6th Elderbeth Day, Winter 7378
Glad to hear all is well in your house. I am pleased to hear that Aureate is almost ready to initiate in fire once again. I know how awkward it is to live with one another in such a state. Horrid for the apprentice, almost but not quite able to recall their past lives, and stupendously difficult for us, not able to say a word about how we know them. Especially in light of how you and Aureate have such a close relationship. I am in awe of your current restraint: you live with one who is beloved, yet you’re not able to speak of your relationship, let alone act upon it. A daily struggle, I’m sure. When do you think Aureate will climb into a fireplace to join our ranks once again?
Your last letter concerns me deeply. Yes, I have heard tell of these public executions of Flame even in Eich Che. Have you seen one of the gauche events they say take place in Raduga Palace Square? The Merchants here whisper, and their words are dark, but they have done nothing more… so far. It is unfortunate that slavery left us Flame without much in the way of material wealth. We are perilously vulnerable at this time, lacking the necessary fees to update our own licenses to practice law. Our ability to defend ourselves in court against these murders is severely limited.
I suppose we must hope for the best.
Yours in friendship, Oak
1st Consortday, Spring 7378
Aureate will not be able to initiate, though he doesn’t know it yet. Not if he wants to stay alive. I would not permit Aureate to go to fire and initiate as Flame, only to die a hideous death shortly thereafter.
Today I went riding at the docks, disguised as a Merchant. The risk of doing so—I refer of course to the steep penalty of impersonating another god affiliate—was offset by my desire for information straight from the source. To my shock, I was swept up in an angry mob that had caught a Flame trying to flee the city-state. It was Juniper—I recognized her immediately. Oak, they threw Juniper into the lake. She burned to death even as she struggled in the water.
Aureate doesn’t know, yet, but I’ve started packing in case we need to flee. Indija must come with us, of course. I would not leave her, and it would break her heart to be left behind; there are few in the city-state who would hire a deaf woman as a servant, let alone be able to converse with her. Juniper’s death is etched upon the insides of my eyelids. It is imperative that I save those that I love, and I hope to stay alive to help initiate those we have lost.
In haste, Knife
4th Foexday, Spring 7378
Do not flee the city-state! It is imperative that you weather this out in a place you know well, with resources at your fingertips. You would not survive the open road at this time.
You’ve probably already heard something of what is going on, but in Eich Che we hear news from all over Uos. I have a very clear picture of all that’s been going on. Bounty hunters are making a fair profit by nabbing Flame out in the open. It is a surprisingly efficient venture, considering how far these ideas have spread. Far as I can tell, the gods aren’t involved at all, making it even more shocking. I suppose we have the slave-trade routes to thank for the speed at which this is happening.
The executions have started happening here. A group of Merchants came knocking on my door three nights ago. I still have some clout, and they were only here to talk. However, I am inspired to close up my house and practice to seek shelter in a place I know of, one that’s on the far side of the Jantrael Straight. You know where of I speak. With any luck, it will be safer there.
If you don’t hear back from me, Knife, know that I love you. If I fail, or if any betray my whereabouts, we can start corresponding again once I reincarnate and initiate again into our fold.
All my love, Oak
8th Godsday, Spring 7378
I hope this missive finds you safe and well. I agree, the countryside and open roads are no longer safe. But then, nowhere is safe anymore.
I must take Aureate to one of these executions, show him why he cannot go to fire. He chaffs and whines at the delay, grown man though he is. He must be made to see what is going on.
Like you, I have a plan to survive this rout. There is a certain cave in upon my property, as you know, and what lies within will help me survive. I am in the process planning a viable strategy to make this work. Aureate will join me, if I can talk him into it, but I cannot make the decision for him. Too much is unknown. I must find someone to watch the house, someone who owes me their life and will not betray us during the long period—decades? Hopefully not centuries—while I (or we) sleep away the years.
There are larger considerations, too. At the rate Flame are being slaughtered, I am terrified that no one will be around to help initiate those who’ve died. Who will we be if we all perish at once? Will we still be Flame, despite everything? It is a theoretical question that has become dire in these troubled times. I expect we shall continue to reincarnate, like the Magicians of old, but our memories will remain locked and inaccessible. Our past lives would be like a dream, our identities and history gone. Even if one of us has the courage to step foot into fire without knowledge or guidance, so much would be lost. An insurmountable gap, nightmare-like in its dark span.
I am afraid. I am afraid. Oak, please respond swiftly so I know you’re well.
(No reply was received.)
Edge of a Knife will be released March 28th, available from ForbiddenFiction.com.