The Letter Home

Dear Rihad,

I send this letter at some risk, but I thought I owed you a modicum of explanation. Of course, if my plans are successful, you will need no explanation. For what time is left, though, your path is clear, your resolve steely and firm, your blinders firmly in place - a true Maintainer.

Let me tell you of the past, at least so you will understand what your future portends. Some may read this as a pitiable attempt to justify my actions, but as you will see, they need none.

I so clearly remember my first link. My father took me out of school that day, necessary, he told the schoolmaster, to take advantage of the atmospheric conditions at our destination. Imagine a childís reactions, after placing her hand on that shimmering panel, experiencing for the first time that sensation of being here and there at the same time, and then finding there to be a field under a night sky erupting with thousands of stars, each as bright as the beacon atop Kerathís Arch. I cried out, I remember, my father grabbing hold of me as I sobbed, so worried I had somehow been hurt in the link, gradually realizing my cries were of wonder and delight.

Every Díni child knows of the Books and the Ages, but only children of Writers know how the two are so intimately connected. My starry-eyed fascination immediately turned inward to the Books, and I wrote and drew page after page of scribbles and picture panels, bringing each one to my father, silently vowing to work harder, as no matter how perfect they looked to me, a touch never brought me back to those stars. Finally my father told me of the Art, of the Ink and the Paper, and of all the intricacies of Writing.

And then he told me of the Guild. I looked at my latest page and asked, Can I go there? Can I learn to Write? He must have known this day would come. A girl cannot be a Writer, he explained, his words cutting so much deeper for the obvious distaste in his mouth as he said them. I did not, simply could not understand, for a child knows only that her passion has been stolen from her, not understanding the politics of Guilds and the venality of the men who controlled them. I cried for three days, refusing to eat or come out of my room, tearing to pieces every one of the pages I had written.

It was a few weeks later that he came to me, and asked if I still wanted to be a Writer. He should not have asked that question of a child so young, but my despair had shaken him deeply. I nodded, or said yes in some way, and it was on that day that my training began. My fatherís standing in the Guild gave him access to the materials, and so I learned and practiced, proceeding at a slower pace than his other apprentices. The years passed, and my love of Writing grew, but we kept it a secret, my books explained away as the attempts of his other students. Still, he knew the day would come when we were discovered, and he worried aloud what the consequences would be.

And so I marveled at the day he stood before the High Council and told them of the past twenty years. My having only a father must have tempered their anger, for his scheme would never have survived a Díni wifeís scrutiny Ė or so they said at the time. What then to do with a woman who could Write? The Council may as well have been confronted by an ahrotahntee who wanted to Write, they were so perplexed, so afraid Díni civilization was about to fall. But my father would not back down - she will write Books, he insisted, she may as well be a Writer. He proposed an official apprenticeship, one that could be declared a special circumstance and thus not set a precedent or be a threat to the established order. The Council said yes, and it was the best year of my life. My marriage, my writing Ė my future was a multitude of possibilities, my love for Garohevtee soon to be my craft.

And then you were born. If I had been allowed to attend the Council meetings, I would have seen how thin my fatherís edge had been. A Díni woman as a writer, a possibility they could barely tolerate. A Díni mother as a writer - in a single moment, my future was gone, my tree of possibility pared to a single branch

My resolve never wavered, of course. My father quietly acceded to the Councilís demands that the apprenticeship stop immediately. Oh, I could still write, but I would never be a Writer. Your birth sealed my fate, so much crueler for the days I had spent dreaming of your first link, to an Age I would Write, with a Book that would find its way into the Library. My dreams ended, but as you know, my writing did not.

I knew what I had to do. I barely noticed when you were sent off to serve an apprenticeship with the Maintainers Guild, your training intent on giving you oversight of the Writers, and the rest of the rabble, to maintain order in Díni society. On your graduation day, you took the oath, to ensure that those who threatened that order were brought to justice and their transgressions removed from the tree.

Which is why you seek me, of course. Alas, my poor son, my transgressions of the Art have not yet borne fruit, else your hunt would not even be a possibility. My supply of Ink and Paper remains substantial, your grandfatherís Guild position again, one he continued to take advantage of in the years following that fateful day, his attempt to compensate, I guess, for his second appearance before the Council, every bit as incompetent as his first had been brilliant.

It will be such a paradox, donít you think, if I Write that which I seek? A Díni in which you were never born, and so one in which I wrote many Ages, my Books adorning the shelves in the Library, but not the one I write now Ė and so which Díni will it be, the one with or the one without this new Book of Díni? Oh, I can hear your Guildmates say, Donít worry, the Book of Díni is safe, the threat is empty, the possibility is barren.

How little they know. How little they, and you, have ever known. I thank the stars you will never see, that the Maintainers Guild is your home, for their utter blindness to the possibilities in the Art has given me the time I need. And so I write this letter, to tell you that I still Write. My efforts are more refined, the Ages I create and destroy converging to that singular branch, the one on which you stand. Once I find it on the tree, I will have what I desire.

And what, pray tell, will that leave for you?

Lisahn, your dearest Mother