Another letter dictated to Kare– respecting his sensibilities at one point.
Ysellei Moyri astin Rhydin, Valdis, ninth week after the feast of Timoine, the year 347
To her Mother Ysella
We are certainly having a most interesting time! We have caught a witch and a spy! I may not have time to finish this letter any time soon, but I decided to start now anyway, since otherwise I might forget something. Or I might finally get rid of those two lodgers in my belly, and then I won’t have any time anyway. I wonder how that’s going to work… Suckling two babies at the same time. Raisse and Senthi have managed well enough with their sons, but they took turns at least. Although Raisse also tells me that at one point both boys wouldn’t be satisfied before they had had their milk from all four tits!
Fortunately, our guest Dimani ar-Rajul is doing very well. Serla has adopted her as her sick auntie and is feeding her some porridge, which seems to stay down. I had to laugh: she is doing the whole pigeon-flying-in-your-mouth thing Fikmet does with Bahar, and it is a very cute sight, too. If anything will make Dimani better, it must be Serla’s good care.
Then suddenly things started to get complicated. I was in the palace, helping out with the morning audience — making sure Athal and Raisse wouldn’t have to cope with the usual set of lunatics, demented old litigatrices and Síthi imperials. There was one woman who did not seem to have a case: her daughter had eloped with an ineligible (according to the woman) Iss-Peranian man, and could I ask the Queen to introduce her to her friend, who has so many connexions in the Iss-Peranian community. Well, that was me, of course, so I took her home and fed her, and listened to her tale.
At first I though that the mother was a bit bigoted: young girl, barely as old as me, hooked up to a rich Iss-Peranian merchant. Where have we heard about that before. But then I learned that the man was many years her senior, that she was not allowed out of the house anymore, nor to write her mother. I would like to see Uznur forbid me to write you! I’m even abusing his secretary, am I not, Kare? And the mother was kept away from the wedding, too, and forbidden to visit her daughter.
And then Dimani came down with a list of people of whom she knew were spies for that filthy upstart traitor Koll Konandé, and her daughter’s husband was on that list. So we were definitely talking fishy here. And when I went to Raisse to discuss the situation (I couldn’t do anything anyway, because Uznur was out, doing spy work of himself, and if I’m going to crash into an Iss-Peranian household, I want my mighty prince with me!), we discovered that one of the people she had interviewed for the post of Mistress of Ceremonies and the Royal Household (the other is Talvi, and I know it’s my job, technically, but very soon I won’t be fit for anything, right now my bearers have to bring my palanquin right into the big antechamber in the palace, even), well, this woman, she is Iss-Peranian, too, and lived in the same house as this spy guy.
Uznur, the delightful innocent in the ways of women, especially Iss-Peranian women, had recommended this woman, Parandé, who apparently had sold herself into the retinue of the Khandihan so she could travel to Valdyas and become senior housekeeper here. Some people have weird ambitions, but I can kind of understand that. I asked Uznur whether this woman was perhaps a tiny little bit dandar, and he said, no, of course not! Well, when I asked Bahush’ mother for her opinion, later, she said, “of course she’s dandar, child”. Like I had expected. You don’t find many really competent noble-born Iss-Peranian women in Valdyas who aren’t dandar. That witch who’s forever squabbling over the Hayan hunting lodge down the Ildis way is the same, only worse. Kare is looking very depressed when I am dictating this to him, one moment.
Well, when we arrived at the house in force, we found it well occupied: the boss spy himself, his elderly mother (who appears to be slightly in her dotage), his wife, this witch (Parandé she is called), a couple of semi-naked slave boys (cute, though, and if they had been younger they might have made nice playmates for Bahar), some other servants, a major domo.
Given that we had proof of his perfidy (twice, being a spy and keeping a Valdyan woman against her will — she made it very clear that while she was very much in love with her exotic rich merchant, his house manners left quite something to be desired), we took him to the palace, to be tried. The poor mother went with her daughter-in-law. If she’s still her daughter-in-law — but for the poor old biddy it’s all the same, I guess. We took the slave boys to be freed.
Now the big problem is the witch, of course. Raisse is fascinated by the Iss-Peranian witchery, but she has seen enough that she doesn’t want it in her palace, preferably not even in her kingdom. But to send the poor gal back to Albetire would ruin her, maybe even be her death. I thought that perhaps we could send her to Turenay, to be reformed at the Guild School, but Raisse scuttled that idea because apparently Aidan’s fiancee is mortally afraid of witches. Which I find all too easy to imagine. They do have a semsin-like power that does weird things with one’s mind. I am not at all sure that the falling-in-love of this poor Valdyan girl, Hinla, wasn’t principally engineered by Bahush’ tame dandar.
One thing we know for sure, now, is that Koll Abatté, the top-spy of Koll Konandé, is in town, and we know where she hangs out, mostly, too. Life is full of excitement, but fortunately, my heart is taking it very well. Perhaps because I still can hardly believe what those traitors in Albetire are trying to do to our kingdom. Frankly, I think that if this becomes known, we’ll see a kind of hunt-the-Iss-Peranian in Valdyas that might be really ugly. Especially since the average Arin or Erne is incapable of distinguishing between a Síthi, an Ishey, a Khas or someone from anywhere in Iss-Peran.
It’s already pretty difficult in some places and circumstances to soothe ruffled people who feel the foreigners are taking all the good houses, girls, boys and merchandise. That’s why I’m not so sure that Raisse’s desire to employ an Iss-Peranian Mistress of the Ceremonies and Royal Household is such a good idea, politically. As usual, she only sees the educational advantage and the legal fictions that hide the political realities.
You know, mother, sometimes I suspect the hand of the Guild of the Nameless behind the feelings of unrest that we find here and there, so I am very happy that you are safely in Turenay.
I hope I haven’t bothered you too much with my worries: physically I am well as could be, my babies are growing very well, and the doctor sees no reason to worry about them. And we’ll manage the political side of things, in the end. With Athal’s bravery, Raisse’s sharpness of mind, my cunning and Uznur’s talent for organizing, we’ll be unstoppable.
Please give my love to father, too, and be as happy as you can in Turenay. Next season, we’ll come down, too!
your loving daughter, Moyri
is the paw-print of Bahar, and this:
is Serla’s name in her own script.