Tales from the Dragonsong War - Thoughts Unspoken

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Be present, yet unobtrusive. Predict, but never presume. Head bowed, ears open, stepping softly, he was ever ready to serve, as he had for nearly five years. Though well-liked by his peers, to the lords and ladies he was but another nameless face among five score and more men and women who labored tirelessly for House Fortemps. But your day will come - for do we not live in changing times?
The end of the Dragonsong War was only the beginning. The manor had since seen an endless cavalcade of esteemed personages, eager to pay their respects to the old count and earn the favor of the new. Yet not all were so calculating - the newly elected representatives of the Commons seemed less interested in playing the great game and more in simply learning its rules. Poor sods.
Rounding the corner of the manor hallway, the manservant found himself face to face with the head steward of the household.
The old wolf grinned. "Ah, there you are. Walk with me. There is a delicate matter which I would entrust to no other."
"O-Of course, Master Firmien!"
He listened in a daze as his superior listed the legal documentation that served as proof of House Fortemps' historical claim to Camp Dragonhead, which the count apparently required for reasons Firmien did not disclose. Pausing at a window, the steward clasped his hands behind his back and inclined his chin towards the noonday sun. "You should arrive before nightfall if you leave now. And lest there be any lingering uncertainty: you are not to return without those papers. Do I make myself clear?"
The manservant swallowed and gave an earnest nod, when a figure in the courtyard below chanced to catch his eye. Even at a distance, the man was unmistakable. Slayer of Gods. Rider of Dragons. Savior of Ishgard.
"Master Firmien, is not that the Warrior of Light? I was told he would be staying with us for a time."
"I am given to understand that he means to make a journey of remembrance - inspired by one of your compeers, no less. Let us pray you both return to the manor ere long."

The western sky burned crimson at the manservant's back as he was shown into the great hall at Camp Dragonhead. There, the knights listened patiently as he detailed his task, and he was duly granted free rein to search the stronghold for the requisite documents.
It soon became plain that his task would be far from simple. For all Lord Haurchefant's many fine qualities, the late commander of the garrison had plainly not been one for paperwork, his approach to the administrative aspects of his role apparently amounting to stuffing reports, schedules, and invoices into the drawers of his desk at random. Nor were the young pages any help, as none had even the faintest idea where their master might have kept documents of greater import, if not in his office.
With a sigh, he called for ink and parchment. Your day will come. Just you wait…
Out of respect, the manservant had refrained from searching Lord Haurchefant's private chambers on the first evening, but after a fruitless night, he requested they be unlocked on the morrow. Alas, they too yielded naught. His hopes were further dashed at midday, when a raven bearing the head steward's simple reply arrived. Don't ask questions you don't want answered.
And so the manservant remained at Camp Dragonhead, scouring every location in which the documents might reasonably have been stored - and many more in which they should not. As the days wore on, he began to entertain elaborate fantasies as to their fate. Mayhap a pack of highland goobbues wandered through the gates unseen and…no - a goblin thief! Yes, a goblin thief would have little difficulty hiding a hundred such documents in his pack's many secret compartments…
In the twilight hours of yet another sleepless night, the manservant made his way to Lord Haurchefant's private chambers once more, lamp in trembling hand. At once his eyes were drawn to the desk.
He found the drawer with the false bottom almost immediately.
"Fury be praised," he whispered as he fumbled for the papers within. There was no mistaking the seals. As he pulled them free and began to leaf through them, an envelope slipped between his fingers and fell to the ground. He knelt and saw it bore no markings. It wasn't even sealed… Intrigued, he set the other documents on the desk, picked up the envelope, and extracted the parchment within.

My dearest friend,

I pray this missive finds you in good health and high spirits.
It has been some several days since you and Master Alphinaud embarked upon your journey to the west, having learned of the impending Dravanian invasion. Of course, I have no way of knowing when these words will reach you. Mayhap these troubled times will be but a distant memory when they do.
I realize that matters of great import command your attention at present, but when I looked to the distant skies the other day and found myself praying for your safe return, I felt compelled to put pen to paper. Do forgive me this indulgence.
Well then, what to write. I would ordinarily ask if you had been enjoying your time in Ishgard, but given the circumstances of your coming, and your subsequent embroilment in yet another battle not your own, mayhap it were better that I did not. I imagine it is by now altogether too familiar a tale. Even so, it pains me to say that it is distressingly easy to imagine you fighting to the bitter end regardless…
Nevertheless, I cannot deny that it filled my heart with joy to see you finally set foot in our fair city. The thought that I would be able to witness your daily feats of heroism firsthand was quite simply… Well, let us say that I was tremendously grateful for it. And the idea that I might once more fight by your side seemed no less thrilling!
Ah, yes, I have been meaning to say - I do hope my (likely misguided) decision to name your home away from home the Falling Snows did not grate. It was but my artless attempt to raise your spirits. When you sought us out in your hour of need, and I saw firsthand how utterly despondent Master Alphinaud was, I knew at once that I must do everything in my power to help you to preserve the dawn's light, be it as a friend (with a jest) or as an ally - which is why I resolved to petition my father on your behalf.


It was, to be frank, no easy thing for me.
Lest you mistake my meaning, my father is an honorable man, good and true. Doubtless that is why my late mother fell in love with him. Mayhap that is also why she thought it best to leave the family's service - that in doing so, she might help preserve his reputation, though she ultimately chose to place me in his care.
He loved her, of course, as I am sure he loves me, and I him, though we rarely speak of such things. But then our conversations are invariably rather brief.
Mayhap that is why I chose to become a knight.
Alas, my father was firm in his refusal, for although he had supported our shared endeavors with Revenant's Toll and the Scions in the past, providing safe haven for wanted fugitives was another matter altogether. Still I persisted, prompting my father to ask what could possibly have driven me to fight so fervently on your behalf.
And so I told him of the man who had unexpectedly come into our lives - a bright, shining paragon of virtue, whose very presence drove others to be better than themselves. I told him that this man, this cherished friend of mine, was a hero, lies and slander be damned, and that as his friend, it was only right that I help him.
Looking back, it may well have been the longest conversation we had ever had.
Afterwards, he simply stared at me in silence for what felt like an eternity. And then, when I had all but resolved to take my leave, he told me he would give me his answer on the morrow.
The rest, you know.
Thanks to you - and indirectly my father - I have come to appreciate my visits to the manor all the more. You are rarely there, of course, given your propensity for disappearing off on grand adventures, but I forgive you on the grounds that most are undertaken on our behalf! Truly, your famously calm disposition notwithstanding, I suspect, given the right encouragement, you would have some decidedly colorful observations to share. I should be honored to lend an ear someday - mayhap over a drink!
But you will think me facetious. Pray then allow me to speak plain.

My dearest friend, in whom I trust without hesitation, without doubt -
Come what may, I know you will strive on.
You will strive, and in the end you will triumph, on this journey and the next, and the next, and the next.
And when you have fought the good fight, only to find, yet again, that it is not enough -
I will be there.
This I promise. This I swear.

Beyond darkest night waits a new dawn. I pray you greet her with a smile.

Your friend,
Haurchefant Greystone

The fresh snow crunched underfoot as the manservant trudged up the path towards Providence Point the following day.
Eyes bleary from lack of sleep, he had set out upon hearing that the Warrior of Light had passed through the camp less than an hour ago. Still on that journey of his. Though the snow conspired against him with every labored step, he forged on, mindful of his task, for the envelope pressed against his burning breast.
Cresting the hill, the manservant slowed as he caught sight of the figure just beyond the standing stones. As he withdrew the unsent missive from his coat and approached, he opened his mouth to call out, only for the words to die in his throat.
The Warrior of Light knelt before the memorial, motionless. Even at a distance, the manservant could make out his face, a mask betraying nothing… And then, with soldierly abruptness, he rose to his feet, a curious smile spreading across his face. You know, don't you? Everything he never had the chance to say…
In that instant, the north wind laid claim to the letter, plucking it from the manservant's hand and spiriting it away into the heavens. As he craned his head upwards and shielded his eyes, he saw it spiral higher and higher and higher, until at last it was swallowed by the distant sun.


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