My dearest Julianna
I hope this letter finds you well. The leaves are unfolding on the trees and spring flowers are in bloom. The land is beautiful, but troubled. I miss my Alex, but I have put away my black mourning dresses. It is time to get on with the business of the living. There are two important items of business I must ask you to address.
My clerk has been going over the books, and it would appear that before his death my dear husband had managed to gamble and drink away most of my money. The revenue from duty on goods coming into the port and rent from my lands are not sufficient to cover the cost of running the castle. I have reduced staff as much as I can, but I dare not reduce the number of men in the garrison with the state of the land at the moment. The abbey has far more than it needs and the monks have become embarrassingly wealthy from their trade in wool. It would be a painless and minor matter to assign some of the abbey lands to the castle to ease my predicament.
The other matter is the vacancy of the warden’s position since our last warden was killed in a suspicious hunting accident in the Debatable Lands. The local reiving families have taken this as an opportunity to raid and extort with impunity. I am afraid to leave the castle for fear of being taken hostage for ransom, and the people suffer as sheep and cattle are herded this way, then that, and back again in the never ending raids. The poor grow poorer, and hunger drives even the best men to ride. We desperately need you to appoint a new Warden as soon as possible to get the local scoundrels back under control. He may need to hang a couple of the worst offenders to put the fear of the law back into the people.
I place my trust in God’s hands and yours.
Your loving cousin and faithful subject,
Countess of Roxeter