#RemembranceDay story: A Flower for Rolande -- Part 3
Part three of our Remembrance Day story. A thousand thanks to those who gave their lives to secure ours. You will never be forgotten:
Rolande…Jaina stood now in the same place as she did when she last saw her brother, her If only he had not gone when summoned, if only he had listened to her pleas. Regrettable was the gallantry of great men who risked themselves for others, and had Rolande stayed with her, they should still be having their tea together, should still be reading their books and playing their games together, continuing with all the good humour and ease of life that their friendship had secured. She imagined seeing him in the distance, riding toward the horizon: his horse was still at their family estate; she had kept everything belonging to him, and though she could not look at his sword or his library without an unwelcome visit from her sorrows, it was a worthy distress, one merited by being fortunate enough to have a doting brother who was so beloved and now dreadfully missed. He had gone to war, had lead their battalions alongside the Frewyn Foreign Legion, had stood with great Generals amongst the regiments of dauntless men, all of whom banded together in opposition of Bellatrim’s advance. They had fought well—uncommonly well, probably due to King Dorrin’s having sent Frewyn’s best to aid them—and the war would have been over and done with in a few days, had not the enemy lords sent the whole of their private armies to swarm the gates. In a last effort, Bellatrim had tried to breach the dividing wall that kept them out of Marridon’s northwestern municipalities, and to salvage the boundaries that Marridon’s first kings had drawn, every man belonging to Marridon and its allies leapt forth in defense of their birthright. Even the King of Marridon had descended from his high boughs to lead the royal regiment, and within a few short hours, the battle was over, Bellatrim’s lords were defeated, and Marridon was victorious, but the conclusion of a triumphant battle is never as exulting as the efforts taken to reach it, and all the usual gratulation belonging to a victory was restrained. The penury of jubilation when the enemy fell betrayed the sort of war they waged: no rapturous cry rang out once the sabers had been laid down; there were only the wailings of an aggrieved nation, mourning their incalculable losses, and those who still remained bent over the bodies of their friends and family, crying out in the bitter egrimony of inconsolable devistation. Most of those who had fought for Marridon would never know they had won the war; too many had perished on the pikes of tyrannical men. Thousands of dead embellished the battlefield, amongst them the King of Marridon, whose body lay in a twisted heap beneath his horse, surrounded by the bodies many of the high ranking peers that had gone to defend him, amongst them Jaina’s husband and her brother. The war was over, and though Marridon had been declared the victor, the deaths of countless young men proclaimed that neither side had emerged truly victorious.aspect only more deplorable, her feelings only more depressed.
It was the Frewyn Foreign Legion who had taken care to remove the King of Marridon from the field and convey his remains home. They recovered and wrapped as many as they could before transporting them by long procession back to his final resting place at the Marridon Memorial. The sounds of agonizing grief were everywhere in the capital: women fell to their knees and raised their hands to the sky, children sat with wilted shoulders, and withered men davered about in the disbelief of having lost so noble a sovereign, a generous and righteous leader who had adorned their kingdom in silver and scarlet and had brought Marridon to a Golden Age. Word from the Chambers soon reached the capital: the day was declared as a national day mourning, and would remain as one to be a day of Remembrance as long as Marridon’s independence endured. The women donned their shawls and men tore their clothes, and every Marridon citizen belonging to the capital lined the streets, to honour those who were being brought home. The herald collected the names of those who had died, letters were sent to the families, letters which saw Marridon’s women and children made widows and orphans. The royal peers were conveyed to the castle, where they could be properly eulogized by the houses, and while the country was fraught with all the unpleasantness of national grief, it had even more sorrow to feel: they were now a leaderless nation, for the king had left behind him no heirs, and many of the peers that would have been considered for succession were all gone.
All this had not reached Jaina until long after the rest of the capital had been made aware of it. She had spent the last few days of the war indoors, awaiting any correspondence from her brother. She lived on letters while all her principle company and the remainder of her family were away, and fortunately Rolande had been generous with his correspondence and had written as many letters as his time at the front line allowed. He sent her accounts of their advances twice a day at least, and filled the page, front and back, and crossed over when he had anything to add. Her husband too had sent her letters, their contents less prolific and more sensible than Rolande’s volumes, but they were by no means less welcome; they were a standing proof of his affection for her, which had only expatiated upon their parting, and any communication from a man who was in general so quiet and reserved spoke of his unbending devotion to the wife he had left behind. He was full of home in his letters, was earnestly wishing he could be with her, to comfort her in that dreadful hour before sleep where somnolence gives way anxiety. He did not like to be so long away from his affairs and preferred a quiet evening at home than the bustle of a battle, but he told her of Rolande’s getting on well and that neither of them were injured, though they had been fighting, and there was all Jaina’s relief. Rolande’s accounts of the war, though severe, captivated her beyond what romantic notions of heroes throwing themselves into the fray she might have cherished: he told of encampments and garrisons, swords and cannons, and all her fascination with warfare from a historical view thrived. She was everywhere awake to the brontide of guns, the confusion of glancing blades, and the constellation of tents stretching from the commander’s post to the dividing wall; it was almost enough to make her wish she had gone to fight in the king’s service, but as women were not permitted in the regiments, she must stay at home and be content with wishing herself there, marching beside her brother in all the fashion of long coats and long rifles, with a saber at her side and a few flowers garlanding band of her hat.
He had written to her on the morning of their last battle, and she was just in the midst of reading his tender conclusions when news of his death had reached her. The Herald came, begged her pardon but must give her a letter that would very much distress her, apologizing for the interruption but the war was over, and while the Bellatrim lords who were responsible for beginning the war had been vanquished, their king had died, and the whole of the high peerage had gone with him. But Rolande…Surely Rolande would not have been amongst them, it was impossible, he had just written to her, she had not received his letter an few hours ago, he could not be gone. The Herald begged Her Grace’s pardon, but he was sorry to tell her it was so: the Grand Duke and His Lordship had both perished in the last encounter, and she must come when she was able to reclaim the last of her family now deceased. The Herald bowed and was gone, leaving Jaina to stand on the threshold of the sitting room and open the letter. It was a confirmation of everything he had said, that her brother and husband were gone, and she was now the only Whilhem left. She should appear in the Chambers when she could, to take her place as head of the house, and would be given as much time as was necessary to mourn her losses.
Mourning, however, seemed but a small sentence for one being punished with the loss of the two who loved her best. Rolande… It seemed impossible that he should be gone when he was alive to her moments before. His letter was rife with the energy and spirit of his character, reading it had made her feel as though he were sitting beside her, talking to her of kings and wars as he always had done. He could not be gone, but her mind had long known what her heart would not acknowledge. Rolande was gone: his gallantry had carried him off, she knew it should happen if he left, and she would have given worlds to be wrong in this instance. She had felt the power of the evil star which followed her brother out of their family apartments waning as of late, but fortuity and fate were unconnected, and she sat at her table, weltering in the throes of wretched incredulity, feeling the nothingness and desolation that being robbed of so beloved a brother could produce. Rolande…my dearest Rolande… All thinking and feeling ceased, her senses numbed, she breathed not. Her lips parted, she wanted to say something though she knew not what, her mind rambled through the continuous agony of wanting to reach her brother but being forever denied. They would never speak again: compounded by a thousand notions, this was the most distressing. A pang struck her, she placed her hand over her heart, and an exhale brought a superfluity of tears that she had no intention of restraining. Rolande… Her eyes wandered to the game board, and she applied herself to it as though looking for intimations of her brother there. He would never come home, their game would never be finished, and they would never again be together. The greatest joy of her life was gone, the brightest star forever extinguished. By whatever circumstances that had occurred in the final hours of battle, her husband was unable to keep his promise: death had probably kept him from it. She clutched the letter announcing their deaths and tried to wish it away, but it was indelible, and she sank to the floor in the misery of being forced to relinquish the best part of her life to a war that hardly deserved it.