Heidi: The First Letter

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Operator Record
The First Letter
Heidi icon.png

She knows the ninety-nine things she left unsaid, and she knows how the war they've seen left them nothing they could say.

Unlock conditions

  • Raise Heidi to Elite 2 Level 1.
  • Have at least 50% Trust with Heidi.
Male Londinier A icon.png
Londinium Citizen
Victorian Boy icon.png
Naughty Child
Sarkaz Mercenary A icon.png
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier A
Sarkaz Mercenary A icon.png
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier B
Victoria Streets
Victoria Streets Night
St. Marsol Classroom
Londinium Tube
Learning the news of Golding's death, in discouragement and bewilderment amidst the Self-Salvation Corps' heavy losses, Heidi heads for the school in the city center.
<Background black>
Dearest friend,
Since the news, it's grown hard to put pen to paper.
I want to convey my grief, pain, anger, confusion, and I want to offer you consolation, all too late.
But the things you've said, and left unsaid, I understand equally. The despair that's driven you to sever all, to choose to give up on this life, that too I understand.
What else can I possibly write? All I could say, you surely already know.
<Background 1a>
Londinium Citizen *sigh*...
Heidi Be strong, sir... this is all the first-aid I can give right now.
It'll be a little unbearable at first, but you'll be able to walk with enough effort. And if any Sarkaz come after you again, you'll be able to flee too.
Londinium Citizen Hahah. Thank you, madam...
I don't know who you are exactly, but I swear I've spotted you around before. You must be one of Lady Golding's like-minded friends.
Heidi ...Yes.
Londinium Citizen Were you going to find her at the school? She's not with us anymore, exactly.
Heidi I know. Mm—I learned as much a while ago.
Please, save your strength. We need to leave this place as soon as we can. I fear that Sarkaz detachment will be back soon to sweep this area.
Londinium Citizen So we've escaped. Now what?
Heidi Do you remember delivering a letter for Golding? Do you remember the distillery worker you contacted?
If you're lost for any place to go, then seek him, and follow the trail from his place to flee the city.
I can't guarantee your safety; the line that intel came from is out of service by now. But if you do opt for it as a last resort, then you may ultimately find your way to some of the Self-Salvation Corps.
No, or perhaps you'll find some... doctors. People similar enough to them, that is.
I'd wanted to seize on her letter as an opportunity, introduce her to the Doctor, to Kal'tsit...
...In any case, go quickly. Each passing moment here is a moment in danger.
Londinium Citizen And what about you?
Heidi You needn't worry about that. I have ways to hide myself.
After all, there's plenty of ruins and rubble the Sarkaz have no interest in sweeping now, here in our grand old Londinium.
The Self-Salvation Corps will return, you know. Someone has to stay here to keep things prepared for them.
Londinium Citizen That's wonderful, then. You know which way you should be going—so don't go sticking your neck out for me, now.
Heidi You mean—oh, don't say that, sir.
Londinium Citizen I know, you know. Strange armies beyond the walls, and plenty chance of Sarkaz in any of the countless underground ways out.
And where you plucked me free, that pile of rubble? That was my home... Hahah, I'm the same really. Yearning to see what isn't even there anymore.
Heidi ......
Now's no time to lose heart. I've heard word of others, too, Self-Salvation Corps aside.
Sarkaz forces may be outside the city, but the dukes are about to formally enter their own troops into the fray. The blockades will soon be dusted aside, the Sarkaz will no longer seal the city entrance, and it'll be wide open again...
Londinium Citizen Thank you. But, well...
I can only imagine how well you knew Lady
I only met her a scant few times, but I remember every time I took a letter from her hands, how gently she'd encourage me, just as you did now.
And so, from time to time these days, I wonder...
Why would someone like her choose to give up on her own life?
Why, madam?
Heidi ......
Londinium Citizen Just walking takes some wind out of me, dragging my heavy leg. Could you go to the school for me and find an answer there?
<Background 2>
[A child is running around the classroom.]
Molly Settle down, Leo!
The Colonel may turn a blind eye for us, but the school is not safe anymore!
[A bomb can be heard exploding from afar.]
Molly —Urgh!
Did you hear that outside?
Even a single falling rock could spell our little classroom caving in...
Naughty Child But I'm not scared! Bwooom, bwoooom... I'm not scared of them!
Molly Shut it, not a word! Lady Golding would—
[Heidi enters the classroom.]
Molly Ah, excuse me, er...
Heidi Hello, Molly. I'm a friend of Golding.
Molly I remember now, Lady Heidi... but I'm sorry, I'll have to ask you to leave.
Heidi Wait. Why?
Molly If you wanted Lady Golding, she's been out of the school lately. I'm not sure where it is she's fled to, actually.
I don't mean this against you, but... as you see, everyone's in crisis now. I don't want anyone inviting more danger upon the schoolchildren.
Heidi Did I frighten you, perhaps? You seem very out of sorts.
Molly Ah, do I...? No, it wasn't you.
It's just, so much has happened lately. How could one not be on edge?
I really don't know how I'm even meant to protect these children, coping by myself...
Heidi ...I'm sorry, Molly.
If the Sarkaz do come knocking, then be forthcoming. Tell them I'm here.
Molly You ARE in their sights, then?!
Heidi Please, let me shelter inside for a spell. If that's okay?
Molly I don't know... What happened to you?
Heidi I am a friend of Golding's... if that explains anything.
Molly ......
To my mind, there's one place to hide within the school. Lady Golding didn't want me letting any old passerby know, but, well, you're no passerby.
Leo, take Lady Heidi to the underground "storehouse", would you?
I'll stay here and wait. If Sarkaz soldiers do barge in, I'll... I'll find some way or other.
<Background 3>
[Heidi follows the boy through an underground passage.]
Heidi Leo, may I ask you a few questions?
Naughty Child Go on, ask.
Heidi What kind of place is this underground "storehouse"?
Naughty Child You'll know it when you see it.
Heidi Is it a refuge connecting to the sewers?
Naughty Child ...Who even are you?
Heidi A friend of Miss Golding's from the literary circles, that's all.
No need to be so astonished. After all, I've heard more than plenty about this school, and the children she taught.
Still... did Molly never actually tell you all that it's... not safe down there anymore?
Naughty Child Haven't heard anything like that. My family and a bunch of others too, they're all hiding in there.
Heidi ......
(Does Molly really have no clue about the Self-Salvation Corps' retreat? Or could it be...)
Well, then, has Miss Molly seemed strange in any way, as of recent?
Naughty Child Strange? Nah, no way. You don't get to say mean things about her.
But... there's some things about her that we can't really figure out.
She's there every day, always fussing over us, and going on and on at us all the time, but then one day she suddenly ran to us and said she'd been cooped up by the Sarkaz for days on end, and thank god we're okay, and stuff.
And ever since then she's always been all nervy, like she had a nightmare, and it's scared her stiff.
Heidi Heidi......
(The Damazti.)
(I was only speculating at first. This place was one of the leaks in the Corps' intelligence network, so I suspected Molly had turned traitor, but now...)
(If the Damazti's found its way in, then... could even the boy before me be one of its transformations?)
(No, even if there was no sign of that shapeshifter, I'd... suspect them all anyway.)
Naughty Child Hey! Where are you going?
Didn't you hear what Miss Molly said? You've got to go into the basement, down the stairs. That's the wrong way.
Heidi Listen to me, Leo.
Could you do me a favor, and let me take a walk around school on my own? You can go back and tell Miss Molly that I'm sheltered well now.
Saying so, Heidi carefully observes how he reacts.
Naughty Child No, you're fibbing.
Unless you help me with a thing, too.
Heidi What might that be?
Naughty Child I want to do this ruddy Sarkaz in, but everyone says I can't go.
Humph! How come he gets to be so mean!
Uncle Jack lives in the alley over there, he's really nice, but then that Sarkaz gave him a beating, and locked him up, and it's been days now.
I saw through a crack in the window, his arms and legs all bent into this shape. It must be horrible being twisted like that. I wanna get him free.
Heidi ......
The child's expression remains clear, unadulterated. Heidi knows; if he was the Damazti, he'd have no need to make up this lie for himself.
But she does wish to herself, for an instant, that this was not the true student of Golding, the eleven-year-old boy.
Heidi No. Assaulting a Sarkaz would only be asking for further trouble, you understand.
And, well... I presume this Uncle Jack you mention was left there with his limbs broken; he must have... long breathed his last.
I could explain to you the kind of brute violence the Sarkaz dole out to civilians, and why we have to endure, to protect ourselves, but...
Naughty Child Doesn't matter.
If you're not going, forget it.
Heidi You're right... Explaining it doesn't matter.
Naughty Child I'm not stupid. I figured that much.
I just hate it, it feels horrible. Uncle Jack like that, I keep seeing it.
Heidi ......
(If Golding were here, I'm sure she would pained so to see the children in this state.)
(But... she at least taught them, for when tragedy visits them, to hold onto their sense of pain.)
To tell the truth, I'm... here to check on where Golding used to live.
There's no need to hide it. I've heard the news of her death.
Naughty Child ......
Heidi When she wasn't holding your lessons, where would she usually be?
Naughty Child Um, the bookshop, and the corridors if they were sunny... and, right, she had an office.
But she didn't stay inside there much. And it was always locked, too, when she was in and when she was out.
Heidi Hm... Is it the room over that way?
Naughty Child Did she tell you about it?
Heidi She's described to me, many a time, the scene one can peek through the cracks in the closed shutters. She said a broken lamppost stood outside the window. Damaged by a Sarkaz at some point, and nobody dared to go touch it.
Naughty Child Oh, okay. Well, anyway, it's locked—
—That's smoke, isn't it?!
Heidi Where would the fire be?
Naughty Child No, wait, it's a signal. There's Sarkaz coming close to the "storehouse".
<Background 4>
Heidi That's...
Molly Yes, this happens with the school's basement. Lt. Colonel Lettou realized as much long ago.
Is someone down there? No, they can't be. Who would come out to a place like this?
Even back when the school still had plenty of students, a long while ago, you see, we'd throw any odds and ends we had no place to keep down there. Scrap catching itself on fire has, well, happened more than once in the school's history.
That's why you smelled smoke. I thought something wasn't right about the air either, so I came down to check.
Heidi (She's... trembling. But she's still keeping the students away, all by herself.)
(Maybe I was just apprehensive, and she's innocent after all.)
(Lettou's Sarkaz aren't too obedient to him, and wouldn't trust her either.)
(She just glanced that way. That's where the others should be concealed.)
Leo, can you trust me now? Would you like to try taking down that Sarkaz a different way?
Naughty Child Go on.
Heidi We'll try and lure them all off.
<Background fades out and in>
[After luring the Sarkaz away from Molly, Heidi returns to her.]
Heidi Phew...
Molly Thank you for saving us all!
Oh, you're hurt...
Heidi That's fine, just a little trickle—anything to get out of that rubble and scrap metal faster. We're lucky Leo isn't hurt.
Molly ...Lady Heidi?! Why are you pointing your cane at me?
Heidi Don't be too nervous; I just want to ask you one simple question. If you answer correctly, I'll be convinced of your trustworthiness.
Heidi What was the first thing Clovisia ever said to you?
Molly What...? I don't recall this name, I'm not sure who you're telling me about, I'm sorry...
Heidi That's alright, Molly, thank you.
I apologize—when I told you I was being tailed before, that was just a lie meant to feel you out...
Now I trust that you still love every child of this school, as you always earnestly have.
Also, you are completely unaware of the changes that transpired in this time.
Molly In this time... You're right, yes. I've missed a great deal.
Heidi Listen to me. The Victorians that used to be active in Londinium's underground have suffered heavy losses. The Citizens' Self-Salvation Corps' network is unable to reach anybody.
Moreover, I didn't note being shadowed when I came, but the Sarkaz have appeared here.
I fear they've suspected this place for a while now, and Lt. Colonel Lettou's words... may not hold so much sway anymore.
It is no longer safe here. You all must find some way to relocate somewhere else.
Molly But where would we go?
In vain, she lifts her head and glances to the underground passage, its walls of concrete pitch-black.
She, like every other citizen trapped in Londinium, like Heidi, is left at a loss.
Heidi Please, be strong for a little while more, Molly.
A woman once told me that it is a must, that Victorians safeguard their homeland.
I trust her. I trust that by our efforts together, we can build peace.
Haha, what a superficial piece of speech. I'm sure if Golding heard, I'd have her laughing at me again.
She knows she hasn't convinced anyone. As the crunching of a tank rumbles through the street outside, the two hang their heads low, gravely low.
Heidi I just wanted to come and see the place she lived. And... pick up a letter she'd stowed there.
Molly So you know she's...
Heidi Mm.
The din of war engulfs all language.
Molly approaches Heidi, stands on faint tiptoes, and wraps her tightly in a hug, gently patting her back.
Molly Go.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 2>
Golding Relaying intelligence out of both the Sarkaz and the dukes' sight is growing more dangerous of an ask, isn't it?
Your last reply hasn't even arrived in my hands, and yet here you are beating it to the punch.
Heidi Haha, quite... you're as shrewd as ever.
It's like I hardly needed to write what I did at all, let alone see you in person.
Golding I'd be very disappointed if so, Heidi.
You tell me of how things are trending outside, update me on the Self-Salvation Corps and its supporters across each district...
And our vision fills with all the inescapable vanity and conspiracy of the age, all the might and right. Is it beyond our eyes to see anything else, now?
Heidi ...Of course not.
Golding Then let down your hair for a bit, and take a break.
The children are out there frolicking in the street. This is when nobody enters the classroom to bother us.
Heidi ...Very well.
[Heidi sits down.]
Heidi ......
I went looking per the leads you provided, but there's still no word from Ross.
The situation in Sudean has ratcheted even tighter; I have to return there after. Do you remember the name "Rhodes Island"? They'll reach Londinium very soon...
...I'm sorry, that all just bubbled up from somewhere.
Golding That's alright. You go on. I know the responsibility you're shouldering.
You said before that if anything happened to you, you might need me to handle some intelligence work in your place. Even now, I'm not sure whether I'd be able to...
Heidi No, no, Golding, let's talk of something else.
Say—would you like to go to the theater?
Golding Right now?
Heidi Sometime.
Once... all this is over, and Victoria rings in peaceful days again.
When we're not performers acting out this life, nor authors wracking our brains to slip our messages through the cracks.
When we're just normal people in the audience, moved purely by the developments of a play, free from the terror of all the rumors offstage.
We'll give each actor a bouquet in their spitting image, just like we used to—I've always felt those bouquets really complemented you.
Golding Of course... Yes, why not.
But... when will we find ourselves, once all this is over?
Why are you always waiting...? And what makes you so able to wait?
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 5>
[Heidi enters Golding's office.]
Heidi ...Golding.
An unsent letter rests where it was placed, there on a dusty desk.
"Heidi, how do I break the children free from this age of violence? And how do I break free from it myself?"
"Oh, we impotent, defenseless book-lovers."
"In this age where rationality and humanity have given way, whose follower should I be?"
That teacher who so loved to correspond in red pen as a joke, in her final letter, used a soft, plaintive black ink to write of her despair.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 2>
Golding Heidi, there are times I see you looking so far ahead.
It's hardly that I distrust you. I trust peace will come eventually.
But then, when I try to look as far as you do, all I see is the next war, grinding the facade of peace to dust.
You always seem to catch sight of some distant star, some unshakable faith.
Heidi ...Nail on the head as always, Golding.
I'm just... following after the cleric we all so respected.
It was her who gave me courage. It was as if she'd seen war, seen ruin, time after countless time... it was as if she knew we could one day be past all this suffering.
Golding Mm. You've always been her follower. You can see her light.
But I can't.
So to my mind, the best I can do is to see what's in front of me, to trust in the here and now. So it goes for the vast majority.
To trust our every class and play can educate the children, to trust in the little kindnesses we do the Self-Salvation Corps. It's better than cold selfishness, than a rudderless drive.
I... want to trust that what our lives are now is still worth something, just as I trust in you.
Heidi You can trust in me, Golding. You can write of this all in a letter, so I might remember for you too.
Golding In that case, supposing I forget one day, you must make it in time to remind me. Deal?
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 5>
Heidi She'd long... arranged a Messenger to hand me an office key.
I couldn't make it.
Countless letters and clippings still fill the deskside suitcase. They are all that's left. Heidi needs not read, for they were all sent by herself.
She came here to find again the true, inner feelings she'd divulged all those years ago.
She said as much to Golding: If I forget the grief and the roars I take down in my letters, then please, remind me.
<Background 1b>
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier A You catch the guys from today?
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier B Missed 'em.
They'll all be stuck before long, anyway.
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier A Hah, true. No place to run. Those poor insects ain't ever seen what war really is.
—What's that?
The two Sarkaz soldiers assigned to night patrol look up.
From atop a skyscraper's ruins come pieces of paper, floating down.
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier B That's a lotta writing.
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier A Is each one the same?
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier B No.
Patrolling Sarkaz Soldier A Then who cares. Someone's just tossing out their wastebasket.
The Sarkaz tosses the letter paper to the ground, and gives it a few stamps underfoot.
<Background 6>
Heidi ......
Molly What a waste for you to throw these letters away... and how dangerous.
Heidi That's alright. Our correspondence was never a signed one.
And besides, they were just letters from me to Golding... odd essays and nothing more.
She always liked to joke to me that since I'd be going my whole life in the guise of a third-rate novelist, covering for my intel gathering work...
I may well be waiting until after my death to get the fame I deserve, when all these private letters can be published.
So here we are... isn't this publishing, in a way?
I understand her choice. I understand how she couldn't bear this age any longer, just how despair and estrangement and hatred overwhelmed her.
Wounded compatriots unwilling to rise again, friends forced to suspect one another, children tasting suffering and hostility in the first years of their lives.
How such stories are so omnipresent, yet so unspeakable.
Depression. Sorrow. Indignity. Loathing. Penetrating critiques and satires, desperately longed-for images and memories.
Everything she endured. Everything she waited for.
The letters tell all across the dark street floor.
To the city, she lets out silent howl after howl.
But she's fully aware that no one will pick them up from the flagstone street slicked in engine oil, let alone discern the handwriting.
All falls still again. The only sound Londinium produces in return, the day-and-night rumble of the military factories, somewhere close by.
Heidi ...And how powerless these words I play around with are.
No more will there be letters.
Molly But, you know—I still feel it's a waste of sorts...
When Lady Golding put on plays for the children, she'd always bring up the suggestions you made for them in your letters, and how they always hit where it hurt.
Lady Heidi, will you ever... still write your own thoughts, the way you did in those?
Heidi ......
Back, to the ground, all the paper falls.
<Background black>
Dearest friend,
You always say if the writing's gone poorly, it's fine to tear up the work. In that light, you'll surely approve of my act of casting away those old letters.
I've come to realize that my unconditional trust—and pursuit—of such a distant ideal is hardly a promised path, hardly bound to just come about under her witness with a finger's snap.
And the calls I once penned from behind as I followed in her tracks; those were no full answer to the lives we have now.
This new life suffused in torment, from my confusion and my loss, from my own soul-searching. Something tells me—that I should be more than just a follower.
This is... the first letter I write you. By my finite insight, by my frail and fleeting life, I want to press on ahead with others, and perhaps, come some time or other, I'll become a leader.
Oh, how I wish my critic could be not the ruthless present, but you instead.