My Dear Basil,
I can only dream that by some miracle this letter reaches you alive and well. I had stopped writing for a time with no small reason. When Astandalas fell, so much of Zunidh was lost to us. Communication with the remote provinces was all but non-existent. Whole continents fell into the sea, and I could not bear not knowing the fate of our home. I sailed the Wide Seas through storms that the bravest merchants refused to traverse. Wind and rain rocked my ship, only to wash me up on the shore of some long-forgotten island. I kept the fire of hope that our family still lived. Basil, I survived it all and found that the Fall was a curiosity to our home, not the tragedy it was for so many of us. Buru Tovo still walks the Ring. The music still lives in Gorjo City. The Vangavaye-ve still waits for us to return if we are ready.
I made the journey back to Solaara and rejoined the Service. I was restless, and I was certain they still needed me. Sitting here writing this letter I have never been more uncertain of our dream. Dimiter lived his, I pray that you are living yours, but Elonoa’a had Aurelius and I am left at the feet of a sun that does not rise. Basil, what am I doing here? I’m working on taxes of all things. The emperor in whom I believed has slept for the better part of a century. Trade is all but stopped by the storms that buffet the seas. Provinces have taken up arms against each other. Ripples of broken magic make time impossible to keep. Zunidh wails and calls for help, is my answer tax reform? A government must fund itself somehow if it is to maintain order and yet I cannot help but search for any meaning in this. I cannot sleep at night. I worry that I keep the fire for a world already burned.
I wish I knew what to do. I wish I knew you were alive. I miss you.
The part that makes this all so bitterly amusing is that I think I have a solution to the tax issue. I truly hope that someday you can meet my under-secretary, Saya Kalikiri. You and she would get along famously. A sense of humour in dark times such as these is sorely needed. She and I talked through the issue over lunch, and I kept repeating a refrain of something she had said. “You’re sounding positively revolutionary.” Later than any diurnal man should be awake after I had danced in sheer frustration, it hit me. Revolutions. The Treasury needs cyclical revenue to continue to meet budgetary needs. Solaaran time moves too quickly these days to be a base fiscal year, but the government needs to run on some sort of calendar. As I danced, contemplating Kiri’s (her given name) words I recalled the stars. Even with the fluctuations in local time, the stars still served as a guide on my journey home. They exist outside of the sphere of Astandalan magic and are unaffected by the Fall. If we assess taxes based on a stellar year, we can tax fairly, and we can tax regularly. The rates can be set based on the local period equivalent to a stellar year, but collection and delivery will be consistent. That much was clear to me last night. Wait…
Oh, Basil, I have been so wrapped up in guilt that I missed the answers directly in front of me. My dance is Aōteketētana, and it has guided me across the Wide Sea just as surely as it guides me now. Absent the sun, we navigate by the stars. The stars told me I am where I must be, and doing what I must do. Until the sun or the stars tell me differently, I’ll keep the fire.
Thank you, Basil. I know this letter is not my usual update, but I could not have done this without you. Please forgive any tear stains on the latter half of this letter—as I’m sure you would had I not asked that of you.
Yours in certainty,