Dear Arun, Jariel and Vondyr,
I hope this letter reaches you. I mean, I really hope this letter reaches you, because if it doesn’t, it means that we never got out of here. So where’s ‘here’? Good question, ‘cause we’re not completely sure ourselves. Kidalis thinks it might be the Faewyld, partly because of how it feels and partly because the place we’re in seems very familiar to him, from a long time ago back when he kinda disappeared for a while. I think I told you guys about that, right? And anyways, it’s sure not like any place I’ve ever been. I mean, it just feels different, like the air itself is just oozing with magic. And everything’s just…. more. Colors are more vibrant, smells are sharper, and even the ground under your feet feels more… alive? It’d be interesting if it wasn’t so scary. I don’t mean I’m afraid or anything! You know me better than that. And yes, Vondyr, I know there’s things in the world I should be afraid of, but that doesn’t mean I have to be. But anyway, I remember all those stories I’ve heard about the Faewyld. About how sometimes people go in and when they come out months or even years have gone by. If they come out at all, that is. ’Cause sometimes they never come back. And, so, okay, well that does scare me. A little, anyways.
Oh, and even if I’m not completely sure where we are, I am sure of one thing: it’s all Tilly’s fault. But I’ll get to that later.
First I gotta tell you about the war. We won! You’ve probably heard about that by now, at least some. And we all got through it okay, which is the important thing. Even that stupid goat of Tilly’s is still around, even though I kept hoping the Orcs would get it and eat it. Oh, and you would not believe what Eustace has now for riding around in battle on. It’s called a rhinocerous. I never saw one before and I don’t think you have either since they come from way south, I think. Imagine the ugliest cross between a bull and a horse you’ve ever seen, except twice as big, with thicker legs and with one big horn on its snout instead of two on its head, and that’s kind of what it looks like. Pretty scary in battle, I tell you, if it’s charging down on you. Eustace took it as a prize when we killed the top Orcish commander, Gruzhgarn. And Eustace looks pretty awesome riding around on the thing. I don’t think he’s named it yet. But I still prefer Blackwind though. He’s way better looking than anyone else’s mounts.
Oh, and when I say ‘we’, I mean us and a special ally that Tristan got to come help us: Seowyn’s Bear! It was the bear that actually killed Gruzhgarn. And this time Tristan didn’t have to make any deals with any demonic or devilish voice, which is a relief, ‘cause even though we needed the help I don’t want him making any more deals with those guys. It always ends up bad in the stories and songs you hear and I don’t want Tristan to end up in one of them as Tristan the Tragic or anything.
We all did pretty good in all the battles. Of course I was always amazing. But Kidalis was pretty good too. He’s really good at tying up the big guys, making it hard for them to maneuver or turn away from him while the rest of us attack. I’d hate to have to be on the receiving end of the stuff he can do, especially since I’m all about being able to move around. Eustace was pretty awesome, at least when he forgets about all that don’t-give-in-to-your-baser-instincts stuff and lets his baser instincts come out and kick ass! Tilly was also pretty awesome at times. I can never understand how a guy that small can get around so fast and strike so hard. And you never know what he’s going to do so it’s even harder for the enemy to deal with. I just wish he wasn’t so annoying. Tristan was really helpful. It’s like he’s got this deck of cards and whenever we need an ace, he can pull one out. You just have to make sure to ask the price first. I mean, not because of Tristan. It’s some of those voices of his which you gotta watch out for. I just wish he knew more useful spells. Maybe it’s just his nature, but half the time it seems like he learns stuff not because it’s gonna be useful but just because it’s interesting, to him anyway.
And like I told you, we’ve got Crys back now, except that he’s Shaper now. And his powers have grown during the time he was away, and it’s always kind of intimidating to watch when he reaches out and just… twists stuff? I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like there’s a way things are supposed to be, and somehow he can reach into that and scramble it all up, so that they end up not at all like they’re supposed to be. But it’s kinda odd how he never seems to get worked up, no matter how hot the fight is getting. Which is probably for the best since the one time I did see him get worked up there wasn’t any fight at all going on and we were in a tavern and I was worried he was gonna scramble everyone in the place. But still, he’s good to have on our side, even if I don’t really understand him much.
It’s also good ‘cause Shaper can do ranged-fighting stuff, which we’re kinda lacking in as a group. Tristan can do some too, but it seems like half the time we’re always coming up short in that kind of fighting, especially at times when it turns out that’s what we really need. I mean, I almost wish I had learned more about using a bow and stuff. Except that a bow wouldn’t really help all that much, and it’s just not the same as getting up nose to nose with an enemy and hacking him to pieces, and seeing that moment in his eyes when he realizes it, you know? Yes, Vondyr, I know I’m not supposed to think like that, but it’s just the way I am, okay? You can take the shifter out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the shifter. Okay, so nobody ever really said that, but it’s still kinda true.
But anyway, I’ve gotta say I don’t like war much. At least, not the way it was being fought down there. We kept ending up in spots where there was no way to move around, like on stupid islands surrounded by water or stupid forts surrounded by Orcish hordes. I hate not being about to move around. But at least the war’s over and we won, so it’s all good and done with. The commanders took special notice of our role in the fort victory and now Kidalis is a Captain and so he’s all fluffed and more pompous than usual. The rest of us are all Lieutenants, for whatever that means since we don’t have anyone to command. Besides, titles feel weird, you know? Lieutenant Ghost? Not for me. I just wanna be Ghost. We did get some really nice-looking cloaks out of it though, with the Owl Bear symbol embroidered on them, so that’s not so bad. And I got this thing called a survivor’s belt, which comes in handy since I always seem to end up getting downed at least once in a fight. And no, it’s not ‘cause I’m being reckless! Well, I mean, not more than usual anyways.
Oh, and there’s this young guy – kind of a kid really – named Renny who’s kind of got a crush on me now. He was one of the soldiers at the fort. Just ‘cause I kind of kissed him before the final battle. It was just for luck, Jariel, so quit laughing! Anyways, he brought me some flowers before we took ship, and so I kind of kissed him again. Might see him again sometime. Don’t know what I’ll do then. He’s human and he’s… kind of fragile?
So anyway, since the war was over, we decided to go after Limba, ‘cause something in the course of all the fighting kind of woke up Tilly’s sharrash and it started singing. Well, not words or anything, but kind of a musical sound? So according to Tilly’s grandmere’s prophecy that meant it was time for Tilly to confront Limba. Which is why we’re now stuck in the Faewyld. Except for that damned goat of his, which is still back in the world. It’s not fair!
Sorry, had to put this away for a bit. Picking up now where I left off. About it all being Tilly’s fault.
So anyway, we head off to Darkmoss Bayou where Tilly’s Grandmere Odetta lives, wanting to see what she has to say. By the way, she’s bossy for such a small lady, and she pinches really hard! Turns out she was expecting us because she knew somehow that the sharrash had started singing. How? I don’t know. It’s an old-wise-woman thing I guess. It’s what they do. Besides being bossy and pinching people, that is. Anyway, Grandmere Odetta gives Tilly this fishhook on a silver line and a green glass bottle and tells him Limba’s gonna come after him – and the rest of us – three ways, first in mind, then in the flesh, and then in spirit form. But when he goes into spirit form, we have to follow him to the “other side” to finish the battle and capture his spirit in the bottle or else he’ll just keep coming right back.
Now this is why it’s all Tilly’s fault that we’re stuck here. When his Grandmere said we’d have to go to the “other side”, I thought she was talking about the other side of the swamp! Nobody said anything about it meaning we’d be going to the Faewyld!
Anyway, we decide we’d pick the ground to fight Limba on since Grandmere Odetta said we wouldn’t have to go hunting him because he’d be coming after Tilly. So we pick some this place in the swamp where it’d be hard for him to move around once he came in and where there were some ruins that gave us places to stand on and hide behind, and we work on it to make it as ready as we can. That night we got the first attack, then one in our dreams. It was kind of intense, but we all got through okay. Which was good because soon as we’re awake again Limba is coming at us in the flesh. That was a much tougher fight. I mean, like I told you before, this Limba’s as big as an island and has all this magic going on around him to make things even harder with plants and stuff attacking you. But Tilly was Limba’s main target and at one point it actually swallowed Tilly, and we thought he was a goner for sure but Shaper managed to bust him out. Kinda literally as he ended up blowing a hole in Limba from the inside. The fact that that by itself didn’t kill Limba tells you just how tough this thing was. It looked like even wounded as he was Limba was gonna swallow Tilly up again as he had Tilly in his jaws when I ran up, hacked my way up his back in a truly awesome way and killed him!
The funny thing was, I wasn’t trying to kill him. I actually felt like Limba was rightfully Tilly’s prey – you know? – and that Tilly should be the one to kill him, but I guess I got so caught up in the hunt mindset that I forgot and the next thing I knew I was standing on top of a dead Limba with my kukris in his vitals. I felt really kinda bad about it afterwards. I felt even worse when I realized that I was gonna have to apologize. To Tilly! For being awesome! It wasn’t fair! Why does everything with him end up being so annoying?
But anyway there wasn’t really time to think about all that ’cause as soon as Limba was dead this green shadow kinda rose up out of his body and headed for the water, and before any of us can say anything Tilly hooks the shadow with the magic hook his Grandmere gave him and the next thing I know is all of us are hanging on to that silver line and getting pulled into the water after this shadow of Limba…
…except that when we come up, we’re somewhere else. I mean, it was the same place we were before, but not exactly? I mean, the ground was sort of the same, except that none of the things we’d done to prepare it were there anymore? And everything was… wilder? And most of all, the ruins weren’t ruins but a standing castle! Which Kidalis later said he recognized. Which is what led him to think we were in the Faewyld.
But we didn’t have time to think about any of that because Limba was suddenly back to life. But different. Not an island-sized gator anymore but a large gator-ish man-like creature in a loin cloth. And it could talk, telling us we’d made a terrible mistake coming after it and stuff. And right away we start fighting again. Most of it was kind of a blur ‘cause there was so much going on with Limba summoning gators and nasty vine-creatures and doing psychic stuff. Mostly I just did what Kidalis told me to do, attacking whatever he said to attack since he seemed to know more about this place than anyone. It was a long fight and kind of dicey in places. Eustace was kept pretty busy keeping us up and fighting. I actually found that Tristan and I can work pretty well together in a fire-and-ice kind of way. Kidalis managed to keep Limba from focusing solely on Tilly which probably saved Tilly’s skin more than once, and at the same time coordinated our attacks to cut off the magical conduits that were feeding Limba his power. And Tilly was kind of awesome was well, his sharrash singing so loud the entire swamp could hear it as he whaled on Limba again and again, taking some pretty bloodying blows himself in the process.
Once we cut off Limba power sources though, we finally wore him down. I had a moment where could’ve finished him off. It was right there for the taking. But I learned my lesson from the last time and didn’t let myself get carried away – it was rightfully Tilly’s kill to make and so I stepped back to let him take it. Which he did, taking off Limba’s head in one final powerful swipe with his sharrash. And the best thing about it? Besides taking down this incredibly nasty creature that had terrorized Tilly’s folk for generations? I didn’t have to feel guilty anymore! It was all even! I didn’t have to apologize to Tilly!
(more to come)