Twenty-fifth of Raven 2623


I can't sleep and desperately need to do so. When you said that events would unfold in Cragside as they ought, did you see all of this? My doubts and fears? The corruption and greed and brutality that exist in this town? You see so much more, and so much farther than I; I never asked if you saw the minutia, the seemingly insignificant details, as well. Though my emotional state is of little significance in the large playing board that is the mainland, I worry that it can — and will — affect my perceptions of, and ability to see, the patterns, and the true path I must walk. Perhaps I worry needlessly; I worry nonetheless.

Today, I killed a man. My mind knew that, as a warrior, this was something I would do eventually; I don't think my heart had quite figured out what my mind knew. That this man was threatening a woman was the only reason I needed in the heat of the moment; it was almost as if I was simply an extension of Dayala's will. But now, so much later that I alone am awake, I find myself sitting in a corner of the stables with Fern and dozens of other horses as my only companions feeling lost, feeling overwhelmed, feeling so very, very alone. I know that Gilly would say that in this Age, the life of a Dayalan who spends her time outside the Vale is a lonely one. Long gone are the days when there were whole troops of us spread across the land. And I am a Dayalan who must spend most of her time outside the Vale, while you — who brings more joy to my heart than I ever hoped to feel — must stay safely within the Vale.

My heart is troubled, despite the wise words of a new friend who said, "the day it becomes easy to kill is the day one becomes a beast and not a human." Some people truly are evil; this nameless man was evil and a bully. Perhaps he deserved his fate; surely the fate he had in mind for the woman he threatened was undeserved.

Though her words helped to ease the distress of having to kill, I still feel uneasy and so alone. Yet, I am not alone. In the single day that I have been in Cragside, I have not only found people I can call friends, but I have been reunited with my sister. Why then do I sit among the horses while my sister and my friends, my comrades sleep; why is it that I cannot sleep?

I ask these questions of myself over and over, hoping they will resolve themselves. I know, given time, my heart and mind will be in accord and my fears and doubts will fade; they will be memories I will recall later and I will wonder if I truly had ever been so confused and inexperienced. I trust that you will remind me, my dear Kisa, that I was indeed confused and inexperienced.

It is certainly a pivotal moment, my being in Cragside just at this very time, there is no doubt of that. I tread with as much care as I can, seeking the most secure footing on this path, but more than once, in just this one day, I have had to take leaps of faith that make me wonder if I have gone mad. I can see that there will be more on the morrow; I will have to trust not only myself, but people whom I have only just met. And one of my failings, if it could be called a failing, is that I trust too readily. Despite so many years of watching the proceedings of the Court, I still see individuals as decent, honorable and trustworthy until they have proven themselves otherwise. I can only pray that the trust I place in these people is well-deserved.

I did have a moment of stunning clarity this morning, love. I was studying the paths of action open to me and my group — for I have become the de facto leader of this small band — and things were changing quickly; much more quickly than I'd ever seen. I wondered if it was because I was looking at such tiny patterns. Less than a blink of an eye later, I then wondered how you managed to watch all the patterns, see all the paths, and do it all the time without going mad. Yes, even after Snowgate Pass, I should have known the answer to that question without needing to ask it. But, again, it was as if Dayala reached down to touch my blind eyes and I saw so clearly the many times we spent together. I think that is when I truly understood what it meant for me to be your Knight. Know that I will always be here for you, my Lady Kisa, to keep you grounded with my love and friendship. Even should the whole of the world separate us, you can be assured that I hold you safely in my heart, beloved. Always... you have my vow.

I have also discovered something today that troubles me deeply. I think I must write of that first, before telling of the things that removed some of the potential paths I could walk... paths that we had surmised might be some of the least safe... and altered some of the others. One of my new friends, like most people outside the Temple and Courts, cannot read or write, yet she had a piece of paper that had been given to her, and she felt it might hold some importance for her. When she asked me to read it for her, I agreed without hesitation. At first glance, it looked like any other pedigree and breeding plan chart. But looking closely at the names on the chart, I felt as if an icy hand had reached into my chest to crush my heart. It was, indeed, a pedigree and breeding chart, but not of two lines of horses. The names on the chart were names of people. While many of these names seemed to be Amber names, the one that stood out in stark relief was that of Lord Rikart Kierkegaard... who was to be "bred," so to speak, with the young woman who had handed me the paper.

Seeing this angered me, Kisa. How could anyone look at other people in such a way? And why? You know me well enough to know I think first with my heart, and my heart saw such unfairness to Rikart — who has always been a welcome guest in the Vale, and a decent man who tries to do the best for his people — and my new friend, who simply wishes to feel she has some control over her own destiny.

But then I saw the lines clear back to the beginning of the First Age. The Noble families have always been; they have survived since the days of Yrick. How else could they survive through the First and Second ages, and so far now into the Third, except by careful planning? The icy hand shattered my heart when I thought of you, Heir of Allaine, and what planning has been laid out for you and your life. I wept, my love, so great is my fear of losing you. But know this, my beloved... no matter what obligations you have as Heir and future Khorall of Dawnview, I will be your Knight, your rock, the love that surrounds you for as long as I draw breath.

I know not who gave her this paper, and she insisted we never speak of it, so in that I will respect her wishes. But at one time, the paper belonged to Lord Alhahnah of the Amber clansmen. I cannot see whether this has bearing on the path I tread, but I pass the information to you that you might find where it fits into the greater patterns that you see. I did not have a sense that the ownership was of any significance, though there was a broad hint that perhaps Lord Alhahnah may not have been the rightful owner... or at least not the original owner.

I could try to lay out all the events of this past day — from my arrival late last night in Cragside with a group of strangers and witnessing the murder of a man, to the rescue of the murdered man's daughter from the vile man who kidnapped her — but I fear I could write for days and cover fullhands of parchments, and still not come close to making sense of all that has happened. I think with some perspective, I might be able to tell the tale of my journey to Cragside without getting mired in the minutia. I will say this, though: I do not like this town.

There were three events of the day, however, that I will mention, for they had effects on the paths we have seen. First, this morning I entered into a Contract with a Jvrillian, one of the group who entered the town last night with me. The moment the Contract was Sealed, a number of the paths available to me simply vanished from my perceptions. These were paths that you had deemed less desirable to tread. In addition, a number of other paths appeared to have been altered, though I cannot see down them any further than I could previously. These, too, were paths that had been deemed less desirable.

(It is a most interesting experience, Sealing a Contract with a Jvrillian. I could almost sense the presence of Mikal's god; most disconcerting given Dayala's antagonism toward Jvrill. But as Dayala did not express any displeasure, I will not be concerned about repercussions from that quarter. I will honor my word to Mikal as faithfully as I can, though, for I do not wish any further attention from Jvrill.)

The second incident was the rescue of the young girl; this, too, altered some of the less desirable paths in ways I cannot see. Since she is young, a guardian must be found for her. At the moment, my sister, who is now a Priestess of Attera, acts as her guardian and cares for her as she recovers from the injuries she sustained and the drugs she was given. Here is where I must take another leap of faith and pray that my perceptions of Samara Kelleni are true, as she seems the most logical guardian for girl: they are already acquainted, Samara is not part of the Merchants Guild; and she has ties to the Vale (despite the rumors that float on the wind there... rumors, I suspect, your mother started herself). I do not know if she will agree to act as guardian for the child, given the trouble it might bring her, but she did seem to have concern for the child when I met her earlier today. I do not know if the child will accept her as a guardian, but it appears the child now has no family. Her father was a merchant, the very man whose murder I witnessed, and Samara Kelleni has praised the child as both extremely bright and quite capable. I can sit here alone in the dim light of the Inn's stables and think this the best solution, but I see nothing that indicates it will be a certainty. As I said... a leap of faith, for I cannot even see which path I might land upon once I leap.

The last incident, however, seemed to send a minor quivering down every path. None disappeared, none reappeared, none seemed to be altered... it was almost as if a stiff wind had merely blown across the length and breadth of the world, and on into the future as well. Tell me, if you can, why offering my hand in friendship, offering to share my path to save the this world we know, to a young girl of an Amber clan, who has apparently renounced her family and run away from an arranged marriage, would have such an effect? Is it as simple as this: that I am no longer out here saving the world alone? Or is there something special about her? There is something... intriguing about her, Kisa, that makes me suspect it is more the latter than the former. It is hard to put into words just what is so fascinating about her... it is not just that she is from one of the Clans of Amber, or that she has renounced her family, or that she is a woman who does not accept a woman's role in this world. Perhaps, in later letters, I will have discovered the words to describe Kadri. I don't think any but you would understand when I say I am not interested in discovering her secrets... only in knowing the true person she is.

You asked that I tell you of the people I meet out here, outside the Vale, and of events that occur around me, and I shall do that in later missives. There are a number of other people in this little group who are just as interesting as Kadri; and I must relate to you the reunion with my sister! It is so very late now, however, with not nearly enough time until Her rising. Now that I have put these thoughts upon paper, I think I might be able to sleep.

Though the morrow may prove to be as full and as disquieting as today has been, it will begin as each day has since leaving Snowgate Pass — thanking Dayala during morning devotions for the joy you add to my life, and falling asleep with my last thoughts of you.

I hope you are well, and only wish your "strange and bookish ways" were still able to give us an excuse to sit in a dusty unused room or under a tree in the apple orchard and talk of things both important and insignificant. I miss the sound of your voice, and your laughter; I miss the sparkle in your green eyes when you are thinking frivolous thoughts; I even miss the mask you present at Court as you watch everyone, everything, and the patterns of the the world. I miss everything about you, my dear Kisa... and I will let nothing but Time stand between this moment and the one when our lips might touch once again.

All my love,

© Kelly Naylor
The Heartwood and all characters not otherwise expressly stated are © Kh'Lyh'ra Press / Mike Naylor