Chapter 30: The Letter
To my dear Nisha Dharnas,
When you will receive this letter, I imagine I will not be with you anymore. To tell you the truth, when I started writing this letter, there was so much on my mind that I have been sitting here for a long time, wondering what to say.
I’ve written the first line and your name over and over again, trying to find a good way to tell you what I need to.
However, a realization stuck me. There is no good way to put my words, and it is better like that. Saying farewell to a loved one is never easy, especially so when it will be everlasting.
I did not want to lie to you or mislead you when you were around, but the facts are that my age has been catching up and my health is failing me.
To tell you the truth, it had always intended to spend the rest of my days here in solitude; you already knew that, but I feel the need to tell you the reason behind that decision.
You asked about my past once, and I told you the story up to the point when I was leaving for the Leandar kingdom and learned under my mentor Ebus, taking over his role as a royal court magician. After that, for a while I got ecstatic and dwelled in my newfound position, engrossing myself in the prestige the office brought with it. Frankly speaking, I acted like any egocentric noble would, sauntering about and considering myself to be above anyone else, feeling spiteful in regard to the common people among whom I was born.
Everything changed after I met Yulia, the daughter of the King Giles Loewe. As the second princess of the kingdom and a powerful wind mage, she deserved far more respect and reference than anyone else I had ever met and despite her high social standing she never treated anyone with vanity or contempt. Often listening to the common folk’s troubles and helping them to the best of her ability, she was loved and admired by them.
Being a young and arrogant prick, we initially did not get along well, Yulia herself later admitted that she had disliked me immediately after our first meeting at court.
Only twenty years of age, she was the single gem in a line up of dirty rocks, a honest and pure flower I admired along with all other young males in the capital.
I jumped at the opportunity to work together with the princess when she approached me for a project to enhance the treatment of elves in Thurgau, in partnership with the forest kingdom of the earth elves. At the time there was a lot discrimination against every other race than humans, I had faced a lot of mockery in court too, another reason for me to agree. We spent many hours together, planning different schemes that would be able to sway the opinion of the populace. The honest care she had for people moved me in ways I could have never imagined before meeting her, making me feel humbled reflecting on my past behaviour.
Even after the end of our appointments, I continued to think about our plans, drafting more ideas and further refining the ones we had already spoken about.
Eventually we managed to convince the ambassador to dispatch a group of teachers to the royal academy, while the Leandar kingdom would send students and teachers to the [Elf Kingdom], a first cultural exchange program, and incidentally a huge step towards equality between humans and elfs, the human’s young elite under tutorship of elves, learning from them and thus coming to respect them, seeing people of other races as their equals.
When she received a message of approval from her father, the king, Yulia rushed over to my residence and excitedly told me the good news.
Delighted by the success and the immediate response from the higher-up, Yulia did something I would never forget, one of my most cherished memories to this day.
She leaned on me and pressed her lips on mine, before blushing and stammering a confused apology, muttering that she didn’t know what came over her.
Unwilling to let the chance I had waited for go to waste, I placed one hand on her waist, making her face me, the other hand under her chin, lifting her head so she would look at me straight in the eyes … and I fiercely embraced her, kissing her over and over again. And, oh delight, she passionately kissed me back.
What would I give to go back to her at that time … but I digress.
Young and very different from each other, the odds for us to make this relationship work were especially low; but deeply in love with each other, we decided to meet in secret and forget the difficulties until a later time, the numerous appointments we have been setting so far on the treatment of the elves quickly becoming a welcomed excuse to gather together.
Thinking back about it now, it seems to appear that the King Giles had a few doubts about those reunions but kept quiet, although he way treated me was colder after the increase of my encounters with Yulia.
A major change in our secret relationship happened during the summer fest, when we sneaked away from the guards and all the nobility to celebrate the night like an ordinary couple, showing affection in public, happily forgetting all social conventions.
Regrettably being a princess means having as many enemies as admirers, and Yulia had way too much of both. Someone must have managed to follow us and had sold the information regarding our location. To this day I still do not know why she was targeted; but I know that as we were strolling in the streets of the commoners district, something caught my attention, and time suddenly froze.
An arrow was sailing through the air, flying directly at the back of my beloved Yulia, who was beaming with bliss. In this moment, there was no magic, no aura, no social obligation or status difference. The were only me, the woman I loved, and a solid wooden shaft about to claim her life. I did the only thing that I could possibly do, push the person dearest to me out of the way.
The arrow struck me in the shoulder, its tip showing on the other side.
Yulia was confused and angry at first, wondering why I had suddenly shoved her, however when she noticed the blood she probably called for the guards, because the next thing I remember is me, waking up in the palace, Yulia kneeling at the bedside, her eyes red from all the tears she had shed, desperately holding my hand.
The bolt was poisoned, meaning that without the palace’s healers I would have never woken up again; the King having personally sent for the church to lend me their best priest at the pleas of his daughter.
The King, a person I had always admired, sat down next to my bed after my awakening, having barely escaped death; he looked me over and then did something that deeply shocked me and changed my opinion on royalty.
He thanked me for having saved his daughter’s life, and bowed to me.
I recovered and got back on my feet; and we couldn’t and did not have to hide our relationship anymore, thanks to Giles’ tacit approval; he invited me to dinners and questioned me on my motives, meeting a future father-in-law is always a dreadful thing.
Yulia truly changed me for the best, joining her turned my whole life upside down. Living together, getting married to her taught me many things, humility and what should be one’s most valuable possession.
If the story had ended at this point, I would have been forever grateful and satisfied; sadly that cruel world wouldn’t allow that to happen.
After getting married to Yulia in a private manner, King Giles arranged for us to be instituted as a new duke-class family, thus allowing his daughter to marry out of love rather than out of duty, and giving us the opportunity to found a family.
With a son and a successful start as an uprising noble family, everything was going smoothly until a fateful day, that day’s events being my reason for staying here in the secluded hunting grounds, and also my reason to tell you all of this.
Twenty seven years ago, during the second moon of spring, on the third day of fire, I was travelling to one of the cities belonging to our House in order to inspect the results of an investment we had made; we were ddde both were planning to make our House an outstanding one that we would one day leave to our son.
As soon as I arrived in [New Everbrook], a rider with an urgent message arrived, bluntly explaining me that a fire had broken out in our castle, my wife’s whereabouts remaining unknown .
Rushing back to the mansion, I only found a charred ruin… I can’t even tell you how devastated I was seeing that I couldn’t find my wife anywhere.
I learned that she was staying with our son in the palace, celebrating his tenth birthday with his grandparents when she heard that our residence was burning to ashes. Yulia hurried back home, saying to her family that she was going to try to fight the blazing flames with her magic, however she simply disappeared after leaving the palace, not a single soul able to spot her anymore. Giles personally ordered his knights to search for his daughter, even addressing the public, to no avail, and it was assumed that she had died in the fire, her body burned away.
I refused to believe that my wife would leave her family behind, so I personally tried to reveal the truth; entrusting Luthais to his grandfather, as I was desperate and did not take his needs into account… It’s something I could never forgive myself for, even if he did.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but the anguish I felt at the perspective of losing Yulia for good had driven me nearly insane, I broke every moral rule I had ever had in my life, literally slaughtering my way through the city’s underworld, where I finally managed to find the man that had put my house on fire before ambushing my wife.
By tearing him apart bit by bit with magic, I soon learned his motives. They were pointless and worthless.
A noble for whom he had been working for as a crook had paid him to do the job. He hadn’t even considered declining.
Killing the man had not quelled my rage and instead of revealing those informations to my father-in-law and let the royal justice take over, I evaded his guards and personally invaded the culprit’s home, savagely demanding answers.
I wish I never asked him.
The reason why he had taken the love of my life from me and robbed my son of his mother was resentment over trade deals. The improvement of the relationship with the [Elf Kingdom] had accidently reduced the amount of money he was earning in Leandar, reducing his influence at the court.
No personal relation, no great offense, a few gold coins was all it had taken him to plan an assassination on the one he was deeming responsible.
Killing him in the most painful way I knew didn’t help me process Yulia’s death either, I was very depressed, tormented by every second in which I was alive without her for a long time, I just couldn’t justify her death or deal with the guilt I had because I had left her alone during that night.
Sitting in the court was making me feel sick, I couldn’t help but think that each and everyone of those so called ‘nobles’ would have killed my wife without a second thought given opportunity and reason.
I was rarely leaving my chambers, my son stayed with me in the palace waiting for our estate to be rebuilt; thankfully Gile’s son Cederic was always there for Luthais and helped me in raising him, taking the role of an older brother.
Giles took Yulia’s death even worse than me, he abandoned his cheerful nature overnight, turning to alcohol to forget this painful memories.
We were often together, talking about her; it had almost been a century since Yulia had asked him to accept my proposal to her… We both missed her so much…
When he passed away a few turns later -In the end I don’t know what killed him between the heartbreak over the loss of his daughter and the alcohol -, I noticed that I had no more friends left in the capital, no one I would have liked to be with, and Luthais had just turned 25, ready to start his own life.
After talking things over with him, I decided to retire from the court to live my life in seclusion, settling in the mansion in the hunting grounds, Giles had often invited Yulia and me with him here, when he was taking a vacation from being a king.
Maybe I wanted nothing more than spend my remaining time in a place where I had made many happy memories with my wife Yulia, waiting to be reunited with her.
However the broken wheel of time began to restart slowly when I saw you, Nisha.
From our first meeting, you have always been intriguing me, changing a boring life where I was miserably waiting for death into an adventure, full of happy times.
Seeing you grow up and get excited over learning things brought back many memories; we also created many of those on our own. Always elated and cheerful, there was never a day when I was tired of your antics or thought that I had made the wrong decision by going ahead and rescuing you.
Actually, on the contrary you were able to save me so much more than I did to you, giving me a reason to live a while longer: being a good grandfather; that is what I look forward to everyday; you’re healing my injured heart with each and every of your joyous smiles.
Being the grandfather of an outstanding young girl who looks at the world in wonder and is overjoyed to discover something new; spoiling her from time to time; and reprimanding her when she hunted too much again, enabled me to pass away without any worries.
To me, you are family as much as my Yulia or my son Luthais, someone I cherish and care for.
Please never forget that, I want you to carry the name Nisha Dharnas proudly -if you chose to accept it as a last present from a grateful old man. Don’t be too sad over my death, I have simply reached the end of my life span, content with the things I left behind: my son and my granddaughter, both of them destined to bring great fame to their name and live outstanding lifes.
I could go on forever like this, but should soon conclude. The last thing I want to teach you is how to forgive yourself. Don’t blame yourself after my departure, this was the choice I had made, I could have made it otherwise.
When the first symptoms of old age appeared, announcing the beginning of my slow decay to the end, I had another dream of the two goddesses, Bael and Gabriel. They offered me to alter our deal, prolonging my life with their powers so as to carry out their deal, and preventing me from unwillingly leaving you. But I do not want that. I thanked them for the offer, yet declined. I can repeat it over and over again, you have to acknowledge that it was my choice to reunite with Yulia, as it had been yours to set an agreement.
Don’t misunderstand, I would have loved to stay with you forever, nevertheless I do not wish to become a shackle that binds you.
There is a whole world waiting for you to explore, adventures to deal with and friends to meet.
I wish you the best on your path, and I hope that you will one day feel about someone the way I did about my Yulia, boundless love.
For me at least the time has come, I will soon be able to embrace my wife on the other side, she has after all been waiting for a very long time.
Since I can’t help but worry about my cute Nibbles, I prepared a last little gift for you to start your great journey to the infinite a bit more easily, though you have the last word on accepting it or not.
In the letter I wrote to my son , I asked a favor of him: to let you stay as my adopted granddaughter in the capital Thurgau, and help you attend the royal academy in the hope that you find something you want to do in your life, and get to know people you will be able to call friends. He will talk with you about the details.
You can of course return to your den and live with your siblings, I just want to offer you an opportunity to choose, but I will respect whatever decision you make.
There is so much more I want to do : shelter you all your life from tears, give you as many advices as there are stars in the sky, warn you about boys and whatnot… Unfortunately there’s not enough parchment in the whole house to write it all down, and I know you are a smart young girl who will know what is good for her, making her own choices wisely, so I will end this last letter soon.
When you left to test your newest enchantment, it was a great opportunity for me, had you not went to the forest on your own, I would have asked you to make a trip somewhere, as I couldn’t conceal my sickness anymore, and didn’t wish for you to see me like this.
Your last memory of me should be one of a happy grandfather, seeing you off with a smile instead of coughing blood, unable to eat by himself anymore; so once again, don’t blame yourself for leaving, and don’t be too sad either.
Face the future with confidence and know that I will watch over you from the other side, life is too short as it is.
Crying for someone is no shame, grief is just another form of love.
Just remember one thing:
I love you, Nisha, and that will never change.