The Milari War School is weird, they teach more than just fighting but I don't have any of those classes yet. It’s a lot more than just war. It’s all kinds of things that they think warriors need to be able to do.
I hurt all over. I’ve got sore muscles that have sore muscles. My wind is terrible. And I’m in the baby class. They are all six or seven. You’d like the kids. Jashi and little Maylissen are wonderful and they are already treating me like their big brother though they giggle that we’re in the same black-staff class. There are a handful of others and I tower over all of them.
I got your letter, it arrived almost the same day I did, at the Unity. They have a post office that accepts from everywhere on the rock. They even take mail from the Nadumar who are the descendants of legitimate settlers and far above us rebel trash and the Rumon who make the radical Milar look like sand-grain counting monks. There’s rumors of another group... another country on the other side of the Nadumar, right up against the sea of sand.
Anyway. I’m here. I’m safe. I’m a student of the school at Viltaria. My teacher right now is Zon Elemfias, a woman who looks and sounds like the war birds all along Screech Lane. She doesn't call me a lot of names... just 'bee-eater' which is almost a pet name here. And she's running my ass ragged up and down this valley of theirs till my wind improves. I'm running along all the shovelled alleyways of snow, not doing much else. But everybody says that's the first part of the training. So I'm doing it. I'm coughing up more junk and my spitkerchief is disgusting. No veil to filter out the crud.
The surdeniliarch is giving me house-space and I’m sort of one of the kids. It’s the weirdest thing. He’s acting like he’s a step da of some kind. I guess he feels guilty. But I’m paying for my training just like any other Milari kid, by doing chores for the whole city, though only fifteen thousand isn’t anything like the size of Lainz.
Ma, you’d love it. Everybody does chores. Everybody. Nobody gets up on their high-bird and looks down on anybody else. The surdeniliarch even does laundry. He and his daughter were up to their elbows in foaming water, laughing while I struggled to turn off the hot tap so I didn’t flood the room. Really. We were all working together. No bleaching stuff for the newbie since I could take my skin off with the bleach here. It’s a lot stronger than at home. I guess we use more peroxides, at least that’s what Haraklez – that’s the surdeniliarch’s daughter – says.
She’s half Lainz, and speaks it like a noble. She’s been training at the school for years and is a greenie... someone who has a green staff.
Green staffers teach browns and blacks. There’s a greenie named Werfas who is hanging out with me... Ancestors alone know why but he’s a good person. A big guy. Quiet. Doesn’t take shit from anybody. He has a big enough fist already that if you pissed him off he could pound you into the ground like a tent peg just waving his hand around, upset. He wouldn’t even have to mean it. He’d probably go red and apologize. He’s my best friend here... near my age, too. I’ll write more about him later. Like I said, he’s like Haraklez, a greenie.
There’s yellow staffer’s next and then there’s white staffers. The Zon. Just like us at home. But they teach with white wands only the length of your forearm. As the staffs get darker, they get longer and heavier with more and more iron on them. My black staff is taller than my head and has a head and foot band a couple inches deep... of iron. Some of the black staffs have a central band as well. They are so heavy they make my fingers ache, but I’m going to master it if it kills me.
It won’t kill me, ma. Really. Don’t worry. It’s... dealable... people can make it work, to put it in polite Lainz. Smoothable. Slideable. Na flung of’en t’edge wi’ only fart ta make yah rocket.
The snow just melts and leaves less holes in cloth than rain. It hasn’t killed me yet. There’s more water here than in all the Basin at floodtime. They have these really big reservoirs dug into the rock underground so during the hell time the sun doesn’t steal the water away. Kind of like the pipes and channels behind the terraces all up and down the canyon. Did you know that they get hell time here too? But the plants don’t fold up into dead-looking sticks or coat themselves with toxic wax to keep the water in. The leaves shrivel up but they don’t go brown. When the water comes back so do the leaves. Ilax – the surdeniliarch – says that’s kind of what some plants did around the home star.
I’d love to get at all the water we can see glowing on the moon. It’s thick enough so it shines in the night like some hive lord’s nose ring.
I’m not use to all this frozen white stuff falling out of the sky, like the falling stars, the falling ice. It’s weird. It should be sand trying to scour my skin off, not cold. Please pass on my love to the shades of my sibs. I’m working hard to be their shining beacon in the land of the living.
I love you ma, in case you didn’t remember. And if you don’t remember I’ll have the monks read you that line back, as many times as is necessary to make it part of your memories. That one monk... what’s his name? Sounds like he’s really good for you. I’m sorry... please tell Yasna thank you for taking the time he has been, with you.
I don’t have extra money to send home... my chores cover my keep here. I’ll come up with something to sell if the EnDarkened need more for you, ma. You are always in my thoughts and one day I hope to set us up in a loggia all our own, where no one can bother you if you come unhooked from now and where you can dream your dreams and not make them be nightmares, all right?
I’m working harder than I ever have in my life and my teachers say I have talent for it, even if I’m a fumble-brained idiot. I’ll learn, ma. I truly will.
Your loving son,