Ayneth’s letter to Raith

This letter, sent with King Athal’s ship, is wrapped around a package containing a small portrait painting and a heavy silver locket with a lock of thick red hair.

Alysei Ayneth astin Velain, in Veray, to Hallei Lenye Raith, on her way to Solay.

Dearest Raith,

Your letters make me cry so much –a good thing!– and I carry them around with me in order to have a bit of you with me all the time. Here’s a bit of me for you to take into battle. I don’t know whether any anea will stick on it with all that travelling, but I cut it from my head myself and had the locket made specially. Fortunately I’m in Veray which has no lack of silversmiths: I could even find one in our Guild. The picture I had made in Turenay: there’s an incredible portrait painter there, and when you’re back I want to take you to him and have one made of you, or perhaps of us together.

Perhaps I should have gone over with some of the reinforcements after all, but you said not to, and I’m completely confident that you can manage without me. So can the kingdom, because Raisse is staying, and she can handle everything on her own. What I’m in Veray for– there’s a semblance of a hospital now that I’ve been here for almost a season setting it up, not by far as good as the one in Turenay, of course, but it’ll do for now. I see it as practice to do the same thing in Lenay: much harder, because I won’t have Leva close enough to ask for help if I need her, not to speak of the Guild of the Nameless that’s weak as a litter of kittens in Veray these days and still too strong for comfort in Lenay. On the other hand, much more necessary for the same reasons.

Any news from Valdyas you’ll probably hear from Athal. I’ve been buried in too much work to listen to gossip– have you ever wondered how many sheets a hospital needs? How many towels? How many spare shifts in different sizes to lend to people who come in all bloody? One of the first things I did was to find some seamstresses and washerwomen and offer them a steady job. Doctors don’t think of that, that’s why it needs people like me. I wonder how Leva coped at first– probably it just grew and people were doing things anyway, because now in Turenay everything just gets done by whoever thinks of it. You can’t count on that when you’re setting up from scratch.

I would love to meet all those people you write about! You’re not leaving Bebakshi in Solay, are you? Athal and Raisse have issued a royal decree that forbids dandar in all of Valdyas, but I don’t think that someone who is so much your apprentice can be dandar any more, so you may just as well bring her. There are so many foreign-looking people around now that one more won’t stand out.

I want to say so many more things, but written down they all look shallow and vacuous, as if anything I do here is completely eclipsed by what you are doing over there. (Speaking of eclipses, a priestess of Naigha I’ve been talking to says there’s one coming in the ninth week of Mizran; wouldn’t it be spectacular to have the big battle right then?) Let it be enough that I love you with all my heart, and I know that you’ll live to come back to me.