“Alexandra, as I pen this I know not what will befall me come tomorrow. If all is good, if these adventurers will see reason, you shall not ever need to read these words. But if the worst happens, I wish simply for you to know that I love you, and that I passed in service to our people, and to Rell, as I have always hoped would be the case.
If Belarius truly exists, I pray that he will be watching tomorrow, that I may soon see you once again.”Sealed missive delivered to Lady Alexandra Holt after the Battle of Clearmont
Alexandra stood and turned, spurred into action by the sound of plate mail echoing from further down the hall, heralding the arrival of the Baron. She curtsied as the woman came into view.
“Alexandra,” the Baron said with a smile – partly one of kindness, partly one of sympathy. Alexandra wasn’t sure if she appreciated it. “My apologies it has taken this long to meet with you. Alas, there has been much to command my attention.”
“That’s alright,” said Alexandra, quietly.
“Your husband was a good man. There were none finer in this court and I shall miss him dearly. I…if there is ever anything you need, I’ll see it provided.”
Alexandra nodded. “What’s to happen to…”
The Baron waved a hand slightly. “That’s…you don’t have to worry about it. How are you managing?” She gestured to Alexandra’s seat and eased herself into the empty chair opposite.
Alexandra sighed and sat back down. “It’s difficult. I miss him. We all do. I…” She trailed off, a catch in her throat. “I see him in my dreams. He’s just as real as he ever was, it’s as if it never happened. I wake every morning and there’s a brief moment where I forget, then…then it all comes back.” The widow was silent for a moment, before she spoke again. “What are you doing about…them?” She looked up with a hard face to meet the Baron’s gaze.
“Alexandra, there is not much I can…” the Baron began.
“What do you mean?! It’s clear as day! They—” Another catch, and Alexandra was fighting back tears.
The Baron extended one gauntleted hand and clasped Alexandra’s in it.
“They cut him down!“
The two women let the moment hang in the air as Alexandra began to sob, before the Baron continued.
“The Scalelord has his own version of events. He does not condone the actions but states that the Captain was acting in self defence. That our soldiers were protecting known Scalar fugitives. He claims he has given disciplinary action.”
Alexandra’s face contorted in anger. “Disciplinary act—”
The Baron nodded, squeezing the woman’s hand. “I know.”
“Well…well you’re still going to do something though, aren’t you?! It’s a lie! Of course he would say that!”
“I know. Alexandra, we need to wait—”
“We need to wait?! Amelia, I am not going to wait, this is my husband!”
“I know. But right now there is too much at stake. We simply don’t have the forces to safely divert anyone without leaving ourselves open to attack—”
“This is my husband!” There was a scraping sound as Alexandra pushed her seat out, leaping to her feet.
Amelia Rell remained seated. “I know.”
“He was under your orders!”
The Baron clenched her jaw. “I know.”
Alexandra balled her fists at her side, trembling with anger, staring at the Baron’s unresponsive face. “So…so do something!”
“Alexandra, sit down.”
“No! No! You don’t understand! You don’t know what it’s like! You don’t…” She stood for a moment, hot tears streaming down her face before she slumped back into the seat, sobbing into her hands.
The Baron waited a beat before speaking. “I do know what it’s like.”
Alexandra looked up at the woman, her eyes red.
“I lost someone once, who I loved. Someone I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. A soldier, like Ambrose was.”
Alexandra was listening intently.
“Her name was Lily,” said the Baron, sighing. “There was no one who made me happier. I don’t believe a more beautiful smile than hers could exist. My father didn’t approve, he said it was my duty to bear children, continue the Rellic line. I didn’t care. I married her, under an elm tree in spring, the night before the Battle of Brest.”
Alexandra wiped her eyes.
“She died in that battle.”
The Baron’s expression changed, fond reminiscence giving way to a deep sadness.
“I watched it happen. She saved my life. I understand…how it feels to lose someone like that. I understand the pain. I have the same dreams. I wake up the same in the morning, I forget what happened, then I remember and it all washes over me again. Not every morning. But enough mornings. It won’t feel this way for you now, but it gets easier. It still hurts just as much. But you don’t hurt as often. You learn to live with it. You learn to carry them with you.”
Amelia removed one of her gauntlets, holding it up, suspended between both hands as she regarded it. “These were Lily’s. I wear them to keep her with me. Sometimes, when I put them on, it feels a little like I get to hold her hand again.”
She placed the gauntlet back down, reached out and grasped Alexandra’s hand in hers. Alexandra had never seen the woman’s bare hand before. The skin was soft, the fingers elegant.
“I know you’re angry, I know you’re in pain. I understand. And I’m not going to let this go unpunished, believe me. But there’s a time to act and there’s a time to wait. Right now, we need to wait, or a lot more people might die. But I swear, there’ll be a time to act and when there is, I won’t give any quarter. I’ll see every one of them brought to justice for what they did. We just have to wait. Ambrose would have recognized that, I’m asking you to as well.”
Alexandra met the Baron’s gaze. “You’ll promise me this?”