Back in Valdis. Continuity to be fixed later; everything happened but not necessarily at the time we’re saying it did.
Ysellei Moyri astin Rhydin, to her parents, Ruzeyn Ysella and Serlei Moryn astin Rhydin in Turenay.
Valdis, Mizrein Hanre, sixth week of Naigha
Dear Father and Mother,
We have finally arrived in Valdis! All of us are sound and well — nobody in the Royal Progress has died from the lung plague or anything else. However, it pains me to have to write to you that your erst-while travel companion Faran, Kamari’s husband, has died of the lung plague — along with, some doctors think, one in ten people in Valdis have died. I don’t think either of you were really close with Faran, who to his last was somewhat eccentric and not as astute a businessman as he thought he was, though his elephants are flourishing, but Kamari is truly sad about her loss. He was the man who gave her her freedom, allowed her to do the work she did best and always defended herself against all the despicable gossip that never stopped in some circles in Valdis.
Our odd-job man, Jilan, has died, too — very sad! It appears that two weeks after we left for Turenay he married his sweetheart on the strength of his job with us, she is a cooper, and she conceived of him — and then he died before their child was born! Jerna told me she was so glad her man had a job and hadn’t gone off to the war — and then he died. She is too thin, especially for an expecting woman. I have promised her she can have her husband’s salary until her child is apprenticed, that should be enough for the two of them. After that, we’ll see.
I hope the letters I wrote you along the road have arrived! I will visit Shab Hafte this week and ask him to make some more drawings of the children and of me to send to you. Raisse is — again — quite close to giving birth, her third will be a daughter, and we expect her soon after the Festival of Timoine.
This year’s festival, by-the-by, is going to be extraordinary! We had only been back for a day or so when a delegation from the Temple of Dayati was announced: three children and a priestess. The priestess kept herself to herself and let the children, two Síthi girls and the Khas boy Mita, do the talking. It turns out that they had the marvellous idea of having the festival together with the Valdyan children — first the procession outside town, then a feast at the temple. They were most anxious about whether fireworks would be allowed, and ecstatic when Raisse and I decided to attend the festival in the Temple in person!
But it’s going to be difficult for me, this year. I expect that they’ll join, all four of them, because small as the twins are, they can do without my milk for a couple of hours now. Was it hard for you, too, dear Father and Mother, to let us go? I know Timoine protects all his, as he protects me, but I cannot help but worry a little. What if one of the twins is dropped in the mud and someone else accidentally steps on him or her! Silly, I know, for someone who wears the Green Ribbon!
You know, there are so many important things going on — from trying to catch a conspiracy of quacks who have been selling poisonous medicine during the lung plague to founding a hospital in Valdis — and all I am thinking of is Serla who will be going to school after the festival!
In the absence of my beloved husband, I have decided that my children will go to the nearest ordinary school. No tutors for them! And I don’t want them to be in some sort of special little group at the Palace being tutored by the best teachers in the country — I much prefer them to give the cooper-next-door’s-son a black eye, and get one back. That is something I have learned during our journey from Essle to Valdis: let them play with ordinary children instead of just duyin.
Fortunately, Raisse agrees with me, and she will send Vurian to the same school as Serla and Bahar. It’s really not too bad, the school is in the neighbourhood behind our back yard. Lots of craftsmen and small shopkeepers, and a nice and pleasant inn. The school needs larger windows, with bars to prevent the children from kicking in the window panes, so that’s a nice little project I can help with.
But apart from being a little dark, it seems like a good school. There are two teachers, and they will be received at the Palace with the rest of their guild tomorrow. Fees are four riders every year! Can you believe it? I was prepared to pay ten times as much…
My greatest fear isn’t that our children won’t learn enough, but rather that it, when Vurian starts attending this school, will become very fashionable for the Duyin to send their children to this school, crowding out all the children from the neighbourhood.
Serla immediately became friends with Rani, who is two years older and earns a few pennies by sweeping the inn’s floor. Oh, Father and Mother! I am have such a good time meeting all these people who don’t care much who I am, they don’t hate me because I’m a friend of the Queen, and they don’t like me because I’ve got pots of money. I took Raisse for our visit to the school, and then we went for a beer together with Arin. Arin is a bit simple-minded, and the innkeeper, Eldan, has asked me to take a bit of care of him. Arin’s girlfriend is much the same as he: nice, but not very clever. But Arin is a wonderful man about the house, Senthi’s Rovan has decided to become a builder, and there were men repairing the roof, and Arin went upstairs with Rovan and held him up, so he could look outside through the holes in the roof for half an hour, without complaining or getting tired.
And now I have to go and write a letter to Uznur!