A Letter to Lyndale

September 21st, 2016

To my dear sister,

Davian has taken well to his new nursemaid; Miss ab Breckenridge has a remarkable way with him, and I thank you for recommending her. He smiled this morning. He never smiles. After four long years of silence, I have to┬ásay that it is good to see her again — to speak to her without the weight of lost life between us. She is being courted by a Vavardi gentleman who looks a trifle like her brother… But Davian is happy! Lord bless her, he is a different babe today than he was a week ago.

Jaridan, of course, is another story. At first he demanded to know the identity of whomever had put Miss Ryden back into the hospital, as if he possessed the arm and skill to track them down and provide them a walloping. When he discovered that no hospital was keeping her away… “irate” does not begin to cover it. I have no doubt that he will adapt, Leda, I just wish that he did not have to do so.

I have had a letter from her, and the contents have alarmed me beyond anything I expected. She professed to be completely unaware of how she demonstrated any of the distressing qualities cited in her dismissal — indeed, flatly denied the lot, and claimed a conspiracy to ruin her was behind it all, rather than own to even a semblance of personal responsibility. If anything could have convinced me that it was the right decision, I suppose her response was it. How could I have failed to notice such a glaring lack of self-awareness? We are but a few years apart in age; I recall eighteen with perfect clarity. At eighteen, had several people cited the same glaring flaws within me, I could not have looked anywhere but inward.

I would have preferred to fight the losing battle unending, Leda; to keep pushing her toward betterment and struggling to help her realize self-reflection, but I could not put my children at risk to do so. I cannot even bring myself to pen a response to her. I am so terribly disappointed. One would think that by now, after so many repeat experiences, I would be immune to trusting too easily and having that trust proven foolish.

I am keenly aware of how many paragraphs reside above, but things are not all bad. Truly, they are far from it. There is more I would confide if you were here with me, but it is… private, I suppose. Too private for letters that might be opened along their way to you.

I cannot wait to see you at Oakenvold this summer. Jaridan is already plotting out adventures for he and Braydon to share.

With Love,

Emma

An Ancient, Cramped Cell

February 24th, 2016

There is a smell here I can’t identify. I vaguely recall it from the Madison in those dark and plague-ridden days before Zeita turned to dust, moving bedside to bedside searching faces for my father. I cannot fathom, even now, why I thought he might be among the infirm. Perhaps some part of me hoped he would be, that I could be there for him, nurse him back to health, prove at last how highly I regard him, that I am not just the babe that finally killed his Julia.

Sweat. Sweat is part of it. We all huddle so close to stave off the cold we can’t help but share it. I can’t remember people ever having scents that were uniquely theirs, yet here I can tell who is beside me in the dark, identify them clearly as a face in daylight. Albrecht, liquor seeping through his pores, the salt of tears staining his silks. The earth and blood in Almaz’s hair. Perrine, wasted powders and soured perfumes. The newcomers, an ever-increasing number, are frightening for their lack of sensory familiarity.

I can’t remember ever being this cold. Every breath is like something precious seeping out of me; heat I desperately need. Our candles have long burned out. This morning – though “morning” could be a misnomer – they dropped something through the bars that we purport was edible. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Not yet. My stature being what it is, I need little to get by. Foul or no, what nutrition we have is better used by the others. Almaz is a Squire. If we stand any chance against being separated, it lies completely with her.

They have burned one Baroness already, and I am hardly what one could call a member of the true nobility. When you kill to make a point – that the nobility are not untouchable – it pays to be mindful of your targets. To that end, I cannot deny my worth. As a pretender I am unlikely to be the cause of any significant uproar, yet by killing me, the point is still driven home. Truly, no one could deny that their audacity has been artfully engineered.

I keep telling Perrine that we will be alright; someone will come for us. They will come. We will be alright. I have said it so many times it has lost all meaning. But they will come; I have no doubt of that. Whether we will still be here when they do is a question I lack the courage to answer.

Novembris the 17th, 367

November 2nd, 2015

Surprisingly father has written me near every week since Gaven and I returned from Lake Harmon. His temperament has utterly changed. I am more relieved by his acceptance than I could say. It seems he has forgiven me for Cavalleri; Lord, even for Vilar. After Leda and Elizabeth he never wanted to see me charmed by Troubadours. Perhaps it is a Courtland affliction, falling so easily for the foreign glamor and roguish disinterest of a Vavardi bard. I needn’t even specify that “Vavardi” is not the key word; their cultural upbringing was the element that made the tonic poisonous. Bards, in a general sweep, tend to have an uncanny allure.

I do miss Audric. More than anything else, Audric was always a friend to me. Perhaps that is the most significant difference there among a sea of contrasts between him and Cavalleri: Audric, at the end of the day, endeavored to be a friend. Still loyal; still kind. I often wish that I could write to him, to see how is mother is contending with the loss of his father, and to ensure that he is adjusting well to the management of a household after so long spent on the road. Alas, offending Gaven is not something I am willing to do, not even for something so innocent and explainable as a letter.

I have joined the Privy Council as the Seneschal, and we have met once already to discuss the state of politics and problems in the capitol. I feel like a fish out of water, adjusting to this new life and status. The Council meeting was perhaps the worst so far. I enjoyed it, mind you – really, I did. I have always felt that deep down, politicking for the greater good is in me in a way that it is in few others, but to be seated at a table across from His Grace and Marisa dul Damassande, comparing and contrasting opinions on matters of import, will remain alien and daunting for quite awhile. His Grace has been the most openly accepting of anyone in the Court. He goes out of his way to be inclusive. For that I am infinitely grateful. Without that support I suspect I would be hiding at home more often than not.

Near every time I see him I wonder: What would have happened if I said yes? He is not the villain I believed him to be. My Lady Cellan’s Knight would not have lied to me, but she may have been mistaken in what she told him; mind addled by the herbs she had been given for the pain, or her head disturbed by the long fall. Any number of things may have contributed to an accidental recitation of untruths. Casimir was grief-stricken and half-mad with guilt. He sobbed on my shoulder until my gown was wet with tears from surface to skin. And I was tempted, journal; I was more tempted than I should ever acknowledge, much less openly to anyone. By saying no I may have ensured the Regent’s survival, but I nearly said yes. Had I known how far he would take it, how it would change my relationship with Joseph forever, I might have done whatever Casimir asked of me. I am relieved I did not know. I survived, and so did Tomas. I thank the Lord for my uncertainty and, for once, my unwavering cowardice. Somehow, in this instance, being a coward was the braver act.

I was told they found Alyx in the west hills, and in a state barely resembling a human frame. A mage after all, corrupted by her own tainted magics. She was a friend to me, as much as she could be. She had a vibrant personality and a wry sense of humor. Spending time with her was always an adventure. When she vanished I worried for her, and when she returned she wrote to me, not long after she attacked Mister Fairweather. She was desperate, and she begged to meet. I was frightened, and I did not do so. I did not even respond. I doubt it would have changed anything, but what if I had, and it did? What if she only needed a friend to keep herself from plummeting over the edge? These things will haunt me for the rest of my life; if she could have been saved, and because all those she begged for help were too frightened for themselves, she died without the cleansing she so desperately needed. I say “all those”, but for all I know it was only me. It is not a point of comfort, acknowledging that. I keep praying to the Lord for courage. It seems I have not found it, yet.

Though I report a great deal of terror and regret, perhaps both come to mind because I am happy for the first time since the moment I saw Noah Reed’s handwriting on a letter I did not expect; Aidan’s body, found in Southside, stripped down and left in the gutter. That was the turning point, what would shape and engineer every act and thought for the next four years: Consuming, overpowering fear. After it came Zeita; her betrayal, for there is no other word for the feeling. I loved her more deeply than my own sisters. She chose. I never had the chance to tell her. We are all left with the memory, but that is not the worst of the Hell she created for us. We are left knowing that the woman we loved is lost, suffering forever, and there is nothing we can do to help her. Alyx’s fate has brought her to mind more regularly than the norm, and she is often – very often – thought of.

Despite it all, I am happy. At the end of every day, Gaven is at home, and he is waiting for me to return to him. All the long shadows seem shorter when home lies at the end of the road. At times I still wait for the second shoe to drop, for some horrid thing to fall upon us both, to ruin it. The most frightening thing of all is hope.

Septembris 10th, 367

October 15th, 2015

(The following is carefully penned into a fresh, new journal.)

I have taken to marriage well. Gaven is an endless curiosity to me.

There is a severity to him I did not predict; a temper more heated than Alexander’s or even my father’s. It has a hair trigger, persistent and ever-ready to erupt, yet he has never directed it toward me. I am ashamed to admit that more than once I have displeased him. Measuring the personal expectations of a nobleman has been no easy task. It is very strange, living in a home with a man I would have, just weeks ago, been required to distantly venerate. On that basis accommodating him comes easily; more difficult is conversation, calling him something other than ‘my Lord’, and understanding what is and is not presumptuous. I have always known and been wholly comfortable with my status. That has changed. With all else written and cast aside, there are worse things than feeling love for one’s husband, and I am relieved to acknowledge that I irrevocably do. Already I could not picture life without him. I wait for him to come home every evening, and I am always eager for him to call me to him. There is an intimacy between us that I have never before experienced; our physical connection (why was I so frightened of that concept, before?) falls by the wayside in comparison. His mystery only adds to his allure. I adore him.

I have not told a soul besides, but we are expecting our first child. Ever since our honeymoon I have felt weak, stricken with spells of dizziness, powerfully nauseated, and everything smells so incredibly strong. I was gathering my mail at the Town Hall when I simply fainted. Tybalt saw me to the Madison, and the on-hand nursia knew my symptoms well. I am unsure what I expected Gaven’s reaction to be, but all my anxiousness and preparation were proven wholeheartedly foolish. He was overjoyed. He ensured I knew he would assist me every step along the way to fruition. He even picked me up and spun me (this did not help my dizziness, of course, but it was well-meant and beautifully touching).

Gaven has allowed me to claim the gardens at his estate (our estate, I should say… that is still difficult) for my own. I have spent many an afternoon in the green house, tending carefully to Zeita’s saffron and vanilla, and I think of her often while dabbling with vials of perfumes and colognes. Gaven’s sister often brings Zeita to the forefront of my mind; they have a similar confidence and tenacity – a strong, feminine will that I both envy and admire. Margaux has left Lithmore for a time to take her daughter to Crestley. I have already missed her. I need to remind myself to write to her before she returns.

There are so few things troubling me that I truly have little to write. I was overdue an entry, but what is there to say? After so long spent lost in uncertainty and melancholia, I have found a pure and unadulterated happiness so perfect that at times I am tentative to relent to it. I am going to be a mother, and my husband treats me with respect. Life seems so utterly flawless.

Until Next Time,

Scribbled in the Margins

August 6th, 2015

(Written in an odd, almost unreadable penmanship, letters slanting too far to the right; over-extravagant curlicues and adornments on every character.)

SHAYLEI YULE!!! LOVE HER
more WINE
TRICK CAKE

(A detailed drawing of a fully-armored Hillwoman climbing into the saddle on back of a gorilla fills the space between two lines in the last journal entry, the ink clearly fresher than the entry itself. A swirling “HAHAha!” is scribbled to the left of the bizarre image.)

Happy Birthday to Me

August 5th, 2015

Two entire cycles of the sun since I last picked up my journal, and I haven’t the slightest inkling of where to begin. I could flounder and struggle to relate some summary of events that would undoubtedly fall short. I won’t. Today is my birthday – another year claimed with total indifference.

I have done as I told myself I would and kept my distance from Alo. No long talks or well-meant bottles of wine; no reading and rereading for illusory connection to the source. A pointless despondency, I realize; nothing could or ever would occur. I am not that person, and even if I were half-mad, drunk, and temporarily bereft of wits he could be steadfastly relied upon to reject any incident of coquetry. I suppose my hope is to discourage any deeper feelings of warmth (Perhaps this is what attraction feels like? Have I never experienced it before?). I don’t want to be the woman ruminating over another woman’s husband, and not just for the moral disparity such a condition describes. A miserable existence is guaranteed by perpetually wanting something one cannot ever have. It isn’t a matter of the body that contains him, though that, too, is inarguably flawless. Age and experience has tempered the effortless chaos of a handsome youth into a thousand stories carved into the skin. Regardless, it’s his mind. His mind is what irrevocably appeals; that barbed intellect that both intimidates and inspires. What satisfaction could ever compare to a mere conversation?

Rarely have I felt so keenly aware of the flimsy sagacity of youth. A child with a crush, as they say. Infatuation. I maintain my private distance, and I wait for it to pass.

At the end of the day, journal, – May I call you journal? Look at me, I’m jesting. – I am starting to suspect an imbalance of humors. I feel drowned under melancholia, and I cannot seem to surface for breath. Perhaps it’s Yule coming up so soon and unexpected, or the little ones either volunteered or volunteering for gifts they would not otherwise have received, seeing their sweet faces and hearing their voices plead. Perhaps it’s the ignominious nature of the Baron’s offer, preparing myself to be scrutinized and found wanting by those I have long called friends, and knowing I would be foolish to refuse my one-day children the possibility. Perhaps it’s swearing I see Alexander on every corner; see him laughing and smiling, vanishing into the crowd before I can call to him. A man grown, his rakish confidence but a beaten echo on an older face. I see him dressed down in the garb of a freeman, hair thrown back, tattered cloak beating at his heels. I miss my brother so badly I see a dead man in the streets.

Father visited this evening for supper. I presume the occasion was inspired by my birthday, and it was gracious of him to come. Yet still his manner is forbidding, and I have never known how to mend him. Raidne running from her would-be groom and my decision to shelter her did not earn me his affection; on the contrary, I believe that Grand Magnate or no, he has added my name to his short list of failures. When last we met he talked only of the state of carpet imports. Tonight, he barely spoke to me at all.

I feel that something has to break. Something, somewhere, has to shatter. I need some nebulous, untold thing and I need it drastically. I need help with the Merchants that Corlan (Should I say Damien? How distraught I’ve been to pass by the Reeves’ courtyard and see the notice about a missing Justiciar, knowing where he is and too fearful to write Brynieve…) cannot or will not provide. I need the guidance of friends and loved ones either lost or divided. What would Zeita say, and would I still be wise to believe her? Have I ever made another friend, or just developed a knack for turning a blind eye to brittle gestures? For the first time the stark reality of isolation is looming on all sides. I don’t know what to do with it.

E.C. 12/5/366

Octobris the 10th, 366

July 21st, 2015

To my Dear Addie,

I wandered past the library the other morning and happened upon a small publisher’s shop across the way; quaint, well-outfitted and thoroughly clean, though empty and without the least bit of product on its shelves. I was reminded of our conversation when you first returned to Lithmore, and I have thought of you often since. It looked so much like something you would have created I could scarcely believe you hadn’t. I wondered also after your Vandagan acquaintance. Are things well on that front? Better, at least, than they were when last we discussed it?

There is remarkably little changed with me. For a time I stepped out of the spotlight and buried myself in father’s study. I tried to satisfy myself as I once did – with books and drawing, stepping out on occasion to tend to the atelier. Doing nothing was relentlessly tiring. I found myself back at my desk in little more than a fortnight. I know I should avoid putting such thoughts down on paper, but there are times I fear I was given this opportunity too young; that my position has made me, rather than the opposite. I would have been satisfied to serve my predecessor indefinitely; holding the reins has its uses, but I often fail to meet the bar she set.

In the meantime, Lithmore has become unnaturally vicious. The number of rumors circulating is both astronomically high and wholly ill-meaning. You recall I spent some time staying with the Earl Marshall, after that Farin fellow went a little bit berserk? A more upstanding, warmer-hearted man I could not have designed, yet his reputation is drug through the streets like common refuse and expanded upon each passing day. Some folk are even claiming he is violent with Shaylei. Can you even imagine, with the way he dotes upon her? It’s disheartening to see the way the people regard him. The Regent, too, has seen a share of nonsense cropping up out of the woodwork. Apparently he is in league with the Brotherhood of Common Goods. Fancy that.

I have not escaped entirely without focus. Though I’ve every confidence I know the identity of the source, I have heard it whispered that I am an actual harlot. Comparing me to a Vavardi. Consider me thoroughly surprised.

I know what you will say, and I will establish now that I do not want my sister walloping even the most abusive of rumor-mongers, but I can own to feeling damaged by his opinion. It’s arguably worse to know the name and face of the individual behind it; being able to picture it said in a familiar voice is more hurtful than I would like to admit. I should have taken your advice; I should have taken the advice of everyone who told me to step away before it was too late to cleanly withdraw his claim. I misunderstood his reasons, clearly, but had I asked for guidance before agreeing in the first place I could have avoided injuring him from the start.

I suppose I never knew he had such venom in him. We had been friends for so long, and his temperament never struck me as particularly vicious. To fabricate claims that could get me genuinely harmed… I don’t know, Addie. I just never thought he was that sort of man. For the first time in my life I felt a spark of hatred. I have worked to contain it, of course, and spoken to the Archbishop for guidance to that end, but that I experienced it at all has left me disappointed. That disappointment is solely with myself.

The former Poet Laudate is back from Vavard. Mister op Vilar, as you recall, has been a long-time friend and confidante, and I am much-relieved by his return. I managed to secure a bid (a very hefty bid, I should clarify, though all for a wonderful cause) on Lord Ariel le Orban’s rare book of multicultural love songs at the Physician’s Auction. Rumor has it that it has been a point of some contention with the new Poet Laudate, though Lord knows, I am the last person who should be taking rumors without a grain of salt.

I will avoid delving into Lando’s present condition for the sake of my tentative sanity. Suffice to say that I never know where he stands. It has become difficult to communicate with him, and I so badly want to help him through his present ails. Finding any modicum of peace with the inarguable fact that I cannot is an impossible task. Will you keep him in your prayers? Perhaps if we both focus upon his well-being the Lord will take notice and grant him relief?

For having so little of substance to discuss I have managed to clear the page; I will stop before I get any further lost in the minutiae. I hope you are well, and that you have made amends with father by the Yule. We must get together at first opportunity and arrange for everyone to come home to visit.

Yours Affectionately,

P.S. I had the opportunity to have our copy of A Great and Terrible Flood autographed by its author, who as you are no doubt aware is none other than the perplexing, mysterious, and infinitely dashing Lord le Orban. Between us, I think he is more humble than anyone has ever given him credit for. Remind me to tell you about the Three Cups at Yule… I know how you love an invigorating tale of social woe, and of all the experiences in my life that one was the most embarrassing.

Arendas, Quintilis [Dream]

March 25th, 2015

It reeks of wine-sweat; the sort Mister Ashford had at Lauds, thickly threaded over layers of cologne. Coming from the pores, not the skin. Standing by with his candle while little girls are roused from their beds and brought out into the day room, one by one, to eat with their father; tow-headed dolls in silks and satins, finery for the sake of finery. Father can afford it.

Alexander reclining moodily in a slant of light, one boot unlaced, irritated by everything. Still angry about having to wed a Vandagan; worse, a Baron’s “stout” daughter, future hinged upon our family refilling their long-empty coffers. “The nobility think they have it bad,” he would often mutter on those early mornings, “but they’ll all be extinct in another century.” The looks he got from father…

“They spend lavishly from their pauper’s purses. Let them reap that vanity.
“If they wasted less on ugly jewelery and tacky clothes, they wouldn’t be in this predicament.
“One would think by nature of being ‘noble’ they would be adverse to accepting charity.
“If the Lord meant for the nobility to be divine, he would have provided them with better sense.”

Little wonder Alexander did not fare well in Vandago.

He left his marriage bed titled and landed, but neither really mattered. He hated his wife, hated her father, hated kowtowing to the prideful poor that he had found himself entangled with; nobility who treated him as if he had been given some grand favor, when he alone had saved them from destitution; by his largess they would survive. A fat, brown-skinned bitch and her father’s unbearable, frozen land. Wonderful. All hail the Baron of Mozenk, you ungrateful, Arien bastards.

It’s the stink of wine that brings it back. For a moment I can almost hear him.

But it isn’t breakfast, and he isn’t alive. Father isn’t shaking his head or digging in his heels to negotiate. Mister Ashford’s stink is the stink of the room, and the bodies on the floor aren’t little blonde-haired sisters protesting the injustice of wakefulness.

The Cardinal is impaled with pitch-black spikes, driven through both eyes, his familiar hands and still booted feet; he’s sitting upright. Dozing. Rotting. A bottle of wine rests at the corner of his desk, three-quarters emptied. With a quarter left it could not have been as bad a night as many others. The erudite sophistication of the office clashes with the indignity of the scene, but that had always been so. Finding Gerolf drunk or drugged had been enough. Now he is sitting up, transfixed on death. There are flecks of blood on his springtime tapestry. No different than the other wildflowers.

I hear him whisper against my ear: “I will find her, Emma. I will.” His tears are warm on my skin. A golden fog is rolling over Southside.

Something is rapping at the windows. When I find Joseph staring I mistake him. He realizes at once, and he nearly flinches. It’s the drums while Casimir hangs and Lady Cellan’s thudding heartbeat; we’re talking loudly, trying to drown them out. Someone lifts the dead Knight’s head and holds it up over the crowd. They cheer without knowing why.

Decembris the 1st, 364

February 6th, 2015

To the hand of the Poet Laudate,

Last night a lad of eleven, maybe twelve, rushed into the drawing room with a letter. I did not recognize him, and he fled as swiftly as he came–there was no getting a better look or inquiring as to the sender.

It was a letter from Gerolf. A very long letter, to be sent in the event of his death. It appears that he knew it were coming, and that he had a few things I ought handle when the sun inevitably rose upon that day.

I dare not detail the contents. I will say only that I was told to contact Seamus Harper in regard to them, a fellow who–as I understand it–has had no small amount of trouble with the Reeves. Though I did not attend the square to observe I have been told he took thirty-some lashes before the Lady Justiciar determined he could not sustain any more. Gerolf wanted her to finish. I cannot help but wonder what he could have done to have earned it.

I wrote to Mister Harper, entreating him to meet me somewhere private–somewhere safe enough, secluded enough, to disclose the contents of Gerolf’s letter without risk of being overheard, or even seen together. The courier’s office has been proven unreliable in recent months or I suppose I would have written him with the contents. But if Alfred Baggler had a field day with our letters before, I dread the disaster which would erupt should another nosy postman take it upon himself to peruse. I cannot put what I was entreated to discuss with him into a letter.

It would seem that I, a girl of seventeen years oft startled by her own shadow, am too intimidating a person to contend with barring the exception of witnesses. One would think I meant to meet with an opposing general on the field of battle to discuss a truce, rather than entreat a gentleman with which I have no familiarity for a personal audience.

Perhaps I am being unkind. It’s true that the Order ought be cautious. But of me? It feels so out of place.

He suggested we meet at a public establishment and arranged that each of us bring a second. Alternatively I was encouraged to merely tell him via post precisely what I had to say. For aforementioned reasons, neither of his solutions are possible. He actually got rather smarmy with me, and suggested I’m a poor merchant because I am impossible to bargain with. I cannot fathom why he thought we were bargaining, and I dare say he hurt my feelings.

I don’t know what to do. I wish that I could confide in you the reason audience with him is so vital. I am tempted to forgo wisdom and let sanity lapse, to write it all down or meet with him somewhere we are certain to be overheard, just to have it over with. Gerolf said that Mister Harper would keep me safe. That he knew I would contact him, and that I must do so immediately should he be found dead. The only thing he insisted upon more so was that I must use utmost caution in doing so. I am so confused. Bewildered may be a better description, though it isn’t so different, is it?

It’s almost Yule. You have met my father. Will I be meeting yours?

Yours,

Zarrova’s Boutique

January 22nd, 2015

To the hand of the Poet Laudate Audric op Vilar,

I have wondered if on a subconscious level I gave him the wrong key to delay the inevitable. Clearing out the shop, her private rooms, her garden, the cabinets and wardrobes… it was almost too much to bear. So many little tokens of her her stowed away in this or that. Letters in her hand. Clothing she once wore. Bottles of perfume she had neither labeled nor put upon her shelves, scents so infinitely familiar I could almost sense her in the room as I took inventory of the stock. She had meant to get around to them eventually, and now eventually will never come.

I miss her so. What am I to do without her? Her advice was always sound, always there, ready at a moment’s notice. Was it as misguided as I ought believe? I have not confided in you the contents of her letter and I cannot find the words to summarize them. I am so confused, Audric. I do not know what to do. I bury myself in mountains of paperwork and occupy my thoughts penning letters without meaning. Trivial matters of the financial and official. There is a part of me I fear has been sealed away, locked behind a door with that small, obsidian throne I used to dream of. The very same she set upon the bell tower when she left. She wrote that she was proud of me. That I had grown before her eyes from a girl who could barely endure the company of strangers to a leader, her Magnate, someone to be admired. I don’t feel worthy of admiration, and truth be told I never have. She was the only person to have ever suggested I was wrong. She wanted me to reconsider my beliefs and feelings. To think twice about the dogma that stood in the way of her living safe and well to an old age, simply because she was born into magery.

I have tried, Audric. I have knelt in the chapel until my knees are numb and head wrought with pain, trying to find some balance between her wisdom and the Lord’s. I cannot do it. The nearest I have come lie in the words of Saint Aelwyn, who once said that magic can be used to moral ends, to do good in this world, but at the cost of the mage’s soul. To think of her, my friend, my sister, forever trapped within a darkened void because she could not submit herself to the pyre spreads decay throughout my heart.

She died in the manner she lived–devoting herself to the needs of others without regret. I no longer pray for Alexander. I don’t pray for my father. I pray for Zeita, who destroyed herself–her very soul–for the good of Lithmore. She must have known what it would mean to die without the fire. To make such calculated sacrifice, knowing she would never meet the Spring and choosing to do it anyway, proves only that she was as I always knew: Divinely blessed by the spirit of ultimate perseverance and decency. I will mourn her for the rest of my days.

Gerolf is doing poorly. He was deep in his cups when I last called upon him at the Cathedral. If this crisis has crippled me I can only imagine what he must be going through. I cannot thank you enough for lending your hand to ensuring he was not removed from his office. After Zeita and the plague I do not think he could have endured another blow. There are rumors circulating that something terrible has happened to him, but it is not the first time. He has always come out alright, in the end. There are a great many Knights stationed outside his office to keep him safe, after all, and who better to entrust with our Cardinal’s life than they?

Should you call upon me at my home you may find it empty for a time. The Earl Marshall has commanded me to stay with the Knights Lithmorran at the Keep, though she has not explained why nor for how long. It is difficult to understand her meaning even at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. Either way I find it ill-advised to protest or demand a cause. Mechanical and resentful she may be, but she is not foolish. If she has determined I should stay there she will have had a good reason, and I would put my trust in her before I would most others.

I wondered if, when next circumstances permit, we could arrange a meeting to discuss induction of Ariel le Orban back into the Troubadours. It always seemed to bring him joy to play his viol and no one could deny his talent. I need not even boast on his part. It is well known that he is articulate, diplomatic, and gifted–all these things contribute to the wishful cut of your ideal bard. If you are still without a Poet Knight I would, respectfully, advise you to consider him. I do not know if he would accept, but it might bring him some sense of comfort to know that he is welcome.

Lord bless, Audric. I am thinking of you.


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