Ayneth writes from Veray

When everybody was writing letters she was griping that it was no use trying to get a letter to Iss-Peran, but Cora suggested that she write to her brother the king.

Alysei Ayneth astin Velain, currently in Veray, to Alysei Athal astin Velain, in Valdis.

Dear brother,

Everybody else is writing letters, so I felt like writing one too, though there’s little news from Veray with almost everybody who is somebody either with you in Valdis or off to the war. Well, Vurian is here, judging the fencing on account of being last year’s winner. Also our little brother and his girl, who is absolutely as stunning as you said (but she and I are both very taken, so you can rest assured that there’s no danger of competition from me).

After Ilenay –of course that never happens before a place with a farrier– Spice cast a shoe, and I pondered going back to the smithy but that would have been almost as far a walk as going on, so we walked for six days or so. That made me very late, not much earlier than Vurian after all because of the way he rides (and the way his thirteen-year-old rides! I’d like to have a race with her some day when we’re all back in Turenay). As soon as I’d left the mare at the farrier’s I ran into Aidan and Cora, coming back from inspecting the new bath-house they’re involved with. A Síthi bath-house in Turenay, no less! But it wasn’t finished yet, so Cora took me to the bath-house near the school to wash the grime of the road off myself. We circled one another as warily as cats at first, but I like her and I think she likes me. I came to the Temple of Naigha with her (she was going to sing for a man she’d been tending in the hospital) to pray for Mother and little Valain and, well, everyone else I know who died, even Alyse; I’ve been neglecting the gods far too much when I was busy looking after your palace.

I stayed at Vurian and Rava’s house until we all went to Veray but I’ll probably get a room somewhere in town when the whole family comes to live there again. The rooms that Father’s lady-friend Halla is moving out of would be perfect if they hadn’t been promised to Aunt Eirin’s Arin and his– well, as of tomorrow, wife. I think you’ve met her, a tall dark Síthi girl as graceful as any doe. Halla and Father are doing up the house next door to Halla’s shop and plan to marry as soon as it’s ready to move in. She’s delightful, a down-to-earth apothecary in the Guild, just what he needs to come to himself. Though I think he’d already mostly come to himself before they met, or at least before they got involved with each other. He’s really changed a lot; no longer the pinched worried man we’d been seeing since the pox, but once again the father who taught us to ride and to swim. I think we can thank at least three women for that: Raisse and Leva and Halla.

It was great to see Alyse again. I hadn’t realised how good friends we were before she went off to Turenay and you went off to the South making me have to stay in Valdis. She’s grown up a bit, I didn’t feel as much the elder as I used to. Knows what she wants to do, too, which always helps: travel the country and be a musician who is incidentally also a runner, or vice versa as circumstances happen to be. It seems the right kind of thing for her. She’s also calling herself Brun –which she’s of course perfectly entitled to– after doing without a house-name for a while since you abolished the house Eraday, but she says she may keep that “in reserve” when she goes around the country making music.

It seems as if everybody is getting married, but that’s only because the people who are getting married are so exultant about it: Father and Halla, Aidan and Cora, Arin and the Síthi girl, Orian’s tenant’s daughter and her veteran just back from Iss-Peran with a wounded leg (he’s the one who carried Raith’s letters; mine reached me in Turenay via Valdis, he couldn’t have known I was here, of course), and even our scamp of a brother-in-law has hooked up with a downtown girl, a pretty blonde with brains and gifts but no education except what she’s been teaching herself, and the other Raisse and her maid have been teaching her, in the last season. They, at least, won’t be marrying this year, they both want to do more learning first.

Tomorrow I’m going to see Aidan win, and Alyse lose, and Jichan do something stupid and get himself hurt; at least that’s what it looks like when they spar on the bleaching-field.

All my love and best wishes to you and Raisse and little Vurian and even littler Whoever,