Tenth of Crown of Ice 2623

My dear Kisa,

By now the snows have likely begun in earnest, the sleighs have been polished, blades waxed, bells hung ever so carefully. I have yet to see anything that compares with the beauty of the Vale once the snow blankets the land. Perhaps, should we venture as far as Talesan's Village and the sea, it will be something to compare to the wonder of Storm season in Dawnview. Now, however, we travel the plains of the High Tarn; the days hold a chill and the nights bring a cold rain. It is fortunate that we find a homestead or an inn at the end of each day's travel, though tonight's stay in Brementown is less appealing than even a roadside lean-to. The folks here are not unwelcoming of our group, and yet they are not welcoming either. It is as if a pall of apathy has settled over the town. The town folks go about their business as if nothing really matters. I will be glad to leave in the morning, for I find it a truly disturbing place. Perhaps it is the fingers of both the Dirkwood and Roth pointing at the town that have stolen the heart from these people. I surely do not have the wisdom to know such things.

I will continue with the descriptions of my companions; tonight's tale will be of Camelia and Cesare.

I find it difficult to comprehend Camelia. She is nearly a handful of years younger than us, grew up in the Imperial Palace in Trundle-on-the-Hill, and is most certainly one of the moodiest young women I have ever met. While in Cragside, it was not uncommon for her to go from pleasant to condescending to sniping to completely silent to downright rude... all in the time it would take to saddle a horse! Since leaving Cragside, she has been ever-so-quiet, as I think the revelations Cragside brought her weigh heavily on her mind.

Her journey began when she was kidnapped from the Palace in the place of Kristine Deynnekko, a ploy that was conceived by her mother to protect the Imperial girl. I will not pretend to understand the politics of the Imperial families, but the Koromovs, although disenfrancished, have been known as the Conscience of the Empire. From the little I know of the Velikii, it is not a wonder they conspired to remove the lands and titles from the Koromovs when Camelia was a small child.

In our first evening in Cragside, Camelia learned that Verchovai Dandelion is her sister. It is truly astounding how similar in appearance they are! Though Dandy is two handful of years older than Camelia, they appear to be twins at first glance... it is only upon close inspection that one might note the Dayalan is slightly older than the inexperienced girl from Trundle. Sister to them both is Erika Koromov, now Deynnekko, who is the Justice in Trundle.

Theirs was not the joyful reunion of sisters that Bekkah and I later shared; Camelia was fraught with disbelief and suspicion; she had no idea who her family was, all her life thinking she was the only daughter of her mother. Dandy had thought their mother dead all these years. But the fact that she and Dandy could be twins is a difficult thing to deny.

I do wonder, though, how a mother can deny the existence of her daughters — one of whom lives in the very same town and is married to a Deynnekko; the same family Camelia and her mother served. Oh, when one follows Arilys, even the most peculiar things can be seen as serving one's Goddess, I suppose. Though I will never have children, it still seems most peculiar to me. I have seen the fierce love your mother has for you and Eleni. Perhaps I should not say this, but I feel quite bold this evening — it is clear that she loves you both dearly, but you are the joy of her heart.

Cesare is a Rhoni... oddly, coincidentally, perhaps by intervention of his Fates, his parents were the best friends of the Koromovs. There are strange connections there, but I don't know that I will ever see the full complexity of them; nor, I suspect, is it my place to know the intricacies of their families.

I don't really know him well, to be honest. He is somewhat reticent, and spends much of his time with Darian. However, only a few nights ago, he did ask Kadri to teach him about caring for horses, as he would like very much to own a horse some day. Although not as likely as others to be one to be forward about his opinions, he is friendly and easy-going.

Perhaps as time passes, I will learn more about both these individuals who have Rhoni heritage. It would be most interesting to learn more about the traveling people, and I think Camelia might wish to know more, as well, since her mother taught her only bits and pieces, with no real explanations for why she was being taught.

The apathy of Brementown weighs heavily, so I will end here and sleep as my comrades already do. I miss you, Kisa. Every day I wish there was some way for a messenger to overcome the barrier of snow in the Pass to bring word from you. I know I am being silly and fanciful again; Snowgate Pass was given that name for a good reason! As I often said to Bekkah, I hope you are well at the moment of this writing and at the moment of your reading... and every moment between.

Always yours,

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