Letter the FirstMy darling Markus,
I miss you terribly, but that won't bring you back from the prison camp. One would think that after eight years, the new confederacy would release their prisoners and just let us all live in peace, but apparently it isn't so. I wish I could send you a kiss or a tender embrace through the page, but that is beyond my capacity. All I can do is pour my soul out here and hope you read it. Rolf is doing well; he's grown since I've last written, and he now has the ability to reach the cabinets without having to stand on anything, if only just. I wish you could have had a chance to meet him; he looks more and more like you everyday. I don't want our child to grow up without a father. I do have one piece of good news; I received a letter today from your sister Helga, which means that she survived the war. I hope that you don't mind the fact that I read it, but I do care for her a great deal, even if we had our differences. I always thought we would have gotten along better, given more time, but Olaf and she fled North once your parents died, and I refused to follow, because of my pregnancy with Rolf, and because I didn't want to leave you behind. I've enclose the letter that you might read it yourself. Oh I miss you so much, my love, and I beg you not to waste away, or give up hope, because I know in the bottom of my heart that we will be reunited someday. I am and always will remain, you adoring wife.
I don't know if I'm addressing this to a dead man, because you might not have survived the war, but I told Olaf today that if you never try something, you only deprive yourself of a chance, because you'll regret not going through with it. I suppose I should follow my own words, so here it goes. Olaf and I survived the war by fleeing North after our parents were killed. If you didn't hear of their deaths...you did now. We buried them under the old willow tree, then Olaf said we should head North, so we did. Nila wouldn't come, on account of you and your baby. Anyway, we were going to make for the capital, but then we heard about the Secession demands from Prushland, and we figured we better leave the country. We met Mama's sister Jutta and her family, who let us make camp with them for a few nights, and eventually she helped us over the boarder on the eastern side of the Canyon but got shot doing it, so there's that. She's dead now as well.
Olaf and I are living in Gearford now, and I got a job, and he just mopes around wishing he had a piano. It's not ideal, but it's something. I'm working doing house work for a demon, which is weird, but she's useless at keeping house, and actually kind of rich. She isn't actually half bad, despite what you would think. She's smart as all get out. You could come North and join us if you want. You could too Nila, if you get this as a widow. You're not pregnant anymore. I hope the baby's doing okay, and I hope this letter finds you alive, despite the war.
your sister Helga
Letter the SecondDear Helga,
I'm sorry. I'm sorry that we fought the day you and Olaf left, and I'm sorry we never got a chance to make up, and I'm sorry I called you an insensitive uneducated prude. Not that I've gotten that out into the open, I suppose I should begin by telling you that both Markus and I survived the war, and so did our child, who is a lovely young boy named Rolf. I'm sure that he would adore you if the two of you ever got to meet, which is unlikely for multiple reasons. The most pressing being that Markus is being held in a prison camp just outside the old capital of Dalaerum. The other reason is tied up in the reason he has been imprisoned there, namely the secession. If you fled to Antiford just as Prushland was declaring its independence, then you probably haven't heard that Mercia is it's own country as well now. The empire, or what was left of it fought against us, and Markus defected to take the side of those fighting for Merican independence. He was captured, and now he's trapped in a prison cell. For that reason I cannot leave the country just yet, and travel through the new Confederacy is said to be dangerous.
As for more mundane matters, I'm glad to hear that you have settled yourselves in Gearford. I'm living on your parents farm still, and my younger brother has moved in to help me with the harvest. Things are quiet here, but I hear there's trouble in Mercian cities as people are trying to work out the new government, of which I am going my best to steer clear. I cannot say that I am at all surprised to hear of Olaf's malaise. He always was a sensitive soul, and I could tell that the strength he showed in leading you North would wane once immediate threat had passed. I do hope that things continue to go well for you. The last thing I will mention is Markus' prisoner number, 35712, which you will need if you wish to contact him. Any letter adressed to Krasserin Camp A, Dalaerum, Prush Confederacy with that number on it will find it's way to Markus. Take care and stay strong,
Your loving sister-in-law,
Letter The ThridMy Darling Nila,
I am not technically a prisoner of the Confederacy any more. Our prison was emptied out and all of us were sent to Schmutzvaria and placed under the authority of the provincial government. Conditions are terrible here, and I am more glad than ever than Mercia managed to gain it's freedom. The provincial government has roped us together with various demon slaves and has us repairing roads. They keep sending your letters along, but they barely give us enough to eat. Given that they are short on food, this makes sense, but it doesn't make lying chained up at night with my stomach aching from hunger any easier. Sometimes, thinking about you is the only thing that gets me through the night. I'm glad that you and Rolf are doing well; I don't want my son to grow up with out a father either. The provincial troops are getting hassled by local marauders. Normally, this would be distressing, but I doubt they'll have any interest in us, so if they defeat the troops, I might be able to make my escape.
Thank you for including the letter from Helga. I know the two of you don't get along very well, and it means a lot to me. I'm not sure if I'll get the paper to write back to her; I had a hard enough time talking the soldiers into getting me the paper to write to you. Will you write to her and tell her that I miss her and Olaf? I know it's not something you would be inclined to do, but it would bring me peace of mind. I do love you so much, and I will do everything in my power to make my way back to you and Rolf.
Your Husband Markus
Letter The FourthDear Nila, Johan, and Rolf,
I forgive you Nila, and I'm glad you're alive. I was probably being a bit of a brat back then anyway. I'm sorry to hear about Markus, but at least he's not dead. Things here haven't changed much. According to what my father used to say, Antiford was supposed to be this inventor's paradise. I suppose it is, in a way, but there as much poverty and misery here as there was back home, despite all the inventions. The one weird thing is that there are sometimes just automatons walking around in the street. They're like people made of metal. It's weird. I also met an honest to goodness yeti for the first time. Her name was Annuka, and she was a prostitue from Lilithia. She wasn't anything like Treffen said yeti (yeties?) were supposed to be. She doesn't have four arms or anything. In fact, she looked pretty much like a human. She does have the largest breasts I have ever seen, which probably serves her well, given her profession.
Johan, I wish we could have been proper in-laws. I miss you a great deal, and I hope you are well. If you're helping with the harvest, my father's combine should still be stashed in the old shed, if you haven't already found it. I hid it under some old sheets so it wouldn't get stolen. Make sure you put the boiler fuel in before you fill the tank with water. If it won't start, jiggle the little rod that's to the left of the main motor. That sometimes helps. If that doesn't work, I can't help you. Although as I remember, you're pretty good with machines, so you'll probably understand how it works better than I will.
Olaf and I are still well. We're renting a room in the Mayberry District, which is the grimy part of Gearford that anyone who can avoid does. The demons live in this part of town. They're red here, not Orange. They're not too bad, mostly. Viradet's a fair boss, if nothing else. We live in an area with a lot of other Prush refugees. It's not such a bad set up. Olaf has a job, of sorts, playing the old piano at the Kovy's nest that Annabelle set him up with. He makes a bit of money, but he spends it all on Annuka, because apparently, she's his muse. He's started writing music again. I'd wish he'd get a proper job and bring home some money, but at least he's not moping anymore.
Thank you for sending me news of Markus. I will write to him post haste. Hopefully, you'll have a good harvest. I hope Rolf is doing well, and I'm sorry we haven't had a chance to meet yet, though I'm not sure crossing through the new confederacy is a good idea. At least I have the Empirical Newspaper, which gives us a little taste of home.
Your sister-in-law Helga
Letter The Fifth
I received a letter from Markus, saying that
he has been moved from the capital and sent on a work detail placed
under the provincial government of Schmutzvaria. Apparently, they have
still been sending his letters
along, at the very least. He is still alive, although the conditions
he's being forced to work under really are deplorable and there isn't
enough food to go around. I am very worried about him. In his most recent letter, he told me that he's having a hard time procuring paper, so he may not be able to write to you, but he does miss you and Olaf.
The newly formed government has finally come out here, and put a crew to work fixing up the road that runs nearest your parent's farm, leading to the village of Lorenburg, which connects to the rail line that goes to Lentz. The new government is mostly just the old Empire provincial administration, with whom your father worked closely, before he retired to work the land. We technically vote now, but the people who run are the same, since they're the ones who know what they're doing. They still have Lentz as the capital. The crew they sent out is all demon, led by one of their extra tall women. Her name is Veeka. She's not a bad sort, if a bit gruff.
Johan found the combine over a year ago, and has it in good running order. I've enclosed a letter from him as well. Things here are going well. The harvest is almost here and it's looking to be a good one. Rolf has taken to refering to you as "Aunty Helga" even though you two have never met. Life is peaceful, if nothing else. I found an old sketch your father had of your mother and her sister Jutta, which is the only picture I've ever seen of her, and I hung it up because it isn't far past the Eve of Konets, and I know your mother was a firm believer in the principles of Ruhm. I hope you and Olaf continue to do well.
Your loving sister-in-law,
Letter the Sixth
Of course I found the combine; you did a terrible job of hiding it. And I know about putting the fuel in first; I'm not an idiot. I miss you too. I even miss Olaf, constant piano scales and all. It's to quiet around here. It's weird being an uncle, you know. Rolf a good kid though, so it's not too bad. The harvest is in, and we're planting fall crops to get some greens in before in gets properly cold. Same old boring stuff.
The only thing that's even remotely exciting is the road crew. They gave demons full citizen rights, if they work for the state, so now apparently all the road repair crews are made up of demons. Well that's what Treffen said that he heard from his cousin who works at the train station in Lorenburg and the crew they sent to fix the road just up past the back fields confirms it. I've been up to watch them work, because it's sort of interesting. Is it weird that I want to kiss their crew leader, extra joints and all? On second thought, don't answer that. I'm only leaving that in because it's you.
Anyway, you're lucky you get to be in Antiford. Do you not realize how amazing it is that you have a thriving automaton industry? Do automatons in Antiford still use the three plate interlock system or have they come up with a way of getting around that limit? Do they even do scripting plates at all, or have they figured out a better way? You have to tell me. That's what in-laws do right?
I guess I should end the letter by saying that I hope you're doing well, and stay out off trouble, and please write soon and all that rust. You know, sentimental stuff.
P.S. is it really true about Olaf having a yeti whore as a muse, or did you throw that in just to mess with Nila?
Letter the SeventhMy beloved Nila,
Things here are complicated. The marauders I talked about have shut down the prison camp and freed all of the prisoners. The humans were offered a choice between joining their band and being shot. Apparently, one of the Emperor's grandsons survived and is trying to mobilize a retaking of the Empire. These men served under one of the other royal cousins and are still hopeful that this man can rise up and defeat the idiots of The Confederacy. I am not so certain of this, but I have joined them in their quest to locate this Deadrich Von Kresser to avoid being killed. I will not be able to receive any more letters from you, at least not for the foreseeable future, but never doubt that I love you, and I will do what I can to return to you and Rolf when I can do so safely. I miss your warmth and your smile and I don't want my son to never know his father. We'll probably find out that the man we're looking for is dead and I'll convince the other members of the group to return with me to Mercia, since there's safety in numbers. I hope the harvest goes well. Send my regards to Johan and tell Rolf that I love him.
Love, as always,
Your husband Markus
Letter the Eighth
Dear Helga and Olaf,
I miss you both terribly. I'm sorry the war had to tear us apart. I am writing this to tell you that I have been freed from imprisonment by a group of loyalists who gave us the option to join their cause or die. As I am alive to write this to you, I took the former. This means that no letter you send will reach me. I am going back to Mercia when this is all over. I need to see Nila again and meet my son. I am glad that you two are safe from the war at least, although I'll probably never see you again. Olaf, keep playing the piano. That was your one gift and you can't loose that. Helga, I know you think you don't have any special talents, but being willing to work hard is a good quality. I will miss you both. Don't forget where you come from. Mercia will welcome you back, if you can survive the journey.
Your brother Markus
Letter the Nineth
Olaf and I are doing quite well, or as well as can be expected, given the circumstances. I'm glad that you, Nila and Rolf have not experienced any difficulties with the harvest thus far and I hope it continues to go smoothly. That's all the "Sentimental Rust" as you call it. I do actually miss you guys though.
Yes, Annuka is actually a yeti. She even has a tail. You do not want to know the circumstances under which I found that out. Just always remember to knock on people's bedroom doors. It isn't necessarily weird to think someone of another species is hot. I would avoid actually trying to pursue anything, for obvious reasons.
As for the automatons: Do you actually think I know what a scripting plate is? All I know is that there are two companies that make automatons in Antiford: Buford Automaton Company and Cerillius Industries. From what I can tell, the Cerillius automatons are supposed to be cheap knock off versions. They're also made of wood, which is really weird. I don't know much else. Viradet had Annabelle steal a Buford Automaton from the Industrial Waste Center yesterday, and then had a few vibranni women take it apart. I don't know what that was all about, but they made a mess, which I had to deal with.
We're getting used to Antiford, but it will never be home. You don't know how lucky you are to still be in Mercia.
Letter the Tenth
Dear Nila and Rolf,
I miss you both. I know it must sound silly for me to say I miss you, Rolf, when I haven't even met you yet, but the way I would argue it, to miss a person is to be tired of not seeing them, and I'm tired of not seeing you. It's all well and good to know that I have a nephew, but I'd like to come meet said nephew. Your mother, of course, may very well argue that the word "miss" can't be used like that. If she says that, she'd right. Nila, I will cede to the point that you understand words better than I do. Yes, I admitted you're better than me at something. You don't have to be so smug about it.Things in Gearford are not terrible. Anna had a pregnancy scare, and I nearly had a heart attack. I mean she is quite dear, but the last thing we need is another mouth to feed. Olaf has been going to these wild parties with all sorts of libertine artists and poets and such and it's enough to make my skin crawl. Still, he is alive at least, and some of them are rich enough to pay for his drink and such, so at least he's not drinking away food money. I wouldn't stand for that.
I finally did get a letter from Markus, telling of his escape. Honestly, given the way things are in the confederacy, I'm not sure that's an improvement, but I'm sure he's strong enough to face whatever it will throw at him. Still, you must promise me that you will let me know if you find out anything no matter how terrible. I want to know what happened to my brother. Our family was torn apart by this war and the not knowing is the worst. At least you and Johan are safe. I consider you to be family as well. Do be careful.
Your Sister-In-Law, Helga
Letter the Elventh
I just wanted to say that I forgive you. I told you that I still loved you, after my mother died, and that is and will be true, but I couldn't deal with you after she died helping you across the canyon, because it was your fault she died. And maybe it really was, and maybe that was just what I told myself, but in the end, she died a noble death, and death comes for us all in the end. I do not want to hold her death against you anymore. The desert is too dry for bitter tears, as they say.
It was probably just as well that you left the country. Things here are more difficult than usual. The new government does not work, and there is a shortage of pretty much everything, more so than usual. The "loss" of Mercia and Prushland, which hold most of the farmland, didn't help, although I cannot say that they every really belonged to the confederacy. They broke when they saw the Empire failing, before the confederacy existed.
Still petty men argue politics while real mean and women bear the brunt of the fighting to live another day. I am working as I was before. There is an increase in the need for my type, but it makes my work more dangerous. I am always careful to fight well and live to see another dawn, and I urge you to do the same, no matter what form your battle takes in Antiford. Do not forget that you have the blood of Prush in your veins.
Love and forgiveness,
Your cousin Lazlo
Letter the Twelth
Hello over there in Antiford. I never realized there were two automoton companies. That is actually kind off cool. We've managed to get a few crops of greens in, so there's that. Rolf broke this really nice pitcher that our mother got for Nila and Markus as a wedding present. She got angry and shouted at him and then he said that she was a bad mother. I'm sure he didn't actually mean it, but now there's all this tension between them and I'll stuck in the middle of it. They're mostly on good terms now, but you can't take back what you said, and now Rolf has to learn that. I also got into a fight with Treffen later that same day. He said that Veeka was ugly and I punched him in the face. Veeka is the extra tall demon woman who runs the work crew. Except she's not a Demon demon. Not like in the myths.
Anyway, enough about that. When you took apart the automonton, you should have seen a triangular prism, which is kind of like if somebody took a triangle and stretched it upwards out of the paper until it was long thin tube, if that makes sense. It's welded in to the back of the automaton on an axis so that it can spin. Each of the three side's has a code that allows the machine to do one thing. Nobody's found a way to make one with more than three sides that still had enough code to run, except for a handful of really big machines that were twice as big as people and nobody could afford to maintain them, especially once the war started. Is that what the machine you pulled apart looked like? Did it have some other internal set up? I know you probably weren't paying attention but anything you could tell me would be appreciated.
I hope you and Olaf are doing well. Tell him I said hello. It sounds like he's doing alright up there, so I guess there's that. Sometimes, I even miss the sound of the piano. Don't tell him I said that, or he'll get a swelled head.
Letter the Thirteenth
I do hope this letter finds you well. Rolf, Johan and I have gotten in a few crops of greens, but it's rapidly growing too cold as winter is closing in. Johan has packed away the tractor for the winter and properly stored it. On the cold nights when it gets dark early is when I miss my husband the most. I'm sure winter is closing in wherever he is as well, and I can only hope that he and his fellow escapees have found somewhere warm to shelter. I'm glad that you're not out on the streets at least. From what I hear, winter is weirdly cold in the desert, especially at night. Make sure that Olaf dresses warmly. I know you, at least are sensible. I might have had my differences with you, but I never doubted your common sense. Olaf, when not pressed under extreme circumstances, not so much.
I have not heard any more from Markus. News of the war has been slow to trickle this far south, but I find myself paying attention to any scrap of information hoping there could be something there that might tell me where my husband is. So far, there has been nothing. I have had something happen with Rolf that I need to get off my chest. I love him dearly, that much will never change, but he can be a handful sometimes. I lost my temper recently, and he responded by calling me a bad mother. He apologized, and we reconciled. The pitcher, however nice and however much sentimental value it had is, after all, just an object, and Rolf is my son. His word sting of course, but he is young. I am doing the best that I can raising him on my own.
Please be careful. I don't think the war will trickle north any more than it will trickle south, but even still, I worry.
You're Loving Sister-in-Law,