Dear Joseph
rating: +11+x

Dear Prince Joseph,

I never thought seeing you again would have taken me so long. Duty calls, I'm afraid.

Do you remember when we were kids, Joseph? Back then, rank and position mattered not. We would play in the soldiers' drilling area for hours, swinging our sticks around as if they were real swords. We would come home to our parents muddied and battered, but with smiles on our faces. It was so much easier back then.

I remember how the towers of the castle looked. I would stare up and see the goliaths looming over me, casting a shadow all around. It was the most terrifying yet comforting sight I had ever seen. Now, however, they provide neither. They're just stone, hard stone meant to protect us from invaders. That's all.

In our teens, we would sneak away behind those towers. We were both confused about our places in the world, but we had each other. One thing led to another, and by that point, I couldn't imagine my life without you.

I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of your embrace. I remember pressing my face into your hair, taking in your sweet scent. Your arms, my shield, wrapped around me. I didn't want to let go, Joseph. I shouldn't have.

And then that damned day came. We were taken apart and put to each our stations—you the prince, and I the knight. I always dreamed of becoming a knight, you know. The valor, the glory… that heroic boy knew nothing. It didn't take me long to miss the days when we fought in the mud, Joseph. I would give anything to feel that mud cover my skin and stink me to high hells again if only to be with you.

Apologies for the rambling… you know I was never good at letters. What am I doing?

I'm sorry, Joseph. I'm sorry. I know words can never mend what I did, but I'm sorry. I never meant for it to be this way.

I failed you. I failed you as both your knight and friend. I didn't protect you. I had tried everything I could, and yet here we are. I'm sitting in my damned room writing letters in the comfort of my own home while you're gone.

I wanted to build a life with you. I could have become your royal guard. I could have been there at your side to protect you at all costs. However, that day will never come. I'm sorry, Joseph. I hope you'll forgive me.

Harper dug his knees into the mud, sinking into the earth. The ground had become soft under the torrential rain, soft and wet. His breeches were dirtied; he didn't care.

Why here? Harper thought. Why at the edge of some forgotten forest? Why?

That was the only question he could ask nowadays. Why?

The small mound was no different than it had been a month ago. The dirt on the surface had turned to mud, but otherwise, it was the same. The same mound.

He sunk deeper into the mud. Reaching into his satchel, he pulled out a letter. The rain poured down on his head and face, cold and jarring.

He placed the letter on the ground, right below the headstone. The rain would soak the outside. That's okay.

"I'm sorry, Joseph." Harper's voice caught in his throat. He bowed forward, on his hands and knees like an animal. He couldn't tell what wettened his face.

Crying won't bring him back.

He stood up and forced himself to turn away.

The forest was alive with noise, all manners of creatures brimming with energy.

Harper stared at the mud on his hands and knees. A small smile broke through the tears.

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