[Story] The Letter

Berwick walked barefoot along the wet sandy beach, a bucket in one hand and a sturdy stick in the other. He was looking for the tell-tale little holes that squirted up water — a sign that a clam was hiding in the sand below. If he gathered enough, they could dig a pit in the sand and bake them for supper. Xyliah had gone out onto the rocks to catch fish. Normally he would have gone with her, but sometimes he had some extra thinking to do, and today was one of those days. As much as he wished it, the warm sun and clear blue ocean hadn’t entirely washed away the memories of those dark weeks in Dalaran. The memories tended to sneak up on him when he was least expecting it, as they had this morning. Today he wondered what had become of the others held in those cells – those who hadn’t been rescued, and the one who’d been his neighbor. Was he doing all right now? Or did the same thoughts still haunt him? He also remembered the way that Xyliah had hesitated that first night after they were reunited. She’d said it was because he needed a bath, but it still bothered him at times. It lodged into his thoughts and stayed there, like a little bit of food caught between your teeth that you can’t quite get loose.

The tide was out, and he’d gathered a few clams already. You had to move very quickly — they could submerge themselves in the wet sand surprisingly fast. And Berwick figured that they could sense the vibrations of his footsteps, no matter how lightly he tried to walk. Digging required careful skill too, otherwise the shell could be broken and then the clam wouldn’t steam properly in the fire. The strategy was to dig just underneath where you thought the clam would actually be. Berwick had crouched down, flipping the wet sand up onto the beach and searching through it for the clam when he noticed someone approaching from the shore. It was one of the bears — nothing too strange about that, but it was unusual to see visitors here on their part of the beach. He carefully dropped the clam into the bucket with the others, and rinsed the sand from his hands in the surf.

“Oh, hello,” said the bear, shading his eyes from the sun with a paw. “I hope I’ve not disturbed you.” The bear glanced curiously at the bucket on the sand, but didn’t ask about it. “Are you Xyliah Amberlight?”

Berwick smiled and shook his head. It wasn’t the first time he’d been asked. He supposed they couldn’t tell their names apart very well, which was understandable. He couldn’t tell a male bear’s name from a female’s either. “No, but she lives there,” he said, gesturing toward their little house.

Perhaps realizing his mistake, the bear seemed a little flustered, but took a thick packet of folded papers out from his pack. “You must be Berwick then. These are for you, and her. They were sent to the shrine. You really should have come to get them.”

He could see they were letters — quite a few of them, actually. They looked to have had quite the journey to get here. Most were smudged with dirt, or the corners were bent and crumpled, and a few had been rained on. “Yeah,” Berwick said, scratching an ear. “We should have. I’m sorry for the trouble.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” said the bear, tying his hat back onto his head. “But you might want to tell them you aren’t there anymore. You know, in case it’s urgent.”

Berwick nodded. “Yes, I will. Thank you.” He watched the bear turn and make his way back up the beach, then took a seat on a log of driftwood. He untied the string holding the bundle of letters. They -had- been away a long time, he realized, looking at the dates written at the top of each one. Almost all of them were from his mother, the tone of the letters growing gradually more frantic as she didn’t receive an answer from him. By this point, she’d probably called for a search party. He put those into one pile. He’d be sure to write one back to her tonight. A few were from business contacts, requesting some item or another from Pandaria. These he put into a separate pile. He knew it was time they started hunting again, though he was reluctant to leave their quiet existence on the beach. Still, they’d need money for when they went back, whenever and wherever that happened to be. Berwick paused, looking over one letter. It was from Xyliah’s father, and addressed to her. It didn’t look as old as most of the others, and it was very short. He started to put it into a third pile, but curiosity nagged at him. Surely she wouldn’t mind if he peeked, right? Maybe it was important news. People didn’t usually write short letters unless it was urgent.

It was important, all right. He felt his heart drop as he read it. They’d heard rumors about something happening in Kalimdor, but neither of them really believed it was very serious. But they’d sent elves to fight, and Xyliah’s brother had lost his life. It just wasn’t fair. Hadn’t she already been through enough? Berwick looked at the letter again, the dark letters stark against the page. He couldn’t just get rid of it, and pretend it didn’t happen. She’d find out later from her father, and then she’d be furious at him for trying to hide it. But he couldn’t imagine how he’d find the words to tell her. Everything had been going all right, at least since they’d left Dalaran. They had a little baby, too. What had become of him? Further along the beach, he saw the tiny figure of Xyliah making her way back toward the house. She must have already caught some fish. Sighing, Berwick gathered up the letters and his bucket of clams, and went to meet her.

 

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