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.


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.

Faith and Failure


“Sister Solace, the fire mage interrogated the Rimelander with torture.”

“Ask me to hold you,” the woman with no skin pleaded, her eyes bright with tears, the one whole thing in the ruin of her face, and Solace could not say no.
“Hold me,” she said softly, a hitch in her voice.
The woman with no skin embraced her, her flesh cold and slick in the night air. Wherever she touched, the nerves cringed; a bone-deep ache, like the worst possible frostbite, drove nausea to Solace’ stomach and a scream from her mouth.
The woman with no skin moaned with happiness, and Solace passed out.
When she awoke, Sven was there, and the woman was gone. He pulled her close with a mailed hand, demanding something of Ignatius- to know what had happened? She collapsed back against him, her eyes almost closing again, when- “Lord Sven, there are more Coldhands in the woods, you’re needed by the bridge.”
Her uncle looked down at her, and she thought she saw concern in his eyes. “Go attend to your duties,” she said. “I’ll be alright.”

“Sister Solace, Luqa stabbed the Inquisitor and they need you.”


Father Inquisitor Asher sat almost crouched in the Ecumenical Council, a deep hood hiding their face.
“Are there any corroborating witnesses besides you to the miracle that lionized Rolf?”, said Sister Solace.
“I understand that a ritual was performed, but we have heard dark rumors regarding its origin,” said Friar Ignatius.
“Lionization is not a choice any one person can make, it is a truth that we as the Church recognize,” said the Eparch.
Asher thrust their head up suddenly, their eyes burning like coals in their sleepless face, and said nothing.


A disgruntled Rimelander is pinned to a tree by about three people, with more surrounding them.
They’re talking about nailing him to it, Solace realizes with sudden nauseating disgust, and she strides into the midst of the group, keeping her back straight and walking with practiced long, smooth strides.
She seizes the man from them and the Dunlander who usually won’t speak to her or make eye contact with her- Shanahan? is standing before her, blocking her path. “You need to speak to Lord Sven if you want to do that. These are his orders.” Revulsion curdles her stomach, and her mind is overtaken for a moment. This is not how prisoners of war should be treated.
Sven is her gentle uncle, who asks after her welfare at the slightest downward twitch of her lips and allows her to tease him mercilessly with twinkling eyes.
Sven is as merciless and cold as the North he was born into, jaded and hardened by two decades of endless battle, willing to spill blood like water to accomplish his goals.
She stares at Shanahan and wonders if she looks as foolish as she feels.
“I am the Prosecutor of the War in the Rimelands. I do not take orders from Lord Sven,” she says, trying to sound brusque, and Shanahan backs down with an uncertain face. She guesses that he’s not yet sure enough of the Throne’s hierarchy to call her bluff.
The warfare meeting is in moments, and Solfyre is saying something about needing to talk to the prisoner. The mage is impulsive and fiery as all her fellows are, but she has shown genuine kindness, and seems trustworthy. Solace almost pushes the man into her arms, designating her mentally as his caretaker.
“Make sure no one tortures him.”


“This city is full of sin. People flaunt their vices and guilt. You must make them fear you. That is your task,” the Grand Inquisitor said, his voice disdainful, almost bored.
Was it sinful or weak that she didn’t want to be feared? That she just wanted to help?

“Luqa stabbed the Inquisitor again.”
A vapid, high-pitched voice chanted in the back of her mind. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on-
Luqa stared at her, and he looked as numb as she felt. She pronounced his sentence, feeling the words roll over her, heavy and unstoppable, feeling as inevitable as Ramulthien.
He didn’t say anything.
Solace didn’t stop drinking until Asher found her puking behind the tavern.


Today she is an executioner, taking on the role of death incarnate, Captain Sinclair’s sword heavier than it should have been in her hands.
A huddle of folk surrounded Luqa, gathering around him as he walked to the bench that served as a block. They looked at her with wide eyes; sad, accusing, angry, resigned, questioning.
The sword slid in so easily, and she felt, with sickening clarity, the ceasing of breath and vibration in his body, the slight slump in his kneeling posture that signified the brain had stopped functioning. Life had fled, and with it any potential or growth or good or evil that Luqa would ever have created in the world.
At her hand.
She should have stayed. She should have buried him, prepared the body, given him that last tenderness, but she was lost, bile rising in her throat. Ignatius stepped forward, and she fled to him like a sinking ship to a lighthouse. “Please make sure he’s buried,” and the Friar nods.

Tonight, Solace doesn’t sleep, though she must leave with the Avalanche’s men at dawn.
Failures play in her head, the moments of weakness, the ignorance of the right path, the small derelictions to help those who needed it. She is arrogant, unwise, heedless where she should be knowledgeable and dismissive where she should be kind. She is a deeply flawed priest and person, but to desert her post would be a worse failure. She is here for a reason. She is here to keep trying.


Ragnar strode into the deep wilderness coming into a clearing, a moss covered boulder sitting half buried in the ground at it’s center. Ragnar’s hands were wrapped in cloth and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves overhead, a picture of peace and serenity, a juxtaposition to the burning rage within. Ragnar squared up against the boulder, his longtime opponent, and threw a punch, the jolt from the impact ran up his arm and into his shoulder, regardless he threw his 2nd, then his 3rd, until finally he was screaming at the top of his lungs and pounding into the stone. The boulder of course, said nothing. When the cry finally died in Ragnar’s chest and blood fell from his knuckles to the cracked earth he collapsed to his knees and headbutted the stone letting his head rest against the cool rock, now slick with his own blood. The same blood that ran down his hands and mixed with tears. Ragnar thought of Luqa, and of Rolf, of his mother, and- oh god was his father even still alive? he had no way to know. Ragnar tried to find peace, but as was often the case, only found resentment and burning hatred, searing him from within. When the rage controlled him it burned so bright that compassion and love were left as cinders. He’d always felt it, but it was only recently he’d begun to call on it, and every time he did it got easier. The rage within Ragnar burning brighter, “how long” he wondered, “before there is nothing left but that Burning?”

Captain Sinclair official report #2

My Lady, Adeline Challant.
The troops who bravely followed me into this cold north quickly set up in the city and reinforced it. The Rimelanders didn’t even dare attack the city under the protection of the lord marshal’s troops combined with my own.
I regret to inform you of the state of the war here. I’m sure you are aware that Njordr is a brutal land, and the people no less so. The Cold Hands clan that we fought throughout Forum engaged in less than savory tactics all weekend, opting to backstab and run at every turn. Friday night I was forced to engage in their form of fighting. In the confusion I struck an ally. In my despair I fell into sin and found Friar Ignatius to help me atone.
Later in the Forum I was forced to make the decision between attacking an enemy who was running from me and letting them harm someone else. I did my best to only fight my opponents face to face, but the dishonor of my enemies became my own. It is with great shame that I write these words to you now. I was shaken from how quickly I felt the savagery of these lands steep into myself, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to overcome the challenge that Njordr represents. But I understand the price of war and I am willing to pay it, for your honor. I remain in control of myself and in pursuit of righteous victory.

With respect,
Captain Sinclair

A Bitter Truth

“There are two wolves. Faithfully borne from the same mother and destined to different paths. One seeks justice from the divine and the other strength from sacrifice.”

Her pen hovered briefly, splattering drops of ink onto the table as she tossed it aside
Didn’t they know? Didn’t they know anything? Frustrated tears ran down her face. She had nearly died, and for what.

It had been idealistic to think the Rimelanders would welcome knowledge about themselves, about their clans and traditions. Is that not what our purpose is as Runespeakers? To help remember what’s been lost. Not to be called useless, pointless, ……weak.

She shook her head, wincing at the sudden bout of dizziness. If it had been so easy to take her out in the open, under the protection of the church….she wondered if her faith had been misplaced, and if she should seek safety in strength elsewhere.


I can’t sleep again. The town is too noisy, too unfamiliar. My back still aches from burying the dead, I’m sure the Friar is just as exhausted as I am. But still…no sleep. The fatigue creeps in and whispers sweet temptation in my ear, but when I lie down, in this new bed, in this new place- nothing. It’s infuriating.

I think I liked the nightmares more than this. It feels like my skin is buzzing. Too many questions, too many things to do. It’s unceasing. I would have gone to the pack’s lodgings but I still…don’t quite know how to talk to them, and I would have felt terribly rude if I’d woken the Lords. So I went to Luqa’s grave- poor soul- and sat by it until the sun rose. I didn’t say anything at his funeral. I don’t think there was anything I could have said, not then. But by the water, when the world was sleeping, I asked if he felt at peace. Or if there was something left behind, undone. The dead often leave so much behind. I will too, whenever Sveas claims me.

How does anyone relax in this town? How does anyone accomplish anything? How do I sleep, deathlike and dreamless, until I don’t ache all over and my mind is clear?

In the Shadow of Leaves 1: Literature

There is an old book in the Chasseur family. François Chasseur had called it his grandpappy’s War Journal. Of course, if he had paid just a bit more attention, he would have known that *his* grandpappy had called it the same thing. There really was no telling how old the thing was. The paper was wrinkled, and of a deep brown that felt delightful to the touch. The leather was of an even darker brown and had the dry look of well cared for leather that should have long since turned to dust. The writing had been in charcoal, and much had faded over the years. None in the Family could remember how to sound the letters, but they all liked to look at it from time to time and pretend. Henri’s recollection of his Uncle before he’d left for military work included a wide array of the book being brandished and thumped for emphasis, spouting tales of knights battling great monsters of old.

The dirty figure hunched over it ran a filthy fingernail over the page lovingly, imagining in the complexity of his mind’s eye, that the words made sense.

** … we have chased the beast through the wood and into the hills. Its voice drive them to madness. I swear to the Almighty God, in whom I have entrusted my soul, never have I witnessed such horrors. It spoke of hunger, and we were hungry. Some of the men turned on each other, eating of their flesh and drinking of their blood. Their minds warped; there was no saving them after. Their screams haunt my dreams. The bliss in their eyes as they chewed the intestines of their children haunt me. There can be no redemption after such things. I pray to God for forgiveness for what I have seen and done in this war.

We have sealed the beast in with the sacred rites. The King has decreed…**

He knew what it said, in his heart he knew. It was talking about a dragon sitting atop a horde, and the brave knights that slew it. Something noble and pretty, like his when the girls dance in the spring with flowers in their hair. A smile splits the weathered face of the man. He dips a corner of the rag into the shallow dish of water and gently rubs it along the page to pull off the words. Gently, he blows on the page to dry it once more. Then the tip of charcoal touches the page and he closes his eyes.

“How den dat go? La-th-eye-a had a youngin’ fer a king, who was called Benny-lass. Benny-lass raised up as a king of this scary city, was protector of them bad religions and their exotic rites. La-th-eye-a had cults with great wealth to its king for dis protection of der sacred places where their differen’ worship could do their endless circle of sacrifice and orgy,” he said with his brow furrowed. “Alright den.”

The charcoal tip started to draw simple images. Lethia was a tower with a halo. Benalus was lion in a crown. There is a pause. This was a young king. The image is wiped away, and the tip drew a lion in a crown without a mane. A shield comes after the lion cub in a crown. Then three simple robes wearing spiked halos. Then a coin. Then an alter with a robed figure behind it.

It felt good to write down the good book. The dirty figure smiled as he accented the halo over the lion.

“Das good,” he said, feeling warm inside.

War Journals 3: Honor in Battle; Dishonor in War

Sven bent armored knees to pluck an apple from the cold hands of a Cold Hand. He polished it on the corpse’s coat before he tilted his head to examine the face of the dead man. His eyelids were unnaturally puffed, lips swollen and blue, and the tip of a tongue protruded from his mouth grotesquely. Poison was a miserable way to die. The first bite of the apple is delightfully sweet as the knight straightened.

“Troels,” he said, speaking around the fibrous fruit currently occupying his mouth. “How sits the tally?”

Finally, he wrests his eyes away from the blue-hued corpse to the commander of his forces.

“Just over five hundred dead,” he says, sniffing in a disapproving way at the poisoned body. “Including… them.”

Sven nods, taking another bite and munching slowly.

“Our losses?” he asks, swallowed and took another bite.

“Some wounded, but they’ll recover. All still capable of fighting, but I’d give the spears a chance to catch their breath,” he carefully schooled the disapproval off his face before the knight before him could see it. They were both of the Bear Hide and had strong opinions on forth-right action. Sven took the tally in stride and nodded before tossing the remains of the apple on the corpse he’d taken it from.

“We won’t have much rest, I’m afraid. We need to press east hard to get to this land bridge before winter falls upon us,” he says, wiping juice from his mouth with the back of a hand and turning back towards his troops. They had hit hard and utterly destroyed this force before they were even aware they were under attack. Laying in wait, as they had been, had blinded them to the Imperial force’s approach. All the better, really. Hard marching troops through unpatrolled woods was typically a recipe for disaster.

Troels for his part nodded, accepting the necessity.

“We will need to find a secure footing before winter snows fall, my Lord. Or cut the Southerners loose,” he said. They were both keenly aware that the northern winters were debilitating to the Gothics in their ranks. The knight just shrugs without answering.

“Find me a rider. Sir Ingvar’s forces are some miles to the West handling the rest of the Unseen’s forces. I wish to know how they fared. Ask if there is any word from the Avalanche and his boys with their orc fiasco,” Sven intoned, striding out of the killing fields towards his horse. Troels snaps a salute and turns on his heels, barking orders to those soldiers too foolish to see the foul mood that had claimed him.

A few men helped Sven mount the armored warhorse before he heeled away and made a slow cantor to the servants setting up his tent. What old age and countless battles had taught the grizzled knight was this: there was no honor in war. There was only the living and the dead. In duels? In boasts? In Courtly love and politics? There, much honor could be found. Far from this… slaughter. What difference did it make to these men whose blood soaked the earth, to die from sword or spear or poison? What difference did it make, if Sven had loudly declared to them that he brought troops against them and to form ranks for the charge? They were just as dead. And the dishonorable action of one knight had likely saved hundreds of lives.

No. The ‘honorable’ war was one quickly lost. To survive, you needed to understand just how far your enemy was willing to go to kill you, then go further to make him die. Always have one more knife than your enemy believed you to possess. Never let them take your full measure. The first priority of any battle was to survive. The *second* was to kill the enemy. And the third was to weaken your true opponent sufficiently that politics can resume. War without a political exit was doomed to extend forever.

So he would teach the Rimelands just who it was they faced. Just how brutal he could be. And when enough of the Clans had been put to the sword, the others would capitulate. And once again, there would be peace. He would make the very thought of raising a sword against the Empire so disgusting, so horrifying, that the Rime would gleefully abandon their horrific monstrosities they had enslaved themselves to.

Then, they would all find warmth and love in the kind and gentle embrace of the Emperor and the kind and gentle redemption of Benalus.

“A thought so sweet, I just may weep,” he grunts to himself with a laugh as he heels his mount to greater speeds.

I miss you

“So then Vindicta smiled and said it was one of the best gifts she’d ever gotten and it just lit my heart right up. It was nothing in comparison to the thrill of seeing Vindicta with… get this, you ready? MY SISTER. I set them up. Lot to explain, but it avoids a rebellion I think and the two other houses will have valuable positions, everyone can win, and most importantly… Lady Dragomir And my sister look absolutely adorable together. What would you have called them? Vinistra? Callictra? I don’t know how you came up with good couple names. This is why you were the attraction mage…” Solfyre laughs, but tears begin to fall down her cheeks, “I often wonder where I would be if you were still around. If I hadn’t failed you. Hasn’t stopped me from failing others.. I really try… no one wants to listen to me… and when they don’t and they get hurt or killed, I hurt. Just like with you, the priests love to tell me I can’t atone for things like that. I swear I try… Should have been a fucking air mage. You’d think I was an insubstance mage with the way people have ignored me. Oh oh—unless they want to feel holier than thou—then they have absolutely no problem telling me how I was wrong, even if I asked or pleaded for alternatives to be considered or taken into action. Mostly the issue is that I don’t have a penis, it turns out. You’ve said it before. If I had a penis, I could also be an accusatorial hypocrite and still feel justified. Glory to a wizard and his ‘staff’ of authority. I’m glad my sister gets it. You would have adored her… probably would have liked her more than me,” Solfyre lets out a laugh but it’s choked off by light sobbing. She does her best to regain composure.

“Vindicta gets it too I bet. Really any woman with some semblance of station or power has dealt with it…fuck… I keep getting sidetracked…”

Solfyre wipes her eyes with her sleeves. She stumbles a bit on a tree root but catches her balance and continues her wandering.

“Anyways, Elgi… I think I’ve mostly caught you up now. I was hoping to see you again soon. I’ll bring the cake. Your birthday is not far out and while I don’t think you can eat it… well… it’s the thought that counts. You can always come to my birthday too. I’m sure Callistra and I will plan something. This will be our first birthday together since we were born,” she sniffles and smiles towards the skulking monstrosity still meandering her way.

“You said you’d always be there… you said you’d always be there…” it repeats over and over. It’s voice is only loud enough to be heard. The farther she gets, the louder and more pained it calls out.

Solfyre does her best to smile through tears and a tightly clenched jaw. “I love you. I miss you. Perhaps one day when we win this war, when I have annihilated those who took you from me… maybe then I will embrace you. Then you can be at peace. We can be at peace. I’d like nothing more than that… but I’m not ready to let you go yet, El. I’m… I’m so sorry.”

Holding up an herb with a lovely purple bloom, she sets it alight and blows the sweet smelling ashes towards what remains of her best friend before turning and running.

The cries of the creature call out to her as if pained as she turns and quickly weaves her her way through the woods. Her lungs and eyes burn by the time she no longer hears it’s voice and finally alone, she straightens out her attire, smooths out her hair, squares her shoulders and walks towards Runeheim with a smile on her face.

Broken body, unbroken spirit

Ragnar had finally recovered from his many injuries at the last forum, and just in time to visit Runeheim again. He chuckled slightly then frowned, how many times had he been through this very same song and dance? Fight, lose but live, recover, and repeat. His life had been a never ending series of battles, not unusual for someone like him, what was strange was how he kept surviving, he’d greeted death more time than he’d care to count, but somehow Ragnar managed to avoid taking that final step. At first he thought it was luck, but no one was that lucky, then he thought it might have been skill but his branding taught him that wasn’t the case, a skilled person wouldn’t have fallen as he did. And so it was then that Ragnar settled upon the reason, stubbornness, he was simply too stubborn to die, every obstacle in his life had been bested not by skill, or luck, or even divine intervention. No every problem Ragnar solved was solved with gritted teeth and painful repetition. Ragnar’s thoughts now drifted into the events at Runeheim the people he’d met and those he’d lost. Perhaps it was over stating to call Rolf a friend, but he supposed the man wouldn’t mind what he though anymore. He couldn’t stop thinking of his friends last request of him, “Do great things.” It was a request he intended to fulfill, but how? Rolf had fought the old gods and worked to slay them and free his people, and he’d done it better than Ragnar ever could have, there were others who would continue that work. But all of this was a farce, Ragnar knew what it was he would. He simply feared what it would cost him. There was more than one kind of Tyranny in the north, and just as there were those that fought the old there must be those who faced the new. Ragnar stood, letting the aches and pains of a life well lived settle into him, he would face it with a Broken body, but an Unbroken spirit