Aely sat in the inn in Westguard keep, late in the evening and nursing a glass of Aerie Single Malt – her usual now, though she had lost most of the drinking habit. Her red hair had a fair bit of white in it these days, but grey-green eyes still had the same life in them, if often from behind reading glasses, at least in the evenings. Like tonight, where the thin silver frames reflected in the lamp and firelight, mirroring the wedding and engagement rings suspended on a chain around her neck.
On the table in front of her were an assortment of letters – most in her clear, even handwriting.
Letters she had never sent.
A few to Tarquin, written through hard times, asking for advice. Though she knew he still lived and still had his spidery fingers in the goings on in Hearthglen, she hadn’t seen him in some time. One to Bricu, after their last row had burned both of them hard – another man she would consider family for the rest of her life, even if they never spoke again.
Several to Kyraine, whose work with the 7th Legion meant she often didn’t get her mail at all, though the sturdy warrior woman did occasionally stop in. One to Yva, who had just up and vanished one day. A few each to Lorelli and Illithias and Annalea. A couple to Jolstraer, again asking for the advice of a man she’d buried and burned without ever – to his face – having called him her father.
And countless to Arrens, most unfinished. Letters about people – about the Black Lotus trying to take up residence in Old Town, and how she was looking out for the university kids. Letters about goings-on in Old Town, the clinic she’d set up there and moving back into Bess Cross’s basement apartment, about the Riders selling the Pig and either retiring, going legit, or going underground – or all three. About the Hand of Lothar, and her losing the Light and working to regain it and her identity as a paladin. About the kids they all knew so well, and how one of them had joined the 7th legion, and three were now in University on academic scholarships, and a little boy she’d seen grow up who had talked to her and joined the Argent Crusade as a squire when the Legion returned, and that he was doing well. About Fordring’s death and her disgust at what they called the “New” Silver Hand.
The letters after she’d attempted dating again, some combination of asking for his advice on men and reassuring herself of his permission to move on. (Those dates had been catastrophic, but she’d tried at least.) Notes with colored sketches from when she’d gotten the twisted wood and soft pink and white flowers tattooed up her back and across her shoulder, covering half of the scars – wondering what he’d think of them.
And now new, very recent letters with new names in them, a new order and guild, new work, and a young man – a boy really – who tugged at the strings of her heart, who reminded her of home, and being sixteen, and of the Bertrand she’d lost twice. How she feared losing Lucious even barely knowing him. How she knew it was folly to try to step in, and yet couldn’t help herself.
It was not particularly like her to read them, these letters she couldn’t, or wouldn’t send. They sat boxed up in her things.
But having helped Lucious to rescue his girlfriend, and seeing that yes, she was still capable of being a fighter as easily as a healer, the argument with Arrens – the last time they’d spoken, and fought about her going to Pandaria – was fresh in her mind, and she needed the comfort that said, wherever he was, he would have liked to have seen her as she was now. Age in the corners of her eyes, but still resilient and herself, even as so much loss had plagued her life.
Picking up a pen – the same pen as always, though now usually inked with a clear, bold blue ink – she turned the letters over, revealing plain paper again.