Twelfth of Raven 2623

My dearest Kisa,

Though I write in Ancient, I do not think even Imperial would have the words to describe our last moments together beneath Snowgate Keep. To finally realize you had been the one my heart had waited for all these long years was a joy beyond any I have ever known. To know that I must ride down the Highland Path only a few short moments later nearly shattered my resolve. Only the knowledge that my presence was necessary, even vital, outside the Vale — now... this year, and not any other — allowed me to ride away. Oh, but how my heart ached! Even now, so many handfuls later, I miss you so very much.

Gilly said not a word — ever the patient teacher — as we settled into the travel shelter that night. Perhaps she thought the turmoil I was unable to hide was simply the usual emotional torment all initiates face on their first trip out of the Vale. Perhaps she knew it was more than that, for I strongly suspect that crafty unicorn of hers divined the truth. And I must be honest in saying that having an Immortal set his focus on me is far more unnerving that the combined scrutiny of you, your mother and Verchovai Reena. In either case, we did not speak of it during the entire trip from Snowgate Pass to the Satin River, where our paths diverged.

I now ride alone most days, though I have had occasion to share the path with a few Kierkegaard farmers as they traveled from one farm to the next to help neighbors with the harvesting of their crops. They seem to be good people, these folks, and no stranger to the sight of a lone woman wearing a sword, for they asked after the well-being of Gilly and some of the initiates who had passed this way over the years. I don't mind the time alone, though... truly I don't. I have time to think, I have time to become better acquainted with this fine horse Gilly chose for me, I have time to enjoy what I fear may be my last days of peacefulness for quite a while.

There is one favor I would ask of you, if it is possible. Before I left, Kassia said that she had very little time left before she would join our Sisters. If, when you receive this, Kassia is still with us, please tell her what I was never able to say, because I never understood her manner of teaching until now... tell her that I am grateful, that I am thankful, that I am honored to have been her student; and that despite my extremely thick head, I do realize that everything she did was because she wanted me to be the best I could possibly be, and that I love her for it. I have asked My Lady Dayala to whisper these words to Kassia should this letter not arrive before Kassia leaves the Vale; Verchovai Priestess Kassia should not join our Sisters wondering if her Daxia is a cobble-block after all.

So many of my thoughts are of you, and each one brings a smile to my face. Each day, I look again at the paths arrayed in front of us, and each day I see minor — and what I can only hope are insignificant — changes. How I wish we could sit in the fields where I rode so often and simply talk again. Sometimes I think, "Who are we, to be trying to save the world?" And the answer is always the same: We are the ones who can. I trust that your sight is clearer and more far-reaching than mine. And though worrisome, I will continue to trust your assurance that whatever events may transpire when I reach Cragside, they will be played out in the way they ought.

I love you...

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