Raith writes to Athal

This letter travels on the same ship as Ayneth’s letter (and probably also Namak’s official announcement).

Hallei Solye Raith to Alysei Athal astin Velain, king of Valdyas.

Dear Athal,

Well, we have an heir. My wrists are still a bit bruised from Ayneth squeezing them with all her strength when she was sitting on my thighs giving birth to him. (They do have birthing-chairs here, but Grandmother thought it would be a good idea for her to sit in my lap so the child would be mine too. Excellent thinking.) Our household was already so full of children of all ages that it’s not even a great disruption to have another baby here, we’ve had him for a week and we’re already used to him. –Another two babies in fact, because Ayneth borrowed a little orphan boy from the Temple of Dayati to use up her milk, but she doesn’t carry him around in a sling all the time –the maids do that– as she does Radan.

Last night we had dinner with Namak’s next intended, Tineh, the leader of a group of Ishey who came in as builders after the war. She’s nobility all right, she has a title that means something between ‘overseer’, ‘master’ and ‘mother’. She is currently overseeing the rebuilding of the Temple of Micalacuk. When that is finished we’d like her to oversee the rebuilding of the whole city and country, because we know that she can. Also, she can handle the Temple of Micalacuk without actually being in the Temple of Micalacuk, which is a very good thing. She’s not young, well into her thirties, and doesn’t have any great grace or beauty either, but she has a sharp and analytic mind and a gift of doing with things what Ayneth can do with people: she only has to point at something to make the right things happen. All four of us know that it’s purely a business proposal: what we are in fact offering her is a position, a job for life.

Tineh brought a boy of about twelve who we thought was her satchel-carrier –and indeed he carried her satchel– but he turned out to be her son. I inquired about his father, but he is in Idanyas “and has no claim to him”. No claim to Tineh herself either, apparently. I don’t think I’ll ever really understand the relations between Ishey men and women.

The boy sat at his mother’s right hand at dinner and afterward, displaying outstanding manners and listening with attention. I think he understood most of the negotiations. When it came to stating the rights of children of Namak’s wives –only Ayneth’s children will be heirs to the throne, but all others get court privileges– he pricked up his ears like a cat and asked (the only time he ever spoke without being spoken to) “Won’t I have to be a prince then?” And when Namak said that he wouldn’t, “Then please can I have fighting lessons?” And before Namak or I or his mother could answer, Ayneth said “Sure, I’ll send you to be trained along with Khanu and Ishi.” This is another harebrained scheme of Ayneth’s, to have her maids trained to guard her, but I know by now that Ayneth’s harebrained schemes tend to work. I think that in a few years we’ll have a loyal bodyguard for Radan. (The boy is called Lan, so Valdyan-sounding a name that I kept expecting him to look Valdyan when he is in fact as black as a person can be.)

And this morning, we found out that Namak has had a lady-love all along: he came to our door and inquired very bashfully if it would be all right to bring someone to see his son. A girl as graceful as Khanu, enough like her that they’re likely to be ultimately from the same stock though they will probably both deny it. Gifted, too, though untrained as the Síthi are. He introduced her as Ataiyu but addressed her as Tala. I recognised the way she looked at him– the way Ayneth looks at me. I’ll never again be afraid that Ayneth may be in love with Namak, or he with her.

When the girl had left we wormed it out of Namak that she’s Ataiyu Semadis, from one of the old temple families. “Well, marry her already!” I said, “if she’s from the old families she’s noble enough for you!” But the problem seems to be that according to her family he isn’t noble enough for her. For a temple woman to marry a military man is a big step down, virtually unheard-of. I was going to write “I’ll have to go there and meddle” but I think it’s Ayneth’s call to meddle, after all as sister of the king of Valdyas and mother of the heir of Aumen Síth she has the better papers.

Namak asked me again to marry him as well, because then he really would have the four wives you suggested: one to bear his heirs, one to handle his affairs, one he loves, and one to keep his first wife happy. But Ayneth assures me that she is completely happy with the situation as it is, so I have again said no.

You’ll probably think me an old busybody, but for some reason I’ve been thinking of Lenay a lot. I don’t know who is baron there now, and I don’t really care, but I do suggest you appoint a steward at the castle who can be a force of stability as barons come and go (for that is what Lenay is like, unfortunately). Specifically, if he will have the post, you might appoint Ainei Eldan, Moryn’s half-brother; he’s not suited for baron, it would be a waste of his talents and moreover he’s far too self-effacing for that, but he could, literally, hold the fort for you. I’d like there to still be a castle of Lenay to spend an autumn, a winter and a spring when I’m so old that I don’t expect to travel any more after that one time. Not for some years though, don’t worry. Well, do worry about Lenyas, don’t worry about me.

Heartfelt greetings to you and yours,