I have indeed received your letter before leaving for the ferry, for which I am quite glad. The ferry ride in my opinion is very boring and I have been glad of the opportunity to read. Gwen has been chasing the boys around. Though Tiador has been a sulky about the visit to Gullshore, he cannot resist the ferry.
The magistrates made the announcement recently that it was the Daggers. I had heard about them once or twice, but always as something very far and distant and unimportant. I do not think there has been talk of them on the other islands. There are now rumors running all over the island about them and what they do. It is difficult to know what to believe. The only real details I have been able to ascertain are that they do not name their god, or alternately use a different name in every ritual; and they regularly make sacrifices of both animals and humans. The other rumors really can’t be true; they are all contradictory. Shall I give you a sampling? They are said to be brazen rebels; others say the king is backing them and they kill those who oppose him; their leader is the king’s long lost uncle who is going to take back what is rightfully his; or a maniacal woman whose lover was killed and now seeks revenge on all the world. And those are only the rumors that might be somewhat reasonable. There are some people who say the Daggers are distributing jewels and gold to the poor. I suppose you could believe that – they have forgotten the part where the jewels are given with a dagger in the back!
Well, enough of that. Knowing who is behind the crimes may help the magistrates, but it doesn’t help me very much. It is all the same to be weary of some unknown person or persons as it is to be weary of a strange gang of unknown person or persons.
One thing – in your letter you said you would have to be sending your letters differently when we are on Gullshore. We will not be there very long, just for the afternoon, so you needn’t worry. But that leads me to a question. I do not understand why you would need to do anything differently at all. I have been sending my letters with the same spell each time, and I have no idea where you are at all, but none of them have been lost, have they? Of course, if they were lost you wouldn’t know, but there haven’t been any gaps in our correspondence, so it doesn’t seem likely.
I do not think Aden has had any premonitions since coming here, but he is a little shy, and does not talk much. Is his how he usually is? I think it is because everything on the estate is so different from what he has known in an army camp. He stares at the array of food set out for every meal, and asked me what happens to parts we don’t eat. Oh I felt so silly, for I had to think a moment before I could answer. It was so long ago that Cook had explained it to me that I had nearly forgotten because it’s just the way things are. At least I was finally able to explain that the servants take the rest, and whatever they leave goes to the poor, so it is good manners to never eat all of it.
We have very few moments alone, though I make it a point to talk with him a little before bed. Sometimes he asks questions; sometimes I feel that he just wants me to leave him alone. I am trying very hard to be a good aunt, but I do not know how it is to be done, nor dare I do anything excessive lest Mama notice. I would not let her find out that her grandson is under her roof for all the opals of the fae. Gwen and I have talked are trying let Aden know that we are there for him without smothering him. It is not an easy task to balance.
But he is healthy; I hope that he is somewhat happy. Just the other day he beat Tiador at darts, and Tiador sulked a good deal. Aden told him he needed to practice more, and that he should try knife throwing, and produced one. I should not have been surprised to see it, but I was. I was able to explain to him why he should never show the knife to Mama, but Tiador didn’t understand and I had to bribe him with sugared roses. Then I took them down to see the horses and even let them ride Papa’s blue roan stallion with me, which of course Tiador couldn’t stop talking about and we were all in trouble because the stallion is temperamental and Papa was in a rage that something might have happened to the horse. But it distracted Tiador from the knives and Aden told me that night that I am a trickster, so it was worth it.
Another thing, Gwen has taken the amber to be set in a copper casing like what she wears hers in, and will have a long chain, I will wear it backwards, so that the amber rests on my back, and when someone (Mama) looks at the front of me, all they will see will be a thin gold chain. Which of course will be hidden under other necklaces or collars or both. With Gwen to dress me I feel sure this plan will be satisfactory, if a little odd. Well, it will not be the first odd thing that I have done to avoid something coming to Mama’s notice. I am wearing no amber today (we sent it off before we got your last letter or we would have put it off), but Gwen has her bracelet, Tiador has grandmother’s beads, Aden’s dagger is set with amber, and we will not be on the island for the majority of the day, so we are not unprotected.
We are about to land. I shall write again in a moment.
Oh dear sister, forgive me. I have failed you. You were quite right to be worried about the 15th of Raining, but who would have guessed that trying to avoid catastrophe would bring it? We are trapped, and – I shall write it out as it happened. I am loathe to tell you of my failure, but you may as well know. Much as I hate to cause you pain, it can either come with all the correct details from me now, or later, much later, as speculation.
Docking was fine and we went through the fields and had a lovely picnic and Aden and Tiador had fun climbing all over the quartz rocks. Do you remember how we used to pretend they were the bones of dragons sticking up all over the island? The air was thick with gulls and it was all very lovely and Gwen and I were congratulating ourselves on missing whatever impending doom was behind us and discussing in whispers if it would be possible to accidently miss the return ferry home and be stuck here for the night. Of course the Larum family would have taken us in –
I digress. We walked along the beach and Tiador was determined to show Aden the sea caves. Gwen and I had dressed simply, so I thought it would not hurt to wade into the shallower ones, though I forbade Tiador from swimming out into the deep caves. To his credit, he kept that promise. But he insisted on running ahead, deeper into the caves than I have ever gone before. Perhaps you made it back this far – I don’t know. Aden did not want to go on, but of course I could not leave Tiador, and he refused to listen to me and would not come back, so I had to follow him, and then Gwen nor Aden would let me go after Tiador alone. It was quite touching.
We went deeper into the caves, and the water got deeper, and Gwen and I were calling and calling to Tiador, because our skirts were getting very waterlogged by now and leaving the cave was of the greatest importance, then we heard him scream. Oh the way it echoed! We thought some monster had caught him, or perhaps the Daggers, or even simply regular bandits. We rushed forward of course – Aden with dagger drawn – and fell. What a shock! I do not know why we didn’t die right then. Gwen hit her head badly, and we all ended up swallowing a great deal of seawater, and all of our candles went out.
You may wonder how I am writing to you at all. My reticule is waterproof, and I had one candle besides my writing things in there. So I am writing while we still have light. We are all fine despite the fall, but we cannot get out. We have looked all over the cave, at least the parts we can reach – we are huddled near that disastrous waterfall for this is the only place shallow enough to sit or stand. Not from here it becomes very deep – and we can find no way out. There must be a way out or this cave would be a deep pool and we would all be drowned already, but as it is we cannot find it.
The tide must be coming in, for it is getting deeper. I feared so for sometime, but Aden has said it, and I am sure he is right. Forgive me sister. I did not mean to get your child drowned even before he had been here a month. Aden says he loves you. I will give him the paper in a moment so he can write his own letter. He does not want me to see it, which I suppose is fair. Gwen asks that if you can would you let Albern Travon of Oyster Bay know what has happened. He is her sweetheart and one of the magistrates here.
I give the paper to Aden now. I am so sorry Sharps.
With love and regret,
(Author’s note: I didn’t know what a smart 5 yr-old would write as his dying words to his mother, so you’re just going to have to imagine it.)