From Alia to the Aunts

Lady Eleanor Katharine Hawkwood

c/o Crier’s Pride, Alexandria, Eastmont County, Stigmata

December 5001

My dearest Aunts Maud and Alice

I was so happy to receive your recent letter. We have been quite isolated here, due in part to the after-effects of the plague. Mail and news comes so infrequently. You once asked whether I read the gossip columns, and I do, but we have not received any since May and so I must rely upon whatever gossip might be produced in our own small society for diversion.

I apologise for the tone of my last letter. I was disturbed by the news of the death of Isabella, and without family around such news hits doubly hard. You are quite right of course, and I have reconciled myself to the past: the future may be ours. I am glad to hear that my brother expects a reunion with me. I have not heard from him since I wrote him my present address, although I do suspect that the current communications problems may be to blame. I was not sure he would come so far to see me given his own responsibilities. I have missed him dreadfully, naturally, and share his excitement at a possible reunion.

Meanwhile, the Count has finally returned from Byzantium Secundus. The more I learn of him, the more interesting he seems. You are quite right about his presence. He returned with a Monitor, of all things, and gave us all terribly stern warnings about the dread consequences of crossing him. I must admit I found it strangely amusing: his worst enemy is probably far closer than the Hawkwood family, rather being found in his own household. But he does seem to have the best interests of the County uppermost in his mind and seems open to those other than House Decados aiding him. Now is the prime opportunity for us to bring our family’s virtues to bear in the County: he has asked me to aid him, and I am inclined to do so, at least for the moment.

We have had another newcomer recently, a Baron Jonathan Michael Hawkwood, apparently the son of a Count of Delphi and distant heir to the Dukedom. He was, of all things, until recently a member of Brother Battle and as a younger son did not have any expectations beyond the Church, but his brother’s death has thrust him into the limelight and he has had to renounce his commission, though it should be said that he still lives with, and notionally commands the Brother Battle currently in the County. He lived here before, during the war, but then left to Byzantium Secundus to receive a promotion and has returned to find many of his holdings destroyed.

Lady Rhiannon, of whom I am sure I have written before, a girl of sweet nature and decent birth, has set her sights upon Lord Jonathan and desires marriage. She has enlisted me into the campaign as her friend and as the de facto leader of the Hawkwoods in County although I confess I know little of his family. Perhaps you know of them? One of Jonathan’s cousins lives in County, but she tells us little of the family: she left somewhat under a cloud, from what I can ascertain, fleeing to Stigmata to avoid a marriage arranged by her father. She is now a member of Sanctuary Aeon, and while she appears to do good work, I find it hard to condone the abandonment of duty in such a manner. Although perhaps the same might be said of me, that I left Will and our family to come to Stigmata, in my case, whereever I am, in all my actions and decisions, I consider what will be for the best for our family. A union between Rhiannon and Jonathan would be useful to us at this time, I have no doubt: it would help to consolidate our position, to show a unified force within the County, and if nothing else, the populace love a wedding… I hate to ask your aid once again, but at least in this instance it is for a pleasant cause: perhaps you could apply your most special skills to helping secure this union. I know that you know the people to speak to, and the grace to know the right things to say.

I admit that I am finding it strange attempting to arrange the marriage of another when I grow older alone. Not that I am desperate for a husband, perish the thought. I know too many ladies of good birth who ended up with thoroughly dreadful specimens. I appreciate my independence a great deal. But I find it curious that father never thought to arrange anything for me, Will or Isabella, although it must be said that father was never one to really think of such things at all. Perhaps for me, he was relying upon Grandmother: I am sure that had she not died so abruptly, she would have had a lot to say on the matter. Anyhow, I am now probably too old and too headstrong for anything other than arranging the unions of others. I worry that Will has not found a suitable girl to marry yet. After all, he must consider an heir, though there is time yet, I suppose. I’m surprised that you haven’t set your minds to this very question: there must be plenty of appropriate beauties at Court to choose from.

There is very little other news for me to pass on. The plague is mostly contained, and we are preparing for Winter and I am well. I do hope that the bout of Scythian flu has passed: but do be careful, such things can be nasty, especially at this time of year. Hear me now, I sound like an old mother hen, fussing so. Pass my love to my uncles, and do write soon,

Your loving niece

Alia

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