TO Ragnild, Queen of Untherland,
FROM Darza, your lover and servant–under the moon and in sight of crows,
I do not wish to bore you with long digressions of the raids I’ve been conducting here in northern Untherland. Rather, I would ask how you fare. Up north, I seem the only person unaffected by the sickness that’s passing through my camp. Perhaps it is due to my time spent here as your envoy to my Uncle Thorgal in years past. It matters little. The camp reeks of vomit all the same. And your brother’s men harry us while our defenses are weakened.
I call him Uncle, you call him brother, we call him enemy, others call him King. Thorgal has collected so many names that I wonder if he can still remember his own. But I swear to you he’ll not impose his false claim as King. He’ll be put down like the rabid dog he is.
But as I’ve said, I’ll not bore you with such digressions.
You’ve sent me many letters over the past few months. Doubtless I should return the favor. So what to write about? The weather? Well the weather’s fucking wet, and it’s all anyone talks about when they’re not retching, or bitching about the retching. Now coupled with this sickness, the rains have produce a field of small lakes dribbled with retching, or loose bowels.
The mud is polite as a Lady, at least. It curtsies right off my boots so I don’t have to clean it. Though the rain makes it difficult to re-read your letters when I find myself alone and lonely at night.
I can’t say I have much time for loneliness during the day, though. That’s when the fighting happens. That’s when arrows and spears break upon my shield, when I dodge blows that cut might my arm or life from me. That’s when men on all sides scream for help as they lie in the grass and dirt with broken lances and cloven helms, or heads.
I enjoy seeing Uncle’s holdfasts fall and timbered towers burn. I love seeing Uncle panicked, trying to rally his forces—would that he wore a cooking pot upon his head. Mayhaps that would lend him a little more authority.
All the same, I’m far from home, swaddled in an old, damp cloak. The other day I sailed past forests decorated with hanged men and women swaying in the wind. But the weather had been to work on their sigils. Who’s to say whose side they were on?
And by the Nailed God, but I am hungry—that might be the worst of these misfortunes. It’s the quiet discomfort that hurts the most. You don’t see it coming, and then it twists your guts while you’re trying to concentrate on important matters.
I’ve dreamed of roasted duck and honeyed chicken almost as much as I’ve dreamed of you. My comfort comes in the letters you send me. I would read them again were it not for the fucking rainshower that never seems to stop.
I have, however been keeping them on my person at all times It’s a comfort to touch them. Your script is a comfort, for I can imagine how your fingers danced to make it so beautiful.
I must assure you that you do not send me, “too many worries” in your letters, as you say. You are my Mother. Your worries only serve to rally me. Sometimes it seems I fight more to crush your fears than to crush Uncle Thorgal himself.
Keep writing me, please. Send me more of your worries. Send me your loves and fears and secret little things. It’s good for my morale—and my forces’ in turn.
But it’s just now stopped raining, and I can see the sun through the shade of this tent. I think I shall go outside and reread your letters at last. I’ll be sending a raven your way with this letter. I pray it finds you well.
I will quell this uprising. I swear it under the moon and in sight of crows.
Your Sworn Sword, Daughter, and Obedient Servant,