The letter slid under his door, across the sun-soaked wood panels, stained red by the coming dusk. This was how it began.
It had been a few days since he had left his room. It was often this way while he was studying. He had taken a loaf of bread and a slice of cheese from the monastery kitchen, and sequestered himself away. The candles burned thin on their iron holders. The light they cast left long shadows on the stacks of books on his shelf, on his table, and all over his floor.
The room was so cluttered, in fact, the note went unnoticed for two full days. It had slid across the floor and lodged halfway under the largest pile on the floor, a stack a third the height of the door itself. As he puttered throughout his room, writing letters, transcribing documents, he continually referred to these books. It was in looking for a book that he came to find the letter.
He strained to pick it up, not only because it was half-sunk, but simply for being on the floor. In his youth he would take walks around the mountain that surrounded the monastery, sketching and chronicling all the flora he came across. No longer, and especially not in the thick of Winter. There was no flora to be found.
He brought the letter to his work desk, a hand built slab of rosewood. He cleared aside the thick paper he was working on, placing it on top of one of the stacks of books to his left. He brought the candles in closer to inspect.
The letter had no envelope. It was just a sheet of paper, cut clean at the edges, folded into thirds, and sealed with a bit of dark green wax. The wax had no mark, it was just a glob.
The words were scrawled on, almost too small to read. It was written with a casual and calm tongue, even though it spoke of destruction. A last plea, from the end of an empire, whose distant walls were wracked by enemies. It was a farewell. The writer, unnamed as he was, knew what was coming. It was almost cold for such a dire declaration. At the end, it was signed with the outline of an owl. The last of its kind.
He walked to the window, and looked out at the stars. No matter the darkness, he would never have seen the castle. Its walls and towers lay beyond the land that stretched out from the mountain’s base. He had been there once, as a boy, an event he had a vague remembrance of. He tried to remember the last time he had left the mountain. Not years, surely.
There were times when monks would visit distant lands, either for research or on request from a kingdom, for counsel or blessing. An impartial party, distant and removed. What did it matter if a kingdom fell in another land? If the royals were reduced to peasants, and another took their place?
Still, he felt a tinge of sadness. His labor had been for naught.
The next day, he cleaned his room of books, returning them to the archive. Once again his room was bare, and he stepped through the walls to attend to more mundane tasks.
He prayed, and read, washed floors, and walked through the warm stone halls.
At dawn, a knock came to his door. He answered his brother, a man half his age. He had no message for him, just a letter, stamped with the utmost urgency. He read it as the sun rose though his window, and he saw green grass on the field below.
The letter bore no author, just the stamp of two crossed keys.