Raisse’s letter to Orian

Again, it’s the other Raisse, grand master in charge of the Guild of Anshen in Turenay. She needs a runner, and she’s married to one, but he’s far away.

Hallei Raisse, at the Guild school in Turenay, to Tylsei Orian, care of Arnei Sarbale Senthi.

Dearest,

Every time that you’ve come home from an assignment I’ve managed to surprise you; this time it’s not different.

I have two more apprentices, or rather, girls who are likely to become apprentices, living in the little back room. They reminded me so much of myself and Riei as children that I couldn’t resist. Khora had a hand in it, too.

I should start at the beginning. I was teaching Khora about seals and had closed up the sliding doors with the spider-web seal that you and I worked out together, but it turned out that spider-web disgusts her so much that she can’t handle it; she wanted to use fire to destroy it but wisely refrained from that because she was afraid to set the whole house on fire. Not unlikely; at least she is aware that she doesn’t know the full extent of her strength. She did manage to light a fire-pot by applying her innate fire “as gently as stroking a kitten” as I told her, and we arranged to go to the swamp the next day so she could give herself free rein. We were really looking forward to it: I longed to play with lightning, too!

But there was a girl from the slums in the hospital with a broken foot because her neighbour’s donkey had stepped on it –Leva and Khora together fixed that– and her sister at home didn’t know how she was, so when we happened to pass their house on our way to the swamp Khora went to speak to her. It was a cabin hardly more than a shack, even pokier than the one Riei and I used to live in as children. Khora suspected that she was gifted and called me: yes, gifted indeed! Perhaps as strongly as you or I, or Khora herself for that matter, but completely untrained though she is fourteen already.

I sat down next to her –she was a little afraid of me, and later admitted to Khora that it was because I was so bright that she could barely look at me– and told her that my sister and I had been children like her and her sister, growing up without our parents in a little house not far from where she lived. It turned out that their mother was dead –she doesn’t even know her mother’s name– and that their father went to Veray four years ago and never returned, leaving Lara and Lyse to fend for themselves. The neighbour helped a little, letting them borrow the donkey and paying Lara to mind her toddlers, but it’s not as if anyone brought them up beyond what Lara could handle. For one thing, she hadn’t washed herself for perhaps years, because she’d only get dirty again anyway. This shocked Khora most of all, fastidious creature that she is.

Then I said that when I had been only a little older than she was the queen had come and asked me to become her maid, and though I wasn’t the queen, I’d have her as my maid if she wanted. Hinla could teach her what she needed to know– and I didn’t tell her that she would be learning even more from me. She was worried about her sister, of course, but I said that Lyse could live with us too and we’d send her to school to learn her letters. Lara still has to learn her letters too. Fortunately Rava will be back by the Feast of Anshen and we’ll have a reading class at the school again, so they won’t have to sit in with the five-year-olds at their age. She promised to come and look in on Lyse after her work– she collects kindling for the craftspeople for twopence a basket, making a shilling on a good day, but most days are not that good.

Khora and I decided not to play with fire after that, but with water: Khora got the Síthi girl who attends her in the bath and we paid her a shilling each to wash us. We both felt filthy after sitting so close to the unwashed Lara. Were filthy, in fact: the Síthi girl got the fleas and lice off us just before they could bite. Later, we washed and deloused Lara in the kitchen, and Lyse’s friend the errand boy who she brought, and the boy’s two young brothers. Lara and Khora get on very well. They are very different, but they have some surprising things in common: both are orphans, both are gifted but haven’t known it until recently, and both work very hard, all the time, not feeling it’s work at all.

In the afternoon Lara tried to reach someone with her mind, “thinking very hard” to them– apparently she had some idea of how it worked, and perhaps it had worked before. But either it was too far to reach, or it was all too unfamiliar, so Khora (escorted by a prince and a nobleman, very stylish: Aidan Velain and young Ayran Brun) went to tell the neighbour that she’d have to find another childminder. While she was there, she searched the girls’ cabin for anything they might want and found their stash of coins and a letter. Lara said that it was her father’s letter, the only thing she had of him; but she couldn’t read it, so Khora did, and it was a letter to her father to call him to Veray. Not, it turned out, the time he actually went to Veray and never came back, but twenty-five years ago in the uprising that the first Queen Alyse put an end to: the one who called him to Veray was your father, Serlei Verye Laran!

So I’m asking you, because you are not only the runner I trust most, but also the one most likely to succeed in exactly this: if on the way back from the south you can spare a few days in Veray, please try to find out more. The man’s name is –or was, I fear– Teran, and I think he must have been between thirty-five and forty when he finally ended up going to Veray; most probably in the Guild of the Nameless. Laran wrote to him as a lord to a subject, not as someone writes to his friend or associate: a summons rather than a request. I don’t have the letter, because Lara threw it into the fire in anger. Anyway, if there ever was any essence of Teran or even of Laran in it it’s long gone.

May Anshen keep you, and Timoine inspire you.

With all my love,