Updated: May 22
I should preface this letter by stating that this entry is filled with pure gluttony and debauchery. There little to no is furtherment of our plans, at least from the perspective of this portly gourmand; that is I, your husband and narrator. My mind is racked with guilt and regret, for despite our most dangerous of adventures in the darkest depths of the arachnid infested Underdark, a life was lost in our foolish binge. A life I feel wholly responsible for having helped been shuffled from their mortal coil.
We started the afternoon off – it was but midday at this point – with receiving a gift from Queen Claresca. It was a spectacularly crafted and well-made coffer that itself would have been an ample gift, yet she presented us with a further one-thousand Muldraean crowns newly minted with her face in portrait. Gudael in her infinitely wholesome mindedness saw this gift as a great expression of affection and an attempt to impress us from this “clever Queen” and seemed reluctant to indulge in such a large sum of excess – ever the wise sage. Yet, my own experiences of the human nobility have left me sceptical of this ‘gift’ and under the impression that she is still simply trying to outbid the Envoy for our loyalty. I also claimed my own portion of this gift, which I plan to send to you – somewhat reduced now – with whatever good sum we are awarded for our double-cross of the mages.
Despite my cynicism, I took the queen’s gold and despite Gudael’s optimism, she refrained from her share. Perhaps there is some philosophical meaning to that? Something about the good soul is not left wanting while the hungry soul cannot be sated? I feel that apt in this regard.
Adrik and Brixton, ever-forward thinkers, aware of snoopers and peepers, hid our small chest of coinage under the floorboards of our bed. I feel comfortable telling you this, for no doubt, by the time this even leaves my hand, that will have changed, let alone by the time it has reached you and you have read it will we likely be in some wholly other part of the world – hopefully.
Gudael and Leith made their way with us till Dundar – a southwest district in the Karkanos domain where Lord Hasildril was awaiting us in the Nag’s Head. They would go to the Stadthaus in Dundar – that is, their House of Records – before going all the way over to the Grenoldaean domain where they would scour the Daughters of Twilight’s archives. We parted ways having arranged to meet back at the Dragon’s Tooth, on the corner of Nort and Kavnarrim.
At the Nag’s Head, Laertes met us at the door and escorted us in to see the elven lord. We told the good lord of our exploits and discoveries – of which he was very excited and proud – yet we needed to tell him of our recent run in with the Queen. To this he was naturally sceptical and frustrated, now there was four rivalling patrons seeking the riches, but we calmed his qualms by expressing that she was merely another institution we must needs dupe in order to escape with our small, but not unsubstantial, trove.
Mister Brixton asked Hasildril to investigate which boat contains the gold that we are to commandeer. Hasildril, again, had is reservations, but I think we were able to allay them again; saying that one can only be so stealthy when loading several thousands of gold worth of treasure onto a ship large enough to safely reach Barachiel with all their smuggled goods in tow, likely surrounded my raven familiars, and to possibly seek help from Mother – which I understand his reluctance in doing so. Spiders weave a fine web, invisible to the eyes of flies. It was here that Hasildril gave us each a fine vintage of elven wine – making up for that one I sacrificed to that ungrateful child, our queen, Gods save us – and there we had our first drink of the night.
Then we made our way to the Dragon’s Tooth and, as the music was rowdy and the drinks cheap, Adrik and I supply ourselves in a couple or more tankards of ale. We spent some time laughing, joking, eventually Adrik lead our table of strange and inebriated drunkards in a shanty-like round whilst I pounded my hand on the table for timing. It wasn’t until Adrik and I were dancing atop the table that our elven friends finally joined us at the tavern.
I poured everyone present a glass of ale and we cheered with one of uncle Gadolf’s more bawdy toasts. One of the good-natured lads that had been at our table, a halfling, echoed this toast. This man, a bard named Rolen – whom Brixton seemed to either have met before or knew of due to another mutual friend – became the sixth member of our crawl. He wanted another round on me, which I was more than happy to supply, but sweetened the deal – he could choose which taphouse we visit next. From his lips sprung a familiar and warming name; the Broken Oak Tavern, the first establishment I entered upon my arrival in Vain Gate and where I met Milford Brixton for the first time not four days ago. And so, with Adrik and I downing our last cups of ale, we moved for the door. However, Leith ushered us once more into the Dragon’s Tooth.
You see, since investigating at the Stadthaus they had been tailed by two watchmen whom they were able to shake off by Gudael confronting them – ever the direct and headstrong champion of her righteous quest – backed by the tall and towering stature that is Leith’s height. Yet, here they were now, outside the Dragon’s Tooth, loitering about Francis – Brixton’s mule he had insisted on bringing for some reason or another. As Adrik, Rolen, and I were evidently not under some watchful eye of the town’s authorities, we approached them ourselves.
It was in a well-mannered and civil discussion that we learned Milford Brixton was also under some type of investigation where this mule was clearly a “lead” before we were asked to move along. Not wanting to leave these watchmen lingering about with our compatriots still behind us nor allow these strange men to be left alone with dear Francis, we were reluctant to comply.
Adrik, I could sense, was about to start some sort of conflict, so I feigned another yawn – easy enough for me to do with my slothfulness, and put these men to sleep with a wave of my wand. While Adrik hid their bodies in a ditch or some cover, I retrieved our waiting companions and we moved swiftly to the Thorasis District of Raxtharsis.
Rolen indulged us on knowledge pertaining to the mutual acquaintance held between him and Brixton. A bard named Saran’th was in hiding, having written a now infamous song called ‘Fahar the Feckless’. Evidently, this Fahar, a lord, was not looked fondly upon by his people and Saran’th put this sentiment not only into words but also to a tune and it apparently spread like wildfire. Lord Fahar, not one to take a taunt lightly, challenged the bard Saran’th to a duel and the bard fled the city and was now in hiding – I must say a much cleverer man than I.
We had hardly entered the Broken Oak before I proclaimed a round of drinks for those of us wishing to partake. Leith asked, not in an uncritical tone, “who would build a tavern around a tree, or plant a tree in the middle of a tavern?” and, of course, Oakenstaff himself, the proprietor of the tavern, announced it was he. Leith then proceeded to bombard the stern dwarf with questions – albeit it, it was incredibly interesting to learn that the oak had been grown from an acorn from his father’s tree three-and-ninety years ago! – yet it was getting rather obvious that the dwarf was tiring of the elf’s inquisitive nature. Adrik saved his fellow kinsman by pulling the educationally-eager Leith from the tavern-keep and offering his own scholarly expertise on dwarven history.
While Brixton looked comfortably close with the barmaid, I asked Leith if he was able to find any information on what I requested he investigate, regarding what is north of Vanderhold. I know it is sea and nothing. I know we do not talk of that beachhead, but I shall not blind myself to reality for the sake of psychological ease; for I cannot feasibly rend from my mind these thoughts that steal from me my sleep.
I was disappointed, though I don’t know that I excepted. If Vanderhold is reluctant to even discuss that block of ice and fossil within its own borders, then no elven archive will have any tales or legends or studies on such a thing. And in a moment of weakness – not an unusual occurrence for me – I asked Oakenstaff for his strongest drink. The dwarf pulled from his shelf a blueish-hued drink that roiled within itself like a glass containing fire, and I found myself drawn back to that day they brought our men back from the Crucible. Adrik had already spent his gold on a glass, whislt I was somewhat hesitant to allow that beverage entrance into my body, I felt compelled not to let Adrik drink alone. I downed the glass, Adrik reached for his helmet, I know not why, and I stumbled over to Gudael, saying “You know, Gudael…”
That is the last thing I can remember of that afternoon – my god it wasn’t even a night, it was an afternoon – before I awoke back in our quarters. Groggy, my head swimming, the bitter, acidic taste of my stomach’s contents coating my mouth, and unable to recollect what exactly happened; such as how I got back – which I can only imagine is why Brixton insisted upon bringing Francis the Mule. Uncle Gadolf did always say; “If you wake up with no memory of the night before, have the taste of bile in your throat, and have a stranger in your bed, then you had a good time. If not, you might as well have stayed at home!” I can say, I achieved at least one of those things in full, for certain. Maybe I should have stayed at home – but not for this reason.
Gudael and Leith granted us a swift recovery with the power of their magic, and I thanked both Leith and Gudael profusely for their aid and apologised for my selfishness at behaving so piggishly not too long ago.
Brixton, who had been missing from the room during our awakening, entered covered in blood. He revealed that Rolen was dead. Apparently, once Adrik and myself had blacked out from the Dragon’s Breath – not before painting the Broken Oak with our lunches, which, thankfully, Oakenstaff seemed to find amusing – Rolen had seemed eager to come with us back to the Envoy for more drinks. Brixton had been unable to deter him and so, at the gate, Rem had turned the bard away before commanding the rogue to eliminate him.
I remember uncle Gadolf also saying “If someone dies, then you had a very good time!” But I cannot shake this soul-consuming ache of guilt. I had quite enjoyed Rolen. He was a cheerful, talkative, mischievous man. And yet, due to my drinking, he is now dead.
We had to report to Mister Rem to explain ourselves – for, in staying out and getting soused, we had indeed broken a few rules. Brixton had excused us earlier by saying that something had happened to my wife; so as we went in Adrik led that you had taken a fall down some stairs. Rem wasn’t convinced and I felt some truth needed to go into our white lie, thus I told him about Pyotr and the fire. For, while the reason for going out drinking wasn’t necessarily that, it was easy enough to tell the tale and allow the obvious connection to be made in Zandor’s mind. I did, however, apologise profusely for having broken the rules and offered Hasildril’s bottle of wine as a gift. Rem was very disappointed with us, for we had just done great work earlier that day and he was recommending us for a reward to his superiors, and now we had just gone and squandered his faith in us. Yet, he seemed forgiving and rejected the drink.
Thus, we were dismissed. And on our way out, both Adrik and I found out why, right after the shot, he had gone for his helmet. He will need to wash it a good deal before donning it again.
I must say, I am very conflicted. I did not want to take that drinkback after having offered it to Rem. The further drink is away from me the better, yet, with how I feel in my guilt and despair about Rolen, it is my only comfort. My drink, my gluttony, my selfishness had led to the life of man being taken, a man who had done no wrong. And yet, knowing that if I were to quit the drink then I would be free of one of my devils. But that common saying, the devil has all the best tunes; he also has all the best sins, and debauchery is one sin I cannot just shake from my untoned jelly.
Before writing this, I did sit on my bed for some time, just holding that tall, azure glass bottle of fermentation. Despite my actions, despite my sickness from our crawl, despite my guilt from the loss of an innocent man – I could not let go nor drop it from my clutching paw. If I dwelt too long on a thought, I would catch myself instinctively going for the cork. Yet I cannot drop this bottle. The power I had in me to give it to Rem seems to have left me, as my body has realised I have the power to relieve myself of such a burden and so must prevent me from doing so again.
Is it my body or myself? Am I too afraid to go without for even one night? To go without the pleasant warmth that spreads through my body? The numbing of biting doubt? To quell the fears only quell-able by drink? A better man would stop. But I have since learned in my fifty-years of life that I am not a better man. That I am a most ridiculous man, if I am beyond anything being but a blob of blood and bone.
Do not dwell too harshly on the thoughts of a drunk and tired old man, Maria. Old only in spirit, not in body, for you outnumber my life by some half-a-decade and are still young in body, mind, and soul. Whilst I miss your comforting, confidence-giving words, I am glad you are not here to see me drunk; covered in sweat and sick, sitting solitary on my cot like a shunned child.
Yours beyond the miles that separate us,
Baron Edryn Styewell Krillinovich Montkoff