Early Wolf 2611

Dearest Bekkah,

I am so sorry to hear about your friend Leila! Your last letter arrived just before early snows closed the Pass, so this letter will not reach you before Spring. But I am writing it with hopes that you will know I am thinking of you. I will pray for Leila, too, that Her light shines in her life and that she will be happy. I suppose it is best that she go back to her home, for it sounds like she was not meant to be one of Lady Attera's Healers. But for her to leave without even saying good-bye! How your heart must ache! Even though I have no very, very close friends here (do not worry about that, Bekkah, for I am friends with all the initiates, and I know they are all fond of me), I think I would be terribly sad if anyone left without saying good-bye. Know that I think of you every day, and wish that I could be there to hug you.

Do you think the Goddesses and the Gods talk with one another? I asked Kassia that not so long ago, and she got the strangest look on her face. She just looked at me for what seemed like forever, and then said maybe we would talk about that when I become an initiate. Did I ask her a hard question, Bekkah? I thought Kassia would know almost everything. Oh. Or maybe it is one of those things you don't get to learn until after you become an initiate. Well, I'm going to remember to ask her again when I'm old enough to be an initiate. In the meantime, I'm going to ask Dayala if she would maybe talk to Lady Attera, and have Lady Attera send you some extra love and blessings.

Bekkah! What a very frightening thing to have happened with that boy! I don't think he was very nice, and to be that forward! That is very, very improper. I'm not so little that I don't know what boys and girls do together when they become men and women, but I must still be too young to understand why kissing is so nice. Some of the initiates talk about boys and giggle a lot, but when I ask them what they are talking about and why they are laughing, they just say, "Oh, Daxia! You are still too little to understand!" I don't like not understanding things, Bekkah, but maybe this is one of those things it would be okay to not understand.

Sometimes, for special holy days, the priestesses will let us have a little watered down wine. I don't like the taste at all, so I don't think there is much chance that I will ever drink too much. The older initiates are allowed to have ale or beer sometimes, but I am only allowed to drink cider. But that's okay, because I liked mulled cider very much! And your lesson is something the Verchovai say to the initiates all the time: Keep your wits about you at all times. See? I am already learning things from all the Verchovai, and I am not even an initiate.

It is funny that you should mention how I look. Just a few days ago, Priestess Annik was telling me how much I look like Mama, with my red hair and blue eyes. (Do you remember Annik? She is the tallest of the Priestesses, and has hair even lighter than yours, so pale it is almost white.) She said I will probably look just like Mama when I am grown. And then she said nearly the same thing Lady Catherine said to you... that I am becoming a very pretty young woman. I think that might be something only someone on the outside can see, because I think I just look like me, and that I'm mostly ordinary. After all, it seems like half the women in the Vale have red hair, and either green or blue eyes. That's ordinary, right? I suppose out in the farm areas it might not be so ordinary, but living in the Temple -- so close to Dawnview Castle and the Allaine family -- it seems very ordinary to me. Oh well, I won't worry about it. I can't really help how I look, and if it makes Priestess Annik happy to say I will look like Mama when I grow, I will let her have that happiness.

I cannot believe you could go so long without riding a horse! I would be so very unhappy if I could not spend half my days in the stables. I ride almost every day, but even on days when Darra says the weather is too bad for riding, I still like to brush their coats, and comb their manes and tails, and just talk to them. I think some of them are more clever than others; it's like they almost seem to understand what I'm saying to them. But most of them just seem very happy to be brushed.

The nobles outside the Vale do seem very strange. I have seen the Khorall walking through the markets many times, just like an ordinary person. Sometimes the Heir walks with her. I think Lord Kisa must be very shy, because she is always so quiet. I don't think I've ever seen her talking to anyone... not even her mother, the Khorall.

I am learning to play Doublebluff! I still don't quite understand it yet, but Irina only began teaching me at Midsummer. She is the newest initiate and the youngest, only fifteen. She is still four years older than I am (her birthday is in Horse, too!), but we are the closest in age. I'm not sure where she's from, and she doesn't want to talk about her home or her family. I just know that one of the Verchovai -- Verchovai Gwynn -- who only comes to the Vale for a little while every year, brought her. I thought it would make her sad to be away from her family and her home, but she seems very happy to be here with us. I heard some of the older initiates saying something very bad must have happened to her for Verchovai Gwynn to bring her here. But if she is happy NOW, that is what is most important, isn't it?

My lessons are going well. I have started learning basic first aid skills. Nothing amazing like what you and the other Ladies of Attera do! Right now, it's mostly learning how to tell whether or not I should call you, or if it is something fairly simple. I thought if there was blood all over the place, it would make sense to call a Healer right away. But I learned that a person can get a cut on the head that isn't very big at all, and it will bleed quite a lot! And I'm learning more about taking care of horses if they get sick.

But my chores! Kassia has decided that I am to fetch all the water from the well, and to make sure the Temple's caisson is filled each night before bed. And it must be filled EXACTLY to the top, not a finger-width from the top and certainly not overflowing! I wouldn't mind the task so much if she didn't make me take the same two buckets each time. We must have two handful of buckets, but Kassia set aside two for me to use. One is nearly new, the other is so old it leaks like a sieve. And I must carry the new bucket in my left hand on the way back from the well, and the old one in my right hand. I'm sure there is some lesson in all of this, but I fear it will take me many years to untangle this one.

Because I am spending more time taking care of the horses, I do not spend as much time with Daneel in the kitchen. But she did say that if I ever had to cook for myself or anyone else, I probably wouldn't kill them. That made me giggle. Then she hugged me and told me I actually do a reasonably good job. I think that is high praise from Daneel. My sewing is improving, as well. It's interesting that your Lady Catherine and the Priestesses here say the same thing: that sewing is an important skill. The stablemaster said she would probably start teaching me how to repair the tack for the horses in the Dry season. She said working with the leather is much more difficult than cloth, and she wanted to make sure I was good enough with cloth. So I have to make my own tunic!

I hope when this letter reaches you, you are well and happy. I miss you so much.


© Kelly Naylor
The Heartwood and all characters not otherwise expressly stated are © Kh'Lyh'ra Press / Mike Naylor