My adventures have kept me away from home for far too long. I had not realized how much I missed these cool, sun-free grottos. Xiefeng tells me that she has seen nothing to compare; like our Repense cousins, most of the Bats of the Chu Province dwell in towns and villages little different than those of the wingless. There are a few small cliff-villages, I gather, and the occasional temple or nobleman's fortress -- but no community of this size, no caverns of such depth and complexity.
Nor, she insists, of such beauty.
She seemed particularly enamored of the More-bez-Solntse, that vast, cold, sunless lake, with the hot springs flanking it, and luminous larvae spangling the ceiling like stars amidst the baroque curtains and columns.
It is no mean feat to charm both Grigorii and Miroslava, the Count and Countess Zvonimir; and yet, Ling Xiefeng, being Ling Xiefeng, has managed the feat handily. She made splendid use of her year and a half, outlining an elegant plan to establish an interconnected trade combine between the interests of House Ling and those of House Zvonimir. (How strange it is to realize that she was planned for the time of our reunion months before we actually met!) Even without the air of preternatural acumen that foresight gave her, her delightful charm and keen wit would have won them over; no surprise, truly, for I knew from the moment I met her as Saruto that she would win their approval.
I am certain Father suspects that there is more to our story than "Dashing Young Diplomat Meets Exotic Merchant Princess On A Distant Island", but he has discretely said nothing. Whatever he might conjecture, he has given us his blessings and approved of our union.
Hopefully, Baron Ling will prove as amenable to this outlander who dares woo his daughter.
I regret that Nerenni could not accompany us aloft. I hate to leave him all but bereft of communication in our absence, but even were he somehow able to ascend the Wall, Geoffre Martel is neither comfortable nor safe for those groundbound and earblind. We have left him in the care of Tybalt, Daryl and Monica at Manse Du Mercueur for the duration of our brief soujourn; perhaps Tybalt's insights into the Anasthasian mysteries will allow him to speak with the lad. I look forward to resuming our tutelage -- he is a quick study, and, indeed, it will not surprise me if he manages to assimilate some few words of Calabrese even with no common language shared with those around him.
Before our departure, I set my people to uncover whatever they may about the poisoning of Norton Eastborne. My associates and acquaintences include several more adept at such investigations than myself; nor would it be seemly for His Majesty's Ambassador Without Portfolio to take overmuch interest in the demise of an undistinguished student, even in the Inn which he himself frequents. I fear, however, that on my return, I shall have to involve myself more directly in the inquiry. Perhaps Lord Tybalt would be willing to assist, if need be; I am certain his thaumaturgic knowledge would prove invaluable.
I regret that this visit must be so brief, but much awaits us back in Triskellian. Already, alas, the weather is turning cold and chill winds blow from the Rothos. If we do not return shortly, winter storms may make flight impossibly dangerous. We shall stop at the Monastary at the base of the cliffs for a day's respite, and then impose once again on the hospitality of our dear Viscount Du Mercueur.