Letters home

Session 1: The Gathering of the Party
Session 2: Siege on Skeletown
Session 3: Marching the Wrong Way
Session 4: Cashing in on Success
Session 6: Return to the Drowned City
Session 7: Here comes the Cavalry!
Session 8: The Mad Mage
Session 9: Nightmares and Farewell
Session 10: The Impossible Happens

21st Midsummer, 1018 A.H.


Well, I've been in town for about 7 days and I'm running out of stories to tell this militiaman yokel named Rommel that keeps swallowing whatever line I feed him. I'm not certain he would notice if I started reusing stories, but it'd be a bad habit to start. This other guy, this scholarly type, keeps hanging around; I'm not sure why - he doesn't look like he's been out of a library in years. You'd probably get along fine with him.

Both of them seem have have some suicidal urge to get themselves killed. Rommel has this urge to seek out something to fight, and he doesn't care what. He seems like a good guy to have in a fight, as long as you can point him in the right direction. The bookish guy, Yama, has mumbled about studying Undead. Personally, I wouldn't study them except through a spyglass.

Other than that, business has been uneventfully normal, though it's starting to taper off some, so I'm probably going to move on soon.

So I'd already decided to head south to the port - the capital is a little crowded this time of year - and here came this motley troupe of elves headed in the same direction on a holy quest. Plus, they had a dwarf with them! They were headed in the same direction, so I decided to tag along with them. The road had not seen traffic for some time, so it suggested that it was a good idea to have a group along. Then they decided to take some merchants as well...

Four days later, and it has proved to be an interesting journey so far. One of the merchants left his goods behind, and I can probably get a fair amount of money for them. But that's a bit of a digression...

Apparently there were some skeletons in what used to be the watch tower over the toll bridge, and they'd replaced the normal guards at the tower. It was fortunate that I was travelling with the group that I was, as they proved to be capable of handling themselves against those creatures. I poked around in the barracks, but there wasn't much of interest left; the tower went up in smoke while burning the last of the creatures out.

The port south of the capital has been wiped out entirely. An unending horde of skeletons emerged from the sea and swept into the town. Apparently this has been happening each night for several weeks. The keep has been sacked, and its defenders were cut down. It is only because of the strength of the lighthouse there that I'm still breathing. It was eerie. There was no end to those creatures. I don't know about these others I've been travelling with, but I'm getting out of here as soon as I can.

ell, Sis,

I still haven't found anyone heading towards your part of the world to take this to you, so this letter's just going to keep getting longer until I do. I will let you know that I came into some money, so I'll try to get some to you so you can continue your studies.

After leaving the port, we headed east after the path of refugees. I'm not sure about this crew I've been wandering with. The elves and the dwarf seem really driven about the port, and it wasn't even their people! I think it's a religious thing, though; one of the elves and the dwarf seem to pray a lot, and they're the most serious about it.

We made it to the next town; well, a fishing village, really. I can't see what the Baron sees in this little place. And the Baron! He's conscripting an army to go take back his city. Good luck to him; his group's outnumbered and, according to the dwarf, going about it totally wrong. As for the dwarf and elves and the militiaman Rommel, they went and got themselves conscripted. Bloody fools - they walked right into it. It certainly paid to have planned ahead.

As for that money I mentioned, it's courtesy of a couple of amateurs betting on a knife throwing contest. I was surprised they could even hit the board consistently.

Anyway, I hope to get this letter out in the next couple of days - the mood in the air here is a little off and I don't want to stick around if I can help it.

ell, I couldn't help it - the town's under martial law. Fortunately, I met a widow willing to put me up so I don't have to deal with the army's having taken over most of the inns here. The mood's turning worse, and I've been keeping my head down. I have a feeling it's going to get ugly before it gets better.

...and I was right. A man was hanged today. The smiths have also turned away from making the weapons that the dwarf said would be better against the skeletons and picked up making crossbows and pikes again. These guys are just asking to get themselves wiped out. I feel a little sorry for the conscripts; they've got no say in it and are just there to absorb the first wave anyway.

What's odd is that there are rumors about troops showing up at night, having arrived by boat. The really odd thing is that they closest port is the one that got wiped out, and there were more than a couple of ships that were sunk in the harbor. This whole business is starting to smell of a rat.

The elves and Rommel got back yesterday. They'd taken some of the recruits back to the skeleton-infested port, and from their description, were wildly successful at wiping them out. Until their position was overrun, anyway. As soon as they got back, the army marched. In the wrong direction - they went north, while the port is west. You're the scholar, Kat - what's that tell your highly trained mind? I know what it says to me...

ell, since the army marched, there's been next to no activity in the village. Martial law has been effectively lifted, though, since there aren't enough people around to enforce it. I'd get out of this town if I knew where to go from here. Plus, if I knew which way that army went, so I could avoid them, it would help, too. I think I will try to circle through the Elven lands on my way back into your part of the world, if I can. It has to be more reasonable there than what's going on here. I'm getting out of town soon, but I don't think I'll get this letter off before I leave.

It seems that the Baron's makeshift army has been turned against the Elven lands. Baron Traftar seems to be augmenting his leadership with some magical means, though it is hard to say what true effect it is. It does not seem at all logical to name the elves as causing the port to be overrun, since they lost ships there as well as sending an army there to aid the Baron in retaking the port from the skeletal army. I've run into the druid, Vlage, and he and the others suspect that the Baron is being helped along the path he's on by a wizard that looks like he arrived with the troops that were showing up at night. There also is evidence that the wizard has been creating undead creatures to harass and ambush the army on the course of its march into the Elven lands.

he Baron's wizard has met an unfortunate end. An interesting turn of events combined with a particular foresight has resulted in yours truly in command of the army with the king's authority. No one seems to know quite when the army changed its target from the skeletal forces at the port to the Elven lands, and the orders seem to have come from high in the chain of command, as none of the soldiers knew of it ahead of time.

Regardless, the army now has been returned to its rightful cause, and should be returned to the village on the morrow. I asked the commander to run the men through some drills to take their minds off the confusion as well as to prepare them for the fight ahead.

Once we're back in the village, I will have one of the men start this letter on its way to you.

fter some time, I've regained my senses. It seems that a particular person removed the artifact from my possession, resulting in my helpless and unaware transport to the Elven lands. It has been some time since my previous notes, and I have been unaware of my surroundings for most of that time. I haven't even been awake.

Yama, the scholar I mentioned previously, found enough information on how to restore my senses to me. However, they were not restored fully, and more will be needed before I am my former self.

I also found my former companions, who I have reason to believe still have my artifact. I suspect the dwarf, who admitted enspelling me in order to steal it. I will have to try to extract from the others what they've done with it, since they seem to want to keep it from me.

Finally! I hope this finds you well; I am currently in the capital and have found transit for this letter to reach you, so I will close this edition of my travels and send it on its way. The others want to head south, to the town of Blaine, and I will be going with them.

Your brother,
[Illegible Scribble]

reetings, fair sister!

After surviving an attack by several undead, we've arrived in Blaine. There were some I had not encountered before; one of the others suggested that they were returned High Elves, which seems a bit far-fetched to me, but is hard to deny given some of the evidence unearthed.

As for Blaine itself, there seems to be a thug from Osskit named Arnquist who wants to get his hands on my amulet; he apparently has been sending people after me and my associates in order to acquire it. The man who followed us in Blaine ended up getting himself hanged after resisting our efforts to question him. He tried to warn us away by holding the town's baker hostage, but I knocked him out when he wasn't paying attention. The law had him hanged for attempted murder.

Tomorrow, the others are planning to go down into the lake by Blaine by using magic to operate in that cold, underwater environment. They have the thought that the components for a potion or some such thing that would rejuvenate my mind can be found down there. Supposedly, the ruins of a High Elven city lie beneath the waters, but that's something I'll need to see for myself.

e've returned from a somewhat harrowing exploration of the underwater ruins. The lake itself is unnaturally cold; the stone structures beneath the surface have begun to generate an eerie light. There is apparently an entire city down there in varying states of disrepair, though some buildings are in what can only be described as perfect condition.

It seems that there are a new set of inhabitants; some particularly curious creatures have taken up residence among the ruins. Also, from direct experience, the buildings still have their old wards in place. I made it out with an interestingly well-preserved book; I suspect that you might find it interesting, but you'll have to wait your turn.

We're returning to Whitehall tomorrow, where Yama should be able to prepare the potion; I'm finding it increasingly difficult to think clearly and that should help. If it doesn't, I may have to take a more direct course of action.

I've debated amending some of the things I'd previously written, but in the interest of accurately recounting my travels to you, I've decided against it. The potion helped immensely, and I feel like myself again, even a few days later without any further treatments.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been afflicted with a degenerating state of mind, which affected some of my judgment; Kat, I want to assure you that I'm feeling much better now and as good as the old me.

t's been a few days and I still feel no ill effects; the concoction seems to have done its work. Yama has left to see what he can do for the Baron, who at last note was still in his own coma. Vlage left the others on their wild chase for treasure and returned with evidence of a band of dwarves, which would appear to be Argyle's missing companions. They're setting out towards the Dry Plains in the northeast on the morrow; I'm going to go with them as recent events have made the capital feel a little uncomfortable for me.

Your brother,
[Illegible Scribble]


I hope you are in good health, and that your studies are progressing. I am well, though lately I've spent some rather uneventful time on the road, as we're near the Dry Plains.

We've encountered a wild elf who has begun travelling with our little group; whether this is from trust or distrust I don't quite know. He calls himself "Grey", to match the color of his cloak, I suppose. He could just as well call himself "Ugly" to match his face.

In a couple of days, we'll be near the spot where the seasonal gatherings of the wild elves take place. What the dwarves are doing in this area, I'm not certain. Whatever they're doing, they've left a twenty foot wide track behind them, so they shouldn't be hard to find.

he dwarven track has led to an unremarkable cliff. Our dwarven companion went into some odd dance that ended with him pointing towards the ground at the cliff face. He proclaimed that this meant that his friends were down there, and not in very good shape. Apparently the plan is to visit the wild elf gathering to see what they know of this site and the dwarves. It's hard to say what the response will be to this, though I'm beginning to think that it would have been wiser to stay in Whitehall.

should have stayed in Whitehall.

Behind the cliff is the entrance to an ancient Breeding Pit for the sub-elf races. The members of Argyle's order entered it in an effort to destroy it. That was three weeks ago. They have been locked in, as the entrance they created has expired, sealing itself behind them. My companions have elected to enter the Pit in a rescue attempt.

It's not the wisest course of action, but I'm going with them. I'm curious to see what the ancients have left behind. In the event that I do not return, I have left this letter with Vlage with instructions to send it after our window of escape has closed.

I hope he doesn't need to.

13th Midfall, 1018 A.H.

've made it out in one piece, though I was mostly dead all day. After a rather harrowing trip through the tunnels, we have survived with our wits mostly intact.

A scene of carnage greeted us, and its odor followed us throughout. It was amazing to see the amount of devastation these 24 dwarves wrought on the foul creatures of those tunnels. Fifteen of them survived.

To back up a little, there seemed to have been a wizard who had taken up residence there and begun operations and experiments. It is unknown whether or not his efforts were part of a larger plan or not. In the course of eliminating him, I and several of my companions ended up hovering on the brink of death. I'm apparently quite fortunate to still be drawing breath.

But I am, and I'm well on the way to good health.

15th Midfall, 1018 A.H.

y usual companions and I were removed from the Pit by an old... I hesitate to call him a friend at this point, given the circumstances. Yama enacted some sorcerous effect that moved us to the tower of some hermit wizard that he'd been studying with. The dwarf, the three elves, and myself were reunited with the young and impulsive Rommel, the sailor Quinn, and Vlage was pulled along as well. Yama's tutor wanted us to retrieve some amount of a mineral or stone or something from deep beneath the earth. In my opinion, this was folly, but they decided to go.

I didn't. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid. Having spent most of the previous day fighting for my life against orcs and ogres and magical creatures, I felt that doing it again would be a tremedously stupid idea, so I'm heading back to the village we passed in order to catch up to Argyle's companions and the rest of our belongings, which we had left with the wild elves. And if I'm lucky, they'll be throwing another excellent party. And there won't be anyone there to magically sober me in the middle of the party as opposed to what happened at the last one.

I didn't wholly trust Nymriell, the wizard, either. Too much time away from people seems to have separated him from reality. His motives are unclear, but he seemed to be researching things that were best left to the ancients. He also had knowledge of our recent encounters with Zyryn, the wizard controlling the ancient pit.

Anyway, we separated as they took the brilliant avenue of being teleported below the earth to advance their quest for the mineral. So now they're lost in fire- and orc-infested tunnels on the whim of an eccentric wizard and they don't know the way out.

It violated my Fifth Law: Always have an escape plan.

17th Midfall, 1018 A.H.

think I could use another drink after what just happened.

Most people might describe a dramatic event as "earth-shattering" even if no earth was in fact shattered. My definition has just been narrowed to events that actually do cause upheaval of the ground.

So, after I left the tower, I took the narrow, winding trail down the mountain so I could go and retrieve my things from the wild elves. There was a nearby village there, so I stopped to make sure I was oriented correctly, and to get some basic supplies for the road and eat something other than trail rations.

So I found myself in the closest thing they have to a tavern eating, after a hot bath and shaving for the first time in about a week - they had this really foul tasting excuse for an ale, but the local wine was actually quite good; I may have to set up some trading concerns here - and having to talk around mouthfuls as these folks hadn't really heard much of anything in the world at large recently. And you know how much I dislike talking while eating. The village's elder kept trying to get me to marry his granddaughter - a pretty young lady whose grand total of her wits would fill a space the size of my thumb - since I actually paid with gold, apparently quite a rare occurrence in this part of the world. I'm not certain, but I suspect that the village elder also doubled as the village idiot.

I think I'm digressing, but you'll just have to put up with it; the wine was quite good. I'll need to try to remember to visit the local... what's the word? Winery? If it's still there...

Anyway, back to the story!

So during my after dinner wine, most of the locals had gotten back to work, and I'm left to endure the vacuous smile of the aforementioned young lady. She was quite pretty, but she had this extremely annoying squeaking giggle. If it hadn't been for the eruption, I might have had to do something to get her to stop.

Ah. I see I've finally gotten around to the point. My apologies, dear sister, for taking so long.

The eruption. Eyeing my glass, I saw the ripples forming, so I did the only rational thing - I emptied it. It would have been a shame to waste it, as shortly thereafter a large portion of the nearby mountains were engulfed in flame. Have you ever seen mountains spew fire? It's rather lovely, in an "I might die" sort of way.

The only good fortune that resulted is that one casualty was the loss of the ale kegs - smashed when their rack collapsed. Unfortunately, one of the villagers ended up with a broken leg and a nasty head wound when his house collapsed. Even if he survives, it's likely that he'll never walk again. It's doubly bad as he was the village's herbalist and healer. I'm going to go see if I can find any help, as even if he doesn't survive, the good majority of the residents have at least some minor injuries.

In addition, I feel a need to get moving before the disaster area catches up with me. It's not a certainty, but the nearby mountain seemed to be the first to blow its top.

I hope my next installment is written under less exciting circumstances.

18 Midfall, 1018 A.H.

fter a couple of days of travel, I've reached the next village that has a healer - the local priest; I'm having him return the horse I borrowed as he goes to help his flock. The forest has caught fire, and it seems to be spreading; I can't tell how badly, but there are going to be a number of people losing their homes, I suspect. Next stop is to find the Wild Elves. They still have my horse and spare gear.

It also turns out that my companions are still alive, to my amazement. They were, at the last I knew, headed into the center of the mountain that exploded. One of them contacted me via some magical means, which was an odd experience. I'm not sure I want to repeat it - it felt like someone whispering in my ear when they weren't actually there. My reply to the Sending: 'Who? How? Ah... I was heading towards the village we passed when following the trail of the dwarfs, then to-- Wait! You guys are still--

20 Midfall, 1018 A.H.

I ran into the Wild Elves. They just seemed to show up out of nowhere, looking down the shafts of their arrows at myself and my guide. It was a little unnerving with all those arrowheads glinting in the sun. I told them what happened, and had to stop some of the way through. My audience was no longer paying attention because they were laughing too hard. I had just gotten past the point where I'd said, "Forget it. When it snows on the plane of Fire, I'll go down there." One of them explained that it was a delightful use of irony, or something like that. I'm still not sure I understood what he said.

They've loaned me a magnificent horse, one that is fast and strong, amazingly so. It's carrying me, my belongings, and some of the wine from the village at the base of the mountain, and I expect to reach Whitehall three days ahead of schedule. It's too bad I can't keep him; he's a magnificent animal.

23 Midfall, 1018 A.H.

Apparently, wine trading can be quite lucrative; I made a tidy profit on the small amount I'd brought with me, as well as business contacts for future dealings. Speaking of which, if you talk to any of our wayward siblings, let them know I've got a potential business opportunity that they might be interested in. Assuming they don't have any other pressing matters that they're dealing with. I'm currently staying at The Dancing Bear in Whitehall, under the name of Nikolaus Andersson. If I'm not there, I'll try to leave a note or something for them.

I'm going to wrap this up and send it off now; it's gotten rather longer than I expected. Plus, I somehow seem to have been given a ticket to a charity ball at the royal palace; I need to go and pick up my clothes from the tailor. More on that in my next letter!

Your brother,

[Illegible Scribble]

25 Midfall, 1018 A.H.


I do hope that you are well and that your history studies are coming along nicely. If I am ever in one place long enough, you'll have to let me know if Kurt has been named chamberlain yet; he seemed to have a good head for that sort of thing and got along well with Master David, and given that David was getting on in age when father was still alive...

Anyway, I do have to say it was a lovely ball; Her Majesty the Queen was looking quite... Majestic. Lovely. Beauty incarnate. I could go on... and on...

But unfortunately I can't. It seems my erstwhile companions have - what's an eloquent way to say it... Greatly annoyed a master of the magickal arts. A very old master of the magickal arts. Enough for him to go to some effort to kill them. He actually was successful. For at least a few days, anyway...

You see, the Wild Elf I'd been travelling with was slain by creatures sent by the wizard, taken back by those same creatures, then returned to the others in a re-animated state to attack them. Once they... stopped him, it seems that an argument about his state of existence began between the two priests. The Elven priest, Gladriel, felt that he could return Jilas to his previous state of life. The dwarf Argyle seemed to feel that doing so would be an abomination similar to what had just been done to him. Not being an expert on the nature of the afterlife and such, I still don't truly understand the distinction, and hope I never have it presented to me in a crystal clear fashion.

Because of this rift, Argyle has been forced to leave the kingdom as his religious beliefs conflict with kingdom law. This gives me some pause, as the remainder of my previously mentioned companions seem to tend towards rash behavior - a collection of loose catapults, as it were. They've all been having these horrendous nightmares, so they've been staying under wards in the Basilica of Pelor here in Whitehall.

Anyway, I thought you might find recent events interesting, so I'm sending this short letter now. As I seem to continually be mixed up with someone else, I've been invited to another little party as the guest of a lady-in-waiting to the Princess. I really need to find this person that keeps getting mixed up with me and see if I should have cause for concern.

Again, if you see any of our other siblings and they're spending time idle, have them get in touch with me - I could use some additional help with this little business arrangement I'm looking at.

My best wishes to everyone there.

Your brother,

[Illegible Scribble]

3 Latefall, 1018 A.H.

ear Katrina,

I hope you are still well. I decided to start this next letter to give myself something relatively normal to think about. It's been a busy series of days for me, and this writing should help me get my thoughts in order.

I went to the party with my new friend - the one who's a friend of the younger princess - which turned out to be quite the interesting experience. She barely knew that Talport was part of the kingdom, let alone anyplace smaller than that. I only hope that those ahead of her in the succession pay more attention to such things.

As for my companions, they had been seeking someone to assist them against their newly acquired ancient foe. They obviously are, at times, being watched from afar given that they were continually harassed on their journey back to Whitehall. They also have enough reasons to be quiet about certain of our previous encounters; in both regards, they seem to be more than willing to run on about the situation and plans. There are times... If we hadn't been through what we've been through, I'd wonder why I still associate with the fools. Though be assured, I mean "fools" in the nicest sense of the word. They are, after all, extremely brave fools.

Vlaje returned from battling the forest fires with another member of his Druidic Circle or Order or whatever it's called - he called himself Fenris. The Wild Elves sent an ultimatum without the "or else" part. They're really quite annoyed with the others for their part in the mountains to the north rearranging themselves. It seems that the real cause of the fires is the fact that a portal to the Realm of Fire was opened beneath the mountains, and they were in some part responsible. I think that explains the irony mentioned by the Wild Elf when I retrieved my belongings from the tribe.

To get back to more current events...

Vlaje and Fenris left the Temple of Pelor where the others have been staying - Nymriell hasn't attempted to interrupt their sleep there - and left the city in an attempt to scry him out. Almost immediately, by their account, their efforts were interrupted by an appearance of several undead creatures. These creatures were successful enough in their attacks to slay Vlaje and nearly kill Fenris, taking his hand. Gladriel restored Vlaje's spirit to his body. This is the second to die at Nymriell's hand.

Consider, as another example, their current exploits. While I've been exploring the webs of the higher ranking people of the courts, they were plotting to take the fight to Nymriell. As I said, brave fools. Two of the three who undertook the action lost their lives in the act, though the end result was successful. Quinn and Rommel were incinerated and pelted to their deaths, respectively, when they accompanied Gladriel in his quest to kill Nymriell. It was, in the end, mostly successful. Nymriell passed due to old age, and the two who accompanied Gladriel were restored to life by him as well. Yama, who was assisting Nymriell, fled while covered in flames. His whereabouts and status are unknown, so that's yet another loose end that will probably need to be tied later. In the end, it cost four lives in the course of taking care of the situation. I suppose they are fortunate that they were able to be restored.

So the end result is that I spent several days looking into the social webs of the court here in Whitehall to see how aid in the Nymriell matter might be obtained, only to have my efforts made redundant by Gladriel's attack. As long as that's over, it's one less thing to worry about.

I did pick up more than a few tidbits in the course of my investigations. I'm currently in a bit of a quandry with what to do with them, since their original purpose is no longer needed. Ah, well. I suppose an opportunity will arise. There usually is, if you look hard enough.

Take care of yourself, and I'll take care of myself.

Your brother,

[Illegible Scribble]

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