|Summary:||The various letters traded between the Lady Aeliana Charlton and the Knight of Midnight Grace, for the year 288.|
|Related Logs:||Just Another Joust, By Moonlight, By Midnight|
March 28, 288
Ser Midnight Grace
I have started this letter no less than six times. But do you read the letter first, or do you open the parcel? So if you have not, go ahead and open it, my gift to you that I hope you enjoy. I hope it still fits too, because months can put pounds on a man. Still, I hope that you like it. That sounded flat, didn't it? I could say I spent hours working on it. I could say that because I wanted you to have a little piece of me, as I had one of you that then I slept in it too. I find, quite honestly, that I am having trouble with words.
We are now on the seventh rendition, I should warn, but I kept the paragraph from the sixth. We have been in the Westerlands, but as gossip travels I am sure that you have heard. At least you know what name to listen for. My brother has married; to someone I can honestly say I do not approve, but I doubt, truly that you care. Hopefully you're fond of your siblings, if you've any. If you are then perhaps you'll understand. I am extremely fond of mine.
And my dear Ser Midnight Grace, I am two years older than I was when you first met me. The servants tell me that this letter past arrived by a single day before my very own name day and to me that was fate smiling. Yet, -yet-, we have been away these past weeks and then there has been my brother's wedding and more, I am to be betrothed.
I suppose I should have opened with that.
We're now on the ninth, because wine devoured the seventh, the fire devoured the eighth. I keep on collecting the bits I like. I keep waiting a day or a week to…to discover that one week leads on to the next and this boy who professes to be a romantic, to have such novel dreams.. He is not you. He is too naive and too fresh. Too completely oblivious to the Game.
I am betrothed.
It will not last,
Little Lady Annoyed
June 15th, 288
This should be my last letter, this should be my farewell. You are meant for another, it seems, and the honorable course is to step aside, for what claims can I make upon your person? None, but for my honest admiration for not simply your beauty, which I know must only have increased as the years have passed, but more so for your wit. For that sharp intelligence that shines through the ink, past letters and our brief moment of transcendence at the tournament. When I saw you, and eventually, you saw me.
It should be a farewell, but I refuse to do so. Instead I ask you to speak no more of your betrothed. I fear already that should I come across him in person, I will find what excuses I can to issue challenge. With his blood upon my blade, I dare say I should still sleep soundly the night after. In the shirt you made for me. He is not meant for you, not as I am, and yet I know the Game. It is played with marriage as much as sword and pen, and perhaps I will never have you in truth, for all I seek it one day.
It matters, greatly, and yet it does not. For I still have your voice in my head, through these letters. I will know you more thoroughly than this unworthy bastard who makes claims upon your hand, and you shall know me far more intimately than you know him.
A letter, this shall be, where I shall spend every paragraph to follow on all the things you should know of me.
My favorite color is purple. Not the gaudy purple, but the hue of a bruised sky in that first moment of awakened dawn.
I wake up every morning early, even when I have drunk the night before. I go out to tend my destrier with my own two hands, for he is too valuable to leave to mere stable boys. Most mornings I ride him. Sometimes we go through the gaits, but just as often we simply ride. Stretch our legs and feel the wind whipping against our faces. We are as one. Those days I ride not my destrier, I ride my courser or my palfrey, the latter more suited to eat miles upon miles, to look upon my lands and dream of seeing them grow. I have ambition, I deny it not.
I don’t particularly like to shave. I prefer to wear a stubble. It itches less than a full beard.
I prefer to sleep on my side. I do not snore.
Though I enjoy hunting, I prefer the solitude of the forest more than the kill.
Have you read Arrock's Comedy: 'The Bride'? It is one of my favorites, and I never fail to laugh when I read it, or better yet, have it performed for me. There was a traveling troupe some years ago that put it on as a puppet show, and I could barely walk afterward for laughing so hard.
In case you have not come across it, let me spend a paragraph or two to fill you in:
A young heir of the Crownlands returns home after a trip to Dorne, bringing with him an older widow as his newly made bride. His family deeply disapproves; his sisters are envious of her foreign class, while his mother desires a better match for her son. Only the father is welcoming to the woman, a sad veteran of war who has lost faith in life, after fighting a battle in which all his knights and men-at-arms fell beneath enemy, leaving him the sole survivor and full of guilt. In truth he only returned because his wife had determined to find him, dragging him home from a brothel in deeps of Lys.
Much confusion and schemes and accidents occur, and I will not ruin the pleasure of the read by revealing too much. Suffice to say, it's worth the time invested.
My favorite hound is Lightning, not because he is quick and strikes from nowhere, but because he is the fattest, slowest, laziest dog you'll ever come across, and if you make the mistake of giving him a treat once, he will always come looking for more, nosing about your feet and slobbering on your hands. Begging, but always quietly, never with aggression or demand.
There is a bird's nest outside my window, and every winter I make sure it's in good condition to welcome back the birds of spring.
I watched King's Landing burn, in a stinking alley, broken and left for dead, unable to do so much as crawl an inch. We had come to greet the Lannisters. I was lucky they didn't stop to finish the job when they betrayed us. A sellsword found me, and realized I was worth more alive than dead. He ransomed me back to my father, and used the money to buy a tavern. Every time I visit, I stop by and buy a drink.
I wonder if you will recognize me, the day you meet me in person. If you will remember my voice, if you will remember my scent should I lean in close. I will not tell you who I am, but I will try to lead you to decide for yourself. I give you my word, though. Should you ask me directly, am I Midnight Grace, I will not lie.
September 3, 288
I have both waited for and feared your letter with equal measure, but I may say that it has given me time to think. It has given me the little nudge that I needed to know that I can not keep searching for your eyes in a stranger's face and I can not hope to find some glimmering of you in everyone I meet. I man may wait for years, if he chooses; one need only look to The Lord of the Twins to know the virility that comes with age. A woman may not. You see, I have ambition as well.
I do not mean it to sound as if this is goodbye, for it is not and it will not be. But I feel it fair to tell you that I will not always wait. I do not intend to live a life in the shadow of the men of my family. I do not intend to live a life in the shadow of the women. I will carve my own way and it will not be as the spinster who grew old waiting on the man she loved. But as you wish for me to know you as no other can, so too do I wish for you to know me. To understand me. And if the day that we join it is not as husband and wife…well, it is better to know you, than never know you at all.
So where you lead, I can only follow. Truths then, of the sort that we have avoided before. I too enjoy purple, but don't wear it because doing so would be presumptuous. A close second is a deep gold, the way it looks when it's melted in the pot and the light hits it to make it look both bright and black in turns.
I refuse to wear jewelry. Consider it prideful if you will but, I do not need the help and that is only part of it. The rest is simply that I wish those pieces that might one day grace my flesh to be pieces that matter - from someone who matters.
I rise early, early enough to break my fast with the servants in the kitchen because there is nothing I love more in the world than fresh bread from the oven, so hot that it still has the power to burn my fingers. Like you I prefer to tend my own mount, but I confess that it is not always the case. And I have ridden astride in the saddle since I was six, because I can not stand being so detached from an animal when we are supposed to compliment each other, even at the risk of that comes from riding thus.
I prefer stubble on a man because it gives him age and character and because I like the way it tickles against my fingers. I am a fan of sensation and I am affectionate. I will flaunt the edges of decorum to hug my loved ones in public, even to their annoyance and sometimes just to annoy them. I have a playful streak.
I do not sleep in a shift, even when it's cold; but I've bowed to desire to sleep in your shirt. I can't sleep at all if my feet are cold and my Septa tells me that on occasion I do snore, but that it's soft and entirely too much like the noises that a kitten makes for my comfort.
I want to learn to hunt, but it's hard to find the time. I want a pet, for my horses are certainly not pets, they are companions but I've always imagined a well trained hound to lope behind. One that will attack on command.
I like to surround myself with dangerous things.
And I have in fact, read Arrock's Comedy: The Bride, but I was torn with being most smitten between the faithful servant and the veteran. I feel no connection to men my own age. Nor in all honesty and this is something I would hesitate ever to confess to, do I feel any connection or conviction at all to the gods. That was how Stranger got his name.
Lightening sounds like the perfect thing to keep my feet warm, when I sew. Though I prefer to read stretched out on the floor before a hearth, or in the bed so that I can be comfortable. I hate having conversations over tea, I hate them over sewing too. The latter something I prefer to do alone because having my hands occupied often helps me think.
I refuse to drink when I'm sad and had to put away my wine when I read of your mention of the burning of King's Landing because of that very reason. I do not like the thought of you hurt and broken. I do not like the thought of you in pain unless it is a pain I've created for the pleasure of us both, but I can grin with appreciation for the respect that you give the tavern owner.
My favorite thing about the spring is listening to the frogs at night and hiding away by a stream somewhere to simply listen to it babble and I sing when I think that there is no one else around to hear me.
And I wonder if the day you see me again you find that I am no longer what you enjoy and I worry that you will walk on by when you realize that I can not place three words in a voice that I knew only once in a whisper. I should like to dream that my heart will simply recognize you but…I do not know. I worry too over asking you directly. It is a thing that I have asked more than once over the years, it is a thing that I have asked more than twice. There are only so many more 'nos' that I may take when each one in some fashion paints me the fool.
Will you have patience with me?
October 20th, 288
‘My Little Lady Perfect.
I do not expect you to wait forever, enraptured by the dream of a Mystery Knight. Marriage is too important a decision to be made upon love alone. It’s a union of families, ambitions, enemies and friends. A move in the Game. By marriage you can be elevated or reduced. I understand your ambition to escape the shadow of your brothers, and the women they will bring into the households who will undoubtedly view you as competition for favor and affection. I have my own brothers.
The realist in me then accepts, even applauds the sentiment.
The romantic screams with fury, for in my heart I would see a union of both politics and love. I would see a partnership that proves a boon to all around us. As long as they are not rivals. Then to ruin with them.
Do not think that I would ever pass you by, however. Whether you are young and limber as a sapling, or spry and grey at the winter season of life, yours will still be a beauty to captivate me. For I know it not simply by your appearance, but by your thoughts. I think, however, that the time draws near when we shall meet again. If you do not recognize me, I will not despair. I whispered only, as you say, and these letters come with months apart, for travel and events delay.
I will not despair. But by my shirt you’ll know me, in the end, when my patience snaps and subtler ploys to catch your attention have failed. I am a man who prefers a backup plan, just in case.
Do you know, there is a stream nearby. I don’t know when spring next appears, but I’ll be certain to lie next to a stream, listening to frogs and thinking about you. Or perhaps you will have laid down there with me, and we listen to them together?
No despair, only hope. For you’re my dream, so I may live with the harsh realities in between our letters with something ever joyous to look forward to.
November 17th, 288
My Dearest Midnight Grace,
Your understanding relieves me, it calms me even, to know that there is no blame you. To know that you accept. I am not certain, not entirely, that you understand precisely the depths of my ambitious nature, but at least you understand ambition.
And I must say, if the romantic within you screams, perhaps you shouldn't have waited. A cruel truth, perhaps, but a truth all the same. The piece of me that cares for you hates the thought, the realist? Well, the lessons in life that we remember are those that so often hurt, are they not?
I have your mind, here, spilling out upon these pages that help me sleep or keep me from it depending upon my mood before I pick them up and a night too many of my own within your shirt has cost me your scent. No more games, I beg. If the time draws near for us to meet then let it be soon, let it proper. Let it be in truth. Let me wait no more. If there is but even a glimmer of affection within your heart for me then, use not shirt, use not subtle ploy. Come to me instead within the shadow of the night; when the mood hangs heavy and full in your namesake.
Come to me at midnight, upon the first day of this new year, that we might enter it together. That this meeting of the minds, may become one that has grown beyond the page and into flesh and we will lay by your stream together.