Relena Peacecraft was overjoyed, as she always was when her brother's weekly letter arrived in the mail. She'd been sure he'd died in battle when two weeks had passed without a letter.
Once the war had broken out, he'd had the sense of mind to send her to England -- at least it was safer than the family estate near Versailles. A few months ago he'd sent her a letter telling her that the estate had been taken, and that there was nothing he could do, since France needed all the able bodied men possible to be on the front.
Her brother Mirialdo was the only family she had left, since their parents had been killed early in the war. It had been his idea to send her to England with most of the family's assets, in the guise of the daughter of two family servants who had taken the trip with her. Relena had pleaded with her older brother to get him to leave with her, but he had been stubborn, saying that he owed it to France to stay and fight against the Germans.
So, in a slight compromise, he'd agreed to mail her a letter every week, no matter how much trouble he went through to get it to her.
Her fingers were unsteady as she sat down at the kitchen table, not waiting to find a letter opener, but rather pulling it open with her nails.
The letter was written on course paper, and the ink used was of poor quality, and written in Parisian argot.
Sorry that I haven't written lately, but my unit was decimated on the front. By a strange stroke of luck, I've managed to join with another unit that had escaped the gases used. Their leader is a Russian Czarist, and he's befriended me. They're a ragged lot, I'm not even sure the unit is official, but we'll survive.
All my love,
Though sad that his childhood friends and companions had been killed, she was glad to see that her brother had survived. Feeling relieved, she carefully folded the letter, set it back inside the torn envelope, and went off to tell her guardians.
Two more weeks passed, and she received two more letters. In each, her brother gave a quick update on his own health, the unit leader, and the last or current battle they were involved in. It seemed they were indeed official, since the colonel in charge had headed a unit that had been destroyed, but they were on the wrong front. Or rather, Mirialdo and the others were on the right front, but the leader of their unit wasn't.
Relena had found it all slightly amusing in a detached way, and was glad that her brother was doing well even in the midst of war.
Then a week came where there was no letter. She began to become concerned. Another week passed, then another.
Strangely, a letter from the French army's headquarters reached her, saying that Mirialdo's unit had been captured and that they, along with five other units, were POWs. It continued on, in a roundabout way saying that no harm would come to them.
But for some reason, her worry for her brother increased, and in the boarding school she was attending, the others girls became worried about her.
"Relena, what is bothering you?" asked another girl who'd come to England to avoid the war -- and some say worse, in her own country. Relena had found the girl's long blonde hair, feathered eyebrows and piercing eyes to be strangely attractive, but kept that to herself. It would have been disgraceful to her parents to act on any of the many stray thoughts she'd had.
"Oh, it's my brother," Relena replied quietly, lolling on the bottom bunk of the bed in the small dormitory room. "He's fighting in the war on the continent, and I received a letter saying he'd been taken as a prisoner-of-war."
Dorothy nodded a little, sitting on the edge of the bed beside Relena. "I have a family member in the war also. He writes to me occasionally, since my father was killed in the revolution. He reports that the POW camps are horrible places, worse than the work camps in Siberia. With gruesome deaths, starvation, torture..."
Relena sat up, glaring at the other girl. "You're just saying that to disturb me, and you know you're lying."
The only response was a shrug. "As you wish to believe."
Her grades had declined a little as two more months passed, but Relena managed to keep her place at head of the class. The war continued to drag on.
At last, a letter arrived, and she was overjoyed. The address on the front was penned in her brother's fine hand, and the date of postage wasn't too far passed.
We're being treated well, and out of the thirty in our small unit, nearly all are still alive. Treatment is good, and they say, from what Treize translates for me, that we'll be released when the war ends, for good or for bad. Since the stamp is from Austria, make sure little Teddy puts it in his collection. I'm sure he'll love it.
All my love,
Of course, Relena was ecstatic that her brother was still alive, but... Who was 'little Teddy'? Perhaps he'd been exposed to one of the gases...
Dorothy entered the room, smiling a little. "Relena, are you going to stay here over the holi-- is that a letter from your brother? At last?"
A slight nod from Relena. "He was indeed captured, but he says he's being treated good, and that most of his companions are alive."
The two split-ended eyebrows drew together. "Did he write anything odd in the letter? I received a similar letter two days past..."
"Only to save the stamp for someone called 'little teddy'," Relena shrugged.
"Mine said the same thing!" Dorothy's eyes widened, and she left the room for a few minutes, then returned holding in one hand a steaming kettle. Confused, Relena watched as Dorothy carefully removed the stamp from the envelope with the steam.
A gasp escaped Dorothy, before she handed the stamp to Relena.
Written in her brother's flawless hand were the words "They've cut off my legs".