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Long, pale fingers thrummed rhythmically against the polished wood of Alexander's desk. The ambassador did not fancy himself a simple man with simple tastes and inclinations, but the steady drumming occupied his attention perfectly for now. The past week had been spent pulling apart the gears in his head that had engineered the most absurd thoughts and curiosities that he didn't particularly care for, and the luxury of simplicity was a welcome change.


As he aged, Alexander found himself receding further and further from the more sociable occasions that he was required to frequent. He had taken his absence from the events where his presence wasn't vital, though in doing so he would face both Her Majesty and the rest of The Five's thinly veiled annoyance. He would have thought this more anti-social path his personal life took would take a toll on his knack to construe the more vague emotions and intentions of people he surrounded himself with. He assured himself it was his work that kept his interpretive senses sharp.


Instead, he had attempted to dismantle those senses for the past week. He did not care for other people's problems, regardless of his involvement or lack of thereof. The Five had rerouted most of their sloppy work to his desk, his phone line had been worn thin by that blonde harpy from Mercia who continued to tailor dates around her own schedule; how she was still an ambassador like himself, Alexander could not comprehend. Leonardo had been fretting over said harpy-woman like a blasted school boy, The Five seemed to think that their personal lives were grounds for political hesitance at the meetings Alexander could barely walk to, and Kleinschmidt is his most awkward of silences had to have been the most distracting.


Leonardo, in his vie for Alexander's empathy was easy enough to dismiss. As their leader, The Five were easy to discipline. Kleinschmidt, in all of his silence, was simply difficult.


As he worked, Alexander did not usually pay attention to the clockmaker. The young man always held himself as carefully as possible, giving the impression that he was usually rather clumsy. So as he read through the old books and more ancient grimoires, scribbled down his notes, attended to his work as punctually as he could, and practiced making things not explode, he was rather easy to disregard in the face of more pressing matters.


When the clockmaker had dragged himself through the door and slumped into his seat without the usual "Good morning, Sir" out of fear for his life, Alexander knew this week was not the same. Something was troubling the young man, and Alexander, as focused as he was, simply could not find it in himself to care.


When the same scenario had played out unchanged for the next few days, complete with Kleinschmidt's dwindling evidence of life, Alexander had managed to tell the boy to stop slouching. He thought he had seen a pair of golden eyes scowl at him from behind the messy, unkempt hair. A trick of the light perhaps, but the glare he shot back was enough to get Kleinschmidt to pull himself up off the desk, and that was all that mattered. The young man had shown himself up enough times infront of Alexander's visitors, though a clumsy assistant was preferable to a lazy one.


The busy days had dragged on, and amongst the work Alexander had been able to pick out the smaller things that demanded his attention from the clockmaker. The downcast eyes and the gaunt face, the pasty skin and unwashed hair, the way he shuffled instead of walked, how he mumbled instead of talked – all of it made him want to snap at the young man and tell him to straighten up.


Of course, he didn't. He was not a counsellor, and his knowledge on the workings of a teenage mind such as Kleinschmidt's were clearly not something to brag about. As much as he wanted to snap the boy out of his sorry daze with a few harsh words, he knew when to restrain those urges and wait for things to return to normal.


And of course, earlier that day –


'Good morning, Sir.'


Kleinschmidt had arrived to work with his research organized (colour coded, no less) and in hand, looking a great deal cleaner and healthier. His eyes were still sunken and tired, but they were most certainly brighter. He still shook as he walked and placed his work on the desk; evidence that he still had not plucked up the courage to confront the resident chef that currently denied him food.


'Make yourself some tea,' Alexander had ordered before his assistant had a chance to take his seat. 'You look faint.'


Kleinschmidt looked as though he would have protested otherwise, but he knew by now that when Alexander lowered his eyes and devoted his attention to his work, it was a clear sign that there was no more room for discussion.


'And settle your dispute with Constantin,' he had said with the same amount of authority as Kleinschmidt returned, startling him for a moment. 'You shan't starve yourself into poor health.'


His assistant carefully placed a second mug before the ambassador, flashing an awkward smile as he took his own to the other side of the desk.


'It's, ah, been a rough week, sir.'


Things had returned to normal for most of the part. Alexander continued to drum his fingers against his desk, relishing the relaxing silence while he was alone. Kleinschmidt had been sent into the city for a small, non-work related errand (which he had begun to seem quite wary of lately), and the recent siege of half-hearted reports from his acquaintances had been sent back to them with stern warnings to get their collective acts together. It wasn't his place to demand such things, of course, but the look on his assistant's face when he was told he would be delivering those reports back to The Five in person was more than an incentive.


Though he still had Leonardo's bumbling love life to contend with, as well as the object of his affection to shake off himself, he could enjoy the next hour of privacy. The sun hung low in the sky, breeched by the far off mountain range as the day wound down from its busy high. The momentary relief was most welcome.


Knock, knock.


That, however, was not.


Alexander cast a glance at the heavy mahogany door on the other side of his office, and then turned his head to the windowed wall behind him. The sky was darkening into a cold evening purple, but Kleinschmidt would not have finished his errand so soon. Heaven help whoever felt fit to disturb his long awaited peace.


'Yes?' Alexander called, his tone perhaps a bit more cutting than it should have been. The door creaked open to reveal a mousy haired man with a long, pale face donning the Fortress Guard's uniform. Alexander wasn't skilled at pinpointing the staff; he didn't encounter them often or bother to stop and chat, but he may have been the man he had handed Kleinschmidt off to on his first day in Arcadia. Alexander had recognised him as he escorted his assistant to the office during Kleinschmidt's first week at work. At his side, however, was a round featured brunette woman he did not recognise in the slightest. After registering the expression of utter anxiety on her face, he noticed she wore the colours of the fortress's maid division.


'She requests an audience with Your Excellency,' the man said, pointing to the ailing woman beside him. Yes, that was most definitely the same guard; the one who had not yet learned how to speak fittingly in the audience of his superiors. 'She says she won't take much of yer time, but-'


'You may leave,' Alexander told him sharply. He apparently did not need telling twice and pirouetted into the hallway, slamming the door shut behind the poor woman who jumped with a startled yelp. It most certainly didn't do a thing to calm her nerves, and she clutched a folded sheet of paper in both hands as she stared around the room. It wasn't a new occurrence; Alexander's office always drew the attention of newcomers, being as superfluously vast as it was.


'To what do I owe this interruption?' Alexander asked when she had not spoken, watching her from behind his desk with narrow eyes. The short woman attempted to compose herself with a short cough, smoothing down her apron as she made her way across the room.


'Your assistant,' she started, giving the folded paper in her grip a small prod. 'Ah, in his room – one of the maids. Found this, ah letter. Thought we should run it by you, Your Excellency.'


'Received or sending?' Alexander demanded flatly, eyeing the letter rather than her twitchy features. He would usually have been warmer with his words, though he held slight disdain for the Fortress Maids.


The maid took a quick breath, and Alexander noticed her clutch on the paper tighten. 'Ah, sending. Ambassador. Your assistant is still a Mercian citizen, and should be informed that the dispatch of letters from a person in his, eh, position is prohibit-'


'He is more than aware,' Alexander slipped in, pressing his fingers to his temple. 'I have informed him on several occasions that he requires my signature-'


The ambassador stood, reaching out a hand toward the letter in the woman's grasp. '-And every time I have denied him.'


Regardless of his gesture, the woman held still with Kleinschmidt's letter in hand. She seemed to be plucking up the courage to say something further, although his icy stare must have been making it a great deal harder.


After a long moment, she finally lowered the folded paper carefully to the desk, smoothing it out against the wood. 'We must implore you, Ambassador, to reconsider your stance on that, ah, matter.'


When she received nothing but a raised brow for an answer, the maid continued delicately.


'Many people come to the fortress from all reaches and, well, not all of them deal with homesickness the best they can,' she explained quietly, opting to look at the pale letter rather than Alexander. 'We must all learn in time, but perhaps it would not hurt to allow your aide a moment of weakness. A one-time letter to his parents wouldn't be the end of the world, I believe. If anything, he might work harder if you were to, ah ... give him a break?'


Unless Alexander had the time to sit down and read Kleinschmidt's drivel word by word, as well as search for any hidden messages, perhaps a secret code only he and his prince shared, then he would more than likely still turn down the young man's pleas over and over. He would prefer to bury his head in the work that piled up day after day rather than Kleinschmidt's barely illegible handwritin-


A letter to whom?


--------------


'Cold, cold, cold,' Cog chanted tightly as he pushed the door to the ambassador's office open. 'It's so cold, sir!'


The man didn't look up from his work, and Cog had learned not to let the ambassador's feigned ignorance deter him. The man could listen to every word said in a crowded room and still carry a conversation with someone else entirely without pause.


The sun had finally set on Arcadia, blanketing the city in a bitter night that forced weary people home from their work. Cog would join them eventually, and entertained the thought of lying down and resting his sore, frozen limbs.


Cog closed the door behind him, trying to arrange the package in his arms appropriately enough to free a hand. He rubbed his palm over the cold, flushed skin of his cheeks as he made his way to Alexander's desk. 'Please don't send me out in the evening anymore, Sir. I'm still not used to the cold here. I feel like my skin is going to split.'


The ambassador's eyebrows arched slightly, notifying that he was listening. Cog chose to remain quiet until he had finished his document, carefully placing the man's package on the desk beside the neat pile of books that belonged to himself. He had felt good enough this morning to organise his work properly, and even colour-code his books for his own amusement. They definitely looked neater, he told himself. No one else had mentioned it, but he was sure they did.


'I got your things, and ... well,' Cog pointed to the small paper bag that had been hiding beneath the larger parcel. 'My things, heh.'


Warm food from the bakery most likely wasn't as important as whatever he had collected for the ambassador, but if he felt fit to buy himself something to eat rather than sit in his room and fear Constantin, then he would definitely take the chance while he could. Cookie had told him over and over: the right kind of food can bring you back from a dark place faster than you can blink.


'They told me to pick up the second parcel tomorrow, Sir,' Cog told him, hoping he would at least look up from his work. Alexander's eyes remained fixated, and Cog shifted uncomfortably. 'If you could send me in the afternoon, maybe – when it's warmer, I mean. I'm just not fond of this cold.'


'I have noticed,' Alexander replied finally, letting his eyes flicker over the clockmaker's face for a moment before returning to the paper. 'You seem to complain about the weather a great deal.'


Cog hesitated for a moment, wondering where that accusation had been pulled from so suddenly. He broke the silence as quickly as he could with a short, uncomfortable laugh. He tried to add a smile, straightening up and cradling his warm parcel against his arms. 'Sir? I, uh ... I think I've mentioned it once or twice, maybe?'


Alexander placed a bony hand on his desk, pulling himself up from his chair to stand. '"Dear Dad,"' he recited from the paper in his other grip. The word didn't roll off the ambassador's tongue with his usual elegance – a sign that he had not used the word often, if at all. Regardless, he continued to read from the letter in his hand. '"I think I remember you saying that Arcadia was cold before, but I never expected it to be this cold. I hoped that I'd get used to it quickly, but I had to ask around on my floor to see if there were any spare blankets. The beds – or my bed at least – are really kind of small and not really warm. Sometimes it's so cold I can't sleep, and then it's so cold that I don't want to get up in the morning."'


Alexander raised his eyes, and the pink flush had completely disappeared from his assistant's face. His wide eyes emphasised the dark, gaunt spaces beneath them. He actually looked rather ill.


'"The ambassador is getting annoyed about that, so I'll keep asking for spare blankets so I can get some sleep,"' Alexander continued, raising his voice in slight amusement as he walked around the length of his desk. '"The one I have now is horrible and really thin – probably tissue thin, even."'


Alexander didn't look up at the second pause, but he seemed to have heard the small sound of the young man across from try to speak through a dry mouth.


"'I'm not sure if there's anything else to write now. I've been really exhausted lately from work – the ambassador is truly busy now. Sometimes it's all I can do to just get back to my room. I sorta want to sleep on the sofa in his office instead – I think that would save the cold walk up and down to my room, and it's probably a whole lot more comfy than my bed-'"


The third pause was not voluntary. Cog had reached over and snatched the paper from Alexander's grip so forcefully that it had torn loudly in two. Regardless, Cog crushed the letter to his chest, teeth grit tight. He did not look angry – only distraught.


'That was not yours to read!' Cog shouted, screwing the paper up in his shaking fist. 'That was private!'


Alexander rounded on him, closing the remaining space between them and hissed through a venomous tone. 'Excuse me?'


The clockmaker took a quick step back, and his expression faltered as though suddenly remembering just who he was talking to. 'Th-that-'


It was as if he were trying to be livid.


'That was private,' Cog repeated, his voice slightly calmer than before. He still shook with an emotion that he simply could not pinpoint as fear. He didn't believe he had it in himself to be truthfully angry, but it certainly felt as if some part of him was trying. 'Y-you shouldn't be going through my – my things.'


'I believe it was our resident maids who are responsible for bringing this-' Alexander flicked the torn strip of paper to his desk, returning to his seat, '-small titbit of information to my attention.'


Cog's brow furrowed. Leonardo had always told him that the maids were far too nosy for their own good, and he was beginning to understand why Alexander refused their service. If they would bring something as innocent as a letter to his father to the ambassador's attention-


It sounded strange even in his head. The clockmaker felt his features fall as he relaxed the grip on the now crumpled letter, and reached over to pick up the torn remains from the desk. He folded it up the best he could, trying to ignore the disturbing swell of emotion in the pit of his stomach. He could hear Alexander's narration of the letter resound in his head over and over. It felt positively awful.


'Why are you writing letters to a dead man, Kleinschmidt?' Alexander asked almost offhandedly, turning his attention to the parcel Cog had delivered back to him. Cog didn't even want to answer the ambassador. He just wanted to leave and throw the ruined, creased letter under his bed and pretend that the entire thing had never happened. Alexander didn't seem the type to bring something this personal up for the sake of his own pleasure, but that didn't stop the words repeating themselves in Cog's head. The thought that Alexander had read something so personal to him wasn't going to leave him alone for a long time. He almost hoped the light-headed feeling he felt now would begin to swell instead, and he would wake up in a few moments in his own bed with the letter back on his desk.


'And just where did you plan on sending that letter of yours?' Alexander continued, moving his gaze from the parcel in his hands to the miserably folded remains of paper in Cog's.


Cog definitely didn't like trying to explain this awkward predicament. 'I wasn't going to send it anywhere,' he explained quietly with a small frown. 'I just wrote it for myself.'


The flat look he received for his blunt explanation made him feel stupider by the second. In reality, he thought, it was rather stupid wasn't it?


'It's been a rough week,' Alexander repeated, echoing the young man's words from earlier that morning with a vague inquiring tone. Cog nodded after a moment, trying to smoothen out the folded paper in his grip. At least the ambassador wasn't calling him stupid to his face. Not yet, at least. Cog could hold onto that for the minute to try and get through this dilemma.


'It – yes,' Cog agreed finally. 'I just – I know I could have used someone to talk to this week, and ...'


The clockmaker waved the letter in his hands slightly. 'If you can't talk to someone face-to-face, you ... you send them a letter, right?'


'Evidently,' Alexander answered. His grey eyes snapped up to Cog's own from the latter. 'You have written them before.'


'Oh – no,' Cog assured him, glancing down to his ruined work. He ran a hand through his hair. 'I thought that, well, it might give me a bit of relief; just writing a small, one-sided letter, maybe. I-I know the dead can't talk to us, but-'


Cog hesitated, and then shrugged. 'We can ... talk to them, I guess. That's why we have gravestones, right? I mean – I just – it-'


The clockmaker held his breath for a few long moments, letting out a heavy sigh when each one of his conversational stones and missed Alexander altogether. He remained seated and seemingly unimpressed at Cog's rambling defence.


'It – it was a silly idea,' Cog decided, giving the letter an almost fond look. 'I don't think I'll be doing it again. Especially not if the maids want to inform you of this sorta stuff. I didn't expect anyone else to read it.'


'I thought as much,' Alexander said finally, and Cog's shoulders slacked. He disliked the ambassador's extensive silences during conversations that seemed to become more and more one-sided by the minute. The aristocrat had many skills, though Cog honestly believed making him feel stupid was one of Alexander's most practiced. 'Take a red piece of cloth and tie it to your door handle. The maids will bypass your room in future.'


'Oh ... alright,' Cog replied, feeling slightly awkward. He hadn't expected advice, though he would most definitely be taking it in the near future. 'Thank you-'


'That was an order,' Alexander interrupted. Cog could see a faint violet blaze in his narrow eyes. 'Arcadia may be more lenient than your empire, but were you to document any evidence of your arcane studies, you would have been shot before you could even return to the fortress. I don't feel like entertaining thoughts of what difficulty that would bring to my door. I expect you to have a semblance of awareness at the very least.'


'You're so thoughtful,' Cog said flatly. 'I'll ... make sure to keep my things hidden in future, Sir.'


'Make sure of it,' the ambassador said sharply, and Cog could only hope this conversation was drawing to a close. 'I have little else to say to you. Practice caution when you flaunt your work around for the entire staff to see. You are dismissed.'


'Sir-' Cog tried with a frown at the unfair fault, but Alexander had already shifted his attention down to his work. The man became as unresponsive as a brick wall as he worked, and Cog had learned to let conversation and arguments die when Alexander's interest moved to his paperwork. The letter in his hands crumpled softly as he moved to tuck it beneath his parcel.


'Good night, Sir.'


Alexander didn't respond as Cog headed toward the door, gritting his teeth. He didn't know if he felt angry. Emotions swam and blended in with eachother in his mind and his stomach, only serving to make him feel as if his head was full of cotton. He could feel his cheeks prickling with flush once more, but it was definitely by no hand of the cold. He pushed the ambassador's heavy door open with his forearm, slipping into the empty, quiet hallway.


The door slammed shut behind him when he pressed his weight against it, falling back with a groan. He could still hear Alexander reading the letter back to him amongst the fuzz in his head. It was so humiliating.


As Cog straightened up and headed down the furnished corridor, he cast a glance to the creased, torn letter in his hands, and then to his still-warm dinner. His stomach sank even further, and Cog realised with a grimace that he had completely lost his appetite.  


-----------


He would have thought this more anti-social path his personal life took would take a toll on his knack to construe the more vague emotions and intentions of people he surrounded himself with.


He assured himself it was his work that kept his interpretive senses sharp.


He assured himself of that over and over.


The gears in Alexander's head that he had pulled out of their curious cycles had returned, and they were spinning at full force. Usually, Alexander had a clear idea of exactly what drove him to do most things. He knew when he did things out of anger and frustration, or out of a fleeting bliss. He was able to piece together the small signs and mannerisms that told him as such from others, and found it only fitting that he could do the same for himself.


Instead, Alexander found himself juggling quite a few possibilities that were driving him from his office and down to the colder, duller corridors of the lower fortress. It was rare that he allowed himself a moment of intuitive reasoning. Since he was young, he had been taught to take an educated choice over a gut feeling. The work that had absorbed most of his attention the past week had dwindled down, allowing his mind to turn over last night's events more than once. Though he felt no concern for Kleinschmidt, that didn't stop him picking apart their short conversation. Kleinschmidt wore his heart on his sleeve, even when it seemed he would rather keep bubbling anger or deterring sadness at bay. As trained as Alexander's eyes were to the smallest guilty signs, the young man was easier to read than poster.


As he approached his assistant's room, he settled his reasoning on curiosity. It seemed rather simple, but it would do.


Alexander noticed, as he pushed Kleinschmidt's door open, that a red handkerchief was wrapped around the door handle. He ignored it and closed the door behind him, leaving himself alone with the empty, small room. He had only visited once before, and it had certainly changed since then. Leonardo had been telling him of his efforts to help make Kleinschmidt feel more at home, and evidently he wasn't lying.


Rooms within the lower fortress did not have curtains, though the two of them seemed to have secured a heavy pair to keep the cold out. Alexander noticed a matching rug in the centre of the room, concealing most of the old wooden floor. There were several candles dotted around the room – one on the cupboard beside Kleinschmidt's small bed, and a few more sitting on his desk. All of them looked used – especially the ones his assistant had hopefully been using to study on his desk. Beside them lay Kleinschmidt's book piles (no longer colour-coded), which he had once again deigned to keep out of sight. That would have to be brought up again.


Atop the books however, lay the remains of the young man's odd letter from yesterday. Alexander didn't have to reach far to pick it up – the room was incredibly small.


The ambassador skimmed through the letter again. Something about the wording, as well as Kleinschmidt's claims last night had been rather off. Alexander was almost positive that he had written another before; perhaps two.


He wondered absentmindedly while he flipped the drawers of Kleinschmidt's bedside table open, why he was here searching for them.


Curiosity, of course. Writing letters to dead men wasn't particularly normal (personally he didn't think it was rather healthy, either) and Alexander wondered what Kleinschmidt was hoping to achieve with them. He may have had more pressing matters to focus on, but he didn't feel like sitting idly by while his assistant took part in something so borderline mad.


Perhaps he was being biased, but Alexander had come to loathe odd things. Kleinschmidt being odd in every sense of the word did not help. If he was going to bring the subject up in an endeavour to make Kleinschmidt stop, then he wanted the evidence to sway him with.


The drawers yielded no letters at all, nor did any visible surface. Before Alexander could doubt his "gut feeling" that he didn't feel comfortable pursuing in the first place, his boot knocked against something hard jutting out from beneath Kleinschmidt's bed. A suitcase.


Alexander wound back the memories in his mind as he pulled back the bedding, lowering himself to one knee. Kleinschmidt did not being many possessions with him from Mercia. In fact, anything that would have fit in there was already on display. A quick tug to test the weight gave Alexander the impression that it was more than likely full of clothes.


As he pushed it back, the suitcase seemed to catch something on its corner and flip it into view. The darkness from beneath the bed obscured it almost perfectly from sight, but Alexander had already let his curious reasoning drive him to snatch it from the shadows.


It turned out to be a rather large, wooden container only a touch smaller than the suitcase. Most likely some sort of memory box. It most certainly looked old, Alexander noted as he laid it on the bed. The hinges on the back were dark and tarnished, though not at all unused.


Yes, Alexander did not like simple things, though he was quite thankful for the cramped plainness of his assistant's room. As unorganized as the young man was, it definitely wasn't hard to find what he was looking for. If this box held another letter amongst other small personal keepsakes and memoirs that Alexander didn't care for in the slightest, then he wouldn't have to deal with Kleinschmidt's desperate, ongoing lies. They were most annoying when trying to get to a point, and Alexander had grown tired of them.


The fastenings clicked open with ease, evidence of their constant use; though the hinges creaked loudly as Alexander pulled back the lid, searching for another letter.


His search lasted all of a brief moment.  


The lid fell back with a soft fwump against the bedding, and Alexander was left staring at perhaps a hundred slips of paper. Some were small, some were quite long, and every single one of them varied in quality. Most of them were worn and yellowed with age, and some seemed to have been added more recently than Alexander had expected. Of course, he had expected ... one letter. Not this.


He found himself being delicate with the old paper, and carefully nudged a few to the side. Some of the smaller pieces were simply torn shreds of paper – perhaps written on the go? – some looked as if they had been torn from a journal, on the back of old documents – anything Kleinschmidt seemed to be able to get his hands on.


And of course ... they were all letters.


Alexander took one of the older pieces. The paper was soft and light – proof of its age. The handwriting was young and awkward.


Dear Dad


I think I'm getting used to Mercia's Fortress. I miss home a lot though. It's weird not waking up and being in my own room. Christian broke his watch again today. He keeps telling me that he forgets to take it out of his pocket when he sleeps, but I think he's just clumsy. You always said to take money if people offered it to you, but he breaks his watch so many times that I'm beginning to wonder if he can afford it. I'm starting to feel bad.


The rest of the letter seemed to have accidently been torn off. Alexander couldn't see the other half, and instead took another yellowing note.


Dear Dad


I met the prince of Mercia today. He seemed upset that his pocket watch broke, and it keeps making him late to see his tutor. He told me it's making his father angry, so I thought I could fix it for him. I can't get permission to see him from anyone, so I think I'll make him a new one and give it to him when I see him. It seems a bit cruel to be angry at him for breaking his watch though. I don't think you ever got angry at me for something that wasn't my fault.


These were most definitely old. Kleinschmidt had told him that he arrived at Mercia's fortress when he was nine. These letters had to have been seven years old at most. Another, still aged but not as decrepit.


Esther just broke up with her boyfriend. She keeps telling me that I'm too young to worry about things like that, but I feel bad for her. I think she really wants to get married. She keeps going to see Christian when she's upset. I don't know why they shouldn't get married to eachother. I think they'd make good parents. Christian kinda reminds me of you, so I'm sure he'll be a nice dad.


More recent – extremely small.


I don't like Arcadia. It's too cold. I miss everyone.
The ambassador is horrible. I can't talk to any of my friends.
I want to go home.


I met a really strange man called Gaz today when I was in the city. I told him I worked for the ambassador, but he doesn't believe me. I went to the "catacombs" with him, which is where all the homeless people in Arcadia live. It's actually kind of cosy down there! I think they've all worked hard to make it feel homely and safe. I've never seen anything like that in Mercia.
Oh he stole my apple though, so I don't really like him yet. He seems like a good person though, but I don't think Linda would like him. I'll try to stay away from him for now.



When I first came here, I wondered how you could turn away someone in need. I always thought you would help people, regardless of who they were or what they did. The more I work with the ambassador, the more I think I understand why you chose to send him away. I hate everything about his. I hate how magic feels. It scares me sometimes. I don't know how you did it.


Alexander put the handful of letters down, furrowing his brow in thought. He had searched for another letter with the premise that this was a brief occurrence – something that a harsh word or two would have put a firm stop to. If the young man constantly felt how he had been acting for the entire week previous, Alexander would much rather he talk to one of the fortress's advice counsellors, or even Doctor Garto. Writing such letters to the dead as a substitute didn't seem at all right, especially when the recipient of his troubling thoughts could do very little to help him.


A click of the door handle signalled the return of the room's owner. Alexander turned his head and watched the door open, revealing his cold and flush-faced assistant who had more than likely been outside again. The smile on his face was evident when he noted the red handkerchief on the door handle, but Alexander could safely say he had never seen an expression turn so quickly when the young man raised his head.


The ambassador held an old, feeble letter in his hand, giving it a careful wave. 'Just the one, was it?'


Kleinschmidt's mouth didn't even move to attempt forming words. He stared from Alexander, to the letter in his hand, and then to the box with a look of pure and utter mortification. Alexander watched the boy's wide eyes follow his hand as he discarded the letter back to its rightful pile. He looked as if every one of his secrets lay bare and vulnerable in that box, and Alexander had just scoured them all. Those letters had to be one of the most precious and private things the boy had.


The vibrant gold of the clockmaker's eyes that Alexander had become used to suddenly become duller.


'Klein-'


'Just leave,' the young man managed finally, his voice thin and wavering. His eyes had drifted from Alexander and the box; they simply stared aimlessly forward, lowered to the floor. 'Please.'


Alexander had said it before; he was not a counsellor, nor did he have any idea how the mind of one Cog Kleinschmidt worked. It was not his place to advise the boy, and he would much rather leave that to someone else with the time and inclination.  


The box closed with a soft click.


'We are not done,' Alexander told his assistant as he passed him, though he did not receive any impression of a response. The boy just gripped the door handle tighter. The door slammed shut behind him so rapidly as he stepped out of the room, rattling loudly on its hinges. A hollow knock of wood against the floor and a crack followed shortly after, and Alexander chose to set himself apart from his assistant for now.


He had little tolerance for tantrums.


------


Cog kicked the box of letters back under the bed so forcefully that he thought he had heard something break. His hands were shaking too hard to reach under there and investigate; he collapsed onto the bed instead, gripping his forearms tightly. They were private!, he wanted to scream. He wrung his hands into his hair to anchor his ... anger, his sheer humiliation. The gravity of the revelation weighed down upon him harder and harder until he wanted to curl up and stay like that for a long, long time.


The awareness that Alexander knew these things was almost too much. He felt as though the man had pried into the very recesses of his mind. He had never shown the letters to a soul. Even Boris, his closest friend – even Christian, who he trusted with his life – the letters to his father was something he wanted to keep safe and close to his heart. For his eyes only. For his ... grief.


No one had taught him how to deal with grief. But the letters; they had always helped. Now when he thought of them, he felt ashamed. Guilty, almost.


Cog ignored the sun still blazing high in the skies above Arcadia. He pulled his thin blanket over his head and tried his hardest to wake up two days ago.

I had this idea floating around in my head for a while, but I only started on it yesterday. It came out rather short, and I'm not sure if I'll continue, but it kind of reads like something that needs a second part.

Sorry if the html formatting is a bit buggered, it's almost 5am :T
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:iconstriatontriofan7:
StriatonTrioFan7 Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014
Oh WHOA now thats drama man!
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:icontwilitefairy:
Twilitefairy Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
=C Darn you, Alexander, darn you.
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:iconniobesnuppa:
Niobesnuppa Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013
Wow, Alexander really is an asshole.
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:icon0confuzzled0:
0Confuzzled0 Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2011
My goodness, but I want to just punch Alexander!!!!
I was kind of hoping Cog would, but alas....
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:iconemeraldkeefe:
EmeraldKeefe Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011
Poor Cog, Alexander is way too nosy for his own good as well...
I was half expecting Alexander to write one himself to his mother but then I realized this is Alexander we're talking about...XD
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:iconarctolupus:
ArctoLupus Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011
Aw Cog, just curious, are these little snippets part of a larger timeline or are the one-shots that could fall whenever in the story?
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:iconchikuto:
Chikuto Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011  Student Digital Artist
They're pretty much just oneshots - they're not really in order or anything.
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:iconarctolupus:
ArctoLupus Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011
alright :3
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:iconinkskratches:
InkSkratches Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think it's fine as a stand alone, to be honest.

I actually read this with a very critical eye, preparing to give a decently constructive comment. I can't really say much though. The writing was extremely solid and the characters' motives were made plain through their actions and thoughts. The alternating viewpoints was also really well done, I think.

I guess the only thing I can say is that I like Alexander less and less the more I read him. This isn't to say I think he's a bad character. I understand him and why he does these things. I think you've been very clear in conveying that. However, he just seems so superfluously cruel to me that I can't bring myself to actually like the character. He's well-formed. I'm just simply not very fond of him.

I also really enjoyed reading Cog's letters, even though the situation in which they were revealed sucked. Getting to see snippets of his past was great.
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:iconchikuto:
Chikuto Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011  Student Digital Artist
I think what I'm aiming for with Alex is to have a character so used to interacting with refined educated adults, as well as spending most of his time alone and not having to care about anyone personally, be put into a situation where he is forced to interact with someone completely different and find himself caring whether he likes it or not. This is all very new and strange to him, so he cocks things up and just is a giant dick in the process.

If that made any sense at all herp derp.

"I also really enjoyed reading Cog's letters, even though the situation in which they were revealed sucked."

I'm sorry, the in-story method or my writing?
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