Twenty-first of Crown of Ice 2623

My Most Beloved,

Time is a wonder that She created, and it neatly sets events apart from one another in an Orderly fashion. Yet I find myself wondering how Time seems to crawl slowly like the tiny worms across the stones of the courtyards after a rain some days, and yet flee so swiftly like mice scurrying to escape the cat on others. And now I wonder about it all the more after receiving the gift you sent to Bordertown for me.

The paintings on the tiles are so delicately done, so carefully set upon the Doublebluff tiles, that simply holding them brings to mind an image of you sitting at your writing table with the tip of your tongue held between your teeth, scribing the Runes just so. And this image makes me smile, for it is one of the images I have of the true Kisa... yes, Heir of Allaine, but just for a moment simply a young woman paying such close attention to a simple task, not caring — no need to care, just for that moment — about being seen as Heir, but simply being seen as Kisa. I do love you so! And it is simply Kisa who has my heart; it is simply Daxia who gives her heart to you. The Heir has the loyalty of her Knight, for all Time; but it is love that I think of this evening. Perhaps it is the air of anticipation in Bordertown for the Midwinter Festival that sets my mind in this direction; but truly it matters not. My heart is so full of love for you, dearest Kisa.

Time and Beast.

I suspect that I will not understand the meaning of these gifts until much later, so I struggle to simply enjoy them as beautiful tokens from my love. Ah, but you know how tenaciously my mind gnaws at an unknown, turns itself upside down and drives me to a frenzy in an attempt to find clues and meanings. Oh, Kisa, I do wish you were here so I could at least tickle you into gales of laughter for not telling me what you mean! And then I must laugh at myself, because I know that more often than not, the full meaning of any clue takes time to unfold.

Even if that is not the intent of your gift — to remind me of such things — I will try to keep it in mind as I ponder the meaning of Time and Beast, Beast and Time. Mostly, though, I will do my best to simply admire the exquisite care you took in painting the runes, and enjoy their beauty.

Although Bordertown is a Jvrillian town — and true to their nature, I was teased as I and my companions entered the courtyard of Inn where you knew we would stay — it is a more pleasant place than Cragside. We have added two new companions to the group: Romana, a princess from East of the Black Mountains; and a Squire of Rames, Dean Marguard of Talesan's Village.

Yes. An Easterner. I am as shocked writing this as you likely are reading it. Yet in the three handful of days I have known this young woman, I have — to my own bewilderment and surprise — come to regard her as a friend. Her tale is a long and complicated one, but if there was one salient point in the history of her whole life, it is this: she has suffered, and she has left her home not only to save her own life, but to prevent her father from becoming powerful enough to control the other princes of Kh'Lhy'Ra and once again coming over the Black Mountains with their hordes. She is both bold and shy in turns; she is intelligent and insightful; most importantly, she and I would like to see if it might be possible for one person from each side of the Black Mountains to live in close proximity without killing each other. So far, I think we have done an admirable job. To hear of what she suffered at the hands of her father, to hear what she witnessed when her mother suffered at the hands of her father... I can only say that — as bizarre as it sounds — my Oath to Dayala demanded that I do my best to protect this young woman. I know very few of my Sisters would agree with what I am doing; there are some who would likely not even condone it. But I know this is the right thing to do; and it points with the most obvious of signs that I am meant to be a Wild Dayalan.

It is not an easy thing I do, Kisa. Already, just this afternoon, one of our group — Celi, the young Covener — managed to anger and insult Romana, seemingly without even knowing how or why her words were hurtful. But such is Celi's nature; I am often left wondering if she is hearing the words of those around her, or if she is speaking mind-to-mind with her animal companion. Mikal told me of this on our journey between Brementown and Bordertown, and it is a thing I find hard to fathom. To hear the voice of another in one's head? As dearly as I love you, I think it might drive me to madness — or the very least to great distraction — to hear your voice in my head.

But today, as Celi and Kadri listened to Romana, listened to me, speak of the history we each knew of Bordertown, the ruins of a Dayalan temple we discovered, what transpired across the High Tarn, in the Forest of Roth, at Silk Creek, in the Dirkwood Forest... listened as we spoke of the tragedy that tainted the temple's well... I had thought she might have learned something from the conversation. But she had not, and said unkind and condescending things to Romana.

For myself, I might have simply sighed at yet another of her misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or simple evidence that she was not listening. Romana is, as I said, a princess. I am not quite certain what the equivalent would be among the Noble Families, but perhaps something like an Heir. Romana's reaction was what I might expect the Heir of Korie to exhibit if he was insulted, though Romana chose to simply walk away... with the intent to leave our group, I think... after chiding Celi for her presumption.

Because she had not been listening to all that had been said, I am afraid I lost my patience with the youngling myself and bade her seek guidance from my sister, who has infinitely more patience than I. I know I need to develop my capacity for patience, beloved, but I feel I did rather well going nearly an entire fullhand without losing all patience with her. I joined Romana and Kadri — who had followed Romana when she started off — on the path back to Bordertown from the ancient, tainted Dayalan well. Romana seemed astonished that both Kadri and I chose to follow her; to this point, I think she did not truly comprehend that both of us genuinely held out a hand of friendship to her. But before we could begin our journey back to Bordertown — leaving Celi in the care of my sister and our Squire of Rames at the home of Lady Kay, another Atteran, and Lord Random, an Eye of Hastur — the youngling insisted that I explain to her exactly why I had berated her, and why I had been so cruel to her.

Truly, Kisa, I had not thought I was being cruel, and said as much. But I did admit that one might see my words from a different angle than they had been meant. They had not been meant as cruel; they were merely matter-of-fact. Still, I did give her a lecture on precisely what she had done — both that afternoon, and in the previous near-fullhand — to insult Romana and break my patience. It was not meant to tear her down, but to shine Her light on Celi's words and actions that were hurtful, and those that endangered her and all those around her. Several things I mentioned had been said before because she continues to demonstrate lack of restraint in words and deeds, lacks the wisdom to understand how her words or deeds may have consequences, simply does not use the great intelligence she claims to possess to think before acting or speaking.

Kisa, I am not so much older than this child, yet I feel there are many more winters of age between us than between Bekkah and I. I'll grant her immaturity could largely be due to the fact that she was raised in isolation with only her grandmother for company, but surely anyone who stands as parent to a child would want that child to grow into an adult, with adult sensibilities. Ah, perhaps it is best that I will never be a mother, for the idea of teaching a child from birth to adulthood everything she will need to know to survive is a daunting task.

And now I am laughing at myself for the way I have jumped from one topic to the next as if skipping across stones in a river!

There is not much more to say about Romana or this incident, except that even after my lecture to her, Celi was still argumentative, still spouting forth words that were better left inside her own head. Kadri spoke to her while I continued my conversation with Romana; at some point during that conversation, Bekkah came out of Lady Kay's small house, and took Celi in hand after Kadri had finished their conversation.

I do want to mention Lord Random, who is an Eye who knows Names. I was quite anxious to speak with him, to see if there was anything he could tell me of my family. Lady Kay had prepared a basket of food that Kadri, Romana and I took up to the top of his tower where he was working — Bekkah, Celi and the Squire having elected to return to the town.

Kisa, Lord Random's tower was filled nearly to bursting with books and scrolls and papers! The amount of information there! Well, I will admit to being quite overwhelmed by it. I would dearly love to spend days with the man, talking about all manner of things. He is, as I said, focused almost entirely on Names, but he did have other interesting glimpses of knowledge that I found intriguing. My family, however, quite vexed him. I told him all that I could... which was little more than the names of my mother and father. He was quite distressed when I could not produce a grandparent's name beyond "Tasha," and insisted that I must be hiding something from him. Would that it was true! Alas, he had no more information than I already had... though he did allude to his perceived mistreatment of Allaine sons when I asked who my Allaine ancestor might be, and broadly hinted that perhaps it was a son rather than a daughter who is the Allaine who passed this gift down to me. Still, this could be his Imperial bias in believing females have less value than males; that females ought to remain at home caring for their husbands and children. I actually found that rather amusing, and I admitted to him that it would be an odd man indeed who would willing be tortured by my sharp tongue on a daily basis.

He then went on to speak of the diluting of traits in each passing generation, which I found of some interest. I really have no measure to compare myself against to determine how strong or weak my gift is. How could I compare myself to you, love? You... who sees so far and so well... better than any has seen since the Snowqueen herself? And you cautioned that I not speak of it to others in the Vale, so it is difficult to determine how many generations removed I am from the Allaine family.

Now to tell of the Squire who has joined us. Oh, Kisa, the lad certainly knows how to make me laugh... and all unintentionally! He hails from the area around Talesan's Village — and I have yet to have the opportunity to speak to him of that place — and is the son of good farmer folk. It is his unwavering devotion to my sister, however, that brings endless amusement to me. Bekkah is seen by all the world as a Priestess of Attera, one who is to be revered for her goodness and kindness and compassion. And yet all my sister wishes is to be seen as a woman, for someone to see past the white robes and see her for who she is. I do understand her frustration and longing, dear Kisa... but Squire Dean's keen devotion and inability to see beyond the larger than life image he's created of "Lady Bekkah" often has me giggling up my sleeves. He is shy and tongue-tied around her... and while still a quiet young man, is able to converse normally with others. He is so innocent in his adoration of my sister, and I can see that it infuriates her that there is nothing she can do or say that will stop him from hovering and protecting her with his very life.

I will say that he is far more like what I had always imagined a Squire of Rames to be than Squire Conrad Shannon. He is courteous to all of the women in the party — even me! — and has had no difficulties accepting either Mikal or me as fellow warriors. He even manages to take our sparring sessions seriously... he does not hold back because I am a woman, nor does he take any offense when I suggest a new technique. His Knight is Sir Kevin, so I believe that might explain his quite different outlook regarding Dayalans and Jvrillians, as Gilly often mentioned Poppy's acquaintance with that particular Knight of Rames.

Tonight... soon... Kadri and Romana and I will keep watch at the Temple well here above Bordertown. Lord Random mentioned hearing noises coming from the well on nights when he is awake late. It is likely that badgers or other animals have taken up residence in the remains of the Temple, so in addition to cleaning the well of... I would have said what appear to be bones, but they are assuredly bones... we will likely need to rout the creatures from their dens and seal whatever entry they managed to find.

I thank you again for the gift, beloved. I think of you often, and at this time of Midwinter I miss you more than mere words can say. My thoughts of you can be the only gift I can give you this Midwinter; though I am confident that you will know my thoughts are with you. I had truly hoped I would return to the Vale by Midsummer, but now it seems that is less certain to happen... the farther west I escort Romana, the safer she will be from both her kin and my Sisters in Dawnview. And there is still the matter of Doublebluff tiles falling together across the High Tarn that you asked I watch cautiously. I promise — again — to be most cautious and circumspect as I cross the Korie and Montague lands, but unprecedented events seem to gravitate in my directions, Kisa.

I promise, with all my heart, to return to you as soon as I am able.

My love and my loyalty will always be yours,

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