Kenyon and Nami
Cover Artwork from sxc.hu and Nicole Murphy
Cover and Internal Design – Nicole Murphy
The Right of Nicole Murphy to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with Part IX of the Copyright Act 1968 and generally under section 6bis of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any event, incident, location or person (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
First published in Australia, 2011
I wanted to write a short story set around the end of the Dream of Asarlai trilogy as a thank you to all the people who have read and loved the trilogy. I’m just so amazed and humbled by the reaction I’ve had to the books, the way people have taken them into their hearts.
But what to write? I had a few ideas pottering around, including one that won’t let me go and I will get to. But a few months ago, I mentioned either in a blog or an interview how much I adore Kenyon and that one day, I was going to write his story.
Not long after, I read an anthology that contained a story told solely through letters. It didn’t work because the author was trying to force information into the letters, rather than have them sound like a natural communication between two people (didn’t help that we only had one side of the letters). I thought to myself – I’d love to have a go at writing an epistolary letter.
That night, in bed, Kenyon’s story unfolded before my eyes – in letters.
I had such a lovely time writing them – teared myself up a few times. But I was left wondering – should I just leave it at the letters, or do some framing of the story for people who might not be familiar with the trilogy?
And then I thought – I’m self publishing, so why not do both? So here ‘tis – the story with the framing of Hampton reading the letters, and the letters by themselves. Choose which one you want to read. Read them both. I hope you enjoy them.
And once again, to everyone who’s read the Dream of Asarlai books, particularly those who have either subsequently reviewed them or contacted me personally – thank you for all your support.
Go to The Full Story
Go to The Letters Alone
The full story
Hampton played Caught By The Star.
His fingers, nails extended and hardened, plucked at the steel strings of the harp and the sweet notes drifted around him, the vibrations of the sound board against his chest sending the tune through his body.
When this piece, which he’d co-written, had hit the top of the world-wide classical music charts ten years earlier, it had done so without the words. Only when he was amongst his people could he sing about the sacrifice a guardian made to fulfil their duty.
Here, alone in his study, he indulged himself and sang.
The song had been inspired by watching his parents – his mother, still so desperately in love and his father, so wholly committed to the role of Sabhamir.
Hampton hadn’t known that four years after the song was released, his father would be killed and his mother, devastated, would commit suicide. Nor had he known that his father’s death would elevate him to the role of Sabhamir, protector of the gadda.
He’d sworn never to love, to not put a woman through the same pain his mother had known. Thank the star Charlotte had changed his mind.
The first time he’d sung the song in public, it had gained a lukewarm response from all the listeners - except one. The then Garramir had approached, swathed in his customary green. The man Hampton had come to know as Kenyon Audley and call his best friend had leant close with a tear in the corner of his eye.
“Bless you, Hampton,” the guardian had said. “Bless you for giving my heart a voice.”
The memory started a flood of sadness. It had only been a week since Kenyon had died and Hampton still mourned him.
Maybe playing this song had been a bad idea.
His fingers froze on the strings and then started to move, automatically. It took a few notes to recognise the song they were pulling from the instrument and he stopped that one too.
He already felt sad enough. Brian Boru had become a special song for he and Charlotte. With her in Boston and he unable to see her for a few hours yet, he didn’t need to wallow in his loneliness.
Now, he thought as he stood the instrument upright, would be a great time for someone to summon me.
Right on cue, a tingle in his mind that announced a message was coming through. Then a soft voice slipped into his head.
‘Sabhamir?’ It was Alana, who had taken over the role of Garramir. ‘Can I see you for a moment please?’
‘On my way.’ Hampton grasped his power and took a moment to enjoy the warmth and arousal flowing through him, then transferred. In the blink of an eye, he went from his study to the Garramir’s laboratory.
Alana was standing by the bench. Instead of wearing the green of the Garramir in civilian attire, she was wearing the traditional robe – gathered at the waist, flowing at the back. Hampton guessed she wore it to remind herself that she was a guardian.
At twenty-two, it had been a rude shock to be catapulted from her life as a movie editor to being the third most powerful gadda alive.
‘Sabhamir, thank you for coming.’ She bowed.
‘Alana, call me Hampton, please.’
She winced. ‘After six years of calling you Sabhamir, I’m not sure I can.’
‘We’re equals. Using the real name of the guardians will help establish that in your mind.’
‘I guess.’ She looked entirely unconvinced. ‘I brought you here because I was clea-‘ She stopped and blushed.
He could understand her not wanting to bring up that she was replacing his best friend, but as a guardian it was something you got used to. The longevity of a guardian was never certain. ‘You were cleaning up and making the laboratory your own. As you should be.’
She stared at him for a moment, then nodded. ‘Yes. Well, I found this.’ Her hand waved towards an ornately carved wooden box.
Hampton stepped closer. It looked Japanese to him – the image of a tree and a lake carved into the top and what appeared to be dragons along the side. ‘What is it?’
‘It’s a keepsake box. My predecessor’s. I know normally it would go to the family, except that in checking to ensure it was all personal items, I discovered something.’ She opened the box and within it lay several pieces of folded paper.
‘I took the liberty of reading one. Hampton, they’re love letters. And they’re to a human.’
Hampton stared at the box. He’d always wondered why Kenyon, such an affable person and with such a romantic soul, hadn’t found someone to share his life.
‘If it gets out that the last Garramir was involved with a human –‘
‘Yes, of course.’ Maintaining the secret of the gadda’s existence from humans was the most important task in any gadda’s life. The events that had led to Kenyon’s death had been directly related to it.
Relations between the guardians and the ruling council of the gadda, the bardria, were already strained. If they discovered Kenyon had been hiding an illicit love affair with a human…
Then Hampton realised – there could be a woman out there, waiting to hear from Kenyon, unknowing that her love had died.
“I’ll take care of this,” he said.
He took the box back to his study and sat in his readin
Hampton began to read.
The sun dance on the waves and the sea crashes. All the smell is crisp and salty. How are you? I am well, I miss you.
I know I am not proper girl to say so, but is true. I look to the waves and I am sad not to see you. When person is funny, I wait to hear your laughter and when it not come, my heart ache.
I do not wish you to feel bad – I know is right and proper that you be with mother at this time. I do not feel you should be with me instead. But in putting these marks on paper I must speak the truth.
I trust your mother rest well, glad for her son. I left offering at the temple and prayed that she would recover, or if this her time that suffering be short.
I wish I could help you, but I know my love will give you all you need.
She sounded nice was Hampton’s first thought. The second was that it didn’t give any clue as to where Nami was from – nothing on the letter itself and the address on the front was to here: Sclossin, Ireland.
He put the letter away gently and picked up the second envelope. This was addressed to somewhere in Japan, in Kenyon’s almost illegible scrawl.
So, Nami was Japanese? Ken had told many stories of his surfing adventures over the years, but Hampton couldn’t recall any set in Japan. He guessed Ken was so worried about his relationship being found out that he’d decided not to mention the country at all.
Hampton pulled out Ken’s letter to read.
Cheeky girl – don’t tease me about the waves! We’re so far from the sea here, and Ma is in such a bad way that I’ve all but forgotten the wind on my face, the scratch of the salt on my tongue. I want the craic so badly.
How I love that you suggested we write to each other, as well as call. Letter writing seems to be dying out here in the West, yet how can it be anything but good to hold to your heart the thoughts and words of your beloved?
I am glad you spoke honestly. I miss you too. I walk around my home, venture into the village and it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time because I wonder what you would think. You’d love Sclossin – it’s such a pretty town, with every garden and every house a work of art.
Keep writing. Keep me hungry to return to Japan, and you. Your love is the only brightness in this time.
Well, Hampton thought, there’s no doubting from that Ken was in love. He folded the letter, put it back in the envelope and looked at the others. Should he keep reading? He had a name and an address – he could find her easily enough now.
Except something was bothering him. He touched the letters, picked them all up and frowned. There wasn’t enough here to warrant a thirty-year correspondence. Had they stopped writing? Had they stopped loving? If he turned up to see this Nami, would he just be resurrecting old memories that were best left forgotten?
In order to do the best by both Kenyon and this mystery woman, Hampton read on.
The clouds close over and a chill wind blow through house, showing end of season. Is it change in Ireland? I hope you and mother keep well. I feel the cold, but have good blanket.
In the month you been away, I tidy garden for winter. I paint some silk and I start new obi. I wish to look beautiful for you when you return. I chose the colour green, for your home-land. I very much hope to see it one day.
I do not think you will consider it teasing when I tell you waves have been bad. There has been much wailing – I wonder how you feel about it. I know you only in the sun, in the bright times. How you deal with the darkness?
I leave offering for your mother – it is a little thing to do. I wish I do more, but distance is a unbreakable. Until I see you again, hold you, it is all I can do.
What a sweet girl, Hampton thought as he folded the letter. So wise and caring of others. A lot like his own Charlotte. He thought about being able to read letters from his beloved years from now and decided it would be a wonderful thing.
With a flick of his wrist, he had pen and paper. He wrote Charlotte a quick note – nothing fancy, just telling her he loved her and missed her – and with a another flick sent it to sit on her coffee table in her cottage just outside Boston. When she got home from all the business she had to conduct in an hour or so, it would be waiting for her, to comfort her.
Having done his own letter writing, Hampton returned to Kenyon’s.
You were so grand last night, so understanding, so forgiving. I tried not to call you, knowing the time-difference, but I could not bear this without the sound of your voice.
The funeral has ended and everyone has left. The house is eerily silent. I’m sitting in the loungeroom and it feels like it’s not real – that I’m somewhere else, off with the fae. Strange, I’d thought Mum quiet in her last days, yet I’ve very aware she’s no longer here.
Now it occurs to me that writing this letter to you is a waste – I’ll be back with you before it arrives. We’ll sit and read it together and in the comfort of your arms, perhaps I’ll come to terms with this moment.
I miss Ma more than I could have imagined. We’ve not lived together in years, I only spoke to her once or twice a week. There are other people – like yourself – that I would consider closer to me than she.
Yet thinking of a world in which my mother no longer lives is hard. My mind shies away, not wanting to consider it. But it’s true – my mother is dead. There is now one less person in the world thinking of me. My home, my ultimate place of escape, is changed forever. Nothing will ever be the same again.
Not long, my love, and I’ll be back with you and life will be bright again.
Hampton wiped a tear from his eye as he put the letter away. When his mother had taken her life, Hampton had found himself orphaned. He was undergoing the most difficult transition of his life, and he had neither of his parents to help him.
Kenyon had arrived, with a bottle of whisky and a couple of glasses.
“It sucks, Sabha-boy,” Kenyon had said, giving Hampton the straight-forward comfort he needed as well as introducing the nickname that no coaxing would ever kill. “There’s only one thing harder than losing your Ma, and that’s losing the woman you love. I hope you never have to experience that. Slante.”
Hampton frowned over the recollection. How had he forgotten that comment of Ken’s?
He looked at the letters in his hand and wondered if that’s why there were so few – Nami had died.
He opened the next one hurriedly and noticed the difference immediately. Unlike the first four, this one was sizzling with old power.
Hampton traced his fingers over the translucent paper and soon saw the reason – this letter had been torn to pieces, then put back together with power. It was only a short one, but Kenyon had written something extra down the bottom.
This must be the end. You have your world, and I have mine. Do not return to me.
It was so perfunctory, so – wrong. Surely the sweet girl who had previously been so thoughtful wouldn’t dump someone like this?
Underneath her neat words, Kenyon had scrawled – Called Nami. She confessed all. Am mad at her, but more scared. I cannot lose them both.
Something was obviously very wrong with Nami. Hampton picked up the next letter and noted that this one wasn’t in an envelope. The reason why quickly became clear.
You were so sweet last night, even though I could hear the tears in your voice. I sobbed like a baby after I’d hung up. The worst part is knowing how much you need me right now – the chemotherapy must be tough, and you should have me there to help you, and what the excuse I came up with for not being there? Business.
Star, I hate myself right now.
Darling, I wish I could have said – Nami, I have to stay in Sclossin because I’ve just become a guardian, a protector of the magical race known as the gadda. I wish I could have told you everything of where I’ve come from, who I am, what I have become. How the suddenness of it all, the change to everything I thought I was, has scared me. But you are human, and I can’t tell you anything.
If I’d just stayed a normal gadda, we would have worked it out. Sure, I’d have to forever hide my power from you, but living in your love would have been worth the sacrifice. But it is not to be.
So here we are. You in the hospital on Hokkaido, waiting for me. Me here in Sclossin, sworn always to serve, destined only to sneak time with you when I can.
The whole world must have heard my heart breaking.
All I can do, in this letter that you’ll never see, is say – I love you. You are the dearest, sweetest thing to ever happen to me. I will never stop loving you. I want nothing but your health and happiness.