luni, 3 august 2015

Of life and living

“Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard.”

My salvation came five weeks later, in the form of a short message, delivered by the royal courier. I recognized the seal, though it was the first time I was seeing it, but I couldn't find any reason why the royal family would want to associate their name with a disgraced woman such as myself. There were two messages, a long letter and a short note, where I made out my brother's crooked signature. How could I have been so naive? My sweet, not so innocent, younger brother, Albrecht, crossed swords with the Marquess' men, chose the right leader and was rewarded with the title of Duke of Leinster as well as the King's second daughter's hand in marriage. His five-line message was, as usual, brief and to the point. No pointless introduction, no uncalled-for courtesy, not even a word about my faux pas. His wife, the Duchess, would give birth to their heir any day from now and he was asking for my assistance. If I hadn't known my brother, I could have misread his bluntness for bad manners.
The letter though, three pages of elegant formulas signed by the Duchess of Leinster herself, was more considerate and included a formal invitation to their residence in the Capital. I wasn't invited at the Court and I still couldn't believe that someone from the royal family would want to associate with me, but ,if desperate times call for desperate measures, then I was free to act as desperately as I wish.
The fact that the Duchess was to give birth only five months after her wedding only intriguied me more. I couldn't help but hope to find some form of support, even frienship from this woman. If my brother chose her and dared to defy the King, who first offered him his oldest daughter's hand, she had to be noteworthy. She too hurled defiance at her father, after all.
I left two days later, chaperoned by my father, who offered to outride me to the Capital. This time I took my daughter with me. If my sister-in-law was desperate enough to send for me, then she could turn a blind eye to a five week old babe born on the wrong side of the blanket, because I wasn't going to make the same mistake I did the last time. My heart still twinged every time I thought about the way Gregory separated me from his children. This child was only mine and I wasn't going to let anyone interfere between us.
The journey proved long and fatiguing, but when we arrived at our destination six days later, I was surprised to find my brother's house, along with everyone in it, family members, servants and even some mislaid pryers, upside-down. I could probably have died laughing seeing my formerly very composed brother now missing his footing upon a clueless lap dog and bitterly yelling at an innocent stable boy to get the creature out of his way and return it to the kitchen where it rightfully belonged, had I not been so exhausted after my own journey.
And then he looked at me briefly and knit his brows. My travelling attire didn't impress him. I probably looked slightly better than his wife's chambermaid on a Sunday morning.
"What do you want? Get out of my way! Or better! See what happened to that harebrained hallboy I sent to look after the midwife more than two hours ago!"
His commanding tone and the annoyance I immediately sensed from his words almost made me instinctively comply and run outside, on the streets, but I resisted my first impulse and reciprocated his politeness.
"I'm sorry I deceived myself and misinterpreted your note, my lord. I know that you are now the Duke of Leinster and I owe you respect and probably my gratitude too, but I don't think I changed so much that my own brother wouldn't recognize me."
"Alleken? Dear God, I thought you wouldn't make it here in time! Agnes is screaming bloody murder upstairs and no one knows what to do! Like that wouldn't be enough, I sent a boy after the midwife and I haven't heard from him in more than two hours. He better have been run by a carriage! I was about to go looking for one too."
And, just like that, I was reunited with my brother after almost six years of absence. In a strange way, he was still the same plainspoken person I knew and that gave me a bizarre sense of comfort.
"Now, pull your hands out of your pockets and come with me! I need you to assist Agnes, do something for her! I'm tired of people twiddling their fingers and lying idle while she is obviously in pain!"
So my first meeting with the Duchess of Leinster would be while assisting her in the efforts of childbirth.
In a minute I was sweept away by a very distressed Albrecht and almost dragged on the stairs, to the Duchess' bedchamber.
The person that I met there was far from the flawless image I expected.
She was probably shorter and smaller than I had anticipated, apparently ten inches shorter than my brother and the massive, encrusted canopy bed only made her look smaller, more fragile and feeble, emphasising her enlarged belly. She was hollering and squalling, frightening the servants that were surrounding her, and despite the fact that she didn't show any sign of shedding a single tear, I had the feeling that she was terrified of what was happening to her. The utter confusion around her was doing nothing to chase her fears away.
So the first thing I did from the moment my brother pushed me inside her bedchamber, taking care to shut the door against me, was to drive away all the fretting help that was only slowing me down and unnerving the poor mother. As soon as we were left alone, I heard her speak to me.
"Thank you! Those imbeciles were running around like a cluster of headless chicken! I assume you're my husband's sister, Alleken, the midwife."
"Why yes, Your Grace."
She still managed to frown at me and look quite overbearing, despite her laboured breathing and dishevelled appearance.
"Don't Your Grace me right now! I'm having your brother's child and you're supposed to help me through it! I have no time for pointless honourifics! We're sisters, you can call me Agnes! Now get here and deliver this baby for me!"
I may have laboured under a delusion from the first time I entered her bedchamber, because the Duchess was anything but fragile or feeble. She may have been frightened, yes, but that was only because no one was telling the young woman what was expected of her in this situation that was so out of the ordinary to her.
"As you wish, Your... Agnes. I want you to take a few deep breaths and allow me to examine you. It may not be pleasant, but it should help me estimate your condition. I assume there have been other persons overseeing your condition, right?"
"Well, there was the Royal Physician appointed by my father, but he never came... very close to me. My father, the King, forbade him from doing ... whatever you're doing right now. He probably wouldn't even know what to do. He used to be my father's barber."
"So, no midwife?"
I wasn't exactly staying abreast with the situation in the kigndom after King Geoffrey's self-coronation, but I knew that only male physicians were allowed to treat the royal family. I still don't understand why would someone appoint a person to look after their health if they are not going to let that person come near them. But a barber doing the work of a midwife? That was simply something I refused to accept.
"And where, pray tell me, is this Royal Physician now? Assisting you from the other side of the door?"
I should probably have kept my toungue in check, because I was in no position to criticize the King's decisions, but I was simply too tired to care any longer.
"Probably four sheets to the wind, collapsed in some damned whorhouse. I sent someone to look for him this morning, but I doubt he'll be of any help to us. Does this have to hurt so much?!"
I knew that if I wanted this to end well for both me and my brother's wife, I had to try to reassure her.
"Listen to me, Agnes. There is a secret that your mother probably never told you. It’s not that birth is painful, it’s that women are strong. So I need you to focus your attention on this and do as I tell you."
I decided not to tell her that I didn't know that from my mother, but from Teacher. She also used to say that men died in battle and women died in childbirth. But I saw no reason why she should hear that from me now.
"My mother was nothing but a depraved woman! She was the reason why this damned war even begun in the first place! Please, I don't want to die like this!"
Gaining a deeper understanding of our late queen's affairs wasn't exactly why my brother sent for me, so I tried to ignore her words and put her at ease.
"There is no way out of this except through it and I'm not going to let you die, Agnes."
In the end, it took her more than 12 hours to get through everything and by then, I didn't know which one of us was more exhausted. But her and my brother's smiles when I presented them their daughter were worth every effort.
"You helped me deliver her, so I see it only fit that you will be her godmother."
Both my brother and his wife seemed to agree on that matter, so I gladly accepted. It wasn't everyday that I was offered the oportunity to become the godmother of the King's grandchild.
After we had the baby cleaned, fed, swaddled and carefully laid to sleep, I drove away Albrecht from his wife's bedchamber and saw to her health.
"Is this really necessary? It doesn't smell very appealing and it's not even comfortable ..."
After endless hours of labour she still had the energy to complain about me wrapping her belly and applying ointments and warm compresses with chickweed, lavender and honey on her skin.
"Well, it is necessary if you want your old figure back. In time. You will never look exactly the same, but not many people will notice that. Until you will have your next one, of course."
"I'm not sure I want a next one ... "
I hear that each time, after every delivery. Every woman, regardless of her rank, education, manners, would swear there won't be a next time. She would mean it, of course. And there always was. So I kept my mouth shut and finished treating her.

"Was it like this for you too? Albrecht told me you have children too."
"I gave birth to my daughter Charlotte almost 6 weeks ago."
"And you're back on your feet and travelling too? Already? You told me I'll get my face wreathed in wrinkles if I get out of bed too soon!"
"Well, my Charlotte was not my first child. I have ... five more."
"What? Six children?! But you're not much older than I am! Albrecht told me that you are his senior only by a year and a half! That makes you ... 26 at the most!"
"Actually, I am still 25 years old, but I got married young. And I had my first four children at one time."
"That's not fair... "
I sensed she was worn down, so I put an end to our less-than-customary chat and let her rest. I needed a good rest too, so I let the servants show me my room, where I found that Albrecht was expecting me.
"She is asleep and she will probably sleep for at least five or six hours, but please send someone to call me if she wakes up."
"But she is fine, right? Out of the wood and recovering?"
"Yes, she did well and she will be fine. She just needs a little time to rest."
"Thank you. I don't know what might have happened to her if it weren't for you arriving here exactly when we needed you the most."
In a way, I was taken aback by my brother's attitude. I suspected the two of them were in love, but I have never seen my brother caring so much for somebody. Not openly at least, because I knew that he cared about me and our parents. I was glad that the two of them had each other.
"You will remain here, right? I'm sure Agnes needs your help and she would be a lot more relaxed if she'll have someone to show her how things work."
"Of course I'll stay."
It wasn't like I was needed somewhere else and somehow, I suspected there won't be many people that will demand a Baroness/Midwife's help. I still wasn't used to the title that my husband received after the war.
"You know ... you and Agnes make beautiful babies. You should have a couple more and introduce them to their cousins."
He answered me with a smile and took his leave, wishing me a good evening.

luni, 16 februarie 2015

Another secret

“It is better to love wisely, no doubt, but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.”

Life after the war came to an end should have been simpler. Quieter. Uncomplicated. But, like most of the circumstances in my life, it was anything but the thing I longed most.
To everyone around me, my parents, my husband, my former friends, I was a ruined woman. Even my former handmaid regarded me with disfavour and acted as if my immorality, my damnation could spread upon her. The fact that not long after I was captured and then openly absolved of any accuse(a consequence of my father's influence and my brother's newly gained title), I discovered that I was carrying a traitor's offspring could only make things worse for me. That spring, because of my delicate condition, I chose not to take part in the celebrations that were constantly organized at the newly crowned King's residence. How could I even try to justify myself? How could I let the others know that the child that I was carrying could have been a prince or a princess of the blood if it were to be born under different circumstances?
How could I even let my children have knowledge of such a secret? No, I decided, in that very moment, that this was to be my secret, my own burden, even if that implied that my child would always be looked upon as illegitimate. Anything would have been better than the life the Marquis' acknowledged children were sentenced to live, stripped of their rank and locked in a convent, their names erased from history.
My husband must have been apprised about my condition by his new high-born entourage, because only a week after I arrived at my parents' new residence in the south (a castle towering a new marquisate), he came to inquire about my health.
My condition was not noticeable, mainly because it was early spring here and the old manor was damp and still wintry from many years of not being inhabited, despite the constant effort that the servants were putting in tending the fire in almost every room, so I was wearing winter clothes. I waved off my new soubrette (my mother insisted on hiring me a new personal maid, someone suiting our family's new rank), because I suspected what was coming next and I didn't want to involve a stranger in my already precarious marriage.

"Your brother and his new wife inquire about your health and wanted me to send you their love and best wishes, along with their regret that you could not attend their nuptials."
Gregory began pacing out the unfamiliar room, while keeping his head down and avoiding looking directly at me. I suspected he was afraid of what he might see in my eyes, although I was too ashamed of my condition to look him directly into the eyes.
"Yes, please send them my regards as well as my regret that I cannot be present at the Court. I will pay them a visit as soon as ... my condition will allow me to travel such long distances."
I could see him flinch as soon as the words left my mouth and I instantly regretted my artlessness.
"Gregory, you... you have to know something..."
"Well, it feels more like everybody else already knows about your condition, so please don't bother yourself trying to explain it to me. I only need to know one thing, my lady. Who was it? Who is the father of the bastard you're carrying?"
I couldn't help but notice how he attempted to detach himself by not using my name and by trying to offend me. Even if he was in the right.  We have never been close, not even in our first years of marriage, but his sudden change of disposition left me quite unsettled. I knew that he could take my children away from me, that he had every right to do so and I simply couldn't allow something like that to happen to my family. Even so, I've never considered myself the most conciliatory wife and at that moment I was simply too terrified of what power he held over me.
"I think you, more than anyone else, should know very well how such things happen at war."
Thinking about it now, I realize that trying to defend myself by attacking him wasn't the most intelligent decision. I knew how war changed men and maybe attempting to suggest that my baby would be just another war child could have been my only option. The convents and monasteries were already loaded with dozens of unwanted children, fathered by the King's men. What difference could one more such baby make?
"Please don't try to act like you're innocent! I know very well what you must have done during those past five years! The entire Royal Court seems to have knowledge of your actions!"
"Neither one of us is as virtuous as we would like to be."
He seemed tired. Worn out by this war, by his sudden change of lifestyle and even more stricken by my words. Before I could say something more, before I could apologize for my insolent behaviour, he got up and took his coat, heading for the door.
"I already spoke to your mother. I'm taking the children with me, at the Court. The two youngest Princesses are the same age as our daughters and they can play together. As for my son, I hired him a tutor. You are not welcomed to visit them."
His son. Our daughters, but his son. That was his revenge. Separating me from my children and leaving me behind, in the countryside, far away from his new life. I knew that because of all the rumours that must have been circulating, I would never be received at the Court, regardless of how high my rank placed me in society. In their eyes, I would always be an immoral woman, foolish enough to get herself caught and punished for her misbehaviour. Not even the fact that I was suddenly related to the Royal family, though indirectly, could amend for my mistake.
Then he left and I knew I would not see him for many years to come. We were husband and wife and I was still the mother of his children, but I no longer had any right upon them.
He left the next morning, not even bothering to give me a second look. I made my farewells to my children, attempting no to cry, while they regarded me as a stranger. I couldn't help but feel at fault. When all was said and done, I realized that it was my fault. I have been an absent mother most of my children's lives, too engrossed in my work, in other people's sufferings, always pressed for time, while they had to suffer the consequences. And now it was too late.
I was abandoned in the countryside, on my parents' estate, without any hope. Four months later, after the announcement of the Marquis' execution reached us, I gave birth to his daughter. I was only 26 years old, but I felt like I lived for too long.

sâmbătă, 20 septembrie 2014

Endless Ambition

“But you’ve slipped under my skin, invaded my blood and seized my heart.”

Her father sent for her two months after the first attack, on an icy winter morning and in only a couple of hours, she threw away the fancy stitching her stepmother insisted her to work on and prepared herself a travelling chest. She had been expecting this moment ever since her father's departure. Nobody dared to ask why the Duke wasn't summoning his heir, instead of asking for his middle daughter, because while his sister was getting ready to fulfill his role in front of their father, her older brother, her father's heir, was kept to his bed, struck down by high fever, half conscious of the events that were taking place around him.
She was very much aware that if her father won this war, she may never become the crowned head, but she was determined to take over and rule from behind her unqualified brother's back. Her father practically raised her for to do exactly that.

Her arrival turned the scale in her father's favour and determined the war's outcome.
She still spent almost four years there, alongside her father and his men, acting as his advisor and his main ally.

She didn't hesitate any second when it came to giving up her beautiful, embroidered dresses for men's clothes and parting from her chambermaids, nor when she had to learn to pass quietly during chilly nights in order to clean herself of many days' grime.

Two years and a half after her arrival and exactly one year before her father's triumph, she carried on the first one of her many acts of defiance.
It was during a formal dinner in her father's pavilion, when she was introduced to a young and very promising Captain in the Duke's army, already very much admired by her father. And also very betrothed to her older sister, Maria. She recalled hearing his name casually mentioned among her family, but it wasn't until that evening that she decided to put to the test her personal charm. It certainly wasn't the first time she was flirting with someone, because what other guilt-free pastime could a noble young lady enjoy if not an innocent tease of charming courtiers? But she certainly never dared to foresee the outcome of her actions.

In only a few weeks, she was secretly leaving her tent in the middle of the winter nights only to meet him, far from prying eyes. And from there on, things could only move in one direction, even if she kept trying to convince herself that it was nothing more than harmless play.

"No, Albrecht ... It has to be the last time ..."
"You keep saying that. Every night. Yet you keep coming to me. Just one more night, right, Agnes?"
"That's Your Grace, for you, not Agnes..."
"I apologise for my recklessness, Your Grace ... Should I try to prove to you just how sorry I am ...?"
As their armies won more battles and the end of her father's campaign was closer, she came to the conclusion that there was only one way to settle the things between them, for having to put an end to whatever name they referred to this endless banter between them was simply not something she was ready to face.
"We could run away and get married, you know? The war is almost over and your father doesn't need your help anymore... "
"I'm not going to give up on everything that I have built up until now, Albrecht ... It is my birthright."
"Then I will simply go and marry Maria. That's what your father wants, right?"
He never got tired of provoking her in every possible way. Even if it always ended with her slaping him.
"Don't even dare mention her name in front of me!"
"As you wish, Your Grace ..."

"Don't you feel guilty sometime?"
"What should I feel guilty for?"
"Depriving your brother of his power? Hiding from your father? Stealing your sister's betrothed ...?"
"As if that would only be my accomplishment? I'm certain you might have had something to do with it too..."
The morning when her father informed her of their victory was marked by the first day of spring.
"What now, Agnes? You know that we will have to part, sooner or later. And the next time we will meet will probably be at your sister's wedding."
"Give me just one more day. I'll talk to my father."

vineri, 29 august 2014

Death is the only god who comes when you call

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”

When has breathing become so agonizing? Living and breathing and just surviving until the next day was simply too excruciating.
"I am sorry ... Please forgive me..."
Her words are barely a whisper and her only companion is just an infant, so he doesn't react. He's just sitting there, left hand half in his mouth, because he is probably still teething and he has his own pain to occupy his thoughts with. Her two oldest daughters left early the same morning, probably to search for something to eat.
None of them has eaten in two days and her milk has dried up or maybe she just never had it in the first place, so the baby is squeamish and hasn't stopped crying since she gave birth, three days ago. She's small and pink and wrinkly and nothing like her other children and she simply can't make herself take that strange creature in her arms and feed it. She's spent the last two days watching her, almost begging every God whose name she could remember to take its life so she wouldn't have to do it with her own hands. And, with every breath the fragile creature takes, she becomes even more convinced that the gods must hate her.
It all began when her husband left to fight in that damned war and abandoned with two small children to care for and another baby on the way. Life had been difficult with him too, but without him she was just another forgotten woman. Why did men crave foolish dreams of greatness and bravery? It was nothing but an illusion. What difference does it make to the widows, the orphans left behind and the homeless if some men depart this life covered in glory while others have no honour but survive?
Theirs was one of the villages that held well until the third year of war. Everyone was running low on supplies but somehow they managed and survived. Until that morning when the Duke's men stormed in.
Because their house was out of the way they heard the screams when it was already too late. Some of the neighbouring houses were already on fire and she can still recall seeing one of her friend's younger children flying out through the window and falling directly in a spear. The smell of burnt fluesh was the worse though. And the screams. She hears them every single night. High pitched shouts of small children whose chests were mercilessly pierced by the soldiers' swords and the muffled wails of women.
She doesn't have nightmares about how it happened, but she remembers his face and his sharp features. His scar and his hard lined jaw. And, more than anything, the pure hatred in his eyes.
Later, when he got tired of her, she was left behind in the snow, the throb in her entire body a painful reminder of what took place in her own courtyard.
Her daughters emerged later from behind the barn, carrying their younger brother with them. Her children survived, yet she felt like she lost everything.
Five months later, the evidence was there and the signs impossible to ignore. Three days ago she birthed that strange creature that hasn't stopped crying and now she is exhausted and tired of life.
The rope feels rough around her neck and the trembling in her limbs is slowing her down, but her movements are almost mechanical, so she doesn’t need to concentrate, which is pleasant. She takes one single step forward and in a couple of minutes it is over.  

marți, 1 aprilie 2014

The other side

The world was collapsing, and the only thing that really mattered to me was that he was alive.”

I was 23 when I knew lust and desire. And more than everything, infatuation. My only fault was that I mistook it for love. It was with someone else but my husband, a man that I could not have, someone that I should not have loved, because it was against everything that I took pride in: morality, loyalty and integrity. But who are we to lay down the law to our hearts?
It was the same war that I despised and loathed so much that brought us together and maybe, under different circumstance, things would not have been the same for us and we would have been merely acquaintances.
This war had taken its toll on all of us, for I have seen more blood and death and suffering in those past 10 months since the first attack than I have in my entire life. After the onslaught on the small village, things only grew worse in a matter of days. We thought that we had time and that everything was just a limited strife and so we waited for the things to amend. We couldn't have been more wrong.

As I was still caring for the wounded villagers, another raid took us by surprise. They came out of nowhere and I barely managed to alert the people, while everyone took a run, crippled old men and mothers with babies in their arms. I was stunned and an old woman almost had to push me out of the merciless soldiers' way. We ran in the nearby forest, where we took cover, waiting for the men's madness to burn down. I was too scared to even take a look in the village's direction and all I could hear were other people's screams. In my bewildered state, I wasn't even aware of what was happening around me.
"Unless your purpose is to roll up your skirt and go divert those men's attention from their slaughtering, I suggest you pull yourself together and change into these clothes, because I see no other way for you to get away from this with your reputation unblemished."
She must have been a well-read woman, but her words and her tone made me blush. At least she managed to turn my attention to our more critical problems.
As I was changing my dress for a pair of trousers and a man's shirt, I noticed that all the women who managed to escape along with us were doing the same with their daughters, dressing the younger girls in various clothing they took with them before they ran.
After that first night spent in the woods, I took the road all by myself, following the army's trails of destruction. Everywhere I looked I could only see ravage and grief. Innocent men crippled, guiltless children killed without the slightest sign of remorse, wives and young girls ravished all together. I never imagined so much deviltry could exist in our world. And then, the battlefields were flooded with more and more dead bodies. My only solace was that my father and brother were not among them. And neither was Gregory, thank goodness, because I wasn't ready to become widowed so soon and raise five children by myself.
The war kept going like this for almost a year and a half. I received occasional news from my mother about my family, but I never heard a word of my husband. I suspected he wasn't aware of me wandering around the realm, probably expecting to find his wife at her parents' house, safe from everything.

There were days when I actually considered fleeing there, away from the horrors that I had to face every day. But with Teacher no longer among the living ... I knew that was not an option.

That autumn, after months of poor nourishment, sleepless nights and countless miles, I fell ill with pneumonia and I had to take refuge to a nearby military camp. I would remain there almost two years, prior to the end of the war.

It was not the first time we came across each other, but the circumstances were everything but the same. He was a high-aimed man, driven by hatred and ambition against his brother. He knew that if he won this war that his brother initiated, he and his descendants would rule this land. I had none of his ambition, nor his idealism and I still remained by his side.

Those two years of my life were nothing but a blur of pure sensations. Skin sliding against skin, lips and hands exploring, caressing, until our senses were completely overwhelmed and there was nothing left but the two of us, together. Fear was our daily drug, the only thing that fueled our desire and drove us to seek comfort in each other's arms.

At the end of those two years, we knew that we were approaching the end of the war. And we were on the wrong side. He was prepared to lose everything, even his life, but I was not. We bade adieu with the last snow, two months before his brother's victory, and as he gently kissed my forehead, I knew I would never see him again.

vineri, 14 martie 2014

“Veni, vidi, vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.)”

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

I've never imagined how much a woman's decisions can change the course of history, nor what an impact one person's folly can influence other people's lives. And although no one recalls her name anymore, I don't think there is a person in the realm, peasant or noble who could question her role in this war.
It all began that fateful December night, the night when the first snow fell over the realm.

The air was cold and tiny snowflakes began descending from the sky as the night settled. It was quiet in the village. Almost too quiet, but no one suspected a thing and everyone went to bed early that evening. By midnight nothing would ever be the same.

They thread their way through the woods like wild beasts, masking their footing, so the moment when they reached the dormant village they took everyone by surprise. The poor people never stood a chance, for they were farmers, not warriors. Most of the men died that night, trying to stand for their wives and daughters and those who survived were mutilated for life. They killed babies in their cradles and profaned wives and young girls in their own beds, because that's the unwritten law of war. That's how the awaited war between the Duke and the Marquess began.

Dear Mother,
I lost the count on how many weeks have passed since I haven't seen my children and I barely managed to find a moment to take breath and write you a few lines.
First of all, I wanted to say how relieved I was when I found that father's soldiery wasn't among the ones that invaded the Marquess' domains last week. I know that our family serves the Duke and I even heard rumours about a possible promise from the Duke that he would marry his oldest daughter to Albrecht, as a way to express his gratification for father's loyal service, yet I can't help but feel disquiet about the events that took place this winter.
After the attack, the Marquess called his people and assembled an army to return like for like and, from what I've heard, they're preparing an onslaught. I can't tell you more, for I fear that this letter might get intercepted on its way to you, so I will end it here, by entreating you to be careful and take earth for yourself. I know that father and even Albrecht will be summoned by the Duke and will probably have to go join in his army, so I can only hope that we won't find ourselves on different sides of the barricade.
Yours truly,
Alleken Marie

I knew that the last lines would probably confuse Mother, but I couldn't risk telling her more. After my marriage to Gregory, I have lived on the opposite side of the realm, the territories under the Marquess' trusteeship and although  I don't plan to take part with someone on this fight, I know very well that such a desire is probably pointless, because my husband will likely end up fighting my brother and father.
For now, all I can do is try to alleviate the misery on those poor, pitiable people that are caught in the middle of this 'brotherly' conflict, while trying to ignore the fact that I might actually be among them.

I haven't seen my family since I was called to assist the injured, and that must have been more than two weeks ago, but I know that there is no need for me to worry, because my children are back home with my mother and they are well taken care of. For now. Our town is far from the actual battlefield and I still hope that this conflict will come to a standstill in the next weeks, before more people will lose their lives in vain.