Letter #2: Arrival in Vaingate and an Introduction to Milford Brixton

Updated: May 28

Dear Maria,

I left my last dispatch to you regarding my travels from Vanderhold, my narrow escape from death in Ashwood, and my harrowing trek from the north down to Vaingate. As I mentioned in the previous letter, I had resolved to pen you this letter when I had a good chance. Only now, almost a whole day after arriving, have I found the time to sit with pen and ink in order to write to you.

The moment I arrived in Vaingate I was hit by the pungent smell of the street urchins, unbathed and unwashed, as they scurried about the city. A cart pulled by a horse whose master lashed it into galloping as fast as its shape could make it go, bolted passed my humble self, almost covering me from head to toe in the muck and slime made slick and thick by torrential rains that had battered the town the previous night.

Though almost did not cut it. For, as if a cat, I jumped back from my spot and dodged the spay with near feline finesse. A feat, I must confess, I thought I did not have in me; for even with imminent danger hurtling towards me before my very eyes, I cannot seem to avoid getting struck by the object that views me with such violent ire as to take leaping hurdles towards my mortal self. I was then approached by a young woman who, with my grace and politeness not only directed me but also accompanied me to the closest lodgings and taphouse: The Broken Oak Tavern. From what this woman inferred by her meaning of “companionship” I believe she was looking to entertain – in no uncertain terms – lost souls who would gladly pay for such ‘enjoyment’. I respectfully declined her offer – you know what I’m like with such intimacies – but paid her for her good-humoured conversation and acceptance at such a rejection.

I entered this establishment and, Maria, beyond any reasonable doubt did this tavern outshine every alehouse, inn, or hostelry in the Northern Skyreaches by a league. For, growing in the centre of the common-room was a large oak standing on a small, raised patch in the ground with moss and flowers growing about its exposed roots. Above, rafters and roof seemed to peel back, making room for the canopy of leaves and branches that towered from the body of this mighty evergreen. This fine institution’s proprietor was a noble dwarf by the name of Oakstaff, but by the suns did he live up to that name. Although a squat man – as all dwarves share the trait of diminished stature – his presence was that of the great conifer that demanded such splendour and attention as to be the namesake of his tavern. His muscles wrapped around his muscles like thick vines and his legs moved as one might expect roots to; firm and sure footed, if somewhat delayed due to their bulk.