Masque, Shadow, & Blade

Tessa's personal letter to Io

(A most private letter from Tessa, to Io)

Please forgive that I am not saying this to you in person. It is my sincerest desire to do so, but I find that when face-to-face, I become quite distracted and struggle to find the correct words. Beautiful speeches and poetic works have never been in my wheelhouse, but I beg your indulgence while I try most earnestly to pen the thoughts that have taken up residence in my mind of late…

I must first admit to a touch of cowardice on my part. The excuses I gave you earlier as reasons for my hesitation and doubt, while accurate, were not the only things that have been holding me back.  I forget sometimes, before I was ever a sailor or a soldier, I was a girl who fell in love with the sea and spent her days imagining all the many wondrous secrets beneath the blue depths. Many of us were raised on tales of sailors braving Calypso’s wrath for fortune and glory, and being lured to their deaths by the enchanting, irresistibly beautiful songs of the sirens. While these tales inevitably frightened the other children, I found they only strengthened my desire to quit the dry land and make my fortunes on the sea. As I got older, I often wondered what it might be like to encounter a siren or other mer-folk. What would happen? Would I also be lured to my death? My imagination would run wild.

Perhaps you can understand a little now, the day I met you was like a dream. When I was thrown overboard in the attack, I knew that I was going to die. There was simply no hope of rescue or escape. The storm was much too strong to swim though, even if I could have survived the sea hag and merrow who would have inevitably come after me. But then you appeared, seemingly from nowhere, swept me into your arms, and carried me far away. I was too in shock at the sudden rescue to do more than mumble a few words. As I made my way back to my city over the next days, my thoughts were consumed by the attack of the sea hag; by what I was certain had to be the loss of my ship & entire crew; and by this beautiful, mysterious man who appeared out of the very sea itself to be my rescuer. Your eyes burned into my mind and I traveled as if in a daze. Aye, I was struck by you even then. How could I not be? I’d dreamed of meeting one of your kind for so long, but could never have anticipated how it felt to be swept along in the ocean, without a ship, as if I belonged there. Had that been the last time I ever saw you, my gratitude would have been immense, my life all the richer for our brief encounter. Imagine then, hearing that my ship had returned, with captain and crew alive! Imagine me racing to the docs, blood pounding in my ears, not daring to believe until I could set eyes on her sails myself… and finding you standing there, on my ship. My breath caught in my throat, my heart stopped; I thought surely this was some fevered illusion. The idea that you had put yourself in such peril, not only once to rescue me, but again to return to my ship and fight along side the crew to help them escape… I do not think I will ever have the words to sufficiently explain what I felt in that moment. I was quite simply overwhelmed.

Every day since then I have had the pleasure to wake and find you still here with us, to watch you making yourself part of the crew, part of the life of the ship. Fighting with us, sailing with us… and with me. I told myself that it made sense, we had a common enemy and a common goal after all, but with each day those words rang more hollow in my ears, until I could no longer convince myself that was the only reason you stayed. I attempted to steer my mind towards more innocent thoughts of gratitude at your incredible assistance to myself and my crew; to focus on the huge threat we face; and to not think about what it would mean if we succeeded and you no longer needed to stay. My attempts failed me completely. More and more my thoughts turned towards you and what might await me there. When my heart was heavy with grief at the loss of my captain, I longed for the comfort your calm words and the feel of your arms again. As time passed my nights became spent in restless dreams of your embrace, until I was utterly distracted at the sight of you. You’ve said that it was I who lured you this time, but you have enchanted me as surely as any siren who ever sang a sailor to destruction, and I am very content to be bewitched so. If you are leading me to my doom, this is far more pleasant a way than I could have ever imagined.

Which brings me now to the cowardice I wrote of before. The truest source of any hesitation on my part comes from a threat that we both now might face and a fear of how you will respond to it. I was determined during our dinner to have this all out in the open, to make it clear that we could very well be risking everything if we give in to desire… and yet when faced with the option to remain silent and finally enjoy the night with you I’d wanted for so long, I chose to say nothing. While I realize this particular issue is not normally much of a concern to you, I cannot help but be concerned that you are now at risk for being tangled up in the net, at least while you remain among us. I have never misled you before and I will not start now: here there is danger.

I am uncertain whether you will choose to remain by my side in light of this. If you do, you will be putting yourself in the path of great harm at the hands of others of my kind, for what effectively amounts to just a dalliance with a human. How could I possibly ask that of you, after everything else you’ve done for me? Even so, I fear the answer… Though my heart sinks at the thought, and no matter how much I’ve come to realize I wish it otherwise, I have always known that there will come a day when you will be gone. That fate I accepted when I first realized the effect you were having on me and chose to do nothing to discourage your affection. I do not regret that decision in the slightest.  Quite the contrary, I intend to encourage you even more. Should our affair come to light and I be caught, it seems likely I will face a harsh judgment, perhaps death, but that does not give me pause. I risk death every time my ship leaves port – I’ve said before that we sailors live at Calypso’s whim – only now I have a chance to spend some of my remaining days with you at my side? I will take that offer every time. I cannot promise our adventure will not end in tragedy if you remain, but I can guarantee you will enjoy the journey.





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