The letter arrived as part of two satchels of mail that Falco had collected in Magenda when the first mail ship arrived after the annual storm blockade of the Howloon Straits. He had bounced up to the front door of the family home just in time for dinner with his usual uninvited but impeccable sense of timing. The house on Crense Street was still the family home, even though most of Falco's generation had moved out. Despite that, when the assembled family sat down at the table there were still fifteen people plus an empty seat.
The satchels sat untouched on the coffee table in the lounging room while they ate because, as Sachi had said, the mail could wait another hour, but the meal would spoil in the same time. It was a good meal: fish dumplings with Grandma's own sauce, meat and potato stew with steamed green vegetables, and pome pie with cream and cinnamon ice-cream. When it was done, they loaded up the dishwasher, turned it on, cleared off the dining table, and took their after-dinner drinks into the lounging room.
Because he had collected the mail and the satchels were his, Uncle Falco conducted the sorting and handing out of the mail. There was a pile for the house on Crense Street and another for the house ten minutes away on Hortense Square. A stack of small packages was for the house down south on the inlet coast. There was a sheaf of letters for Aubley who travelled back and forward over the road into the interior. Presumably, any mail for Uncle Falco's house in Magenda had been left there before he set out because nothing for him came out of the satchels.
The mail for the Crense Street house further broke down into family mail and individual mail. The family mail was, some of it, addressed to Great-Grandpa who had built the house as a young man and then gone into the grave as an old man thirty years ago. Some of it was addressed to the house because various matters concerning property didn't care who owned or resided on the property. The rest of it was addressed to Grandpa, who mainly let Aurin deal with such things these days. Everyone at the table, except Falco himself, got at least one piece of individual mail. There were technical, professional and hobby journals. Private letters and catalogues. Bills, invoices, and three boxes of tabletop miniatures. Finally, there was one pale blue envelope left, addressed by hand in a flowing black script, and sealed with a flattened, patterned dollop of red wax.
It was directed not to a name but to the Paterfamilias.
Grandpa and Aurin looked at the letter for a long time, and then they looked at each other before Grandpa picked the envelope up and opened it. He read through the words on the pale blue page, and then passed it to Aurin, saying, "Read it."
Having read the letter, Aurin commented, "So, this is what our missing brother has been doing with himself."
Sachi sat up straighter. "Cherune? Is that letter from him or about him?" She and Grandma clutched each other's hands.
"Sort of both," replied Aurin cautiously. "I mean it's from the Comptroller Imperious Maximus in Trineum but it's also saying that Cherune is the new Comptroller Imperious Maximus."
"How did that happen?" Aurin's wife, Zeline, looked flabbergasted.
"I don't know. He doesn't say," replied Aurin.
"Wait," put in Sachi. "Doesn't the Comptroller Imperious Maximus have to be married?"
"Well, yes," said Grandpa. "There was a big fuss when I was a boy because the incumbent's wife left him."
"So, who did our brother marry?"
Aurin looked over the letter again. "You know, I didn't miss it. He really doesn't say."
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