A letter from Reshan

I think he’s right that it can’t last much longer, though whether the Khas are running out of reinforcements or merely concentrating on Solay now I couldn’t say.

Sellei Ökgelen Reshan to his wife, Cynlei Arni astin Brun.

My dear Arni,

Thank you so much for your letter with all the news. I’d rush to your side if we weren’t so close to victory now. Surely this can’t last another half-year, especially not with Athal on his way to take Solay. Anyway, I’m confident that you can bring this sprog into the world safely and comfortably, as you’ve done every time until now.

Your letter and Athal’s arrived in a spectacular manner. The children of the tribe have taken up the habit of sneaking into the Khas camp when most of the Khas are busy fighting us, behind the backs of the guards so they can only cause minor annoyances: cut the tent-ropes, piss in the porridge grains, things like that. One eight-year-old boy was left behind when reinforcements arrived because he was inside a tent. Not many reinforcements, only about six hundred: I think they’re running out. They were about to seize him when someone came charging through the camp on a roan horse, pulled him up behind her, and told him to hold on while she cleared a path through the dumbfounded Khas with a quarterstaff. I’ve seen people fighting from horseback, and I’ve seen people fighting with quarterstaves, but never before both at the same time.

That was Ökgelen Ebru, of course, Tanu’s niece –the chief’s youngest daughter– who we sent to Turenay when we found out how gifted she was. She had to go around the long way, passing the Khas camp, because there was a river in the way that’s currently in spate: we’re quite a bit farther to the south than we were when you went back to Lenyas. Tanu was so impressed that he gave her the tribe marks immediately without even waiting for Ersen to get back from his foray. He’s entitled, of course, being the priest in charge, and Ersen did agree when he arrived. I’m sending this back with Ebru too, because much as we’d like to keep her (she really is a mean staff-fighter) she’s vowed to join the Order of the Sworn in Veray. Jeran of the Order in Ildis is here with about two-thirds of his house, and he put her into uniform as a journeyman right away, a bit peeved that she insisted on going back to Veray instead of staying as one of his.

As I wrote to Athal in some more detail, we’ve almost cleared the hills now, though it’s harder to fight in the hills than on the clear open plains. South of the hills there’s the swamp, where we and the Khas are both at a disadvantage, and we more than they because they’ve already come that way and know the safe paths. It’s also close to the west side of Idanyas that we don’t want to inflict fleeing Khas on, so we’re trying to push them to the west into the desert. Those who are still alive, of course: unless we can get their chiefs and mages first they fight to the death, and ten or twenty of them die for every one of us. I’m sorry to have to tell you that Feyzi fell to a Khas sword– I know you were as fond of him as I was. But he took his assailant with him, and at least six more before that. They gave me his music-bow: Ebru is bringing it for Alyse, because I can’t get music out of it but I’m sure that she will.

I really do want it to be over soon. I thought for a while that this life I’m leading now is the life I was meant for all along, but now I want to be home with you and the children, to sleep under a roof, to hunt in the wood, to be an ordinary nobleman even though we don’t have a house-name any more. I’d do happily without one and be merely the husband of my lady Brun, but there are bound to be lots of former Eraday looking to me for a new house-name, who I can’t very well tell to declare themselves Nusan– that would only embarrass Moryn. (Tanu says, with that deadpan face of his, that I should take them all into the Ökgelen tribe and he’ll cut their cheeks for them like he did mine.)

If you see your brother Vurian, give him my warmest greetings. And hug Alyse and Selle and the boys for me. I intend to be back before the new kid walks, even if it walks as early as Selle did.

Love, kisses, embraces,