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 (Evening)
 
My Dearest Anna,

After riding about an hour upriver we came to a spot where Luthien claimed heading due north would take us to the unnatural creature. We rode onward a bit further until we came to a grove of trees. Fearing the worst we sent Nitley ahead as a scout and if he found something, to pull the creatures to us in an ambush. He didn't return for a good twenty minutes, but eventually these unusual noises started coming from the grove. We cautiously approached the trees when we saw an unusual set of creatures. Humanoid in form they appeared to be green and leafy, but rather bulbous. They caught sight of us and started approaching. We started backing off when the first one lunged at Sylgen. An arrow flew from across the clearing (Nitley to the rescue), which immediately caused the creature it hit to explode in a puff of spores. They were hard to breathe through, and I sense that somebody with a little less fortitude may have had problems. Sylgen, Canaveous and I took the brunt of the cloud though and faired well enough. I dispatched the other with a single shield spike. We of course realized that these creatures could not be the one we were looking for and chose to press on.

The terrain eventually yielded to the rocky surface of mountains, and we believed at the time the rather copious moss coverage was due to our height in the mountains. Eventually (with Nitley scouting ahead on foot) came to a cave and he stopped to examine something in the ground. It appeared he was about to set a piton in the stone when the moss around us erupted in clouds of greenish gas, gas that immediately began eating away and Nitley's shoes and causing the horses to reel. In a flash Luthien, Canaveous., Sylgen and I started towards the grove of trees, a good half-mile ride by our estimates. Nitley started running on foot, but we could see him falling back quickly. Yanni tried to lend assistance but eventually had to charge away on his own. The entire ride to safety we started crunching over the skeletons of those who previously fell victim to this monstrosity.

We survived the run for about a minute before the horse disappeared in a puff of smoke. First Sylgen took a dive, followed by Luthien and then me, and Yanni. Canaveous rode his horse hard and stayed on its back longer than any of us. Luthien quickly drank a potion and began flying back in an effort to rescue Nitley. The rest of us were running for our lives as quickly as we could. I helped pick up the speed of Canaveous and Sylgen, while Yanni zipped past all of us and Luthien took his time flying back. We all survived the run Anna, but Canaveous' and Nitley's boots were damaged beyond hope. We did rescue a breastplate though in the chaos, which read something along the lines of "Centurion Guard." It was well worn and old; we guess a belonging of the previous island inhabitants.

We were forced to walk the rest of the way on foot, and started back toward the fork in the river and buildings we were originally attempting to explore. It was a long hike, but fortunately beyond a single natural creature, we were left alone. Unfortunately that creature appeared to be a giant blood-red skunk, and sprayed Sylgen a good one. He still stinks, and I wish it had been an improvement over his normally odoriferous self.

We made it to the fork, and we can see some pillared ruins across the river. Luthien spoke again with the natural world and informed us that there was what he could best describe as a city to our east. Tonight we rest, tomorrow we explore. Yanni's also broken the bad news to us that he cannot cast his more powerful spells, and has been unable to since he set foot on the island. Tonight we're going to see if it's anything any of us are carrying. This is not a good thing, and it does jeopardize our way home. I must take my leave though, it's been a long day, and I require a bit of downtime myself. As always, do not fret for my safety, it's going to be a long time before I come back, and I watch my back 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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