Captain Aidan writes to his brother
Alysei Aidan astin Velain, captain of the regiment of Turenay, to Alysei Athal astin Velain, king of Valdyas.
I’m writing to you as one brother to another; your clerks will probably deal with my official report. That official report says that I detained Rayin and Doryn, formerly of the council of Tylenay, disbanded the troops they were mustering against the town, and strongly advise for a baron to be installed for Tylenay. It doesn’t say why, or give any details, but most of that is personal between you and me. (And Cora and Raisse, of course.)
I understand you know Arnei Riei, from Essle, and the story of her life? I know some of it and I don’t think I should know more. I could see that she not only had a thirst for adventure, but also a longing to do good, so we put our heads together and I set her to spy on the “Stone House” — the new big house in the village near Tylenay and Silvermine where the two had holed up. Most of it is still wood, true, but it has stone foundations; if it wasn’t two days’ travel from the town it would perhaps serve as baron’s residence because the obvious baron’s residence, the Black House, has been converted into community-owned workshops and I don’t think it would be propitious to break that up. Well, I suppose Tylenay has builders and someone can find a place. There’s a priestess of Mizran, slated to rise to Mighty Servant at the next Feast, who is uncommonly good at handling real estate.
That we were there in the first place was mostly by fortuitous circumstance: an outing of the Veray students, Riei’s girlfriend Leva among them, to the waterworks in Silvermine.
Riei has the advantage that she is fourteen years old and completely unknown in these parts, just imagine me going there to ask questions myself! Or even one of my soldiers; they’re good soldiers, every one of them, but none are suited to be spies. For that I’d need Lydan or Hinla who I left behind in Veray to help Loryn deal with the trouble there (you had that report, right?), because I hadn’t the faintest idea that this would turn into a military operation, all we needed was an escort for Cora. Anyway, Riei came back in stinking threadbare clothes with half a dozen goats, saying she’d bought the goats and a lot of information from a goatherd, and please roast one for the regiment at once. (We did. The others we gave to the Ishey in High Penedin, they’ll fit right into the herd there.)
She then proposed to award twelve riders from her own funds to every person willing to take up a weapon or a sturdy tool and help drive out the bandits from their camp in the mountains. I didn’t know then how many bandits, according to Riei’s goatherd it could be anything from a dozen to a few hundred, and more were coming from the mountains and the mines all the time. I should perhaps say ‘troops’ rather than ‘bandits’ because they seemed to be well-organized. “Of course it’ll be dangerous,” Riei said, “and people could get killed but then I’ll give the money to their family. More money. A hundred and forty-four riders if someone is killed. I have that much, don’t worry.”
That wasn’t what I was worrying about. “But do you want to lay that choice on them?” I asked. “That they would do their loved ones more good by getting killed?”
She hadn’t thought of the choice. “Well, give them a hundred and forty-four riders whether they live or die,” she said.
At least I wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough troops. Most of the people who turned up had genuine grievances against Rayin, Doryn and their henchpeople. I found some natural leaders among them and appointed them sergeants of a squad, notably Jarn, the foreman of the silver miners, who I commended in my official report.
While we were assembling, Riei went out to the Stone House again, to find out how and when we’d best handle that — we could handle the bandits’ camp first with the troops I now had, close to a hundred, untrained but strong and eager, armed with axes, flails, pitchforks and the occasional mattock.
Eventually there was only one death: a bandit thought the elderly farm-woman blocking his way would be easy to subdue, and she took him out with her flail. Jarn warned me that it would be a bad idea to take all the bandits to the town, because the troubles that Father partially solved six years ago are still not completely over (does this remind you of Veray, or Ildis for that matter, like it does me?) so now they’re under guard of the temporary troops in the main village, helping work the land.
Just after I came back to the camp Riei came back too, leading a donkey-cart with Rayin and Doryn on it, bound hand and foot and fast asleep. She’d wormed her way into the Stone House kitchen and dosed their food with essence of poppy! She left them in my hands and departed immediately to Silvermine to be with Leva, who had been in contact mind-to-mind all the time, not only with Riei but also with me.
Riei asked me to make sure that she doesn’t accidentally get elevated to baroness, like you did with Moyri in Idanyas. I’d say she’s too young for it anyway; perhaps she’d be one of the possible choices in ten or fifteen years. If you’re asking me to propose someone, my choice would be Jarn, even if he’s well set as foreman in the mine. But then anyone who has what it takes to be baron or baroness is already well set in their work: that priestess of Mizran, Jinla, comes to mind. It’s like that every time: your shopkeeper in Veray, Raisse’s farmer in Three Hills. Compared to that it was a blessing that Moyri had already left her post in the Order.
Athal, if you think you (or Raisse) could come here yourself to appoint someone, don’t hesitate! I don’t think the people of Tylenay have ever seen their king unless they’ve been to Valdis, or conceivably Gralen in summer. (Where Riei sent an inn-girl because she –the inn-girl, not Riei– wanted to learn better brewing. I agree that Tylenay needs better beer.)
Your loving and unexpectedly busy brother, Aidan