To Lady Birghiva of the Nihtseld Lord Iestyn of Wulfmunt, now seated in Sturmheit, sends greetings.
I hope this finds you and yours safe and in good spirits. I required speed for this journey and so regret that my man does not come bearing more than a few hams of salt pork, but expect more to bolster your larders anon. I cannot estimate amounts, but I have plans afoot that should go some way toward returning material gratitude for the hospitality and support shown me and mine during the past few months. Sturmheit now breathes freedom due to your generosity and goodwill, and we of the mountains have long memories.
I am reasonably assured that this line of communication is secure, and Lambin (who bears you this letter) can carry back a reply. For the purposes of this letter I will presume upon your willingness to arrange my marriage, though of course I know not if you have agreed to do so. I will bear such a refusal with no ill-will. But if you do think it can be managed, I thought it best to inquire whether it might be possible to meet the lady at the Nihtseld in three weeks’ time? I know it presses you with grave inconvenience, but time is of the essence. I can have my affairs here in order long enough to risk a brief absence, and I fear Morcaer will suffer a fit of apoplexy if he remains heir to an unwed lord for much longer.
With the passing of time and reflection, I recall a few sentiments expressed in my first letter that now trouble me for their harshness. I was not in the best of minds when composing that draft, and may have left you with the impression that I desire perfection and have no interest in the lady’s feelings or comfort. Neither of those is true. I wish only a willing, intelligent woman who is kind and fair and will endeavor, as I do, to learn daily what it is our people need from us. While I dare not give her the full measure of public affection my parents enjoyed, I wish her to be happy and hope we shall be friends as well as partners in duty. My attachments elsewhere have been set aside, and for the best. Pardon me for being frank: though the Lady Lefthryth yet haunts my dreams, I begin to see I am a better man for having known her, and an even better man without the distraction of courting a mismatched heart.
As regards the woman I will wed and bring as a stranger into difficult circumstances, I have hopes of mutual affection and every intention of consulting her feelings. Should she see Sturmheit and find herself cold to the task, I will call off the wedding and send her homewards with my blessing. Should she and I see hope for a meeting of the minds, I will do all that is proper to ease her inevitable loneliness in this harsh and rugged land. I know I now offer only the future hope that she will sit as the Lady of Wulfmunt, and I am currently more wealthy in difficult problems with no easy solution than I am in creature comforts. However, if she is willing to take a risk and wishes to have a greater ability to help heal the sickness that oppresses the Mark, there is no better opportunity than this for her to be needed and valued for more than her face or her ability to bear children. I will not lie by claiming that heirs are not needed, but this is only one of many reasons I seek to marry. And I have ever found the plainest of faces made radiant by a good heart. I will endeavor that my own be worthy of such a woman’s respect.
Our accommodations here will be modest, but comfortable. She should bring warm, practical clothing. The former Thane and his family left behind an extensive wardrobe, but we cannot ever be seen wearing it. Nor should we, for every magpie in the Mark will descend upon us to make off with the glitter, and we, burdened by the weight of padded embroidery and gold-cloth, will be unable to run. I have enclosed some funds with this to cover any expenses she may incur.
If three weeks is not too soon and you find this duty an agreeable one, I and a small party will again descend upon your hall, but this time we shall bear our own provision. My cousin, the Lady Adellufu, and her foster-mother Hilda, wife of the new Thane Ranforth, will be there as well as Lord Raedwalt, whom you know, and his associates. Morcaer will remain behind in Sturmheit, but of course he sends his warmest greetings (that is to say, he grunted in affable fashion). It will be most agreeable to see you and your kin once more.