A copy of a letter written by Wyndrake Winterheart, Duke of Keswick, on the march to Al’Qafar 1115, to Breeana Fellbourne, of the Order of Nethras
My Dearest Breeana,
The indications are very strong that we shall reach our destination in a few days – perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how everything now leans upon the triumph of this march and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the war.
And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this existence, and to pay that debt.
I write to you from the seemingly infinite black sands of Al-Qafar. Thus far, we march onwards and onwards, day after day, through an endless sea of coarse darkness. Each morning as the Sun rises, I expect to see the a shadow on the horizon, giving us some indication that we’re near our destination, but none comes.
The days are symmetrical, the nights are interchangeable. Each day a wave of Unliving is found behind this sand dune, or over that rise, and each day we fight and march, fight and march.
The swift winds of this part of the Egg alter the geography of the land so very much. One sand dune disappears before us, another rises behind us. Sometimes the wind exposes the remains of the warriors who marched before us, who weren’t as lucky as we have been.
We say a prayer, and march on, knowing the sands will once more bury them in time.
Trudging ever Southwards to this grim destination, a growing shadow has taken root in my heart. Indeed I think that same shadow can be found in the heart of every soldier with whom I march.
Breeana, I fear that I shall not return from this campaign. Each nation on this Egg marches to war, and I know this battle shall decided, for good or ill, the fate of this plane. So many have marched before us, and so many have fallen. We march towards the gateway to Unlife, from which place spews forth the innumerable hordes of abomination.
I put a brave face on for my soldiers, and so too do they, but we all know where we’re heading, and what waits for us. We all know what might happen.
And we’re prepared for this. We have volunteered. It is our duty. It is right to do this. But despite this, and despite knowing that Arturus, bound to me by blood, walks this dark path with me, Breeana I am scared.
I am not scared of facing the armies of abomination, for I will cleave them in twain and put them to rest and give them the peace they deserve. I am not scared of dying, for that is my fate whatever occurs.
I am scared because if I do not return from Al Qafar, I shall never see you again.
In this dark hour, uncertain if I will be able to write another letter, or take another breath, my mind is clear, and I must make a confession to you.
Breeana, I love you.
I thought that I loved you months ago, but since my separation from you I feel that I love you a thousand fold more. Each day since I knew you, have I adored you more and more.
I know this now to be true. At our very meeting my heart called out to you – you are Fellborn, as am I, and I took this feeling to be kinship, for the bond we share forged by a life in the Fells of the Dragonspine. I let it grow in affection and care, feeling drawn to you as kin, knowing that it was my duty to guard you and guide you and support you. But every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home, and some part of me knew this meant more than I could see.
Not all knowledge is clear, least of all to those who know it, and I believe the Pendragon has granted me a blessing. In the hours that may lead to our meeting, the Keeper of the Book of the Dead has granted me understanding of that which I think, somehow, I always did know.
I love you without question, without calculation, without reason – good or bad, faithfully, with all my heart and soul, and every faculty. Believe it, for it is true.
I cannot tell you the suffering I have felt for these weeks past to have not had you by my side. The power of the Pendragon has kept my feet marching, and my sword swinging, but it is by recalling your smile, your laugh, your warmth and affection that has kept me well in spirit.
I have been held aloft o’er the endless black sands by the flickering hope that, unless I am wholly mistaken, you too feel for me as I feel for you.
Was ever any one taken suddenly from a lampless dungeon and placed upon the pinnacle of a mountain, without the head turning round and the heart turning faint, as mine do?
Soon we will come to the city of Al-Qafar, and to the origin of the armies of the damned. This letter should reach you before that dark day comes.
If we are victorious, and the Gathering of Nations comes to Al-Qafar, if I am still living, then I shall see your face, and I shall be content in that reward. If, by happy chance and the Will of the Trinity, you feel for me the same as I feel for you, then let us speak. Come to me at battle’s end and let us talk of love, and of what may be.
I may not survive this battle, but if I do not, they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you. If this is to be the end of Wyndrake Winterheart, then so be it. If my name is to echo no more in the Fells, and the memory of me to blow away in the black desert around Al-Qafar, then so be it. Satu’un may war, Satu’un may win, Satu’un may destroy all that we know. But all his power over death, my love for you is deathless. All his magic and might be damned, for after all is done, the one thing that shall remain as a whisper across all the planes, is this truth; I love you.
I hope that the swift work and fleet foot of the messenger to whom I have entrusted this letter, and that which I send with it, reach to you in earnest. I have entrusted into his keeping something which I wish you to have – it belonged to my Grandmother, and would have been passed to my mother had she not died so young.
My Grandmother gave it to me before she died, requesting that it go to someone worthy of my heart, and so I wish for you to have it, as a token of my love, and, should the worst happen, as something to remember me by.
I am prepared for the seemingly inevitable. When we come to Al Qafar I shall lead my armies under the command of the Lord Marshal, in defence of Life, and though mine might end, know that in recent times it has been made happy by your presence. I ask you, bid farewell to the Fells for me, for I do not think I shall look upon them again while living.
Trinity bless you, darling Breeana, and keep you safe and sound.
With fondest regards,