Letters to Anna:
An Adventurer's Account by Torvald
:: Dearest Anna ::

A figure steps from the sunlight into the darkened interior of the Lonely Duck Tavern. The bartender, Gerolf, looks up casually to acknowledge his new patron and goes back to cleaning his bar with a filthy towel. Too many drinks and not enough exercise have made him into a quite overweight, and his lack of hygiene is obvious. He thinks about the number of times he's dealt with this same situation: a stranger enters the bar, orders a mug of ale, and doesn't even tip a slug.

"Pah, adventurers," he mutters under his breath, "barely worth the air they breathe.

The stranger scans the main room with a quick but thorough glance, noticing that even though it is ten in the morning this bar has fewer patrons than most. He moves slowly and cautiously, his plate armor glistens slightly through its dirt and grime. After sauntering up to the bar, he sits down on the least wobbly stool and sloughs off his overweight pack and undoes his weapon, a large and well-used bastard sword. With a low grunt he calls to the bartender.

"What kind of swill ye drinkin' stranger?" Gerolf asks in his gravelly tone.

"Nothing today my good man," answers the stranger, who quickly follows his statement with another cautious glance around the room. "But if you can do something with this, I might see fit to buy a few drinks for your trouble." He places small bag on the counter; it jingles slightly.

Raising an eyebrow Gerolf takes the bag and looks inside. 'More than slug today,' he thinks to himself, responding quickly to the stranger, "and what kind of drinks ye expectin' wi' this me good man?"

"Just a favor, and I need it done quietly." He puts his hands in his rucksack and pulls out a stack of well-worn parchment pages, each folded carefully and sealed with a blob of red wax, the stack has been tied together with a bit of string. "I need you to deliver these, the recipient is named Anna, here's where you can find her." The stranger hands the bartender another scrap of parchment with something scribbled on it. "If you do well, I see fit to stop in with another back of coin in the future."

Gerolf leans over and looks at the seal; it's an image of a wolf's head he hasn't seen before. He thinks carefully about the offer, wondering why the stranger can't send the letters himself. 'Who cares Gerolf, the stranger's offering gold, you haven't seen gold in weeks,' he thinks, 'just take the gold and deliver it, what harm can come?' He nods slowly and speaks, "I think yer offer's fair 'nuff, and the least I can do is get ye a mug of ale to seal the deal. What can I call ye next time yer in?"

"Torvald," responds the stranger, "and I'd be most obliged if you didn't share our little deal with anybody." He nods slowly and grabs the mug of ale Gerolf brings, "yes indeed, you don't want to tell anybody." With a final grin, Torvald takes a swig of the ale, sets the mug back on the bar, and lifts his equipment back onto his shoulder. "I'll bee seeing you bartender, I'm sure you've got some deliveries to make."

With a final grunt under the weight of his equipment, Torvald wanders out the bar back into the daylight. "It's a new town Torvald, you'll find what you're looking for," he mutters under his breath. With a final sigh, he moves down the dusty street, deeper into the town of Zhind, hoping to find what he's been looking for.

 
  On the Island - Day 1 (Afternoon)
 
My dearest Anna,

It has been nearly two weeks since my last letter, but I fear you will not read this for many months. The sea crossing was difficult at best, and easily matches some of the worst sea journeys I've ever encountered. The first week went by easily enough, and I did my best to help out even though I was outside my area of expertise.

Luthien warned us though of a pending storm, a vision from his God. The storm hit hard, tearing at the ship with gale force winds and terrible fury. The sea got the best of me, and I spent a good amount of the storm leaning over a barrel. Yanni weathered the storm strapped to a mast, and told us of dangers such as waterspouts and whirlpools.

After a day or so the storm broke and the sun again shown through the clouds. We sailed on to the island, and struck up a bargain with the captain. He agreed to take us around nearly half the island, and agreed to set us ashore when we requested. When the island appeared on the horizons it was beautiful, untouched and virgin; a new land waiting for discovery. The cost started as forest, and quickly gave ground to plains. We traveled further and watched the beaches turn to rocks, waves breaking against mighty cliffs where the terrain turned to mountains rising out of the water. Eventually the cliffs settled, and we were met with lightly wooded hills. It was here we set ground and made it ashore.

We're setting camp now, I'll write when I have the time again.

Lovingly,
Torvald
 
 
 
 
  Herbert Harbor - Day 6 (Evening)
 
Dearest Anna,

My stay here in Herbert Harbor has been fruitful. I've been assisting the town guard assessing the training techniques of their militia. In the process I met a younger man named Canavous (pronounced Kuh-nay-vus) who displayed talents above and beyond the typical food solider. We talked for a bit and I learned that he was a member of the original expeditionary force who located the area for settlement. He had been trained in forward observation and was now delegated to common guard duty. We talked for a bit, and although he knows very little about me, asked if I could use a hand in my upcoming journey. After discussing it with the rest of the group, they agreed that a scout would be of some significant use and agreed to let him come along for half a share.

I can see him going far Anna, for he does have a fighting style reminiscent of the Emerald Guard of old, using quick motions and a polearm to amazing success. Someday once he's earned my trust, and I his, I may tell him a thing or two, but for now, I'll train him to the best of my ability, and he does seem extremely interested in historical battlefield tactics. We'll be leaving tomorrow for sea, and I may not be able to find a courier for some time. May the gods of love bring you warmth on these cold winter evenings.

Lovingly,
Torvald.
 
 
 
 
  Herbert Harbor - Day 1 (Evening)
 
Dearest Anna,

I'm writing this over the warmth of the fire shed from an inn's hearth. It's been a long. Hard, and cold journey (nearly three weeks), and it's good to be in a straw bed again. We hit town two days ago and I was quickly able to find the bathhouse and stables, and Yanni secured us an inn room.

Before I go too far I should mention the good news, which is that, we successfully negotiated full shares for both Lutien and I yesterday. The vote was unanimous, and it's good to have some people to help with the eventual clean out of the island. Maybe there's still hope that something very good will come out of this. Of course you know me, I'll try my hardest, but I will eventually demand that Sylgen learn a thing or two before he gets us all killed.

Why don't I tell you a little about the town of Herbert Harbor. It's a small town founded by two of the former Blades of Strea-Tarl. They are using it as their foothold for their new nation, and it makes a good port companion location to Zhind. The town is full of hard workers, and everybody lends a hand for nearly everything. Unfortunately supplies are prohibitively expensive, and the cost of horses is phenomenal. Fortunately for us Alleystr's Island seems to be fairly small, so we're going to try the trip without horses or mules. It does mean that I lent Six to the town guard, and set up a deal for his return when I get back.

I've also been helping the town guard in their training exercises while Yanni deals with supply issues and we wait for our ship to leave port. There's one young man that I've been watching carefully during the training exercises and I think I'm going to approach him. He seems to show more promise than this town will ever offer him, and may be of use to us. I'll let you know more once I have a chance to sit down with him.

Hopefully all will pan out and I'll be a little closer once this is all over. See you.

Lovingly,

Torvald.
 
 
 
 
  The Pass - Day 10 (Morning)
 
My dearest Anna,

Yesterday was one of the hardest I've encountered in months of travel. We were ambushed in the middle of the night by a frost giant and his pets. It all started with a large ball of snow, ice, and rocks hitting our campsite, waking those of us not on watch. Yanni and Luthien were on watch, and immediately sprung into action; Yanni flying straight up, Luthien firing off a rapid volley of arrows. Another ball of snow soon followed, and I readied myself for the coming fight the best I could by grabbing my shield from the snow.

That's when things were going well; unfortunately it went bad very quickly. Sylgen in all his brilliance drank a potion and flew (yes, literally flew) straight up the hill in a charge. Forgive me while I try to think of a suitable term...the dumb-fucking-bastard (that seem suitable) missed his target and slammed into the side of the valley we were traveling through, and stabbed himself with his fullblade. His decision to leave us left Luthien, Nitley, and myself to fend off a pack of four wolves that charged our campsite. As I'm sure I've told you, fighting unarmored is always dangerous, and I was in that unfortunate position. While we slowly did our job against the wolves, Yanni was using his magics against the giant (and quite effectively I might add).

That's when our bad situation turned even worse. Sylgen, who barely survived his charge into the mountain and subsequent beating by the giant ran back into camp, giant in tow. I had just stunned a number of the wolves with my mental abilities, and Nitley, Luthien and I were trying out best to take out the remaining two wolves when he entered camp. One mighty blow from the giant sent Sylgen down, and I could see from my position that he wasn't going to survive long. Unfortunately the giant turned his attention to me, and although I tried my best, two axe slashes had me eating snow as well (down but not out Anna, no permanent injuries). From what I hear, Yanni took care of the two remaining wolves and the giant, and Luthien immediately healed both Sylgen and I. I'm not sure how Sylgen survived the fight, but whatever Gods he follows must have been watching over him that day.

According to Nitley and Yanni, the Giant's cave couldn't be found, and we left again for the remainder of our trip. Hopefully we'll be to town in a couple days.

Lovingly,

Torvald 
 
 
 
  The Pass - Day 7 (Evening)
 
My dearest Anna,

Several days of travel are behind us now, though it's beginning to snow heavily. The loss of Luthien's horse hasn't been as bad as I expected, and we've been making good speed regardless. Yesterday we figure nearly two feet of snow fell which has slowed our progress, but some careful use of the summoned mounts have kept the wear and tear on the only real horse left to a minimum. Another telling moment came when we approached a bridge en route to this costal town. Although we were entirely unsure of its sturdiness, Sylgen decided to charge head-first without thinking. One of these days that method of thinking is going to get him killed. Well more in a few days, perhaps when we hit town.

Lovingly,

Torvald 
 
 
 
  The Pass - Day 4 (Early Morning)
 
My dearest Anna,

Another close one Anna, those winged birds are beginning to eat us alive out here. This time one got Luthian's horse, and although we drove them off, I don't need them coming back again, although I would think their nest would know better than to come back (if any other than the four who have escaped are alive). From what I understand both Luthian and Yanni are pretty spent, and it may be up to Sylgen, Nitley, and I to drive off any future attacks tonight. Wish me luck.

I'll be starting another letter soon, I hope to see you.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  The Pass - Day 6 (Evening)
 
My dearest Anna,

I'm writing this letter over the light shed from a magical spell that provides us with suitable shelter on these cold nights. It's a bit unusual, translucent from the outside, but we can see out, which makes watches easier. Everybody has settled in again after an attack by this big gray brute. It was a horrific creature with a maw filled with sharp teeth, and several piercing eyes. It attacked under the cover of these winged creatures with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle. Although tremendously dangerous, the fight told me quite a bit about the capabilities of my companions. Yanni certainly can back up his incessant chatter with some extremely useful (and deadly) spells. There was one instance where he was caught in the maw of the gray best, but he extricated himself in a small puff of smoke. Luthien is perhaps one of the most skilled bowmen I've met (rivaling even Cousin Erik), and his clerical abilities were our lifeblood during this difficult fight. Nitley is also quite useful in a fight, and has an interesting fighting style (a combination of guile mixed with a bit of treachery); however, it is quite obvious he lacks any real tactical training and often makes critical tactical mistakes. Sylgen's fighting sytle can best be described as haphazard, ye deadly. I'm certain I would not want to be on the receiving end of his fullblade, yet he did fall in battle once due to his rather aggressive fighting stance (which was particularly unusual considering he was not wearing armor). Please don't worry about me, you know I can take care of myself and I did survive with barely a nick, though there were a few bruises. Nothing a bit of rest can't cure.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  The Pass - Day 3 (Evening)
 
Dearest Anna,

We left town a few days ago now. I'm expecting that we will hit the pass through the mountains sometime tomorrow. It has been a quiet journey, but the weather is beginning to blow from the north, and it has become considerably colder. I have learned a thing or two about my new companions; however, they don't seem to be all that extraordinary, just eccentric. Luthian and I have traveled by horse (Six is doing well now that Luthian was able to help him recover some strength), but the rest of our companions have chosen to use a magical method of transportation. They don't seem to understand that if Yanni falls, they don’t have any other method of travel besides boot leather. I trust my flesh-and-blood horse thank you, and hope that the rest of my companions do not learn that lesson the hard way.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  The City of Zhind - Day 5 (Evening)
 
My Dearest Anna,

I am beginning to hate this town and all things associated with it. Today some hooligan followed me around during my morning errands (I did find a fascinating book about the fall of a nation told by the perspective of a guardsman). When I confronted the boy, he told me this cock-and-bull story about the local bookstore being "haunted." Unfortunately, his true intent was to divert attention away from a young orc that climbed through the stable window and was trying to poison my mount! Of course I don’t need to lose another horse, so I did respond appropriately, but I didn’t kill the wretch before he ran off. He did drop his dagger, which I was able to present to the local coot they call a veterinarian. He determined that the horse was indeed poisoned, but would recover in a week or so.

I went and found Luthian after the incident, and he told me that he could help aid the horse tomorrow. I also quickly packed up shop and moved over to his inn, you know I have a hard time dealing with this degree incompetence. I asked that the stable boy receive his earned beating for his part, but I think the innkeeper beats his boy out of malice, not because he’s earned it.

Luthian and I chatted the rest of the evening and had an interesting conversation about our new companions. We were able to compare notes, and it is quite obvious to me that he has a completely different viewpoint. I’m not sure what to think of him, he’s obviously skilled at what he does, and I know of the elf affinity to the bow, so I’m not concerned with his combat prowess. Problem is that he appears to be too trustworthy; he puts far too much trust in people who have not yet earned it, and I fear his sight is blinded by his own honesty. Also, he appears to have completely different motives, responding "greed does not motivate me," when asked why he so quickly agreed to half a share. A curiosity he is.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  The City of Zhind - Day 4 (Evening)
 
My Dearest Anna,

I had my meeting with the locals I was telling you about earlier. It's true; they are looking to head out to that island. I'm a bit leery about their organizational skills and more than a bit concerned about their abilities. They seem to be on the level, but they're so undisciplined, it's nearly impossible to tell if they know what they're talking about.

There's also the unfortunate problem of their greed. When it came to the offer, they had the gall to offer one-half a share for my services, with eligibility for a full share after two months of "proving my worth." Such a contract is utterly preposterous. Not only does the trip involve a dangerous trek to an island nobody at the table had ever been to before, but the same people who would "decide my eligibility" are the same people who would have to take a smaller share of the treasure if they did give me a full share. What makes it worse is that the group apparently had a major falling out, and lost four members to various issues (none of which were shared). They said that it was due to personal reasons and previous commitments, but something makes me doubt that.

While I told them that I would ride to the coast with them (which is a two week journey), I also told them that at that time it was either a full share, or I would take my leave. I'm not going to risk being trapped on an unfamiliar and dangerous island with no way home. Considering they're nothing more than a haphazard collection of individuals with various skills, I'm hopeful that they'll see why they need to offer anybody who goes along a full share.

As for the people I'm dealing with, let me tell you a thing or two about them.

There's Sylgen. He's a brute of a man who drinks every mug of ale like it's his last. For somebody who obviously has had some combat training, I've never met a more undisciplined blade. Unlike the barbarian tribes who seem to focus their chaotic nature into becoming a more effective fighter, I feel as if Sylgen is either too lazy or just can't learn how to fight like a true soldier. It's not that I don't doubt he can back it up with brute strength, but strength isn't everything in battle. There's also the small problem of his loose tongue, but that's not to his advantage, and does present opportunities in itself.

The next member is Nitly, an Elf lad who obviously has a thing or two to hide. He's nimble and speaks softly, which leads me to believe his background isn't based in combat, but instead larceny. He may be able to hold his own in a fight, but I wouldn't trust my open coin purse around him. There's also something else about him I can't quite place; it's as if he understands that everybody has something to hide.

The other new addition is Luthian, another Elf, silver haired and from the East. He's on some kind of religious pilgramage, but I don't know enough about the God he worships to tell you anything more about him. On the other hand, a cleric's a cleric, and I've never been one to shun a cleric on the battlefield. It's always so darned hard to tell with Elves, but he seems a bit young and naive, but I don't doubt he's well trained.

Finally there's Yanni, who apparently functions as the group's "leader." He's obviously a practitioner of the magical arts. Please don't snicker, I know your feeling towards dealing with mages, but sometimes you have little choices. I've also seen one in battle, and I know that they do serve their uses. Yanni's leadership skills are sub-par at best, and he seems a bit self-absorbed, but apparently everybody thinks he's in charge, which I guess makes him the de-facto leader.

All in all though, we'll see if this is worth my time. We leave the morning after tomorrow, enough time to pick up any needed supplies.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  The City of Zhind - Day 3 (Evening)
 
My Dearest Anna,

My stop-off in Zhind has been quite the experience. You see this city is quite disreputable, and the preponderance of brutish orcs and smelly hobgoblins makes my stay even more difficult. Fortunately I may be able to move on soon. I've been able to contact a rather shifty bard who knows "a thing or two." With the creation of the new nations, apparently a local "lord" has chosen to make a run for one of the unclaimed islands, and is recruiting anybody crazy enough to do the difficult work of clearing out the island. My contact tells me there's a group of freelance adventurer's who are looking to fill some recently vacated spots. I'm not sure of his motives, but he was "willing to forgo his normal fee," which always makes me a bit nervous. Once I meet up with these so-called "adventurers" I'll write some more.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  The City of Zhind - Day 1 (Morning)
 
Dearest Anna,

Today I entered the town of Zhind. Though I'm not entirely certain what I should expect, I've been warned by the other travelers I've met that Zhind is like no other city on Etara. Of course I will be cautious, you should know that of me. Once I'm settled and perhaps a little more comfortable with my surroundings I'll try to find a way to contact you more directly. Until that time, I can only hope that these letters make it to you safely. My love is with you, and I hope you pray to the gods that my luck will stay with me.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
::: Teachings ::

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

-Sun Tzu: The Art of War

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