Letter 2

[[Good Afternoon,

I hope wherever you are your days were enjoyable. I went to forum again and this time I was able to fully become a physiker, Dr. Tobias shook my hand and called me Dr. Heimir when I told him I had completed my training. The thing is…why did the excitement felt like a fleeting feeling? If I would tell you what happened, I feel like you would be disappointed. But I weighted my options, I wanted to be useful and help people…just..remember that if you ever hear anything…please just be proud of me. I feel numb and I don’t think that’s a good thing but I can’t be sure since I’ve never felt this feeling before. I feel like something of mine has died. Wish you were here to help me figure this out.

I’ll continue to help others. I DO feel very helpful and that’s the part that carries me forward. I think there will be a time when I won’t be as useful, but for now I am and so I will live in the present.

I really wish you were here.

I apologize this letter is less enthusiastic that you’re use to, but I can’t seem to be able to write any other way today.

Love,
Heimir]]

The red headed boy sighed, folding the letter and holding it over the flame of the candle lighting the room. It caught on fire instantly, he held it with his two fingers until the burning letter was too hot to handle. It finished burning on table where it created ash.

slowly he used his hands to gather the ash and put it in the palm of his hand before walking to his bed.
He pulled the chest under it slowly and softly sprinkled the ash over the mountain of sealed letters inside.

Letter

[[[Good Evening!

Hope you enjoyed this beautiful sunny day, it’s been hot lately but this morning was just the right amount of crisp that I think Autumn is approaching.

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, I apologize sincerely. I’ve been thinking about you lately, especially here in Runeheim. You should see how everyone gets along, you would enjoy it. I’ve met so many interesting individuals, I think you would also like them a lot. The people here seem really friendly and willing to help each other, there is no animosity I can see and that makes it easier to work alongside them.

Lady Dragomir is as kind as ever and oh! I haven’t told you but I got to save an inquisitor from dying! It was really terrifying at first because they were bleeding everywhere and everyone was looking at me like I knew what I was doing but I didnt! Well I mean it was my first time but I gained some confidence from it. You would be proud! When they coughed for the first time showing signs of life…well that was something special. It ignited a spark in me to learn more about it to save more people.

Oh oh! I also talked to a dwarf! Can you believe that?! Remember how I said I had always wanted to talk to one? Well it finally happened! They seemed funny, like they didn’t quite understand how humans work but I can’t blame them. Most people speak in codes and I don’t know why, I think you should just say what you mean. I liked them because they said what they meant.

The work of transferring our history into books is going well, I know this was entrusted to me and I don’t take it for granted. I do miss you though. A lot. I remember the last time we spoke you told me to be useful and I have taken these words to heart. I am trying my best to do all I can to make you proud.

I’ll promise to write to you sooner this time, I don’t want you to forget about me.

Love,
Heimir ]]]

He squinted his eyes as he signed the letter with his name, the sun was setting which made it harder to see with just the candle light shining dimly in the corner of his desk.

After giving his signature one last flourish he smiled, folding it over and pouring some wax over the folded edge.

He stretched gingerly as the wax ended up drying and as soon it was ready he got up from his desk and kneeled in front of his bed pulling a small chest. Heimir opened the chest, hundreds of letters sealed just like the one he had made and put his most recent one on top before closing the chest and pushing it under his bed again.

Trusting Again

Marius drinks from his cup before staring at me with a look that I can assume is trying to read my soul.

“Leonce, the conversation we had last night with your friend was so interesting. He seemed like he knew a lot. How did you come across someone like that?”

I tell him how I was ambushed near his home after I fled from the Njord invasion here, how he saved me, how I almost poked him with a firestick when I woke up in his home because I was so sure he was going to kill me, how he nursed me back to health without asking for anything.

“Sounds like he’s an important friend to you.”

I chuckle at the word friend. For a moment I want to express all my feelings about the man to anyone that would hear them but I stop myself. I used to hate when people got mushy with feelings and I don’t intend to be one of them now. At least not to other people.

“He is someone very dear to me.” I reply with a tone that I hope sounds final.

Marius seems content with that response as he goes back to taking care of the tavern customers.

————————————————-

[[Two years ago]]

Something’s off today Leonce thought

Leonce tried to get a look at Alistair’s face but he couldn’t read any emotion as the man checked his ankle two months after Leonce had woken up in his cabin.

The first few weeks had been rough, Leonce trying to escape while Alistair was away. Once he got cornered by wolves right outside of Alistair’s land and had to call for help. Alistair was there so quickly that Leonce wondered how that was possible. Another time he got further but was caught in a blizzard and nearly froze to death before thankfully Alistair was able to find him. This rose to suspicion, how did Alistair knew where he was at all times while he wasn’t even in the cabin?

“It’s actually quite easy to follow your tracks…” Alistair had commented bemused after Leonce had angrily asked him when brought back from his second failed escape attempt, “you ARE dragging your injured foot through snow or mud, it leaves a trail.”

Slowly he started to trust Alistair. He figured that if someone had given him his house (and bed) to recuperate…they were one of those noble idiots that were trying to make everyone’s lives better. Leonce had met them before, and he wasn’t opposed to taking their generosity as long as they didn’t ask for anything in return.

They had a routine, Alistair would come in the morning (where he went during the night, Leonce didn’t know nor cared), checked his bandages, they would have breakfast and Alistair would write from his desk. Sometimes Leonce would ask questions, not anything that invaded the privacy of the man that helped him. Just questions of where he was, or what was the closest city. So far he hadn’t been able to check if the man had been right but something behind his answers told him Alistair was being truthful.

But there was something about today though, the air felt heavy with words unspoken.

Leonce was snapped from his thoughts as Alistair came over, a gentle hand picking up his ankle and inspecting it closely. Alistair’s eyes were furrowed, something he did when he was thinking hard about something.

Finally he let out a drawn out breath.

“Looks like it’s finally healed…” his voice sounded somber but the boy had no reason to believe Alistair felt that way “I’m guessing that you can be out of here by tomorrow if you want, though I would recommend another day…that way you can go into town and get things for your journey back home.”

Leonce felt his stomach drop. Leave? He hadn’t thought about that in more than a month. The older man’s company had been so…comforting that the idea hadn’t resurfaced again since his last escape attempt.

“Oh…right…” he messed with the hem of the shirt Alistair had let him borrow, staring intently at his hands. He hated that there was disappointment in his voice and could feel the man’s stare on him.

Alistair cleared his throat as he let go of the boy’s ankle, patting it softly before going to his desk to write.

The silence was tense, they could both feel it.

“I’ve never asked you where you were going, but I’m curious now that you’ll be leaving.”

Two months ago Leonce would have answered with a snark remark and refused to give him any information. But time had passed and trust had been gained little by little. Nevertheless he was surprised with how much ease he was able to answer the man.

“Away from Stragosa, possibly back to my country. There were people following me, just wanted to run.” he pulled the covers, around himself…feeling comfortable in the warm and realizing with disappointment that soon that comfort would be swapped for uncertainty. “I never really thought where I was going, just that I needed to leave that city.”

Alistair stopped writing, and Leonce waited to see if the man had something he wanted to say. If there was an idea though, he kept quiet about it and resumed writing. There was a small smile on his face, barely seen.

“It’s been nice having you around, Leonce.” he glanced up from his parchment, a true smile now on his face “but I understand the need to run, we all have our demons after all.”

Why was his heart beating so fast? There were no words that came out, the Cappacian merely nodded silently and pulled the covers over his face…trying to sleep comfortably one last night and trying to hide the heat that was coming on his cheeks at the moment.

—–

It took Leonce two more days to decide to leave. He kept putting it off, lying about his ankle was not feeling up to travelling yet. He was sure Alistair could see through his lies but indulged him anyway…something Leonce was grateful for.

There was a constant struggle in his mind-

One side was telling him that what he had here was special…reminded him of Ciro, his father figure. Hadn’t his best moments been with Ciro? Hadn’t these last four months felt like a weird dream? When was the last time Leonce had felt safe before meeting Alistair? When was the last time that he had felt this comfortable with anyone? Or rather when was the last time anyone had been this kind to him?

The other side was more insistent though. It was the side that reminded him how he had trusted Bouchard, a noble of Stragosa and what had happened then. Bouchard had broken that wall first, Leonce had grown an idiotic sense of loyalty towards the Capacian noble and that had ended up in the worst two nights of his life. He remembered calling for his lord and not seeing him come to his aid. He didn’t want to have that feeling again, to feel betrayed and alone.

The latter side had won in the end, and he packs food into a bag given to him by Alistair.

He walks towards the door, aware of Alistair’s silence and for a moment he wants to ask if he can stay. But the idea of rejection keeps him from opening his mouth. Alistair’s gaze feels burning on the back of his neck, he wants to ask Alistair if he is sad to see him go but doesn’t. It’s none of his business, and part of him thinks it’s maybe better not knowing.

Standing at the front door, he turns around to face the older man. There is a knot in his throat that he’s trying hard to ignore.

“I…” he clears his throat, trying not to look at Alistair or else he thinks his resolve to leave will waver “…..thank you…”

It’s not something that comes out of his mouth very often, but it feels strangely satisfying to say it to the man in front of him.

“I was glad I was able to help you…” and again there’s honesty in Alistair’s tone “If you are ever around these parts, my home is always open to you. I rather enjoyed your company…”

He nods, his heart beating fast as he turns away without another word. If he doesn’t leave now, he knows he won’t. But he can’t stay, he can’t be vulnerable again. Leonce walks without turning back, knows the cabin has disappeared from sight as he enters the forest.

“On the road again…” he whispers, and the hopelessness that escapes him takes him by surprise. So do the tears that he didn’t even know were already streaming down his face. Why now? He leans against a tree, hiding his face in his hands. These had been the best two months of his life, why was he so eager to end it? Was cautiousness really worth being unhappy his whole life?

He looked up at the sky, remembering a specific moment in time with Ciro that he hadn’t thought of in a long time.

~“Are you happy Leonce?”~

~The small young boy nods as he cooks a fish in front of a small fire. “I wasn’t before, but I am now.”~

~“This is what we live for, to prolong the good times as much as possible and to remember them when bad times try to suffocate us. Don’t seclude yourself from what makes you happy. Remember that.”~

He’s a mess now, tears seem a downpour and he’s not sure how to stop them. He wanted to be happy for once, wasn’t he always saying how selfish he was? This is the selfish thing he wanted above all, and damn it all he deserved to be selfish after the last year in that cursed city.

He doesn’t realize he’s running until he is gasping for air.

—–

The rain is heavy, sound soothing outside. Yet it somehow sounds hollow today.

There is a knock on the door and it startles Alistair as he drops the quill he’s been writing with. He moves cautiously towards the sound, unsure of what he will find at the other side.

His breath hitches as he opens the door and glances at the soaking boy staring up at him.

There’s nothing to be said, he simply smiles and moves aside to let Leonce in. The boy steps in without a word, panting and soaking wet from the rain outside.

Alistair closes the door as Leonce takes off his backpack and throws it in a forgotten corner.

The rain doesn’t sound so hollow anymore

Memories of then and now

(NOTE: the [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ Represents past memories]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] )

“Oh there’s Luca, Hi Luca!” Florence waves with two fingers before Luca doesn’t appear to see her and turns his back towards her.

I choke on my drink, “That’s the third time he’s ignored your wave,” I slur the words mockingly as I can feel the second shot of spirits making me feel dizzy.

Everyone at the table laughs as Vieve offers us another round of alcohol.

I had missed this. Bonding with strangers hasn’t happened since I met him, a year ago.

It’s nice.

For a second I wonder why I don’t do this more often. And then I remember why I don’t

——–

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[Two years ago I lounge lazily on one of the tavern chairs.

“Did you want a drink?” she asks with her beautiful Dunnick accent. I grin and nod.

“A knight getting a drink for a scum? Now I’ve seen everything…” he sounds annoyed. Perhaps because of his advances towards her have been fruitless.

“She loves me. I love her. We do these things for each other.” I give him a mocking smile, knowing what I am trying to imply. Maybe that way he will finally leave her alone, I can feel she’s uncomfortable by him.]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

———

“We should dance!” Florence says and before I know it the Beggar Kings are outside playing beautiful music. I feel Rosemary grab my hand quickly and start spinning me around. I resist a bit before she grabs her sister instead.

The happiness that these people exude is contagious…

I watch as the Princess joins, her sleeves swinging wildly around. Not a single care in the world.

Rosemary grabs my hand again and this time I laugh. A genuine laugh, not the mocking ones I’m used to giving to everyone.

——–

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ Two years ago I ask her if I could shoot her bow. She nods and stands behind me. She tells me how to aim and to hold my breath. Her voice is so gentle and it flows with a rhythm that is better than any song I’ve heard.

I let the arrow go and see it fly a few feet. My fingers sting, the arrow cutting through my hand as it flew away.

I let out a whine.

“That will happen sometimes if you’re not holding it right,” she laughs and her laughter is so contagious that I laugh at my own mistake. A very rare thing.

“I’ll stick to knives I think…” and I let out a soft genuine laugh. ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

——-

“There’s something outside! It poked its head through!”

The thing knocks the door.

“Who is it?” someone asks cautiously.

“John…Hunter.”

I let out a snort and open the door to find nothing out there.

———-

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[Two years ago, I stand outside the tavern.

“Oi, are you coming or not?” John Hunter asks her, he sounds annoyed before walking away.

She looks at me, then at him. “Do you want to come?”

I scoff, “If he wants me to help he can ask me himself.”

She gives me a sheepish look before going after him.

I immediately wish I had swallowed my pride and followed her. But I don’t. ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

———-

“You should go to bed.” the Dunnick guy says to me, I keep nodding off.
“No, I don’t want to go to sleep just yet. I want to see this night through.”

I get up every once in a while and check my companions are in their beds.

——-

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[Two years ago, I rise from my bed as I see her come in.

She gives a letter to another person. Says to give it to her family when she’s gone.

“What do you mean ‘when you’re gone’?” I sound confused, and I am.

I look into her eyes, there’s tears there.

“Be good Leonce…” She touches my cheek gently, comforting me.

And she leaves. I follow but she’s fast. She tells me not to follow her but I do…and then she just disappears. I don’t think I have ever felt that lost as I was when I she vanishes in front of my eyes. I walk the whole night trying to find her. I don’t succeed. ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

———–

I lay down on my bed, it’s been a really strange night. I want to sleep but there is too much commotion outside…so I stay awake until sleep overtakes me completely. My sleep isn’t perfect but at least there aren’t any dreams.

———-

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[Two years ago she comes to me in a dream.

Or it was a dream to me, people have said I rose up and was talking to the thin air outside.

She looks unnatural, but her voice is the same. I don’t care about her long nails or white pupils. I should have asked her what she was but I didn’t. Instead I told her to stay with me forever. She says she can’t, that this is her goodbye.

“Just remember, no one here really cares about you. They say they’re your friends but they’re not. All of them.” her voice is filled with hatred.

She disappears before me again, for one last time. ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

———

I get up early in the morning, I hear snores and no one is awake. The sun hasn’t risen yet. I get dressed quietly before heading to the lake.

Remembering the night before, the warmth I felt from these people…for the first time I think maybe there are some here that do care after all, and that is the most terrifying thought I’ve had in awhile.

On The Way Back

“I think we’re getting close to some Night Malefic…” a brown haired knight said excitedly, grabbing the pommel of his sword…ready to strike.

Leonce laughed softly “We’re not anywhere near them, it’s very early in the morning. If we were close to them, we would already be dead.” he paused for a second before giving the knight a mocking grin. “…my lord.”

The knight glares at the scum, his ego slightly smaller now. “I have killed many men and have heard their cries of despair. I am not afraid of some heretical creatures. God will guide me”

And there was his problem, Leonce thought. Not being afraid is foolish, only an idiot would be fearless in the face of supernatural forces. A classic human mistake, thinking we’re invincible or that good will always triumph or whatever the fuck they’ve been fed their whole lives. Leonce knew different, good people die all the time. Good people die lame deaths, good people die without being ever found, good people die shitting their pants. He wondered if this knight was going to shit his pants on the last moments of his death.

The knight makes an exasperated noise when Leonce doesn’t say anything back to him.

“How long until we meet the the guide to get to Stragosa?” the knight sounded impatient, the worst human quality according to Leonce.

“A week at most, my Lord. His timing is very unpredictable.”

Another exasperated sound.

Leonce reminded himself that this knight had offered to pay him silver for taking him to where the guide was to meet everyone, silver was always welcomed; otherwise he would have left this petulant child already. From what he could tell, the knight was of no important house…a self made house by the sounds of it, looking for glory to raise his status. The boy was amused that this knight thought he would find glory in a place like Stragosa, there was only death there…If the knight made it that far…

—————————

They came in the dark, like they always did. Leonce had wandered off to find more wood for the fire, the knight had been shivering and complaining…if that shut him up then he would go out of his way to find dry wood for the diminishing flame.

Leonce’s movements stop as he hears a painful yell from where the campfire was. He hears the knight scream for help, Leonce almost pities him as he hears his how bloodcurdling his voice carries through the forest. It sounds like a slow, painful death. He hears the ghouls tear into the flesh…the forest echoes those noises as well.

Poor brave knight, he thinks. He wants to let out a chuckle but that would give away his position. So instead he just sits against a tree, eyes vigilant to any attack. Hands wrapping his bloodstained coat tighter around himself.

It’s freezing cold. He can see his own breath as he tries to stay hidden. He stays awake until dawn comes and listens to make sure there are no groaning sounds close by.

With no danger nearby he gets up and stretches. Arriving at the camp, the boy assess the situation. The death had been more brutal than he thought; body parts everywhere, muscle torn to the bone. The knight’s face looks like it’s been half eaten as well, truly unfortunate.

“He did shit himself…” he said quietly, a soft amusement on his voice as he found the legs of the knight smeared with excrement. Another “hero” gone.

He kneels down to rummage through the knights bag, there he finds his purse.

“You’re not going to need it where you are headed.” He speaks to the half eaten head, which is staring at the sky in frozen horror.

Grabbing his travel bag, he walks quietly towards the pass to Stragosa.

Black Reunion

“Would you like some wine?”

There was a long pause as his fingers combed through soft long dark hair. The head on his lap shifts. There is a sigh and the voice that responds is a whisper.

“No…shouldn’t I be the one asking you that? You’re in my home, father would have disapproved of me for being such a terrible host.”

There’s so much sorrow in his tone, it cuts Armand so deep. “I’m sure he was proud of the person you have become, Jantis. You and Hezke both…you’ve become great people. You’ve both made his House proud.”

Jantis frowns, the way he does when he is deep in thought.

“I’m not sure what to do now. How to move on…”

Armand knew that train of thought too well. He’s been there too, he can’t think of a worse feeling than losing someone you love to Death.

“You will move on. All of you will. But for now it’s the time to grief, let your emotions surface. You know I’m here to listen and there is no weakness in sorrow, lets you know you’re human.”

Jantis nods and tries to give Armand a small smile. It comes out as a grimace instead.

“Thank you for accompanying Hezke after she told you of our loss. It’s been nice to have you around, even in these circumstances.”

Armand continues to runs his fingers through Jantis’ hair. The movement ever so gently. “I saw you in my dream.” He can feel Jantis twitch at the mention of dreams. “I didn’t see you, I saw a shadow…surrounded by despair. I knew it was you…though I had no idea what had happened. I thought I would ride here and see you before going back to Bravestone….and then Hezke told me of the sad news.”

Jantis gives a soft chuckle “dreams still happening I see. Just like when we were children.”

Not just like it, Armand thought. He still hadn’t asked Hezke or Jantis how their father died, he figured when they felt like telling him they would. Still, he wondered in his dreams could have prevented Graf Heidrich’s death…and there would be a pang of guilt in the future if he found out he could have. But his dreams latety had been more enigmatic than before…sometimes they would give him premonitions of things he had been worrying about, other times his dreams would take him in directions he was not expecting. He had yet to have a grasp on controlling them and even how to interpret the imagery he was given.

He feels Jantis shifts and then stand up slowly, fixing his clothes as he tries to regain composure.

“I should get ready, in case other houses come to pay respects.”

Armand nods, getting up himself and straightening his jacket. There’s a long comfortable silence as they both slowly try to make themselves more presentable in front of the mirror. Armand feels like Jantis wants to say something but is holding it back…he can feel it by the way he shifts his body back and forth. He decides to take the initiative.

“I know this is probably not a time to have guests here in the house. I wanted to comfort you, wanting to be of help if I could. But I also don’t want to be a burden, and if you’d rather be alone I can travel home after the funeral. I promise I understand needing space right now.”

They stare at each other for a while before Jantis crosses the room to open the door, looking back at Armand with a hint of relief in his voice.

“You can send a raven to Bravestone…let the King know that you’ll be staying here for the foreseeable future.”

The Prince gives Jantis Heidrich a soft smile “At once, my lord.”