I fell in love once, though it was so long ago now it feels as though she belongs to another life. Naline. I have never fallen as deeply for another woman.

The life of a Tetrarch is not one that makes romance easy, especially when the woman for which you fall is not of the Tetrarch herself. It didn’t matter to me though, I loved her intensely.

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I met Naline when I was on patrol in the north. It seems so many of my stories happened in the north, but there I was. She owned a tavern in Elandir, and served the best roasted boar I have ever eaten. We stopped there regularly whenever we came through the city to resupply.

She was older than me, though not by much. A widow, she had started the tavern as a way to get her mind off her loss and found success in the process. She was brilliant.

She was beautiful.

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I wiled away many late nights at her table, and talked about things I have never shared with anyone. Things I won’t even write here.

Two years of my life I called upon her whenever I could. Two years of my life I gave to her, and then the Tetrarch called for me to come south to Sterling. She would have come with me, in fact she begged me to take her. But the Tetrarch would never have accepted her into the order. She brought no ability with magic expression nor great skills of war.

I had to leave her in Elandir. I told myself it was better that way, she was successful and well-respected. The life of the Tetrarch was not for her.

I regret that decision to this day, if for no other reason than I have never truly found a salve for the wound it left in both of us. And now she is gone. Her tavern burned to the ground with her in it, and I found out only a month before my exile.

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I have been with my share of women since I had her, but I have never loved another like I loved Naline. I doubt I ever will, even if I survive this accursed jungle, and that thought leaves me melancholy as I drift back to memories of my beautiful love.

If only that which separated us was distance alone, I would not feel so defeated and ashamed.

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