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 4 (Midday)
 
Dearest Anna,

We've broken for lunch today and so far we haven't come across anything terribly exciting, which is always a good thing. After leaving the mill Yanni summoned mounts that could only be described as ghostly steeds. They were quick on the hoof and could cross terrain impassable by normal horses. We headed further up the river into the mountains to the lake Yanni had seen from above a few days earlier. The lake was quite beautiful and serene, it reminded me of Lake Undar when we used to take trips into the mountains, calm and quiet.

Yanni floated into the sky to take another long-range view from above while Luthian spoke with the natural world through his God. For a leaf eating do good he's been quick on the draw and his attunement to the natural world has proven invaluable. I like Luthien, he just often thinks too hard of saving the people on this island who do not exist, and I fear that one day he will bring us into a situation in which we have no right to be involved. After about twenty minutes or so Yanni returned and told us that he could see the next lake, but if we wanted to take the easy path along the river instead of taking mountain passes it may take us an extra day.

Luthien's abilities also told him that we're still the only people within range; it also told us that there's another larger structure up at the next river branch. Luthien also detected something between the structure and us just a little off our river path, something he described as "unnaturally powerful." We've agreed to take a small detour (mainly because our horses are so quick) and examine this creature. I'm hoping it's not something we can't handle. I'll write more later.

Lovingly,

Torvald
 
 
 
 
  On the Island - Day 3 (Afternoon)
 
My Dearest Anna,

We've rested up nicely from the encounter with the living black oozes. After an inventory both Sylgen and I discovered that we did have some minimal equipment left. Luckily for me my lucky ring survived as well and lets me move on a little easier. We returned to the barn and farmhouse and found it completely abandoned. It was at this time it was brought up that we needed to nominate a "group leader."

I'll tell you Anna, it is times like these that you identify your true allies, or if you're fairly certain of their alliances, who has the sense to recognize leadership. Yanni was chosen on a three-to-two vote with Canavous sitting out (if he had been able to vote, I would have pulled it off). One of the things I've learned through my training is that everybody has a toolbox, and most of those tools are quite useful. While Yanni has some truly spectacular tools in his toolbox, leadership is not one of them. He's far too quick to react and doesn't always consider what's best for the group. Just as you would not ask a carpenter to set stone, we have a similar situation on our hands. When he fails though I will be there, and will gladly fill the opening when the situation arises.

After the vote and a quick discussion we decided to press on and leave the barn untouched; it just wasn't worth our time and effort. Having the most of the day left to us, we started up the river. On our trip up river we were attacked by what can be best described as tusked lions that appeared to be like walking bushes. They surrounded us before we could react, and three quickly mauled Yanni and Canavous. We all fought back quickly and efficiently and either killed our routed all of our enemies. It was perhaps the easiest encounter we've had on this accursed island.

Later in the afternoon we came across a fork in the river, and few new structures that included a mill. None were in nearly as good of a condition as the previous farmhouse, but after examining them closely we decided that they would make for a very strong defensible position for the evening. Tomorrow will be heading upriver some more to a large lake on Yanni's magical horses. More when we break at midday tomorrow.

Lovingly,

Torvald.
 
 
 
 
  On the Island - Day 2 (Evening)
 
Dearest Anna,

This letter will be short as I'm afraid I had to borrow this parchment and a quill from one of my fellow travelers.

Today was perhaps one of the most grueling days I've encountered so far. If this kind of pace continues, I'm afraid I may not make it off this island alive. We assaulted the barn we came across in an attempt to discover what was within. After setting ourselves in a classic flanking maneuver, I helped Sylgen throw open the barn doors. Much to our dismay, that was perhaps the biggest mistake we've made in awhile.

The doors opened a large foul corpse fell from within; it was easily as tall as two men. We then saw swarms of large mosquito like creatures, maggots the size of Halflings, and a pool of blackness which oozed our direction. Sylgen started taking swathes out of the enemies before us, but when he came to the ooze, he cleaved it cleanly in two; both halves operating independently. It didn't take long for Sylgen and I to become engulfed in the black masses. Fighting for our lives, they started dissolving at the flesh and armor. While not completely aware of the situation, I hear that Luthien and Yanni were fighting for their lives as well, the mosquitoes draining blood with their enormous proboscises. Yanni also had problems casting his spells, something about being countered or some such. I don't understand all the magic mumbo-jumbo, but if he said there's a problem, there is.

Canaveous and Nitley came to my rescue, helping me escape from the pool. We killed remaining oozes quickly and attempted to close the doors. At that time the realization that our equipment was gone, and our weapons and armor were damaged severely hit us. Unfortunately our strength was not enough to close the door and we faced another wave of mosquitoes. They nearly took down Luthien, Yanni, Canaveous, and Nitley, but we did defeat them. Closing the door we took a survey of the area in an attempt to find the one who supposedly countered Yanni's magic. Not finding anything we fled to higher ground to lick our wounds and plan for a counterattack.

Our campsite was actually quite good. It consisted of a smallish wooded area on a large hill overlooking the area. After setting up a defensible perimeter, Luthien helped tend to our wounds, and Sylgen and I took an inventory of what was left, which was not much. Later that day Sylgen did catch us dinner, a large horse-like creature which should feed us for at least a little while.

Follow-up: We have returned to search the house, making sure to keep a wide berth from the barn. There's been no signs of any people or other creatures, and we're certainly not opening the barn in an attempt to find more. Hopefully things will begin to lighten up, but for now I'm afraid the situation may be dire. Don't worry about me though, I can take care of myself, and with Canaveous' help, I should be fine.

Lovingly,

Torvald.
 
 
 
 
  On the Island - Day 2 (Midday)
 
Dearest Anna,

My letter will be quick as there is much to do. We set ground yesterday and set up a small camp in a wooded area with clear views to the hills surrounding us. With Canavous' help we were able to set up a watch schedule that requires more time on watch, but allows for three simultaneous people to be awake at any given time. Fortunately for me I can live without the sleep. Last night on watch a flying creature with large leathery wings flew by the camp. Though it startled those on watch, it did fly by without noticing us, but gave those who saw it a sense of what we will encounter.

Canavous and I have been chatting. He's eager to learn as much as possible. I sense that he could go a long way, and perhaps one day soon I'll chat with him about his future, I think he could be more than just a valuable ally in my adventures.

Well enough chitter-chatter, I need to break camp and head off. Luthien has been using his Elven magic to help us explore more efficiently. He noticed a cluster of buildings up the river that we're planning on exploring. I hope my stack of letters does not grow too thick before I can send them to you again.

Always 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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