For those of you following my Cluster Wars efforts, here is the the response to Luis’ letter telling Sebastian he is off to investigate a death, and clear his own conscience.
I have propagated the appended message through all the fora and media I can think you may encounter. I hope you will recall how to access it.
Your friend, Sebastian
My dearest friend Luis
If you are reading this letter then my hopes are greatly lifted. That you remember the cipher we developed all those years ago at the seminary is a sign that some part of the man I knew survives. Your letter, and your recent behaviour, have left me deeply concerned. Rest assured that I have covered your tracks fully and if you return immediately you will find your leave papers have been properly filed, and Carolina will think you have been away on a mission. This much I have used my influence and my access through military intelligence to achieve. It is now for you to return to your senses and return to us.
You claim to have developed an obsessive interest in that junior officer from the action at Vennkiser, and that perhaps through the myth you have woven of his redemption you can find your own. You are not alone Luis. All of us who were part of the tragedy of the mines of Caorramoor have been left scarred by it. You were first on the scene, sent to be the force and presence of the military there, and you arrived too late. I have pored all through the reports, I have traced every step largely to aid my own reconciliation with what happened. You followed all the ordinances except those that would cost you time, and yet you were too late. What else could you have done? The man I knew had a great sense of responsibility, but was not so arrogant as to hold himself accountable against the laws of nature. Nothing could have saved those miners. And so I am lead to the conclusion that Damian and Caorramoor are a smokescreen, one you have thrown up to hide your true motives. Moreover I perciveve this was a smokescreen you intended me to pierce. You know your actions to be wrong, base and beneath your honour, and your letter to me was not to excuse your actions and make your excuses to your wife and children, but to save you from yourself.
Thr truth lies with Carolina, who frets for you day and night, and the woman you now know as Felicity. You say she reminds of the girl from the seminary, the one we both believed could be an Absolutist of the Atenaeum, I do not doubt it. You are not the only one who was much taken by her, although for different reasons. My friend, don’t doubt that I love you, but be assured I know you, and I understand what motivates you. You were always destined for greatness. Son of a war hero, and with the dashing good looks of a hero in the making. Far from being a burden for you I think the deaths at Caorramoor only added a shade of tragedy and depth of torment to your burgeoning reputation. Biut I get ahead of myself. At the seminary your exemplary scores and prowess in the courts martial marked you out. And in our midst there was this beguiling, mysterious and mind bendingly attractive woman. You were drawn to her for her own sake, as were we all; and the danger we suspected she represented; and also because that was how the story of our seminary years should be told, The fated and tragic romance of Luis and Amanda.
Are you surprised after all these years that I have remembered her name? You should not be. I was caught in her web as much as you, but for different reasons, I grew up in the orbit of Carolina, and more than anything else Amanda reminded me of her. They both bear the aura of great strength and wondrous fragility. They were of similar build and carriage, their hair mimicked each other’s perfectly in how it fell and caught the breeze. You now see the same reflection in this Felicity, and who is to say they are not the same person. The Absolutists wield strange powers, and have gifts we cannot comprehend. But I was reminded every moment that I saw Amanda of my childhood love.
Does this surprise you? I wonder if the realisation ever pierced the legend you were weaving about yourself? You left the seminary for training on my home world, and I went to the intelligence academy in the Cluster Edge. When I returned the story had run its course, the suave junior officer had won the heart of the belle of the planet.. I had two dozen messages from her when I came out of my deep immersion. Two dozen messages without reply before she fell into your arms.
Had I asked her, before the boys were born, I think she would have left you and the reflected glory of your career for the shadowy world of an intelligence officers wife, and all the scandal be damned. Yet once she was the mother of your children she showed more dedication than you have. Does it shock you to think she would have left? Only once did she indulge in the most chaste of infidelity, and yet it held more meaning than any depths of sordid adultery.
Do you recall the ball held at the end of the NIsker action? I forget which of your medals you were awarded then, but you held the attention of every socialite and debutante, while husbands and lovers glowered from the bars and card tables. You did not notice your own wife was not among them. I found her watching from the shadows by the double doors into the cloakroom. It was a cool and solitary place and I saw her shiver, her pale, bare shoulders rendered ghostly. I took off my dress jacket and put it around her shoulders. She did not flinch, nor did she back away as my hands rested on her. Then, very slowly she leaned back into my body. Through my uniform and her ball gown I felt her trembling and then as the minutes passed it subsided and she relaxed into my arms, her forehead resting on the short hairs of my beard. All the while she did not take her eyes off you as you regaled your adoring audience, oblivious to her absence.
We never spoke of it, and a decade and more has passed since. Your sons have been born and yet that moment remains as a mute reminder that she made a mistake falling into the grand narrative of Luis, and losing her own voice in doing so. I did not have the courage then to save her from it, and now it is too late.
I love her still, but I will not be the agent of her abandonment and misfortune. I have told you this hidden history so that you may know what it costs me to call you back. And yet I have opened all the doors I can to lead you safely home. Leave this madness on Bruyne, or wherever it is you truly are. Remember the vows and the honour of your calling. You have fled on the strength of a fantasy, you have gone to keep alight the flame of your heroic tale. It is not so. All you have done is abandon your duty and your promise in lust, wherher it is for adventure or just this fey creature Felicity, who may be Amanda. Come to your senses man and come home.
I will know if you have opened this letter, respond swiftly my dear friend, for lives whose happiness is your responsibility hang in the balance.
I remain your friend and comrade,
More Cluster Wars material, and Luis’s original letter to Sebastian here