has he defended me in class, despite the fact that Dr. Kondamuri has asked me to move to the back of the classroom and no longer acknowledges my raised hand. I don’t understand it. He was so excited and encouraging at the start of term. It seems I insulted him, but I don’t know how.
I’m going to end this letter here and send it. It’s strange not to have anything urgent to say that requires an immediate answer. I hope all is going well with tutoring Keaton and all your classes.
Give my love to everyone.


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