Another letter from Aidan
He had intended to write in order for once, but first things had to be first.
Alysei Aidan astin Velain to Alysei Athal astin Velain, king of Valdyas, either still in Solay or on his way home.
Cora took me to Vurian just now –I realise I’d been putting it off– and I told him about what the two men said. Not very coherently I’m afraid, I can hear Raisse tutting at me! Or at least, I didn’t say anything at first, just sat wringing my hands until he said “you’re bringing bad news, and it isn’t Athal or I’d have heard about it.” “Torin,” I said, “and I’m not completely sure because I don’t trust the man who told me.” It became a family affair at once, everybody from twelve-year-old Erlyn up called into the room and I had to tell it again. Cora, meanwhile, was talking to Lara in the kitchen, girls’ stuff or grand masters’ stuff, probably both at once.
There was an argument between Aine and Vurian, which Aine won, so she is going south on the fastest horse and Vurian is going to Valdis. Both, of course, to find out what really happened. I’m writing this letter as fast as I can in Vurian’s writing-room so I can give it to Aine to take to Essle. Vurian is good-natured about it, only a bit peeved that he won’t see Raith (“again!”), and probably not for a very long time because Raith is going back to Solay. He was a bit surprised that she was in Veray, but agreed that it was a good thing that she could take Ayneth with her.
Vurian took me half to pieces afterwards, telling me that I’ve been a sergeant, I will be a captain and I am a prince, and I can’t afford doubt. Well, yes, I’d kind of worked that out by myself, but it’s good to hear it from someone who really knows.
I’m getting this all back to front! I’ll try to start a bit more from the beginning now: even before we got to Veray there was a little harbour, I think it was in Nesh, where Ayneth and a lot of other people were waiting for us. When Ayneth had finished embracing Raith –for a bit– she came and hugged me and listened to my story about the girl whose name I still can’t pronounce or remember. She talked to her herself –she knows a little Síthi these days– but she couldn’t understand everything. She did gather that the girl was a Khas officer’s child, her mother had been the officer’s lover, but died when the little boy was born, and then the officer had taken her as his lover instead! His own daughter! It did mean that all the other officers and soldiers kept their hands off her. No wonder she wants another protector now and chooses the obviously most powerful man around, the prince; that is, me. Uncomfortable, but understandable. That still didn’t make it easy to tell Cora. But Ayneth kept her in Veray while I went home, she’ll be here in a few days and bring her, so it would at least be possible to tell Cora without making her think I’d brought a second wife.
Old Lord Aivan housed and fed those of us who weren’t going to Veray itself, about two dozen in all, seventeen men and two women for Turenay and the rest for some of the villages beyond Veray. Nobody from Gralen that I could see, perhaps they’re all still whole and fighting. He also arranged carts to take us to the north, and (very early in the morning) me and a few others to the Temple of Naigha. The driver was a veteran of the civil war, “I fought on the other side then, but well, I’m from Veray after all.”
Cora must have been looking out for me, because she saw me in the Halfway inn and got the gatekeeper to take her there on his horse. It seems that people left the room to let us be together, I can’t remember a thing about it. We’ve hardly left each other’s side since I’m back– though she does go to the hospital in the mornings, even though Leva gave her some days off, but she can’t resist. There are still two of our transport in the hospital, one with a really bad leg wound (which Cora mostly fixed this morning) and one who got hit on the head so hard that he was unconscious until Essle.
There’s one woman who came back to find that her husband had died from the lung epidemic, and she’d joined up to get over the death of her children from a fever, so she’s all alone now, though she has relatives in Veray. I’m thinking of making her caretaker in the training school if she’d rather stay in Turenay, she can live in Jilan’s rooms. The Temple of Mizran says that Jilan left everything to the regiment, and I think I’m the captain –at least acting captain until someone can swear me in– of whatever regiment we will turn out to have. I’m going to make Lyase my adjutant– I asked her if she wanted the captaincy, but she declined. Cora thought that it would be too much paperwork for her, anyway.
So now I’m home, trying to catch up with my life. I still get tired very quickly, and my side hurts at times (much better now that Cora rubs the scar with oil every day), and everything looks different but that’s probably because I’ve changed. Are you going to have a triumphal tour of the country when you’re back? Otherwise, at least come to Turenay in the autumn! I don’t think you’re likely to make Gralen at Midsummer, where I want to take Cora to have our baby.
There’s the young boy clerk with the sealing wax, I won’t keep him waiting. May the best man (clearly that’s you) win,