In a very different 1930s, the Airshipmen Elite will do whatever it takes to stop Karl from using his ability to manipulate their spells and turn their own magic against them, even if it means turning America into their battlefield.
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Before Aunt Doris died, she left this letter in an abandoned house in Rossbay, which turned out to be the home of my cousin Abigail Walker and her husband, Billy. They must have been married before they came here, since it would have been very difficult to accomplish in this country, thanks to Zeppelin Hall. I have never met my cousin, or my Aunt Jutta. My father never told me about them. Looking back now, I suspect Dori wanted to tell me, but she knew she could never mention them. I think my father's letter will explain better:
Forgive me for not protecting you and Dori. I separated myself from all the rest—aunts, cousins, uncles, family friends. They are lost to us now, nameless faces, someone else’s loved ones, joy, and comfort. We are orphans; a distance as wide as the sky separates us from them. I did this to protect them, because I knew the day my father was murdered that my enemies would use those I love against me. I disappeared from the rest of our family so they couldn’t be used to get to me, because the enemy knows how to use those I love to hurt me. Even in death I fear them, for my enemies have ties to that witch, Viadeivra, whose exile has turned her into a monster. I trust you have fulfilled my last wishes for burial. I would not want that necromancer raising my body from its resting place in an attempt to seek my private memories, for she has the power to do so. But if you followed my instructions, then I will rest in peace. Cremation would immediately separate the soul from the body, and the spirit needs to linger in order for my enemies to perceive my death, so there is a chance they might leave you and Doris alone.
The two of you were so special to me that I couldn’t let you go like the rest. I couldn’t walk away from you even though that would have been best. Instead, I kept you close, and to make up for it I tried to prepare you for what was to come. You possess a fine heritage; we are not sorcerers or wizards, yet we have talents making us just as formidable under the right circumstance. Our family has never used its talents to harm, plunder, deceive or steal. We had the respect of the elders back home, and we brought a measure of balance to a world in which the corruption of sorcery is rampant.
I do not know our purpose for certain, only that we are hunted, and the hunters have the power of the Manipulators and Extremitors at their command. But because my blood runs through your veins, you continue the line of justice tethering the House of Drechsler to its history. The powers permeating our world come from nature, and nature always balances itself; without equilibrium, the world would cease to exist. Ayslian understood this, as he understood the purpose of the Black Death, and he took the opportunity to use his Plague of Need to correct the imbalance created by the corruption of the Magieri. You, my son, are a part of nature’s equilibrium. You are the steward of the House of Drechsler.
Although she knows nothing of this, Dori has her role as well. She taught you secrets of the ages as a child, things you were too young to remember. But they are part of you now, and I am confident they will come to you when you need them. Because you have always done the right thing, I know you will prevail, like the shining sun in the cold rain. Dori has given you that, in your dreams, and you will remember it when the time comes. It will be useful to you, as you may already have learned. That is her gift, the gift of memory and dreams, transplanting them from one mind to another.
You deserve to know about our family even though they are lost to you now. Remember to keep these thoughts to yourself, so that the enemy does not use them against you.
But first let me explain something of their weakness. For centuries, the sorcerers of Europe have kept the truth locked away in tight-knit families and secret societies. But my talent, the gift of prescience, allows me to see their downfall. I can’t see all things; time lines are skewed, and I get glimpses of events in a way that makes me uncertain. Here is nature’s balance again. Nevertheless, I do know that the enemy will compromise itself by appealing to the masses. In order to sustain their bloated juggernaut, they will need to draw in a multitude of supporters.
And so the very thing that brings them wealth will be their downfall. They will weaken and dilute themselves with every witch, alchemist and street magician who thinks he has talent. You must oppose them with all your strength, even when you feel it is hopeless. For I promise you, it is not.
But back to the family. You can meet them; not in person, but in my memories. Come with me to our last gathering, a family picnic shortly after I met your mother. That was the last time I saw them. Imagine that you are there by my side. You converse with me formally, with a dignified nod and a serious glance; we are both too proud for public displays. I can picture you clearly, dressed sharply in your new suit and appearing anxious because you think you will be scrutinized and you feel pressured to look your best.
You meet your mother for the first time, and you want to tell her you are sorry, because I’ve always sensed guilt in you because she died giving birth to you. But she looks at you with those huge, warm amber eyes, and you see things in her no picture has ever shown you: her compassion, her tenderness, her intelligence and understanding. Your guilt melts away, and you forget you ever felt that way. I never told you this, but your mother possessed a rare skill. She was a Spellwisher: she had a singularly special power with words, and she knew instinctively how naming a thing was to bring it into being. She was the envy of all spell casters, because her ability was the purest, and Spellwishers are extremely rare.
I also never told you how she died. She was touched by the disease bringer. She died right after you were born. I knew why it chose her: out of jealousy of her gift, and contempt for what she stood for. It was why I used to make you wear the red thread around your neck when you were a child. You would take it off and I would scold you.
You make your rounds, catching up on family affairs and listening cordially to even the eccentric members of the family. You are very polite and cordial, having received that blessing from your mother. Though you never knew her, she passed that tendency on to you through Dori’s talent, as well as certain skills, I suspect. I venture that as you grow older and wiser I shall not be proven wrong in this. She would be very proud of you, your polite nod, the welcoming smile, and the warm eyes greeting each member of the family.
I see the intensity in your eyes as you listen to your Uncle Franz. You find him a bit odd but you can’t help being captivated by his tales; and he has many. He tells you about your grandparents, how they searched for their place in the grand scheme of things. Oma Drechsler was a great influence on me; she helped me listen to my heart and the glimpses of the future that would form the foundation of my talent.
You meet your Aunt Jutta, a very beautiful woman. I suspect that Dori has kept in contact with Jutta’s family in some small way, despite my warnings. I suppose I can only ask so much of my dear sister.
No matter what happens, Karl, just remember that you have us in you, thanks to Dori. And it is from us that you will draw your strength. Make no mistake about this: the enemy is extremely powerful, especially if they ally themselves with the House of Saxony. Be watchful at all times. You must be ready when the time comes.
There was more to the letter, my father detailing how he had found the documents the Roald families tried to bury—the family history connecting them to the House of Ayslian. It hadn’t been easy, but he had managed it.
It is hard for me to revisit my father's words. The loss of both my father and Dori have weighed heavily on me. And Louisa, I can't even talk about that. Some other time, perhaps ...