My sincerest apologies in regards to not only writing these experiences in my cypher – for once I cease these extra-legal missions will I halt in the use of my cypher – but also for the length of these for, truly, this much did happen in but one evening, although it feels like weeks.
My latest entry in this queer adventure ended with the unscrupulous alliance of Mister Drazael, Lord Hassildril, and Master Milmor Glass, accompanied by each of their bodyguards: Jagar, the scarred dwarf; Laertes, the incessantly knife flipping elf; and Imamanthe, a Daughter of Twilight – respectively. I myself had escorted Lord Hassildril to Milford Brixton’s secretive barge; Leith, the elven warlock, had taken Master Glass; and Mister Drazael had the pleasure of being guided expeditiously through the city by none-other than Brixton himself.
So, all met, the plotter and planners of this most devious and mysterious heist gathered in the hold of Mister Brixton’s barge whilst the rest of use, escorted and protectors, watched from the shore, as the barge drifted down the river – hauled by a loyal and dependable mule under the possession of Brixton – and we stood watch.
I was a tad on the unhelpful side, what with not being accustomed to walking through such dark shades of sky and air at so late – or early – an hour. For, as we walked from the Druub to Fjardahl – a small town built without the city, shady figures in robes were following us round and about. What did not help was bickering between the patron’s guards which Mister Leith tried to quash but without the sufficient confidence was left to Brixton and another one of the bickering guards to settle.
Another, larger, barge approached our and Brixton, sensing the preying and hooded eyes of the spies had dissipated, liked not this oncoming vessel and, turning the mule about, returned us to the Druub and safely behind the city’s walls.
We returned to the location we had initially set off from when the three parties emerged from the hold, announcing they had completed talks. Each body guard, now more than capable of directing their employers, left with their wards in tow.
We moved off to acquire some rest at the Daughters of Twilight – Leith had a room, Brixton no doubt could find lodgings anywhere, and I can sleep just about in any place or position, you know me, given enough drink, which, by this time, I had reached my current fill of nine drinks – when another one of Mother’s little cretins accosted us and pleaded us to come with them, for their matriarch had more knowledge to share.
Oh yes, the down! It was thence that we were sent forth to Drazael’s with information about the down, for a child belonging to Drazael – for these orphans seem to be the eyes, ears, mouths, and hands of these powerful people out in the streets of Vaingate – informed us that we were needed back at his estate.
There, under the watchful eye of the crime-lord’s guards, did Mister Drazael explain to us that our heist was to be assisted by a ‘inside-man’ as they so put it. This mole – if you pardon this usage of jargon – was on his way that very moment to meet our persons at Drazael’s estate to talk about assisting our entrance into the dig-site in a more pragmatic yet deceptive manner.
We waited an hour, during which time, Brixton – in an attempt to remove from my hand a drink which was about to be drained by my slowly approaching mouth – smacked from my hand the brandy Drazael had offered me not ten seconds ago, and cause its spillage to descend upon and stain a rug owned by Mister Drazael. This matt – which I mentioned in my first letter – was going to set Mister Brixton back three-hundred gold pieces, and I almost had half a mind to let that settle, as payback for such an uncouthly violent action against my person. But I reasoned that he did not mean for it to go to such a tremendous stakes or outcomes as to force from my hand and drink and let it spill, so I spent the next hour slowly, but patiently, removing the stains from Mister Drazael’s rug using a very useful cantrip. During this time, Drazael went off to bed.
Enter the most recent companion to our band of merry misfits: Adrik. He was on break, rode here on horse, and was welcomed into Drazael’s house and – politely enough – introduced himself to us.
Adrik was a dwarf of the Fogdar family and, while no doubt a dwarf, was on the slim side. Still with more meat than Leith, and while less than me, it was at the very least somewhat toned – at least one could imagine in certain lights. In fact, he looked semi-starved in a strange way, yet I did not once very question his capabilities as a fighter nor his strength. From over his shoulder hung a braid, the full locks of hair contained within the tight binding, and cropped beard that showed, in the past, care and great skills of grooming, but had evidently fallen into an unkempt and shaggy demeanour – not unlike mine but, I must admit, fuller. His personage rattled with the mail of chain he armoured himself in, certain areas of these links looked somewhat enchanted, and those that were, were arranged in overlapping characters and symbols that matched with the symbols and runes of those belonging to the species of giants.
Adrik nearly bested Brixton’s sharp wit with his quick words and cutting japes, yet while Brixton’s were more observative and, no again could be nuggets of wisdom and perspective, Adrik’s was more for the purely comical, though that is not saying he could be poignant in the least. For there were moments in times not yet described where he thought very swiftly on his feet, making great judgements, and displaying a great knowledge for the ancient giants’ culture. Adrik could be sometimes crude and mocking with his humour, yet one never felt a sense of unjust targeting or disrespect, for he said all his chaffing jokes with such a throw-away nonchalance that one could not but admire his every-lasting sense of humour, even in the face of hardship or danger.
Maria, if you are ever worried for my well-being, I pray you to look back at these descriptions of the men I have detailed to you of late. For these men are ones I trust, for they are brave and – at least in certain ways – noble men. While they have their quirks and flaws, I do not pretend that I or others are or should be perfect. Know that I am in good hands, Maria, and that so long as I journey with these men, that I shall return home safely.
This Adrik Fogdar, professionally, worked as an expert on all things giant at the dig site and he agreed – of course expecting some good portion of the total gross gained by this endeavour – guiding us onwards to the dig site, as new and eager workers to be supervised under his direction.
Much in what I will come to expect as ‘good, old, fashion Adrik humour’, Mister Fogdar rode his horse, trotting to the Barachial Envoy, whilst we walked upon our feet and he would stop, wait for us to reach the horse, before going off for some distance and waiting, to repeat the prank for the duration of our journey. One but cannot laugh at the absurdity of it and the amicableness with which he acted in.
We arrived at the Barachial Envoy. Whilst Adrik went off to see his foreman, Leith, Brixton, and I were sent to hand in our letters of recommendation – composed by Drazael himself – to the proper officials in order to be employed on the dig site. We were instructed to stand upon some sigils which we all masterfully manoeuvred above and around but never on. Adrik came down, apparently his foreman seemed interested in us as Adrik had mentioned our recruitment, and escorted us up to see meet a Mister Zandor Rem.
Zandor Rem was soft spoken, well-mannered, and seemed a contemplative soul. A man whose countenance consistently had an appearance of worry, like he carried a great weight. Rem, at least in my own humble opinion, work – in this instance – under a great deal of pressure, yet remained with a calm and cool head upon his shoulders; he handled organising the site like a dutiful king might organise a kingdom. I would not want myself, nor any others I care about, to be there when that man’s patience and generosity is sapped from its well, when that man’s broiling frustration and weariness manifests into a raging storm.
I made a note not to betray his trust in our capabilities for the nonce, for – in time – that would become an inevitable cost to our mission, yet one I hope to be far away from the Annex or Rem when we finally complete it in its entirety.
We were instructed that we were to go with Adrik to the main dig site to aid in the excavation. Should we prove ourselves valuable or reliable, then we would be sent to the second dig site – a tunnel just newly discovered that has yet to be fully explored.
So, we went about as we had been instructed to do so; going through a single underground tube that took us from the Barachial Annex, under the Palatial District (Ludivar), and directly to the dig site. We spent some time working, eventually uncovering a gold coin one could only handle with both appendages, and discovered that this was in fact a rare find even for what we were pulling from the ground – this was very evidently a giant’s mass grave site.
Working with us – or at least, working separately according to their own duties near us – was Gladhael, an elven mage who had clearly been instructed to ensure that we didn’t act in a way that could jeopardise our career within the excavation, for the Barachial mages were seemingly very eager to keep their operations under wraps. Gladhael was rather reserved – as all mages seem to be – and not one for expressing any form of emotion or sentiment, and seemingly uninterested in light talk. They made it very clear to inform no one else of the goings on within the dig site, and that doing so may result in complete termination – of employment or otherwise.
However, all was not well within this dig site. Helmed by the knowledgeable Adrik Fogdar, guarded by the mage Gladhael, watched over by Milford Brixton, and – poised to strike like two like-minded cobras – Leith Mystralath and myself sat in the back. During a partciuarly bumpy section within the subterranean pathway, I fell from the wagon – falling off the wagon in both the literal and metaphorical sense, it seems, I have an almost innate ability to do – when Gladhael’s face and torso erupted into fire. She dropped dead from the cart, her visage and soul scorched away.
The embers from the bolt still pulsated gently, dropping from the wand that had cast the fatal cantrip in the dark distance. Leith was struck too by a bolt of fire and, much like myself, dropped from the wagon – although, thankfully, not deceased. Brixton sent flurries of arrows towards our foes, Adrik axes, Leith their own spells against them, and myself attempting to put them under the influence of a sleep spell. By the end of the conflict, one of their lay dead and we had another three bound and unconscious.
Adrik, in a great show of his runic magic, had enlarged himself, and was thusly able to transport the dozing and restrained assailants into the back of the wagon. Another mage, who heard the kerfuffle, investigated to see what damage had been done. We informed them of Gladhael’s passing – but kept certain secrets to ourselves that I will disclose shortly – and the mage seemed, surprisingly, heartbroken.
The first unrevealed particular was that yours truly had searched the felled mage Gladhael’s person to find a spellbook – locked – yet, luckily, with a key in tow. I kept this to myself and will be sure to peruse the contest of her volume once I have completed this fourth and final entry for these instalments of letters.
The second was that Leith and Brixton had come about a secret door within the tunnel that we no doubt assumed these assaults had originated from, using this covert doorway to surprise unsuspecting excavators. I must say, had they attacked Gladhael, or someone of equal power, with some simple scholars or ‘wasted’ members, the attackers may have achieved their nefarious goals. Brixton and Leith went about discerning an access point to this, Adrik and I ensured that any oncoming mages – such as the one who mourned for their lost compatriot – did not notice them.
We returned to the Barachial Annex, meeting once more with Mister Zandor Rem, where we were congratulated with our work in not only discovering and identifying the gold coin from the site, but also handling ourselves against the intruders who were to be interrogated.
Adjourning to our chambers – Adrik was privileged enough to have a room to himself, whilst the rest of us slept in a bunking-room, although there was only one other fellow who was already fast asleep – we took a moment aside to discuss our next plan.
Brixton, ever the cunning and fast thinker, asked us – those with the penchant for the arcane – to check the room for traps. Leith missed the subtly with which Brixton inferred this and quite blatantly replied with a ‘who would be listening?’. Adrik and I, however, decided to check the room.
Adrik discovered a rat – for evidence throughout our time investigating the dig site and other bestial omens portended that the mages had animalistic familiars – hiding behind a bookcase and hurled it from the window.
I discovered a small, squat figurine tucked away from view, flanking a collection of books. It seemed to be of some type of religious significance, some illustration I read somewhere before indicated that this was some likeness of a deity of the Underdark. Although I could not discern which one or its significance, some runes about it suggested some type of perceptive or foresight-like magic about it. Sensing this could be some sort of scrying item, I feigned a yawn and dropped it from the window. Thenceforth, we discussed plans.
The rest of us would create some sort of distraction whilst Brixton, ever the dexterous and sly one, would investigate the secret passage and learn – as far as he could tell without galivanting off or putting himself in serious risk – where the passage leads. With this plan now made, we turned in for the night.
That is where this night has left us, at daybreak the next day and every member of this ragtag party yearning for the warm embrace of slumber. Already from the uninsulated walls I can hear the good Adrik snoring away within his well-sized room. However, I do not envy him. For I sleep amongst my fellow adventurers and share the poorly stuffed and cheap down as they do.
Well, Maria, I am sure you will hear more from me soon. I expect with the postmasters up in the Northern Skyreaches that these collection of letters – as I stated before, all sent together – will likely come with some following letters that I have written not too long hence.
But still, I repeat, do not let these writings be a monologue. I pray that you write back to me with some good news, or at the very least, an update on the consistency of the mundane and uneventful, for up there, in the cold wastelands of Vanderhold, new news is bad news and no news is good news.
Share my best wishes and regards amongst the staff: Herr Tunnefrik, Frauline Dolores, and the most dear Mrs. Miggens, our chef. Take grand care of General Purr, try not to over feed him whilst I’m gone. I may not be there to remind you in person but I can certainly plague your smothering nature and overt generosity through these ink-stained words.
May happiness find you in my absence, and may you dream of all things great and fantastical. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Your most humble servant and caring husband,
Baron Edryn Styewell Krillinovich Montkoff