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The Last Drink [PK]


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Silence filled the halls of Goodbarrel Burrow. The afternoon sun shone through the window, casting light on the thousands of pages of writings sitting on Greta Goodbarrel’s desk. As it had often been over the past few years, the burrow was empty save for Greta and a couple of Sorvians. Once home to five halflings, the burrow was now home to only two. Not since her early days in Brandybrook had Greta lived in such an empty burrow. As she entered her dining room, her eyes fell upon the various paintings on the walls. There was a portrait of her daughter Eliza when she was a baby. It was rare now that Eliza, all grown up and off on her own, would visit the burrow. Everyone has left, Greta thought, haven’t they? As her eyes moved across the other portraits, that same thought crossed her mind. There was a portrait of Inkers, and of herself and Isalie Gardner speaking before a crowd of halflings. She had grown accustomed to seeing these faces every day, but had not spoken to them in decades. At ninety-two years, Greta was not really an elderly halfling, but she had certainly begun to feel like one. 

 

Greta was entirely alone when she took a seat at her dining room table. Her wife Kerra had left on a shopping errand and her Sorvian Tolerance was still in the study reading. An opened bottle of Greta’s favorite fortified red wine was already resting on the table, and she hardly gave a second thought before picking up the bottle and taking a long swig from it, as was her custom. Not even a minute passed before the woman felt a sharp pain in her chest. She recognized it instantly. She knew what moment had arrived; a moment she had been imagining nearly all her life, a moment she had been long prepared for, though she had rarely imagined it would look like this.

 

Greta did not call for help, she didn’t even stand up. What was coming was inevitable, there was no choice now but to let it be. She began to imagine what people would be saying about her next week, or next year, or a hundred years from now; though it was not a question unique to this moment. All her life, Greta had been fixated on building herself a legacy, on writing things worthy of being read and achieving things worthy of being written about. She had resolved long ago not to become the simple housewife her mother had intended her to be and, to that end at least, she had succeeded. For as much as she resented her failures, reporting on them had left her finally satisfied. For nearly a decade now, Greta had felt her life was more or less complete.

 

But now the notion that Greta’s life was over was not just a feeling. As she began to lose consciousness, she started to imagine what she may soon see. Greta did not believe in any particular god, but she had never ruled out the possibility of an afterlife. In fact, as she collapsed on the table before her she could almost swear she had caught a glimpse of it. She could see her father, looking up from his book to offer her a warm smile. She could see Jol, waving to her with a mug of coffee in her other hand. She could see people she had hardly known like Kit-Kat and Fred Puddlefoot, and great halflings who had died long before her such as Rollo and her cousin Micah. Yet, as Greta got ever closer to the other side, her mind wandered back to the living world, to Kerra, to her daughters Elsie and Eliza, and to her friend Winter. She wondered if she would ever see them again. 

 

But Greta did not have long to ponder that question. Soon the pain gave way to nothing; no more senses, no more thoughts, and no more feelings. Nearly an hour passed before Tolerance went into the dining room to check on their maker, realized what had happened, and rushed off to find Kerra, to tell her and anyone else that should know that Greta Goodbarrel was dead.

 

As was her fashion in life, Greta had left behind quite a hefty pamphlet, which; after a brief introduction, was helpfully divided into sections addressed to various people she had known:

 

The Last Will and Letters of Greta Goodbarrel

 

To any it may concern,

 

If this pamphlet has been published, I have died. Whether by the hand of another, by unexpected tragedy, or fault of my own, my life has ended. As chance very likely has it, however, my departure from this world was abrupt, and I was not given what time I needed to give each of my loved ones a personal send off, nor to sort out my wishes for burial or my bequests. It is for this purpose that I write these final letters:


To my dear daughter, Eliza;

 

Spoiler

If there has been any one person in my life for which I would have given everything, it has been you. There has never been a moment of your existence in which I did not hope for you, worry for you, or wish good upon you, and it is a deep regret of mine that I have not always been able to deliver that good to you. I know our personalities and beliefs have differed at times, but I love you no matter what, and I would never trade you for anyone. 

 

I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors and hope you never falter in being yourself.

 

To my dear wife, Kerraline;
 

Spoiler

For the entire time I have known you, finding the words to express how much I love you has always been an immense challenge. If I were to list every reason I love you, I think I would have died before finishing it. You are the only person who has always been able to bring a smile to my face, even in the darkest of times. Despite all my personal defects and through all my mistakes, you have stood by my side. While I do not wish you to join me too soon, I hold dear the possibility of seeing you once again.

 

The most heartfelt of farewells, fairest of halflings and finest of wives.

 

To my dear daughter, Elsie;
 

Spoiler

I am not sure that you were expecting me to address you as I just did, but do not mistake it for a mere pleasantry. You may not have come to me as early as Eliza, but my care for you is no less than for her, and I have watched you grow with just as much pride. You have always been a kinder person than I could ever hope to be, and that kindness has done nothing but grow as you’ve become older, stronger, and wiser. 

 

I wish you a long and happy life, there are few indeed who deserve it as much as you.

 

To my dearest friend, Winter;

 

Spoiler

I find it difficult to express the depth of my regret that I could not remain in this world just a bit longer. If my company has been as wonderful to you as yours has been to me, then I worry it will be difficult for anyone else to fill the void. Certainly, nobody could have replaced you for me. I know you are humble, and at times unwilling to admit your goodness, but in all the years we have known each other I have seen in you nothing but a charming, friendly soul, worthy of all the love in the world.

 

Take care, Winter. May your years be numerous and happy as can be.


To the Warden and Isalie;

 

Spoiler

Truthfully, I know not whether this letter will find its way into your hands, or even if the both of you are alive to read it. Nevertheless, I cannot, in good conscience, depart this world without offering you two my deepest gratitude for giving me comfort when I have needed it, for forgiving me when I have wronged you, and for helping me to achieve everything that I did. The day you left Bramblebury was truly devastating, and I regret that we did not have the chance to see each other off personally.

Wherever you are, I hope you are both well.

 

To Anne;

 

Spoiler

It is truly one of my life’s greatest regrets that we were never able to reconcile. I cannot say I expect my death to make you forgive me, but I will nonetheless offer you my apologies for every instance in which I wronged you or your family. Despite our differences, I must credit you with having acted as my conscience in those instances when it was desperately needed. I may have treated you as an equal, but I loved you as a daughter.

 

I will not demand your forgiveness, but I wish you all the best.

 

To Valorin, Inkers, Maenor, and Aiera;

 

Spoiler

It has been a criminally long time since I have spoken to any of you, but do not mistake our distance for indifference. Not one of you has been forgotten. I still wear the ring and earrings fashioned and bought by you for me, Valorin. Inkers, mal’onn, your portrait still hangs on my wall. Maenor, a copy of both volumes of your Pillars of the Republic still sits on my desk. Aiera, I still have that library card you issued to me. I may have been born in Norbury, but it was in the Silver City that I began to find my true potential. I cannot thank any of you enough for the wisdom and knowledge you imparted to me.

 

Van’ayla; elsul’ito elsul’ane, lliran.

 

To all others who have crossed my path in Bramblebury, Haelun’or, and Norland;

 

If you feel that I have neglected to send you a letter, my apologies. If you believe you were at all important to me, then you likely were, for I do not show affection lightly. As of writing this, I have no idea how long I will have lived, but I am confident that it will have been far too short a time to live among such wonderful people. If I have ever offended you, I can offer only my general apologies. I, as much as any other person, was far from infallible, and throughout my life have committed many errors. Nevertheless, it is my hope that history will be kind to me, for I have devoted a great deal of my life to changing its course for the better. 

 

Though I will spare you all a political sermon, seeing as most of you are likely tired of such things, I will close by offering a final wish to any in the world who may listen: that a day soon comes when all peoples of the world live in peace, freedom, and equality.

 

With Regards to my Body and Belongings

 

I leave everything; including my books, my jewelry, my sword, my Sorvians, and my burrow; to my wife Kerra with the expectation that she will pass them on to Eliza when the time is right. Though my wife is under no obligation to continue caring for our vineyard or brewing wine in my place, I do hope that each and every bottle of Goodbarrel Wine soon finds its way to a thirsty person.

 

As for my body, I ask that, if possible, it be put out to sea in the fashion of Polo Gardner and other halflings of old. After all, my life was nothing if not a series of adventures. It is only fitting that it should end with one.

I bid all who are reading this one last farewell, may you all live long and happy lives.

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Maenor, upon receiving the news, would immediately go on to reveal an ancient bottle of wine, stored safely in one of his chests, and pour a glass for himself. It struck him then as rather dramatic, that the bottle was once delivered to an apartment he owned in a city that no longer exists, by a friend that has ceased to be. He downed the glass, hoping that would drown his momentary grief. It was such a vain feeling, the 'thill knew, for death was inevitable to all lessers. He, nonetheless, could not help but think just how much he missed the good old days of decades past.

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Callum Fiddleberry gazes mournfully upon the pamphlet in his hands, his blond hair waving subtly in the cool summer breeze on the night the news had reached his doorstep. He took a moment as he let his gaze drift up to the night sky above him, the soft light of the moon and the stars reflecting on the surface of his glassy eyes. "An' may ye find t'a peace ya sough' among t'a whea' fields ab've..." he mumbled, before shuffling inside his burrow with the pamphlet gripped sadly in one of his hands.

 

The wee-lad would stop by his cellar and select a bottle from its shelves on his way in- A Wine O' Knox, a wine of Greta's making that Callum was most fond of. Bottle in hand he would sit himself at his desk, his beloved feline companion hopping up next to him as he would grab a roll of parchment, put it flat on the desk and put his quill's end to it.

 

Callum had always admired the late halfling woman, both merely as a good friend and as a wordsmith, and as he started to write he simply began to put these sentiments into words. Greta, in a ways similar to Callum, held great importance in leaving a legacy on the world- and as a fellow writer, Callum thought it only right he help make sure it lasts.

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