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Arri- January 17, 2005

January 17, 2005
Dear Keish,

Imato received your note today. He sent me a note to let you know in this letter that he has not tampered magically with any of the copies of the Fly-by. He will pass everything on to the people you mentioned.

Going back to where I left off in my letter yesterday, after I had lunch with the Queen and Princess and finished my letter to you and sent it off with Hermes and Clotho, I took Sprigs over to Imato’s house so that I could tell him everything too. It was evening by then and instead of Imato answering the door (as was Father’s habit), Emily answered, looking rather flustered.
“Come in, Lady Arri,” she said, motioning quickly, closing the door, and locking it firmly, “I’ll see you straight up.”
“Is everything okay?” I asked. Her normally perfect hair was pulled back lopsided and she was wearing a warm travel dress.
She opened her mouth, shut it, considered me, and then shook her head.
“I haven’t a clue, my lady,” she said finally, “Ask your brother. He’s had Master White and me running messages all over the city all day.”
“Oh,” I said. I took a deep breath and tried to prepare myself as I climbed to the study on the second floor.
Gretel was hunched over the floor piecing a quilt (Emily has been teaching her how to make them), but before I could get a proper look at it, Imato waved the Fly-by in my face.
“Have you read this?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I responded, “but the Queen gave me the gist of it.”
That brought him up short. He and Gretel both looked at me.
“Queen Elspeth told you? When?” Imato asked.
“I had lunch with her and Princess Chavella today,” I said, “They took Sir Waldbauer in for questioning around noon.”
“Yes, and they’ve been at it all afternoon,” Imato picked up a note, glanced at it, and set it down again.
I waited.
“They haven’t learned anything useful. Sir Waldbauer insists that he knows nothing.” Imato told me.
“You don’t believe him?” I asked.
“None of his daughters received a ladies’ diploma,” said Imato, frowning.
“Condemning evidence, I’m sure,” said Gretel in an annoyed voice.
“Umm…” I said.
“No, Arri, there isn’t a shred of evidence to show him guilty,” said Imato in exasperation, “but someone is going to jail for this. The insinuations against Jace and Keish…” he fell to muttering darkly.
“How about the author of the article?” I suggested hopefully, “Raven Whitewing?”
“She didn’t write it,” said Imato, “and don’t ask who did. We haven’ t the faintest—identity protection spells on every issue.”
“Identity protection spells?” I said.
“Awfully well-crafted spells too,” Imato frowned.
“Have you tried to break them?” I asked.
“Not me, but a couple of court magicians tried. They lived, but Master Ujifil is tending the injuries.”
“I wish you would get rid of that issue,” commented Gretel, “It makes me nervous just looking at it.”
“It’s not dangerous if you don’t try to tamper with it magically,” said Imato.
The tension in the room was palpable. I looked from Imato to Gretel and back again. Gretel was kneeling the floor examining a block of fabric. She didn’t look up.
“So what did the Queen tell you?” asked Imato.
I repeated as much of the conversation as I could remember.
“The Crown Princess will offer a scholarship?” asked Gretel, “That’s wonderful!”
“That will make sure you aren’t alone next year,” said Imato, his face lightening briefly.
“If anyone wants to go,” I added.
“Someone will,” said Gretel and Imato almost in unison.
At that moment there was a knock at the door. Gretel admitted Emily and White carrying tea trays with sandwiches.
“I’m sorry, Arri,” said Gretel immediately, “we’re not eating a regular meal tonight. We’re too busy, but we have sandwiches.”
“I ate too much at lunch anyway,” I told them.
Gretel and I each took a sandwich, but Imato waved the tray away.
“You have to eat something,” pleaded Gretel.
“I’ll eat later,” he responded, “How can I eat when the 10th division comes home tomorrow and I don’t know who’s being activated in their stead?”
Gretel bit her lip nervously.
“Do they have to activate another division?” I asked, “How many are left on the border?”
“Only four,” said Imato, “Greste keeps building up battle sites and then dismantling them and moving to a new location. I’m beginning to think it’s all a ploy to keep our attention. Anyway, the King will announce in two days that at least one, maybe two more divisions will be activated.”
“Two!” I said.
He nodded grimly. “Whatever they’re doing, we need to be prepared. Our captain doesn’t know what else to do. I wish Fa…” he stopped short and then began again, “I wish we knew what they’re planning.”
We were silent for a while. Then Imato returned to the pointless speculation about the Fly-by. He reconsidered all the same unsubstantial pieces of evidence and the same uncertain possibilities. Soon I was just as tired and annoyed with him as Gretel. I went back to the Prens that night grateful that I had school the next day.

Having lunch with Queen Elspeth entirely interrupted what I had been going to tell you about next in my letter. Not that what she had to say wasn’t extremely important.
What I was going to say is that Imato has been making inquiries about getting permission to use some of the biology equipment at the college. He proposed this to his division commander, Sergeant Dobkin, that there might be some benefit to his protection wards if he could cast them on individual cells. He says that the Sergeant was intrigued by the concept and said he would talk to the university. Now we’re waiting to hear back from them. In the meantime, I am really looking forward to Dr. Ecrue’s lecture in which we will be able to look at live cells through a microscope. I’m also trying to apply Master Ujifil’s awareness exercises to watching my own cells. Blood cells are the easiest to watch because they are always in motion; while stationary cells are hard to differentiate between because what they do is so much more subtle. It’s very strange. Brain cells are the hardest of all to look at. When I try to look at them, I feel like I’m trying to look directly into the sun and all I see if one great mass of energy. If I pull back and look at my brain the way Master Ujifil taught me, I can see that it is divided into different sections that interact with each other and send messages to the rest of my body. But then I can’t really tell one message from another. They all look alike. It seems like if I could see the individual cells clearly, I might be able to learn more. Sometimes it’s very frustrating.

January 18th

I spent most of today working on a five paragraph essay for Dr. Shusterman’s writing class. For our subject, we were required to read Reilly’s essay on the role of women in times of war. It was twenty pages long, which was more than enough for the topic. Reilly believes that soldiers should take their wives with them onto the battlefield as inspiration to help them win wars. He does not think that wives should be allowed to carry any weapons or receive any combat training, otherwise the soldiers would be less inclined to protect them. They should instead dress in their finest clothing and stand together on a convenient hill from which the soldiers can view them during battle. (If the day is particularly bright they should make sure to carry parasols to protect their complexions.) I am supposed to write an essay defending his argument. I have started and stopped a dozen times. I have wasted ten sheets of paper. Gordo says the point of this essay is to teach us that there are two sides to every argument. I suppose this is true, but I think Reilly has already said everything that can be said on this point, more than I could ever think of. Personally, I’m not taking my best dress and a parasol anywhere near any battles. I’m just not. That’s all I have to say about it.

January 19th

Imato’s division, the 14th Division, has been called up. They leave on January 22nd. Another division will leave on February 1st, the day after the Winter Festival. I have your letter and I took it over to Imato and Gretel’s because I knew Imato would want to see it.
Gretel had been in tears all day. Imato is too full of adrenaline to think clearly. All he can do is repeat that everything will be fine and order White to pack his things. White has no experience with fighting. He will follow Imato to the border, but will stay in a nearby village where he can’t be in the way. Imato keeps reminding us that his protection wards are nearly invincible and that everything will be fine. At one point Gretel announced that she would go along with White so as to be as close to Imato as possible. That cleared Imato’s head a bit. He put his arms around her and let her cry for a while and then gently told her that she had to stay here in Rousha where he would know that she is safe.
When I said I had a letter from you, Imato immediately demanded I give it to him. I hadn’t read it myself yet, so I said I would read it aloud.
Did I mention in my last letter how much Liop loves the alchemical kit that Caden sent him? I can’t remember now. Anyway, Liop has already performed every experiment. He and his friend Clive had a great time together with it. Clive has announced that he wants to become an alchemist too. Liop also received the letter from Keaton and intends to write a response with new ideas of experiments for Keaton to try. Uncle W. made him promise to clear all of his suggestions with him before he sends the letter.
If Caden takes out every eligible young lady in Adya once, wouldn’t that take at least nine weeks? Maybe he can write Mendel for advice on pretending to do one thing while actually doing another. Well, probably Caden already knows a lot about that since he writes for the Gazette. Meeting all those young ladies might help him gather information, maybe.
Liop did borrow that book and loaned it to Mendel. He assures me he did not use it, and I actually feel a little sad in saying that I believe him. Liop’s love of alchemy remains strong, but he’s still reluctant to learn anything new with magic. Nysa tried ordering him to practice, but Uncle W. intervened and told her that she is not to bring up the subject again unless Liop starts the conversation himself.
It had not occurred to Imato that he could modify his ward spells for use in concealing the identity of an author. He’s very glad that it didn’t occur to him, because he probably would have tried to figure out who’s writing all the articles with political agendas sooner than this. Now that he knows how dangerous the spells are, he won’t try. Gretel can’t decide if staying in Rousha and obsessing over the Fly-by and Gazette is really safer than patrolling the border with Greste after all. Patrolling the border will definitely prevent Imato from investigating the gossip columns further. He won’t be able to get the paper in any reasonable amount of time. Well, he’s thinking about requesting his own set of passenger pigeons…
The court magicians are recovering from their attempts to break the wards on the Fly-by. The king considers their injuries good grounds to conduct a full investigation and he has ordered that everyone connected with the publication of the Fly-by turn themselves in for questioning or risk being charged with fraud. Imato is skeptical about this plan. He doubts the people we’re really looking for will come forward so easily.
It is a relief to know that Dr. Caltrone is not really missing, because it really discredits whoever wrote the article—not that anyone writing for the Fly-by cared much about truth. Gretel suggested we write a rebuttal to the article, but I think it would only draw more attention. I have no intention of dignifying the Fly-by with a response.
Imato is rather obsessed with wards these days, so I’m not surprised that he had already warded the classrooms. Besides his own home, he redid the standard ward that the Prens have on their house and the ward Uncle W. was maintaining on the apartment. He wanted to redo all the wards on Rousha University, but the university president wouldn’t allow it. I think he would reward the entire castle if he could think of a good reason for it. The wards on the castle are ancient and very good already.
I wish I could have seen the argument in the courtyard. I bet it was very scandalizing.
Imato was so angry over everything you said about the Gazette that I half expected him to quit the 14th Division so that he could continue investigating the gossip columns. He won’t of course. He said that it is relieving to know that there are minds much greater than his already working on the problem.

It’s very late. I can’t sleep. Whenever I close my eyes battle scenes from Trena’s memories of the Great War rise up before me and I jerk awake. Imato told me that there is a winged lion named Tecumseh who has been seen fighting trolls in a couple of the border battles. No one in the army is capable of speaking with him, so they can’t really strategize. I’m not sure who this lion is, but I would guess that he is trying to prove himself.
I know the skirmishes on the border have not been serious and most have ended without any loss of life. Imato keeps repeating this over and over. I remember all the times we sent Father off to war and how Mother could never sleep properly until he was home again. Imato’s wards are stronger than Father’s were. He will come home. He hasn’t even left yet.

January 20th

Mendel was waiting for me at the stables when I arrived on campus this morning with my ridiculous writing essay folded in my satchel among the much more important biology and anatomy texts. I was distracted, thinking about Imato and Gretel. Mendel’s appearance startled me.
“Are you all right, Arri?” he asked, cocking his head to one side.
“Yes, good morning,” I said, picking up my satchel, which I had dropped.
“How did you get on with Dr. Shusterman’s essay?” he asked, after a pause.
“I think the women should be armed,” I responded absently.
“I argued that war would be a whole lot cleaner if everyone was required to wear their Sunday best. That way everyone would be too uncomfortable and nervous about ruining their good clothes to have a proper battle. We could host a dance marathon instead,” Mendel said.
“Sounds good to me.”
Mendel followed alongside me.
“You look tired,” he ventured.
I shrugged.
“Arri,” said Mendel.
I stopped and looked at him.
Mendel reddened, “I was just saying if you need any help with homework today, I’m ahead of schedule. I could help you memorize the names of bones or something.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Thanks,” I said.
Mendel shrugged and we separated for classes.

We will send Imato off to the northwest border with a parade. It will probably be small since we just had a parade for the soldiers coming home and will have another one when the 12th Division leaves right after the Winter Festival. It’s hard to work up the enthusiasm for the Festival. Classes won’t be held from the 27th to the 31st. Really, I’d rather stay in school. It’s very distracting, and I really can’t spend enough time learning about cells. Knowing the names of all the different parts of my body is interesting too. Even Master Ujifil acknowledges the benefit of that. He has the same anatomy book in his library that we’re using for the class. Really, I think he missed out not going to college.

I can’t think of much else to say. I hope that you can catch whoever’s writing these articles soon. It’s very disturbing to think that there are people who want to damage the relationship between Elcaro and Arella. It’s been so good since the Great War of 1718.
Take care of yourself. Give my love to everyone.


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