A Letter Home
A "The Lions of Al-Rassan" Ficlet
by Alice Montrose
March 15, 2006

"Would you write a letter for me, Rodrigo?"

Rodrigo hadn't expected to find Lain Nunez waiting for him in his room that evening, and his request came as strange and unexpected. Lain, like most men in his company, couldn't read and write, and he sometimes found himself writing letters to their families. It seemed they were more at ease trusting their captain with such personal matters rather than an unknown scribe. But it was the first time in years that Lain asked him to write a letter.

"To whom, if I may know?" he asked as he sat down at his desk and pulled out a sheet of parchment.

"Pellino de Damon. I promised him I'd keep him informed on what Alvar was up to, and it's been a few months now."

Rodrigo shook his head, wondering what Alvar would say if he knew that someone was supposed to report to his parents. He probably wouldn't approve. Then he realized that, had he been in Pellino's situation, he would have insisted on being kept informed of what Fernan and Diego were up to. So he picked up the quill, dipped it in the ink he had purchased only a few hours before, and started putting down what Lain dictated.

My old friend Pellino,
I pray that my letter finds you and your wife in good health, and may Jad's light shine on you both.
By the hand of my most esteemed Captain, I write to you as I have promised to do once I arrived in Ragosa, to bring you news of your son Alvar.
I hate having to tell you this, but the vile temptations of Al-Rassan have proved too much for your beloved son. We have arrived in Ragosa to find him dressing and behaving as an Asharite unbeliever, even in the presence of his superior officers.

Rodrigo stopped writing and turned to his lieutenant. "Perhaps you shouldn't be so harsh on Alvar. He is, after all, young. He'll learn."

The older man stiffened. "I promised his father an accurate account of what the boy's been up to, Rodrigo. I don't like lying to an old friend."

"Very well then..." The Captain turned his attention back to the parchment he'd been writing on.

I had such great faith in him when I chose him to join Captain Belmonte's company, and yet this mission he was sent on has proved to be too much for him. Inexperienced as he was, I had not believed that escorting a woman and her servant safely to Ragosa would cause his soul to be in such great danger. The woman proved to be a god-diminishing heretic, a Kindath witch who had ensorcelled him even before they let camp. We found him living in her house when we arrived.

Captain Belmonte flinched at Lain's description of Jehane, and hoped that in time he would come to see why she was special, and why he still harboured hopes to make her his company's physician.

Three months was all it took to turn that smart boy into a corrupted fool. Thankfully though, he was not besotted enough to forget his teachings and admirably acquitted himself in the three challenges he received from some Asharite soldiers who thought they could best one of the Horsemen of Jad.
But I fear for the boy's soul, and the souls of those of us less experienced, now that Ammar ibn Khairan has arrived in Ragosa, and he will in all likelihood be riding with our company very soon. I pray that Jad proves me wrong, old friend, and that he allows your son to see the unbeliever for what he is, rather than the exhaled hero most Ragosans claim him to be.

This time, Rodrigo couldn't help snort. "Honestly, Lain, I didn't remember you as such a religious person. The boy didn't actually convert, and Ammar..."

"Ammar ibn Khairan is too much like you," the older Horseman replied. "But unlike you, Rodrigo, he has now killed a khalif and a king. His people's own leaders. He is dangerous, and you know that. Although... perhaps you are right. Perhaps I am being too harsh on Alvar. Can you... I don't know, soften it up a little?"

Rodrigo pondered that request for a moment, before trying hard to hide his grin. "I think I might be able to do that."

A month later, Pellino de Damon and his wife sat in the front room of their small ranch as the local cleric read them the letter whose arrival they had been anxiously expecting...

My old friend Pellino,
I pray that my letter finds you and your wife in good health, and may Jad's light shine on you both.
By the hand of my most esteemed Captain, I write to you as I have promised to do once I arrived in Ragosa, to bring you news of your son Alvar.
So far, your son has proven to be a great asset to the company, and he has proven his worth on more than one occasion, even gaining Captain Belmonte's approval which is no small thing.
His first mission after the trip to Fezana has been escorting our company's new physician to Ragosa, where as you may well known our company is stationed currently. After admirably acquitting himself of it, he has managed to win no small regard from the other soldiers stationed in the city, and his excellent arms training has brought him quite a few admirers. And three challenges from some Asharite dogs, which you will be pleased to know he has easily won.
His dear mother will be pleased to know he has not succumbed to temptation in this land of unbelieving swine, and that the true faith is still deeply rooted in his soul. You may both rest assured, Alvar will one day become a great man, his soul worthy of achieving Jad's light.
May the sun-god's blessings be with you,
Your old friend, Lain Nunez

The End