Chapter Twenty-Eight

Abele heard Lidagara shift in the seat opposite him.


"Are you sure you want me to read this?"

"How long is it?"

"Several pages."

"Who else would you have read it?"
Lidagara paused long enough to provide a silent answer. Finally he sighed, the paper crinkling as he adjusted himself once more. Abele could make out the sun overhead as well as a slightly blue hue that could possibly be the sky leaking into the black oblivion that usually served as his vision. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a blurry shadow—Lidagara. The details were very vague, almost so vague that Lidagara was indistinguishable from any other figure. But he was larger than most Denalis, which is how Abele recognized him.

Lidagara sipped at his tea before clearing his throat. "Very well. I will read it."

Abele's shoulders tensed in preparation.

" 'Dearest Abele,' " Lidagara began. " 'I am writing this by candle light, which you once claimed was romantic, did you not? Yet I cannot sleep and my mind churns in great distress at the thought of you hearing these words. Nightmares will surely plague me tonight, though I am sure they will not compare to the demons that stalk you when you sleep.

" 'My story begins a year and a half after news of your supposed death. By then I had acquired some information on how your death came about, most of the details from the very letter you had Udres read to you. I had expected it to allay my questions, but it only provoked my vengeance. At the time, I did not know of Puran's existence. Due to Rodan's name appearing at the end, I believed that the crimes listed were his and his alone. He had a reputation—obscure, but present and apparent with some research—for being a brutal man in battle. I saw no evidence whatsoever that he was not the man I was convinced he was, though perhaps my assumptions tainted my view.

"News came to me from my uncle the king that Rodan and his men were made prisoners of war and, after attempts to extract information on them about Milarkan war strategy, were sentenced to execution. You and I both love this country, I am sure, but my uncle and his men are capable of such torture, so while Rodan never did enlighten me to the horrors that passed in those dungeons, I knew the punishment was acute. However, I myself was obsessed with revenge and wanted to exact my own upon the man who had so cruelly taken you from me and from the life that you so cherished.

" 'Can you imagine it, Abele? What if you had gotten news that I had been raped, tortured, beheaded? Would it drive you mad? Would you want to do unspeakable crimes to the man who had enacted it? I like to think that you are a much better man than I, that you'd never dream of doing such harm to anyone. But I . . .'"

Lidagara trailed off.


"He scribbled out this bit." After a slight pause, Lidagara resumed. " 'I was obsessed. Mad. I loved you with every scrap of my being and I found such love being twisted into hatred for those who tormented you. This is the hatred that made me seek out my uncle and ask that he release Rodan and his men into my care. He was hesitant at first, as they were scheduled for execution. I assured him that I would see Rodan punished beyond what execution could provide, and my uncle released him.

" 'Let me say now that with Rodan came his son and thirty men. There is a small prison still operational within my land's borders, and this was where I sent these men. I had no squabble with them, so while they did remain prisoners, they were well-fed and provided adequate housing arrangements. Later I was told that they received better treatment in my care than they did in battle in Milark. You know how I am; I am nothing if not a good host. So I do not regret imprisoning them, as I saved them from death and perhaps gave them a slice of Denali hospitality.'" Pause. "Abele?"

"What?" Abele whispered, his hands clenching tightly to his knees. He knew what the letter was about to reveal. But he had to hear it. Kasha wanted him to know the whole story. "Continue."

" 'If not for me, Rodan would be dead. This is the only thing that saves me from my own pit of despair. Otherwise, I will be completely honest with you: I was not kind to Rodan. Thinking him your rapist and torturer, I forbid him from sleep for several days, driving him nearly to the brink of madness before asking that he refer to me as his master. I sought to break his stout Milarkan pride, as that seemed to be the only thing in tact after his imprisonment. How much I loathed him! To look me in the eye with such defiance after all he'd done! Oh, Abele, you who are so good and kind should never—could never—understand the wrath in my heart. I cannot ask you to understand, only to listen. I forced Rodan to work beyond his capacity, fed him little, imposed such labor that would break an ox. He despised me, and I him. I was everything he hated and vice versa.

"Alas, he did not break. I was enraged. How could a man who had nothing show such insolence? What else could I take from him if not sleep and food? I threatened to harm his son, though I daresay I never followed through on such a threat. I did, however, order five lashes for one of his men. It was the only way I could get obedience from a man so bent on rebellion. These lashes did not draw blood, amd the soldier was given adequate dressings and time to heal afterward.

" 'There is little more upon which to elaborate. I was told Rodan could not read or write, which was my first clue to the letter being a false one. Rodan had never admitted to writing it, of course, but I thought him a liar. But the thought of torturing an innocent man—that was unfathomable! I clung to my assumptions because to face such an ugly truth would destroy me, when I was already so damaged from the news of your death. I had become a hideous person, and I was not ready to accept that.

"But I did. Eventually I realized the horror that I had created and vowed to set Rodan free. I offered to pay him for his pain and suffering, but he scorned my offer and asked only that I let him leave in peace. Perhaps it was some slice of kindness or perhaps it was another way he thought he could harm me, but Rodan then told me that he knew who had harmed you. And that he would help me destroy him.

" 'Now you know why I did not tell you this. While Puran subjected you to inhuman torture, I myself played a role as wicked master to a helpless prisoner. Me, the supposed gentle soul you had saved from self-pity and wretchedness. I cringed to think that you compared me to Puran, but now I realize that perhaps it is a fair comparison. I acted out in hatred and fear, and Rodan was a victim. In this, you and he are similar in every way.

"Do you hate me, love? I fear that you do. And so I ask that you ruminate upon this until my return. Discuss it with Opheali and Lidagara as you like. I will not offer excuses for my behavior, nor will I beg for forgiveness. You are my everything. When you were gone, I felt as if the sun had been extinguished like a flame, leaving me only to darkness and decay. I will not try to invalidate your feelings. If you hate me, then you have completely earned that right. If you never wish to speak to me or see me again, I will understand, will travel to the other side of the earth so that you may be as comfortable as you deserve to be. No matter how you feel—if you still love me, if you hate me, if you are indifferent—know that I still love you with the ferocity of the strongest wind, the most powerful wave, and the brightest fire. Nothing—your appearance, your blindness, your emotional and physical scars—is a hindrance to that. Anything you desire will be made yours.

" 'With my deepest love and regret, Kasha'."

Lidagara fell silent. Finally he asked, "Would you like some time alone to ponder this, Abele?"

Abele nodded stiffly. "Yes, please."

Lidagara stood and moved away, his footsteps receding across the patio until Abele was left with the sound of birds flitting about the trees in the distance and the trickle of fountain water descending into crystal pools.

Abele felt numb. He knew he should feel a million things at the moment, but it all felt like too much. After all he endured, he wondered if this was the biggest blow, the strike that would bring him to his knees. Because Puran had been a monster, his actions at least were expected to be monstrous. But for Kasha to commit such crimes . . .

Abele wished he'd known sooner. He would have liked to speak to Rodan. He had not noticed anything odd in Rodan's interactions with Kasha, which made Abele doubt the story Kasha told in his letter. How could a man who was tortured become so cordial with his tormentor? If Kasha's crimes were as dire as they sounded . . .

Abele reached up, dabbling at the tears he was surprised to find gathering in the corners of his eyes. He had never felt so alone. At least with Puran he could think of Kasha as an untarnished man of good and sincerity. Now what was Kasha? Was he really so bad as Puran? And was Abele really so like Rodan in his regard?

Abele staggered toward the gardens, fighting the nausea that grew in his gut. Confused, furious, terrified, he drifted through the gardens, hoping that he'd never have to come out.


Kasha looked up as the door creaked open and a head peeked inside. Keena had allowed Kasha use of his office and extra bedchamber, stating with a laugh that Kasha could never leave his work alone, could he? Kasha had some letters to write to investors in Limilfia, and it was best to write them while visiting, was it not? Keena had promised Pama a personal tour through the city and while Kasha couldn't trust Keena with money, he could trust him with a child. Kasha just hoped Keena had the foresight to subdue his flirtations, at least temporarily.

"Who is it?" Kasha asked, dipping his quill into his ink well.

The door opened further. A woman in dark green entered, the velvet on the cuffs looking rough and aged. The cut didn't quite fit the woman's figure, marking the gown as a hand-me-down, probably from the mother, if the style of it was any indication.

"Are you Duke Kasha of Jentirrya?" she asked slowly. She was young, probably Abele's age, if not younger. She was a rather plain girl, her cheeks ruddy and her neck spindly.

"I am," he replied.

She performed a hasty curtsy, her face flushing even further. "My name is Mavechi. I heard you were looking for a governess . . .?"
Kasha frowned. He had sent no invitation to a Mavechi, and he would recall a name so antiquated.

"I don't recall reading your letter."

Mavechi's hands clutched at the small reticule she held across her front. "I'm—I'm sorry, my lord. I have just arrived in Limilfia, so I did not have the time. I left as soon as I heard word that someone was inquiring into prospective governesses."

Kasha sighed and sank back in his seat. Mavechi did not hide her nature very well. It was clear that she had no experience with such an interview before. She had not meet his eyes once since she arrived. And while it was flattering for her to consider him such a figure of authority, he really had no patience for mumbling schoolgirls.

"And who was it that gave you such word?" Kasha asked.

"An acquaintance . . . I don't know exactly what chain it followed in order to get to me." She took a deep breath, hand trembling as she pushed back a curly hair from her forehead. "If you'll forgive me, I do have a list of my qualifications—"

Kasha extended a hand, waggling his fingers. "Very well. Give them to me."

She fumbled with her reticule until she finally extracted an envelope. She handed it to him, then curtsied briefly before ducking back with obsequience. Kasha opened the letter and looked over the handwriting, a hand far neater than anything he could ever conjure.

"You realize, Miss Mavechi, that I have interviewed women with far more experience," Kasha said. He lifted his eyes from the paper to her. She was a rather sad sight, looking heartbroken in the dusk glow from the window behind him.

"Yes, I—I have humbly been looking for a position to fix that, my lord."

"This says that you were educated by priestesses in an orpanage."

"Yes, my lord."

Kasha sighed. Opheali would laugh at him, because he really was swayed by sad stories and dark childhoods. Why else would he return to the slave market every year if not out of pity and a desire to improve at least one life ruined by forced servitude? Perhaps it was because he saw himself in those who were broken.

"I will be frank with you, Mavechi." Kasha stood, smoothing his hands over his overcoat. "My son is a badger disguised as a fawn. Discipline will be necessary."

At this, Mavechi almost looked amused. "I am from an orphanage run by priestesses, my lord. No disrespect intended, but do you believe we were raised on sugar drops and fairy tales?"

Well then, perhaps she did have a sense of humor. That put her above several other women he had interviewed before her.

"Also," Kasha continued, "I have no time for prudes. You may be as pious and chaste as you like, but my household is not one of purity and virtue. We are not religious, and we are rather prone to celebration. Of course we are all loving people, but we do enjoy our wine and company. You will have to be accepting of this, as I will not have any cruel circling gossip."

Mavechi shrugged. "It matters naught to me, my lord. It does not affect my teachings."

Through the thick maple door came the sound of muffled laughter. Kasha went to the door and opened it to find Pama and Keena in the hall, Pama grinning and wielding a wooden sword.

"What is that?" Kasha asked.

"A sword."

Kasha looked at Keena, who patted Pama on the back and smiled at Kasha. "Just a cheap toy bought at the market. Surely there's nothing wrong with that."

"Just what he needs, more weapons." Kasha sighed and stepped aside. "Pama, come in here for a moment, will you?"

Pama rushed into the office, followed by Kasha. Mavechi turned and smiled at Pama, who paused when he saw her.

"Who are you?" Pama asked.

"Pama," Kasha warned, disliking his tone.

Mavechi curtsied, head bowed. "Mavechi. You must be Pama."

"Mavechi is hoping to be your governess," Kasha explained.

"I don't need a governess," Pama grumbled.

"Would you rather me ship you off to school?"

Pama frowned and crossed his arms over his chest, leveling Mavechi with a rather dour look. Mavechi looked unfazed.

"That is a fiece-looking sword you have," Mavechi said.

"Keena bought it for me."

"Do you know how to fence?"

"A little." Pama looked down at his feet for a moment. "Papa taught me."

"That is very fortunate. Having a diverse set of hobbies is important."

"I like to ride my horse Marble and I like to play pirates," Pama blurted. "I don't like reading about history though because it's very boring."

"Well, sometimes we must learn things we don't want to learn in order to become well-rounded people. I dislike poetry but I have memorized at least a hundred poems so that I may appear educated. Some of them aren't even in Denali."

"Poetry's okay, I guess." Pama shrugged. "Are you poor?"

"Pama," Kasha sighed, rubbing his forehead with his fingers, "that is not an appropriate question."

"But she looks poor!"
Mavechi just nodded. "This is one of three dresses I own."

"Only three?" Pama looked horrified. "My mama has at least twenty!"
Pama was really trying to chase this woman away, wasn't he? Kasha wasn't so concerned about that, but he didn't like being made to look like a wretched father with a rude child.

"I consider myself fortunate. Some women only have one dress."

"Sometimes I play with the servants' children and they only ever seem to wear one thing." Pama bit his lip, as if he'd never thought about it before. "If you become my governess, Papa should buy you a new dress."

Mavechi smiled, a genuine expression that added a bit of beauty to her plain features. "That would be very generous, but I don't mind only having three dresses."

Pama turned to face Kasha. "Papa, you should buy Mavechi a dress."

"We will see."

"I'm gonna go put this sword in my room."

So Pama dashed away, leaving Mavechi and a rather annoyed Kasha.

"I like him," Mavechi said finally. "It is not necessary to like the children you instruct, but he seems to be quite sweet."

"He seems to like you, which is fortunate." Pama hadn't taken well to the other governesses, probably because they were a bit older and stern. But did Kasha want a stern teacher for Pama? It seemed unfair, to raise Pama with such liberal standards and then put him under the instruction of a disciplinarian. Besides, Mavechi did not seem exactly weak of heart or determination.

Minutes later, Kasha was signing a document that would make Mavechi Pama's official governess. He'd been away from home long enough; it was time to return to Jentirrya and the uncertainty of the situation with Abele.


Kasha greeted Opheali and his daughters on the porch, giving them all a firm kiss on the cheek and expressing his joy in seeing them again. The twins were dressed in matching white frocks with lace collars—fashionistas already.

"Opheali, meet Mavechi, Pama's new governess. Mavechi, this is my wife Opheali."

Mavechi swept into a clumsy curtsy. "It is very good to meet you, duchess. Your husband has definitely sung your praises."

"He does that," Opheali replied, sending a sidelong glance at Kasha, who just shrugged and smiled. "How did your trip fare?"

"Better than usual, milady. I am not used to riding in a carriage." At this, she blushed. Kasha hoped she'd grow out of that with time. "Your daughters are beautiful."

"Yes, we hope that in a few years you will have two more pupils to chase about the grounds." Opheali smiled graciously at Mavechi, then accepted Pama's running tackle against her legs.

After showing Mavechi her new room in the servant's quarters and giving her proper introduction to other servants of the household, Kasha took Lidagara's arm.

"Where is Abele?" he asked, swallowing nervously as he did so.

Lidagara looked solemn as he jerked his head backward. "On the patio."

A common place to find Abele, as he seemed to prefer the outdoors to the dark corridors of the house. So Kasha slipped through the dining room and hallway until he pushed through a glass door onto the patio. Abele stood at the very edge, though he tilted his head at the sound of Kasha's footsteps on the stone.

"I know it's you," Abele said, voice blank. "I know how your footsteps sound by now." Then he turned, and his good eye fixed on Kasha. "And I can see more every day."

"You can see?" Kasha couldn't help but gasp.

"Not well. Everything is very blurry. But I can distinguish one color from another. I can recognize Lidagara by his size and Opheali by the volume of her skirts. At least, in good lighting." He turned away, looking back out across the gardens. "At night I am still blind."

"How long have you been able to see?"

"I have been slowly improving since I arrived in Denali, month by month."

Kasha was at Abele's side now. "You didn't tell me."

"No, I suppose I didn't."

By the tone of Abele's voice, Kasha knew Abele was not interested in explaining his behavior. Kasha began to play with the lace on his collar, feeling sheepish.

"Do you hate me?" Kasha asked softly.

"I thought I might," Abele replied. "Maybe I do. I don't know."

He had worded it in such a way that neither relief nor terror could leap upon Kasha. But when he said nothing more, Kasha began to panic again.

"Abele . . ."

"I thought I knew you, that is all," Abele said softly, looking down at his hands. "And I loved the man that I knew. But I feel as if you are a stranger to me now, and I cannot be sure if I can love a stranger."

Kasha choked on a bubble of hysteria in his throat, pulling back a hand he had almost set on Abele's arm.

"But now that I think about it, you can't really hate a stranger either, can you?"


"I have spent weeks imagining what I would say to you, and many of these fantasies included some rather cruel things. But now that you're here, I haven't the heart to say them." Abele turned away. "I am confused."

"What can I do?" Kasha blurted. "Tell me what I have to do."

"You are asking a blind man to guide you."

"How blind is he, really?"

Abele crossed his arms over his chest. "I know nothing, Kasha. I have spent every speck of my hatred on Puran. Now there is nothing left but emptiness."

"You are . . . indifferent?" Nothing horrified Kasha more, as his late father had said of Kasha's mother that the opposite of love was not hate but indifference. It was why Kasha never bothered contacting his mother again, because he knew she'd throw away his correspondence before even opening the envelope. Not because she hated him, but because opening a letter from her son would be too much effort for how little she felt for him.

"I don't know."

"Abele . . ." Kasha reached out and touched Abele's shoulder.

"If I were a religious man, I'd ask the gods, but I know they provide no answers. I have asked them why a man I love has tortured an innocent man and how that makes him any different from Puran. But they have only given me silence, so I am left to my own questions, all of which are wells with no bottoms. I dive past one and land in another."

"We can talk about them," Kasha offered in his desperation. "Discussion can help—"

"No." Abele stood rigid now, then turned to face Kasha with a rather frigid expression. "I found no answers to my questions, but I came to realize that there is a poison that runs through all of us. Its source is in me."
"What are you talking about?"

"I think . . ." Abele took a deep breath, closing his eyes. "Kasha, I think that what is between us can be no longer."

Kasha scrambled to find words. "Because of what I did to Rodan?"

"No. Well, partially, maybe. But when I pondered this earlier, I did not even consider that. I've been thinking about it for a while. Surely you will ask why."

"Of course!"

Abele turned to him, eyes wide and serious. As Kasha stood on the scarred side of Abele, all Kasha could see were the deep ravines of scar tissue mottling Abele's once perfect complexion. "I will never be the man you knew. And I do not think I can ever love you like I did."

Kasha blinked. "What kind of madness are you—?"

"I'm not mad!" Abele barked. "Be honest with yourself for once! It has been more than six months, has it not? And tell me, Kasha, how many times have we so much as kissed?"

Kasha sputtered, his mind flickering to the rare instances of overtly affectionate contact. Kasha took Abele's hand or arm whenever he could, but as far as kissing went . . . well, Kasha hadn't thought much on it, as Abele had been gone for several months and then there was the birth of his daughters . . .

"So no matter my feelings on what you did to Rodan, this relationship has been injured beyond repair. I have been injured beyond repair. And no matter how you claim you feel no different, you regard me differently, as you probably should. I was once that stalwart soldier you admired, but what am I now? A scarred, crippled victim who is haunted every night by demons you cannot even begin to imagine. I am a stranger to you just as you are now a stranger to me. Neither of us ever fell in love as the men we are now. Those men who fell in love were different men, different lovers, shaped by naivete and sentimentality. We are trying to tie ourselves together because of who they were. But they are not us."

Kasha was enraged for reasons he could not comprehend. "If that man was so different, then why am I still so madly in love with you? If you are not the Abele I met years ago, then why do I feel the same way?"

"You think you do because of how the old you felt. But I think that if you dig deep enough—"

"Abele, you can tell me all you like that you do not love me as you did. But don't you dare tell me how I feel about you. I don't care that you're scarred and crippled, I never did. You . . . you have convinced yourself of this because that is how you regard yourself. Yes, you are different, and maybe you aren't the man I fell in love with, but it matters naught to me."

Abele frowned. "You are deluding yourself."
"I know what love feels like. Don't patronize me."

"So if I tell you now that I will never be able to make love to you again, you will feel the same way?"

"You are exaggerating."

"No I'm not." Abele's face was hard as the marble on which they stood. "I know now that I cannot."

"How do you know that?"

"You told me not to patronize you on how your love for me felt. Then do not patronize me on how I feel about this."


"You think I want to feel this way?"

"Can't we ever discuss things before you come to these conclusions?" Kasha asked, exasperated. "You decide you are an eunich before you even so much as mention it to me? You hide everything from me and then decide that we cannot love one another. It is as if you are the parent and I am a child, you making all the decisions and then keeping them from me because you believe me too naïve or stupid to understand."

"Ah, and of course you never hide anything from me, such as the fact you tortured a man for months before realizing your error in judgment. In the name of revenge, for gods' sake! If anyone here is guilty of being illusive, it's you!"

Kasha was overwhelmed by the realization that their relationship was a maze to which they would never find an exit. He fought the desire to raise his white flag and walk away, because he hadn't the strength, knowledge, or perserverance to last him through this. He loved Abele, but he was not a genie. He could not magic away all their flaws and weaknesses, flaws that had multiplied the original mess into something far too large to manage. I am but a man, Kasha thought. A man has limits.

But love did not have limits. And that was what kept Kasha rooted there, fighting for something that might not even exist.

"I spent months away," Abele said softly, looking defeated now. "I had my time to heal. But what did heal was only the surface. There is a wound festering underneath that I fear will never heal, no matter how much time or effort is granted to me. On top of what I've learned about you . . ."

"If you wish to leave me because of that," Kasha replied, "then do. But do not leave me because you think I fear the work and patience you require."

"You haven't any idea what work and patience I require. My gods, Kasha, would it be so hard for you to simply move on to someone else? You have a thousand men available to you, a family and house that needs your full attention."

"And then what would you do?"

Abele paused at this but looked no less determined. "Live with my parents, I suppose."

"On my property."

"We could move if it insults your sensibilities."

"Abele . . ." Kasha sighed in exasperation and shook his head. "As if I would ever throw your family out after just offering them sanctuary."

"I will make do as I always did."

"And what then? You claim you are too damaged to love me, so what does that mean? That you will never love again?"

"I don't have much of a choice."

Kasha inhaled, trying to calm himself. He had a sharp temper, and Abele had always been strong-willed, so it was sometimes hard to agree on anything. For once, Kasha longed for Rodan's calm logic. Perhaps he could talk to Abele and change his mind. Then again, Abele and Rodan weren't on great terms either.

"I ask that you not be a slave to your abuse," Kasha said slowly. "Please, Abele. Let us discuss this like scholars instead of fighting one another like animals. I can't help but feel that much of this is due to your own insecurities. You think I should find someone else? There is no one else. You are the only man I have ever loved, the only man to have ever loved me." He paused. "Give it a few more months. A few months in which we talk instead of pretend that everything is okay. Unless my crimes are too grave and you consider me beyond your capacity for forgiveness."

Abele sighed and turned away, leaving them both in silence. When he spoke, he said, "I have wondered if I would even be angry at all if you had tortured my true tormentor. I certainly had numerous fantasies of throwing him into the pits of hell and watching him suffer. So perhaps I cannot blame you for what you did, even if I find it . . . distasteful, to say the least. And Rodan . . . Rodan seemed . . ."

"Rodan eventually found peace with it," Kasha replied. "I found it rather grim—perhaps I felt better when he hated me—but the important part is that we came to an understanding."

Abele nodded. "It seemed that way." He shook his head. "I don't know, Kasha. I don't want you to waste your time on someone who could possibly never heal."

"It is my time to waste." Kasha reached out and put a hand on Abele's. "I want you to worry about yourself. If you truly cannot love as you once did, then we shall have to deal with that, but I want us to communicate as best we can." He leaned in closer. "You don't have to do this alone."

Abele bowed his head, leaning slightly into Kasha's grip. "I can't stay mad at you, can I?"

Kasha chuckled. "It seems you have caught my affliction then."

Abele lifted his good eye to meet Kasha's gaze, and together they shared a small smile, one that dared not hope but one that could not help it.

There was still time for them.


Someone knocked on the door of Kasha's study. He raised his head briefly to call, "Come in."

Lidagara slipped inside, dressed in a loud purple overcoat and newly shined black boots. If not for his size and eastern features, Lidagara could have very well been a fashionable Denali.

"Yes?" Kasha asked.

"This came for you." Lidagara held out a small, worn envelope, looking as if it had traveled a great distance.

Kasha took the letter and glanced at the front. Only his name was written on the front, but since most messengers knew of him and his bloodline, the letter would have had little trouble arriving eventually. The writing was scratchy, barely readable.

"Who sent this?" Kasha asked.

Lidagara shrugged. "The messenger didn't know."

Kasha flipped the envelope over and dug under the lip to the thick parchment that was enclosed inside. Withdrawing it, Kasha's first thought was that a child had written it. The letters were large and shaky, clearly the hand of an amateur. It read:


I hope you are doing well. My children and I have bought land in Ninib, a town slitely south of the capitol. It's a bit warmer here. Tiv is teeching me how to rite and read, but I am old and stupid and he is impashent. I just thouht that maybe you'd want to no that we arived in Milark just fine. My children are hapi and I am glad that I can rest after a hard life of work. The sumer here is nice.

Tell Abelay that I pray for him and his recovery. Hope he, your wife, your son, your hewg house and your million servants are doing well.


Kasha couldn't keep a smile off his face as he read Rodan's letter. The idea of Rodan sitting down to write such a thing was bizarre, amusing, and touching. Kasha could practically hear Rodan's voice in his head, reading slowly but steadily, stumbilng over difficult spellings and throwing Kasha glares when Kasha chuckled.

"Well?" Lidagara asked. "Who's it from?"

Kasha tucked the letter back into its envelope and set it lovingly in the closest drawer to his writing hand, replying, "Just a friend."

The End

A/N: Thank you to all my readers and reviewers. It's been an honor having you on board. :) I know I promised a happy ending and this ending is kind of "meh", but it felt like the right place to end it. Any suggestions or constructive criticism is welcome.