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Fantasy Dying for a Kiss


I hope you’re feeling well this morning. You seemed in good spirits yesterday when we spoke, so I took that as a sign that it was time for me to go. After all, me staying around has never been much good for anyone, and I’m beginning to think there are things I can do elsewhere that will be of more use than me staying here. I hope you aren’t upset, but if you are, I hope this letter is enough to help you understand why I need to go. Even if you are upset right now, I hope you can forgive me in time.

For several months, I have been reading and rereading various tomes that contain knowledge beyond your wildest imagination. You may not have noticed as I have been doing my very best to keep these books secret so you didn’t uncover my plans. I have been conducting research regarding various magical substances that I believe may be able to cure you. I do not know the specifics of most of these items, and it seems most of the locations previously recorded are more based in rumor and legend than in fact, but I see no way to prove they are only myth if I don’t try to find them. I know the doctors here will continue to look after you and they might be able to fix everything faster than I’ll be able to finish this quest. I sincerely hope this is the case. As it stands, I can’t imagine sitting still when I can be doing something that can help. To prove my sincerity in these endeavors, I have listed the items I hope to find on my quest below.

The first cure I discovered is closer than you might think. There’s a swamp about 7 miles east of the village that is said to have a moss that only grows on certain islands in the waters. The moss is called Hags Hair, which is an extremely gross name, but sources say it glows and has intense curative effects. The swamps are known to be somewhat dangerous, but I’ve never met a person I haven’t been able to beat in a fight, so I don’t think swamp creatures will be too much of a challenge. The only issue with the moss is that it is said to be a magical cure for sword or arrow wounds. I’m not entirely sure if it could be ingested or if someone needs to actually, for real, get stabbed for it to be effective. I would, of course, test the moss on myself first as an ingestible cure to ensure it isn’t poisonous for consumption. If it turns out you would have to for real get stabbed for the moss to work, it is clearly not a viable option. For this reason, I will be saving the search for the moss for last.

The second cure I read about will actually be the first one I’m going to go searching for. According to sources, it’s located in the Malion Mountain Range. There are a series of caves within the mountains that contain mystical glowing gems. Originally, the tunnels were expanded to collect the gems, but it soon became clear that the gems only glowed when they were attached to the mountains for reasons no one could explain. That’s kind of cool, right? The caves, however, also contain a multitude of glowing insects. According to several sources, these insects are safe to eat and have extended the lives of many people who have eaten them in the past. The legends all seem to line up, so I think it's safe to say that the stories about this one are true. The main issue is that the bugs seem to have either gone extinct or now live so far within the caves that they are extremely difficult to locate. There is also the issue that not all of the bugs have the curative properties. From what I can tell, there are no existing resources that can tell me exactly which insect to look for, but it will be one of 12 different glowing insects found in the caves. My goal will be to collect one of each insect and try each of them out as a cure. I am fairly certain you won’t need to eat the entire insect for the curative effects to take place, so I will be cutting each insect in half and testing them on myself to determine if any of the insects are poisonous instead of curative. The safe insects will then be baked into a cake or something so you can eat them without having to think about eating bugs, since that is a super gross thing to have to think about and you deserve better.

The third cure I found falls a little more on the suspicious end of the legend scale. That is to say, even I have a hard time believing this one. There is a legend of a magical flower that only grows under the right conditions when a drop of pure sunlight reaches the ground. As far as what conditions need to be met, or even where this flower might be found, the legends vary. Some imply it has something to do with the alignments of the cosmos, others state that only one such flower can exist at any time, one legend claims that the flower can only bloom on soil that has been touched by the blood of the Gods, and I can’t pin down which legends are the most accurate, so I will be keeping an eye out for any magical flowers that match the description given in the book. Surprisingly, all of the sketches I have found of this flower are remarkably similar, so it’s entirely possible that this type of flower does actually exist. The flower can be brewed into a tea that can literally cure anything, legend says, so when I find the flower I will bring it back and brew a tea. After taking the first sip to make sure it isn’t poison, you can drink the rest of it, your illness will be gone, and we can celebrate with a cake that does not contain insects.

The fourth cure is one I think you might enjoy. There used to be a powerful group of druids or something that lived throughout the Lochlien Forest. Legends claim they used enchanted instruments to cast spells. The legends also say that some of those spells were used to cure the sick and wounded. The only thing is, you have to know the right songs to play to make the spells work. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem though, seeing as you are a musical genius, so you can play whatever you want on the magical instrument and direct the spells at me until you discover a tune that can cure you. Then it will be like you have cured yourself! This is my favorite option out of all of them, but it will likely require a full, experienced team of treasure hunters. Treasure hunters are extremely expensive to hire, but not to worry! As I travel around collecting the other cures, I will be stopping in various villages to acquire wealth my any means necessary to fund this expedition! With any luck, you’ll have your own enchanted instrument by the end of the month.

The fifth cure is entirely non-magical, but I think it has just as high a success rate as every other option. As I travel I plan on stopping at as many universities I can find and asking them for assistance. I assume that students will be willing to work for free so it shouldn’t cost too much if anyone wants to offer information or even visit you. It might be that there’s something one of the doctors you’ve already seen has missed. Maybe you just have a really nasty case of the common cold and someone has a pill that can make it all better. Or it’s also possible that your illness is more common somewhere else and different regions might have a better understanding of it. Of course, if anyone wants to try anything experimental, they can practice on me first before trying any new treatments on you, to ensure that the treatment is completely safe. I will leave no stone unturned and talking to as many people as possible might be helpful. Although this cure isn’t magical in nature, it still seems like a worthwhile quest. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a university that has a really cool music program that you can go to as soon as you’re feeling better.

I know this might all seem like a futile effort to you, but I really can’t sit around and do nothing anymore. There’s a whole world out there and it only stands to reason that there is something in this wide world that can make all of this better. As much as I want to spend every moment left with you, it seems entirely selfish to stay there when I have the chance to do something that could help. If the possibility of a cure is out there, I am determined to do whatever it takes to find it. I know I couldn’t say goodbye in person because you would convince me to stay. You could convince me of anything. That’s why I chose to say goodbye with this letter. You’re the greatest thing in this world and I can’t imagine living in a world without you in it. Besides, there’s a whole world out there that needs to hear your music. It would be super unfair to deprive everyone of that.

I’ll be back before you know it,

(P.S. I hid the rest of the money from selling off Mom’s stuff and the old house. It’s under your bed. Use it on whatever you need.)

(P.P.S. Shelly is guarding the money under the bed. Her new favorite food is beets. Please look after her while I’m gone.)

(P.P.P.S. Try to remind yourself of how amazing you are while I’m gone. Because you are amazing.)
My dearest fucking idiot,

If I was not banned from leaving my house by my parents, and if I wasn’t frail and weak and dying, and if you were even still here, I’d come after you and attack you. However, since I can do absolutely none of that, allow me to say:



Getting this angry isn’t even good for me ugh. my chest hurts.

Your quest is so stupid and endearing and I hate it and I am so mad at you and I want to punch your arm so hard but I can’t do that because you literally LEFT ME here to suffer and stew in absolute anger and I just…..

This is an awful letter, idiot. I can’t get my thoughts straight. I’m too angry.

After trying to take a deep breath and coughing quite a lot, I’ve calmed down slightly. I managed to keep my lungs down! Woohoo! Ugh. I hate my lungs. Can you find me new lungs? Do you think anyone would be offering some new lungs out there in the world?? (This is sarcasm. Don’t do this.)

Your turtle is fine. She terrified Charlie. His tail became a bush. My cat is now hiding from everyone because of Shelly. Coda and Chord had to work together to get her out from underneath my bed (why, you idiot, did you leave her there, of all places), but she’s slowly but surely exploring the house. We gave her some lettuce as a snack. We’ll add beets to her diet after Gran comes back from the market. Ours aren’t done growing yet. We really weren’t expecting to watch after a turtle. Thanks, Frank, really.

Anyway, you’re an idiot. I really can’t believe you went off on a quest to try to find some stupid mystical thing (things) that do not exist to try to save my life. I want to punch you in the face so badly. This is the exact thing a moron hero in a moron fairy tale would do and I can’t believe you literally decided to fucking do it. My best friend, the stupidest idiot hero in the entire world. You do know that all of those magical items in your list are literally stories, right? Aka not real? Aka you left me alone when I have only so long left to go find something nonexistent when I’m literally right here, still existing, and I want you here too but

That last thing doesn’t exist. Gone. I’m upset. My scribbles are angry scribbles. I understand why you left. I think. But I still am incredibly pissed and honestly, ow, it kind of hurts my heart, my chest, my limbs, everything. I thought that you’d stay by my side while I went through all of the awfulness. You’re the only friend that I’ve allowed to see me when I’m disgusting and dying. No one else can see me like this but you and… Now you’re gone. And I can’t see you again anytime I want to. I can’t ask Coda or Chord or my parents or Gran to go find you and bring you over. Because you aren’t here anymore. And that fucking sucks.

You know, Shelly misses you. I can tell by the way she meanders around the floor, looking for your feet. She’s also sad that you left her behind. So am I. I really wanted you to stay with me. You’re such an idiot.

I guess I can understand your reasoning. I guess. There’s some logic in it, though it’s horribly flawed and I’m honestly appalled that you think you’d be able to tell if something is actually curative from tasting it when you aren’t sick (that won’t work, just so you know). You might be able to tell if something is poisonous but then if something actually is poisonous, then you’d maybe die and then I would never find out where your dumb body is at and I’d really be so fucking pissed if you actually died before I did. Don’t die out there, Frank. Don’t take unnecessary risks. There are surely other ways to test if something is a cure or poison. Maybe find a doctor (or a student doctor (or a bully or an old man or a child or maybe a baby) and kidnap them and then experiment with them instead of on yourself. If they die??? Whoops. Wipe your hands clean of it and move along. Obviously that one is not the cure.

(That’s mostly a joke but at this point I don’t really think I’d care if someone died so I could live….. Is that awful…. It is. I’m scratching this out too no, it’s not mostly a joke, it is a joke, completely. Don’t do that.)

What was it you were even out trying to find on your foolish quest that’s still kind of sweet even though I still hate that you’re gone… Nothing is under any of the scribbles. Don’t worry. I’m still mad. They are anger scribbles. Agh. Rawr. Uh. Punch? Kick? Smack??? Et cetera.

Right, let me properly reply to this stupid letter that you left in my window that startled me. It almost got lost in the wind. It was barely hanging on. You should have left it in the mailbox like everyone else does. Oh damn. I have no idea how I’m going to get this back to you. I wonder what magical nonsense they have in town. Don’t be too surprised by whatever solution my family comes up with.

Onto my proper response.

You’re “various tomes” are picture books. You’ve read them aloud to us. Coda made sock puppets for some of the characters and Gran put on voices sometimes. I had no idea you were actually researching them because they are literally fairy tales and make believe and not real, but you’ve always been a fan of myths and legends so… I’m not really surprised.

“Hags hair” sounds disgusting. I bet it’s disgusting. Tell me if it’s disgusting when you find it. Also, have you ever actually seen any glowing plants anywhere around? Ever? Because, yeah, I live on a farm and I’ve grown up around plants and explored the forests around town lots, and Frank… Plants don’t glow. If they glow then something is really wrong with them. Hags hair might be some mutated moss that’s incredibly dangerous to even touch. Maybe wear gloves whenever you find it and wash your hands after you're done handling it, just to be on the safe side. And, gee, I don’t know, but maybe the “dangerous swamp” is dangerous because it’s literally a swamp and people can drown in them and get sucked down into them and never surface again because it’s slimy all over and slippery and awful to explore. I really doubt there’s any scary swamp creatures living in it. It’s probably just naturally difficult to navigate. Maybe take a boat with you when you go instead of trekking through it on foot, just to be on the safe side. (If you do need to stab someone to test the moss’ properties then my suggestion to capture someone and have them be your test subject still stands. Just saying. You know, a tiny puncture on the arm still counts as a stab wound… Just saying…)

“According to sources”, you say. You mean, “according to the stories your grandmother told me”. I have never seen a glowing gem and I don’t really believe they exist because they make no sense. Nothing glows. I don’t think there are glowing insects, either, but… You’re already gone so nothing I will say will change your mind. Why would something glow? Let me ask Chord. …. He said “stuff’s weird, bro”. Insightful. Coda also said “magic!” because you have influenced her horribly. Oh, Gran’s back too. She’s carrying bags. She told me I needed to have an open mind, because the world is far-reaching and she’s seen things I would be astonished by. This is not an answer, Gran. (Coda is now watching me write.) (HELLO FRANK!!! I LOVE THIS QUEST IDEA SO MUCH GO GO GO GO GO) (That’s from her.) I’ve been distracted. What was I saying? Oh, glowing bugs. Right. I think they may have gone extinct because idiots decided well let’s believe in something completely illogical and consume the insect, then because those idiots were eating bugs, other idiots also started to eat them, because humans are completely stupid. Good luck collecting all 12 bugs though. If you find a pretty gem then hold onto it for me. Maybe you and Chord could work together to make it into a necklace that you could put over my tombstone when I’m gone. Watch out for, uh… Trolls? Are those on mountains? Or giants??? I don’t know what tall fantastical creature lives on mountains but be careful, please. (Oh also don’t eat the bugs. Don’t be like the ancient idiots. Really, I really am recommending, in the least criminal way possible, to find someone to take with you politely so that they can be your test subject. Accidents happen, Frank. And it would just be you two and no one would know…)

Your third idea is not worth me logicking for you. Magic flowers obviously do not exist. What the fuck is “a drop of pure sunlight” anyway? That sounds like a line from a fairy tale. With a girl with long blond hair and a dashing rogue thief and a funny horse and a frog. This is the most implausible thing you’ve listed. It’s probably just a flower that someone wanted to make some story around. I’m going to have Coda go to the library with Chord later to get books on legends so I can see what you’re actually even out looking for. (Don’t drink the possibly poisonous tea. Give it to an animal? Or… I’m just saying… A test subject… You know, doctors experimented on people before we got to where we’re at medically… Ahem…)

A magical instrument does sound kind of cool. Like, moderately cool. But I don’t think I’m really strong enough to play anything anymore. I get tired so easily sometimes. I don’t know how easy it’d be for me to play the instrument to find the right song but anyone else in the Mailon family could, so… Bring something home so we can experiment with it. Why, though, do you need treasure hunters, exactly? I don’t see the correlation between “druids have magic instruments” and “I need treasure hunters”. Couldn’t you simply find the druids and explain to them the situation and appeal to their sympathy? You have a very good face that many people fall for. I’m sure the druids would like you as well. Maybe try to talk to them before stealing something from them. I don’t think pissing off a bunch of angry musical spell-y people is a good idea. The instruments might be important to them like… Historically… So… Try not to be an idiot about it. Use your words first.

I definitely don’t think it's a nasty cold, Frank. Colds don’t last for two years, right? Other doctors from other places might be a good idea though, actually. Gran wanted to get someone from one of the old cities she lived in to come visit and I think my parents are arranging that. But, uh, don’t let them experiment on you first. It’d be so useless. You don’t have the illness I have so they wouldn’t get any results from experimenting on you. Any doctor that specializes in lungs would be the right person to talk to. The respiratory system. Apparently it’s called “pulmonology”, thanks Dad. Seek out a pumol… Lung doctor… And ignore that I can’t spell that word… (Also don't tell the doctors you find that you may or may not have have had former test subject (or three or four), if you decide to have a test subject. Some people might not be so understanding.)

It is mostly a futile effort but I understand you hate feeling useless. Imagine how I feel. I can’t leave my house without wheezing and if there’s something bad in the air I can’t even sit near the windows. I live on a farm. There is frequently some kind of pollen in the air. And it’s kind of killing me, I think. And you not being here is almost as bad. I want you here, Frank.

Maybe if your quest is successful and you actually do find something to save me, we could go explore the wide world together. Wouldn’t that be fun? I could spread my musical genius everywhere and you could save whoever you wanted to. I think it’d be fantastic. But I also know it is horribly unrealistic to hope for that. And I know that I don’t want to die without you here to… See me one last time, before I go for good.

The truth is I wouldn’t mind you being selfish and staying with me. I want to be selfish and stay with you too. I want you to hold my hand and kiss my face and promise me everything will be okay even though I know it won’t be. I want you to be one of the last people I see before I die but you’re fucking gone and

Ugh. I hate. I… I hate this. Find a cure and then hurry back, okay? I have something to give you. Well, I don’t yet, but I will by the time you come back. So come back soon. Please.

Signed by the actual smart one who is now watching Shelly eat a beet,

(P.S. Don’t worry about the scratched out stuff. I was going through things. It’s because of the disease.)

(P.P.S. I don’t know what we’re going to do with all the money you left us but my parents are holding onto it for now.)

(P.P.P.S. I love you.)
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I would like to start this letter with a gentle reminder that you are possibly the most amazing person I have ever met. Not only are you an incredible person on the inside, but you are also incredible on the outside. I know it’s hard to see beauty sometimes, and I don’t blame you at all for not being able to see beauty in yourself given the way things have changed in your life, but I simply can NOT allow you to call yourself “disgusting”. If anyone else in this wide world were to speak such disrespectful words about you, I would destroy them without a second thought. As it stands, the best I can do is try to remind you of how amazing you truly are. If nothing else, I hope I can remind you of how important you are to me.

Do you remember the summer after we met? There was a grouping of tall trees just outside of your family’s land, and the two of us decided to make a contest of seeing who could reach the top of their own tree first. I chose the tallest of the two trees, as I am an excellent climber, and we both started to climb. It didn’t occur to me at the time that this tree had branches that were spaced farther apart, nor did I realize that some of these branches would choose to be super bendy on this day. My climbing was, of course, perfect, but one of the branches was a lot bendier than it usually would have been and I fell. To this day, I am unsure of how bad the injury actually was, but I know I fell from quite high up. I also know that I still have a scar from the incident on my leg, as I am sure you will recall.

I don’t bring this story up to highlight my immaculate climbing skills, but to illustrate a point to you. I apologize in advance if this point comes across as muddled or unclear, but this story is very important to me. I remember crying out, as I was in pain from falling, even though it really wasn’t that bad, and you were there faster than I thought possible. I will admit that I don’t remember much of what happened after that, even though it really didn’t hurt at all, but I do remember you stayed with me and sang to me until help arrived. I remember, for the first time in my life, feeling a sense of security. I don’t know if I ever remember feeling safe until that moment. It seemed to me, for the first time, that someone actually cared if I got out of a situation alright. I think this was the first moment I realized how undeniably important you are to me.

So, how dare you insult yourself. Your presence in my life has given me nothing but security and joy and I simply can NOT abide you insulting yourself. The word “disgusting” is reserved for things that are actually gross, like insects, or wet hair that isn’t attached to a person’s head. More appropriate adjectives to describe yourself would be “amazing”, “immaculate”, “beautiful”, “incredible”, “magnificent”, and/or “marvelous”. If ever you refer to yourself as “disgusting” again, I will be extremely cross and disinclined from responding to further missives. Moreover, if anyone else insults you in any manner, please let me know, and I shall introduce my fist to their face.

With that unfortunate business out of the way, I would like to offer my thanks. As you mentioned multiple times throughout your last letter, poison can have detrimental effects on the human body and, if I were to test the various cures first, without an expert opinion, I may suffer and/or die. Although this is of little consequence, you also mentioned that I would be unable to test for curative effects in any aforementioned curative cures, so I believe you are correct when you insist that I have an expert with me while on my quest. As such, I am determined to find an expert in magical curatives in the next town or city I find myself in. My hope is that this individual will be willing to accompany me on my quest and we can search together for an item that will rid you of your illness.

As far as possible poisonous effects of the aforementioned magical cures are concerned, I believe you are correct and just to desire more test subjects than myself to verify that they are, in fact, not poisonous. Because of your clear desire to remain healthy for as long as possible, I will do my best to recruit individuals who are just as willing to submit themselves to testing as I am. Naturally, I will test all magical methods first to make sure other recruits do not suffer under possible poisonous effects, though I will not take any unnecessary risks, and having additional test companions will also allow for more research to be collected about the magical curatives that will, likely, prove important for posterity. I understand that you don’t want me to test anything on myself, but if it a viable option to do so to ensure your safety, I will do it. I will do anything to ensure your safety.

As far as students and medical professionals are concerned, I accept your critique that I would not be a viable test subject, as my lungs are as perfect as the rest of my body, and it would be best to send them to you directly. I would like to request, however, that if I send a polmynolyguyst to you and they insist upon drastic measures to cure you, I would rather you contact me immediately so I can be there before, during, and after the procedure. If the methods are experimental enough to where you will be the first to receive the procedure, I humbly ask that you refuse until I can find a way to infect my lungs with the same illness and have the procedure performed on myself first. Of course, one of my future companions that is willing to subject themselves to testing will be the second to have the procedure done. As I am sure they would survive with major side-effects, the general consensus is “third time’s the charm”, so I firmly believe that you would be fully cured at this point, and that the second trial patient would be completely happy with their decision to help you. Anyone would be willing to go to the ends of the earth for you after meeting you, after all.

If I do end up meeting a professional, as you have recommended, and they deem a magical curative to be ineffective, but they deem a new pair of lungs would be extremely effective, I would like you to know that you are more than welcome to take one of my lungs. If I have another willing participant, I am sure they would be willing to part with one of their lungs as well. Although I am not an expert on anatomy, I am fairly certain that lungs come in pairs. Due to this fact, I think it is safe to say that a person can live a healthy and fulfilling life with only one lung. As you are a singer, however, I know that you need both of your lungs in order to produce sound properly. Naturally, you would need to have two lungs, so we would need to find someone other than myself that would be willing to donate. I wish you had brought this up before, as I am sure anyone in the town would have been willing to donate a lung for you, and my quest would have been closer to home.

Since I have already made it this far, however, I am determined to at least discover if the glowing insects are a factual cure before I return for you to receive your lung transfer. It will likely be another few days on foot before I reach the mountain range, but I will be passing through two cities on my way there. Both of these cities have universities, one of which is famous for its magical theology (according to your extremely conversant grandmother), and I plan on stopping at both of these locations in order to inquire after professionals and/or students who would be willing and able to assist you pro bono. As I am fairly certain that “pro bono” means “for free”, this is an ideal situation. Hopefully, I will be able to find people in these towns that are willing to help me on the quest as well.

I want you to know that I am taking the roads and camping just far enough off the trail to remain hidden. I want you to know that I am being as safe as I can be. I also want you to know that I am looking out for places we can go together once you’re feeling better. Already, I passed a waterfall that I didn’t even know was outside of town. I can’t wait for you to see it, it's got to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I never realized how clear water could be until I saw it cascading down the stones. The water ran deep right under the falls and it would be a perfect place for us to go swimming. I may be mistaken, but I think I could see some sort of cavern on the other side of the waterfall. I was standing close enough that the sound seemed to echo and I can only imagine how things would sound if we actually swam under the falls and into the cavern. I would have explored the area further, but I want this to be an adventure for you as soon as you are feeling better. I’ve marked the location on my map, and I think this would be a perfect spot for our first real adventure together. With any luck, I’ll have found a cure by the end of the week, and we can explore here together by the end of the month.

I already miss you. I really do. I wish I could say I’m sorry for leaving, but I find myself incapable of lying to you. I am sad to leave you, but I’m not sorry. Even though you may not agree that these legends are credible at all, there is still a chance that there is something out here that can help. Even if I can only give you a few more breaths, I am willing to go to the ends of the earth if it means you get to live a little longer. I promise, I’ll be back before you know it.

By the way, I know you claim that your scribbles are the result of an agitated state of mind, but I recommend you ask your family to invest in a new pen. There really seem to be a lot of blotches and missing sections throughout your letter and I can’t help but wonder if it is due to faulty equipment. If you could also tell Coda that I have buried a wooden sword somewhere in the yard and she is more than welcome to have it if, and only if, she can find it before I come back (I buried it there when I was 15 and I no longer remember where it is. It can be her own quest.). Also, I know Shelly isn’t looking for me nor does she miss me. I’m sorry if she startled Charlie, but it’s kind of a dick move to bring the turtle into this. Thank you for taking care of her. It means a lot.

Before I forget, the money might come in handy if a traveling sorcerer comes through town. I imagine a powerful magic user could cure just about anything. I also imagine a powerful sorcerer would be expensive. The money I left might make a down-payment for a life saving spell.

Your Dearest Fucking Idiot.

(P.S. attached to this letter is a flower I found at my first camp site. I didn’t know Sunflowers grew outside of fields. This one is a little smaller than the ones I’ve seen before, but I thought you might like it. The petals are darker than the big sunflowers and the color reminds me of your eyes.)

(P.P.S. You can punch me in the face as soon as I get back. I hope I never upset you ever again. Upsetting you is hopefully a one time thing.)
Dear Frank,

I would like to start off this letter with an apology and an explanation that I was… Very upset. I’ve thought it through and although I still disagree with your quest completely, I’m no longer so angry that you abandoned me. Though, yeah, I still am, a little, because that sucks. A lot. I will punch you in the face when you come back. It is going to happen. Even if it’s a weak punch, you have to act like it’s really painful so that I can feel like I still have some strength left in my noodle arms. Please. For me. Act like I’m the strongest guy in the world.

Your first and third and fourth paragraphs of your letter are also very embarrassing and my cheeks heated reading them, so thanks a lot for embarrassing me so much even though you’re far away from me. If you actually told me that to my face then I might spontaneously light on fire, so it’s good you told me how amazing and immaculate and beautiful and incredible and magnificent and/or marvelous I am when you’re not here. Those are a lot of pretty adjectives that you should tell to a pretty maiden out there in the world, but… Thank you. Even though I don’t think it’s really true anymore. I’m definitely not “immaculate”, since that word is close to perfect, and I really am not perfect. You are perfect though. It makes me kind of jealous. I wish I could see your perfect face and perfect body and hear your perfect voice and watch you smile so perfectly, but… Well. Can’t. So forget I said that.

Don’t forget that you also make me feel secure and joyful, though. That’s why you being gone is so hard. You were something I looked forward to every day. Now I have to wait for your letter and pine after you and it’s so stupid. I know you’re doing all you can to save me but I really think you just being by me would be enough. I know that it’s not for you. I have to somehow be okay with that. And I’m not. But I will try to be. It’s so difficult. I miss you so badly and it hasn’t even been three days yet. I want you back tomorrow even though that’s impossible. I hate it. So much.

With that embarrassing business out of the way, I’d like to offer another apology. I’m sorry about the turtle comment. I was angry at you and you know sometimes my temper gets the best of me, especially now that I’m sick and dying. Shelly is a good turtle. We put her outside during the evening so she can munch on grass. Charlie’s not scared of her anymore. He was just frightened. Chord and Coda both really like her and they plucked some ripe strawberries to give to her.

Things have been awful ever since I got sick and you made things easier, but you were gone so quickly and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I’m still not used to it. I don’t think I'll ever be used to it. So I kind of… Was not super nice, which makes me feel bad, thinking back on it. I really need to be okay saying goodbye to things but I’m not ready to let go of things yet. It’s so stupid. I should be used to it. I’ve had this incurable illness for so long already. I should be fine with it. If I was fine saying goodbye then everything would be so much easier for everyone. I don’t want to say goodbye. I’m not ready to go.

That’s depressing, though, and I don’t want to make you sad. Before I respond to the rest of your letter, I’d like to lighten the subject by saying I actually went on my own adventure. Not anywhere you mentioned, no. Just into town. (Though I would definitely like to explore the waterfall together when you come back, even if I’m not feeling better. It sounds beautiful. If I’m too weak you can carry me there. I’d love to see it with you. It could be like a pre-death date. What would happen if I kissed you in that cavern? Would you run away again? I ask, but know I don’t want to actually hear your answer so I can’t leave my question here.)

My adventure into town was not nearly as beautiful as your journey has been. Some annoying person that I’ll refer to as… Eri… Hehehe, oh, he’d hate that. Eri it shall be. Eri, who is someone that you definitely know but hopefully my nickname is sly enough, happened to find me. Annoyingly. I was… Not hiding behind a building to avoid being spotted, per se, but I happened to find an interesting mouse that I was so intrigued by. He found me in the midst of watching the mouse scurry about and startled me, since I thought he might punch me. He hasn’t done much beating up on anyone since I’ve been sick, or at least Bere, Mort and Kali have not told me about any attacks he’s done on anyone. He also hasn’t been necessarily mean to me and instead was quite concerned I’d left home without anyone with me. “What if something happens to you and you get hurt?” he asked. I told him I would be alright. “Your lungs are really bad though, aren’t they? You shouldn’t be outside so close to construction. The air’s not good for you.” See? This concern?? Strange. I don’t like it.

Long story short, I somehow ended up back at home, perfectly alright, as I told him I’d be. Nothing abnormal happened on my trip back home. I simply wanted to see the new building that they’re putting up by the library. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet, and I don’t think anyone else knows, either. Eri had no idea when I asked him what he thought it might be, because he is not the smartest guy around. I can’t get over the care he showed me, after the history we share. Well, I suppose it makes some sense, given the history we share. I may have endeared myself to him accidentally. If I did, then I have to figure out the best way to make him dislike me again.

Now, onto the proper reply. What was it you said again? Dumb things. I will go reread the letter.

You dying is not of little consequence. You can’t give your life away for me. Your life matters so much to me and if you die then I’m going to find you in the afterlife and forcibly drag you back from it. I will never forgive you and I will be eternally pissed off if you trade your life for my own. Don’t do it, Frank. You don’t want me to forever be pissed off at you, do you? No. You care too much about me to leave me angry and pissed and hurting so badly because you're gone, because of me. I would never be able to forgive myself if you died while experimenting on something to save my life. I would hate myself forever if you did something like that. Please, please, please promise me that you won’t do that. There are other ways to test cures/poisons that do not involve risking your own life. Rely on the magical expert or any other companions you collect along your journey to explain the dangers or benefits of something.

I really wish I could be out there with you. You could experiment all you want on me. I’m the one that needs the cure so I should be out there with you. It’s going to be so difficult for you to determine if something is actually a cure or not without my diseased lungs to either further decay or start to heal. What if you have an allergic reaction to something, too? Do you know what that looks like? Make sure you find someone that knows what an allergic reaction is. The basics, in case you do not find someone who knows what to look for, vary greatly, but an allergic reaction can include: a rash (an itchy red splotch on your skin), hives (large red itchy splotches on your skin that may warp the texture of your skin), difficulty breathing, swelling on your face, wheezing (difficulty catching your breath), upset stomach (like you have to throw up), an itchy throat, itchy or red eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, and sometimes, if you’re unlucky, death. Make sure you keep an eye out for any of those issues while you’re out exploring, and especially be mindful of them if you decide to test things on yourself first, which would mean you either broke our promise or never agreed to it, and that would break my heart. I already have bad lungs. You don’t want my heart to be damaged too, do you?

If a fancy doctor comes to visit then I’ll let you know. So far, the person Gran knows hasn’t been able to clear time to make the journey to our home. I don’t think she’s going to have any special procedure or any new medical advancement that can save my life, but if she tells us she’s got an experimental procedure then I’ll tell you. I wouldn’t want to go through that without you here to maybe hold my hand and maybe tell me things are going to be okay even if they might not be. (Also I don’t think there’s any way for you to infect your lungs with the same disease I have. You’ve been by me throughout all of it and you’ve not yet gotten sick, which must mean you’re immune to it, as the rest of my family are. (Plus I don’t know how else I’d even transfer the disease to your lungs except through a… something that starts with K… I’m ending this thought now.)) I really don’t think that you’re going to find anyone who’s so willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause of science. I think that’s a terribly optimistic outlook on life. The reality of it is going to be difficult for you to come to terms with. People don’t give up their good health or lives for strangers they don’t know, and may never get to know. And, no. People would not give up their lives for me. Only you are so willing to sacrifice for me, and if you do sacrifice for me, then I may have to cut off my pinky toe so that you realize you’ve made a horrible mistake. Don’t make me lose a toe. I like all my toes.

Your lung paragraph is ridiculous. There’s not any way to transfer a lung into my chest. If that was even an option, my siblings or parents or Gran would have given me their lungs, since our blood is the same. We’d be more compatible. Foreign blood mixing with foreign blood, aka my blood mixing with your blood, can lead to several other damaging complications that I won’t bother explaining to you. But do you remember when Kali got sick because she exchanged a blood promise with Mort? It was because they mixed blood. And one of your lungs going into my chest sounds horrifying. I don’t even know how that’d work. I don’t want to imagine it. You need to have both lungs to live, and as I’ve mentioned, you can’t sacrifice yourself for me. Plus, I do think the doctors would have recommended giving me different lungs if it was even a viable option, and none have. It’s not a procedure that’s possible. It would kill anyone who tried. So no one has tried. And you should not try, either.

Do you think you could find a horse to make traveling faster? Or find someone to take you to the mountains? I don’t know what it’s like in different towns, but I know that I’ve asked to get ridden around to the farms outside of town before and people have agreed to it. There should be no complication if you find someone who also is going to the mountain range, or even near it. It would make your journey faster and your feet less sore. The two towns you’re going through should definitely have at least one or two people there to get you, maybe, to the next town, or closer to the mountains. Ask around for help. Sometimes people surprise you. But other times they’re awful and don’t deserve nice things. (I don’t think anyone is going to volunteer their services for free. The world does not work like that. People want money for anything they’re skilled at. My family only performs in the plaza sometimes for free because we are not poor and we enjoy making people smile. Most people are not so lucky.)

I haven’t gotten a new pen, but there are significantly fewer splotches in this letter. How peculiar. It’s almost as if I’ve taken more time writing this and I’m being more careful with what I’m saying. Instead of saying I love you, like an idiot. <- This is on purpose. There’s a secret under here. I can tell you my secrets and then cross them off and you will never know. It’s… Not really nice, but it’s easier for me.

Also, I did tell Coda about the sword, and she destroyed our yard. Carlee helped her. Our parents were incredibly upset. You know how they are about the front of our house looking tidy. Carlee got into the hydrangeas and also the rose bush. It was a fiasco, but Coda did find the sword, on the edge of our yard, after digging over a hundred holes (I counted). You shouldn’t have given her the challenge. You know how competitive she can be. She’s been practicing with it (she named it Stabbers but I refuse to call it that) against a hay dummy Chord and Dad made for her. She’s miserable with it. She keeps dropping it. She wants to get better so she can spar with you when you get back. That’s become her new quest. (She literally stayed up all night one night just digging holes in the yard.)

I doubt any sorcerers are going to come into town, but I’ll have my family listen for anything like that. I don’t think there’s ever been a powerful sorcerer that came to town before. There’s not really much here to draw magical people to, unless they’re visiting the Crimson Forest or Vine Village. Those places aren’t really easy to navigate to and I don’t think anyone really knows about them outside of town so… But, well, yeah. I’ll ask them to watch out for any sorcerers for you.

Warmest regards (don’t die),

(P.S. The flower is stuck in between the window frame and the glass. I love sunflowers. I haven’t gotten to see a sunflower in so long. They didn’t grow last time we planted flowers. Thank you for sending it.)

(P.P.S. I heard that there’s going to be some special guest coming into town soon, from the ladies that love to gossip in front of the cafe. Apparently, he’s some fairy tale believer, or a fae finder, or an investigator of some sort? And apparently he’s handsome and unmarried and the ladies want to try to date him. I don’t think our paths will ever cross but this is the first tourist I’ve heard the locals actually talk about in excited conversation with each other. He might be a big deal? That’d be weird, wouldn’t it? Why would someone well-known or famous come to our town??? I’ll try to go investigate myself. I want to get up to some adventuring too. A new stranger is exciting and intriguing. I’ll report back on any findings I discover.)

(P.P.P.S. Don't click this.)
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I am sorry if there is a delay in you receiving this letter. I’m not entirely sure how bird-mail works, or if there is a way to track when a letter is meant to be received, or really how this bird knows where to find either of us, but there may be a solid day-and-a-half delay between when you thought you should have received this missive, and when you actually did. This is to be expected, as it took some considerable thought in order for me to formulate an appropriate response to your last letter. As it stands, I am still not sure how to respond, as much of the letter has me rather perplexed. Although there are some pieces of information that prove easy to respond to, there are other pieces of information that I am still struggling to find the appropriate words for. I suppose it would be best to begin with this:

I, Frank Dunheart, solemnly swear not to cause harm to myself
in any way that could be considered intentional
in assistance to the cause of saving the life of Lyric Mailon
even if self-sacrifice seems to be the best possible option
as the last thing I want to do is cause Lyric a broken heart
or a missing toe.​

I can’t promise you I won’t get hurt, but I can do this much. Please know that I spoke the oath out loud three times AND have a separate signed copy with me, so you know I’m serious. It’s not an oath I want to make, but I understand now that it’s one I must make. I never meant to make you feel abandoned. I have never wanted anything to ever hurt you, and I don’t know what to do now that I know I’m the cause of some of that pain, even as I’m trying to eliminate the cause of the rest. I’m not abandoning you, Lyric. I promise. I don’t know if I have words for the rest of what I need to say right now besides “I’m sorry”, and I know that’s not enough. So, until I can come up with words, I’m going to tell you about something completely different.

I managed to find two friends on the road. By friends, I mean I managed to meet a couple named Lettie and Angus who own a traveling apothecary. “Lettie” is apparently short for “Charlotte”, which makes no sense considering “Charlotte” starts with a “C” and “Lettie” starts with an “L”, but I don’t have the heart to tell her that her nickname is incorrect. Anyway, their horse had managed to run their cart through some mud and it was stuck, so I pulled it out for them. As I have said before and as I shall, doubtless, say again: Horses Can Not Be Trusted. I traveled with them until we stopped for camp at nightfall, and we told each-other of our lives. I spoke mostly of you, of course, and how I was on a quest to find a cure. They told me of all the places they had been and all the items they had in their apothecary, and I found myself completely amazed at how plants and rocks and things could be used in so many cool medicinal ways. Did you know that people have iron inside of them? I didn’t know there were so many tiny little rocks inside my body, but it’s very interesting to think about.

As a thanks for helping them with their cart, they gave me some medicine to send to you. They said it has white willow bark and peppermint, for pain, and there’s marshmallow root, (which isn’t nearly as tasty as it sounds) which is supposed to help with coughing and shortness of breath. Angus said that it isn’t a cure, but it’s a combination that may be able to help with symptoms. He also said that most apothecaries would have the herbs and, if the tea helps at all, you should be able to pick some up at any point in the future. I’m not sure if this is a medicine you have tried before, but I am sending the herbs with this letter in hopes that it might help, even if it’s only a little bit. It may even assist you when you go on your next adventure.

Speaking of adventures, I highly recommend you avoid Eri at all costs. I am not at all sure whom it is you are referring to, but I don’t know if I appreciate their concern, especially considering you have hinted at there being animosity between the two of you. As such, I would highly encourage you accelerate any plans you currently hold of convincing him to dislike you again. He seems a very dangerous sort of fellow to be around, from what you have said, and I shall not be convinced of your safety until I am assured that this villain is no longer speaking to you in any capacity. I do, however, agree with his assessment that you could have gotten hurt and, perhaps, it would be best if someone (who is not Eri) accompanies you on your adventures. Clearly it couldn’t be anyone in your family, as that would ruin the fun, but going on an adventure with Mort or Kali would be acceptable. I am extremely curious as to what made this mouse so interesting if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

I also recommend you take care when investigating the stranger in town. He, too, sounds dangerous with the potential to be a bit of a villain. I am curious as to what someone famous would be doing in town, however, and would be extremely interested in any information you could provide. Do you think he has something to do with the construction? Or, perhaps, he is a powerful sorcerer and your family should go talk to him. If it turns out, however, that he is a goblin that has enchanted the ladies in town into thinking he is handsome, please let me know, posthaste, and I shall return as quickly as possible. Such villainy shall not prevail under my watch.

I think I may have come up with words now. They aren’t good, they aren’t pretty, but sometimes big things need to be said simply. I’m scared, Lyric. And that isn’t easy for me to admit. This world didn’t make sense until I met you and I’m afraid I will be undone in a world without you in it. You can’t say goodbye because I’m not going to let you. I’ve never faced a problem I couldn’t punch my way out of and this isn’t something that can be solved so easily. I’ve never been afraid of anything before but now….please. Please, keep breathing a little longer. I’ll be back before you know it. I promise.

I now see why the lung idea is a bad one, but do you understand why I would give you one of mine? I’m not entirely sure why killing me would infect me (as I can’t think of another “K” word you could possibly mean) but I hope you understand why I would infect myself to give you a better chance. I already swore an oath to you, so I won’t do anything self-sacrificing like that, I promise, but I hope you see why. You’re my best friend. You’re the greatest friend anyone could ask for. You don’t have to say goodbye because I’m going to figure out a way to fistfight an illness and I’m going to blacken both of its eyes for you. I promise.

It is good to know, though, that Kali didn’t get sick from a curse. I thought she had broken the oath somehow and the blood bond had cursed her with a sickness. Of course, Kali would never break an oath. It’s silly to think that she would have.

Remember what you said about people surprising you? Angus and Lettie have agreed to come with me all the way to the mountain. They have never heard legend of the insects before and are curious if they exist. If not, Lettie says she has a “side hustle” where she sells crystals and reads cards for people. She says that, sometimes, people just need to hear that everything is going to be ok for them to believe it. Do you think that’s true? Regardless, they are interested in the journey more for the promise of crystals to sell, even if they don’t glow, than they are for the promise of curative insects, though Angus said the insects would be a nice bonus if they existed.

I look forward to the punch I will later be receiving. You are, after all, the strongest person I have ever met. I mean that. No one is as brave as you are. If anyone could beat me in a fight, it would be you, even if it’s only because I let you. I will, of course, be back as soon as possible if any procedure is to be taking place. I may even consider asking if I may borrow a horse, even though I don’t know how to ride one and Horses Can Not Be Trusted. From here out, if you ask me to, I’ll come home in a moment’s notice, even though it would kill me to abandon this quest. That is, unless I’m moments away from finding a cure. If that’s the case, I’ll be back in a handful of moment’s notices.

If Coda is serious about learning the sword, please add this to her quest. When I return, she and I will have a battle using wooden swords. If she can manage to land a single blow on me, I will buy her a real sword that she can ONLY USE FOR PRACTICE and she must promise NEVER TO DRAW IT AROUND OTHER PEOPLE because SWORDS CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. (Don’t tell her this part, but there is no way she could possibly land a hit on me. I’m too good.) Also tell her this deal only stands as long as she agrees to make sure the yard is completely repaired by the time I get back. And please apologize to your parents for me. Once again, it seems I have underestimated her competitive spirit.

And since we are keeping secrets from each-other now, you ass, here’s one from me; I don’t know if I missed an opportunity, but I don’t regret not taking it. If you had pushed me away I might have died. I used as much extra ink as possible to scribble this one out, so you’ll never be able to read it. And now that I have done that, I feel rather terrible about it and I’ll never keep a secret from you like this again. I would rewrite the letter and erase this section completely but I’m almost out of paper and I don’t want you to have to wait too long for a response. If I ever cross anything out again, I promise it’s because I made an actual mistake. Please don’t be mad about my scribbles. Also, please ignore any blotches in this letter in general. I have never cried in my life, it was simply raining as I wrote.

Give everyone a hug from me (except for Chord). I miss you. I miss all of you, really. I’ll be back soon. Also, please ask Gran if she has any information about Marfeld Pass. I only ask because she knows everything, and a passing traveler told us it was a shortcut to the caves. I’m wondering if there are any more magical cures that may be found there.

The Dumb One Who Left You With A Turtle.

(P.S. The herbs are supposed to be made into a tea.)

(P.P.S. “Immaculate” is the best way to describe you as you are the closest to perfect I have ever known, second only to myself, of course.)

(P.P.P.S. After much consideration, I have decided it would be acceptable to take Bere as an adventure companion as well.)

(P.P.P.P.S. I shall send you a new pen with the next letter.)
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Dear Frank,

Thank you for coming up with that vow and reciting it three times. It makes me feel so much better knowing that you have made a promise to me that you won’t needlessly endanger yourself. I’m also grateful you’ve promised me to not self-sacrifice, because that means I don’t need to lose a toe and my heart can remain unbroken. Thank you, sincerely. I even showed the promise to Chord and Coda and they said that it was one of the best written promises they've ever seen. I agree with them. As long as you keep your promise, then I think I’ll worry significantly less for you on your quest.

I know you aren’t abandoning me, as well. I think I was being slightly unfair in how I reacted, but I don’t really know. You’re free to explore the world if you want to, if you think there’s a cure for me out there. I was being selfish and needy and I’m working on not being either of those things. It’s really, really, really hard for me to… Let go of things, though. I’m not currently trying to really let go of anything, either, since the past couple of days have been pretty good. I don’t want to really talk about that though so instead I’ll just say: I would like to explore the world with you one day. Together. Don’t explore too hard out there without me. It’d be fun to find out things together. If you discover any nice date spots though, like that waterfall, then definitely let me know about them. I can judge them based on your description of them and tell you if I want to go to them or not.

Your new friends sound interesting. Thank them, from me, for sending the herbs to me, please. I’m drinking the tea as I’m writing this and I told my family about what they sent to me. Dad’s going to go into town tomorrow to get some more, for the future. The tiny coughs I usually get after I’ve been outside for a little while aren’t bothering me, so I’m pretty sure the combination of herbs is helping with that particular symptom. (Lettie most likely takes her nickname from the Char-LOTTE part of her name. You know how Coda and Chord call me Riccy, from the Ly-RIC part of my name? It’s the same basic principle.)

Speaking of adventures, Eri is… Well, he’s not really going away anytime soon. I don’t really think he’s much of a “villain” anymore, although I can't really believe I'm writing that. He's more like... Just an annoyance in my life that I didn’t mean to get involved with. He’s told me and my family that he’s “trying to change” and because he helped with a… situation… a couple of days ago, Gran’s said he can visit if he wants to. Which is so annoying. He’s taken that offer and ran with it. He came to visit yesterday and he also was coming to visit today. Since he’s being annoying and sticking by me, I can’t actually ask Mort or Kali or Bere to come along with me on adventures into town. My parents allowed me to go into town today because I was going to be with Chord, but then we ran into Eri outside of town and Chord agreed to let him stay by me so he could go get medicine and chat with his friends. (Oh, before I write about my annoying adventure today, the mouse was… Blue. Or, it looked blue. It might have been a trick of the light.)

My adventure into town today was interesting. Eri and I talked about the owner of Unfortunate Plaything while we were close to it and I found out that Eri thinks the owner is a vampire, which I now think is maybe true, but you’ll find out why I think that later. There was a commotion in town that I thought was weird, since there’s not usually much commotion in town, so I went over to it and found a large crowd gathered around the inn. Bere was actually outside of it, but he, somehow, did not see me. The reason a crowd was gathered outside of the inn is because of the new stranger to town, who is named… Deeder Francois Laurier, but he prefers Francois or Frankie, but I refuse to call him Frankie. He’s blond haired and annoying as a fly buzzing around your face. He found me and Eri standing and staring at him and came over to us, then told us he was a private investigator. He’s looking into the Crimson Forest. He also asked me about Vine Village. I didn’t answer any of his questions because I do not think he’s trustworthy. There’s something weird about him that I just don’t like.

Some situation happened that interrupted Francois’ questioning of me, which I’m now thankful for, although at the time I wasn’t. Chord found me and decided to bring me back home. I ended up leaving Eri alone to handle the situation and I still feel kind of bad about it, but… Well. I’m sure he was fine. I don’t really want to feel bad for him. That seems like a bad idea. To move past my guilt about abandoning Eri to handle a difficult problem by himself, allow me explain what happened to both Chord and myself outside of the door to Unfortunate Plaything.

That lead up sounds quite ominous. Nothing truly bad happened outside of the toy store, but… Have you met the owner before? He seems very weird. He knew about my illness, which isn’t surprising, but he also somehow knew about the stranger in town and he also knew probably one of my biggest secrets, that I never told anyone about. I don’t understand how someone that doesn’t leave his store would know anything about me. It’s so fucking creepy. Chord also got kind of freaked out and he pulled me away from the store, but I did see how pale the owner's skin is and I’m pretty sure he’s a vampire, because I’ve never met anyone with skin so pale before. He asked if we had any interesting information about anything and I told him, not on purpose, about something, and he said that what I said was very interesting… Which is… So creepy…

I don’t really want to tell you one of my biggest secrets. Not right now, at least. I’m sorry, but it’s really uncomfortable for me to talk (or write) about, and I know it’s going to bother you. Maybe when you come back I can tell you what happened to me in the Crimson Forest, but I really hate remembering it, because it spirals in my head and makes things awful. I tried to forget about what happened but I really… It’s kind of impossible too. Do you have anything like that? Stuff that sticks with you, that you can never truly forget? I’m sure you do. I think everyone does. But I don’t think anyone has ever experienced what I did in those woods.

I don’t know the right thing to say to your next paragraph. I had to take a moment to compose myself after I read what you wrote. I’m scared too, Frank. I’m so terrified. I don’t want to say goodbye. So I will keep breathing. That’s really the only thing I can do.

It hasn’t been too difficult to breathe the past couple of days, which has been nice. The various teas I’ve been drinking and the ointment that the doctor gave me help my symptoms a lot. I take the bitter medicine every day, too. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to even be alive if I didn’t have the help from everything else. I’m going to keep taking and accepting the help from the doctors and my family and from whatever you find out there, so try not to worry too much about me.

The K word I was referring to isn’t kill, Frank. It’s something much less violent, involving a tender touch of something that’s necessary for singing, but I’m not going to write anything more about that. I’m also not going to cross it off, although I really want to. I know you don’t really get it, so don’t try to figure it out. (You’ve succeeded in making me tear up, by the way, so thanks for that. I’m trying to hide my emotions behind other stupid words.)

I do wish, so badly, that you’re able to find a way to fist fight my illness. If I could pull it out of me and set it in front of you to attack then I would do so in a heartbeat. Sadly, that’s not possible. An invisible, non-physical enemy is always the hardest one to fight against.

Kali… You know, I won’t comment on what you wrote, actually. Keep believing she keeps her oaths.

I agree with Lettie’s viewpoint on the whole okay thing. I do think being told by someone that things will be okay is immensely helpful. If someone truly believes in what they’re saying, then words can be so powerful. Simple reassurances can help save people from panic or sorrow or any other number of awful emotions or thoughts. Can you ask Lettie to read my cards? Or do I have to be there for her to read me? I’ll figure out how to send a lock of my hair along with this letter, since that’s kind of all I can really send out into the world. If it’s not enough to get my cards read then that’s okay. I’m mostly just curious. Also, do thank them for me. They’re kindness is appreciated by me. I’m incredibly grateful that they’ve agreed to help you get to the mountains.

There are no procedures being planned for me, but my family has heard back from Gran’s doctor friend. She’s going to be visiting tomorrow, which is much sooner than I thought. She doesn’t have a cure or anything for me, but she wants to check my condition and compare it to her notes about a different person who suffered another illness similar to mine before. Tomorrow, we’re going to welcome her to our house, and maybe she’ll have some new treatment to give me? I’m not sure. I’ll ask her if she’s ever heard of what you’re out looking for. Maybe she’ll know of something you mentioned and she’ll be able to help shorten your journey out there, if something has no curative properties.

I read to Coda what you asked me to tell her and she agreed to it. She’s actually been outside most of the day filling holes, because our parents are making her. She wanted to come with me to town but she’s forbidden from leaving our property until she makes our yard look nice again. She didn’t fill them yesterday because she had to clean the entire house. (Eri noticed them yesterday too and asked about them, but Coda said it was a freak accident and no one knows what happened. Chord told Eri it was an angry rogue scarecrow hopping around, wreaking havoc on yards. Dad and Mom both didn’t say anything but they were smiling. Eri was incredibly confused.) Coda’s outside now trying to fill more holes, although it’s getting dark out. Even with the punishment from our parents, she’s incredibly determined to win against you.

I made sure to not cross out anything this time, because it was an ass move of me to make. Since you crossed out something so perfectly though, I want to cross out something too… But I don’t know what other secret I have that I want to write down. I’ve already hinted too much at the fact that I want to kiss you and I said that I love you a couple of times, so I can’t say those things again. I guess I’ll hold off on writing any other secrets down for now, since that’s the much less ass thing for me to do. (Are asses actually immaculate, though? Can I be both an ass and immaculate at the same time?) (Also make sure to buy paper whenever you find a town that sells it.)

I gave everyone a hug for you (including Chord). We all miss you too and we’re all looking forward to you coming home. Coda wants to hear all about your journey and Chord wants to learn about anything weird you discovered out there. I asked Gran about Marfeld Pass and she told me it was a treacherous path to take to get to the caves of the mountains, but it’s also the most direct route to them. It’s been a while since she’s left Calcheth and she doesn’t know if things have changed, but she told me to tell you to keep an eye out for floating orbs of light? I don’t know what that means and she wouldn’t give me any more information. Maybe the floating orbs of light belong to some dangerous creature? I have no idea. Oh, but she did say that she never knew of any magical cures in the area, so don’t spend too much time in the pass. For some reason? She really made it seem like it’s dangerous. Be careful.

Eagerly awaiting your return home,

(P.S. Bere may, possibly, become an adventure companion, but I do not know if that’s a good idea or not. It’s… Kind of complicated between us, because of me. I haven’t let either him or Kali or Mort visit in a long time. I don’t really know if letting them see me is a good idea. The only reason you visited is because you’re basically family. The only reason Eri gets to visit is because Gran allowed him to and he’s not one of my closest friends. I don’t want the people I care about to see me when I look like this. I don’t know how to explain it. I can’t find the right words to explain it.)

(P.P.S. I put the new pen in my room. I’ll use it to write with when this one stops working.)

(P.P.P.S. I’m sending the bird out at night time. I hope it’s able to get to you without getting lost. I also have no idea how bird-mail works. Our bird is quite pretty though, don’t you think? Should we name it together? If you find an interesting street name or if you encounter someone interesting, then maybe we can name it that. Or… Journey? Fruity? Seeds? I’m open to other ideas, because all of those names suck.)

(P.P.P.P.S. Introducing sub-plot number two . . . Featuring Francois Laurier.)

I hope this letter finds you well. On the off chance it doesn’t, however, I hope this letter is able to remind you that you’re incredibly awesome. If you don’t believe me about how awesome you are, keep in mind that I have no reason to lie to you, therefore, it must be true. There is absolutely no reason to argue with the facts.

I would like to start by acknowledging the item attached to this letter. At first, I was afraid it would be a little too large for Journey (the messenger bird) to carry, but Journey seemed to have no problem with it so I hope it makes it to you safely. It’s called a Kalimba and, apparently, it’s a musical instrument. I do not know how it works but I do know it is attached to a loop of string (which has nothing to do with playing it, so I’ve been told) and it can be worn as a pendant. I’m sure you don’t need any instruction on how to use it, since you are a musical genius, and you probably already have one anyway.

The really interesting thing about this instrument is the person who gave it to me, but I’ll come back to that. It won’t make sense out of context, so I will do my best to provide context before telling you about them. That is to say, I should tell you where I was when I was given this item. I got it on our way to Shamza, which is a super cool place to visit, but I’ll come back to that later. The voyage makes more sense when taken from point A to point B.

Remember the waterfall I told you about? I’m sure you do, as you mentioned it in your last letter. This waterfall is important, as having been there means I started my journey going in the wrong direction. At least, according to Angus, that is what must have happened. You see, if I had been going in the right direction, I would not have traveled through any forest at all and would not have seen the waterfall. This came as something of a shock to me, as I have always considered myself to be an excellent navigator. I only mention this as it explains why it has taken me so long to complete such a small portion of my quest. I don’t regret starting things out this way, however, as I find I am excited to revisit the waterfall with you as soon as I return. I asked Lettie if she would help me keep an eye out for any date spots as well, since she seems to know an awful lot about these things, and she said she would let me know if any caught her eye. She did give me a list of places in Shamza that would be excellent date spots, and I did my best not to visit any of them when we were in town so that I could explore them with you first. That will make it more of an adventure for us both.

I also showed Lettie the parts of your last letter that were scratched out and she smiled and said she wouldn’t tell me what they said. She claims she knew exactly what was written but it wasn’t her job to tell me, it was yours. I think that is rather unfair and I strongly encourage you to tell me what you wrote, as it sucks that she gets to know, and I don’t.

I have been enjoying traveling with Angus and Lettie for various reasons. One is that they seem to know a lot about almost everything. Anything that Lettie doesn’t know, Angus does, and if Angus doesn’t know about something, Lettie seems to know about it. Although I don’t remember everything they have taught me, I do feel as though I have learned a lot about the world around me from them. Angus told me that it’s always nice to have someone strong with them to help them with manual labor and I am more than welcome to travel with them for as long as I would like. Of course, I must complete my quest first, but he said I can travel with them just as soon as the quest is complete, if I would like to. I told him I would consider it, and, if I’m being completely honest, I wouldn’t mind traveling the rest of the world with them. They’ve been kind to me, even though they didn’t need to be. I guess that’s something I’m not used to, and I think going with them might be a way for me to repay their kindness. What do you think? When you’re completely cured, would you like to come with us on a journey around the world? It might be more fun traveling as a group than with only the two of us, after all. I think you would like Angus and Lettie. I think they are about the same age as Gran. Do you think that means they all know each other?

Anyway, we saw so many amazing things on our way to town. I didn’t know that the fields changed so much. The ground is pretty flat in Calcheth, but the further you travel towards the mountains, the hillier it gets. It’s a good thing I’ve spent a great deal of time keeping myself physically fit, or I may have found it exhausting to traverse the hills. There are several abandoned farms just outside of Calcheth that I didn’t know were there, and there’s even a trading post between Calcheth and Shamza. It’s a strange place, and there aren’t any permanent houses there, but it was very interesting to visit. This is where I met the person who gave me the Kalimba.

Oh, I should mention that everything costs money. Did you know that? I didn’t plan on having to pay for anything when I left town. Lettie and Angus were nice enough to give me food and a little coin for helping them out so much (even though I don’t feel as if I’ve helped with anything), so I have been able to eat at least. Angus said that almost everyone carries money with them all the time. I’ve never had to worry too much about that before. It turns out taking food off people’s land without paying for it is considered a crime in most places. Does that mean I’ve been a criminal my whole life? I suppose it must. I hope you don’t mind being friends with a criminal. Lettie says I can continue to eat with them, and it shouldn’t be too hard for me to earn money elsewhere as long as I am willing to work for it. I’m not sure if I can be useful in most places, but I shall do my best to work hard and earn enough money to get by.

Speaking of money, I think this is a good time to mention that the owner of the Unfortunate Plaything now owes you a toy. You traded information to him and didn’t get anything back in return. That means he definitely owes you something. I’m not sure if there is anything in the Unfortunate Plaything besides toys, but it might be worth looking around. I am also fairly certain that he is not a vampire. He is certainly a bit of a weirdo, and I recall him being kind of creepy, but I have never seen him drink blood. In fact, I have never seen him drink anything. Maybe he’s a ghost instead? I traded him information about everyone’s harvest once for the wooden practice sword that Coda has now. I still don’t know why he found that information interesting, but something about large pumpkins really interested him that year. I’m not going to tell you anything else I traded him over the years, as none of it is really interesting or important, but I do know he owes you something now that you’ve told him whatever it is that you told him. You can probably go collect it at any time. I do know you need to collect “in person and not by proxy”, although I am still unsure what that means.

For the record, you never have to tell me anything you don’t want to. You are entitled to your secrets for as long as you need to keep them. Just know, I am here to listen to your secrets if you ever need to tell someone. And know also that I will never judge you for any of them. If the owner of the Unfortunate Plaything ever gives you a hard time, though, let me know. I’ll be sure to solve that issue for you.

Anyway, the trading post we were in is called Tradacha, and apparently it moves around quite a lot. A bunch of different traders stop here and, apparently, some farmers from Calcheth come here as well to sell food to travelers. It was a very cool place to be. Some of the people there were trying to sell things, and others were looking to trade. There were even some performers and musicians! None of them were nearly as talented as you are, of course, but seeing them all performing reminded me of home. I can’t wait to hear you sing again. Out of everything I miss from home, I think your voice is what I miss most. Even when you talk it sounds like music. At one point, one of the singers was asking for requests and I asked if she knew that song your Gran used to sing about the sailor and the mermaid. She didn’t know what I was talking about and I was supremely disappointed.

Tradacha is where I met the person who gave me the Kalimba. Did I mention that already? I think I must have. Regardless, he was a very interesting man. He was travelling with a group of performers and played hand-drums for some dancers. The dancers were all really friendly and one of them asked if I had a place to sleep for the night. I thought it was really thoughtful of her to ask. It seems like the people who stop at Tradacha all look out for each other. I ended up getting into a conversation with Kalvin, the man who played the drums, because I thought it was interesting that he chose to play the hand-drums when he only had one hand. He informed me that the way he played had a more interesting sound to it and set him apart from other drummers. We ended up talking for a while and he told me all about his travels and the amazing places he has seen. He once played during an ice carving contest in the north. I thought an ice carving contest might make a good date spot. What do you think?

None of these things are the reason why Kalvin is interesting. Kalvin is interesting because I mentioned where I came from, and he got really quiet. I asked if he was alright, and he asked if your dad lived there. I figured it’s no big secret that your dad lived there, so I told him that, yes, he did, and that my best friend was your dad’s son (meaning you, of course, not Chord). This was when Kalvin gave me the Kalimba and said to send his regards to your parents and that he hopes all is forgiven between them. He also mentioned your mom and how he never would have done that had he known? I really lost track of things at that point, but the fact remains that I met an old friend of your dad’s, and he gave me a free little instrument to send to you. If you’re feeling up to it, I would love to hear you play something when I come back to visit. I couldn’t figure out how to work the Kalimba at all. Neither blowing on it nor shaking it produced any noise, but you may have more luck with it than I did. As aforementioned, you are a musical genius.

While we were there, Lettie read some cards for people and Angus sold some herbs. That reminds me, Lettie said there is little she can do with your lock of hair. She also said you were correct about the origin of her nickname. I am constantly amazed by how smart you are. Anyway, she said the hair could be turned into a good luck charm of sorts, if I wanted it, so I said yes, so she is going to make some sort of good luck charm for me with your hair. It’s a little weird, but I think it’s nice that she offered. She did say that she could do a reading for you, but it would be better to do it in person, so they have agreed to come to town with me when I come back to visit, and she will give you a second reading there. Angus said he might like to find a place to settle down eventually and Calcheth sounds wonderful. Lettie wrote down the reading she did for you and it should be attached to this letter. She says I’m not allowed to know what your cards say unless you want to tell me. That sounded very ominous, so I’m going to let you keep that secret. You don’t even have to scribble that one out. Whatever the cards say, I hope its good.

We only stayed at Tradacha for a night, and then we spent the morning travelling to Shamza. This is the day that Journey found me. Or the night, I suppose. We were already in Shamza when I received your letter. I’m sending this letter on the morning we are to leave for the mountain pass and into the caves. I’m not sure how long that journey will take, but it should be swift if we don’t run into any trouble. I told Angus and Lettie about Gran’s advice, and we all agreed to stay aware of our surroundings and keep our eyes peeled for any suspicious lights. I know she said that there weren’t any cures there, but if the lights are the insects, maybe my journey will be shorter than I thought. I won’t linger in the pass, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Shamza is amazing, Lyric. Calcheth is so small compared to Shamza. Or maybe it isn’t, and I’m just so used to Calcheth that it seems smaller. I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to take you here. Maybe we can come back next summer. A lady at a tavern told me that they have a great contest in town during the summertime where people compete in various events including swordplay and archery. She said I looked physically fit and like I would be good at competing. I’m not interested in competing at all, as I already know I’m the best at probably all of the events, but I thought Coda could compete and we could all come out to support her. Chord could stay back in Calcheth and keep an eye on things so your parents wouldn’t have to worry. A lot of the participants are college students, and it’s apparently a fierce competition. Not to mention, the winner receives fame, glory, money, and opportunities. The lady told me that plenty of people have gotten scouted for different jobs through the events, so Coda could be a professional badass one day. Not that she isn’t a badass already, of course. How is she doing with the sword, by the way? Filling in holes could be considered practice, in a way. Swinging a sword and swinging a shovel can’t be that different, right?

Angus got a room in a really fancy inn, and I was trying to find a room in a cheaper place since I didn’t want to rely on them too much. We agreed on a place and time to meet up for this morning, so I am happy to report we are back in each other’s company as I am sending this letter. I was able to find a free place to stay, though, so I didn’t have to spend any money on an inn at all. A lot happened that allowed me to stay there, and I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details, but I’ll try sum up the events.

When we arrived in town, Angus and Lettie went to a place owned by Harold. There was another Harold that owned a different inn, and I was going to stay at that one because it was supposed to be cheaper, but I never actually ended up finding it. I got turned around asking for directions from a flower seller. She was very insistent about telling me what time she got off work, which was strange, but her directions got me all turned around and I was unable to locate the inn. I found a few other places, but not the inn.

Shamza is huge, Lyric! The buildings are taller here too! Did you know buildings could be 6 floors high? Some of the buildings here might be taller, but the tallest one I saw up close had 6 whole floors! How many rooms can you put on 6 floors? What would you even put in all those rooms? A student at one of the universities told me that one of the buildings on campus has over 100 classrooms in it. What do you even do with that many classrooms? Most of the universities offer tours. Would you like to go on a tour with me? According to Jeremy, many of the schools here offer music programs. He also talked about something called philosophy that sounded like something you might like. It’s thinking about thinking or something. I can try to figure out more about philosophy if its something you think you might like.

Jeremy is a doctor in training, by the way. He just started out at school, so he says he doesn’t know a whole lot, but he did say he had a friend who might be able to travel out to see you. He said he would write to you if he had any news (I hope you don’t mind) and that he would ask around to the different professors and students to see if anyone had any ideas on things that could help, or to see if there were any experts that would be willing to travel down. He did apologize that he didn’t know anything off the top of his head. Jeremy was very nice and asked if I would be willing to visit sometime. He told me about a great café and asked if we could get breakfast sometime. I felt bad declining the invitation, seeing as I had to leave early this morning, but the café is called “Enchanté” and it has very good coffee and something called “crepes”. We should go when we visit.

Oh, right, I ended up asking a bunch of different people for directions after the flower seller. Most people were nice, some were strange, but eventually I ended up at Marion’s place. She agreed to let me stay there for free if I helped with some repairs in the building. Mostly, she wanted the banister repaired, but I ended up helping with a few other things while I was there. It really wasn’t hard work, and she was nice enough to let me have a room to myself for the night, so it seemed like a fair trade. According to Marion, it's an odd request to ask for a room to oneself in her establishment. I’m not entirely sure why. She told me that the banister broke when a customer got a “little too handsy with one of her boys without paying”. I also don’t know what this means, but I was happy to help with the repairs. Everyone who worked there was super nice as well. They were all being a little odd towards me when I first arrived, but once Marion said I was doing repairs, everyone seemed to relax. I’m not sure what kind of work they do, but the uniforms were odd. Everyone seemed to enjoy their work, though, and they all seemed glad that I was there to help fix things up. Maybe we could get a free room there when we visit. That is, unless you wanted something fancier. We could always try to find Harold’s place.

I like visiting new places, I think. I guess I like how I’m treated in new places. Back home, people tend to all look at me the same way. It’s expected that I act a certain way, or people think they know what to expect from me. Everyone here was friendly to me. No one looked at me and saw the kid I used to be. No one looked at me and saw my mother’s son. People just saw me. I think I would like to experience more of that. I think I would like to experience more of a lot of things. There’s so much to explore. I’m excited to explore it all with you.

Speaking of exploring, there are several places that seem like they would make great date spots. On the journey to town, there were several large fields of flowers. According to Angus, many of these flowers are apothec in nature. This interests me less than how pretty the flowers were. Lettie insisted that a picnic in a field full of flowers would be a perfect date spot and, since you seem so interested in date spots, I think this would be ideal. In town, there was a tavern called “The Lovebird’s Nest” (which is apparently the best date spot in town), and a lookout just up the closest mountain that looks out over the fields. I guess it’s very romantic. The girls at Marion’s told me all about it. I’m not sure if you’re looking for romance when it comes to date spots, but that’s what everyone seemed to assume when I asked. There are more places in Shamza I could tell you about, but I’ll save them for when I see you in person. Sometimes things are easier to explain in person.

I hope you’ll let me know who you plan on taking to all of these date spots. It seems rather unfair to find places for you and not know who you’re planning on taking there. I would like to go to these places with you, of course. I need to make sure they are suitable for you and whomever you plan on taking. Unless, of course, you don’t have anyone in mind and are just looking for places for the future. It’s important to look forward to the future. Especially considering I should be back with a cure in a matter of days. We are so close to the caves, after all, and I’m sure the cure must be there.

I’m glad to hear you’re able to have adventures of your own. Even though Eri still sounds like an untrustworthy person to me, I guess I can thank him for looking out for you while you’re exploring around town. I would go with you myself, of course, but I’m layawayed by my quest. I would ask you to thank this Eri person for me, but I don’t like him and find him unworthy of my thanks. After all, anyone who would consider the idea of a rogue scarecrow digging holes in the yard is clearly an idiot. I would love to know what situation Eri was left alone to handle. I fully endorse you throwing him in the way of a stray arrow to save your life and then leaving while he fended off vicious bandits. If this is, indeed, what happened, then Eri shall receive my thanks. If not, I’m sure everything worked out just fine and he does not receive a “thank you” from me.

I still think, however, thank Mort or Kali would make a better adventuring companion than Eri would. I am also reconsidering my stance on Bere. I don’t understand it, but I know he means a lot to you. That said, you will find, attached, a letter to Bere. I ask that you ask Chord to deliver it to him. Or Coda. Or anyone really. You can deliver it yourself if you like. That would, honestly, be ideal, but I am assuming you won’t. I am also assuming you will want to read it, as me asking you to give Bere anything may seem unusual. Please, do not read the letter to Bere. You may be tempted, but please don’t read it. It contains secret information that only Bere’s eyes may see. Please, do not read the letter.

Regarding Deeder, I sincerely hope his stay is a short one. Anyone looking for information on the Crimson Forest seems like bad news and can not be trusted. I’m sure you understand why I shan’t be using his chosen nicknames and shall continue to call him Deeder. I’m surprised to hear the Vine Village mentioned. I had assumed that was something only a select few knew about. I know Gran has stories about it, and all of Gran’s stories are based in truth, but I had assumed the knowledge of the Vine Village was lost long ago to everyone else. Did you talk to Gran about the investigator? If anyone would know why someone was looking into it, she would. That said, if you choose to investigate the investigator further, proceed with caution. You already don’t trust him, and I don’t trust him either. Perhaps you could disguise yourself the next time you have a conversation with him. Better yet, send in spies to keep tabs on him to find out his nefarious purpose in town. I’m sure if you asked Coda to put together a legion of spies to discover his motives, she would be more than happy to do so.

This may seem an abrupt change of subject, but I have been considering words that start with “k”. I mentioned that Tradacha had a number of musicians staying there, and I heard a few of them discussing something called a “key signature”. I remember your dad mentioning something like this to me before. I know it has something to do with how music is written, but do you think there is some sort of key that can transfer illnesses to others? If that’s the case, do you think there may be some sort of key that could remove an illness? I don’t intend to make this part of the quest, but I may ask around to see if anyone has ever heard of something like this before. It would be incredible to find a key that could cure you.

If you happen to spot that blue mouse again, perhaps try to capture it. I’ve never heard of a blue mouse before. Perhaps it’s a magical mouse with wish granting powers. If nothing else, the mouse might be a good companion for Journey. I imagine being a magical bird can be quite lonely. Did you find out what it is they are building in town? If things are different by the time I get back, you’ll have to give me a tour.

I’ve missed you a great deal as I’ve been travelling. I can’t help but feel as if things would be so much more exciting if you were here with me. I know you see things differently than I do, and I wish you could tell me what everything looks like through your eyes. When you’re cured, we can go anywhere you want. It would be fun to go on an adventure together.

I’ll be back soon,

(P.S. You can still be immaculate and be an ass. In your case, being an ass it part of what makes you immaculate. I’m adding this as a P.S. because Angus told me it was a bad idea to write it down.)

(P.P.S. Can you ask Gran to sing Shelly that song about the sailor and the mermaid? I think Shelly likes that song. I miss Shelly more than I thought I would. Give her an extra snack from me?)

Attached Documents:

From Lettie, to Lyric: Lettie Letter

To Bere, From Frank: To Bere

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