Discover more from The Oscillator's Stone
Dear Ris: An Open Letter To A Fictional Character
Will writing to someone who lives in my head free me from the chains of perfectionism?
This exercise was in part inspired by Raoul Eshelman’s paper “Performatism, or The End of Postmodernism.” Though the kind of performatism Eshelman speaks of is considerably different from the kind at the heart of the exercise below, it was the act of re-reading his paper that gave me the idea to apply a performativist principle—”acting as if” something was real despite knowing it isn’t—to the act of journalling. To learn more about the literary technique Eshelman is describing, I recommend reading this essay.
I wanted to see if writing about my fears would help me dispel them, but I also wanted to write in a way that engaged just how real this character, Ris Weldermid, feels to me. As such, I decided to address the journal entry to him. I’ve never done anything like this before, and it feels ridiculously vulnerable to share it, but that’s kind of what this publication is all about!
I hope this letter finds you well. Or rather, I hope it finds you.
At the moment I’m writing this, you are stranded in the Friidsan Forest alongside an exiled prince who you aren’t really sure is your friend with no way of knowing if your other companions are dead or alive, and you’ve just been told a terrible secret about the royal family of Palladis. I suppose on second thought that if this letter indeed does find you, it won’t find you very well at all.
I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I have this great fear, you see, that you’re really a real person——a bold and somewhat impulsive young man with the best of intentions and the worst of ideas——and that if I don’t listen very carefully, I might write your story all wrong. How real you feel to me! I’ve been listening deeply to your world—The Singular World, I call it, though your name for it is Armica——and I wish to do its beauty and complexity justice. From the frigid mountains of the Friids region to the vast desert of the Kilgary all the way to the tidal pools of the Great Western Sea, the whole of Armica is teeming with creatures and flora like nothing my world has ever seen. The mischievous glowing blue Cigan, the horse-bodied, three-tailed Manadic, the giant wolflike Dan Caerdys, and the dragon-descended Wyverns all emerge in my mind's eye with an overwhelming amount of detail. Like spirits, they come and go when they please, calling me into a dreamlike stupor in the midst of my daily tasks.
To live between worlds——well, it’s a challenge you know all too well.
In your language, your full name–—Eldanris–—means “child of the heart’s song.” At first, I wasn’t sure why this would be your name, but it is the name that came to me many months ago during one of my spells of ill health. I am beginning to see now why it is the perfect name for you. In your culture, the heart symbolises bravery and fortitude, and it is said to connect the Ffladan warrior caste with the spirit of Ffladag, the great crimson dragon of which you are descendants. Though you have been ridiculed your whole life for having a warrior’s name despite being a member of the priestly caste, the song of your heart is simply too loud to ignore–—for you, and even for me.
To birth your story——which is much more than just your story——is no small feat. I suppose I’m afraid of the greatness of such a task, and so I’ve been avoiding bringing it into being. One thing in particular that blocks me from starting may be the most impactful: a sense of guilt for all of the trials I have placed in your path.
I feel sort of strange, you see, given all that I’ve put you through. Here in The Tangible World, there is a certain belief that suffering builds character. At this point in the story, you have met Abraxas’ older brother, Aelfric, and Abraxas has shared his secret with you. I am sure that you would scoff at this belief and challenge it quite vehemently. After all, Aelfric and Abraxas have both suffered all their lives, and look where it has gotten the citizens of Palladis——and not least of all, your people, the Ffladans. If suffering truly builds character, the Ffladan people should be thriving right now—but they aren’t. Aelfric Corovid should be a benevolent and trustworthy ruler, rather than a paranoid tyrant. And Abraxas Featherwaite, the young genius of a man whose affections you’ve steadily pined for (though you’re likely too proud to admit it) wouldn’t so coldly push you away whenever you try to connect to him.
Ultimately, this is not about your quest for glory, or respect, or adventure and novelty, as you once thought it was. It is about your quest for belonging——the thing you never knew you wanted.
That is just the thing though, dear Ris. Look to your beloved friend Abraxas. Look at this serious and protective nature of his, though it irks you. Look at his unwavering dedication to becoming a better alchemist. It is all so that he can better serve the people he most loves. He isn’t great with words, but you know how deeply he cares, don’t you? You can feel it——he doesn’t really have to say anything.
Unlike his brother Aelfric, he has chosen to be the end of many generations of suffering. He has decided to sacrifice everything he has ever known to right the wrongs of his family. This is what gives his life meaning and purpose.
I’ll say what you might already be thinking: Abraxas is not proof that suffering builds character! What Abraxas is proof of is that no matter how much suffering we endure, with the right people by our side, and with enough mettle, we can move beyond it. We can choose to perpetuate just a little less suffering than we have experienced. We cannot change the past or where we come from, but we can forge a future for ourselves from the materials given to us, and it can be beautiful.
That is why I have put you two at each other's sides, you see. Here is something he will never tell you: it is because of you, and people like you, that Abraxas has chosen to perform such heroic deeds despite his background. You and the others have given him hope that his efforts can stand against the forces of tyranny. You have met a man who has lost everything, and you have let him know love and loyalty. This is perhaps your most heroic act of all.
All that being said, if you want real proof that the aforementioned belief holds merit, you needn’t look much further than a mirror. What started out as a somewhat self-involved adventure, a quest for glory, and a naive attempt at saving your mother’s life has become so much more than that, hasn’t it? You’ve made friends for the first time in your life. You’ve fallen in love with this land and its people, despite the fact that your own race has suffered greatly as a result of its military’s actions. You aren’t sure who you are or what you want anymore at this point in the story, but you’d keep fighting for these people, without question. You’d pledge your life to them. You already have.
The truth is, life was always this paradoxical, this complex and ironic. On the farm with your mother, longing for a glorious life of adventure, you couldn’t have possibly dreamed that things would turn out this way. Yet, you know that you’ve chosen the right path. You know that you were born to be a knight of Palladis——despite what you were told growing up, despite the Ffladan caste codes, despite that you think you should hate Palladisians with all your might.
I have faced you with these complex challenges precisely because I know you will be able to meet them. It saddens me to know that you will not come out on the other side of this adventure unscathed. You will lose more people that are dear to you, and you will question everything you ever thought you knew about the way this world truly is.
But you are not alone.
For so much of your life, you have felt alone. I know all too well what this is like. That’s why I’ve given you Abraxas, Callan, and even Mina (she’ll come around one day, I promise). It’s why I’ve given you Rawelga, Cathal, and your Mother. It’s why I’ve given you such a passion for the art of the blade. I’ve given you something real to fight for.
Ultimately, this is not about your quest for glory, or respect, or adventure and novelty, as you once thought it was. It is about your quest for belonging—the thing you never knew you wanted.
I suppose that I, too, am on a quest. Though what for, I cannot be certain. There are things I desire, and goals I wish to accomplish, but for the most part, I wander a winding path, noticing some things, pondering others. I have fears and doubts, as any human would. I know your fears and doubts better than you do at this stage, but am surprisingly uncertain of my own. I look forward to the day when you realise and eventually conquer yours. Perhaps you can lend me your strength.
There is no clear resolution for this letter, as there is no clear resolution for your story or the greater tale of Armica. Much like real life in The Tangible World, the narrative threads that weave their way through the country of Palladis have neither beginning nor end, and much remains at the end unresolved. Writing this letter has brought me in touch with your remarkable bravery, and thus my own. Thank you for this.
Your story demands to be written, dear Ris——and in due time, it will be. For now, as you dwell in the stillness of my mind’s inertia, gently trembling with potential, have patience. Great trials beyond your wildest dreams await.
Regadan tim ga,
Scout Rainer Wiley
“Regadan tim ga” is a phrase from Ris’ native language. It is an expression of love and directly translates to “(my) heart beats for (this) person.”