Cora writes to the king and queen

Turenay, Naighei hanre, sixth week of Anshen

From Raissei Cora astin Velain, to her elder sister Raisse and her elder brother Athal.

Dear elder sister and elder brother,

First and foremost our deepest congratulations on the birth of the little Radan! Two sons in a row is surely an auspicious omen and bodes well for the future of the Kingdom of the North, the East, the West and the South. May the Gods never remove their blessings from your womb and forever look down upon this Kingdom with benevolence and goodwill.

Your younger sister is so deliriously happy! I am so, so very grateful that you have allowed us to get married this summer, in Gralen. Truly, Ryshas is the most happy place in the world! Aidan did very well in the fencing matches, gaining second place in his class, but his master had told him to compete in one class above the class he had originally thought to fight in. Not that I have seen my beloved lord and husband fight: I find that I cannot even look at fighting, and especially not my lord and husband fighting. Being present when Aidan was fighting was one of the most difficult things in my life, and I even passed out during his third fight! I was so ashamed of myself. But I did treat the wounded, for which Leva had given me leave, and learned a lot.

The most noble prince Moryn and his wife Ysella were in Veray, too. The war seems to press heavily on prince Moryn’s mind, and he seemed to me to be in a condition similar to the heroic Mernath, so I prescribed the same treatment to them, and showed lady Ysella the special place near the river where Aidan and I have so happy so many times. This seems to have been efficacious, since on our return to Turenay, I saw them again and noticed a distinct improvement in prince Moryn. He was painting the shelves of their shop a bright yellow! Now that I have seen such a powerful and important prince, the saviour of Lenyas, work in their shop I feel much less concerned about me having a trade of my own being unbecoming, that is, becoming a doctor.

I have been properly recognised as Leva’s apprentice at the Doctors’ and Midwives’ guild meeting in Turenay. It was a very impressive occasion, and Leva wore a dress from Riei, and I wore something I had made from green cloth your dear eldest aunt Jerna had given me. A Síthi man I had met in Veray at the games was also present, he is called Kancho and is the apprentice of doctor Jeran, who works near the North Gate and can cook really well. Together with the journeywoman Rhanyn of doctor Airath (who treats people who are not right in their mind) I have gone to the Temple School to inspect all the children for lice and other vermin. We have conceived of the idea to visit all schools in Turenay, taking also doctor Torin with us.

That reminds me: could you please acquire a tooth doctor from Iss-Peran? The noble Zahmati and Roushan, or else the most puissant prince Attima, will be able to help you. Doctor Torin is most desirous to learn from an accomplished Iss-Perianian tooth doctor the correct way of filling a gaptooth with gold. He has inspected my filled tooth that came out (the last of my child-molars, that came out recently), but he cannot quite recreate the procedure. A tooth-doctor should not be too expensive, and maybe Zahmati and Roushan will consent to give you one. If it be a good-looking woman, so much the better, since doctor Torin is a widower.

And I so love becoming a proper doctor. Already in Gralen I treated a man with a torn knee-cap, even though nobody else was present. It was so easy. In fact, almost everything I do as a doctor feels easy, as if it comes directly from the gods to my mind, without me having to learn anything. Except for the herbs, and the way people are fitted together by the Gods and so on, of course. It is, in some ways, unfortunate that the Valdyan laws are so benevolent that condemned criminals are not available for doctors’ apprentices to hone their skills upon. I was speaking about this with Leva only yesterday: that in Iss-Peran a condemned person can ask to be given to a doctor, who will open him or her up and then close him or her again. If the criminal survives, he will be set free, and, of course, which doctor would let someone die under their knife! The shame! I am sure the doctor Roushan I had selected for the envoy to your majesties will tell you the same, from her own experience.

But in Valdyas this is not so, so I have excercised my skills on a suckling pig. This is because there is a woman here who suffers from a growth on the liver, and Leva and I are investigating ways of removing this growth. It is going to be a great work, if the woman agrees to be treated. It is not something that Leva can do alone, though she can remove the heat of an infected appendix from a person without opening him up, which I cannot do – I can only create heat at this moment. We must make this attempt together. Leva does not only want me as her apprentice, but as her successor, because we fit so well together when working, although we are quite different in almost all respects.

In Gralen and in Veray I was nobody; now I am married, and that makes, my dear elder sister and brother, so much difference. I was growing to become more and more Valdyan in my mind and my clothes, but I feel justified in wearing the headscarf that marks the married woman from the concubine now. This incites some remarks, but, since I am certain that my enemies know where I am anyway, I decided to wear it anyway. My beloved lord husband does not mind.

There is this which I should tell you, namely that during my absence a group of ruffians entered the hospital with the purpose of abducting me. Though I was not present, my good friend Selle (who used to be an improper woman, but who is now married to Arin astin Hayan) was working in the hospital, wearing my clothes. She has almost the same shape I have, and the scoundrels were evidently thinking she was me, and hit her on the head and tried to take her away. Fortunately, Arin, who was hanging about in the hospital although his injuries had long been healed, was present, and he hit them, and delivered them to the captain of the Town Guard. Who promptly let the base villains go! Lord Vurian and Lord Radan have now deposed the base blackguard and put him in his own cellars.

But since I am known to be here, I feel I do not have to live in disguise all the time. I might even make Iss-Perianian clothes for myself out of the silk bedsheets Erne (who is doctor to the improper women of Turenay) has given me for our new house. I am now both, a person from the south and the north of the great river, a woman, a wife and a doctor’s apprentice. I do not wish to forget about where I came from, and I love everything I learn in Valdyas. And there is so much to learn: the market in Veray alone, where people were cutting buttons from bone, making lace and candles. And I recently learned that doctor Airath is specialized in people who are too ill in their mind to be happy, and I wanted to learn that, too, but now that I have met Mernath (who once bested Lord Vurian in fencing) and who is suffering from that illness, I think I can never learn to heal those people. But there is so much more to learn. I am going to write a book on the herbs in the hospital, Leva has asked me that.

Oh sister! Our house is so lovely, we are so happy. It is true that the first morning we woke up I was almost in a panic because there were so many things to be done — making the fire (easy for me, that is true!), making tea, wash-water, pancakes, cleaning up. I suddenly knew that I have never before in my life lived without servants and that I didn’t know how to do it. But we have found a most proper and capable apprentice maid who is taking good care of us, she is called Arvi and lives nearby. She comes in in the morning and takes her lessons from Raisse’s Hinla during the day and prepares our dinner, too.

Our house may be small, but our table seats ten easily, and twelve at a pinch, using stools from Raisse’s. We have been having guests every evening since we returned, ranging from the heroic Mernath and Maile to a fisherman and his family from downtown whom we had treated for lice too, tonight people from the hospital and a certain Alyse Hayan whom Rhanyn and I met in our Síthi bath-house (which has become very beautiful and quite succesful).

Downstairs there is just one room, with the table, the benches and the fireplace. A ladder leads upstairs, to the floor under the roof, where we have our bed. A feather mattress, another present from Erne! We will be hanging the tapestries we got from Erne, too, on the roof, and I hope to be able to buy a mirror so I can paint my face and we can see ourselves when making love, soon. Outside, we have small courtyard with a door that leads on the courtyard of the school and the hospital, and, at the front of the house, a wood shed.

Next week, on the day of Anshen, we will be celebrating our marriages: Aidan and me, Lord Radan and lady Halla, Ceti and Arin, Hinla and Jeran, Selle and Arin, in the street in front of our house. The Síthi will all come, as will the doctors, the midwives and the nurses from the hospital, the people from the school, the nobles who are befriended to Lord Radan or Lord Vurian, the people from our neighbourhood, my friends (and Jeran’s family) from downtown, everyone from the guild of Apothecaries — so we are truly grateful for our elder brother’s generous present of money for the celebration. My only sorrow is that you will not be able to be present!

Ps: I am so ashamed! I had told you I had sent you forty ells of blue-and-white woven linen, but I had counted with Iss-Peranian ells, which are less than half a Valdyan ell. If the bolt of stuff I have sent you is not enough for your dear friend, please tell me, and I will make some more. Also, if the pattern or color is not to her liking, I will endeavor to make something more to her liking.