A letter from Moyri to Uznur in Essle

This will probably reach him just before Athal comes back and they all go to Valdis. The investigators, of course, are the young butchers.

Dearest love, dear husband, prince of my dreams, my lord, Uznur

I love you, I love you, I love you and I don’t think I can live for another month without you! People think I’m absent-minded, but I’m not, it’s you who is absent, and my mind is with you all the time! Bahar tries to be a little man and comes to tuck me in at night — and then I have to get out and tuck him in, so now we’ve settled that not just the twins, but everyone younger than me sleeps in our bed.

Oh! Please do not be angry with me husband, I should have told you this first: we have unconvered a horrible plot by that evil excuse for a King in Albetire to conquer our country! The Queen (and everyone else at court) was going to be poisoned — and then in the confusion the country would be overrun by Iss-Peranian troops smuggled into Essle. Please, please — be alert, but not overly alarmed.

The plot in Valdis was nipped in the bud, thanks to the work of those two delightful butcher journeymen I told you about in my last letter. I’ll tell you everything in a moment: it was the Yaktub brothers who were behind it all, on the Valdis side. They were convinced that at least fifty thousand troops would be landing in Essle any moment now and march on Valdis. I can’t believe that — I cannot believe that our man in Albetire, Lord Fian, will let that plot come to fruition. Also, we have reports that Valdyas controls the harbours of Albetire, so I don’t know how they would ship so many men to Essle, besides, they wouldn’t have any soldiers left. But it might still be the case that you will find some regiments, maybe a few hundred soldiers. Best to ship them back, I think, not kill them. But you will know best, your wife shouldn’t try to teach you your job.

Oh, love, love, love — if only you had been with us, we would have caught the Yaktubs months ago. But all the veterans I meet speak so highly of you, you are becoming a true prince of Valdyas in all minds, some even call you the Viceroy of Essle. If Serla wasn’t so fond of her friends at her school, if Raisse didn’t need me — I would hire a barge and move down to Essle again. It’s not just that I want to be with you, hold you and be held by you, but I miss your mind in my mind, I miss the presence of you, the warm scent of your mind. (But don’t think I don’t miss your body, your voice, your hands, your eyes!)

I’ll take a bit of time now to tell you about Arin and Jeran. Raisse had asked the Master of Serla’s school to find two likely journeymen in the Guild of Anshen to look into all the mess with the quacks and fake medicine for her. It was supposed to be a tremendous secret, but one way or another, Arin and Jeran found out they were working for the Queen. They have written quite a few wonderful letters — you will enjoy reading them. It has given me a sort of understanding for the way your people approach their kings. It’s almost as if Raisse weren’t really real. The boy put all his troubles in the letters, as well as the things we really needed to know — it was as if he was petitioning a goddess. Even after this Arin had met Raisse and had realized his little sister is best friends with our Serla!

Right — these excellent boys then, they had been going round and round and had given us proof it was Yaktub who was behind all the quackery, who even had paid a Valdyan actor who was down on his luck to go and sell his fake medicine in the market. And it was them who wrote us that they simply couldn’t believe that Yaktub was really paying someone to sell medicine for him — as well as paying the dummy patients. And then, when we had Yaktub cooling his heels in the small audience room waiting for an audience with us, they cracked open the chest with all the secret notes and papers about the poisoning plot.

All the mess with Faran the Quack was just a blind to distract everyone from the real plot: Yaktub received enough poison to kill everyone in the Palace that night. (So that part of the plot still worked! Keep an eye open for that invasion force! It might yet exist!) And then he got it smuggled into the Palace. Of course, we could institute strict security measures, investigating everything and everyone, but Raisse says, she’d rather take her chances. It’s better to be nearly murdered now and then, rather than never trust anyone. After all, most people are perfectly trustworthy, like those two nice boys. I need to figure a way to help them along a bit — though not so much they don’t have to work for their happiness anymore.

Arin is going to be married at Midsummer — he’s told Raisse all about it in his letters. A really nice young girl, called Maille, who is a builder by trade, and who is going to be a Master by Midsummer. Certainly all this business with the two butchers has helped Raisse to really get to grips with the situation with the guilds in Valdis. So many guilds have been so badly hit by the plague — the bakers are in a horrible straits, the butchers had all kinds of bad customs leading to drunkenness and idleness.

Well, finally, because the butcher boys were in the Palace Kitchens preparing sausage — so good! even Raisse takes a second helping! — we made sure the traitors in the palace couldn’t get at the poison that was stored in the Palace, and we weren’t murdered.

And we got the traitors — a boy, his brother and a girl. The boy, he’s really guilty, but he’s such a poor little dear. He’s from Lenyas, in the Guild of the Nameless and was going to wage bloody war on behalf of the Nameless. His brother is half-witted — and the girl, she was made pregnant by the boy and told to do what she was told, or he’d leave her. We’ve hanged Yaktub — and we will probably hang the boy.

Uznur, I’m crying now. I can hardly hold my pen. All these lives — for something so stupid, so silly, so useless. I hope I can convince Raisse we can spare the girl and the brother — maybe even the boy. Yaktub’s hanging was right, especially after we’d seen his collection of torture instruments. But those children — the boy is barely older than me.

Uznur, I’m stopping here. My tears are making the ink run — I love you, my love. Please, be with me again as soon as you can. Your sons and daughters give their love, as do the servants in your house.