Cora writes back to Alaise

A reply to Alaise and Arin’s letter. With lots of news and opinions.

Turenay, four weeks before the Feast of Mizran, Day of Anshen, the year 550

From Raissei Cora Asa astin Velain astin Zameshtan to her beloved daughter and son, Corei Alaise astin Velain and Corei Arin astin Velain

Dearest Alaise and dearest Arin,

You made me so happy when your letter awaited me on my return from Tal-Valein! I am delighted with all the good news you gave us. On Aidan’s return he read your letter the very next day and he sends you his love as well under the same cover.

It is truly excellent that you are working in the hospital’s apothecary, where you will encounter many out of the way medicines, which is the next step after having worked with Halla to cater to the needs of people all around town.

I am also very happy to hear that Arin has found what sounds like a good, strict Master in his guild, who gives him a chance to learn and work, and work and learn! Give him my best regards and tell him that when you come to Turenay again, there is something really amazing to be seen: a large wooden house built around a waterfall by foreigners from the far west who are called Ishey, but who have adopted many Valdyans and Iss-Peranians into their nation.

In Turenay, we have had quite an exciting year! I must have already told you about my own Master’s death, Leva, in her native village of Tal-Vauryn, this Spring. I was already pregnant, of course, but still travelled with her so she could die in peace, which she did. But the death of someone of the renown of Leva is not something that would pass by unnoticed, and there was a huge storm in Ryshas that night! From there I went on to Veray, where there was another leper village, so I was nicely busy and could work instead of weep all day.

And then… Well, I haven’t written you, dear eldest daughter, and you, beloved son of ours, since Midsummer, but you will have already guessed why that is: around midsummer, I gave birth, to a boy! You have a really small brother now, so small he makes Raisse looks like a giantess! His head fits neatly in my hand when I hold him to give him suck, and you know how small my hands are! He was born two days after Midsummer, and because he had announced his arrival betimes, he was received into this world by Lyse, we hadn’t gone to our wine farm yet, although it must be lovely there.

Your brother is called Khahid, for my friend and secretary in Albetire. He’s the father I never had, not really… But you know that. And your little brother Khahid is so sweet!

His appetite for milk is prodigious! And Raisse has not yet had enough either, but nowadays we have two more babies in the house who need to be fed, so I have roped in Selevi, the tinker’s wife, who has another baby, and of course Valyn, whose husband was in so dreadful a state when they arrived from Veray, because he served the Nameless. Us three and another woman who lost her child are now caring for all these babies. Our square is very noisy these days! We’ve got a fountain with a little statue of a girl passing water, made out of bronze, which is a joke of Aldin, the tinker’s eldest son, he asked me for money for the metal, then created this hollow statue and put it on the spring that gives water for our bath, too.

But I must be confusing the two of you! Let me go back in my thoughts and think of the moment they arrived, with their plenitude of goats. I mean the first group of Ishey.

Yes — goats! But you might actually have met them, since they came through Valdis. These are the Ishey Athal has granted his protection. The first group arrived a few weeks ago, and there were actually only two black Ishey with them, the rest were people who had joined the tribe.

This is, they tell me, with Athal’s express permission. There are two very sweet Iss-Peranian girls, well, one is half-Iss-Peranian-half-Valdyan, called Parandé and Zendegî, or Venla and Amre. They want to become doctors and have in fact already started learning with me. Before they arrived in Turenay they worked in many places as field nurses and field doctors. Some skills, like sewing skin, setting bones, staunching bleeding, taking away of fever or helping women bear children they have already in abundance, in other skills they are very ignorant — both have a hard time when asked to write their names! But they are so likeable, so industrious, so much in love with each other that I couldn’t help but loving them from the moment I saw them — and they have a small baby already, not from their bellies but they rescued it up in the north!

It seems there’s a people over there who come south through the frozen mountains every year for midsummer and then leave two babies, a boy and a girl, in the hands of a statue of the Mother, to die! My new apprentices found themselves there on their long, long travels and took the babies with them and fed them, fortunately they encountered a bandit woman called Arvi and her husband who had just lost her own baby and had milk to spare. The baby has black hair, a very flat nose and vies with Khahid in her appetite for milk. She is called Hinla, and her brother Athal.

Athal was adopted by the strangest couple I have ever seen! These are one of the black Ishey, a man called Veh with the body of a woman, if you can believe that, and his wife, and Iss-Peranian merchant’s wife called Asa. Asa has now given birth to a red-headed boy. Whoever his father might be, it certainly wasn’t Asa’s Iss-Peranian husband! But Asa is very satisfied with her new husband, Veh, and who am I to think ill of anyone who is happy and in love? They are very sweet on each other and make a very handsome couple, and now that she has borne a son of her own body, she is happier than ever. It remains strange, though, to see Veh working naked from the waist up on the Ishey house and nobody thinks for a moment that his breasts mark him as a woman! Not even the boys and girls from the down town who are helping out.

Then there was the other black Ishey, a woman called Sabeh who used to work at the Royal Palace. She’s looking for a man to give her children — and to that purpose smiles at all unattached young men in Turenay. But she is very learned, both in the ways of the women of her nation, and in Valdyan.

Finally, they came with a young boy called Jeran and twin girls, Aine and Arvi, nine, four and four years old. They are staying with us for the moment, until Veh and the other Ishey are done building the Ishey house, on the other side of the river. Arin, you would love to see them build! Within two days, they had upright beams of wood put in the earth and placed a floor on top of them. Within a week there were walls and a roof. They got bricks for cheap from an illegal out-of-guild kiln that was built in the forest, close to wood and a clay pit which used children for the labour without paying them or giving them leave to visit school, and those bricks were used to make a huge fireplace! There is also a mill-wheel that will be turned by the water in the brook. When I last went to take a look, Mazao, their king who is wounded, was carving all kinds of decorations with his knife and axe.

We encountered King Mazao, his husband Tao and their Ishey-from-the-plains companion Ebru when I was in Tal-Valein. I went there to visit my friend Selle, and she gave birth to twins when I was there, it was very difficult and it went very hard with her, I had to reach in to fetch the babies! But all ended well, and then we heard that there was a wounded man in Tal-Morn, and Venla and Amre went there to help him, I was so tired from helping Selle.

It turned out that this was a man who had nearly killed the Queen! Nearly killed our Raisse!

Well, he had been pursued all the way from Rizenay by the other Ishey, King Mazao and the others. There was all kinds of unpleasantness, and my friend Serla from the other guild had to execute this person, he was called Lyan. My apprentices did a wonderful job keeping him alive for his execution, though, as they did with another bandit.

But I am furious with my father-in-law! He called Moryn to witness at the trial, and Moryn recognized two bandits from his campaign in Lenay… The confrontation cost Moryn years of his life, I fear, he was so badly shaken.

Happier news was that Aidan came home before the trial. You know what happens when your father comes home, and Arvi and Jerna very thoughtfully sent all our guests upstairs when Aidan came in through the back door and I put him in the bath-tub and joined him… In the middle of the night, they went to fetch the other women I told you about to feed the babies, or so Arvi tells me, but we never noticed.

Oh, I love all of my guests so much — I gave Amre and Parandé two riders to visit Ruzyn and be with just the two of them for an hour or two, they work so hard at school and in the hospital, and then I rob them of a whole night’s sleep as well…

Thank you so much for the copies of the pages of the herbary! I have had copies made and added to all the copies we have in Turenay of my own herbary, here in the hospital, in the School Libary, in the temple of Naigha and with doctor Jeran.

The warmest love from me,

P.S. Don’t you dare to marry without giving me enough notice to be there! I — and your Father — we want to be there!