Of Blood and Honor [Letters]

(This tattered parchment is ragged with age, and has the soft, weathered feel that comes from being read countless times over the years.)

Hello, little one. This is your father.

It is with heavy heart that I write this to you. By the time you are old enough to understand this letter, our lives will have irrevocably changed, one way or another. I cannot begin to describe how difficult it has been to make this decision, and even now, my heart flutters, uncertain. But I suppose sometimes life forces you to make difficult decisions.

I fear that you'll no doubt hear many bad things about me as you grow older - that people will look upon my actions and condemn them as evil, and label me a traitor. I fear that others will look down upon you for the decisions I have made.

I am sorry. With all my heart, with all my soul, I am sorry for doing this to you.

I would not blame you if you grew up resenting me, for ruining our name and casting such a negative shadow over your bright young life. I would not blame you at all. A father should protect his family and provide for them, not force them to live in suffering, ashamed of his deeds. No child should have to grow up embarrassed of their lineage.

I pray this does not happen. You are too young to really know what the Light is, but Light, if you are listening, please protect my family. For what I do, I do alone. If there must be repercussions for my actions, if a price must be paid for my sins, let them fall upon my shoulders and mine only. Do not let my beloved wife and my only child suffer for my stubbornness, for they are innocent. Watch over them, Light...for I will not be able to.

Even now, doubt plagues my thoughts, and I wonder if I am doing the right thing. To give up my home, my career...to give up everything, and for what? For what cause do I fight? Surely I have given enough to this kingdom, with my years of loyal service and devotion to its cause. I fought against the Horde, I defended our borders against all who would endanger us, tirelessly and without fail.

And now, the years are catching up to me. My reflexes are slower, my joints ache a little more when I go to sleep each night. Haven't I done enough? Surely I have earned a chance to live out my life in peace with my cherished family?

My head asks me these questions, but it is my heart that answers. There are some things that you simply have to fight for, even if they come at great cost. You will understand this someday, when you are older.

I will not try to explain everything that has happened in this note, but I need you to know that what I did, I did for honor's sake. Honor is an important part of what makes us human, my child. Our words and our deeds must count for something in this world.

They will call me a renegade, brand me a villain. I know this, and though it grieves me to lose everything that I have worked so hard to achieve, I am resolute. For I know that my heart is pure, that I have remained true to my beliefs.

I do not hate those who cast me out into the wild, exiled me from the only home I have ever known. I do not hate those who will disparage my name and proclaim me a traitor, shouting it in the streets for everyone to hear. And while it deeply saddens me to see those I once considered close friends and confidantes now spit at my feet in disgust...while I lament that they would be willing to so easily forget years of loyalty and friendship at the blink of an eye...I do not hate them either.

I do not hate them...but I hate what they have become.

I was offered a way to save face, you know. I do not know how my legacy will be recorded, so allow me to tell you directly and honestly, so that if nothing else, you know what kind of man your father was.

If I went along with their agreement, I would not be punished for my rebellious actions, and I would be able to return to my home, to my family, and enjoy the rest of my life in peace. I wanted to accept their offer, so that I might remain with you and your mother. I wanted to accept and go home as if nothing was wrong, so badly.

But the cost was simply too great. For their 'kindness', they asked me to betray everything I stood for, to throw it away and tell the world that I had been wrong, and that I was sorry for my crimes.

But how can I apologize for something I do not regret? Complying to their demands would be to betray everything I am and everything I hold dear. For years I had fought for our liberty and freedom, and the morals and lessons I learned from those struggles have shaped me into the man I am today. How can they ask me to discard these sentiments, when they are sentiments I believe in with all my heart? I fought for those beliefs, I killed for them. If necessary, I would have died for them.

And so, I made the only decision honor would permit.

I told them, and awaited their judgement, surprise and outrage in their eyes. I did not have to wait long. Exile, came their furious decree. Exiled to the untamed wilderness, stripped of my estate and holdings, doomed to life out the rest of my life as an outcast. "May the Light have mercy on your soul," came the final dagger in my heart. A blessing...or a curse.

I had trusted them, and I had given them everything I had within me to give. And this is what they gave me in return.

No, my child. I did not betray them. If anything, they betrayed me.

I hope that one day, you will find it in your heart to forgive me. I know it is asking a great deal, but I hope that you will understand why I did what I did, and maybe, just maybe, you will look back on me and be proud of me for fighting for what I believe in.

Please, do not search for me, for the life of the exile is no place for a child. My road will be dangerous and unforgiving, and I would never forgive myself if you were to come to harm while trying to find me. I have done you enough harm already in your short life - do not add that to my list of sins.

Be a good person, and do not be afraid to stand up for your beliefs. Be strong, and have the courage to trust in your convictions, even when the rest of the world is shouting that you are wrong. Trust your heart, for it is the one thing in this world that will never lead you astray. It is what separates us from the beasts. It is what makes us human.

Farewell, my child. I want you to know that I love you dearly and that I shall always carry you close to my heart. You are my pride and my hope. May the world that awaits you later in life be a kinder, more understanding one that it is today.

Goodbye, Vanessa.

Show/Hide Letter Notes

Vanessa was always someone I intended to write a Letter for, in some format. I considered writing it from her father's perspective, but Vanessa had such a rich storyline in Westfall, it would be a shame not to use it.

Or would it? Actually, her story in Westfall was great. Maybe TOO great. After all, it told so much about her motivations, her goals, her personality. We basically knew her entire life story. I considered this, and wondered if there was even much still left to tell.

This has become a bit of a recurring theme in Cataclysm. There are so many awesome new NPCs, but the original point of the Letters was to shed some light on intriguing NPCs who didn't get any spotlight. Characters with potential, who hadn't received any lore love from Blizzard. However, so many fun NPCs introduced in Cataclysm DID receive decent stories! Whether it was quests, dialogue, or recurring appearances, we actually got to see a lot out of newcomers like Calder Gray or Thisalee Crow. Unlike in Wrath, we're not left wondering about them, or who they might be - we already know!

Now, of course there are still potential stories with them. We don't know EVERYTHING about them. But it's a little different.

In the case of Vanessa, I actually thought her story had been very well told. I could add to it, of course - her thoughts, her feelings, exactly what her relationship to the other Deadmines bosses is - but it almost felt like a bit of a waste, to expand further on a character who we already know so much about.

It did, however, occur to me that we don't actually how Van Cleef himself felt about his daughter. Before we know about Vanessa, Van Cleef was an interesting, Robin Hood-esque figure, who somewhat nobly fought against Stormwind's corrupt House of Nobles. His eventual methods may have been somewhat dubious, but his original cause and ambitions were quite fair. He was a great villain, because he wasn't truly evil like so many others - he was like Kael'thas or Illidan, conflicted and following his heart.

But then, introducing a daughter? I wondered what Edwin would have been thinking as he turned down the nobility's offer to become their pawn, knowing that to oppose them would result in punishment, exile, even death. Was he thinking about his family at that time? Was he thinking how his defiance would affect his daughter?

Then I realized, his story and his situation was almost exactly like Tirion's when Tirion defied the Order of the Silver Hand to defend Eitrigg, out of honor. (In the novel "Of Blood and Honor.") Both men knew that what they were fighting for - payment for their hard work for Edwin, and honor for Tirion - were right. And both refused to knuckle under and submit to the unfair demands of the authorities, knowing that they would be punished for it.

Tirion knew he had to do it, but he also felt incredibly guilty to be subjecting his family to such hardship. I suspect VanCleef would have felt the same, for his poor little daughter.

I wanted people to read this letter and assume it was Tirion behind the pen, and when they reached the end and realized it was actually Edwin, I hoped the revelation would be shocking. So I decided to write this letter in as sneaky a manner as possible, taking lines directly from Tirion's heartfelt letter to his son Taelan in Of Blood And Honor, and using a few descriptions to make it seem like it was Tirion writing this letter, not Edwin. Such as referencing the Light - something Tirion would definitely do, but would Edwin? Well, why not? Like most humans/residents of Stormwind, just because he wasn't able to wield the Light doesn't mean he didn't believe in it, or pray to it.

The shock I was trying to evoke was that while Tirion's actions were noble and brave...were Edwin's really that different?

It wasn't easy, coming up with thoughts/messages that both men would say to their child, given their different backgrounds and all...but there were some similarities to work with. VanCleef DID serve Stormwind quite loyally before becoming a stonemason, as an assassin/roofwalker of SI:7. And honor WAS important to him - when the House of Nobles refused to pay the Stonemasons Guild after repairing the city, a few members of the guild, including VanCleef, were offered government jobs if they would turn their back on the guild and play along. But Edwin refused to betray his fellows, which gave birth to the rebellion that would become the first remnants of the Defias Brotherhood.

Also, what about a picture? What the hell kind of picture could I use that would fit both Tirion (Lordaeron, the Light, Paladin) AND Edwin (Stormwind, Stonemasons, SI:7)? I decided to go with two pictures - one of Stormwind's Cathedral of Lights, which should tie in with both characters, and a picture of kids, so that hopefully, readers would assume I meant Taelan...when in reality, I meant Vanessa. (Thanks, little Sally Whiteman/Renault Mograine/Jimmy Vishas.)

The title was the same deal - hopefully people who had read the book and were familiar with Tirion's ordeal would assume this letter was about him.

All in all, it was a tricky letter to write, but not impossible. And if people are "tricked" and experience the letter as I had hoped, it'll be worth it. ;D

Oh, and if some of Edwin's letter sounds familiar, it's because I lifted large parts of it directly from the letter Tirion wrote to Taelan before his exile:

My dear Taelan,

By the time you’re old enough to read this, I will have been gone a long time. I can’t adequately express how painful it is to have to leave you and your mother behind, but I suppose that sometimes life forces you to make difficult decisions. I fear that you’ll no doubt hear many bad things about me as you grow older—that people will look upon my actions and condemn them as evil. I fear that others will look down upon you for the decisions I have made.

I won’t try to explain everything that’s happened in this note, but I need you to know that what I did, I did for honor’s sake. Honor is an important part of what makes us men, Taelan. Our words and our deeds must count for something in this world. I know it’s asking a great deal, but I hope that you will understand that someday.

I want you to know that I love you dearly and that I’ll always carry you close to my heart.

Your life and your deeds will be my redemption, son. You are my pride and my hope. Be a good man. Be a hero.


2 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. gravatar

    Heh, Rades, your gambit worked. When I started reading the letter, I immediately thought of Edwin Van Cleef and Vanessa simply because Vanessa's story is a new thing for Cataclysm, whereas Taelan's story is from vanilla. As I kept reading, I began to wonder if you might really be doing Tirion and Taelan, after all. I kept wondering all through the letter whom you really meant -- but was glad to see at the end that my initial hunch that it was Edwin and Vanessa was correct.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:21 PM

  2. gravatar

    For some reason I thought this letter was from Archbishop Benedictus. I'm not even sure why, I never remember anything about him having a family. It must have been the screenshot of the cathedral combined with the talk about the Light and betrayal. >.>

    December 2, 2011 at 1:58 PM