Delivered personally by hand in code, then followed by another messenger boy with a cipher, then a third with the key, all sealed and stamped with Helvia’s maker’s mark – a wildflower with a cut leaf.
The attached chart provides levels of the suspected substance by room and item. You will note higher than normal traces in many, but nothing thus far sufficient to explain the observed effects.
I regret to say that the samples taken from the affected party do indeed show amounts far beyond the levels desirable for health. Had you come to me later, matters would have become more serious by far. Triple the doses and sample anything that occurs to you.
The fact that levels were elevated throughout the house suggests, but does not confirm, accidental ingestion. I will not rest until a solution is reached. Comfort V. with this, if you can. Take care with the children.
You all have my love, as you know. Not even Keddric knows what I am testing and why, and for what. If only my cursed mind would allow me to work faster.
On notepaper with a lovingly rendered woodblock of Guradan’s arms. Childishly drawn pictures on scrap news-rag are included, Belion’s a finger-painted splat of red and green signed in letters betraying an adult hand’s help ‘Belion.’
Dearest Mrs. Marshfield,
Our thoughts are with you in your illness. If there is anything at all that you would ask of me or my family, don’t hesitate to ask. In the meantime, know that you are dearly loved. The children have drawn you pictures which they assure me are meant to cheer you up. I haven’t any idea what Belion’s is meant to be, but he tells me that his Aunt Marshfield will know. I hope you will forgive the imprecision; he assumes every female not his mother who gives him presents is an aunt.
Mrs. H. Leafcutter-Smith
On plain old paper
To Miss Cirieldis,
Would you be so kind as to grant me an interview? I have a son, Belion, aged 15 months. We don’t wish to have him away from us more than an hour or so at a time, but we think it might be beneficial for him to develop social contacts outside of our home, being as he is far younger than our ward and apprentice. He is a delightful child, bright and inquisitive, though used to the company of adults rather than other children and prone to impatience and fits of pique. I would like to discuss arrangements before deciding in favor of allowing him out of the house among strangers.
H. Leafcutter-Smith, Snowflood, Leafcutter’s Apothecary
Sorry abowt the wallpaper. I had to scratch something and I furgot abowt papur not beeng lik barck. Yoo kan bye all thee papur yoo want too ficks it. Anithing yu wunt. I’m reely sari. Pleez dont bee mad.
Eye luv yoo very much all thee time,
PS. I didn’t reelize thee window was clowsed. Ill get a noo glas.
My Dearest Gondorian,
How can I say how often I think of you? How lying on hard soil without your shoulder’s comfort brings an ache to my chest? How… I’m turning into a complete blithering idiot. Sod it – have some pictures.
A collection of drawings done in delicate ink and drops of watercolor, tiny so several can fit onto precious paper. Smoke rising from a burning hut, misty dawn over a Dunland swamp, darkening trees against a sunset, the grimace of an Uruk-Hai, and an impossibly far horizon facing a blood-red sunrise.
Your gift is getting use, as you see. Some day, if it is meant to be, we shall count these days as a bargain price for the world we give our children. I will never regret this desperate quest to regain my honor. I know you’d hand me a pardon for what I did to Leofryn, but Dalish honor knows blood before expedience. If this is the price of lifting blood-guilt, then so be it. I will pay what is owed so I can stand before my ancestors without shame. The greatest sacrifice, beyond fear and danger and blood and despair, is missing my heart’s friend in the dark places I must walk.
See? I sound like a daft girl again. If I send this, I’ll give you an ulcer worrying, fancy Gondor blood or no. Bugger this. I’ll write you a better one when I’m not feeling so low. But since it’s just me and the paper now, I’ll say that you are the dream sustaining me. Even under the Cargul’s breath, I clung to the certainty of you. I hung, clinging to a white tree’s branch as the abyss opened below me. I wish it had been your touch, and not Thragan’s, calling me back from the chasm. It was you who pulled me back, as you recall, in Rivendell after the incident with the Black Thing. You sat by me on those banks until the elves with their steaming tea had done their work. You never once left my side, no matter how little I paid attention to your efforts at smiling and talk. It wasn’t attraction on your part, or condescension, or chivalry. It was enough that I was in pain, and I was your friend. That day, I knew I loved you. How can anyone think such a gentle man is hard? How can they think I’d begrudge your generosity to others, or rage jealously at the kindness you show to the women you work with? Perhaps they assume I’m hard too. I’ll never fathom it, but I suppose we both need our armour.
Gisala says most men live in a world that isn’t so definite. That there’s an edge we two live on, and then back from that edge there’s a wide plain of… I don’t know. I can’t fathom it. But how many people think they can wander a little into the middle, only to find themselves on the other edge of good and evil? How narrow is the land of right and wrong? How long is the journey, and how far astray can you go before you’ve gone too far? Rennec seems to think he can wander the plain wherever it suits him. Arvorn too. Even good people seem to wander.
Da always said that Right isn’t easy, but it’s still Right. Da said Right is always worth it, and the world needs each of us to step up and take responsibility, or justice will never be done. Da would have found a way not to kill kin. Da wouldn’t listen to my excuses like everyone else here. Da would say it doesn’t matter if you didn’t know what you were doing, but you still have to make it right. At least with Da’s way, you never wonder if you’ve gone too far from the edge.
Now this really must never see the light of day. Thragan’s right. Love makes a warrior into a blithering soft pudding. Time for watch. Time to put the armour back on. I’m still wearing Leofryn safe in my pack. Everywhere I go, I feel the weight of her bones.
On the back, a larger sketch, charcoal this time. Leofryn, dead from gaping wounds, her eyes staring empty from a blood-flecked face. Mr. Pointy’s blade is buried from collarbone to sternum.
To the Wolf who peed on this tree.
I am Huanling. I’m not feeling so great right now, but I’m big and mean and you better stay away from my people or else I’ll bite your face off. By the way, this is my tree now.
To the bitch who peed on the other tree.
You smell hot. How’d you like to have some smart mastiff pups? I can arrange that, baby. You and me. That’s right. You know you want some.
Bringing the cabinets next week. I bet your girl will like them.
Dear Mrs. Rosemead,
I’m afraid we won’t be making it for the Spring festival as planned. The little ones are giving each other cowpox and we’d best keep them home until everyone’s better. Such a shame! We were so looking forward for our fishing excursion with your Mr. Rainwater and that lovely Broddi fellow. Do give everyone our love, and enjoy this wheel of stilton. It’s got chopped vinegar apple; one of Pearl’s ideas. The twins did the pressing all by themselves.
Miss Daisy and Miss Annie made Miss Glory this doll for her birthday. I washed it before I wrapped it, since they’re still ailing. The older girls made the doilies and curtain lace for you. It keeps them occupied and not scratching! Keep that in mind, for when your own dear lovie feels poorly.
With fond regards,
Mama Bolger (And Papa sends his love too, of course!)