Sergeant Aidan writes to his wife again
This letter comes with a large parcel of assorted silk fabrics and embroidery thread and spices. It was clearly written in haste.
I wrote half a letter to you, and then lots of stuff happened and nothing that was in the letter mattered any more so I tore it up and started again.
I was at the harbour this morning with some of the lads, and there was a whopping big ship coming in, which turned out to be ours! The White Whale! I stayed around to watch the unloading, lots of fabrics and spices and glassware. I’m sending you some of it. Jeran was there, he’s the son of the Síthi tailor who made the jacket I wore at the feast, and he helped me pick out the right colours for you and to make sure that each piece is enough for an Iss-Peranian gown. He says that it’s not of the quality that used to come from Iss-Peran, but it looks splendid to me anyway. Also I’m sending embroidery thread, and I thought you’d like some of the spices too.
I think we’re rich. There was so much in that ship. They came and asked me if it was all right, now the ship was in, to use it for troops transport and I said yes, of course– I know that means it may not stay whole but that’s how it goes in a war, and I couldn’t very well say no! Anyway, if it’s only used for trade it doesn’t necessarily stay whole either. And perhaps we will sail in it!
When I went to the sort-of-palace to tell Athal and Raisse, I got another shock. You know that old ox-guy Koll Neveshtan? He died last night (I’d heard that already, it was all over the city, hard to miss) and –here’s the shocking part– left everything to Athal. Apparently because he wanted to disinherit his nephew Koll Konandé. (That’s the bloke who is after you, right?) Not quite everything, Raisse says, not his ships and trade interests because they belong to the family really, and I suppose his two adopted daughters get something too– one has gone with the army, and the other lives in Veray. But all the rest of his personal stuff, and his house and slaves.
They’ve been freeing the slaves all day, there were about sixty of them, women and ox-men, he wouldn’t have any whole men in his house. There’s a lot of money, more than a hundred times ten hundred riders, even after paying off all the people who aren’t slaves any more. And books and maps that Raisse drooled over, and musical instruments that made Athal swoon. And it’s all his! He won’t get the money until after we take Solay, that was in the will, so the money doesn’t get used for the war. But they’re using the house as army offices for now, bursary and quartermaster’s office, because it’s very big and there are lots of servants staying on for pay.
This is probably the last letter from me that you’ll get for a while because we’re leaving the day after tomorrow, and I don’t know how long it will be before I can find someone to take one back for me. I’m definitely sailing with Athal, so I can hold his hand when he’s worse-than-seasick. Prince Dhamir will have to take second place to my brother the King of Valdyas, even if he turns out to be a bad sailor too. (I know his name at last: Rakor Bebe Dhamir, and there’s some more but that’s all titles. He’s asked me to call him Dhamir because that’s his own name like mine is Aidan, the rest are house-names.)
I wrote “nothing that was in the letter mattered any more” but it does matter of course, it was an answer to the letter I got from you! Moyri gave it to me with a broad grin, as if she’d secretly read it, but she couldn’t have of course because you’d sealed it very tightly. I did laugh at the picture of our bed full of women (and cats)! I keep the letter in my shirt and read it over and over again, just like the one you gave me in Valdis, to hear your voice in my mind. I love you so much! And it’s splendid to hear about all the good things you’re doing. When I saw Uznur he showed me his arm and told me how you and Leva had made it better. He’s staying in Essle –Moyri won’t let him go on a ship– to deal with money and ships and things, while Moyri and Raisse go back to Valdis via a very roundabout route, Idanyas and the Western Plain.
See, now I’ve written almost all of my old letter again.
Love and kisses, smelling of cinnamon and cloves and camphor,
PS. Raisse said that she’ll write to you too, but she’s staying on in Essle for a while so her letter may not arrive with the same messenger because she doesn’t have to hurry.