This Will Be the Last Time
Dearest Little Star,
This will be the last letter I have chance to write before we reach Abregia’s court. If we cannot talk some sense into him, I fear this war will be lost. The Kar’Shi are more relentless than we imagined. If they had spoken with such silver tongues before the council, we may have avoided this horrific mess in the first place. I’m certain I don’t have to tell you, the Imatria were never equipped for war. We were meant to be guardians of knowledge, scholars, not protectors of lives. But against the summoners, we have no choice but to serve as soldiers. Untalented men could not hope to stand against their otherworldly allies.
The difficulties are different than I anticipated. I have not spoken of this before, but as the situation grows more grim, I am forced to admit that you and your sister will not be able to remain sheltered for much longer. Sad as it is, I believe we will have need of the power you possess before the end. Who could have imagined the situation growing so dire?
It is not as difficult to slay the enemy as I always believed it would be. The Imatria have an innate love for all life. How could we chronicle and safeguard its history otherwise? But the Kar’Shi make themselves easy to hate. When you see the remains of one of their raids; the innocents slaughtered, the local resources picked clean and even the children laid low by their creatures…
There will be no chance of amnesty. I never thought to speak in such a way. Nor did I think it would be so difficult to turn peace-loving people against a common threat. But fear rules them now. The hope that they will survive a year or two longer than the rest, a month, even a week, often gives these rulers pause. Fear, it seems, is more powerful than hope.
Still, my greatest ache is for your absence. Aside from all the death and destruction, I would see this conflict laid to rest so that I might return to your side. Perhaps it makes me selfish, but after these last few week, I no longer care. I long to see the brightness returned to your eyes and the smile to your lips. The galaxy will be filled again with joy and laughter, of that I have no doubt. But the price is greater than ever any of us imagined.
I must be brief. There is much I wish to say, though most you already know. Had I more time, I would pen the words anyway. I should not, perhaps, send this letter. It is more dangerous than all the others. Were someone to intercept and believe I were passing secrets to the enemy, my life would most likely be forfeit. But my messenger is trustworthy, and I take great comfort from knowing my words reach your ears across the vast.
Take heart, my darling Little Star; they say that all things must, in their own time, pass. That surely includes this wretched war. If all goes well, I will see you at the designated meeting place at the agreed hour.
~Zaran of Eltanin
The ink had faded. The edges of the paper were yellow and brittle. She had made copies, of course, fearing the inevitable loss of the original. In the early days, she had copied it by hand into her journal. So many times, in fact, that she could speak the words for memory. But later she made digital copies to immortalize the surviving gift.
Zita rarely took the original document from its protective box, but today she had needed the tactile connection. His hands once touched this page. If she traced her fingers along the aged and faded words, might she not find some trace of his love still remaining? She inhaled deeply, hoping some hint of his scent still clung to the paper, but it smelled now only of must.
Some days, Zaren’s old letters filled the ache in her chest that desired his memory, but today the words felt hollow. Despite all the long days since that faithful ambush, her memories of the war never seemed to grow distant. If she closed her eyes she could still see the villages he described, picked clean by the rogue summoners.
Today she longed to hear his voice. If only they had the means to record voices back then. But perhaps it was a blessing in disguise; who could say how it would pierce her heart to hear him and know she could not touch him.
She skimmed the letter one last time, carefully folded the ancient page and tucked it back into its tightly sealed box. If only she could talk to him today. She wondered what he might say. She did know all the things he left out of that letter. He penned them numerous times before. Even if she hadn’t, he certainly said them enough. But she couldn’t help wondering what he might have written had he realized it would be the last letter of all.
This was my response to the prompt “this will be the last time.” Read more about Zita here.