My dear Temmbi,
It has been three days since I left the manor and set off for this Crusade, and three days since I last saw your glistening eyes watch me leave as you stood atop the walls like some monument of beauty. I have missed you since our last kiss that morning, since my boots left the cobblestones of the courtyard we used to run in as children, where one day our own children’s footsteps will echo like ours did many years ago.
I am fortunate that my father served yours for so many years, for if he had not, I would never have met you, nor shared in the tutelage of the many brilliant minds in your family. Operus has surely blessed me, for the education in reading and writing that we received as children allows me to now write these letters to you. It is a poor way of staying in touch with you compared to waking up beside you like I have for these past five years, but I hope my words bring you comfort when you miss my caress.
Now I shall get into the excitement of why I write you, and hopefully answer your surprise at having received anything from me after so short a time away.
On the second day from leaving the manor, I came upon a party of men under the banner of a knight named Sir Elding. He and his men-at-arms had also answered the Call of the Crusade, so we set out from the village together. He is a jovial fellow. Unlike others of his station, he affects no air of haughtiness and can tell the most rowdy of jokes. His men seem to treat him more like a brother than a superior. My day’s travel with the group was quite a cheerful experience, though, like me, they have no information as to the reason for this Crusade.
Elding and his men spent much of their time telling tales of battles they’ve been in and women they’ve known and little of their pasts besides that. When it came my turn to share, I fear I was more an open tome than the lot combined though they did not seem to mind. I told them how your lord father had taken my own into his service and how I was raised alongside a nobleman’s daughter. I told them how ever since we were mere children, we were inseparable, save for the time I fell into a mine shaft during one of our games and you soon grew frustrated with trying to find my hiding spot.
I told them how when we came of age, we each knew there were no others in the world for us besides each other. Elding was surprised at the notion that a low-born boy like myself was allowed to spend such a great amount of time with a noble’s daughter, but he has never had the pleasure of knowing how fair your father is. He laughed when I told him how much trepidation I harbored on the day I asked your father for the permission to wed you and how stunned I was when our betrothal was granted.
When Elding asked why, after all of that, I was so eager to answer the Call, I explained how your father believes each family must contribute to a Crusade whenever the opportunity arises, and how he has no sons to go in his stead. Elding clasped me on the shoulder and said I made the right decision when I told him I would spare your father’s obligation to go by volunteering myself. I did not tell him that I also hope to bring honor and glory to the family we will one day make for ourselves, though. I felt he would consider such a thing to be naïve, though I would wager it is only because he does not know what true love is.
This morning we came upon the army proper. I must tell you, Temmbi, I wish you were here to see what I saw.
We overcame the crest of a hill and with the morning sunlight streaming down, looked upon a sea of tents topped with the fluttering banner of the Orthodox Knights. I had not the patience to count, but there must be at least ten-thousand men in this army from all corners of Fyrndell. As we descended the hill and walked through the rows between tents, I saw men and women in such elaborate dress as to make your noble cousins envious. I saw, too, elves with their colorful hair and soundless footsteps. I saw women too, human and elf, in the same armor as the men. I have never in all my life seen such a diverse grouping of life. I wish you were here to experience it with me.
Different languages are like varying instruments of an orchestra here. At any time, I can hear a man yelling in the common tongue, only to be drowned out by the quick wispish of elvish or guttural grunting by a people who hail from some place I do not know. If only I knew the letters of such languages, I could begin working on translating them to the page and sending it back to you to add to your father’s library.
Elding and his lot bid me a fond farewell before departing to their assigned section of the camp, wherever that may be, so I sought out Archbishop Qadim, the man who brought news of the Call to our manor. From my knowledge, he was given command over the Lofasarothian contingent of the Crusade Army, so I felt it wise to report to him. It took me most of the morning to find my way through the camp, but I eventually came upon his pavilion and met him once more. He seemingly remembered me, as he asked of your father and yourself and said your father should be proud you are marrying a man such as myself. I assure you that those were his words, my love.
The Archbishop knew of my skills in reading and writing and assigned me the task of “crowkeeper,” which is how I am allowed to write to you. I am one of a dozen or so men and women assigned to look after the army’s albino messenger crows, and to write and send messages to those I’m instructed to. Though it has been less than half a day, I am already enjoying this job, though I am somewhat nervous for the inevitable meeting with the army’s commander.
And do not fret, Temmbi: the Archbishop told me that so long as we maintain the crows’ health and number, he encourages me to send you these missives. He asked for me to make copies of our letters when I return to Lofasaroth, to be bound into a tome and kept in his church as a tale of what occurs on this Crusade. I accepted the honor with great alacrity.
Now I must see to my other duties and find where I shall be sleeping tonight, for rumor has it that on the morrow, we begin the march. With any luck, I shall hear of the cause for this Crusade soon enough, whether from the mouth of the Archbishop himself or rumors which seem to flow so easily despite the size of this army.
I will write to you the next chance I have. I pray to Operus to keep you safe and bless you, and I send with this letter all my love for you, Temmbi.