Chapter 3: A letter
Things were rather normal after the barghest was taken care of. Or at least as normal as it could be. Ferros left, after giving me a scroll with directions to his guild, and most of the adventurers followed soon after.
This was both a good and a bad thing. With more time and less customers we were able to repair the tavern. With less customers we had less money though and while there was less destruction there was also no real flow of coin either. We were in a deeper hole than we’d started with after we paid our debts.
We were barely holding on. The worst part was how mother reacted to the added stress. She locked herself up in the family quarters and not left the rooms for days after the final bill had been settled for some new tables. She wouldn’t even come out to check on Ayden.
Sevenna, reluctant to help with tavern chores but willing to cook, and Ayden, young but capable of taking customers requests were the only help I had without mother. Cayden did what he could on repairs but in the end I was forced to deal with most of them myself. I was exhausted and at wits end. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t keep everything together on my own.
So it came that I stood before mother’s door. Almost two full moons after she’d first sealed herself up. Things weren’t looking any better and mother still wouldn’t come out. She only ate when we brought her food and was adamant that she be left alone with her letters. She wrote dozens of them. In a quick flurry she sent out many and received just as many in return. None of them seemed to be the replies she wanted as each returned letter made her draw further away. It had to change she couldn’t keep doing this.
“Mother?” I gently open the door, not wanting to give her an excuse to turn me away.
I find her room dark with only a single candle lit on her desk. She sat on a stool and held a still sealed letter. She didn’t look at me when I entered and closed the door behind me.
“We need to talk,” I tell her as plainly as I can.
“Yes we do, but first I want you to take this. It arrived today. I don’t have the heart to open it.” Mother glanced at me before holding out the letter. Her hands were shaking as I reached for the dusty parchment.
It was thick and sealed with an odd herald that looked both familiar and foreign. “What is this?” I ask not sure if I should open it.
“A reply,” She said softly.
“From who? Mother you’re scaring all of us. Ayden doesn’t understand what’s going on and I can’t keep telling him it’s going to be okay. You need to explain to me what you’ve been doing. I can’t help if you bottle yourself up like this.”
“I’ve been trying to find a match for Sevenna. Trying to secure some kind of hope for this place and I…” She stopped and looked at me, tears welling in her eyes. “I’ve only gotten refusals. Her reputation is too broken and no local lords will take her. I didn’t know what else to do so I sent one last letter. I never dreamt he’d answer me.”
The way she said the last few words made my blood run cold. There was only one man that made her sound that cruel.
“Why would you send him a letter?” I longed to tear open the parchment. To see what he’d written. It’d been years since he’d last bothered to write us. Then again I also wanted to throw that piece of paper into the flames of the candle. If mother was so desperate to send a plea of aid out to my father things were far more dire than I thought.
“When I made him leave he promised that he’d answer me if I ever called out to him.” Mother’s tone dropped low as she spoke. The words that came from her were halted and choppy as if she didn’t want to speak them.
“What do you mean when you made him leave?” I didn’t understand what mother was talking about. Father had left when I was still just a child because he’d grown tired of our family. Right?
“He and I never saw eye to eye on magick Tiris,” She stood and took a small step towards me. I didn’t want to hear what she was about to say so I drew back. My entire body was shaking and I could feel the burn of tears in my own eyes now. Mother didn’t stop talking. “He wanted you to train under a fellow wizard but I refused to allow it. I made him leave so we could have a normal life. So you could live a normal life. I’m sorry but I did it to keep you safe.”
“Safe? Mother if you are begging him for help then…” I make myself stop talking. I was angry. I was tired and not in the right mind to argue about who was at fault for father leaving. Mother who sent him away or him who agreed to go. I take a deep breath and look up at mother who is standing some distance away hand held out towards me in a plea.
I slip my thumb into the wax holding the letter from father closed in order to avoid confronting her. She just sighed in defeat. The letter was short. Simple words of greeting dissolving into a line of text that was far too familial for the distance between the man and I.
“Tiris,” The second part read. “I have no doubt that you’re the one actually opening this, Matilda never was one for fighting her own battles. I’m sure you’re angry and debating on throwing this away. I’d like you to remember it was not I that reached out first. I only waited.
It seems that your mother has let the state of her family deteriorate to the point that she no longer has control. Another thing she lacked in the first place. I’m sure you’ve been the brunt force behind most of the real power over the years and as young as you are that was not a wise thing for her to allow. That being said, I will help fix her broken home. In turn, however, I need something.
I gave you a tome. A large leather bound book that I’m sure you remember. That book is the price I ask. And no I do not want it returned to me. I will provide your mother and her children what gold and supplies they need to survive. I will send guards and I will defend them as best I can. In turn Tiris I ask that she release you from whatever servitude she’d bound you to, and don’t pretend you could tell her no on your own you were always such a pleasing child.
You will take that book and accept an apprenticeship with a council chosen Wizard. I will know if you accept these terms when the book is opened. I will once more be waiting.”
I stare at the words for a few moments. Their meaning rather hard to grasp. I must’ve looked dazed enough that mother snatched the paper from my grasp and read through father’s words on her own. The longer she read the more her ire burned. By the end mother was fuming.
“That pompous bastard! Who does he think he is to demand such things!? Talking that way about me! The ass!!”
“He said he’d help,” My voice was hoarse and I felt the need to have a stiff drink. I wasn’t sure what I felt about this. Relief? Fear? Happiness? This was a way out, a way to walk free and they’d be safe.
“Only if you leave! Tiris this is the reason I made him go in the first place!”
“You asked him for help mother! He agreed. I can’t keep this up anymore. You’ve been in here hiding from everyone for several fortnights. You’ve ignored your kids and you’ve been begging local lords to take in a girl you knew they’d refuse. Stop acting like this is a surprise. Just because reality hit hard you can’t break down and leave us like that. Get up and get out there. Talk to Sevenna. Talk to Ayden.” I was heaving and half sobbing as I ranted and yelled at mother. She just stood there staring at me in shock. I began to laugh. “This entire ordeal is sick mother. I’m not you. I can’t be you.” Backing away I turn for the door and grit my teeth to stop anymore of my words from spilling out. My throat burnt from the curses that I held back. Not just at mother.
“Where are you going!?” Mother demanded once her surprise had worn off.
“To read a book,” I muttered before walking away.