This letter is not an apology for what I have done -- if you'd do things the second time around the same as the first, chances that you feel sorry for them are little. However, I don't want the title "Snowe, the liar" added to the many names like "Snowe, the traitor" and "Snowe, the fallen knight" that I already get called.
When we last met, I told you that there was nothing I had to say to you. This is not correct, but when I try to speak about myself, I mean truly about myself, I usually start to stutter or my pride kicks in, and the truth is no longer anything worthwhile.
Remember when I lost to you the first time?
"Do with me what you want!" I had said heroically. I knew that execution was a common punishment for traitors like me, but I also knew that you wouldn't do it. I still don't know why, though. Was it because you still felt sympathy for me then, like Jewel? Or was it just pity?
Jewel… She is with you now like everyone else. I liked her. She always knew that I was excited before a mission and made jokes about it, like it was a funny trait to be afraid. Still, when my cowardice came to show, she didn't react less surprised or disbelieving than the others.
Yes, I am a coward. Writing it down is easier than saying it.
I wonder if you and her still think that my "weakness" is only a temporary condition, but if you know fear like I do, you know that you cannot get rid of it. It is connected with all parts of the body and mind: The cold sweat which numbs your skin; the legs that try to run, but can't because they are shaking so much; the thoughts which desperately try to find a way out, but are swimming; the voice that wants to cry for help, but all it brings out is high-pitched, incoherent stammering.
Fear is like a curse, a curse like the rune on your hand with only one difference: It does not necessarily lead to death.
When we were attacked by Brandeau, my first thought was to preserve my life. Is this really so difficult to understand? You might call it a selfish behaviour, also a dishonourable thing, but I believe that if the men had followed me, they would have stayed alive.
You, of course, chose to fight like it was expected from a true Knight. It was an honourable thing to do, but also a reckless one, I think. You also knew that the men would follow your orders, even if it meant death. Does this make you selfish, too? No, because in terms of chivalry, high-handedly telling people to fight and die with you is better than high-handedly telling them to run and stay alive with you. And you didn't even die. The others did, though.
Still, the people always follow you and not me. I don't understand it. I guess I'm just not cut out for the role of the selfless but ever-prevailing leader who always survives, although he risks his life everyday.
When I attacked you once again after you had retrieved Razril, I wanted to try out one last time if I couldn't be a hero as well. One ship only armed with water rune shells against three others -- I bet that you thought that I was either crazy or had a genius plan to beat you. Had you been in my stead, I knew that you would have had the latter one.
I knew that I had no chance when the first cannon hit my ship. You might say now that it is important never to give up hope, but by losing I did not want to give up that -- I just wanted to give up being (and here we go again with the titles, these meaningless words which make people meaningful) "Snowe, the pirate" or "Snowe, the Knight", who couldn't be a hero for his life.
By losing once again to you, I showed this to everyone, without having to speak it. You know, I also turn red when I have to speak about myself.
I was aware from the beginning, even when I was still a trainee, that I could never fulfill the expectations people set for me, yet I had no choice but to follow the path my family, my rank, had chosen for me. The people do not take kindly to lazy rulers of any kind. My father, a weak man himself, knew this.
He didn’t know about me.
You probably also feel that you never truly knew me at all, that this Snowe is not the real Snowe. It is. But are you the companion I used to have? Even now I wonder who you are, I wonder, despite the mercy you showed me, if you ever saw in me a real friend, since everything I do, all the things I am, is so much the opposite of what you do, of how you are.
Do you remember the Kindling? I was so proud to be the chosen one, but my hand started to shiver as soon as I took the torch. You reacted shy, hesitant on my offer to finish the ritual, but in the end you took the fire and carried it with a raised head through the streets.
I guess the one thing we two might have in common is that we both are acting sometimes -- you, like you are weak and I, like I am strong. That's the reason why I always hated it when I felt the gaze of the people on me -- I always feared that they would see through the facade and think that I was just the spoiled Vingerhut child who'll one day be as flabby as his father.
Strange. Back then, I could just presume that people were talking about me behind my back and I worried about it. But as they actually started to speak ill of me, I was past caring.
Maybe it was just the uncertainty and I needed proof that my presumptions that no one really liked or understood me had been right. And I got an overdose of confirmation as I returned to Razril. Why didn't the people understand what me and my father had tried to do for them? With Commander Glen's death, we would have had no chance of resisting an attack of Kooluk. The results of defeat would have been the loss of many lives, and for the survivors a humiliating existence in jail and slavery. By giving Razril to Kooluk voluntary, we gave the people a chance to continue their lives like they had done before. I chose life over bloodshed, pride over humiliation, but they expected us to risk everyone's life by fighting. I guess that their idea of pride is slightly different from mine, although we all seem to connect "pride" with the way we want to live.
I may be a coward, but I am proud to say that I am proud -- it is the thing that keeps me going on, giving me the relief that my way is the right one and just not understood by others. After they had fired arrows at the ship, it was my pride that caused me to stop caring about what others thought of me. Of all virtues, it is probably the only one which was taught to me, even though it is a dark one.
What no one ever taught me was how to fight (and I don't mean the mechanical physical exercises with a sword). But still, it was required of me when I became captain and later a commander. Me, of all people, who just wanted to live peacefully, without having to fight for my status everyday. Without having to fight at all. You may think that this is not possible, but I was brought up that way. I never had to fight for anything, since I had virtually everything: wealth, success, a name.
How could I make more out of it? It could only lessen.
You, however, the shipwrecked, destitute boy, had the advantage of having no advantages -- everything you do will always be called your own effort, and not the gift of high or wealthy birth. You cleared your name of murdering, assembled friends and foes alike under your rule, liberated whole towns with nothing more than a little ship.
You made everything out of nothing.
Maybe you could have even made something out of me -- you could have been the one teaching me how to fight... I was and I am, however, afraid of you influencing me, changing me. I'm afraid of your strength, which seems to come from nowhere, since facing it might show me that the way I live is nothing to be proud of after all and realizing this would bring back the pressure. I'm even more afraid of the fact that the people feel so drawn to you that they rather follow you into death than me into... just living quietly their lives. Could you make me follow you into death, as well? I don't want to find out.
You try to get rid of things you fear, so I tried to get rid of you and again, I failed. Maybe, instead of betraying you, I should have tried to regain your trust and friendship, but as I said, I never learned to fight for anything -- except maybe for my own life.
It is a common opinion that to find a true peace of mind people have to realize their faults and overcome their fears. My pride will always keep me from fully accomplishing the first and concerning the second... Well, it's 'once a coward, always a coward', isn't it?
It is also said that running away never helps. I'm running away right now, trying to find a place to stay in this wide ocean -- maybe a little village, far away from Kooluk, Razril, wars, martyrs and heroes like you. Also, I have to add, from friends like you.
But do you know what? The rest of my life may be a lonely one, but the next time I watch fireworks, I will celebrate since my wish came true:
I'm still alive and that's reason enough for me to feel at ease.
I truly hope that you can say the same of yourself, my friend.