Rosa 10th, 179
You may be pleased to hear that I believe I’m determined to come to something of a reconciliation with our Mr. Harlowe, though I suspect you will be less pleased to hear how I mean to bring it about.
I know that you’ve always feared the consequences of my exposure nearly as much as I myself have. That is why it was so shocking when you did not share my concerns about publishing our club’s findings, though upon more considered reflection I understand that you did not see the two things as being as inextricably bound up together as I did. It was a difference of viewpoint that was devastating to me at the time, but that will soon become moot.
I have decided to reveal myself to the campus at large.
If this course seems precipitous, well, I suppose it is. But I started down it long ago, and I’ve seen the cliff looming for some time. The problem of opening a can of worms is not only in how unpleasant such creatures are, but the difficulty of herding them back into the can once they have been loosed. The seal is broken, the worms are scattered.
To put it simply, it’s time to stop pretending. My existence is an open secret among the faculty and a long-simmering rumor among the student body. Each semester the circle of those with direct knowledge of my heritage widens, and like a bubble, the integrity of the circle shrinks as it grows. It seems impossible for the matter to stay secret until my graduation, so the only thing to do is choose the time, place, and manner of the revelation myself. Otherwise, the best case scenario is that I am unmasked accidentally and caught unprepared for what follows. In the worst case, I will find myself unmasked as part and parcel of a malicious campaign of persecution. I can think of no other purpose that the missing pages of Jennifer’s damned journal would be put to, and I refuse to have them hanging over my head for the remainder of my days at university.
Eugene is a fair-minded individual with ideas that are frankly radical for our age. Despite our differences, I cannot imagine a better advocate for my cause or a better person to manage my public debut. I suppose I had this in mind when I first approached him. As I said, I’ve seen the cliff coming up upon me for some time. Though I suppose that’s disingenuous, isn’t it? A cliff does not come towards one, but rather one goes to the cliff. I may as well own the responsibility.
At no point before did I consciously decide that I would throw off the veil of secrecy that’s protected me and hemmed me in, and yet I have been moving in this direction all the same.
I am skilled in illusions, my dear Melanie, but I have none for myself. I know that whatever the law may say, this could be the end of my academic career. Once I am known as a half-demon, it may not be safe for me or for the people around me. The risk is greater if another unmasks me than if I am seen to come clean myself, in a way that is sufficiently disarming and matter-of-fact. I have great hopes for the prospect of success, but I do not and cannot have any certainty.
That is why I’m writing to you now, before the autumn semester begins. Things will start to move very quickly once they’ve been set into motion, and I may have to leave campus in a hurry. I would not leave without saying goodbye, obviously, but it would be an easier farewell if you were prepared for it.
Easier still if we didn’t have to say goodbye at all. The happiest eventuality, of course, is that I find myself a celebrated rebel and fashionable rogue and do not have to leave at all, but even if I am forced from the university, it needn’t be goodbye. You could come with me. I know that you did not come halfway across the continent simply to find a man, but nor do I think you came west simply to earn a slip of paper. You came looking for a life beyond Anonymity, for the prospect of something more than a small town romance and a small town life. In any event, you could possibly finish your education at another school, once things have quieted down and we’re able to settle in one spot.
I will not lie to you, it would be a rough existence. We would be traveling frequently at first, doing what we can for money and food along the way. I know you would not join me in a criminal existence, which will make some things simpler and others more complicated, but I am strong and clever and those are two coins that never fall out of circulation.
There is no need to answer at once. Think it over. Do not feel obligated towards me in any way. My course is fixed, whether you will be by my side if things go wrong or not. This is something that I need to do, with you or without you, though I would rather do it with you.
Rosa 16th, 179
That is an immense step to take. I can tell from your letter that you are not being rash but I think you could be more cautious still. You’re asking me not just to leave school but to leave behind my life. How could I ever return to my parents with them knowing that I’d thrown away my education to carry on with a half-demon?
And you know that is how they would see it whether any on were being carried or not.
And what of our friends? I have some doubts that Julia in particular has a long academic career ahead of her but I would still hate to leave her behind prematurely. Would you ask her and Jennifer to share the road with us? Actually, I think they might be better suited to it than I would. Julia certainly acts the part of the old campaigner and Jennifer is game for just about anything.
And what about Eugene? Would he become a traveling correspondent?
But of course you didn’t think about asking them and you wouldn’t, though not because you wouldn’t miss them but because it hasn’t occurred to you that you will. Your life has been so lonely for so long that you are not yet habituated to the concept of friendship.
But I am so habituated and I would hate to leave these dear people behind even as I would hate to lose you. More than I would hate to lose you? No, certainly not. As much as? I don’t know and I would not relish finding out. This may sound horribly selfish to you, but please don’t put me in a position where I might need to find out.
I don’t ask you to reconsider purely for myself, though. In your fancies the worst thing that happens is that you have to flee the campus. In my fears, I see a more dire possibility: that you must flee to save your life but are not able to do so. Is that so inconceivable? Are you sure of your abilities to escape and to survive?
Please reconsider, Samuel. Surely if you believe it is possible to “manage” your presentation to the world as a half-demon then you can wait to do so even after someone else has unmasked you. And maybe in waiting you will find that it is unnecessary.
Rosa 26th, 179
I’m afraid that my mind is quite made up. If I believed that it were a matter of “if” I am unmasked, I would cling to the possibility that it might be unnecessary for me to do so myself with both hands. But it is clearly a matter of “when.” Why else would someone go through the trouble of stealing Jennifer’s diary? Why would they return it to her? Why would they keep those pages?
Clearly we are being toyed with. The only reason I haven’t received an ultimatum is that there is no need to. By letting me know that he possesses evidence of my true nature, my enemy has delivered a clear message.
And yes, I am convinced it is our Man in the Woods who stole the journal, or rather somehow arranged for it to be stolen. It is unlikely that he penetrated the campus perimeter himself, but he is a devil in the classical model. He may have tricked some unwitting person, or sent a familiar, or fashioned an undead servant. I have been making inquiries and apparently the campus wards are not proof against mindless, will-less undead in the form of animated corpses. That’s obvious in retrospect, or else the necromancy school would have to relocate off-campus. It seems a shocking flaw in the campus security, but the system was devised in response to local monster threats such as ghouls, not such unlikely threats as an intelligent force commanding undead servitors.
But however it came about, those pages are in the hands of someone who plans nothing good for me and it would be fatally naive for me to pretend otherwise.
Obviously I could not ask our friends to uproot their lives and interrupt their eduction, but it would be entirely possible to maintain a correspondence them even on the road. We would be fugitives from my reputation only, not from the law. I fully believe that by the time they graduate, we would have the liberty to join them wherever they might settle, whether for a visit or to settle. School does not last forever, after all.
And here I fear I have undone any chance of bringing you with me, for you can’t help but see how the same logic applies to you. I would certainly wait for you to graduate, and keep in touch with you until you did. It would simply be harder.
But while it is necessary to consider this possibility, it is not guaranteed that it will come to pass. My plan is to reveal myself, and that is certain. What happens next is not. As I’ve told you, I have every hope that the thing can be managed in such a way that I need not take to the road again.
Verbena 8th, 179
Then you have lived this life before? I know so little of your history. Please tell me about it, if only to reassure me you would be neither miserable nor in any great danger if you needed to flee.
Verbena 13th, 179
Yes, I have. I have been forced to live on the road and survive by my wits twice, or three times, though once only briefly. The other times were for periods of more than a year. It was miserable at times, and dangerous. I fear if I gave you any more specifics, it would harrow your soul and harden your heart against any course of action I might take that risks a return to this way of living, but I would have many advantages this time around. I’m older, and more experienced. My education is incomplete, but the skills I have learned would nevertheless stand me in good stead.
Verbena 21st, 179
Jennifer thinks you have lied to her about your age. I hesitate to accuse you but when you speak of multiple periods “more than a year” that you lived on the road I’m afraid that I do have to wonder. How can someone as young as you appear to be have packed so much living into so short a life?
Verbena 25th, 179
As I said, one advantage I would have this time is that I am older. I was not yet a man in those other times that I referred to, which limited my prospects for legitimate work and attracted a certain amount of danger. Oh, and it also presented some opportunities for gaining sympathy and trust, but it is not an easy thing to be a child abroad in the world.
I tell you truthfully and honestly that I was born sometime around the year 158 of the current era, that my age is in the neighborhood of 20 or 22. My life between my birth and now has certainly been more eventful than that of many people, but only because I was denied the comfort and security that you would probably assume a child is entitled to.
It was not all hardship and loneliness. During the first long interval of travel I spent a summer traveling in the company of a bard who first taught me the art of puppetry as well as repairing some glaring defects in my elementary education, but then he was called off to a great quest on which I could not accompany him. During my second long spell on the road, I traveled for some time with a ranger who taught me many useful things about fighting, tracking, and the arts of stealth as they are practiced in the wild.
Maybe it is a fancy, but I believe that as an adult and one now trained to some degree in both magic and fighting, I could make a comfortable life for myself as an adventurer, and that I could keep you safe if you were to travel alongside me. But as I said, I hope it will not come to that, at least not before we’ve completed our educations. I only mentioned the possibility of a sudden flight so as not to take you by surprise if it does come up. I know your immediate instincts will bend against it, but I believe that with time to reflect you may come to a different conclusion.
Papavera 7th, 179
You say that your course is fixed whether I will come with you or not, but I must cleave to the hope that these are but bold words and you would change your course if you knew there was no hope of having me with you. That is why I must answer you now and I must answer you no. Samuel, I cannot go with you. I cannot follow where you would go and live the life that you would live.
But that is not to say that I would not build a life with you. Continue as you have with your head down and focus on completing your studies and when they are finished then we will be together, whether it is on the road or in Anonymity or somewhere more familiar to you.
I love you Samuel and if you are mine as your signature says then let me keep you close.
Papavera 18th, 179
Your love means the world to me, but I have told you only the truth. My course is fixed, and it must remain so.
With a little luck, withiin a few months this whole conversation will have proven to have been completely unnecessary. The 70s are almost behind us, and as decades go they’ve been more permissive and progressive than anything our parents and grandparents could have imagined. Who can imagine what the 80s will bring? It will be quite a trick to manage my coming out, but I still believe it’s possible or else I wouldn’t contemplate it. Believe me, I know how bad it can go when handled poorly.
I will see you next month. Until then, I remain…