Second letter from Khora

Poor girl, afflicted with a grievous case of culture shock. If the people dealing with her read this letter, they’d probably be in danger of dying from culture shock too.

(Athal informs me that embarrassment is like seasickness in that you don’t actually die of it, you just wish you would)

Turenay, two days after the previous

In front of her most mighty and wise Queen Raisse, her miserable servant Khora prostrates herself and begs leave to present her greetings and gratitude to her from whom all that is good and wise springs forth and to her husband, the all-powerful King of Valdyas, Velihas, Idanyas and the three peoples of Albetire, whose shield is a unconquerable redoubt for all who seek refuge behind it and whose bounty vies with the Gods in their liberality.

Your tongue-tied servant fears she will never find the words that are needed to express her gratitude to your majesties, who have graciously chosen out of all the possible courses of action that which has made their servant greater in fortune and happiness than any other course could have achieved. Under the private protection of the mighty enchantress Raisse, who has graciously taken your humble servant into her house, your humble servant is assured of every comfort and being taken care of most competently and friendly by the esteemed servant Hinla.

It makes your humble servant glow with fully unjustified pride that she has been able to be of some little service to the household and house of the enchantress Raisse in that she has been not only allowed to take some share in the daily house-keeping, that is, the cleaning of clothes, but also that she has on two occasions worked with the mighty enchantress to weave cloth. The enchantress assures me that where her woven fabric has the particular power of protection, the cloth your humble servant has woven for her has the power of showing off the wearer to her best advantage. When the second day the mighty enchantress Raisse took your humble servant to visit her gracious sister, Riei, who provides the noble ladies of the land with suitable clothing, the mighty enchantress Raisse was gracious enough to mention my work to her gracious sister as well as my embroidery.

Your humble servant beseeches the inestimable favor of your majesties’ advice! The gracious merchant Riei expressed her pleasure in some little embroidery by making me a present of six shillings. Your humble servant did not dare refuse for fear of offending the gracious merchant Riei or the enchantress Raisse, but at the same time she feels that it is not appropriate for, even a fallen, queen and princess to accept money for the fruit of the labour of one’s hands. Is it not so that your humble servant should strive to emulate your majesties’ example and show generosity in all things?

Your humble servant has, for now, given the shillings to the the God of War by placing it near his fire in the temple, but she fears the next time she has the chance of pleasing the gracious Riei by giving her some little cloth or embroidery to please her customers with.

Of the opportunity of learning the customs of peoples under the protection of the King and Queen of Valdyas, Velihas and Idanyas your humble servant avails herself with the delight due to such a gift. The noble Alyse formerly of the House Eraday has shown me the marvelous town of Turenay. Your humble servant has visited with her the Temple of the Goddess of Death where she prayed for those who have joined the Gods during the recent disturbances in Albatire, as well as her husband, her elder sister and her stillborn child. The noble Alyse formerly of the House Eraday had made your humble servant promise to dance. However, your humble servant is in all respects completely ignorant of the dancing customs of Valdyas and was unable to give the dance where the noble Alyse formerly of the House Eraday had taken your humble servant to dance. Your humble servant atoned by dancing for the God of War in his Temple that night — but she was too stupid to see that it was inappropriate since the hour of the evening meal had arrived and all the servants, students and masters of the School had to wait for your humble servant to finish. Your humble servant intends to ask the noble Alyse formerly of the House Eraday to teach her to dance in the Valdyan way so she can avoid being a nuisance in the future.

The forbearance of the wise teachers of the School of Turenay is without parallel! Your humble servant, having grown up without any education except in the womanly arts, has never been in a school before and has to learn the correct behaviour. Being of but a lowly mind, she is making many mistakes, which the teachers are gracious enough to forgive her for.

During the lessons in the Valdyan language, your humble servant has met with Ebru from the western plains and Kheti, a Síthi born in Sarabal. To the delight of your humble servant, who has learned a smattering of Valdyan at the court and from the mighty sergeant Liase, she was able to help Ebru (who can ride a horse!) with the task the teacher, Senthi, had set her pupils, that is the reading of Valdyan words. With Kheti your humble servant shares a love of poetry and song, and your humble servant hopes that she may achieve the distinction of friendship with these two pupils of the school of Turenay. Tomorrow we will go to the baths and afterwards we will try on the make-up I have bought with some of the money of the Mighty Servant. And maybe Alyse will consent to help your humble servant learning to dance.

The lessons in Valdyan magic are very difficult to someone who has an ability as poor as your humble servant. The wise teacher asked her pupils to widen themselves outside their body. However, having but one gift, your humble servant only managed to turn every young man’s head towards her miserable self, bringing chaos and confusion to the lesson. The wise teacher had a remedy, however and managed to put a “seal” over your humble servant. Your humble servant noticed this protection and managed to work some more during the lessons.

But the wise teacher has seen your humble servant’s many deficiencies and decided to start a special lesson for pupils with no skill at all. Unfortunately, to the shame of your humble servant, in order to make this a class, she has taken Ebru and Kheti and someone else whom your servant has not honour of being acquainted with out of their place and intends to make them begin all over again — and their skills are already considerable, for Kheti was able to see the mistake of your humble servant and has told her that she saw a spiritual fire outside your humble servant’s body, which is something your humble servant has never been able to see.

The wise teacher wants your humble servant to show her who your humble servant really is, and the enchantress Raisse wants your humble servant to decide who she wants to be. Your humble servant, trusting the servants of your majesties, has not neglected to give a full and honest account of herself and her background, but she is dismayed to being given to understand that this account is not held to be a proper answer to the question “who are you”.

Having been trained in the womanly arts and having been praised for what little skill she has in making men take pleasure in her company from the age of four or five, and having been the youngest queen from the age of seven (a position which was never too arduous or exacting, since her husband had never visited your humble servant since he became ill, and before that having been always pleasant, courteous and pleased with your humble servant’s skills in dancing and reciting poetry), your humble servant is all confused and confesses she fears she will never be able to please her teachers and the enchantress Raisse on this issue.

Trusting in the continuing gracious favour of the Flower of the North, the mighty Queen Raisse and her all-conquering husband, the mighty King Athal, your humble servant begs humbly leave to present her greetings and prostrations to you and signs,

Your humble servant begs permission to add a postscript in the informal style.

Elder sister, on more than one occasion I have seen a young man called Aidan who pleases me very much. Faithful to my promise I have refrained and will continue to refrain from using those skills you have forbidden me the use of on him, but I dare not promise that I will not make his acquaintance, since he seems befriended with Alyse formerly of House Eraday. I promise I will take the enchantress Raisse’s advice in this or similar matters, especially since Kheti tells me he is known for inappropriate behaviour, although I have not seen evidence of that myself.