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Arri- January 22, 2005


January 22, 2005
Dear Keish,

It was a cold, snowy morning and a dreary little parade. Imato kept his head high and Gretel tried to keep her eyes dry, but between the melting snowflakes and their own tears, no one managed to stay dry. The sound of the band was muffled and just a little desperate. Imato had packed Glory very carefully himself. Her packs were very full, although Imato limited himself to only two of his spell books, one about wards, and only a single change of clothing. He will probably be gone for at least four months, so how he’s going to survive with only two outfits and his suit of armor, I don’t understand. Glory’s dark heavy winter coat contrasted sharply against the fresh white snow. White was riding an army issue mule. We sang the national anthem and waved damp Elcaran flags. Imato kissed Gretel long and hard before they parted. Once the soldiers were out of sight, we hurried back to Gretel’s townhouse to dry out by the fire. Then we cracked opened the new copies of Jeanine Camino’s latest novels and tried to distract ourselves. Imato had brought them home the night before and given them to us as unexpected presents. They were supposed to be comedies, but we studied them as grimly as any gothic drama.
I am glad the Winter Festival starts in a few days. We really need the distraction.

January 23rd

Today the Prens helped me move my things to the townhouse so that I can stay with Gretel while Imato is away. It was Imato’s idea. He doesn’t like the idea of Gretel living alone. I can stay in the guest room. My commute to the university will be longer, but that’s okay, since I have Sprigs. My commute to the castle will stay about the same, although I will be approaching from a different direction.
Kestrel and Zora saw each other today for the first time since they were kittens. Liop says they remember each other, although they treated each other with great caution.
I wonder if the snow has stopped where Imato is. He’s travelling northwest. As he gets closer to the dessert, the weather should improve, although it will still be cold. Greste is not a hot dessert like they have on the southern border of N√®ahm. It is actually colder than Rousha, although not by much.

January 24th

“Some of you,” said Dr. Shusterman grimly, “seem to have missed the point of our last assignment entirely. Others seem to have been under the impression that it was some kind of joke.”
We all squirmed in our seats and dropped our heads.
“I am not interested in reading any of the compelling arguments against Reilly’s essay on women in war. The essay was written 167 years ago and war practices have changed. However, you must realize that Reilly’s ideas were taken very seriously at the time they were written. The point of the assignment was to look at another person’s argument and take it seriously, no matter how much you disagree with it. No one has opinions without reasons. You must learn to pay attention to the reasons.”
He paused here to let us worry about our grades.
“I will return your papers now. Some of you will find that in order to pass this class, you must redo the assignment entirely. Those few who wrote their assignment with some serious consideration may still redo the paper for a higher grade.” He walked down the aisles passing out papers.
I took mine gingerly and glanced at the top, half afraid. Eighty percent. Well, that was okay. The student next to me groaned at the same time that I sighed my relief. We both glanced at each other.
“Pass?” he asked.
I nodded.
“Maybe I should ask you for advice,” he frowned grimly at his paper.
At that moment Dr. Shusterman began talking again and I turned my eyes to the front. He was giving us the next reading and writing assignment. This one was more to my liking. He wanted us to pick a famous work of art, read an essay someone else had written about it, and then write our own essay about it. I spent much of the lecture wondering what piece of art to choose.
At the end of class I waited until most of the students were already gone before gathering up my own things. It’s much easier than trying to avoid the rush and jostling of the young men. This time, the student next to me delayed.
“I just wanted to apologize for not introducing myself properly,” he said, “My name’s Castle Renwick.”
“Castle?” I couldn’t help asking.
He grimaced. “My mother thought it sounded aristocratic,” he explained.
“Oh,” I tried to think of something nice to say.
He shrugged.
“I’m Arri Etautca,” I held out my hand and we shook.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Etautca,” said Master Renwick.
“Likewise, Master Renwick,” I said.
We left the classroom together. Then I headed for the stables for Sprigs, so I could head over to my lessons with Master Ujifil.

I have your letter. I think the snow has been hard on Hermes and Clotho. They are huddled together on their perch near the fireplace and show no sign of concern that Zora is stalking beneath them. I think I will put her in another room and have Liop give her a lecture when he gets a chance.
That’s great that you haven’t lost any students, although the fact that two of them have lost their jobs is very sad. Hopefully, being better educated will help them to get much better jobs so that they will be glad they were laid off.
Why would someone accuse Uncle W.’s fireworks of being weapons? What exactly have they been used against. If Uncle W. were to use fireworks as weapons it would be very noticeable. The Gazette wouldn’t have to make soundless accusations. The regular news would be happy to accuse him directly.
Gretel thanks you for having Imato’s subscription to the Gazette cancelled. Gossip columns are the last things he needs to be worrying about when he’s patrolling the border with Greste. She does not want him distracted by anything, no matter how important.
Your letter did come before Lady Aoweir’s letter. I suppose what I ought to have done was say nothing about Lady Aoweir’s letter to Gretel and try to intercept it before she saw it, but unfortunately, Gretel was reading over my shoulder and saw what you said about her mother at the same time as me. Gretel says that when her mother’s letter does come, I am to throw it in the fireplace without reading it. She will only accept letters from her father from now on.
Someone in Elcaro’s castle wrote the articles in the Gazette??? Why would an Elcaran want Arellans to think badly of Elcarans? It doesn’t make any sense.  Without Imato around, I have no contact with the castle to know what they are doing. Imato still gets Rousha Today which is a respectable newspaper and we read it every morning at breakfast. Today the paper reported that seven people have turned themselves in to the police for questioning about certain incendiary articles against Elcaro in the Gazette. Gretel and I agree with Imato. The person the king is looking for isn’t going to turn himself in.
Duke Tulson is exactly the person to write. He arrived in Rousha a couple days ago and today I received an invitation from Lady Clara to come to lunch on the twenty-sixth. Gretel is going to come too. We’re excited to hear about everything Clara saw during her honeymoon in Iconei. Hopefully, she will know something about the person you are looking for in the castle. The problem is that the castle is pretty self-sustaining. The person whose identity you’re trying to find could literally stay there for weeks or months without ever needing to leave.

January 25th

“Miss Etautca, may I have a word?” I was so startled to be addressed by Dr. Ecrue that I actually looked around to see if he was really talking to me.
“Yes, of course,” I said, placing my biology book in my satchel.
I followed him back to his office. Dr. Ecrue’s office is as cluttered as a room can possibly be. To reach his desk, he led me through a narrow maze of piles of papers and magazines, many in Iconese. Jars containing specimens balanced in precarious pyramids in the corners of the room. Stacks of papers higher than my head leaned against each other on the large walnut desk.  Dr. Ecrue removed a box of bones from one chair and a taxidermy turtle from another. Then we sat.
“Do you have a class this hour?” he asked. I said that I had Anatomy next.
“I will write you a note of excuse,” he said and did so immediately. Oddly enough, he had no difficulty finding pen, ink, or paper in the hopeless clutter that surrounded him.
I thanked him and pocketed the note, my curiosity growing.
“Miss Etautca,” said Dr. Ecrue, “It has been brought to my attention that you and…” he frowned, “a knight… are interested in borrowing the universities microscopes for investigations of casting wards on cells.”
“Yes,” I said, “my brother, Sir Imato Etautca.”
“To that effect,” Dr. Ecrue continued, “I am wondering what experiments you would like to conduct.”
He looked at me expectantly.
“We want to place wards around individual cells,” I said.
“Intriguing,” said Dr. Ecrue.
I wasn’t sure what to make of that response.
“What is the hypothesis you wish to test?” he asked.
Imato and I hadn’t really discussed our ideas as a hypothesis.
“I’m not sure we have a hypothesis,” I said finally, “We want to ward a cell and see what happens.”
Dr. Ecrue was silent. I wasn’t sure if he expected me to say more, or if he didn’t know what to say himself.
“I have another student, Emil Grant, a master’s student, who is also interested in this thing. I will refer you to him,” Dr. Ecrue said, “To perform an experiment, you must first have a hypothesis. When can I meet with your brother?”
My head dropped.
“He was called up to active duty,” I said, “He’s gone to the border with Greste.”
Dr. Ecrue removed his knit hat. “This is inconvenient,” he said, “you will have to use correspondence. I will put you in touch with Master Grant. You will not need the equipment until you have a hypothesis and your brother returns from war. Do you know when he is expected back?”
I blinked in surprise. “No,” I said.
“Please inform me when you know his exact schedule,” said Dr. Ecrue seriously. He turned the hat inside-out and restored it to his head.
“I will as soon as possible,” I said softly.

The Winter Festival started today. Liop is out of school, but I’m not. I have to miss the first two days of the festival for classes. It doesn’t seem fair, but Winter Term is the shortest of the school year and the professors always feel stressed trying to make sure that they cover the same about of material with one less week of lectures. Gretel says after school lets out we are going “shopping with a vengeance”. After the first day of Imato being gone, she buried herself in her quilting, trying to stay too busy to worry. She didn’t really succeed and she sleeps no better than Mother did when Father was gone.
I wish I could take Sprigs for a good long ride. Actually, I wish I could borrow Redhawk from Mendel and nearly get knocked off of my saddle with speed. However, it’s snowing again, so I can’t do either. I hope it clears up soon. The festival won’t be nearly as much fun if they have to cart snow out of the city every morning.
I will let you know everything I find out when I have lunch with Lady Clara. I don’t know if she will really know anything more yet, but I’m sure she’ll keep us posted. In fact, she would probably have sent me word already if Duke Tulson had found out anything new yet. Waiting is a horrible thing.
I hope everything is going well with you and the schools. Be careful and keep Imato’s wards activated.

Love,
Arri

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