Story-A-Day May #26: Letters from the Front

Today’s prompt from storyaday.org is to create a story through a series of documents — like journal entries, memos, social media posts, etc. — that allows the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.

My story is told through one side of a conversation, letters sent by a soldier in a strange war to his sweetheart back home. Her replies are omitted.

***

November 8th, The Year of Our Emperor 372

My Darling Emma,

At last the ship has landed upon foreign shores, and I may resume our correspondence. Would that peace had prevailed, and you could gaze upon such strange splendours at my side.

Even as winter approaches, the trees remain of such vivid violet, only rivalled by your eyes. The rivers shimmer with a silver light from their deepest depths, and their waters taste sweeter than any wine. Curious beasts roam outside the camp’s perimeter glimpsed only in flickers between the tree trunks. The insects make the nights nearly as bright as day, forming constellations about our heads, though they do not help with the growing chill. Rather, it is my thoughts of you that keep me warm.

Alas, Henry, Louis, and Bertrand are calling for me now. Remember, I wrote of our meeting during training at the fort? They have become loyal, steadfast companions. I hope for a swift victory that shall see me returned to your loving arms by spring, when all is rightly abloom.

Your devoted Captain,

Lawrence

November 20th, The Year of Our Emperor 372

My love,

I am well, let me first reassure you on that count. Yesterday, we had our first skirmish with the enemy. It unnerves me even now to speak of the events that preceded it. A squad of sentries had evidently been surprised on their patrol, and the creatures sought to assume their guise and infiltrate our camp.

If not for the vigilance of our well-trained guards, they would have succeeded. However, when their treachery was exposed, a large group attacked from the nearby forest. I am proud to say my men’s discipline held, even against such screaming horrors.

A few fell, pierced by the creatures’ natural weaponry: stingers, horns and claws. But every man repaid the insult tenfold and our cannonfire overwhelmed the beasts soon enough. As attested by witnesses, Henry acquitted himself with impeccable bravery, while Louis fought at my right-hand, and Bertrand nearly slept through the whole thing but woke in time to draw blood.

The lieutenant colonel intends to press our advantage in the coming weeks, and bring the battalion through a lightly guarded mountain pass called the Eye of Ebbs, to outflank our foes. I remain inspired by his leadership.

It cheered my heart to hear your tales of Kerry and Pauline’s misadventures at school — such follies are what we fight for, that they may forever continue. Give them my love.

Yours always,

Lawrence

December 15th, The Year of Our Emperor 372

Light of my life,

I regret that it has been some time since my last letter, and I hope you have not worried overmuch. We suffered a grievous loss in battle, of late. Rather than being lightly guarded, as the lieutenant colonel’s intelligence suggested, the mountain pass was fiercely defended by a horde of foes. They waited until we were fully committed to the crossing before springing their ambush. Almost as though they knew we were coming.

Only through great valor and sacrifice were we able to forge through to the far side of the mountains, and reform our defensive lines. Once the artillery was brought to bear, again, the enemy lost their taste for combat.

Henry’s thigh was pierced by one of the creature’s needles, but I expect he shall make a full recovery. Bertrand emerged unscathed, of course. Luck favors a fool.

The lieutenant colonel survived as well, thank the Emperor, and he now intends to bring us in due course across the easternmost bridges of Wyvern Chasm, where we might regroup with Colonel Tolbert’s forces. The snow falls heavily and unpredictably now, but we remain well-supplied to bear its whims until we reach the low country.

I lie awake at night, dreaming of you, Emma. I find unexpected reminders of you everywhere I look in this strange land. Some of the docile beasts have fur that curls like your wondrous hair. The other day, I found an impossible flower poking its petals above the fresh-fallen snow. Its scent reminded me of that perfume you always wear, the one I imagine I still detect on your letters. I never did ask you the name of it, but when I return, I will buy you bottles to last a lifetime.

Thinking of no one but you,

Lawrence

January 1st, The Year of Our Emperor 373

The Star in my Sky,

The new year brings new hope. An erratic stormfront caused us to divert west, where we crossed the chasm entirely unopposed despite our fears. We were fortunate, the enemy gambled all on a failed prediction that we would head east. But it was a very near thing. The Emperor Himself must have sent that storm.

The enemy shall anticipate us directly marching with all due haste to join with Colonel Tolbert, but we have a new stratagem, a snare of our own at last. We will divert course away from his army to spread the enemy’s ranks, then close upon them in a pincer maneuver. 

As ever, my love, you are astute and observant, of all I say, and all I do not. I must confess that Louis perished in the battle of the mountain pass. I could not bring myself to speak of him in my previous letter. Never leaving my right-hand, he fell in my defense, and I have recommended him for a medal of valor. The letter I wrote his widow was the most difficult struggle I have yet faced, but I could not give another the responsibility.

My company caught another attempted infiltrator last night, alive this time. I hadn’t seen a living creature up close before. His flesh shifted this way and that, now wearing the appearance of our sentries, now exhibiting the canvas pattern of our tents, then back to his original form of fur and bony spikes. His eyes were the same vivid violet of the trees. Such a rare and beautiful shade. To see it in this frightened creature troubled me. If he was so desperately frightened, why had he marched himself into danger?

The lieutenant colonel ordered him tortured, though he never once spoke our tongue, let alone confessed aught of value. I doubt he was able.

You must promise not to breathe a whisper of it, but this, and other incidents I would not burden you with, have fostered in me misgivings. I am no longer certain our cause is righteous.

Faithfully yours, 

Lawrence

January 17th, The Year of Our Emperor 373

My only one,

All is lost. The enemy took advantage of our divided armies with a pre-emptive assault. The lieutenant colonel was slain in the initial fighting, and I was forced to assume command of what soldiers remained. We could only attempt a fighting retreat. Our losses were catastrophic.

Henry was still hobbled, and he couldn’t keep up when our camp was overrun. I know not what fate he suffered, only that I failed him. Betrand’s luck ran out.

We must seek whatever remains of Colonel Tolbert’s army, though I know not what condition we may find them in.

My one comfort through all these trials has been your most recent letter. Though your affections have never been lacking, my love, I was startled by such passion and tenderness. It seems your renewed concerns for my well-being were thoroughly justified. But your sweet words are all I need to carry me back to your arms, in this world or the next.

With eternal love,

Lawrence

February 4th, The Year of Our Emperor 373

Emma,

Too late, I have realized what you are.

I cannot bring myself to hate you, nor even to burn your letters. I still keep them bundled near my heart at all times. There they will remain until I rejoin my comrades as dust.

Ever your fool,

Lawrence

***

Thanks for reading!

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