It was very good to see Moyri again– and I-the-GM wasn’t the only one who thought that. She’s very pregnant, though only six months gone; but she’s tiny and it’s twins. What makes her so easily tired and short of breath is likely to be an atrial septal defect, a “hole in the heart”; she was born in a famine year.
Ysellei Moyri astin Rhydin, Valdis, third week after the feast of Timoine, the year 547
To her uncle Eldan and her brother Lydan,
Dear Uncle, dear Brother,
The luxury of having a private and confidential secretary with good handwriting makes even your niece and sister Moyri act on her obligation to write you, with the news I have from Valdis. Maybe Mother has time to write you too, maybe not — she and Father are going to Turenay! This morning! In fact, they have already left at dawn!
As I had told you in my previous letter, Father was still very somber and moody. He and Anshen — they are such dim-witted, stubborn, cloth-headed fools! They are like lovers who have had a tiff and who are waiting for the other to climb down. Let me tell you, my uncle and my brother, from my vast store of experience of married life, that if you might ever be in such a situation, it’s a good idea to climb down first: the other will love you more, and you gain bargaining change.
I hope that as Father and Mother arrive in Turenay that they will revert to their old, sometimes rather silly selves. You both know what I mean! They used to have a reputation for being the clingiest, maddest lovers in Valdyas, although I rather fancy that Aidan and his exotic lover are challenging the reigning champions! The stories Raisse can tell — but I will tell you about that later, for now, let me keep to the point.
Father and Mother are going to Turenay, like I said. It was my idea, but I had spoken about it with Mother before and I have given Mother, who is by far the wisest at this moment, enough silver to buy back their old shop and told Father it was still in our possession, ready to be re-opened. I trust Mother to handle that for me — and when they are working again, as they were before they had to take care of Tal Nus, I hope Father will shed his years and his damned sense of responsibility and figure out it’s time he’s had some fun again. Let them go head-to-head with Aidan and Khora, let’s see which pair can cause the biggest scandal in the smallest town of Valdyas!
And then, then I’ll allow him to visit me in Valdis when the twins are born, but only if I can trust him to smile at them and play with Serla and Bahar! It nearly broke my heart seeing Serla make eyes at Father and him not so much as looking back.
About my health, or rather my heart: I must write you about this before you hear any stupid, exaggerated rumours. You know I always was rather prone to becoming a funny shade of blue in the face and out of breath and all that. (And how did you tease me with that, Lydan!) Well, the Iss-Peranian doctor Roushan has examined me more thoroughly than any doctor before — I’m so grateful that Athal (and Alyse before him) have given the liberty of the Kingdom to any foreigners that aren’t sworn to the Nameless or to treason — and she’s discovered that I’ve been born with, what she calls “only half a heart” — meaning it’s weak and sickly. Probably because we had that famine when Mother was pregnant of me.
Well, don’t worry too much! I’ve managed to reach twenty and have two healthy children, and Roushan is damned sure I’ll bear the twins and give them suck with my own tits. But after that, it’s over and out with bearing children for me, and she’s forbidden me all wine and dancing and any use of semsin that exerts me. I care most about the last. But buck up! You too, little brother! For I might well reach a hundred years, if I am just a little careful. And I can still make music — Athal says he’ll see me a master before he starts out on his trip to Solay.
Yes, right. Now for the politics. I’ll give you two just a summary, and then I’ll give you some juicy rumours — and then I bet Kare’s got clerk’s cramps! (Kare is Uznur’s secretary, you know.) Kare, am I allowed another “well”?
Well, it’s like this, the day before yesterday, Raisse and Athal and their retinue arrived back in Valdis. We had a great welcome for them, with Faran’s elephants, heralds, and adoring populace and a hot bath in the palace. Guys, you’d never believe how much I missed Raisse — much more than I’d ever thought I missed her when she was gone. We tried to kiss each other, but we’re both bigger around the waist than Faran’s elephants and it was pretty damned hard to reach each other’s cheeks, I tell you. And when we managed, all I could is cry. Yes, laugh at your soppy big sister! She’s so big now, you wouldn’t believe your eyes, Lydan.
They told us there’s going to be another war against the Khas, which is pretty sobering — Athal will have to leave Valdyas in less than a year and sail for Solay. A big chunk of our army has teamed up with the Iss-Peranian general, Beguyan he’s called, or so Uznur spells it, and is moving west-wards to push the Khas out of Jomhur and all the other kingdoms they’ve overrun. And, as I said, Athal has to show up for the final show-down with the Khas and earn his title “Overlord over Solay” that all the foreigners, Khas, Ishey, Sithi and Iss-Peranians in Valdyas have been bestowing on him for the past year or two.
Apart from that, Athal has conquered a chunk of territory right in Albetire, stretching from the harbour to the hills, and which includes a sizeable part of the harbour, as well as the whole merchants’ quarter! Amazing, isn’t it, for the little red-haired lady-killer. My bet is Raisse did most of the negotiations while Athal was being brave and foolish. He’s got his shoulder (which was already porridge from that boar) pierced over and again. You’d think he’d learn to use a shield! But he can play again.
Oh, and Albetire has a new King, or almost-King. The nephew of that shady character in Essle, Koll Neveshtan, with whom Mother and Father had some dealings a long time ago. It seems the new king is peeved because the youngest queen of his precedessor, a girl Uznur declines to describe in my presence, has disappeared and the lecher had wanted to add her to his own gaggle of women. Raisse tells me the youngest queen was a mature thirteen when she was widowed. Makes you gag, doesn’t it? I know I was twelve when I had my first boyfriend, but then, my boyfriend was eleven, not a hundred years old and totally gaga, which is what Athal told me the Enshah was. And my little boyfriend was the son of the blacksmith, which adds a certain mystique to a man.
Now for the juicy bit: Aidan. The sweet amorous young devil who is way too pretty for his own good seems to finally have found someone he didn’t care to drop once he had her. A protege of Raisse’s, no less. A young girl who had to flee Iss-Peran or suffer the consequences and who’s now Raisse-in-Turenay’s charge. Must be grand-master material. Anyway, Raisse’s dad tells me he’s seen her and she’s beyond pretty. And when Aidan, who for the first time in his life seems to have suffered from amatory inhibitions (didn’t know I knew words of that length, did you two?) and when she overcame them (despite having been told not to hitch up to him), they had a kissing bout that made all of Turenay and surrounding villages hasten to their beds in pairs two by two! That promises something when Aidan takes her to Valdis, to the court next year or so, when he’s finished at the school in Turenay.
Funny thing is, Raisse tells me this girl is no mean weaver and it turns out that my new dress, which is made from a gorgeous bolt of cloth we bought from Radan Dawn (I know, but it was gorgeous, never seen something like that, all shot through with semsin to make the wearer seem like the most attractive person you’d ever met, it’s like bewitching), was actually made with cloth woven by Aidan’s girl, back when she was still in Iss-Peran. Weird coincidence, isn’t it? Radan told us he’d gotten it in Albetire last year and that he’d be able to get more of it if we wanted because he’d finally managed to placate someone or other and now had access to the highest in Albetire.
There’s more I want to tell you, but I need to lie down now. Like I said, don’t worry, I’ll be all-right. Uznur is still the dearest, dearest, dearest of husbands. Serla wants to make her paw-print on this letter, which I’ll let her do before I seal it. Bahar seems to prefer to be sick in the front room: I bet he sneaked out of bed last night after our supper in honour for Raisse and Athal and drained all glasses and cups of their remains of beer and wine. But I’m sure he’d love you guys too, if he weren’t so sick.
And, please don’t forget to give my love to Grandmother Lenay, and make sure that you send some more of that lovely 443 wine — we have almost run out, what with entertaining the Raisse’s dad and his cronies and welcoming Athal back!