And Aidan writes a letter too

It’s contagious! Perhaps even Radan will write his letter in public.

Alysei Aidan astin Velain, in Turenay, to Alysei Ayneth astin Velain, in Valdis.

Dearest sister,

I hope news travels faster than people and my letter isn’t the first you hear of it in Valdis. Athal has been sighted! Orian came pelting into town early this morning on that ridiculous horse of his, eighteen hands at least though he’s hardly any taller than I am, to tell everybody who wanted to hear that he’s spoken to our sister-in-law on a ship off Sarabal. As I write this Athal is probably not much further north yet, and likely to be as sick as a dog still. He seems to have been successful, though; if you haven’t had news of that there’s more amiss in Lenyas than we know of in Ryshas, and we should be preparing for civil war again. Not that we have much of a force to fight with here, everybody is off to Iss-Peran except for me and the sergeant and soldier who were the girl from Albetire’s escort.

Well, yes, the girl from Albetire. She’s called <painstaking Iss-Peranian letters>Khora</>, that’s pronounced ‘Cora’ with a bit of a breath after the C. I know I’ve been in love before, and thought every time that this was the one, but… well, she’s stunningly, devastatingly, overwhelmingly, breathtakingly, ravishingly beautiful. Even though she tries very hard to hide it, or at least that’s what it looks like, as if she wears a seal to hide that she’s even more beautiful. She’s right across from me in the refectory with the other two foreign girls, one from the Plain who is appropriately plain, and a tall and dark Síthi from Sarabal who I think Arin is falling for. He told her the other night that he likes black girls, but spoilt that immediately by saying that the town is full of pretty black girls. I’m pretty sure that she’s falling for him, too.

Raisse –not the one here in Turenay, but our queenly sister-in-law– seems to have forbidden her –not the Síthi girl, but Cora– to chase me, so she isn’t chasing me. She’s so obedient. They train them like that where she comes from, as far as I know. It drives the other Raisse stark raving bonkers. But she’s learning very fast. Yesterday Alyse organised a dancing lesson, the three foreign girls and our crowd, Alyse playing the lute –she’s getting almost as good as Athal!– and us lads partnering the girls. Afterwards we went to the Apple for a drink and a pie, and there we talked and she told us things about her life before she came to school. I promised to keep it secret, and it was in fact so secret that Arin threw a seal over all of us, so I’m not telling you until Cora says I can, but it made the way she is so much clearer.

Orian said that Athal is likely to be here by the Feast of Timoine; are you coming too, or can’t they spare you in Valdis? I don’t think the kingdom will collapse if you’re in Turenay for a few weeks. Or do you have to organise the welcome-back party there? I’d like you to meet Cora and say if she’s really as stunning as I think, or if it’s just that I happen to be stunned. But then you’re likely to be stunned too, of course. Alyse told me that Cora thinks that women who fall for women are scary –Cora was afraid for a moment that Alyse was falling for her, that’s why– so if you do come, perhaps you’d better not let on. I wouldn’t like my girl to be scared of my sister. I’m saying “my girl” but I haven’t even made much headway yet, I’m almost as wary of chasing her as she is of chasing me. Nobody can say that I’m not behaving! I don’t want to be a disgrace to Cora, or to you or Father, or to Athal and the kingdom.

She does seem to be noble, as much as we are or more so, but she lost everything in the upheaval in Albetire. Can you imagine she’s already a widow? Noblemen in Iss-Peran have lots of wives and she was the youngest wife of an old man, married to him when she was still a child, poor thing. She came here with only the clothes on her back and the apprentice fee in her pocket, and Athal is giving her an allowance like mine, five riders every quarter-day. She did find money somewhere to buy paint for her face, but perhaps the Síthi girl took care of that because all three of them were painted and there’s a Síthi shop here that sells that kind of thing. (Also candied fruit and pressed nut confits, which I think you’d like a lot; if you’re not coming here, I’ll bring you some at Midsummer.) It’s not as if she needs paint, but it does look good on her, not by far as gaudy as the girls downtown.

Father is writing to you too, so I won’t give his love along with mine. I haven’t dared say anything about Cora to him yet, and I don’t think he’s seen me looking at her goggle-eyed, though he’s certainly seen her, nobody with any eye for women can miss her. But he’s been so busy learning that he hasn’t paid attention to anything else. He’s beginning to look normal at last, not pinched and strained like he used to, though it’s kind of strange to see someone his age who is a journeyman in the Guild. Stranger still that I was a journeyman before him, though not by much. (You didn’t know that, did you? Are you a master yet?)

On the Day of Naigha in the tenth week of Naigha, with greetings and love,

your brother (and I almost wrote “and obedient servant” because that’s what Cora says a lot),