A letter from Cora to the queen

Only now it strikes me that Queen Raisse and the girl called after her were born in the same house, perhaps even in the same room.

Gralen, Midsummer

Dearest Raisse, dear Sister,

Thank you so much for your letter. My congratulations on the birth of little Alyse! I am sure Athal will be very touched that you named your first daughter for his Mother. Aidan had proposed Alyse for our daughter as well, but I am so glad I held out and did not give her that name — it would have caused so much confusion!

Because I have given birth to my firstborn! She is a beautiful, but very, very small girl, and we have named her Raisse in honour both of you and of the Raisse for whom you were named! She came some weeks early, but Lyse said that that was to be expected, since I am very small and since it’s my first time.

We were lodging in the house where you were born, the Fencing School, now the Regimental Headquarters. I was so enormous that I couldn’t get up the ladder to our attic, and we had bought the house next door, Tylse’s, who makes gloves, but when we tried to sleep there, it was horrible! I felt as if there were some force disturbing the house and everyone in there, something malign, and wondered whether I had discovered why Tylse’s husband no longer lives with her, even though she is a very nice woman.

But it turned out that a cold spring was trying to come through the ground, just under the corner of Tylse’s house! Aidan has a friend at the Guild School who is to water what your husband is to earth, and he made the spring break the ground, causing an enormous mess! And Tylse’s house had to be demolished, but we had intended to build a new house anyway. So we had to find another place to sleep and Aidan remembered that there were two empty apartments at Otter House.

All of us packed our stuff and went there, Aidan, me, Arvi and her friend, my friend Khisif who has come to Turenay to have her third child, and of couse Sergeant Halla who was staying with us because her apartment in Otter House was too lonely for her and her grief. Her husband and children have died from the fever, and she lost her best friend in Solay.

It was in Otter House that Raisse was born: it was quite easy, as a Queen I come from a line of women bred for breeding, of course, and I shouldn’t have worried about getting torn so much, after only two weeks I was completely healed and could receive my Lord Husband again. It has been torture! Night after night, I could nestle against him, and then there wasn’t a single part of my body that wasn’t agony to be touched!

I will take Leva’s advice and try to avoid becoming pregnant again for two years: if I have learned one thing, it is that having babies is not good for my studies. Not only could I not do operations or other work, Raisse objected to my using semsin when she was lodging in my belly, I even neglected my reading and herbology. All I did was sew and embroider clothes for my unborn daughter, Khisif’s twins (who were visiting us) as well as Khisif’s husband, and eat little bits of food all day long. Even now my mind, always a dull instrument, feels even as if it’s swaddled in cloth.

Oh, my sister — I hope your husband will be restored to you soon, there is no greater joy then being with one’s husband, I find, and sharing my mind with him while feeding our daughter.

My kisses for your children, my greetings for your friend Moyri and her children, and I hope to see you again,

Ps: please find included Serla’s sketch of our daughter.

Pps: I am in Veray now, and will probably stay for a while. When we were in Gralen, a Hinla Hayan brought your brother, severely wounded, up from Idanyas. It is nearly impossible to imagine that a man so wounded could have survived this journey, but he did, although I had to break all his bones again and set them right again. Oh, my sister, your brother is so wounded — his organs are badly damaged, his skin, his muscles, his bones. What that Iss-Peranian doctor in Idanyas has done to him, I don’t know, but he made Torin survive. Hinla came to look for Leva, but I was closer at hand when she arrived, and while there is so much I still have to learn, I think I am as good as a doctor as any in the kingdom when it comes to wounds.

In any case, we are in Veray now, Torin is in the hospital and we are awaiting the arrival of Lady Rava, your beloved Mother. When she has arrived, I might be staying for some time longer, until your brother has healed enough to my liking.

Oh, and other things have happened: I have told you just now, not to boast, but because I am confident it is the simple truth, that I am becoming a very good doctor to the wounded. But there was a small girl, only three years old, in our hospital who could take no nourishment. And since I am overflowing with milk — either because I come from a long line of royal sows, cows and goats, or because my desire to be fruitful makes me drip with milk (and honey, Aidan says, but only he gets to taste that!), I gave the child suck, and then she died! She had never grown much, she was three years old and as small as our Raisse, and then she died when she had drunk my milk! Her parents don’t blame me, but I am feeling so bad that I had not healed her.

Then we went out, doctor Halla and me, to the whores’ quarter — I am rambling, but there is something I have to tell you, and I have to lead up to it, by the way, when we came throught Veray on our way to Gralen, I have assembled the local Iss-Peranians and given them instruction in the proper way of behaviour in Valdyas and loyalty to the crown, we found a young man in one of the brothels who suffered from acute inflammation of the appendix, and we took him to the hospital and I cut out the appendix and healed him.

And then, there was so much milk in my tits that Raisse couldn’t get it out, and I could not stand wasting it, so I ran to the orphanage, which is very well run by Cynla and Arin, and they had the care of a six-months old boy, Jeran, and he sucked me dry at last, leaving enough for Raisse, and my tits felt comfortable for the first time in two months — because they had started to swell even before Raisse was born. I am not sure, does this make me very wicked?

I feel so happy and bad at the same time, since when she saw Jeran suck, Cynla, the Mother of the Orphanage immediately offered me to take Jeran with me. And then the orphan girl Alaise, who had given him goat’s milk daily an regards herself as his sister, she made clear she didn’t want to part from Jeran.

Oh, my sister — I am considering taking both Jeran and Alaise with me to Turenay. I wish you were here so I could ask for your counsel, but before you answer can reach me, I will have had to make my own decision. It will, I am so sure, lead to so many difficulties, having an older boy not our son in our house, for Raisse, I mean — Alaise will be no trouble, she wants to go to school and then be apprenticed with an apothecary, I have been thinking of Aidan’s father’s new wife, she can surely oblige me by giving her a place. But Alaise will have to leave all her friends behind her.

I am not sure what we will do, for now Jeran lodges with me, Aidan and Raisse. Aidan likes the idea, his heart is so good and great: he is a most conscientious and capable captain of the regiment and works very hard, but he never grudges me the attention I crave of him, nor ever gets angry with me, not even when I am crying out to bring a son into our household who is neither mine, nor his, but born of a veteran who used to be a town guard and a cooper’s daughter.

My sister, I love you with all my heart, but I am resolved not to visit Valdis this autumn: I now really have to learn how to treat not just wounds and cancers and inflammations, but also real sicknesses, infections and humours of the brain. And next year, I will have to go with Leva on her rounds, and Aidan will come with me, to make sure he knows of all the villages and townlets that are sprinkled through Ryshas like the pearls broken free from Queen Pahlava’s necklace.

My kisses — give my love to your children, to Moyri and her children and greet everyone in the Academy and the Palace kitchens from their friend, Cora.