Sergeant Aidan writes to his wife

He’s not one of the great literary letter-writers, but he loves her very much.

My dear sweet Cora,

Finally I can sit down and write without the feeling that the whole troop is looking over my shoulder. Or at least bumping into me all the time because in a tent made for eight there’s really no room for eleven. And that’s only the men, there are also six women in a tent made for four. We’re firmly in Lenyas now, on the baroness’ grounds. If Moyri is still in Turenay, Lydan says to tell her that there’s a letter waiting in Essle. (And if Moyri doesn’t turn up in Essle, we’re to send it to Valdis, but he thinks she will go to Essle first.)

I’m missing you so much. It’s a bit better because most of us have someone they miss a lot. About half carry letters or pictures, but I have both! And such a nice picture! I look at it morning and night and imagine that you’re with me (and then have to get dressed or under the blanket in a hurry). You needn’t be afraid that I’ll fall for one of the silly girls who flock around our troop because they want to boast to their friends that they’ve slept with a prince. I tell them that while I must admit that I’m a prince I’m also only a sergeant, and point them to the Imperial Prince in Exile, Prince Whatshisname (I still can’t pronounce or even remember it; our sister-in-law the queen knows what he’s called). I don’t know whether he’s actually slept with one or some or all of them, that’s none of my business. In fact he’s not a bad guy at all, polite and friendly, only I’m afraid not very clever. Matches well with the silly girls, that’s true.

There’s one lad here, called Erian, who is younger than me and also a father-to-be, so we can be worried together. Not that I’m very worried, because I know you can do it, and you have my father and Leva and all the other people in Turenay to take care of you. He never learnt to write well, so he’s going to dictate his letter to me when I’ve finished this one.

Well, that took a long time! As soon as I’d written the previous bit we broke up and went south again. We’re in Tilis now, luckily before the water is high so we can camp and exercise on the flats. (This is the land that falls dry when there’s not enough water in the river to cover it. It’s very flat.) We’ve met up with the troops from Veray and Turenay, another two thousand! Even Master Jilan is here, and lots of people from the training. I wonder if there will be enough ships to carry us all to Solay, but of course because I’m with the king (and Prince Whatsisname) there’s no chance that they’ll leave me behind. I’ll come back to bring you glory and victory (and, Erian says, interesting scars, but I’ll do my best to stay whole for you).

I’m giving this to Arin Hayan, who turned up in Tilis with Orian on their way to Valdis, but as they’ve met Athal here they don’t need to go to Valdis to see him, of course, they can go straight home. At least Keti and Raisse won’t be without their men any more! They tried for a whole season or more to get Koll Neveshtan to come with them to Athal, but it seems that he’s really too ill to travel. Now, I think, Athal will go and see him before we sail.

Here’s Arin to take the letter, so I have to stop. I’m going to sand and seal and kiss it right now, and I’ll try to write again from Essle. I dream of you every night!

Lots of love and kisses and things I’m not writing in a letter with people close enough to see me blush,