Arin’s letter to his father

This young man is serious. Nicely different voice from Aidan’s!

Note: Khora spells ‘Kheti’ and Aidan spells ‘Cora’, but Arin’s spellings are actually correct (or, at least, most true to the original). ‘Albetire’ and ‘Albatire’ are valid variants.

Eirein Arin astin Hayan, in Turenay, to Rythei Jeran astin Hayan, probably in Valdis.

Dear Father,

Mother says to write to you, though she knows what you will say.

Would you please give me your permission to ask Keti, a Síthi girl from Sarabal who is in the first year at school, to accept my hand in marriage? Not that I can give it to her yet, of course: she has three years and a season to go, and Orian is taking me on a training expedition right after the Feast of Timoine. I expect that I’ll see you before then, but I’m writing anyway, not the least to put my thoughts in order.

Keti has been at the school since the beginning of the term, but I hadn’t really noticed her until two other foreign girls arrived, first Ebru from the Plains –Reshan sent her– and soon after Khora from Iss-Peran, a very young noble widow sent by Athal and Raisse not only to train her gifts, but also to be protected from the various factions in Albetire that would use her as a playing-piece.

These three have become friends and are making heads turn in town. Khora is by far the most stunning, but not quite my type– I’m leaving her to Aidan, who is truly smitten this time. Keti is not only sweet and clever, but also tall, elegant and exquisitely dark, and she knows how to dress, or perhaps Khora knows how to dress her. We have been dancing to Alyse’s lute-playing to teach the foreign girls our dances; Aidan and I have left poor Jichan without a choice every time. He and the Plains girl can talk about horses but they don’t see anything else in each other. Ebru finds Valdyan men too soft, not sharp enough. And I don’t know what Jichan wants; perhaps not to tie himself down at all yet.

But, well, I think I’m sure of her, as sure as you were of Mother when you were both still learning. I went to Rovan’s shop and bought a silver bracelet –I’m afraid I spent my whole allowance on it– and kept it in my pocket, thinking to give it to her when I leave, but after the dancing lesson today everybody was doing so well that Alyse suggested going to the Unicorn. There I didn’t dance much because I stood under the awning with Keti most of the time, talking about everything and nothing, and I gave her the bracelet right then. To remember me by, I said at first, and she laughed and said she’d remember me anyway, so I said “to know that I’m thinking of you, too”.

The news of Athal will probably have reached Valdis before this letter does, but if not, the short version is that Orian spotted his ship coming in when he was in Sarabal for the coast defence and talked to Raisse, Athal being too seasick to use his gifts. They estimated that the Tilis route would be impracticable this time of year and though they’ve had a very smooth and quick voyage they were right, the Rycha is coming into spate early. They’re coming up to Turenay as soon as possible.

They’re bringing a whole displaced village with them, two shiploads of people, from somewhere on the coast of Iss-Peran that’s been ravaged by the Khas. Orian and I will go there to help them settle in the wild lands east of Sarabal– it’s to do with their gods, they are very tied to the land. It’s not very dangerous or difficult, not really runner’s work at all, but a good opportunity to see if Orian and I can work together so he can take me on more taxing assignments.

The advantage of going to Sarabal is that I can take Keti’s letter to her father and introduce myself to him. I don’t think I’ll be bold enough to ask him for her hand yet; I need to know the Síthi custom first. Suppose asking her already entails a bride-price! We did talk about the different marriage customs in our various countries last week at the Apple, but then it wasn’t so close to my skin yet. I can hardly ask Keti now, or, the gods forbid, her father when I get to Sarabal. She has a brother in Aidan and Alyse’s year, but there might be a Síthi custom that says that an elder sibling can stand in for a parent.

Father, I know that you’ll like Keti when you meet her. I took her back to the school and went home to speak to Mother; she wants us to come to dinner tomorrow or the day after in order to meet her too. I’m now sitting up very late writing to you so I can give this to the messenger who is leaving for Valdis early tomorrow.

On the day of Anshen in the eleventh week of Naigha,