Headstrong Heart: Impetuous

Dear Gaelyn,

I wish to apologize for the brevity of my last letter. When pen touched paper, my thoughts scattered and I could not put a sentence together that made sense. I did not wish to hold up the other letters, nor did I wish to leave you without, so I made do with what I had.

I wish I could say all that I want to, but even now, more developed words fail me. Form and function do not fit the multitude of emotions that course through me now. I want to write volumes and volumes, but as the shadow over Minas Tirith darkens, all I can say is this:

I was falling in love with you and I left not because I did not love you, but because I did. I was just too proud to say it.

I did not understand it and had not meant for it to occur. When you told me that you could not do it anymore, I was not prepared for how difficult it was to breathe and could only be thankful that statues did not need to do so to exist. I had been so long in a mode of protection, shielding myself from the shame and the loneliness of my home city, that I did not recognize that I snuffed out any response other than the one I was used to presenting. Formal. Business-like. Matter-of-factual. And I could not dispute the facts: you were not ready.

Now that I sit here in my uncle’s spare room far away from home, from safety, and from you, do I realize what a fool I was to leave Durrow. And not because Durrow is so far away from this place that so soon will be under siege. But because I miss you and have missed you since the day I left. I wish I had another day to play with Atrian and see your smile. Even if it hadn’t been for me, if I had been able to turn this feeling back into friendship, it would have been wonderful to see once the pain went away.

And now, I fear I will die with that pain. I will not evacuate; I have been helping the healers and somehow, as insignificant as my hands are, I find they are needed here. It is funny how our worlds turn out sometimes, is it not? I have searched most of my life in an attempt to find a way to make myself useful despite the delicate nature of my sex. And now, my usefulness will likely be my doom. But I am all right with that. I have found my peace with death and I know that I am doing what I can to defend the kingdom. I only hope that our efforts here buy time for the rest of the Free peoples to gather what strength they can to defend their homes.

Find your happiness, Gaelyn. Thank you for the happiness you have given me.

Yours,

Halvel

 

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Headstrong Heart: A Message

Dear Godric,

I wished to let you know that I have landed and made my way to Minas Tirith. Unfortunately, it is not a good time to be in Minas Tirith and my uncle was not pleased at my arrival. He has sent me to the Houses of Healing to assist the healers as they prepare for war.

I must admit that having something to do with my time is a relief. I do not have to think about the encroaching shadow or the oncoming war. I tear and sew (I was never very good at it) and help prepare for worst. 

Do wish the others well. I am hopeful that the darkness that has settled in people’s hearts here does not reach its tendrils into Durrow. I hope that you and the others are safe.

Give my regards to the other Wayfarers. Tell Gael

Sincerely,

Halvel of House Remlor

~~~***~~~

Dear Rosie,

First, I need to apologize. I am so sorry to abandon you and my work at the Broken Cask. I know that my assistance was minimal, but it was a relief to have you there when I was in Bree-land. The loneliness that one experiences when you lose all your friends is very different than the loneliness that descends when you simply have none. 

I have found myself in Minas Tirith, and though I had intended on coming here to live with my uncle, Tomlin, I did not expect to arrive the way I did. I suppose I am lucky to have arrived without something much worse than a bruised eye and broken lip. My uncle was not pleased that he had to present me to others in such a manner, but there was little I could do about it. At least the story of a corsair ship accosting ours earned me some admiration among some of the ladies left in the Houses of Healing.

There are times when I miss you and Glory terribly. I miss Atrian. And Gaelyn. But nothing can be done; it is over and I am gone. I should not have made the choice so rashly. It just hurt so badly when he said he could not anymore. It hurt more than I realized it could. 

If what they say is true, soon it will not matter. Few believe we will survive this storm. If that is true, please tell me that you will be safe, Rosie. Flee into the forest or west to the mountains. The shadow lies over this city and grows each day. It will make the waiting easier to think that you and Glory will be safe. 

Write if you can; I do not know if anything will get through any longer. Know that you are in my thoughts. 

Your friend,

Halvel

~~~***~~~

Dear Gaelyn,

Please know that I am safe in Minas Tirith. My uncle has taken me in and I am working at the House of Healing making bandages and doing simple things where I can. 

I hope Atrian is well. Give him my love.

Halvel

News

Once upon a time, the fields of Fornost were lush and green. Settlements dotted the landscape and folk greeted the armies of Arthedain with cheers and garlands. People farmed and crafted and smithed and life was good among the gentle downs.

Life was good.

Then they came from the north and the east and they destroyed the land and its people.

He fell fleeing to the south with his people, one of a dozen fools to think they could stand against the might of Angmar. They never should have tried to find peace in a land torn by war for generations and generations. They should have known they were to fall among two enemies that day.

I saved him. I saved his spirit from being consumed by the darkness. I saved his spirit from being cursed to wander those broken plains alone.

One day, I will summon him again to me. One day, I will be free of this prison of metal and stone and all of the west will tremble.

~~~***~~~

I think of it often. The crossroads that lead to the four directions: east to hidden wilds, north to cursed lands, west to dangerous territories, and south, back south toward civilization. It is such a lonely place to be, and then he remembered that crossroads when we drew near all those months ago.

If I had the power then that I do now, maybe things could have been different. Maybe I would not have struggled against Faethril, and instead I would have been able to control her anger and use it for good.

Would I have been able to live forever, then, if I had those powers at my disposal? Morty would not have had to be alone. He always ended up alone, and it was because we would always leave him. He had to watch people die around him and he had to bury them again and again. Even if we did not leave him by choice, time would have left him alone.

Is that why? Is that why he let himself go? Esthyr said she found him just lying beneath his oak. That his roses had all died. That he was no longer there inside the shell of Morty Mossfoot. Morty was dead, he was gone, he wasn’t there anymore and he left all of us, Esthyr and Hawk, too.

If I had any doubt in my mind that he was dead, his letter indicated as much. While we were waiting for the horses to be saddled, I remembered the letter Esthyr tucked into my sash and that letter said “They’re probably going to die along with me.” He meant my roses, and he was sorry that they were going to die along with him. That poor little bush that had lived through so many transplants and nights of salted waterings was finally going to die because he did.

But my roses did not die, and I have to know what that means.

~~~***~~~

Holding his child, Halvel could not help but wonder if one day Gaelyn Fletcher would wish for another. He was proud of his son. Any fool could see the love behind the pride when he looked upon Atrian, and though it terrified her at first, it still warmed her heart to see the man bearing the little bundle into the little cabin. And then, he let her hold him.

The noises little Atrian made! Would she learn what each one means? How could she, when all her life the cries of other people’s children hardly moved her or, at their worst, annoyed her? She knew Atrian was part of the deal and she knew Gaelyn would not hold her to their wedding, even if they had consummated the marriage. Did she want this new life of mother and wife that came to her so suddenly?

And then Atrian smiled at her.

Or perhaps he had gas. But it looked like a smile and his big eyes found her face and when she smiled, he seemed happy. When she looked at Gaelyn, he seemed happy, too.

Life is simpler here, she told herself as they walked along the forest path on the way to Ravenhold. She carried Atrian as Gaelyn pointed out new things and the birds sang in the trees around them. Life was simpler, and she told herself that she would do her part to make it home.

~~~***~~~

Emmelina Lilybrook stared at the piece of folded paper in front of her. She sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. Opening the letter, she squinted at the words. She poked them. She traced the first letter of the signature: a line across the top and a line down the middle, like a gallows. It wasn’t Anya’s writing, and she didn’t think it was Abiorn’s since his name started with the same sound as Anya’s. That “T” wasn’t an “A”. She at least knew that much.

“Hey,” she asked one of the girls as she sat at the bar in the Mantle. “Do yeh know how ta read?”

“Some,” the girl answered. “You getting love letters?”

Lina shrugged and held out the bottom portion of the letter. She kept the top folded over onto itself. “Wha’ does that say?” She pointed to what she assumed was the name.

“T…Tor…”

“Tor? That’s too long for ‘Tor’ and what’s he doin’ writin’ me anyways?” Lina jerked back the parchment and frowned at the offending letters.

The girl shrugged. “How’m I supposed to know that? Want me to read it to you?”

“No, no,” Lina said. “Thank yeh, though. I’ve a friend who knows ‘er letters.”

Shrugging again, the girl turned back to her small meal and said, “All right. I’ll be here if you change your mind.”

Lina nodded as she started toward the entrance. “Thanks!” Waving dismissively with one hand, she tucked the letter into her bodice with the other and set off for the South Gate and Durrow.