Chapter 89 Hat

Castle Whiting


Dr Roenna of Vasnau,
Room 6c, Hotel Tol Savna,
224-226, Sapphire Square,
West Fall,

Dearest Roenna,
        Many thanks for your recent letter. Taltu sounds a truly beautiful city, and I simply must visit it myself some day. I've heard that the bookshops on the Heavenly Course are stocked with wonderfully old first editions, but I guess they're very expensive. Still, no-one's going to mind a little wishful browsing!
        I'm glad to hear that you are well. Is it really two months since your stay with us ended? Not much has happened hereabouts since then, except for Flostevol's Spring fair (at which we were guests of honour). Some of the singing was of excellent quality, but the closing ceremony was hopeless; these old-style fireworks just aren't as special as the magic ones I remember from my childhood. I suppose I only have myself to blame!
        Remember how I envied you your trip to Elet? Well, soon I hope to be undertaking a little foreign travel of my own! Nothing too exhausting, just a fortnight or so in Prydec (we're setting up a new Soat office), but it'll be a pleasant break nonetheless. I'll be taking my son Maedregh with me, and staying for a few days in Cala at my father's. I'll pass on your regards, and tell him how you're getting along - he always likes to hear news of his "favourite academic"!
        We're still very busy here, of course. The new Eletic presses went live last month, and immediately made an enormous impact - they're twenty to thirty times faster than the Akrean machines we'd been using! We won't be able to organise any interest groups for some time yet, unfortunately - we don't have the distribution network fully in place or tested. We're also having difficulty finding a reliable supplier of the continuous paper we need, but we've written to a Northic development agency which might be able to put us in touch with some suitable mills.
        We're hoping that by this time next year we'll have a pilot scheme installed in Vadessa. If that works out, then within five years we'll have similar local nets in major cities throughout the eastern world, and perhaps even some degree of cross-net interaction. Realistically, I doubt we'll ever match the large-scale sophistication of the Eletic system, but I suppose we can always dream!
        Back to your letter...
        I hadn't heard about Elidia Scribe, no, but since the Elets were fully behind her claim, her eventual success in the High Court was something I rather expected - not that she didn't deserve to win, of course. I believe this judgement makes her the seventeenth-largest landowner in Estavia (well, someone has to be!). When the Crown holdings are removed from trust and placed on the market, we may acquire some property there ourselves as a long-term investment. Land values are set to rise over the next few years as the economy recovers, and we ought to make a good return if we wait until, say, 1815 before we resell.
        Incidentally, I understand that rulings made in the Estavian High Court can now be cited as legal precedents in Murak. This means that the validity of Lord Porett's will must also be accepted in the Cala Court of Probate. Young Elidia is about to become an extraordinarily wealthy woman! Buy shares in Hease and Eller's - satisfying her appetite for the latest in high fashion will easily double their turnover!
        The Eletic summaries you sent me were exceptionally interesting. How did you come by them? I don't doubt that the moderators know they went missing, but I disagree with your suggestion that you were used merely as a conduit, a means to deliver to me the full facts of Justan's supposed rehabilitation. That he convinced the Elets that the best way to keep down his kingdom was to allow him to continue as its leader, I'd already surmised. True, I was completely unaware of Countess Nolley's suicide; I knew that the Elets would want her neutralised before they consented to Justan's remaining as king, but I hadn't even considered that she would willingly remove herself in such a complete fashion! Like everyone else, I'd just assumed she fled to Chaien after Cala fell. It seems she was far more loyal to her monarch than any of us had credited.
        However, although I can believe that the Elets might have felt confident that they could trust us with this sensitive information, the biograph:foreign:Justan:predictive entry that mentioned "extended tenure" is something else entirely. I can explain that choice of phrase, yes, but it is not something I would ever dare put in a letter. If you can't endure the long wait until next we meet, I suggest you read back through the biograph:foreign:Justan archives at some stage during your stay in Liagh Na Laerich. Prepare to be very surprised...
        I have another favour to ask of you. As you'll have already noticed, most former Followers of the Message have adopted the Vitalist variant of their faith, awaiting the appearance of the Messenger Redeemer. I am perplexed as to why the Elets are condoning this, and would much appreciate it if you could make enquiries once you have access to (I guess) warfare:plans:20.
        As you've probably heard, the Elet-sponsored Davian Assembly has finalised our new constitution, and we'll have our first election towards the end of the year (the exact date has yet to be fixed). Although he has experience of democracy, and is highly regarded in and around our local constituency, my stubborn husband is not considering standing for parliament. In order to achieve high office, he would need to align himself with a major political grouping - something which he absolutely refuses to do, for reasons I cannot divine. I have tried to convince him that entering into such alliances is sometimes justified if the consequences of not doing so are even less desirable than those of so doing, but I have met with little success in this endeavour. As you know, your cousin can be infuriatingly principled at times! Had I been born in Davia, I might have contemplated a parliamentary career myself, but alas, foreigners are barred from candidature.
        I shall end this letter with a request concerning a matter of some importance to me. When you departed on your journey to Liagh Na Laerich, I entrusted you with a letter for Conley of Malith, and a locket for her containing a recent miniature portrait of Maedregh. I have since received correspondence from my friend Ihann, and it seems that Conley is shortly to change address. She still lives in Bridges, but she has left the school and is now working as a private tutor. The demand to learn Eletic is high, and she has many well-to-do students. Consequently, she hopes to move to more comfortable accommodation sometime in the next month or so, but where, exactly, Ihann does not yet know. I suggest that when your ship docks in Bridges, you go immediately to his surgery and present his secretary with the note of introduction I gave you. Ihann will by then be appraised of Conley's new whereabouts, and be better able to gauge the likelihood that she will receive you.
        Ihann tells me that Conley still takes regular doses of the drug `Bliss', a fact it distresses me deeply to learn. I feel so responsible for her sadness, her dejection. I shall never be rid of the fearful guilt I carry in my heart, nor cease to mourn the friend that I destroyed. The real magic of our existence has always been, and will always be, what goes on in our heads, yet for Conley I broke even the joy of that. I don't expect she'll care to read my letter, but perhaps she'll accept the locket. If the detail is too fine for her to see, please tell that my son has his father's eyes; it's most important that she knows.
        Well, the courier is waiting, and if you're to receive this note before you leave for Trilith I really must put down my pen! Write to me from Seesel if you can. Oh, and don't forget to look out for a copy of "Hua Laegiala Na?", by Nuagh Casii - I shall be expecting a present upon your return!

Your dear friend,

The Lady Sennary of Castle Whiting.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: isif89.htm