Letter #15: A Narrow Escape
At the resolution of my last entry to you, we had just received stunning news of the amount we were to be awarded for our efforts in the heist job. With Zandor Rem in company, we were about to leave Lord Storgenthurm’s for Lord Hassildril’s in order to collect an array of magical items that had been put aside for us.
With us all once more agreeing that sailing inland to Lockhearte Lake would ne our best course of action, Lord Drazael requested that should Adrik and his companions – that is we – find anymore gold or items of interest – especially aboard that ship – he would gladly, for a fair trade, take them off our hands. I must note that this “fair trade” would likely be in his favour due to this job all starting primarily from his inquiry into the Barachial Envoy’s excavations. It was only roughly a week ago that I came into Vain Gate and met with Brixton and Drazael and was bushwhacked into these underhanded dealings.
Amongst the streets of the Druub some of us spied a tail shadowing our movements. Brixton recognised this as one of Mother’s urchins; one of the many children who she not only cared for but also employed to act as her eyes, ears, and sometimes mouth.
This little one was intrigued by our bluish friend Leith, and when he had confirmed the warlock’s identity as such, the spindly scamp giggled to himself. Brixton discerned from conversing shortly with the boy that Leith had become some sort of new interest to the court. Leith waved his hand in a familiar motion and was able to perceive into the boy’s thoughts. He seemed shaken by what he saw and once more spurred us to hasten our pace that we may leave this city of vanity behind us; if not forever, then at least for some extensive period.
It was not long before we reached Karkanos – although we were cautious and wary. The district was likely crawling with agents of the Envoy or the Court – both intrigued into where our band of misfits had scuttled off to. At the gates Brixton was stopped, evidently, he was wanted in regards to some sort of crime – likely the one from a few days ago that saw him steal away one of the drow to stay with the Daughters of Twilight and why those two guards had been loitering around Francis the mule during our drunken night out – however it was easy enough to bribe our way through into Dundar and to the Nag’s Head.
Outside, in place of where the knife twirling elf Laertes oft stood beside the door, instead was a hooded halfling; and as we approached, he – near without looking – opened the door and hailed his lordship Hassildril that we had arrived. It was a swift welcome before drinks were poured into cups that had been thrust into our empty hands. The table was a myriad of items belonging to all schools of magic and appealed to many separate areas of utility.
Adrik was gifted numerous potions – three of speed, one of invulnerability, and three of enlarging – and was given a choice of two Ioun stones, of which he chose the stone of regeneration. Leith had been granted another potion of clairvoyance as well as one of mind reading, a folding boat, disappearance dust, a wand of secrets, a spectacular set of studded leather armour, and a staff of power – I feel sorry for whoever is on the receiving end of that. Given to Gudael was a bag of holding – as out most organised of the group – a pearl of power, a sentinel shield, a disruption mace, as well as a box of special pigments. Milford was rewarded with potions of spider climbing and invisibility, sending stones, a ring of evasion, a rope of climbing, both the ingredients for poisons as well as a collection of poisons themselves, and a hat of disguise. Bestowed upon me was sovereign glue – as I was allegedly the most cautious of our band - three spells scrolls of various effects, healing potions, a disk like gem – an eye of minute seeing – and a large tome of sorts, of which I discerned was some sort of arcane grimoire.
It was a short toast and a down the hatch with our drinks – of which the combination of elven wine and dragon’s breath sat poorly in Adrik’s stomach – before we were once again off to the Druub. On our exit of the Nag’s Head, a sudden burst of thunder and an instantaneous roll of obsidian clouds over swept the city. A flood of rain descended from the heavens and the violent meteorological display gave me some pause until I saw that Leith appeared calmed by the sight – evidently, this was some divine intervention on behalf of Tozan. It was in the Druub that, whilst Rem ensured the captivity of one of the great galleys of treasure on the water, we would wait in the Red Ravens – a tavern known for its clandestine patrons seeking secrets and oft hard to find information.
After some failed interaction of attempting to hide our intention with the barkeep, being forth coming yielded more immediately beneficial. A large boat from the South had arrived early last night, very subtly. It didn’t stay long but looked built for long voyages, well-made, and dropped off a small group of proper-looking figures, one of whom seemed very important; whose face was wrapped in thick cloth. It was obvious to all present that Vorbis Daal Rennaz had indeed arrived in Vain Gate and was likely, at this point in time, learning of our deception and deceit and putting into action an investigation.
Brixton, with one of his sending stones, was able to communicate with Rem, who gave us the all clear; and as we made our exeunt of the Red Ravens, the thunder stopped in one crescendo. Broken like cracks in a porcelain plate, the clouds were pierced by a shimmering, radiant light that peppered the city of Vain Gate in an uplifting glow. The rays of sun caught a nearby crone, brightening her sallow countenance, and a sense of beauty was evident in the wrinkles of her skin. This was our sign.
We rushed to the docks, making sure that upon our embarkment of the trireme that we carried an air of purpose and position, as if we were meant to be there. However, one knew we weren’t. Across the far side of the river, a hooded figure backed by two mages and an eagle circling like a shark, stood watching us. I gripped Adrik’s arm and alerted to my companions that Rennaz was here. It was a relief Rem corrected that it was in fact not Rennaz, but the presence of one of his inquisitors still made us hasten our departure.
With a quick tightening of the sails, a swift gust of wind, and Adrik at the oars helping the sailors as they rowed, we made a steady and undisturbed escape from Vain Gate. Brixton instructed me to send a letter via a magical paper bird I was also gifted to by Hassildril to Queen Clareska, in the hopes of exonerating ourselves for the stolen shipload of treasure.
Three weeks upon that vessel as we flowed down river to Lockhearte Lake. I spent my time catching up with these letters of mine, though it doesn’t take me long; the mind and heart flow as one when partnered quill-poised hand.
We grounded upon a sandbar one evening, but with the might of all the crew and Adrik growing to a large size – that ability which he oft utilizes to amazing affect – it wasn’t long before we were back within our warm bunks and hammocks.
After three weeks of sailing and rowing – though I did none of either; for my rotund form and ignorant hands would have been more hindrance than help, as always – we broke to the open waters of Lockhearte Lake, and I immediately went below deck; for, since childhood, I have had an all-consuming fear of vast waters – both in dept and in width – the reason of which you certainly know why. Below deck, I calculated the hours and gold I need spend to expand my spellbook to include the scrolls and pages taken from other mages.
It was not long before I noticed some small commotion on deck and peered to see that a thick preternatural fog had enveloped the ship; but fears of ambush or attack were allayed as Leith described the protective magic of the mystical island we were soon to reach – allowed to enter due to a stone on his personal that alerted his proximity to someone of great power within the Servants of the Fox.
And soon, emerging from the mist like a spectre that wades through the gloom, Sidha’lach – the Isle of Shadows – came into view. Black waves of surf massaged the white-sanded beach; trees lined the shorefront, acting as the isle’s natural and eternal sentinels; and slashed through the earth of the island, leading to broken ends that crumbled into the sea, a giant wall of age untold stood firm against the horizon. While its presence seemed foreboding, there was no sense of malignancy in its looming presence. An empty yet constant gaze.
‘But, Edryn’ you say, ‘it is known Lockhearte Lake has no centre point of mass of any kind. Are you sure this was Lockhearte Lake?’ To the West sat the Etz, that tree of life, and Lockhearte Keep; to the East, in the distance, nestled betwixt the border of those eastern ranges and atop that river that flows East, sat Hemethtirith; the seat of King Ivran Erothani, and those grand elven lords before him; though all of these were now hidden through the dense haar that engulfed the island and the ship.
This island, as we later learned, was of mystical and magical properties, enabling it to hide extra-dimensionally from prying eyes that would see those who inhabited it scattered; either throughout Sidarhael or as ashes in the wind. Disembarking, we were greeted by a half-orc named Thorn, told of a feast prepared for our arrival – the stone in Leith’s possession seemed to have stronger magic than anticipated – and that one ‘Maith’ was soon to be arriving. I though Maith must be a common name among elves, or else this singular one is named after that famous mage from the Old Kingdom. This Maith was evidently too the mentor of Leith, and the young elf was anxious to be reunited with him. I was only half correct in these assumptions.
We were shown to a tent where we would be met by high-standing members of these Servants of the Fox. Yet, I was still shaken; unsettled by our short passage over the cold depths of Lockhearte Lake. Leith approached me and tried to quash my agitation by assuring me that we were safe and amongst friends. But it was not those on the island that disquieted me, but the wide-
I shall not go into detail of these sentiments that I feel in regards to wide or deep waters, for to write as I do I place the image and environment in the forefront of mind and so feel and experience as though I were there once more; reliving those same feelings I do not wish to trigger another bout of these attacks.
In short, I retired to a bench and began at first to study from my arcane grimoire and then, when I felt that the feelings were not subsiding, I declined horizontally against the backless pew and steadily respired, attempting to calm myself – one of Herr Tunnefrik’s many medicine-less remedies that push ‘mind over matter’.
A handsome elf strolled into the tent, declaring himself to be one Bran – though he did not offer more. He wore wealthy regalia befitting one of high-birth yet their dour colouring made him stand out as a darker soul. It was this Bran who disclosed to us the realities of Sidha’lach. Its mystical properties and purpose; to hide the would-be king, Prince Galandahl Braegan Erothani from his uncle, the current king, Ivran Uldraeyn Erothani, and his merciless strike-force, the Black Guard. For the Servants of the Fox and their allies believe Ivran to be a usurper, a pretender king and a stain on the Erothani line; a poor successor to his brother, King Durian Tarnasis Erothani.
Then, upon Bran’s departure, we were met by the presence of a stoic elf, clad in plate; radiant hair billowing from his head, flowing down his pointed ears, and there seemed to be no uncertainty on the identity of this elf; for this elf was he whom these Servants of the Fox had dedicated themselves to, body and soul; Galandahl Braegan Erothani, Prince of Hemethtirth.
Whether it was the shock of being in the presence of not only an Erothani but also one whose very existence upon this island directly contrasts with the rule of his uncle, Ivran; or whether it was due to the effects of my attack still thrumming through my blood, I missed the specifics of the conversation he had with Leith – to my own detriment.
See, Leith had been drilled by Prince Braegan as to not only his usefulness – as often happens to those in power when faced with the unsure, but never unskilled, Leitheoir Mystralath – but also his dedication to him, his king and master. Brixton took exception to the unkind and disrespectful way in which Prince Braegan reproached Leith and thus launched his own verbal assault against the prince.
It was strange. While I certainly see the points of the prince and Leith – who was happy to be put through the preverbal ringer in order to prove his worth – Brixton did not want to see Leith so debased, not when the young elf had come so far and risked so much in bringing this bountiful gold to Sidha’lach. The prince, as an Erothani, believed he was entitled to the respect as lord of the island as well as future king. I certainly agreed with Brixton and Adrik, that respect, no matter who it is for or from, must be gained; and as Brixton pointed out, if this Braegan is to be king and an advocate for his people he needs their respect and he shall find none in demanding or acting as if he is owed such; for there are many who will call him usurper, and if he acts like King Ivran in that regard, then his claim will be seen as nothing more than a petty familial squabble and not the true fight it is; the fight for the soul of Sidarhael Tu’Larethian
Regardless, Braegan – trying to restrain himself from doing anything harsher than exiling the half-elf from his island – stormed off out of the tent. Soon Brixton followed and after a while Adrik went out to find good sir Brixton.
I was still trying to handle the after effects – or potentially a lessened continuation – of my anxieties when a strange figure entered the tent. He seemed to glide and have an air of effortless magick about him. His face was wrapped in bandages; not like that of Rennaz but he had his eyes covered by the bindings. He moved with no uncertain step, as if he was aware of all about him, yet he focused on nought, seemingly letting his magic guide him.
This was Imral Maith Ellasadril. The Maith Ellasadril. I assume you are knowledgeable in texts regarding the Old Kingdom, but in the rare case you are not, let me divulge the importance of this. Maith was a famous wizard from the Old Kingdom. He not only witnessed a good deal of the heigh of the Second Age’s Golden Age, but also wrote on it extensively, as well as other areas of interest in the history of Sidarhael. Thought dead, he stood before me, over three-thousand years old, thrice the expectancy for any elf.
his ancient figure walking amongst our group and yet the aching fear of those vast and descending depths that surrounded us plagued me; for even in my attempts to relax I had felt in my bones the slithering of something many tentacled down there.
Maith noticed this and, having cast a spell to see my surface thoughts – these elves and their invasive spells!; cannot we mortals communicate anymore? – he saw my concerns, to put it lightly. I know not whether he was trying to allay them, for his method was close to madness, in that he revealed an aboleth had taken to slumbering in the depths of Lockheart Lake. And it was that, that I excused myself. Adrik and I delved inland in order for me to clear my mind.
We came across a ditch some good ways into the densely wooded area. Down to its base, with that Ostorian wall solidly glaring over the island I felt my pulse slow and my muscles soften. I lay with my back to the ground and breathed the aromatic fragrance of nature. Close by, Adrik noted that one edifice of ancient masonry was a standing stone, some Ostorian relic left behind from the age of giants. He discerned that this was once part of a grand, lunar calendar; now obsolete due to the shattered moon, which the calendar would have depended on for astrological accuracy.
Adrik offered to help alleviate my mind of woes, but I did not want to burden him with the concerns of the likes of me. He proposed that when I was ready, he would be happy to trade story for story; and I can tell you know, I am likely to take him up on that deal. It wasn’t long before the others joined and we sat and watched as the clouds passed by us – the sky unaffected by the metaphysical fog that surrounded the isle. It was good to just rest after such a harrowing day. Not just for myself but for the others as well.
Brixton insulting the prince; Gudael now amongst traitors whilst her father and brother work in the very institution the Servants hope to dismantle and overthrow; Leith having brought strangers to a secret island and with him a great amount of gold that is not entirely ours to give to this cause, despite their probable need for such spectacular funds.
It was maybe only Adrik who seemed not so immediately begrieved by the day’s events, yet there is always something to that man. A mist – not unlike the mist of this isle – follows him around. Just as the fog of Sidha’lach hides the island yet exposes its existence, so does Adrik’s own spiritual fog do the same. It is plain to see something hurts the man – and it pains me with all my heart to see his soul ache as it does – but he is mired in evasion and malls that hide the root of his woes. Perhaps I might take his trade sooner than expected, just to get to the bottom of what discontents his heart and mind so. Though I do understand his reluctance, as I myself am loathe to expose my own grim sorrows – though they likely pale in comparison to that of Fogdars. Even his own name denotes his mysterious nature.
Heavy is the burden of he who bears the weight of the world, but even heavier is the burden of he who bears a world’s worth of weight.
Prayers on me are ill-spent. Instead spend them on those of my party who are more deserving. Their souls need little more purity about them but it is better than wasting it on a soul who shall never benefit from them.
Baron Edryn Styewell Krillinovich Montkoff