'My lady Violette,
'I sincerely hope this letter finds you well. My journey was uneventful, though I found myself thinking of you often; thereby requiring Cloud to rely on his own sound judgment regarding the way back. Ronfar would have made comment on my distraction, as well as on my continual viewing of your miniature portrait. I am eager for the day to come when you might meet him and my sister, Mauri. Mauri will likely fall victim to your charm as quickly and easily as I myself. In point of fact, I have written to her of our engagement and the events that led to the blessed event. Expect a visit from her shortly.
'Meetings have been planned to discuss the possibility of establishing a post there near the forest. I shall be certain to speak of your own concerns regarding people's awareness of the safety therein. My departure from here will be delayed due to these meetings; however, know that I shall do my best to return within a month's time. Until then, dearest Violette, please accept the enclosed as a reminder of my affection and presence.
'I remain ever yours,'
White Knight of Althena
'My darling Leo,
'Thank you ever so for the portrait with your letter. I keep it with me always. Whenever I find myself missing your smile, I look upon it and remember. I wear also the combs you gave me when we last parted. You might think it silly of me, but I imagine them to be your fingers touching my hair. I try not, because then I find myself longing for your presence beside me, but it is enough to have your portrait and the memories until you can come again.
'I've placed the sapling in the window of my bedroom to catch the morning light - I keep your mask beside it - and it makes me smile each time I pass. Please, dear Leo, try your best to come home before the first bloom. They say that those together at a tree's first blooming are together and happy until they pass to the next life. I so want that for you. You've worked so hard for the protection of this land... I want to give you ease, darling.
'Your sister and brother-in-law came today for tea and biscuits. Oh dear knight, I love them! Mauri is so sweet and gentle, and so devoted to you and Ronfar both. And Ronfar is a dear! If I had a brother I would want him to be just the same. I am glad you pressed upon them to visit. Mauri and I talked for hours in my garden while Ronfar toured the forest for rogues and outlaws. Mauri insists for us to have an outdoor ceremony, and in my garden by the bench! Isn't that wonderful? And it would be a dream come true if we could be married under the shade of our tree during its first bloom. I shall pray ever so hard for that.
'I hope your ribs aren't stiff and sore, and does your chest hurt? If you need more lotion, please do tell me. I would hate for you to be in pain.
'I love you, darling, and count the moments until you can return.
'Yours forever and always,'
'My lady Violette,
'It was with much joy I found your letter this afternoon. Meetings regarding the possibility of outlaws utilizing your forest have been long and exhausting, and we are no closer to deciding if an additional post is necessary or prudent. I have impressed upon them the importance of increasing our presence and thereby heightening the feeling of safety for our people, but the others of the Brotherhood are not convinced that the extra cost of supplies would be justified. Another round of meetings has been scheduled for the following week once inquiries for both the opposition and the supportive sides have been made. If you should have any names of people able to shed light on this matter, dear lady, please forward their names on to me here. Perhaps their testimony will be the fire needed to spark the Brotherhood's indignation against this injustice.
'I have read your letter yet again and find myself imagining your voice. It soothes and offers comfort to my frustrated spirit. Trouble yourself not, dear lady. I am well. The herbal lotion you sent along with me has been enough to dissuade any continuing discomfort, as has been the memory of your soft hands and expert care and tenderness. Such shall always be enough to heal any wound.
'Ronfar and Mauri's visit to your side eases my heart. I had begun to worry at your solitary position due to the continued presence of the outlaws. That Ronfar has taken personally to the task of your protection eases me further. Take care that you follow his instructions, dearest, for I want no harm to come to a single hair of your head.
'It pains me to say that I have no control over the date and time of my departure, so hampered and controled am I by the knowledge of my duty to the White Knights, but I know the waiting shall make our time together all the more blessed. I appreciate and cherish your understanding and can only state that I shall do my best to be home with you as soon as it is possible. My sincerest and fondest wish is to be beside you beneath our tree during its first bloom vowing my undying devotion and protection. If such a wish is possible, I shall indeed find a way to fulfill it.
'I must away now, dearest. I have scheduled a meeting with one of the Brotherhood to discuss the possibility of establishing a post. As long as their ears are open to the possibility, I shall take advantage of the opportunity. Be safe and well, dear lady, and know that I think of you often.
'I remain forever yours,'
White Knight of Althena
'My dearest lady,
'I have news that could not wait.
'My meeting with the fellow White Knight went well. He has assured me that he shall do his best to speak with the others regarding the importance of establishing a post near the forest. He confessed to me of being torn between opposition and support due to specific questions he had. Now those questions have been laid to rest and he is ready and able to offer any support I might need.
'It is with great hope I write these words, dear lady. Perhaps the end of our separation is in sight. Until the day I might again see and touch your face, know that I love thee.'
'My most darling Leo,
'I do wish I could be with you during this time of frustration. I don't like being separate from you when you battle so. But I am proud of you. Your dedication to me and to your duty to the Brotherhood of Knights must be a heavy burden each, yet you hold it to yourself in silence and do what is required. Your duty and honor define who you are and who you will be in the future. Never lose that fire, no matter the obstacle. This is what I love in you, dear knight.
'Our sapling continues to grow, and to me it has become a symbol of my love for you. With each letter I discover a little more of how deeply I love you. At times, in the deepest of night, I wake to the feeling that you're talking to me. So I listen and answer with my heart, not knowing what to say to ease your heart or comfort your spirit but doing my best to be that support and warmth you need. Please know that, dear knight.
'Mauri and Ronfar both have said I should visit you, but I have this feeling that what you do there must be done without me. I do so wish I didn't feel such a thing so strongly, but I can't fight it away. So here I sit on the bench within the green patch destined for our tree, thinking and feeling you while I write this letter and try to be brave when all I want to do is cry. Not because I'm sad - I feel only joy at your love and my love for you and the future we'll have together - but because I feel so many things at once and don't know what is right to do. Do I cry or laugh or dance or rush to your side to tell you these things that I can't put on paper?
'But then I close my eyes and remember your vow and your touch on my face and I am content again to sit on the bench within the green patch destined for our tree and wait. I have already waited this long for my romantic rescue, and now it has come. Now all I must do is wait for you to come and kiss me.
'I am with you always,'
'I received your second letter today, darling. I am glad you've had such good news. I know it sounds silly, but the day seems brighter now that I know you're happy. I do hope you continue to have good news. I enjoy reading your bright letters. It always makes me smile and hum throughout the rest of the day. I find myself singing a song from my childhood while I write this, and it feels wonderful to know that I can tell you how happy I am. I do so enjoy leaving you brightness and joy.
'I came back from the forest yesterday with a basketful of berries. I found a wonderful treasure trove I hadn't ever discovered before. Is it possible for me to send you a box of cookies and preserves if I promise to send enough for the others? I would love to send along a bit of myself for you. Remember the day I first saw you and you helped me pick the berries? I laugh and smile when I remember that day. You were so handsome in your White Knight uniform, and I so enjoyed watching your face without the mask.
'Do you wonder how I knew you were Mystere, my darling? It was your lovely voice and how you called me 'my lady Violette'. You had voiced it much the same as Mystere while carrying me to town. Oh I do love remembering your rescues, dear knight, and a part of me believes that there are others I don't even know of. I truly and dearly love that thought.
'I've drawn you another picture, darling, but this one is of our little tree. See how it grows, stretching toward the light and spreading its boughs. It's as if it practices giving shelter and strength for when we're together and happy. Do you see also that it's sprouted another bloom? But this one is also tightly closed, as if it's biding time and waiting for us to be together before giving us this blessing. Oh I do so hope it waits.
'I had better send off this letter. The postman is finishing his tea and biscuits and I promised to have this ready by the time he had. I hope this finds you well and happy, dear knight. I think of you always and speak to you more. Forever my love,'
'As always, your letters have eased my spirit and brightened my evening.
'I thank thee for the drawing of our tree; it reminds of your expression of wonder and delight when I brought it for you. Which brings to mind a tale. The junior members of the White Knights have begun to make sport of my blessed infatuation with you, dearest. They sigh and flutter their lashes at me in a ridiculous attempt to mimic your natural charm and beauty. I haven't the heart to inform them they look asses all, but I knew you would enjoy the tale.
'A particularly enjoyable happenstance was the decoration and placement of the enclosed child's doll outside my quarters. Its features resemble you none in the least, due to the fact I have kept any mention of you strictly confidential, but I thought you might laugh and find joy if I sent it on to you. I wait now for them to place the male counterpart, which will likely be a horrible representation of my person, and then send that on to you as well. While I do not understand why my attraction and affection for you gives them such temptation to tease, I do appreciate the opportunity it allows me to bring laughter to your face.
'Ah that I could but hear that sound, dearest Violette, but I shall content myself with the viewing of your portrait and the memories of your blessed melody, knowing that one day I shall have it for my own.
'Until then, a taste of home would be found in your cooking. Please, send on enough only for myself. Then, should I wish my own sport of them, I shall allow a taste and deny anything further. (Has Ronfar warned you of my wicked sense of humor?) I believe the teasing will cease soon after, or perhaps continue when out of range of my hearing, and I shall have yet another funny tale for you.
'My dear lady Violette, though it grows late, I have no wish to end this letter. I enjoy and covet this time with you, knowing now that you feel my thoughts even upon our great distance. My duties call, therefore I must follow or sacrifice my honor. A kiss to your hands and hair, dearest.
'All my love and devotion,'
'My darling knight,
'The doll is adorable, and the tale was fun! How I wish I could have been there to see your face when you found it against your door. And to help you with your revenge, I've baked my special cookes. Do tell me soon the tale of their punishment, darling. I do love imagining your voice while reading your adventures, and you tell them so wonderfully well. Have you thought of reciting monologues from famous plays? I'm sure you would be absolutely divine on stage, and it would be so much fun to design costumes for each performance. Oh wouldn't it be grand to have them staged in my garden, with our bench and tree the only props?
'But I'm sure your duties as knight wouldn't leave time for such frivolous things as plays and poetry. (Do you see, darling? I can be responsible, though I know you've never complained.)
'I'm sorry, darling, but Ronfar has just come and said I must go.'
'I have received reports of outlaws once again making their presence known within the forest. Are there details to be had as to size and armament? Also, is Violette there with you? If so, please give her the enclosed letter. I thank you.'
White Knight of Althena
'It was with the greatest effort I kept myself from flying to your side once I received your troubling letter. If you are reading this, then my thought was correct and you have found yourself safely ensconced within Ronfar and Mauri's care. Please respond as soon as you are able regarding your health and comfort, dear lady, as my concern for you grows daily.
'I remain forever yours,'
'My dear and darling Leo,
'I am sorry to have caused you to worry. I'm fine, and Ronfar and Mauri have been dears. It has been so very exciting, too! Leaving the cottage in such a rush I barely had time to take our tree; leaving you such a drastic and horrid little note on the end of the last letter; waiting with bated breath for my home to become safe again... I've so enjoyed the adventure, though I know it's a serious and dangerous time.
'It seems the band of outlaws moved into my cottage. Ronfar says they likely hoped to capture me, but what nonsense! I've nothing of any importance, except to you, darling. They likely just wanted my cottage as protection from the coming storms - Please dress warmly, dear knight. A snow is coming toward you. - and knew that my home was the nearest to the forest. At least you know for certain where they are. Won't this greatly help your position with the Brotherhood? I do hope so, because I miss your voice and eyes. Being so surrounded by things of your childhood is bittersweet. I have so many questions for you about the younger Leo... and yet I can't ask and hear and listen to you as you tell them. Mauri understands and does her best to imitate your voice while telling tales, but she knows it isn't the same.
'She's been such a great help to me during our separation. I love her as the sister I never had.
'Darling, I'm sorry for moping. I'll stop and give you a happy and joyous letter.
'Mauri and I started a new garden in her back yard. We've plotted a path through the center and a small gazebo with a darling little bench in the center. Ronfar has also promised to help dig and fill a little pond at the southwest corner. Mauri is so very excited to watch the garden bloom, and even Ronfar doesn't seem to mind helping me plan and build the gazebo.
(smudges) 'I had best go, my darling Leo. Thinking of Mauri and Ronfar working together in the garden and hearing their laughter now only makes me think of you and our time together, and I don't wish my letters to make you sad. I love you so, dear knight. Always and forever,'
'My lady Violette,
'My spirit weeps at your melancholy tone. How I long to be there to soothe the tears that have smudged the words of your letter. Take heart, dearest Violette. Our separation shall not be for much longer. This I promise. I have told the Brotherhood of my intention to relocate to that area closest to our forest. I cannot stand idly by while outlaws and brigands are allowed free reign and my love is forced from her home. Do not worry of negative consequences, dearest, for there shall be none. I shall only need to independently finance the post; hardly an imposition upon my purse if it means your safety and happiness.
'I have also enclosed a letter for Ronfar, requesting his assistance to staff and support the post. Please be sure to speak to him regarding the importance of this post, dear lady, for I know you understand.
'You will also find enclosed a small parcel. Do not open this, Violette, until this evening when you feel and hear my thoughts the strongest. Know, then, that I am looking toward the light of your eyes and sending uou the strength of my love and devotion. When you open the parcel, read the enclosed card:
'I have never loved as I love you, my dear Violette. I have never desired to protect as I desire safety for you. I have never sought to swear my life to another as I do so swear mine to yours. Now, as we stand separate, take and wear this ring as I wear its partner. We are together. Forever. Always. Nothing to part us, though our partner be leagues beneath the sea. Then, when we are finally together and ready to speak our vows as a testiment to our love and devotion, we will exchange these rings, thereby sealing our self to the other.'
'For this joining, I eagerly wait, dearest Violette.
'I remain forever and truly yours,'
'My dearest and most darling knight,
'I didn't think or believe I could love you any more, and then you sent this ring and wrote those lovely and romantic words. Dear dear Leo, I love you so, and I love this ring, and I love the words you sent. I feel as if I'm living a dream and any moment I'll wake and find myself at my cottage with no mask, no knight, no tree, and no ring upon my finger. But then I stand near the window in the evening with your letters in my hand and your presence so deeply set within my heart and know it must be real.
'Thank you for this reality, darling. Thank you for this lovely, romantic and wonderful dream come true. I can hardly wait for us to meet again in my garden and hold hands while sitting upon our bench and speaking of all the things we have wanted to say for so long. Can we walk in the forest, dear Leo, and pick flowers and just be together? I miss you so, and the forest is sad that I'm not there to talk and take care, and I so wanted us to do that together now. Can we go to my favorite little pond deep in the forest - I've wanted to show you the dear place for so long - and soak our feet and splash and play? It will be such fun to show you my forest and the places I've had to myself for so long. So wonderful to share and laugh and watch your face. So wonderful to just be in love with my darling knight.
'Always and forever,'
'Dearest lady Violette,
'I have no knowledge of where to begin this letter, so overwhelmed am I by your response and your eagerness to fully incorporate my presence within your life. You are unlike any woman previously met, my dear lady. I find even myself believing that you are but a pleasant vision soon to vanish. But here is your face within my hands, and here are your words, and here is the ring you are destined to wear.
'Violette, I am eager to see you again, and be with you as you show me into that realm of glorious innocence and naivety. I miss your voice, and the melody of your joy, and the violet of your eyes as they laugh with life and what it offers you.'
'Soon we will again be together. The date of my departure approaches, and once your forest has been made safe, I shall came for you. Watch the road, dearest lady Violette, for your knight comes astride his charging white steed.
'All my devotion,'
Knight of the Forest Nymph