PrologueI am writing this letter to anyone willing to understand it. The choices i've made in life may have not always been the correct ones, but at the time I did not see the fault. Whether I was blinded by anger, or plain curiousity the decisions I made did have an undeniable impact on the landscape of my world. The two years that composed my journey were full of wonder, discovery, and peril. I saw things I never thought i'd see, and met people I never dreamed I'd meet let alone develop lasting bonds of friendship. Not all of them made it to the end, not all of them remain in contact with me, and none of them were ever the same, for better, or for worse. As I sat down to write this letter, I wanted to open with an apology to any of those I hurt, and I could blame it on naivety, on a young boys impulsive nature, but that would be wrong. I was of the age to fully understand my actions, and I did not always choose to. In the end I hope I have made amends with the world, I hope that it understood my intent, and my nature. I hope you will understand it most of all, you need to know that your father is a good man, but even good men can make mistakes.
It's best to start at the beginning, from the way I experienced it. I have kept silent these many long years on what actually took place, that only now, here at the end, do I have the strength and willingness to get it all out. I will not try to justify anyone elses motives, I only know my own. I was seven years old when my mother died, and in that short span of time that I knew her I can tell you that she was a beautiful and loving woman. She held me to her as a babe, and an adolescent, afraid to lose me. She never realized I would be the one who would lose her. Her name was Nadia, but I of course only ever her knew her as momma. In those developing years of my life she had always been ill, a cold here, a cold there. So it ddn't surprise me to see her wrapped tightly in blankets to shield out the cold, while bringing a hankerchief to her nose. Even I however; knew that the last time it happened, it was worse. The color had left her cheeks, her palms were clammy and cold, and her eyes became foggier and foggier, day by day.
I remember in those days my father kept his distance from her. In private he would cry, and curse the stars, or at least he thought. It was often I came upon that man near the chopping block, or on the bluffs just siting and sobbing, and angry. I would never let him know I was there, I knew what I was witnessing was something that he did not want anyone to see. The Joseph Grace I knew was strong and fierce. His face was a weathered mess, wind damanged, and bruised. At least thats how he looked at a glance. His eyes, though also wounded, held a glimmer of compassion, I knew he was a good man, but for many years I would not believe it, not after what he did to us. But I am getting ahead of myself.
My mother and her dirty golden locks strung out over her pillow, it is the image of her that I first see when I close my eyes. It is not a fond memory, and I wished I saw her healthier days. If I looked hard enough I often could see beyond that to a time she would sit with me during the summers on the shores of Placim. She would help me to build my sand castles, and allow me to stomp on them like a giant dragon of the old days. When the castle was gone, I would turn on her, and she would run along the shallow tide and I would follow, giving chase, stomping through as water splashed about me from the Corsian Sea, and often she would stop. If it wasn't to cough, she would be glancing off into the horizon at a distant shape that was little more than a speck of dirt. This was the Isle of Grimm. It was those moments that originally peaked my curiousity of the island and only later events - which I will of course reflect on in a moment - that cemented my resolve to seak it out. And there she was, frail, skinny, young, and beautiful, a combination of words I wish did not describe her so perfectly, staring out to sea dreaming of things my young mind would never understand.
My memories then returned me to the bed, the sickness, the color fading more from those pale cheeks. When she called for me - and even when she didn't - I would rush to her side, and lay upon her arm, with one armed wrapped around her. She would speak to me, staring up to the roof, and stroking my hair as she did it. "I love you." She never failed to say, not once, not ever. "When its just you and your papa," she would tell me, "you have to be strong. For him." At the time I didn't think anyone needed to be strong for Joseph Grace, but I always agreed to be, for my mom.
It was always my grandmother Moira who would lift me out of my mom's arms when we had fallen asleep, and carry me back to my own bed. I could never imagine my grandmother young, which I think is often the case with young people. She looked her age, but did not act it. While the wrinkles in her face, told the tale of a long life, her strength and her personality, which was full of humor and vibrance, did not give way that she was pushing seventy. She was the most loving woman I ever knew, and she would raise me into my teens all on her own.
The night my mother died was no different, I had fallen asleep upon her arm, but as was often the case I awoke when my grandmother went to collect me in her arms, but continued to pretend to be asleep. I heard my mother tell her to leave me there, my mothers voice frailer than usual, but also louder. She wasn't angry, but resolved to keep me by her side. "I know your awake, little man," she told me, and then proceeded to cough violently. I remember immediately sitting up, and taking my turn, I stroked her hair and told her I loved her. She smiled at me, and kissed my chin, which she could barely lift her head to do. "And that's all I need, little Simon. You angel." She fell asleep shortly after that. I laid my head on her chest and felt it slowly rise and fall, and eventually I too returned to my dreams. Sometime in the night - I can't be certain exactly when -something awoke me, it was a change in the surface my head rested on, it wasn't rising and falling anymore. Sitting up I saw my mother calm and peaceful. I leaned forward and kissed her cheek and told her I loved her one last time. I walked into the kitchen and there was my father and grandmother, they somehow knew immediately. My father did not respond when he stood up, he simply left the house in silence, only till he was outside did I hear the screaming. My grandmother was quiet tho, she walked into my mothers room, with me trailing behind her clutching to her evening gown. It wasn't until she pulled the blanket over my mothers head that I began to cry. My grandmother did not hesitate and picked me up, and patted my back. She sat with me on my bed, and somehow against my will I fell asleep.
It wasn't easy for my father to raise me. Sure, he wasn't on his own, he did have my grandmother, but she could only do so much. It wasn't long after my mothers passing that he would often leave us to journey inland to the capitol and other towns and villages of the Southern Kingdom. He lost himself in avoiding me at first, I was a foreign body to him, when he was home he would attempt to speak with me about matters of life, but they were awkward conversations at best. The knowledge he tried to depart would either frighten me or go over my head. It was around a year that he started staying closer to home. At first I wasn't sure if I liked him there, for my grandmother had doted upon me with love and affection as often as she could. She kept me close, helped with my studies. She taught me to read and to write better than I ever would have if she hadn't been present. But she refused to let me go out on my own, I always had to remain close. I use to think she was being overprotective, that she feared id simply be hurt by tripping on rocks, or getting caught up in thickets. When my father returned however; all of that changed. He removed me from my interior trappings, and taught me to fish, taught me to hunt. He had me carve my own spears, catch my own bait, and it was a rigorous time - nearly a years worth. This was all of course to my grandmothers horror.
Those were the best times I ever had with him. He was on a mission to depart as much knowledge as he could, to pass on the survivalist skills he knew. If I had known why at the time, I may have resisted. When he left, I wanted to throw all the new things I retained about trapping squirrels, and how to effectively use lures, about how to immitate the calls of wild birds, and how to construct a raft if I were ever stranded, I wanted to get them out. I wanted to forget them. I use to think that would get him to come back. But there I go again, getting ahead of myself. Those times, before he left, were perfect, I of course thought upon my mother, I never slept in her bed again, never entered the room if I didn't want to cry. My grandmother was their with her compassion, and my father was their with his lessons, and he broadended my horizons to the world around me. All I had ever seen was the village of Placim, and while I never journeyed too far out of its borders, it budded in me a prime curiousity. It was the best thing he gave to me, a thirst to experience more.
The night he left, was storming. Looking back, it had to be storming. There was an uncompromising downpour, the rain beat the earth, over and over and thudded against the roof of our small little shanty house. And there we were, my father, my grandmother, and I, sitting around the table. I was ten now, it was seven months till I was eleven. We were eating in silence, I remember the bacon was crispy, and burnt, because grandmother knew that was how I liked it. The goat milk was warm, I didn't drink any, but I remember picking up the glass to take a sip when those wounded eyes, beyond that weathered face turned to me. He tried to pass it off that he was going to town for supplies, but I knew it wasn't so. The man could never hide the truth from me, and I don't know if I would have realized it had he not glanced at me for a moment. I would like to think that he was conflicted, that he wanted to stay more than he wanted to go. That during that dinner he fought and wrestled with himself to the right course of action. I'd like to think that, but I think the final outcome was always going to be what it was, this wasn't something he had decided spur of the moment, this was something that had been boiling inside him, building pressure, until the day had come where he felt I was ready enough. He may have even tried to leave sooner.
He packed his things in a rush, which he never did. He had almost forgotten his hunting knives, which he always took, and if it wasn't for me noticing they weren't amongst his things, he would have forgotten them and never would have been the wiser. He kissed my grandmother on the cheek, and whispered something in her ear - she never told me what it was before she passed on but then again I never asked. He then came to me, which he never did, normally he would say his departing words at the door and tell me to be good for my grandmother, but this time he came to me and knelt in front of me. He reached inside his rucksack and took out a heavy sea shell that was attached to a necklace chain, and put it in my fist. His mouth made to say I love you, but he stopped himself, scoffed at his slip into compassion, and ruffled my hair. And like that he left the house. It sat uneasy with me, it was too strange, too final. My grandmother looked at me and told me to finish my meal, but I couldn't and for the first time I disobeyed her and made for the door. I ran as fast as I could, following his footsteps in the mud - which went south to the beaches, rather than north to where the roads were. The rain assaulted me all the way, as pellets of hail joined in the fray.
My father kept a small row boat he had built himself, he kept it along the old abandoned docks in the old part of Placim where the storms often assaulted the hardest - which was of course why they were eventually moved to a better location along the west shore of Placims penninsula. The boat was dingey, and full of ware. This was where he was, and as I arrived there after flying as fast as my feet could take me he was inside the boat. He had just finished untying the lines when he saw me. He yelled nothing to me as I slowed my pace to walk along the docks. The wind was favorable for him that day attacking the tides to push outwards to sea, his boat was already farther off than I expected it to be. I would have jumped after him had it been closer. As it was however, even I was not foolish enough to do so. With his back turned to me he picked up his oars and readied them, and he never looked back. I was ten years old as I stood there, drenched to the bones, barefoot and afraid. I watched him till I could see him no more against the black night, and the lightning strikes. I hugged my arms about me for warmth, and I saw in the distance the Isle of Grimm, that small speck silhouetted in a thunderous light. And between my mothers glances and my fathers departure, the Island became an infatuation.
Before I finish this first letter I should speak at length on the Isle of Grimm as I knew of it. A legendary place, my father had brought me around it once, it had taken days to make the whole trip, and it towered above us as rock bluffs that seemed to stretch on miles high. As far as I knew no one had ever been there, it was impenetrable, and inaccesible. The bluffs were overgrown with thorny ivy, and sharp rocks and choppy waters made it often unsafe to stay near it for any great length. My mother always staring at it, my father headed towards it, it was for the next five years of my life my passion to watch it. My ten year old self trapped somewhere inside these bones, brought me to the end of that dock and made me wait. Made me wait for a man that never returned to me, but if he would ever have done so, I would have been the first to know. Five years after he left was where my journey began, with humble beginnings I looked after my grandmother, and looked out for my father, and remembered my mother every day. And I dreamed of Grimm and what secrets it would hold, secrets I was far too eager to uncover.