My dearest Calliope,
Forgive me for not writing sooner. It is not that I have not had time, but that at first I was so overwhelmed with the experiences of the jungles of Chuul and the horrible city known as Bloodeye, that I was unable to put them into words. Then as time passed, I did not know how to start. Should I do a summary (which is not fair to you), or tell you the whole sordid tale (which I assumed would be boring, although I know you would never say so)?
This is my middling attempt to make things right, for I know how you worry so about me.
Mormekar has been in my dreams less now, now that I have finally joined up with this adventuring party. I do not quite know the reason our God sent me to them, or rather, what roles all of these strangers will play in His plans, but I have faith that He leads me and guides me and I will not question His omens and edicts.
As I wrote in my last letter last month, which I hope found its way to you before you get this one: I hated Chuul. The city was abominable, smelly, the people ruder than usual, and the officials corrupt. All in all it was downright ugly.
The adventurers were right where Mormekar sent me, on the docks. I’d seen that place in my dreams so often, it was amazingly and perfectly the image of what He had sent me in my dreams. There was even the very same wizard, by name of Zey. The wizard works for the Explorers, and he was sent to retrieve my newfound companions. It was an amazing experience, being teleported. I was lightheaded and giddy, and when we arrived in the city of Archemaine, I was very glad to be able to take a lung-full of fresh, albeit musty air. Gone was the fetid stench of the jungle, and for that I thanked Mormekar.
As for my new companions, I think you would like most of them. I do, even though they sometimes get on my nerves. I am lucky for the gift of shadow, and for the most part, I am simply ignored, all the better to serve His ultimate plans, whatever they may be.
My favorite among them is Kumori. He is from far away Kaidan, and he is the one our Master sent me to find. It is to aid him on his quest to destroy a darkness in his homeland. The darkness is an evil so great that Mormekar has made me think will spread to our lands if we do not conquer it. Kumori is tall and strong and honorable. He has focus and is driven like no other in the party. Calli, I know you would like him. He very much reminds me of Heath, but does not have a trace of Heath’s silly grin or irascibility. It is usually all business with Kumori. It suits him, and I would have it no other way.
My next favorite is Smriti. She is a Kushari ascetic, and is very sweet. She has big eyes and a big heart and I think of you every time I see her smile. I am sure that Mormekar sent her to keep my heart safe, she is so like you. But don’t worry my love, I am and will always remain faithful to you. And besides, I am fairly certain she likes men. But you’d really like her, and maybe someday you two will meet. She is a good diplomat, and though not very strong (like me), she is a good martial combatant. You should see her leap, my goodness I have never seen anyone jump so high in my life.
Of the others, there is a gruff dwarf (but aren’t they all?) named Dorak. Dorak is an Explorer, he was mostly forced to join the Society in order to spy on our mission, but he seems harmless enough. He is a typical trapsmith, and has given us egress to several places we would have had to break into. I don’t exactly trust him, because he is the most paranoid person I have ever met. He rarely sleeps or eats, complains that everyone is an enemy, even us, his friends. He seems the typical man AND the typical dwarf. How is that for a winning combination? But I should not disparage him, I think at heart he is a good fellow, he just scares me is all.
There is another woman adventurer among us. Iz’alma is Espagian or something. She is kind of rude and distracted most of the time. Her profession, she says, is that of an oracle, which explains a lot. I think spirits pester her, which explains the distraction and indecision. Poor lady, it must be terrible. She has not yet made any wondrous predictions, yet she does show certain insight. I keep telling myself that Mormekar has sent her to be with us too, and I trust Him. I have recently learned that she can summon the dead. I know, how disgusting, right? But she does not animate the dead, she summons a generic looking corpse to fight for her. I prayed and prayed about it, and Mormekar did not send me any visions, so I must trust that He would permit what she does as acceptable. Still, she spooks me.
Finally, the group has a very unusual man, yes more unusual than the others. Coatl is an elf that they picked up in the jungles of Chuul. He is dark and tattooed, and he wears a live snake around his neck. I know… yuck. He stinks a little of the swamp; and I don’t think he ever bathes. He is really picky about his food, too. He is almost the opposite of me. He attracts stares and comments and laughs from everyone around him, and he seems to just ignore it, or maybe he does not understand the culture and that people are mocking him and laughing at him. But like me, he is very quiet. I don’t think I have heard him say thirty whole words this entire month. He is a juju doctor, and he cackles at people and freaks them out so badly that they can’t concentrate on what they are doing. He distracts them so badly as to make them less effective in a fight.
As for what we have been up to…
We spend a few days in Archemaine. The group used to belong to some special post, they called it the Grand Expeditions Project. But they got fired. It did not surprise me, for none of them seemed to work together as a team. But later I found out that their group had a fallout. They lost their Alabic druid friend to a bounty hunter, but felt their mission was more important than their comrade, so abandoned him. A halfling companion of theirs, a bard named Falko, hated them for leaving Qasim to the fate of the abductors, and he went on a bender. They abandoned him too. Now don’t worry. I know what you are thinking, but I can take care of myself. And I have Inky too. We will be fine. Also, all this happened before Smriti got very involved in their plans, and the same for Kumori. I know Kumori and Smriti will have my back. Please Calli, trust me on this sweetheart.
Kumori, while we were in Archemaine, told us about his mission. He was sent by the rightful royalty of his land on a very special quest. He said that it was prophesied that he would be sent away from his homeland in order to discover how to break the cycle of evil that has cursed his entire homeland. It is this mission on which Mormekar has sent me.
Kumori told us that he was sent to seek out another oracle, in some very famous Ionian temple of a god called Apollo. This temple is found on some equally famous mountain. I immediately told Kumori I would join him, and that I knew it was Mormekar’s wish that I did so. It is my calling.
The others had mixed opinions, but in the end conceded to go along. I think for the dwarf, elf and Iz’alma, they are simply here because they have no other options. I think they were bored. Smriti wants to see her homeland, because she has been transported forward in time from her home.
Oh yes, there is a cursed lamp among us. It sucks them into it from time to time, but usually only one of us at a time. There is supposed to be a great Alabic palace inside it where the cursed people go. And apparently time acts different inside the lamp than outside of it. Kumori has spent centuries in the lamp, although it only seemed to be a few years to him. Smriti was in there only a short time, but in the real world, two hundred years had passed. I feel so badly for her. Everyone she knew is long dead. Kumori seems to handle that fact better than Smriti. I see the sadness in her eyes, the loss. It breaks my heart.
I don’t know if we will get to Kushar or not, I hope we do. I have decided that when we do, I will be there for Smriti. I am her friend, and I know she will need some comfort when that time comes. As for me, I have been lucky that the cursed lamp has not yet taken me. I try to stay away from whoever holds the thing – it seems to jump about from victim to victim.
So we have decided to travel to Io, and this lonely mountain temple, to consult with the oracle there to find out what must be done to break the curse of Kumori’s homeland, Kaidan. We are traveling south through Espagia, a lively country. Many of the stereotypes about the Espanish people seem to be true. They do all take naps during the day. All of them. And their food is very spicy. I know you, with your tender tummy, would not fare well. They use peppers of some sort in nearly every dish. Bread with peppers, rice with peppers, pepper sauce, pepper beer, pepper pepper pepper. My tummy at least will be glad to be rid of this place.
Still, it is a beautiful country, with varied landscapes and some very nice people. One of the travelers we met here was a Midlander named Charles. We think that is not his real name, though. He seemed more savvy than youth implied, but he had a winning grin and was incorrigible, just like Heath. I miss Heath, but don’t tell him I said so. I would never hear the end of it.
This man Charles told us many things we needed to know. I am sure Mormekar sent him to us. Things like… the temple of Apollo was closed for winter, and when we get there, we will need to present some very special gift to the priests, or they will not even see us, let alone divine for us. He also told us he was an Explorer, and that there were some special Apollo arrows in a museum in a city called Alcazar Toledo. He was really nice and helpful, and I am glad we ran into him. He promised to write us, and help us how he could.
Dorak, of course, didn’t trust Charles, the stick in the mud dwarf that he is. But sure enough, when we got to Toledo, the Explorers indeed did have those arrows, and even offered to give us one in exchange for three things: Dorak had to join their guild; We have to report our progress back to the Society; and we had to steal an evil painting from a warehouse. All three things we did. Before you freak out, the painting was indeed a bad thing. People who look at it get really scared or something. I had a glimpse of it and nearly wet myself it was so scary, with skulls and blood and writing I think. One more thing… the people who had it were going to sell it on the black market, so I don’t feel one bit bad about stealing it from them. I think it was a good thing to do, in fact.
As I write this, we are in a small inn in a little river town with big problems. The mayor was murdered, and his spirit never found its way to the local Anwynite chapel. The council of elders are in-fighting, and we think some (if not all) of them are responsible for the mayor’s death, as well as the chief constable’s death. At the same time, there are a bunch of goblins raiding the town at night, and it looks like someone on the inside keeps letting them in. The town watch keep losing gifts as the goblins kill them over and again. I think that they are on the brink of desertion. It must be very frustrating to them, I think. I heard at least one of them lost his final gift, just like the chief constable, who used to be an adventurer.
Please don’t worry my love. I still have all of my five gifts. You know me, I keep to the shadows and don’t put myself in direct danger… well except for once. I was trying to protect one of our company. We were being attacked by a knight, a paladin of The Great Church, in fact. He was stricken with the loss of his lady, and taken insane, or so we thought. It turned out his lady was a cursed coin, one which Dorak had picked up and become cursed himself. This knight, Sir Colin the Brave, was trying to kill Smriti, I think. It all happened so fast. I jumped in to save her, or was it Iz? I don’t remember now. (We also ran into some Faeries that messed with our memories).
In any case, I did not lose a gift, and Sir Colin apologized for attacking us (once he was raised). I was a little pissed at our party. Dorak, being cursed by that stupid coin, rifled Sir Colin’s body for treasure and would not let us get to him to tend his wounds. Then they insisted we tie him up before they’d let me heal him. That was understandable, but I feel very bad for letting Sir Colin die. I did not realize how badly he’d been hurt, and he bled to death before I could treat him. If I had known it was that desperate, I would have channel-healed him. I just did not want to risk him waking up again and lashing out at us. He nearly killed Smriti with one blow.
My love, I know that by now, you are probably crying with worry for me. Please know that what I do here on this quest is Mormekar’s will. I put my life in His hands. With His grace, and the Maker’s Gifts, I know I will return to you when this is done and Kaidan (and maybe the whole world) is safe. You see how important this is? Calli, I love you. I promise I will not take any stupid risks. Now dry those sweet eyes so you can read the rest of my letter. I will wait.
What we are doing here is very important. I know you understand. I will try to write more frequently. I know you must have been sick with worry. I have your love, Mormekar’s protection, and the camaraderie of some very capable allies. Pray to Him, as I do, that He will give us the strength and diligence to do what needs be done.
As for the future… As I said, we head to Io in the spring for the oracle to give us guidance. We shall head from here (Gran Rio, Espagia) to the great Alabic city of Bagharid, where we expect to catch a ship. I am so looking forward to the splendor of the fabled city, with its sweeping waterfalls and magical prowess. From Bagharid, we plan on going to a major port in Io, I think the name is Oropus. From there we will find a smaller craft to take us to the remote port city at the base of the oracle’s mountain. We need to find a virgin goat, yes, that is what I said. A virgin goat. I am not sure what that means, exactly, but the priests apparently need to sacrifice it to their gods or something. From there, I have no idea where we will travel. I am not sure where the oracle will tell us to go in order to find the coffin. Yes, Mormekar told me that we need to locate some coffin or great box in order to defeat the evil in Kaidan.
I hope our travels take us to Kushar, for Smriti’s sake, but that is a very long way away, and far far from our home. If our escapades take us through Drusus, I promise to insist we stop by and see you. I miss you terribly and sometimes only the thought of you holding me in your sweet arms is what allows me to drift off to sleep at night.
I love you Calliope Sundown. I think of you every day, and every dusk. Be well my love. Keep writing your letters for me. I want to know what has been going on at home, even if I won’t be able to read them until I get there, whenever that may be.
All my love,