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Keish- January 12, 2005

January 12, 2005
Dear Arri,
I returned from classes today to find Caden ensconced in the library.  “Brooksby’s back in charity with you already, I take it?”
Caden waved vaguely towards the stairs.  “I brought Keaton a kit for scientific and alchemical experiments.  He was so thrilled that Brooksby said I could wait here when I told him I needed to hide from my family for a few hours.”
“What kind of experiments?” I asked skeptically.
“Harmless ones.  Tish helped me put it together this morning.  I took the liberty of creating one for young Liop as well-- Brooksby sent it off for me.  I suppose with your uncle’s chosen profession he may not find it as exciting as Keaton did, but I thought it may improve your family’s opinion of me.”
I laughed.  “Alright then.  Why are you hiding from your family, though?”
“Who’s hiding?” Jace asked as he came in.  “Oh, hello Caden.  I was wondering why I hadn’t seen you yet today.  Hiding from your family going to become a habit?”
Caden sighed heavily.  “It might have to be.  Mother has got it in her head that with Euan married it’s high time I found a wife also.”
Jace raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?  Not usually expected for a gentleman of leisure.
Caden glared at him briefly.  “Actually, like so much in my life lately, it’s your wife’s fault.  Apparently I’d make a better companion for Euan if I were also married.  And since enough money is settled on me to support a wife…” he shrugged.
“Well, Vanessa has two sisters,” I said mischievously.
“Don’t you dare.”
Jace laughed.  “What are you going to do?”
Caden shrugged again.  “I don’t suppose Lady Arri likes me even a little?” he asked me.
“Imato would kill you,” I stated.
“I suppose you’re right.  It’s going to be very difficult to find someone with a good head on her shoulders but from a family that would satisfy my mother.”  He looked toward Jace hopefully.  “You have a sister.”
“Do no go there.”
He sighed.  “No, I suppose it wouldn’t do anyway.  I’d have to go to Rousha.”  He looked thoughtful for a moment.  “I don’t suppose there’s anyone here I could court for a while who wouldn’t be hurt when I didn’t actually make an offer?”
“Whose family would satisfy your mother?” I asked incredulously.  “Not likely.  Marie might be willing, but she’s a bit young and I doubt the daughter of a knight and a maid is what your mother has in mind.”
Caden groaned.
Jace put a friendly hand on his shoulder.  “Just take it slow.  If you’re at least taking different eligible young women to the symphony and such it should give you some breathing room.”
“At some point, though,” I said practically, “you may have to decide which is more important to you-- making your mother happy or yourself.”
Why is it people never seem to appreciate my advice?  Even Jace was giving me a look.
“If the money settled on you is enough I don’t see why you’re bothered at me.  It’s from your grandparents, isn’t it?  Your parents can’t take it away from you.”
“I have to get it first,” he replied glumly.
“You’ll be 21 in, what?  Nine weeks or something?  Do what Jace suggests for that long and then figure it out.”
“Well I suppose… maybe…”
He began muttering to himself and Jace and I turned our attention to finding a volume of poetry I wanted for one of my classes and some navigational charts Jace wanted for one of his.
When Caden was still muttering a few minutes later I finally threw up my hands in frustration.  “If I make you a schedule of whom you should take to what event will you stop?”
“You can do that?” he responded in a ridiculously hopeful voice.
I rolled my eyes.  “Of course I can do that.”  I took out a piece of paper and began writing, pausing now and again to look at the social announcements in the newspaper.  “I just combine how I decide what events to avoid, in reverse, of course, with how Gretel and I pushed Euan and Vanessa together… make a few minor adjustments…”  When I was satisfied I handed the paper to Caden.  “Doubtless Gretel could have made it more elegant, but it will do.”
“But this is only for the next fortnight.”
Jace laughed.  “Of course it is.  She couldn’t very well plan much beyond that, could she?”
“It will have to be adjusted periodically-- both for how you get on with each young lady and for how it will affect you search for information.”
Caden grimaced.  “Well I can tell you in advance how I’ll get on with some of them.”
“None of that.  Bring me descriptions of how each lady acts at each event and I’ll take it all into account.”
“Just imagine you’re writing for the Gazette, except make it true,” Jace put in helpfully.
“Oh, speaking of the Gazette-- some broad hints about your search for a wife can’t hurt.”
“I suppose I can do that.”  He paused a moment.  “I was surprised that my uncle didn’t say anything about my writing for the Gazette.”
“Why, does he know?”
Now Caden looked incredulous.  “You didn’t tell him?  I would have thought your father, at least, would have explained how you got the Gazette early…” he trailed of as both Jace and I shook our heads.
“Papa doesn’t know either.”
Jace laughed.  “No one thought to ask why Keish had the Gazette early.  Have you learned anything yet, for your uncle?”
Caden shook his head.  “No, but the Melchoirs are giving a ball tonight so I’ll keep my ears open.  Though I’m worried I won’t always be able to tell what’s relevant,” he added with a frown.
“Just write everything down,” Jace said reassuringly, “and we’ll help you sort it out.  You may need to start being more discreet in your visits at some point though.  And Keish promised your uncle a spectacular row if your friendship with us becomes an issue.”
“We’ll figure it out,” I told them.
“Of course we will.  For now, though, my dear, I must head out to the training yard again,” Jace said, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Take him with you,” I replied, pointing to where Caden was studying his new schedule intently.
“Certainly,” Jace said with a wink.
Once they were gone I was free to study my volume of poetry, which unfortunately was not what I wanted after all.
That reminds me, though-- did Liop borrow my book of personal transfiguration spells?  He mentioned possibly borrowing it to show Mendel and probably thought he had permission to do so.  It is an extra copy, so if he did indeed take it and give it to Mendel, Mendel is welcome to keep it.  If, however, Liop still has it you may want to intercede.  Unless you don’t mind him changing his hair color… or the size of his ears…
Or covering himself in purple spots shaped like dragons.

“You know a lot about when Caden receives the money settled on him,” Jace commented very casually later this evening.
I shrugged.  “His birthday is about a month after mine.”
He made a noncommittal noise in response.
I put down my book and looked at him intently.  “You’re not jealous?” I asked, somewhat incredulous.
Jace gave me a rueful grin.  “Oh not really.  Surprised I guess.”
I sighed.  “Oh Jace.  You know how court life is.  Everyone knows everyone’s fortune and position.  Even if you don’t play the game you can’t help but learn things.  Besides, I remembered the talk about the money settled on Caden and it’s a story that stands out.”
Jace raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?”
“By the time Caden and Cambria were born their grandfather-- this is the queen’s father, the Duke of Paredes-- had decided to settle money on each grandchild that would not inherit.  Basically, Caden and his siblings, excepting Macario, his oldest brother.  I think the grandfather felt bad for them since obviously the princes and princess had assured inheritances and his own heir had no children besides his own son.  So the old duke met with his solicitors and did just that.  Years later, when Cambria became ill, she insisted that if she should die, Caden should receive her inheritance.  Of course the duke laughed this off but Cambria persisted and finally he agreed thinking that she would recover and nothing would come of it-- even though she’d made him put it in writing and everything, a binding formal contract.”
“And then she did die,” Jace said softly.
I nodded.  “As she got sicker everyone more or less forgot about it.  Even when she died nothing was done.  One year after her death, however, the duke, who by this time was ill himself, called his solicitors to his bedside and made the change.  No one in the family knew of it until after the Duke died.”
Jace gave a low whistle.  “Was it challenged?”
“Oh, I’m sure someone wanted to, but the duke knew what he was doing.  And really, Cambria’s death was still fresh enough that it would have been awfully bad form.”
Jace nodded.  “Still, though…”
“As I said, it’s a story that stands out.”

Jan. 13th
Caden didn’t learn anything at the Melchoir’s ball.
“I don’t understand.  Someone should have at least been talking about the Gazette, whether they believed any of it or not,” he said when he finished describing the evening to us.
Jace frowned.  “Maybe the lack of gossip is even more telling.”
I gave him a questioning look.  “What are you thinking?”
Jace shook his head.  “I’m not sure, but Caden’s right.  There should have been some talk.”
I blew out my breath in frustration.  “Yes, there should have been.  None of this makes sense.  The Gazette stops printing obvious political rumors and so less obvious ones creep in.  It’s still there, though, so why isn’t anyone talking about it?”
Caden shrugged.  “There’s a party tonight.  Maybe I’ll have better luck,” he said as he left us.

Keaton has been showing me his experiments from Caden’s kit.  So far his eggs soaking in vinegar have been banned from the kitchen (Cook says the smell is off-putting) and he’s growing yellow crystals in a little dish.
And in the past two days he‘s begged to go to Tish‘s lab at least twelve times.  That‘s just in my hearing.
It’s nice to see his enthusiasm.  He’s even writing a letter to Liop all about it.
Between that and watching him with Thor, it makes me laugh to think that a few months ago we weren’t sure there was actually a child in there.

Jan. 14th
I’m not laughing today, Arri.

Caden didn’t learn any more at last night’s party, but he burst into the library this afternoon with tomorrow’s Gazette.
“Slipped past Brooksby today, did you?” Jace said, barely looking up from his book.
Caden dropped a copy on Jace’s lap and tossed another to me.  “We have a problem.”  His expression was far more serious than any I’ve ever seen him wear.
Jace and I immediately put aside what we were doing and began reading.
After a moment Caden started to speak, but I held up a hand.  “My study.”
Caden was out the door almost before I finished.
“Wait,” Jace called, but by the time we reached the hallway we could already hear Caden’s footsteps as he rushed up the stairs two at a time.
Jace and I looked at each other.
“This should be interesting,” Jace said.
“Indeed,” I replied as we followed Caden swiftly.  “I’ll deal with Caden.   You send Ryland for Master Byra.”
As we reached the top of the stairs we heard Caden cry out, followed by a string of words I won’t repeat.
Caden was shaking his hand as he picked himself up off the floor.  “It didn’t do that when Keaton showed me his flying birds,” he said with an accusatory look at the doorknob.
“That,” I said, opening the door, “was before Imato and I warded the room so well that air wouldn’t be able to get in without permission.”
He hesitated before following me in.  “Air has permission though, right?”
I gave him a derisive look.
“Just checking,” he muttered.
Jace joined us, giving me a nod as he closed the door, then turning to Caden.  “Why was this even printed?” he asked, waving the issue in his hand.  “The Gazette had stopped printing the political articles.”
Caden looked uncomfortable.  “I’m not really sure.”
“Isn’t there someone in charge of deciding what to print?” I asked in exasperation.  “Someone who reads stories before printing them at least?”
He squirmed.  “It’s… complicated.”
Jace threw up his hands in frustration.  “Of course it is,” he muttered.
“Okay, enough.  Everyone will have it by morning, so it’s too late to do anything about that.”  I looked to Caden for confirmation and he nodded.  “So, the question is why this story?  What does it accomplish?”
“It blames me, and by extension Elcaro, for the schools you’ve started,” Jace pointed out.
“That’s certainly a different idea-- most people seem worried that you can’t control me, now someone’s suggesting that you are?”  I snorted.  “As if anyone would believe that.  Still, it’s concerning, I guess, that someone wants people to believe it.”
“Or at least think about it,” Caden put in.
I nodded.  “It makes no sense to blame Elcaro, though, when they don’t have a similar system.  Really it’s the references to Master Byra that concern me the most.  Everything thus far has pointed towards causing tension with Rousha.  What does it accomplish to talk about Master Byra?  And what are they implying about him anyway?  It’s rather ambiguous.”
Jace shook his head.  “I don’t know, but I don’t like it.  It’s almost as though, since creating tension with Rousha wasn’t getting them what they wanted, whoever’s behind this has decided to attack our schools instead.”
“Or also,” I added.
It was a sobering thought.
A knock at the door startled us.  Jace went to let Master Byra in and handed him the Gazette.
His face was by turns concerned and confused as he read.  “What is this?  I haven’t heard anything like this.”
“Tomorrow’s Gazette,” I explained.
He gave Caden a piercing look.  “I see.”
Caden shifted uncomfortably under his gaze.
Master Byra turned back to me.  “What does it mean though?  It sounds as though they’re accusing me of being some sort of dangerous radical.  And our schools sound like some sort of Elcaran plot.  Though why anyone’s plot would revolve around educating young people is beyond me.”
“We don’t know, that’s part of the problem.  No one even seems to know who is writing the stories.”
His eyes flicked to Caden again.  “Interesting.  And disturbing.  Are we considering this a threat?”
“I think we should,” Jace said quietly.
Master Byra nodded thoughtfully.  “Very well.  I will send word to our other administrators asking them to be on their guard and report anything suspicious.  And we will all be very careful.”
I nodded.  “We will let you know if we learn anything else.”
As he left, I began arranging things on the table, carefully removing my mirror from the drawer.  “Well there is something we can try.”
“What are you doing?” Caden asked as I put the Gazette on my mirror.
“It’s a simple divining spell.  I’m not sure it will work with a printed copy, which is why I haven’t already tried it, but it’s better than doing nothing.”
Jace helped me arrange my chair and some pillows (just in case) and went to stand near Caden.
I closed my eyes and slowly touched one finger to the Gazette.  I jerked backwards abruptly.  “Well,” I said after a moment, “that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“Are you okay?” Jace asked.
I winced a little but nodded.  Tentatively I reached out to touch the Gazette and again jerked my hand away.  “That stings,” I declared.  “Would one of you open it to another story please?”
Jace opened to a story on the inner page and I tried again.  It still sent a shock through me, but at least this time I was ready for it.  “Hmmm.”  I made a face.  “Enchanted to protect the identity of the writers.  But I wonder… Caden, can you point out one of your stories?”
He turned to the back page gingerly.
“Seahorses attacking people near Dock-on-Green?” Jace asked with a raised eyebrow.
Caden looked a bit bashful.  “I got the idea from Keaton.”
I touched Caden’s story.  Nothing happened.  “Interesting.  Apparently it doesn’t affect you if you already know who wrote it.”
“Sounds like a complicated ward,” Jace said slowly.
I cocked my head to one side, considering.  “Not necessarily.  It’s a variation of having a ward attuned to someone.  Though I’ve never seen a variation quite like this.  Interesting applications, certainly.  We’ll have to write Imato,” I concluded absently.
“Who at the Gazette is a magician?” Jace was asking Caden.
Caden shook his head.  “I don’t know of anyone.”
“There must be someone.”
I was carefully checking the paper.  “Maybe not.  With the right connections you can buy enchanted paper.”  Satisfied that I had learned all I could, I turned to Jace.  “Would you go find a few more issues?  Maybe the one from a few days ago, the first political story and an old issue?”
Jace returned swiftly.  I had put away my mirror and carefully cleared away any magical residue.  I wasn’t going to try divining again just yet.
I spread them out and began slowly studying each issue, using the spell that shows me what other spells have been cast.
It was very interesting.
The enchantment on the most recent issue is the strongest, though not the most complex.
The oldest issue had only a very simple spell to shield the authors’ identities.  Simple to break if I’d actually cared who wrote those trivial stories from several months ago.
The first political story that showed up had a more powerful version of the same spell.  Enough to make it very difficult for me to learn anything.
The story from a few days ago however, the fashion story with disturbing undertones, was the most complex-- in addition to the stronger ward, there was a certain… I can’t think of a word for it.  It was a spell designed to make people look the other way, so to speak.  Not think about the story much.
It’s not very strong, which I presume is why it didn’t affect Caden, Jace or me.  It would discourage the casual reader from paying attention to it, which might explain why Caden wasn’t hearing any gossip, but since we were looking for anything suspicious it wasn’t strong enough to discourage us.
It was rather convoluted.  And I don’t think they (whoever “they” are) liked the results because there’s no sign of a similar spell in tomorrow’s issue.
I explained all of this to Jace and Caden and we discussed everything at length, but in the end we just don’t have enough information.
“There is something else we can try,” I began slowly, “but I’m going to need the original handwritten manuscript of one of these stories and a few blank sheets of the paper the Gazette is printed on.”
Caden sighed.  “Manuscripts are destroyed as soon as the issue is printed.  It’s part of keeping our identities secret.”  He thought about it for a moment.  “I might be able to get one Monday, though, assuming a similar story will appear in Tuesday’s Gazette.  I’ve been asked to take a bigger role and if I ask to be involved in the printing it shouldn’t seem strange.  I should be able to get the manuscript if I offer to dispose of them…. And I can get some paper.  I think.”
I nodded.  “Just do what you can.  Definitely use the servants’ corridors when you bring them, though.”
Caden nodded and took his leave since it was past sunset.  He was to attend a card party and you can only be so late before it’s less fashionable and more rude-- even for someone like Caden.
Jace has gone back to the assignments he was grading earlier, but I can tell he’s worried.  So am I.
Jan. 15th
It’s been a long, tense day, Arri.  We decided to stay in and spend time with Keaton, but the strain of acting normal has exhausted me.  I only hope Caden learns something definitive tonight at his mother’s annual dinner.  I don’t know how long we can all hold out under this stress.

Jan. 16th
I nearly let out a startled scream earlier when I turned from the bookshelf I was searching (in our library, not the tower library) and Caden was sitting at the table.  I wasn’t aware he could do anything so quietly.
“Jace will be here momentarily and I took the liberty of sending for Master Byra as well.  Discreetly, of course,” he said in the most seriously concerned tone of voice I’ve ever heard from him.  Indeed, his tone was far more serious than I’d have thought him capable of if you’d asked a week ago.
I sat down slowly.  “What’s wrong?”
He handed me a paper without even looking at me.
I’m not sure I can explain how I felt as I read it.  It was as if someone doused me in ice water.  Repeatedly.
Have you read today’s FlyBy, Arri?  Probably not, since I know you hate it.  I think I’m glad you don’t read it, though I’m sure Imato will have plenty to say, so you’ll probably end up hearing all of it anyway.
In case no one quotes it to you, here are a few choice bits:
“It seems no coincidence that shortly after marrying an Elcaran, Lady Leilani would disappear into one of Arella’s more remote locations for several weeks, only to emerge with radical ideas of women’s education.”
This, as you can see, seems to correspond to the Gazette’s assertion that my ideas are Jace’s fault and is just as ridiculous as the Gazette’s wording.
But then there’s this:
“The timing coincides with the disappearance of one Dr. Caltrone, a well-respected psychologist who most certainly would have opposed her plan.”
And this:
“We have it on good authority, however, that Sir Waldbauer will be removing the threat of Master Byra in the near future.”
By the time Jace and Master Byra joined us I was torn between terror and absolute rage.  I handed over the page and they each read it.  Jace pulled a chair as close to me as was possible while Master Byra finished.
“Well, if the Gazette story wasn’t a threat,” Master Byra began, “this certainly is.  Though didn’t you say the stories have been the same?”
“That wouldn’t have been printed here,” Caden said, still not looking at anyone.  “The errors are too obvious and the Gazette does not accuse people of…” he broke off abruptly.
“Murder?” I asked with a mirthless laugh.  “The other two Adya rags may have gotten away with that kind of story, but Dr. Caltrone’s farewell dinner last year was too grand an event for anyone at the palace to have forgotten that it was before the king approved my idea.  And I think everyone heard about the angry letters he sent from Néamh when he finally learned of my idea.  Everyone knows he reached his home without incident.”  I turned to Jace.  “Who is Sir Waldbauer?”
“He’s an older knight.  Retired, but living in Rousha.  Very… traditional.”
“Traditional enough to want to do away with a radical threat like me?” Master Byra asked.  He smiled slightly as he said it, but there was no warmth to it.
Jace sighed.  “I don’t know.  I wouldn’t think so-- the man has three daughters that he dotes on.  Even if he were violently opposed… I don’t think he’d have been quiet about it for this long.”
I nodded decisively.  “Very well.  We’ll let King Trunsle deal with that-- hopefully he’s taking this seriously.  I spent the morning expanding the anti-scrying spells, but I can’t expand them to the entire tower without drawing attention, so it’s just this floor.  Any further discussion will take place here.  Based on the enchantments on the Gazette, we can’t take the chance that we’ll be heard.”
“Does the FlyBy have a similar enchantment?” Caden asked curiously.
I closed my eyes and held my hand over the paper, careful not to touch it, but I snatched my hand back almost immediately, gasping for breath.  Jace’s arms were around me almost immediately.
After a moment I got my breath back.  “That is not a nice spell,” I said with a shudder.  “Caden, do you have access to the messenger pigeons that can reach anyone in Rousha in just a day?”
He furrowed his brow slightly, but nodded.
“Can you get a message to Imato discreetly?” I asked as Jace gave me a questioning look.
“I think so.  Can Imato receive one discreetly?”
“Let’s hope so,” I replied, grabbing a sheet of paper and writing a note to Imato, explaining as best I could to Jace as I wrote.  “We have to warn them and Imato seems like the fastest way to do so.  Arri’s not going to try anything with the FlyBy, magically or otherwise, on her own, but Imato might consider it.  If I hadn’t pulled my spell back…” I shuddered again.  “Well, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
All color drained from Jace’s face.
“It would have killed you?” Caden asked, startled and somewhat incredulous.
“Maybe not, but I’d rather not find out.”
I sent Caden off with my note and took a deep breath to steady myself.  “Did any of our administrators report anything concerning?” I asked Master Byra.
He had been watching us all with concern, but remained silent until I addressed him.  “No.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Enrollment continues to grow and we’ve won over the administrators and teachers at most of the boys’ schools in the city.  No one has had any problems.  And,” he added significantly, “I checked the other two gossip columns in the city and there’s no hint of any of this.”
“There wouldn’t need to be,” Jace said suddenly.  “Think about it.  If Rousha had more than one gossip column, these stories would have to be in all of them to reach the upper class, but in Adya things are more centralized.  Everything revolves around the palace and if you wanted to cause trouble between governments everyone you would want to reach reads the Gazette.”
I nodded.  “You’re right.  Which means only the palace school is being threatened.”
Master Byra sighed.  “Perhaps we should suspend…”
I cut him off.  “No.  I will not suspend classes.  I will ward the classrooms; I will hold classes here; I will ward each and every student if I have to, but classes will continue.  I will not be intimidated.  By these people or anyone else.”
Jace cleared his throat.  “Actually, you won’t need to ward the classrooms,” he said as he got up and retrieved something from a shelf.  He sounded sheepish.  “Imato warded them when he was here.  And my training yard.”  He handed me some papers.  “Instructions for activating the wards and attuning them to the teachers and students.”
Caden returned while I was studying the pages covered with Imato’s neat handwriting.  “Well what do you know,” I said, shaking my head, “Imato’s been studying theory.  It’s good, but I wish I’d gotten myself a copy of that book of wards I gave him for his birthday.”
Jace handed me a book.  “He insisted I get you one by the tenth of the month no matter what I had to do to find it.”
I laughed a little.
Master Byra was looking very serious.  “Will it be enough?  Obviously there is a magician of some power involved in this.”
“Ask Caden what happens to people who try to enter a room Imato’s warded without an invitation,” I said smugly.
Caden shook his head.  “It’s not a good thing to try.  I did get the distinct impression, though, that the ward somehow… knew… I was a friend.  And that if I hadn’t been the consequences would have been much worse.”
That made Jace laugh aloud.  “Yes, Imato was rather proud of that bit.  He only attuned the wards to Keisha and me, but worked out a way to affect people differently.  Keaton and Adlen get only minor shocks.”
My smile became even more smug.  “No one gets through Imato’s wards.”
Master Byra nodded.  “It seems you have things in hand then.  Do you need any help from me?  We probably want the wards activated before classes tomorrow.”
I looked back over Imato’s notes and shook my head.  “As long as Cass has all of the enrollment records I won’t need anything else.”
“Then I think I should leave you to it,” he said, giving a bow as he started to leave.
“Wait.  I think the threat on you is enough to warrant one more thing,” I told him, standing and moving towards him.  My protective spell was not as good as one of Imato’s, of course, but it was strong.  “You can’t be unprotected out of the classroom either.”
He nodded his thanks and left.
“Actually, there’s… one more thing,” Caden said nervously before I could become absorbed in Imato’s notes.
Jace and I looked at him expectantly.
“You learned something at your mother’s dinner last night?” Jace prompted when Caden hesitated.
“Yes…” he said slowly.  “I learned that conversations abruptly stop when I enter a room…. And people begin to whisper when I leave again.”
I closed my eyes and sighed.  “Because of us.”
He nodded glumly.
“It was bound to happen,” I replied.  “So, in light of that, while I work on these wards, you two had better work out a suitable argument.  And it had better be good-- I promised the king something spectacular.”
I left them eyeing each other strangely while I called for Cass and set to work.  I really must remember to commend Imato for his thoughtfulness.  He managed to work it out so that I could activate the wards without actually being in the classrooms, so I was able to do all of them this afternoon without leaving my sitting room.
Once I was sure that was all taken care of and had written Imato a letter with a brief explanation and thanks for his thoughtfulness, I rejoined Jace and Caden, who were staring out the window at the sunset.
“Well, gentlemen?”
Jace turned to me with a smile.  “Tomorrow afternoon in the courtyard I am going to be returning from the training yard only to find the two of you screaming at each other.”
“Really?  Well that sounds doable.  Heaven knows I could think of any number of things to scream at Caden.”
Caden made a face at me.  I stuck my tongue out at him.
Jace took my hand.  “I get to attempt being the voice of reason.”
“And then I get to tell him to go back to Rousha where he belongs,” Caden put in.
I raised an eyebrow.  “Strong words.”
Jace shrugged.  “It’s not going to get any better for me until this is resolved.  I’m sure there are going to be several people who want to send me back to Rousha.”
I leaned against him.  He was right, of course, but it bothered me more than anything else about the situation.
Caden took his leave after I’d enchanted his report to the king and Jace and I went to eat with Papa in our sitting room so that we could explain the latest developments.
Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

Jan. 17th
Caden was waiting for me when I stepped out into the glaring light after my classes.  He gave me a crooked grin.  “Are you ready for this?”
I smirked.  “Of course.”  I sent a quick calling spell to Jace so he would be ready and Caden and I started walking.  “Who’s going to start?”
“Ladies first.”
We were almost to the courtyard.  I frowned and started shaking my head.  “Don’t be an idiot, Caden Viteri.  It’s decidedly out of fashion,” I said loudly as we reached the place Jace would meet us.
“You’re just upset I figured it out,” Caden shot back.
“Ha!” I exclaimed, whirling to face him.  “You couldn’t figure out a child’s jigsaw puzzle!  You simply believe whatever insanity your precious Gazette prints.”
“My precious Gazette?  You’re the one teaching it.”
“As fiction!”
We were quite loud by now and I could feel the eyes of dozens of people on us.
“No wonder my cousin decided not to court you,” Caden taunted, “that Roushan has turned your head entirely about.”
“As though I would have married your cousin to begin with.”
Jace caught up then.  “Caden?  Keish?  What’s going on?”  He sounded so confused even I almost believed him.
“You stay out of this!” Caden bellowed.  “You’ve done enough damage as it is.”
Jace furrowed his brow.  “But Caden we’re friends…”
“Friends?” Caden threw back at him with a derisive laugh.  “You’ve been using me.”  He grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards him.  “You’ll pay for what you’ve turned Lakeisha into.”
We had practiced this part briefly, but it still startled me.  I stomped down on Caden’s foot as Jace taught me and spun away as Jace came closer menacingly.
“If you dare to lay a hand on my wife again…” Jace began in a dangerous voice.
“An ill-gotten wife!  Who knows what sordid means you used to gain her hand.  Maybe you should leave her alone!”
“How dare you!” I shrieked, pointing a finger at him at chanting nonsense while I sent just enough magic towards him to make it believable.
He yelped and jumped back.  “Fine then, since you’ve ruined her.  Why don’t you just go back to Rousha and take her with you?”
Jace darted forward and grabbed his collar.  “I’m not going anywhere,” he said harshly.  His voice was low yet carrying.  “And you’d be wise to leave us alone.”
Jace let go, pushing Caden away, and turned to me.  “My Lady,” he said softly, offering me his arm.
I took it, waving my hand at Caden as he started towards us.  Again I used almost no magic, but I had warned Caden and so he fell backwards very convincingly.
“Don’t you turn your backs on me!” he yelled from the dirt, but we walked swiftly and gained the tower.
We headed straight for our library and dissolved into laughter when as soon as we’d shut the door.
Caden joined us a while later carrying a tray from the kitchen.  “I’d have been up a bit sooner,” he explained, setting the tray on the table, “but Mrs. Samuels wanted a to hear the whole story and insisted on making up a ‘victory tray’, as she put it.  She’s highly amused.”
“She has certainly taken a liking to you.  Do I need to be worried about you stealing my cook?”
He laughed.  “To work where?”
Jace offered me a pastry before taking a bite of his own.  “I can’t believe you had the temerity to say I have an ill-gotten wife.”
“I can’t believe he suggested I would have married Euan,” I said with a grimace.
Caden laughed.  “Well we wanted a fight.  Had to think of something to yell.  Keish said I couldn’t figure out a child’s jigsaw puzzle.”
Jace and I were laughing again.  It felt good to laugh after the stress of the weekend.
We ate Cook’s treats and talked about our performance for another hour before there was a knock at the door.  I let Papa in.
“Quite the commotion in the courtyard earlier,” he commented, seeming unsurprised to see Caden.  He picked up the last pastry and took a bite.
“Oh?” I asked innocently.
Papa gave me a look.  “I happened to be nearby and heard most of it.”
Jace was trying very hard not to laugh, but Caden couldn’t help himself.
I bit my lip as I smiled.  “And what did you think?”
Finally Papa laughed.  “I nearly believed it myself.  Masterfully done.  King Menion sends his compliments-- he witnessed the whole thing from his window.”
“Keisha did promise him something spectacular,” Jace said.
“That she did.”
Papa stayed and talked with us for a little longer before excusing himself.
Caden stood soon after.  “I was only able to get blank paper today, but I should be able to get a manuscript Wednesday.  Interestingly, it seems no such story will be printed tomorrow.  I hear there’s one for Thursday, though.”
I nodded.  “Do what you can.  Just be careful no one catches you coming here.”
He laughed.  “After today it would seem odd.  Tonight, however, I have to take a young lady to a concert,” he said with a brief scowl at me.
Jace laughed.  “You asked for it.”
“It’s true, you wanted help.”
Caden rolled his eyes.  “I know that.  But I don’t know how I’m going to get through the evening without my eyes glazing over,” he replied on his way out.

This letter has gotten abominably long, but I don’t have a letter from you yet, so I just keep writing.
I’ll have to find a better enchantment to make it light enough for Hermes or Clotho to carry.

Jan. 18th
I have your letter, and as much as I’d like to jump straight to the end, I’ll respond to everything in order so that I don’t leave anything out.

Once I knew the blizzard was about to hit, I began opening quick connections with you every so often to make sure you were safe.  I’m sorry you were snowed in for so long.  Unfortunately controlling the weather is beyond even Brio magic.
I agree with Mendel-- I’m offended Dr. Kondamuri used your first score also.  He should be reported for such awful behavior.
I’m very proud of you for making the honor roll.  Very respectable grades indeed.

Your new schedule sounds like it will be more useful to you overall, with both biology and anatomy.  Though I’m sure your work with Dr. Ujifil will make anatomy seem easy!
Your studies all seem to be progressing brilliantly.

While I always hate to admit it, I agree with Uncle W. about Liop’s magic.  Jace does as well.
And the chances of a flare in a child that has already been using magic for years are extremely slim.  Flares are, almost without exception, the initial appearance of magic and even then not everyone experiences them at all.
I also don’t think it’s prudent to mirror the fairies in anything, least of all how to deal with children, but you needn’t tell Nysa that.
I think Brynn is correct, but I don’t know what Nysa could do either.  Perhaps if she stops pushing Liop he’ll come to her on his own.  I doubt he’ll stay away from magic for long, especially now that Uncle W. is doing magic.
(Speaking of Liop, I presume by this time he has received the kit Caden sent him.  Did he enjoy it?  Keaton is enthralled.)

I am glad Mendel is enjoying his striped socks and entertained by the prospect of him tormenting his professors.  It’s good for them to be kept on their toes.
I don’t know if Keaton’s parents will ever be completely comfortable with his magic, but as long as I can make him comfortable with it, I will be content.
From what I hear, Uncle W. should have received several orders from Adya for fireworks (of course they’re more fun than cleaning supplies!) though I hope the current situation will not affect that.  There is really no maker of fireworks in Arella that is his equal, especially with the magical component.

I love the idea of offering scholarships to girls who take the entrance exam.  Perhaps I will look into offering something similar here.  The Royal College in Darmoth could use a good shaking up.  The queen and princess are right, though-- the upper classes are just not invested enough in the education of their daughters.

I see you had already heard the bits of the FlyBy I quoted for you.  I’m hopeful that when Caden brings me an original manuscript I can determine not only who but at least some of the why.
Jace, however, speculates that it’s possible that no real newspaper would take the stories seriously and so the author (or authors?) went to the Gazette and FlyBy and either bribed or blackmailed their stories into print.
Either way, with any luck I should be able to find something out this week.  This won’t escalate further if I have any say on the matter.
I am glad the King Trunsle is taking everything seriously.  I look forward to hearing what Sir Waldbauer had to say.  There haven’t been any official reports yet, to my knowledge.

I do appreciate Queen Elspeth’s support.  Queen Jocasta has remained entirely neutral on the subject.  At first I thought it was merely because she was wrapped up in planning Euan’s wedding, but now I wonder if it is simply that she does not care either way.  Other than thinking that it makes me unsuitable, but I’m not certain she didn’t think that before.

We are not buried in snow, though I doubt the ground will be clear of it between now and March.
As much as I’d love to see you, I doubt traveling to Rousha would be the best thing right now, even without classes.  You’ll have to enjoy the Winter Festival for me.
I simply cannot let this letter get any longer.  I don’t have a spell good enough to lighten the paper enough.

Stay safe.

Love Always,


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