Letter 3 to Aidan
She’s lost track of time; no wonder with everything that’s been happening.
Turenay, Dochein Hanre of the eighth week of Mizran ninth week of Mizran, I no longer know which day.
From Raissei Cora astin Velain to her beloved lord husband, Alysei Aidan astin Velain
Dear beloved lord husband, your obedient wife begs you for permission to present you with the expression of her devoted affection and to write you a letter in the informal style.
I received your letter on Dochein Hanre of the seventh week. This is the letter you sent me from Tilis. Your letter made me so happy! You are truly the best of husbands, to refuse so many girls and stay faithful to me. I have placed your picture on the wall in our attic, and look at it every night when writing down my notes for the day.
My dear love, my life, now that everything seems to return to normal in Turenay, it is stranger still that you are not here. Well, normal… I have temporarily taken over Erne’s practice. Since she was a little bit overworked, Erne has gone to visit Selle for a few weeks. She has left a few days ago with your Father and Khisif and her children. Your Father is going to talk with Arin and with the people of the newly discovered village.
I’m writing you this letter in her practice room, it’s a bit quiet today. The past few days were very busy, and the girls think I’m quite a bit fiercer than Erne, but that’s perhaps just because I shaved the heads of all the whores of Faran’s brothel, and Faran’s head, too. I will not allow lice and other vermin! (Oh, another note: I have lent the oldest girl in his house the money, about two hundred and fifty riders, to buy Faran out and make a better place of it.)
Oh, I’ve taken another girl home, I am sure you will remember her: Halla. She’s the girl I was talking with we were eating ducks in that place near the river, the girl who was wearing clothes that were not in all that good a state. She’s far too thin, and she cannot, in fact, eat enough to nourish her body, so I have taken her to the hospital. But since she isn’t very ill either, she is staying with us. It’s too weird! Her anie looks like she’s a nice, plumpish woman, but her body looks like a skinny girl, all skin and bones.
I started writing this letter two weeks ago, I think, and I never finished it! We are having a very, very busy time at the moment. Visitors from Valdis have brought a very infectious sickness of the lungs into town and we have many, many who have fallen ill, all over the town. There are already more then twenty people suffering from this illness in the hospital, whores, nobles, craftspeople, children, students from the school… The hospital has hired or commandeered –I do not know the details– the large shed just outside the South Gate, which is being turned into a temporary hospital today. As soon as that is ready, I will probably go and stay there, except for the afternoons when I am still doing Erne’s practice. Erne is still away, as is your Father, visiting the estate of Lord Arin and Selle.
You are not to worry! Leva and I carefully check each other for the illness every morning and evening, and also all the nurses and priestesses that help us out. If caught early enough, it is curable, with a little perseverance and effort, but if caught too late, it is very hard work, and if not at all, it is deadly. As far as I know, but I should check with the priestesses, there has been only one fatality, old Lord Arin astin Hayan.
I thought at first that I shouldn’t be telling you about this epidemic, but then, you would probably get to hear all sorts of silly rumours anyway, so I am telling you: we have the situation well in hand. The first patient, an old courtesan, was quite far gone, but we will save her. (I can probably learn a lot from her, she reminds me of a more gentle Lady Haluwa.) Then we immediately made it known in the town that there was this illness, urging everyone with even the slightest sign of sickness to go the nearest doctor.
I inspected almost all improper girls and such customers of theirs as were present when I made my rounds; I think all girls who have a proper improper situation are healthy. I will teach such of them as are gifted the proper way to look for signs of the illness in their customers. Fortunately, the easiest way is to put both hands on the bare breast of the patient, which is something they would do anyway!
I also went into the warrens behind the whores’ square, because one of the girls had told me there were some places where girls worked, too. The Brute and the Puss, they are called. Those places were horrible! So filthy, so dirty, so dark, so drab, so devoid of all that is pleasant. Why people go there, I will never understand! I was accompanied by an ex-soldier, corporal Hinla, so I was quite safe. Besides, the proprietors of those houses of ill repute had heard of me and were properly cooperative. Which I cannot say of the girls working there: I have seen about half of them, not more!
Doctor Jeran is visiting all the improper men and the craftspeople, and I will go through the school tomorrow morning. As I said, we have the situation well in hand, we get a great deal of help with nursing work from the Temple of Naigha, although they are all very sad because their High Priestess has died the other day.
So, don’t worry! Our daughter is growing well, and when you come home, I will have a surprise for you: one of my patients, a certain Serla, can draw very well, and she will draw me naked every two weeks, so you can see my body changing, too. Since she is a woman, she can do this without any impropriety.
Our little household is very cosy right now, with Halla and Cynla staying, and Arvi, would you believe it? — she has a proper boyfriend now. I have let him stay with Arvi and given Arvi permission to take here day off whenever he has one, he works in the Apple, and does not have a fixed day off a week. He’s a nice boy, he asked me for permission to ask Arvi to become his steady girlfriend — isn’t that nice? Makes me feel a grand lady! When Arvi has her day off, Halla takes care of me famously, which is a good thing, since I simply don’t have time for anything, and if she or the lady of the house next door to Erne’s practice wouldn’t feed me, I would forget to eat. But with these friends, there is no danger of that!
Oh Aidan, I must admit that I lie awake at nights, thinking of you, wishing I could sleep in your arms again, I even dreamed that you had returned! In my dream, I felt you arrive with my spirit. I dressed in my best, most becoming dress (I will have very nice one, by the time you return, I have bought the old weavery near the south gate, and got someone to work there who has been taught the art of weaving that very thin linen), and waited for you in our house. And just before you would enter I had an emergency case and had to run! But, as dreams go, I think I went and stayed at the same time. I will not describe the rest of my dream to you — you can imagine that! Or I will make you blush and make your mates curious, and besides, Cynla will wonder whether I’ve got a fever if I write more…
I long for your anie, for your body, for your voice, for your scent (I was so jealous of Arvi, when she carried the scent of her boyfriend — curiously enough, I don’t care about the way my improper women patients smell of their customers, and if they think their lilac perfume can hide the mingled scent of different men, they are wrong!), I long for the touch of your fingers, the press of your mouth on my cheeks. I want to feel the roughness of your hair, I want to see whether the down on your cheeks is already turning into stubble, want to plunge my fingers in the hair on your breast, and I want to take refuge in the fresh autumn scent of your mind.
Ps. This is my fourth letter to you, the third I have sent by courier. One more kiss! (And Cynla did wake up and saw me write the letter, and wondered what I was writing, that I was glowing. Oh! And one night when I was weaving, I have woven light into the cloth, pure light, but next morning it was gone. I will seal now, I need to cry a bit on Cynla’s shoulder.)