Lone Moon 6, 1187
I suppose by now you must be missing me fiercely. I know, I know, you’ve been spoiled by war. It happens to the best of us. The transition from a constant supply of Gautier to the almost complete physical absence is tough, and many warriors stronger than you have fallen from the trauma of going cold turkey.
I promise I won’t judge, Felix. I’m here to help you through this difficult time where getting a fix of the good stuff (I’m good stuff) is next to impossible. So, take a deep breath. Halt the task of ending your own life because the pain of losing me is too great. Remember: it gets better. Try and do me one favor though and refrain from soaking the parchment through with your tears of wallow. It makes the ink run.
I’m back home now all safe and sound. I’ll assume that if you’re reading this letter then you are as well. That probably isn’t a foolproof assumption, with your tendency to run off sword first, but I’ll make it anyways. I’ll assume that you’re back at your estate now, probably sitting in the library or eating dinner in your room. I hope you lit a fire; it seems like something you’d forget. Guess nothing can be colder than those weeks we spent sleeping in a tent on the side of a mountain top last winter. I really really thought we were going to die that time. What a way to go! Taken out by the cold of all things as if that isn’t Faerghus’ claim to fame for Shit We Can Handle. Fuck war! The cold is the only battle that matters!
It felt less cold at the monastery. I guess it is further south than here, but even so the difference is stark. It was only a few weeks back from me writing this letter, but I swear it feels longer than that. Lifetimes ago. Weird how it also feels like it was just yesterday. Everything moves so fast since the war ended. One day Dimitri’s being crowned king, the next two more of our classmates have been wedded. It feels like a decade has been sewn into creases of the last year. At least a dozen centuries within the last five years.
I wish we were still banging glasses together and singing songs in the dining hall. Wish we were still watching the professor demonstrate how they taught Annette to dance. Wish that we were back in the barracks and bickering about the details of a misplaced spell that we both already forgot. (Actually, that you forgot. My memory is perfect, and it was definitely you who set it on fire)
I’m home now. That feels different than “I’m at home” or “I’m back home” or whatever. I’m home now. I am home. I am home I am home I am home. It sounds weirder and weirder the more I write it, like the word is losing meaning the longer it stays on my tongue. It’s different than before, mainly because how much it’s the same from before. I mean, I haven’t been home in years. I’ve visited. I’ve slept here. Fought skirmishes in what was basically my own backyard, but I haven’t been home since before the war began. Just a visitor, and now I’m not.
It’s like nothing’s changed. I’m sleeping in the same bed. Most of the staff are the same faces from years ago, even if they’re more wrinkled and tired. I skip breakfast in the morning, and my mother chastises me for it. It’s like I’m fifteen again, but in the most artificial way possible.
My father is serious about me taking on the Margrave title, and that doesn’t feel like it has meaning neither. I’ll be sitting there and listening to a meeting and waiting for my father to reply about something, before I realize it’s me who’s supposed to talk. Not just preparations. Not just the future. Margrave Gautier is current and real.
I’m home and what a home it is. An estate more accurately, I guess. I always knew it was big, I lived here most of my life and I’m not that unobservant, but now that it’s technically mine it’s really setting in. I don’t even really get how it’s different now. My parents are still here, my mother still complains about me and breakfast, and my father sits in his den and reviews papers. It’s the normalcy I’ve always pictured of after the war, but it feels fake. Staged.
I feel hyperaware of them, I think. Hyperaware of their presence near me. Hyperaware of feeling watched, even when I know I’m not. I’m not sure what it is exactly. Ghosts probably.
I’m not sure how much I miss the monastery itself, but I’m really feeling its absence now. I miss the classrooms and I miss the food and I miss the pond and I even miss the training grounds.
More than anything I miss something else. Someone else. I’m sure you could guess who.
I miss Manuela in that too tight dress and the way she would lean all the way over when instructing the students. It’s the simple things in life really.
Sylvain Jose Gautier
I’m home. The house is mainly empty. Sometimes the staff are around, but I try not to talk to them. I know how to make a fire and I won’t die. You should eat breakfast. I don’t enjoy agreeing with your mother, so stop making me. If you ever write me again with a joke about one of our professor’s tits, I’ll kill the messenger. I miss the training grounds too; it was better stocked than the ones here. You’re the one who set the hat on fire, so stop lying.
Great Tree Moon 29, 1187
There was a handful of skirmishes at the border, and as one of the celebrated heroes of Fódlan, I took it upon myself to deal with the threat to our great kingdom. It wasn’t a bloody battle, but a frostbitten one instead. Bitter and annoying more than anything. It’s not fun leading troops to battle when the greatest enemy isn’t the poorly armed bandits ahead, or the half-starved monsters stalking the woods, but instead the slow and careful squeeze of the enemy commander’s hand around our throat as he tries to see how far winter will take this battle. Boredom, cold, low morale, and shitty food has defined the last month for me. We had very limited losses, and Fódlan will live to see a brighter future due to my tactile genius, but it wasn’t a fun experience.
I believe that in my last letter I was reminiscent of the times we’ve spent fighting our own battles in the winter. Now imagine that. Remember those cold, awful nights that would leave the entire camp sore from shivering. Now take away the tent because some dipshit lost half our supplies. Take away the thin, watery soup Ashe tried his hardest to spruce up for us. Replace that with thin, bitter rodents hunted, skinned, and boiled down to even thinner and more watery soup.
You can keep the sleeping bag in your memory, the one we shared in the hopes that the combined body heat would keep us from dying in our sleep. Keep that sleeping bag, but replace your handsome night companion with a burly, smelly man who is excessively and unnaturally gassy from the shitty, awful, thin and watery rodent stew that you’ve been eating for the last two weeks. You can’t not sleep with him, because I lied about the sleeping bag, Felix. I lied because half our supplies were lost and in that was one sleeping bag too few. And the burly, smelly, farting man was the one that lost it and I, the handsome and tired and cold commander, am the one who must take responsibility for my men.
Take away the sleeping bag from the pleasant memory of our coldest winter battles. Take it away and instead wrap yourself in a poorly cobbled together bed of dirty hay and smelly rags and a burly, smelly, farting idiot of a man who snores. Also, everybody has lice. Especially your bedmate.
Now, imagine you come home. There is a letter for you on the table. You’re tired and you’re itchy and you smell like rodent farts. You open this letter from your best friend in the world. It’s been two months since you’ve seen him and half of that has been spent snuggled up to a burly, smelly, lice infested man who farts and snores with a harmonic grace that would make Dorothea sob in jealousy.
You open this letter and it is a single paragraph.
You wrote me nine sentences which is approximately a 1:48 ratio of sentence to louse. I’m going to kill you and then shove your corpse into my itchy, fart-y, smelly bed mat.
Lots of Love,
Sylvain Jose Gautier
It’s your birthday tomorrow, so try and stop being such a baby by then. I don’t know if you’re mad about my short reply and haven’t written back because of it, or if you died of influenza. You know some rats carry plagues, right? Did you eat a plague rat? Did you die from a plague rat, Sylvain?
I’ll write you a damn longer letter. Fine. But only if you admit that the last one was funny. What happened to “get a sense of humor, Felix”? When did you become so needy?
I’m home. Sometimes. I have my own title to attend to. My own skirmishes and bandits and empty house. It’s boring mostly. After everything that we’ve done, all the battles and enemies and death knights, it’s all boring in comparison. My sword takes me here. My sword takes me there. I still return home. Wait for the next task.
Winter’s finally breaking. No more snow. There’s still hired help here. I’ve told them to leave, a few times actually, but they don’t listen. I told them that I’ll stop paying them. The old woman threatened me with a wooden spoon. I told them I’ll keep paying their salaries. I’ll pay it until they all die off. Just go and stop bugging me already. The old woman hit me with the wooden spoon.
Winter’s over, now things are green again. The staff is useful for that at least. I wouldn’t know how to tend a garden or trim a tree. I would leave the whole place to ruin. I would let the vines consume the entire house. I would leave it undusted and cold and covered in green. So, it’s probably good that the staff is here.
Weird that your birthday is tomorrow. I feel like I barely survived the torment of mine. You get to escape the birthday party. Everybody’s too busy. Dimitri with being a king. Ingrid with knighthood or what the fuck ever. I’m being a Duke and helping his highness be less of a royal screw up and you’re being a dickhead and sulking about a letter. Busy.
Your birthday is tomorrow, and I’m writing this from the comforts of the woods, two weeks in on a hunt for some stupid mythical beast that’s been stalking a nearby village. Every time I have it cornered it manages to scramble away with nothing but a wreck of ruined crop fields and slaughtered cattle. I’m frustrated and tired and I can’t even spend the night in an inn because that’s the only time the beast is active. I’m stooped in the branches of a tree and scribbling this letter by the light of the smallest torch. Otherwise, I would have come to you directly and smacked you for being such a whiny, little brat about a stupid letter.
When I’m done with this mission then it’ll be back to the capital to help Dimitri secure some political thing or whatever. I’m tired and he drones on too long about the specifics of the politics in his memos to me. Just point my sword to where it’s needed, and I’ll follow. That’s where you can send your reply. To the capital. Hopefully by then you’ve stopped being such an infant.
Garland Moon 6, 1187
To the Duke Fraldarius,
That’s crazy, bro.
The Margrave of Gautier
You’re so immature. Grow up.
Blue Sea Moon 18, 1187
Come on. It’s kinda funny.
Sylvain Jose Gautier
I’m done with this game. It’s too long and too stupid to continue some stupid gag that takes nearly a month to continue. Why would I sit around and wait for you to reply with the same stupid joke? I have better things to do than waste my time on this.
The summer is hot. That’s a letter. There’s an update on the fascinating life of Felix Fraldarius that you’re apparently so desperate to hear more on. The summer is hot like it always is. There are more bandits like there always is. More rogues and politics and just a general buzz of excitement because everyone decides to act up in the heat. It’s like July hits and suddenly there’s three different poorly orchestrated coups happening at once. There’s bugs everywhere. I hate it because they stick on everything. It’s so ugly to see flies on blood. Flies on dead horses. Flies buzzing everywhere. Even at night they’re incessant in their hum. It makes it hard to sleep.
That’s fine since the Boar won’t let me. I feel like I’m running after him all day to clean up messes left in the aftermath of his rampage years ago, and then spending half the night preparing for tomorrow. New plans. New speeches. New territories to visit. New diplomatic relationships. New policies. We can’t just reform whatever is left over. He wants to rebuild it all. From scratch. He has a vision and I can’t always see the entirety of the picture, but there’s a calmness on his face when he speaks of it. His voice doesn’t shake when he speaks of it. He’s confident, not in the details per say, but in the justice he hopes to bring. It makes it hard to be pissed at how much effort it all is, but I’ve built up the talent of being angry at him, so don’t worry about that. I’d kill him if it wasn’t for all the paperwork that’d leave me.
It’s summer and it’s too hot. I hate riding horses, but it’s quicker and more efficient with how much traveling I have to do. Go to one end of Fódlan and solve the insurrection rising from leftover sympathizers to the empire. Now run to the other end and kill these bandits that have been robbing nearby churches. Go here, Felix. Run here, Felix. Fight this. Kill this. I’m following my sword from one end of the Kingdom to the other and it all just leads back to this same empty house.
There’s staff. At home I mean. The ones who have been here as long as I can remember. I’m the duke. I’m in charge. They have to listen to me. They don’t though. I walk into the house and I’m being chastised by the old woman about tracking mud with my boots. I return home and make food and I’m lectured about the nutrients. One of them, the old man with the big nose who use to hit you on the knuckles when you’d try to pinch dessert from the kitchen, you remember him, right? He leaves meals in the icebox. He gave up on me eating at the table, and instead just leaves meals marked with the days of the week and the time I should be eating them.
Is this how it feels to have a kingdom revolt against you? Is this an insurrection against The Duke of Fraldarius? I tried to fire them again yesterday evening. Told them to leave my estate and to take their meals and clucking tongues and lectures with them. The old woman laughed. The old man called me too skinny to give orders.
They leave at night. There are some rooms here, and years back I think some of the staff would sleep in them. When it was my old man and Glenn and me. I have a hard time imagining my father juggling a toddler and a burping baby on his own. We probably would have died in the winter, given only swords and slices of meat for play. None of the staff sleeps here anymore. I’m barely here at nights and can go weeks without visiting home. They have their own houses and their own families and their own dinners to prepare for their actual grandchildren.
It’s quiet. Usually only one room with a fire lit at night. A collection of empty hallways and foyers and dens and training quarters spread throughout the rest. It feels big and empty, but I can walk every inch of the halls a dozen times over at night. It feels like there should be ghosts haunting the estate, but it’s empty. The only memory prevailing is the steady sound of my own footsteps.
I do like sitting in the library. You said you imagine me in it. The one in the west wing. With the big chair that has ink stains of dubious origins that we, of course, are not savvy to. There was no argument over a book, 15 years ago. There was no accidental spilling of ink that we know of.
I like sitting in the library. There’s the grander one, closer to the entrance with books that are spread across the walls and tower in their intellect to any visitor. It’s for show. The titles placed where eye level meets have to be carefully picked. I’m not sure if they’re selected by my father or a studious member of the staff. There’s the grand library for important guests, but that one is drafty. It’s too open and requires too many candles to properly light.
I like the one in the west wing more. The one my old man would tend to himself. It’s filled with books. Mostly fantasy novels that are old and probably ridiculously valuable, but some are newer. Published less than five years ago that he must have bought himself. Some with their spines crinkled and a page or two dogeared. Some shiny and unmarked that he must have planned to read later on but forgot in the rush of war.
There’s the desk with the giant chair that could fit two small children sharing the same book. There’s the chaise next to the window, with the gray wool blanket that was poorly handsewn. The carpets are still dark and soft under bare feet, and the wood on the bookshelves smell of pine tar. There’s the globe resting on the liquor cabinet; the one where the country names are written in gold and that we would spin fast enough that it would turn into a metallic blur. The one that once popped off its hinges because you and Glenn were fighting over it and the old woman yelled at all of us, despite my lack of involvement, because it was so much more expensive than we thought. There’s the liquor cabinet that we tried to drink a shot of bourbon from that caught fire in our throat, and we spit out on the carpeting and tried to wipe up with your shirt.
I’ll sit in the library sometimes. To do work, but not really. Just staying. Resting. Writing letters and fighting off sleep in the hopes that the buzzing flies won’t follow me here. Laying on the chaise and looking at how moon shimmers across the pond out back. Spinning the globe, slowly as to not disrupt the patch work of glue and tape, and wondering where my sword will bring me next.
The hot weather won’t last forever, and my sword brings me to your area of the kingdom then I’ll see if I have a moment to visit.
Verdant Moon 22, 1187
You left your jacket here. I’d say I’d send it along with this letter, but that’d be a lie. You’ve been gone for only an hour, maybe less, and already the boredom has settled in and made a home in my body. The sun is beginning its slow dip below the horizon now, and it’s obvious that you should have left sooner. Summer is hot, yes, but the nights are still cold and, as previously noted, you forgot your jacket.
When you’re back home I hope you’ll be nicer to the staff. Give the lady Mirabelle a kiss on the cheek for me and tell her that I forgive her for always hitting me with that damned wooden spoon. Please inform Walter of my deadly need for the tarts he would bake. The ones he’d send us off in the woods to search for late summer berries, but only if Ingrid was there. He thought we were too stupid on our own to tell the sweet dark red apart from the similarly colored poisonous cousin. He was right, of course, but Ingrid didn’t have to be so smug about it.
It’s been so long since I’ve been to your house. It was always us bouncing back and forth between the estates. Mainly Dimitri’s; his giant palace full of tunnels and hidden quarters and more kitchens than anyone has the right to have. Rarely Ingrid’s, which is fair, her father didn’t have the time to deal with us wreaking havoc. Sometimes mine, and sometimes yours.
I miss the times I would spend a week or two or even three staying at your place. Miss it more with the summer. Your place always felt more lived in, less like the museum of Dimitri’s, but not as bare as Ingrid’s. I remember the pond that you can see from the library’s window. Rodrigue always boasted that his grandfather dug the pond himself, and somehow seemed prouder of that accomplishment than any of your great grandfather’s half dozen war medals. I’m inclined to agree with him on that. Who cares about battles and wars and insurrections and lands seized from enemy territories? The old guy gave me a place to swim in the July heat, and for that reason and that reason alone he is a hero.
July’s way past us by now. August on its way out too. I feel like I’m too paranoid, looking up at leaves on the trees and searching for the traitorous few that are beginning to change their shade. I don’t have too many qualms with the fall, but I’m wary of the cold months already and the isolation they bring. No surprise estate visits. No walks in the town. The battles are harder. The nights aren’t just night, they’re the permanent state of winter with only a few stolen hours of sunlight between. It really is bad for my complexion, having no sun all the way up here in the artic.
It must be getting cold near you too, and that’s a shame. Like I’ve said before: you forgot your jacket.
It’s soft. Not just the fur trim and suede finish, but the copper clasps and leather ties too. Not from luxury, but from use. I have no idea how this thing was even designed. There’s no symmetry to it. The leather is especially worn down, and I feel like I have to be gentle while running my thumb over it. Like it could bruise somehow. I’d wear it, out of loneliness more than necessity really, but your frames a lot slighter than mine and I think the color isn’t very flattering for me.
That’s a nice way to phrase it. Your frame is slight. Not gangly or skinny. Slender, but still strong. It’s like the soft leather on your coat. Your hands, I mean. They’re gripped a sword for so long that they’re calloused and scarred, but somehow, they’ve retained an elegance. You have slender fingers too. Ones that would look at home on a pianist’s hand. You have slender fingers, calloused and scarred, but still soft in their touch. Ones that I feel like I have to be gentle or risk bruising, not in spite of their callouses and their scars, but because of them.
This house is so big. There’s rooms and rooms and rooms. I’m not sure how it’s possible that in this big house with all its hiding places and secret staircases and labyrinth like hallways that we managed to not spend any time alone. For three days. Three fucking days.
I’m glad my parents like you, I guess. Or they like your title. You’re not stupid enough to be fooled by their niceties and cooing praises. Right hand man to the king himself! I think my father has never been more eager about our “strong friendship” than in the last year. The dinners were fun. The whiskey and the shows and my father’s eagerness to pay for it all. I would’ve expected the guest treatment to end after the first night, but my parents wanted to be good hosts as if you haven’t slept here a million times. Well, Felix has been here before. This is the first time Duke Fraldarius has visited.
Three fucking days and I barely saw you alone.
You forgot your jacket here and I don’t think I’m going to send it along with this letter. My shoulders are too broad to wear it, but the leather is soft to the touch. There’s a part where the copper clasps connect to the leather belt, and its smoothness reminds me of the webbing between your fingers. It reminds me of the slope of your knuckles and how they’re so clumsy when fumbling over a rough healing spell or pushing back sweat slick bangs.
Your jacket, it smells of you. Of the hot summer air and the sweat that clings to you. It smells of whetstone against sword. The faintest hint of the sweet almond oils you brush into your hair after bathing. The practicality of your scent, underlaid by a surprisingly tender twist.
I’ll keep your jacket. And later on, I can deliver it myself. When I visit you in your own big house that feels empty no matter how many people filter in and out during the day. If there’s flies, let them buzz. I’ll drown out the sound of their incessant hum.
We can spend time and time and time together. We can spend time together that’s rushed and needy. We can spend time together that’s slow and drawn out. We can spend time in your bedroom. We can spend time in the library. We can spend time outside and by the pond. Then we can spend time in the library, again, on the chair with ink stains that we have no recollection of. On the chaise that overlooks the pond. Or across the desk, with your hair down, and papers that are probably important shoved aside to make room for the two of us. We can spend time together that’s hushed, so your staff doesn’t hear. We can spend time together at night, when everyone’s gone, and we’re allowed to be loud and desperate and vocal in how much we love spending time together.
I like that the leather of your jacket is soft. I like that it reminds me of how it feels to have your hands on my own. On my jaw. One my neck.
I’m glad you forgot it.
Sylvain Jose Gautier
I didn’t forget the jacket.
Horsebow Moon 24, 1187
The war is over, but the fighting wages on. Bloody and dangerous; I’m not sure if I can survive.
My mother is intent on my marriage. I fear that I may die in this conflict.
At first, I think she was happy that I had finally matured out of my steadfast slutty ways.
“No more bimbos and whores!” she said as if I am not both the bimbo and the whore. “Now you can settle down and find a suitable wife,” she had insisted with so much hope and pride in her voice that I really did almost shed a tear. This was about three months ago that she had finally noticed the shift in my behavior, and I wish, for her sake really, that I could have drawn that joy out longer. However, it is not so.
In the absence of me fooling around, my mother has taken it upon herself to begin the task of setting up dates for me. Lots of them. I’ve declined the ones I could. I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I’m still adjusting to the duties of my title. I have trauma from the war where I was forced to either kill my old comrades or watch my closest friends spiral into madness and this has left me with a rocky heart that is unable to ever love again. (“Oh, Sylvain, honey. You don’t need to love her”)
Alas, she is relentless. I swear, my mother should have been the warrior of the family, not my father. She’s smarter, colder and more calculating. I guess as cold and calculating one can be while describing to every noble woman she sees how round and chubby my butt was as a baby. As if it’s not still round and chubby? The slander of it all.
I’m surprise dating now! Which is a lot less fun than it sounds. She’s springing girls on me left and right. When we go out to lunch, or to the market to shop for some unspecified super important thing she definitely needs and didn’t make up.
Even in the office while my father is trying to explain to me how taxes work, I have surprise dates. No, seriously. On one side I’ll have my father droning on about the “friendly connections” I need to build with other dukes and lords and politicians, and on the other side will be my mother gesturing to some woman. I’m pretty sure my mother dressed her herself, like she’s her prized show horse or poodle and I’m an involuntary judge holding up signs with scores for their performance.
“Did you hear that, Sylvain? She loves baking! You have such a sweet tooth, dear. Maybe she could bake you up something special? He loves sweets, can’t get enough of them, especially buns. Sweet buns fresh from the oven! Isn’t that right, Sylvain?”
This, of course is while my father talks over her about how I should call upon that friend of mine. “Lonato’s little project what was his name? Adam? Call Adam over and we’ll have some whiskey and dinner and talk about our futures.”
It really is nonstop and seems to be getting worse. I’ll walk into the kitchen to grab breakfast (which you insisted on!) and there’ll just be a girl there in full makeup and a gown. Who wears a gown to a date? A date that is taking place at 9am in my kitchen? I wish that I did professor’s assassin training, the stealth would come in handy now, but bows are stupid, and swords aren’t as cool as axes. I’m constantly sneaking around. On the watch for “just some last-minute plans with an old friend’s daughter, sweetie.”
She’s getting wise though, and knows that I’m most vulnerable after a day of work. She knows I’m tired. She knows my senses are dulled and my instincts shot. I’m being hunted, Felix. By girls who wear too much perfume and think their push-up bras are subtle.
I’m forming my own strategy here though, so don’t worry. Yesterday I walked into kitchen straight from battle. Armor still on, reeking of blood, a three-inch gash that was dripping poison, and the head of a demonic beast in hand. My mother screamed and the girl almost fainted.
Hopefully, that’ll set a pause on the blind dates for at least a few more months.
Sylvain Jose Gautier
That is possibly one of the worst letters I’ve received in the entirety of my life. I’m including the messenger who informed our household of The Tragedy of Duscur in this ranking. Why were you still leaking poison? Don’t almost die just to prove a point to your parents. Stop being stupid and pay attention in your training. How are you still getting injured by demonic beasts? We’ve fought how many of them by now? How do you never carry anti-toxins on you? So stupid.
I want to tell you to stop being a dick to random girls trying to propose to you, but this is still preferable to your old habit of “I don’t want to get married, so I’ll chase anything that moves.” The bar is low. The bar is so low. The bar is “less of a chance of contacting syphilis” and that’s not a commendable accomplishment.
I don’t have any advice for dealing with your parents and their expectations. I’m not sure why, but my old man never seemed to have any hope in marrying me off. I assume that he assumed that any arranged marriage with me would be a bust and never come to fruition because of my “disagreeable” personality and in that assumption he was correct. Well, like the saying goes: a dead clock is right twice a day. Speaking of dead clocks, I lied. I do have advice. Try having dead parents instead. You and Ingrid got it rough with marriage proposals and family legacies while I’m having a grand time as the son-nobody-ever-expected-anything-of-but-at-least-I’m-not-dead. It’s a real game changer.
This letter sounds bitter. It’s in my nature. I want it to sound less bitter so try and read it like that. Imagine that I’m making fun of you. The punchline is a pile of corpses.
Maybe I am bitter. Fall is here. Which means in a few months it’ll be winter, but also birthday season. Disgusting. I’m still traumatized from the last, and the barrage of birthday songs and tea parties and someone letting Annette drink so she can cry the entire time and blubber “I’m so happy you’re alive, Felix” over and over again on my arm.
And the sweets! Why do birthdays require sweets? I’m sick from the mere thought of it already, but Annette will cry and Mercedes will whimper, and Ashe–sorry, Adam will sigh, and Dedue will scold and if they’re going to be so united on the front of “let them eat cake” then they could at least coordinate it so there’s only one. I should have been born in June. Instead, I’m stuck at the tail end of fucking birthday season and will be up to my ears in cake.
There’s only two months until the wretched block of parties is upon us. I assume that you’ll be present to celebrate the birth of your king. Tell your mother that there’ll be noble women there with their nobility and low standards. Maybe then she and your father will leave us alone for two seconds instead of trying to suck up to me and every other small-time lord.
Actually, I have authority. I can tell Dimitri what to do, that’s basically what be an advisor is, probably. Your parents are not invited to his party. Neither are you. Neither am I. Your attendance is still required in the capital, he’s your king after all, but it’ll have to be spent with me. In an inn perhaps, with a good bar and nice beds.
Wyvern Moon 28, 1187
But what if I want to go to Dimitri’s birthday party? He’s a riot, ya know. A real party animal. I heard he was gonna throw it back on the dance floor and get it moving. I can’t believe you’re going to make me miss the elusive appearance of Dancing Dimitri. How cruel of you. You better make up for this somehow.
My mother has switched to passive aggression. She likes to cluck her tongue at me and ask what happened to her son who was a womanizer. Is he not into woman anymore? What a shame that would be, to be left with no heir. My father is less subtle. He told me that at this point in time it doesn’t have to be a legitimate child, just get out there and make a baby finally. Asked if I remember how it even works.
I can’t be too mad about the sudden renewed interest tenfold. Just as they can see me grow, I can see them getting older as well. They’re more wrinkled. Slower. Tired. Not dying any time soon, I hope. I think that I hope so.
There’s a clock though and the tick of it is echoing louder and louder in the household. It’s so obvious that they’re pushing for me to marry before they die and it’s harder to hide the fact that I’m waiting their deaths out. Our relationship has never been good, but it’s always been present. At least some façade of it. That’s being worn down.
It’s so weird to have the culmination of our familial strife come about in a slow thinning, and not in one final explosion. With Miklan there was an end, a much more literal explosion. There’s my brother and now there’s a monster and now there’s a corpse. Simple. Easy. Wrap a bow on it and shove it into a box to never be dealt with again. With my parents it’s just a slow degradation.
The show’s almost over and it’s time for us to act the part. For me to shape up into the respectable heir they had hedged their bets on. For me to be the son that will carry on the work and worth of my father and his father and his father before. I can play at some of the role. I can smile, and I can strategize, and I can build relationships with the neighboring areas around me. The politics behind it all, I got it covered, but there’s more to being a Gautier than just that. There’s a future to look towards, and for my parents that future is me. No wonder they’re so annoying and overbearing recently. Their son is not taking any steps to carry on the family legacy. If they die before I marry, then all they’ll see for the future is a waste of their time.
How fucked up is it that your joke is right? I do want dead parents. I don’t want them to die, but I don’t want them to be here. Exist. I don’t know. I hate disappointing them. I hate that they can hear the same ticking clock. They can hear the count-down of death versus marriage. It’s kinda of horrible of me.
Sorry. Went off on a rant. I should probably just make a diary instead.
Dear diary, got mad about marriage again. I hate my house. Boohoohoo.
Sylvain Jose Gautier
I guess we have to talk about this. How annoying. I’m not sure when you’ll get this because apparently your new solution to avoiding your family issues is to go on a long ass reconnaissance mission, which okay, yes that’s what I do too, but fuck you.
Your parents are weird. There are normal levels of weird about crests and babies and engagements and all and then there’s the weird ones. Ingrid and Glenn were engaged and honestly? That’s so weird. Why would anyone want to have their husband decided for them in elementary school? That’s weird as hell, but also, they actually liked each other for some reason. If Ingrid looked like a troll and had an even more annoying personality and Glenn said he didn’t want to marry her then there’d be arguments and drama, but it would have been his and Ingrid’s choice. Or maybe that’s just my old man being weird. He didn’t try to marry me off, and it would have been easy to pass the engagement onto me, but he didn’t. He let me be. Either way, that engagement shit is creepy, but normal levels of creepy.
Then you have the freaks into crests like your parents or whatever was going on with Mercedes fucking adoptive father. That goes beyond the scope of cultural degeneration and just twists itself back into a nasty knot of narcissism and cruelty.
You one time said that it feels like you’re hyperaware of something in your house, but you don’t know what. It’s that it feels like there’s something stalking you, isn’t it? In the corners and behind closed doors and under the floorboards. It’s like there’s someone breathing on the back of your neck, but no matter how fast you turn you can’t catch them. You know it’s there. You know it’s hunting you.
It’s Miklan. He’s in the walls and he’s in the shadows. He took up root in your house, but ghosts aren’t real so what’s keeping him there? Your parents. They made him. They let him do all that. Don’t get me wrong, he made his own choices and he’s not some hapless victim in this. I know you want to mourn and pity him, but I’m not his brother and I have no responsibility to sympathize over his plight of “daddy doesn’t love me so I’m going to toss this kid into a well like a wishing stone” so fuck him.
But still, your parents had their own role in this. They made him. They let him hurt you. All so that you could one day shack up with some noble woman and pop out some crest babies. The clock’s ticking and all they hear is the sound of the pain they inflicted upon their children piling up with no reward. Why should anyone pity that? Pity that they broke their children for no reason? Pity that they’ll die with a son who is intelligent and fair and will make an astounding Margrave Gautier? But oh no. He doesn’t have a stupid crest baby. Boohoo.
What more could you possibly owe them?
Don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t mean to suggest that you should yell your desires from the rooftops. That you should abandon your title and that we should run to the woods and live off of plague-ridden rat meat. Frankly, the very idea of those dramatics exhausts me. I have no need for statements. Who would I be rebelling against other than an empty house that can’t even bother to be haunted?
You can just be. If your parents are growing more anxious as each day passes on without you engaged, then let them. You have no reason to atone. They can sit in their selfishness and be burned by it.
Let’s not get an inn. Come to my house. Fuck the capital, fuck Dimitri’s birthday, and fuck you parents too. My staff won’t let me fire them, but I’ll send them away for the day anyways. I’ll send them away for the week.
So, when I see you, I can grab you by the collar and shake you until whatever martyr complex you have in that brain rattles out. I’ll grab you by the collar and shake you until your whole body is loose. Until you can’t remember why you’re so upset. I’ll shake you until you laugh. I’ll shake you until you want to kiss. I’ll shake you until finally some sense has enough room to take up root inside you.
Red Wolf Moon 26, 1187
You have a way with words. I’m not sure if I mean that as a compliment, but it’s very you. I’ll be back in Faerghus soon, and when I’m back I’ll shake you too. Whatever whining little voice is stuck in the back of my head is in yours too. I’ll shake it loose and we’ll look like a pair of fools wrestling in the doorway.
Sylvain Jose Gautier
You stupid, idiotic, reckless dickhead. I want to write out more insults about your inability to stay safe and the barrage of stupid choices you continuously make, but the express messenger is already impatient. I’ve yelled at him twice and anymore I’m sure he’ll “lose” this note.
What a shitty update to receive. “In and out of consciousness. Hurt badly.” All the way down south in some hospital in Morgaine Ravine of all fucking places? Who trained them in sending updates? Useless.
Here’s my message. Sent by the fastest channels Fódlan offers. Yes, it’s written on the back of a wrapper and yes, that is food stains on it, but you’ve left me no choice because you’re that stupid. Read closely:
Threats alone cannot describe the wrath I’ll unleash if you die. I’m paying an insurmountable fee to rush this to your bedside in the middle of nowhere, because I know that whatever magics that operate the postal system is faster than even me. You cannot die because I am coming to kill you personally. So, snuggle up in that hospital bed! Enjoy the comforts of life for a few days longer, before I come and beat the shit out of you myself.
If you’re going to get hurt, at least do it closer to me.
Ethereal Moon 3, 1187
I’m sending you an express message to tell you preemptively to chill. I know it’ll take a few days to get there. Whatever message that got sent while I was unconscious probably has you rattled and pissed off. So, chill. Deep breaths. I’m not going to die. I just kinda passed out. For two days. Bleeding in a ditch. And then passed out another two days in a hospital. No biggie.
I would have stopped any message being delivered to you or my parents if I could have. I know I won’t die, but you don’t have that level of faith in me. Which kinda makes you a dick, if you think about it.
If you’re worried, stop it. If you’re pissed, then well, that’s your normal state of being anyways. Not even the Goddess herself can control that one.
Really, I’m being tended to by only the best healer in all of Fódlan: Mercedes von Martritz! She’s been doing work at this hospital for the last few months. She’s helping like, sick orphans or veterans or maybe orphaned dogs of veterans? I’m not sure. She said missionary work and my mind went elsewhere.
It’s a funny coincidence though. She keeps saying in that soft little voice. “Wow! It must be fate! Thank the Goddess our paths could cross, even if under such circumstances. Now, move over so I can clean out your bedpan, please.”
I think we might have a romance blossoming.
So, chill out. Don’t do something dumb like run across the country on foot. I won’t die, so don’t kill yourself rushing here to kill me which you’re probably doing. Ugh.
Totally alive and fine,
Sylvain Jose Gautier
Ethereal Moon 7th 1187
I’ve heard through Felix that you have been injured. I wish that I could visit you personally, but by the time I reach the hospital you’re stationed in, you’ll more likely than not be on your way back to Faerghus. It’s times when I’m unable to be near my friends in pain, that the crown weighs especially heavily. But enough of that self-pity though. There are always more pressing matters to attend to.
I’m sure by now Felix has arrived. It’s the church a bit south of Morgaine Ravine, correct? An awful place to suffer an injury. I apologize whole-heartedly about the lack of detail given to your reconnaissance mission. The intelligence you received regarding the ill-willed group you were investigating was verified and verified again. Yet such a tragedy still happened. I’m grateful that you and your troops are alive and working towards wellness.
Naturally, Felix will accompany your party back to Faerghus. It will be a difficult trip with your injuries but thankfully, Mercedes has offered her support with ensuring the safety of you and your men.
I am sure that you are eager to return to the comforts of your own home, but I insist that you stop in the capital and spend some time here so your wounds can be thoroughly attended to. Ingrid will be around as well, and she sends her best wishes.
Call me soft, but I am nostalgic for the days of our youth when we would spend the nights together in play. I really must implore you to stay for at least a few days, and as both your king and childhood friend, I believe that it’s an offer you should give serious consideration to. Also, it’s my birthday this month. Just saying.
Well, give Felix my best wishes. Tell him that his time away has been approved, not that he had asked of course. I presume that he’ll be staying by your side for the next few weeks. That is fine as well. Again, it’s not like he asked, of course. It’s not like there’s paperwork involved and it’s not like this has fallen to me. Details details details.
I hope to see you in the next few weeks and that the journey is gentle on you both. When you arrive, we’ll have cake! It’s birthday season after all, and that is always a joyous time.
Happy birthday or whatever, Boar. Thanks for approving my time off. I’m not sure how the paperwork got lost. You’re so careless with these things. I don’t have time to talk to you too long, there’s a party going on for fuck’s sake, and right now it looks like Dancing Dimitri is finally making his annual appearance. So, here’s a note. This is talking. We won’t have to talk of this again.
I already told Mercedes this, and honestly, she did way more of the work than you or I or honestly probably even Sylvain, with patching him up. All the same.
Thank you. Always. Thank you.
We don’t have to talk about this,
(Also, while I have your attention: this is on paper and it is written so in a way it is paperwork and therefore here’s my written request for time off next month. Oh, look over there. I waved to you and you gave me a thumbs up. That’s more approval than my father ever gave me, so I’m calling that good enough. I think your evil twin, Dancing Dimitri, is trying to pull Sylvain over to dance, in spite of the crutches and cast. I suppose I should probably stop that, but who am I to get in the way of natural selection?)
Guardian Moon 21, 1188
My Dearest Felix,
You’re going to leave early, and you’re not going to say goodbye.
It’s not forever, I know this, and you know this, but it still hurts. More than a broken leg. More than a head wound bleeding in a ditch. I’m spoiled by the weeks we spent together. I know that going cold turkey will hurt me, and I guess you’re trying to soften that blow for me.
You’re going to leave early, and you think you’re slick. You think that you can slink out of my empty home like an apparition that ceases to be, but I know you better than that. I can see the tension in your shoulders. I can see the way your fingers twitch, even now as we sit in the same room. The way your jaw is clenching. The way you don’t want to leave my room at night and return to the guest quarters. I know you, Felix. You can’t hide from me.
I’m not going to pretend like the three weeks we spent crossing all of Fódlan while Mercedes tried to keep my leg attached was fun. That sucked. I can’t even be nostalgic about that one. It was just a cold, long, laborious trip full of feverish dreams and the lingering smell of infection.
I liked it when we stopped at the monastery and got to rest finally. I liked it when the professor without question, assumed we would share a room. You’re a terrible bedside nurse, but I wouldn’t want another.
I liked it when Dimitri bullied you into staying in the palace. I liked being able to see you work, to watch you act not just as a sword without thought, but as an advisor as well. I never realized before, but you look constipated when you read paperwork. It’s both charming and funny.
And I liked it when you stayed here, in my home with me. Even after I had healed almost completely. Even after the point that it’d reasonably be time to go. A week by my side, after I returned? That’s just a devoted friend. Two weeks is clingy. Three is when questions begin.
You know this, and I know this, and somehow it still hurts hurts hurts. I know you’re going to leave without saying goodbye. I can see it, now while you sit by the lantern and polish your sword. I can see the crease of your eyebrows. I can see the stiffness of your fingers as you run the whetstone across the blade, and have to remind yourself to not chew on the ends of your hair.
You’re kinda stupid, ya know? You think you hide things well, but you really don’t. People call you stoic sometimes, but only the ones who’ve never been around you for longer than ten minutes. You reverberate emotions off of every inch of your skin. If you’re stone, then you’re also magma. Bubbling under the surface a rocky surface. Bursting out and forming new lands.
I’ll probably slip this letter into the pocket of the jacket you didn’t forget months ago. You’ll take it with you this time, not from choice, but necessity. I already stole the newer one you wore here earlier today.
I don’t mind writing letters. I like it actually. It’s easier than talking sometimes. It feels nice to have a collection of you on paper and present whenever I need.
I don’t mind living apart either. I complain about this house so much, but it’s still my home. It’s still my inheritance. I’m proud of this land and I want to do right by it. You complain about your home too, about your father and your title and your staff that loves you too much, but it’s the same for you.
Duke Fraldarius and Margrave Gautier. These titles aren’t punishments, they’re what we aspire to be. That’s why we’re not going to run off into the woods and live off of plague-infested rats. Not because our family wants us to assume our respective roles, but because it’s etched into our bones.
Eventually, this house is going to be my own. Not just in name, but actually, truly mine. Without my parents stalking the kitchen. Without the ghost of my brother wandering the halls. Your home will be your own as well. We’ll settle into it like the cold in the winter. We’ll seep into the structure, breath with it, fill it with our presence. I want that, and so do you.
So, I don’t mind writing letters. Even if we’re too paranoid of the postal service and can’t seem to exist explicitly and openly even on paper. That’ll change, eventually. I’ll send you dozens of love letters every week. So many of them that your mailbox will be bursting and you’ll grow sick of it and travel all the way here to yell at me to stop.
I’ll write to you. About my day, about the weather, and hating winter. I’ll write to you about our memories of the past. I’ll write to you about looking to the future. Sometimes I’ll send them by post, but sometimes I’ll deliver them by hand. At least every couple of weeks, no longer than a few months in between. You can visit mine. Without my parents and without the background noise of ticking clocks and buzzing flies.
I’ll kiss you in the kitchen and tell you about the time I dropped a demonic beast’s head on the counter and made my mother scream. I’ll kiss you in the dining hall and I’ll kiss you in the gardens and I’ll kiss you in front of my own staff, who will be used to it by then. I’ll kiss you in the doorway too, when it comes time to say goodbye. You won’t have to sneak out anymore, because it hurts too much for me to see you leave. You’ll just say goodbye.
Or, no, you wouldn’t. You’ll probably say something like “well, try not to die while I’m gone” or call me a dumbass. Dickhead.
We’ll know that there’s time though. To visit and to write and to leverage more verbal abuse at me.
You’re annoyed now, because I’m laughing and won’t tell you the joke. You’re not going to push the topic, probably because you feel so guilty about abandoning me tonight without saying bye. So obvious.
I’ll try and pull you into my room tonight. It’ll make it harder for you to sneak away, both practically and emotionally, but what’s the point if it’s not a challenge? I promise I’ll pretend to be asleep when you do leave. Don’t worry about that.
You’ll be gone in the morning anyways, so there’s no need to be nervous about a housekeeper or my mother knocking on your door to find it abandoned. That’s one perk of your emotional inability to verbalize 80% of your thoughts, I guess.
I bet you won’t argue when I pull you to bed. I’ll bet you’ll let me grab you by your collar and drag you over the doorstep. That you’ll let me tangle my fingers in your hair, and that you’ll cup my jaw with your worn, scarred hands.
You’re going to leave without saying goodbye, so you better kiss me in its place.
Yours always always always,
Sylvain Jose Gautier
Smugness doesn’t suit you. You breathe different when you sleep. You breathe different when you pretend. All the same, I wouldn’t know how to leave without the charade.
I want to leave my house in ruins. I want to leave it to decay. Let the grass grow tall enough to shroud it, to have vines break through the windows, and the stone walls swallowed by moss. I keep walking the halls at night. Empty, except for the flies that shouldn’t live throughout winter. I already said that I feel like a ghost haunting myself. That’s still true. What meaning does a home have? What meaning is there to a title? It’s all man-made. Artificial and self-serving; it’s the work of egotism.
Still, I know that this house will out last me. It would take decades for it to become overgrown by nature, and it would take centuries and centuries more for it to finally decay into dust. Its structure is built to loom above. It’s built to withstands harsh winds, ice storms, and blizzards. It’s built to be passed down to a never-ending line of son after son after son. This house more than anything–more than my father’s memory and expectation and an inherited title that I wasn’t even born to have–this house more than all of that is a representation of that legacy. I want to leave it in ruins.
Yet here I am, walking the halls from one end to the next as if my footprints are going to wear the hallways down to nothing. Here I am, sleeping in a library on a chair my father once read to me from, because I’m unsure of how to make any other room in this house feel like my own.
Without you, I would leave. Maybe I’d burn the place down on my way out, but probably not. It doesn’t feel like mine to burn. If it weren’t for you, I would actually fire the staff, even Mirabelle and Walter. Just to ensure that nobody could put this place back together. I’d leave and follow my sword wherever it would decide to take me. If it led me back here, I’d only gaze upon the estate to ensure that its structure was as battered and degraded as my own.
If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t feel grounded to this place. I don’t feel tied or confined as if this is a prison I can’t escape from, but grounded. I can touch the carpeting on the floor and feel like it’s mine. I can look out the window and see the pond and know that it was built for me and any son that comes after. It feels like a small thing. A stupid thing. Even if I can’t feel like I belong in this house, at least I feel that I belong in this room.
It wouldn’t feel like that without you. I want to feel as if I belong in my title too. I want to feel as if we both have our places in this world, and that those places are connected.
I know you too, Sylvain. I know the way that you anger, and how it’s not an explosion, but the dangerous burn of underbrush. I know that you disconnect. That you’re good at making friends, but bad at keeping them with the handful of exceptions. I know how you lie. That you obfuscate and conceal, but in a manner that’s delicate. In thin layers of careful word choices and omitted details and feigned acts of stupidity. Like the layering of filo dough or sheer satin, it piles up until the transparency is gone and you can’t see the details underneath anymore. I know your smiles, Sylvain. The ones that deceive and the ones that are sad. I know the genuine from the false. I know how your eyes crinkle at the corners when you look at me.
I have every scar on your back memorized. The one on your shoulder that blossoms out from a poorly received fireball. The nasty looking gash that looks like it should be from an enemy’s sword, but in reality, is from falling out of a tree while trying to steal fruit from a neighboring noble’s orchard. I know the thin white one that curves from the bottom of your spine, and makes you shiver and flinch when it’s touched. Even though it should have healed years ago. I know which ones haunt you.
I have it all memorized not sight, but from touch. The expanse of your skin is mapped into the pads of my fingers, and my hands are for you alone to hold.
I’ll tend to your wounds with them. I’ll write you letters with them. I’ll drag my knuckles across your lips, and I’ll grasp your jaw to hold you steady.
I’ll use my life to protect those close to me. There’s no use in pretending I wouldn’t anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’ll sacrifice myself for the dead. I won’t drive myself crazy for those who passed on. I won’t live for their memories.
Except you. Except you. Your corpse is the only one I’ll pledge fidelity to, Sylvain.
You’ll visit me for my birthday, and we’ll eat anything but cake. You’ll come to the capital and stay in the same inn, by coincidence of course. I’ll drop by your estate as soon as spring begins and make you fight me on your lawn so I can rattle the winter depression from your brain. You’ll come to my home in the summer and we’ll swim in the pond. We’ll eat in the dining hall. We’ll fill this house up with memories that are louder than any ticking clock or buzzing flies or sound of death.
And in between all of that, all that future and time together, we’ll write to each other. Until we have boxes and boxes of letters. Until I know every detail of your days away from me. Until I can see the slope of your handwriting and hear your voice above all else.