Dear Arun, Jariel and Vondyr,
Just wanted to write and let you guys know how we’ve been doing down here where the war with the Orcs is going on. We got here okay, though we almost got chomped up by that Limba creature that Tilly has this fate-thing going on with. I think he kind of left out a couple of important details when he first told us about him. Like the fact that this “gator” is as big as an island and has all this creepy supernatural stuff going on around it! Well, we managed to fight it off – barely – though some of the others who were there at the time weren’t so lucky.
But anyway, we made it down the river to the Sea of Sunken Fires, and then down along the coast to where the main encampment is. It’s like a city of tents and pavilions and everyone’s armed. We ended up signing on with this band called the Owlbear Company. Their leader is this Captain Merei Greenspear. We each had to prove ourselves to her before she’d take us on, though, so I ended up fighting a duel with her. Don’t worry! It was just to first blood. I gave her a pretty good run until she finally nicked me with her spear. I’m just glad I wasn’t having to fight her for real. She’s almost as good as Jariel. I guess we must’ve made a good impression because they set us up with some equipment we didn’t know we need, like a pavilion tent and stuff.
It’s really interesting, seeing all of these different fighting groups from all over. Most of them seem friendly enough, though we did run into this one group with an attitude, especially this halfling corporal of theirs. Couldn’t pound him though since fighting in camp is really frowned upon.
We also ran into a couple of familiar faces. Drum Ketterin from the Crossing, for one. He’s a corporal now, so he seems to be doing okay. And more of a surprise, we ran into Candac, the guy who was running a gang of robbers at that bridge I told you about, remember? The one who ended up getting away from the guys we left him with? Seems like he’s decided to try to make something of himself and he’s the camp’s quartermaster now. People can sometimes really surprise you, if you give them the chance.
Anyway, we got our first chance at action barely a day or so after we got settled in. They sent us to clear out this abandoned tower up the coast that had been taken over by Orcs. Let me tell you, I’ve learned a couple of things about Orcs. They’re not all that bright, but they’re strong and aggressive and they don’t seem to be afraid of anything. Kind of like Eustace except that they’re ugly and they smell. And some of them are really, really hard to kill. They’ve also got this nasty thing where, just when you think you’ve killed them, they make one last attempt to take you with them. I mean, you can cut an Orc’s head right off and he’ll still make one last slash or stab at you. Unless he’s carrying fire bombs in which case he’ll try to leap on top of you to burn you to death. So you can’t ever let your guard down, not even for a second.
But we did take the tower and we even managed to capture their leader alive. Which I thought was us doing pretty good for our first time out. I wanted us to take the leader right back and turn him over to Captain Greenspear, but Kidalis and Eustace had other ideas. They learned from interrogating One-Eye (I don’t know what his real name is as I don’t speak Orc, but he only had one eye) that a meeting was going to take place on this ialand between some Orcs and some Sea Devils about forming an alliance. So of course Kidalis gets all “We must go and stop this!” and Eustace is all “Yeah, yeah!”. I’m still for us taking the Orc leader back, but Kidalis is all stubborn about it and so we end up taking the Orcs’ boat and leaving One-Eye tied up in the tower while we go out to this island. I think it’s crazy, but I go with them. I mean, what can you do when someone you’re in a group with gets all crazy stubborn noble on you? So I went along with it. I mean, I couldn’t just let them go by themselves and get themselves killed, right?
I still think it was a foolish idea though. I mean, we’d just had a pretty tough fight, and we’d used up a lot of our tricks and spells and stuff. And now Kidalis wants us to go out and take on not only another band of Orcs but some Sea Devils as well? By going out in a rowboat? On the water? Where all these Sea Devils could be waiting under the surface and we’d never know? In a rowboat??? I mean, doesn’t this kind of sound like a really, really bad idea?
And even though this letter is kinda proof that we didn’t all get killed, it’s only because of some extra help. Which is part of why I’m writing. Some weird stuff went on that I’m not sure I’m feeling all that warm and comfy about.
It started when we were rowing out to the island (we left One-Eye tied up in the tower). Tristan and Eustace had cast these spells that allow them to comprehend languages, which would let at least the two of them understand whatever the Orcs and the Sea Devils said. Assuming that we could somehow sneak up close enough to hear them without being noticed. But while we were rowing over, Tristan got that distracted glassy look he gets when one of his voices is talking to him. I don’t know which one he talked to – there’s quite a few of them, it seems – or what was said, but something had to have gone on between them because when we got to the island, the Orcs who were already there didn’t seem at all alarmed at our arrival. Instead, they seemed to be expecting us, or rather, they seemed to think that we were the Orcs from the tower that they were expecting. Weird, right?
Anyway, the spell or whatever it was worked enough for us to get ashore and among them before they realized that anything was wrong, so we at least had the advantage of surprise. And believe me we needed every advantage we could get because Tristan, who was the only one who seemed to understand their leader, gave us the signal to attack just as soon as we were spread out among them. It was a hard fight, even tougher than the one at the tower. Their leader had some kind of sword that seemed to cast lightning, one Orc was some kind of storm shaman and another who must’ve had some troll blood or something because he got up again after Tilly killed him (but I managed to toss him into a fire before he could fully regenerate, so that took care of him). And there were other Orcs with clubs and flasks of alchemist’s fire to deal with.
So the fighting was pretty heavy when suddenly this big glowing multicolored crystal starts poking its way out of the ground. At first we thought it was their shaman summoning something, but from their consternation at its appearance apparently it wasn’t. The next thing we know the crystal suddenly explodes into a thousand shiny bits, pretty much blinding everyone for several seconds, and then the green bits of crystal gather and merge all back together and suddenly it’s Crys! (Except that he calls himself Shaper now.)
Long story on Shaper, which I don’t have all the details on yet. But he looks different now with some red crystal things around his eyes and some other stuff around his waist – kind of like a glittery solstice tree until you notice the legs. And he sounds even stiffer than I remember when he talks. And he’s got these really scary new tricks where he can do stuff to people that gives me the shivers just thinking about it. So he’s like the second weird thing that happened on this mission.
Anyway, Crys – or Shaper – had somehow known he’d be coming right into a fight and so didn’t need any explanations, which was good because we were too busy fighting to explain anything. And having him suddenly there really turned the tide in our favor, which was good because some of us – me in particular – were getting pretty chewed up. But the fight ended with us killing most of the Orcs except for their leader and one other who we managed to take alive.
So now you’d think we’d take our new prisoners with us and get off the damn island before the sea devils show up, right? Wrong. Now Kidalis wants to stay and take on the Sea Devils! I’m really not liking this, but of course now there’s a storm coming in and it’s going to hit before we can get even halfway back to shore, and even I don’t relish the idea of getting caught out on the water in the middle of a storm. So we’re stuck between the sea devils who are coming and this storm that’s coming even faster. And I’m wanting to jump up and down on Kidalis’ head yelling “I told you this was a bad idea!” but there isn’t time for even that!
Now I have to kind of blame myself for the next weird thing that happened. I mean, even though he didn’t say anything, it was pretty obvious that Tristan got us some kind of help from one of those voices he hears when we were having to take on the Orcs. And I knew from some other things that Eustace and Kidalis were kind of uneasy about some of the things these voices of Tristan’s were having him do. But in spite of all that, I was thinking that we were going to need all the help and edge we could get to take on these Sea Devils on top of everything else we’d done that day. So I asked Tristan if maybe one of those voices of his could maybe help us out in some way.
I know, I know. I was really uneasy about doing it but at the same time I couldn’t think of anything else that might help. I mean, Eustace has his thing with Shandaleen and all, which is really good at keeping us healed up and standing and all, but it doesn’t seem to help a whole lot in the divine-intervention-in-a-battle ways the bards are always singing bout. And Kidalis has his calling-on-the-wild thing, but like I said, he’d already used up a lot of his tricks and probably wasn’t going to be able to come up with more than some trip-over-a-tree-root or summon-dire-turnip thing. And neither Tilly nor me have got anything like any of that.
So I asked Tristan to maybe ask if any of his voices could help. And he did. And I don’t know which voice he asked, but I know he had to cut a deal with whichever one it was. And that whichever one it was, it was really not the sort you ever want to make any kind of a deal with. I mean, I didn’t actually hear what Tristan agreed to (the voices are only inside his head, not anyone else’s) but based on the nature of the ‘help’ we ended up getting, it was pretty obvious that there’s some bad dealings going on there.
But anyway, the only thing Tristan told us then was that one of his voices said it would send some help. There wasn’t any time after that to ask questions, so we spread out and hid in different places on the island (it wasn’t a very big island – you could just about throw a rock from one side to the other if you had the wind behind you). We’d barely gotten ourselves concealed when the sea devils emerged from the ocean. Most were armed with some kind of harpoon, but their leader, who seemed to be priest of some sort judging by his ceremonial-looking robes, had a trident.
We were okay until Tilly stepped on a twig or something. The priest touched this shell he was wearing around his neck and suddenly there was this burst smelling of brimstone and this big ugly red thing with yellow eyes, fangs and huge claws – Eustace said it was a carnage demon – appeared out of nowhere and went right after Tilly. And if that wasn’t enough, the storm finally hit, adding to the chaos. I still managed to be the first to take out one of the sea devils out though, with my axe of sundering. Chopped him right in back of the head.
After that things got hard to follow, what with the fighting and the storm thundering and raining on everything. The priest was bad enough, but even the ordinary sea devils were nasty to deal with. I found out the hard way that they have this really scary attack where they spear you with a harpoon while in the sea and then somehow start dragging you towards them, even though there’s no rope or cord you can see. And they have extra harpoons so that even if you escape the first one and break it, they can still hurl more at you. It’s very annoying!
We were okay at first. And I saw Shaper use one of his powers to warp reality around one of the sea devils and mulch him into so much fishy pulp, which was impressive and scary at the same time. But then the priest bellowed out something and more sea devils appeared and things were looking a lot less okay. That was when Tristan’s ‘help’ showed up. Suddenly another burst of brimstone went off and this other thing appeared, except this one was kind of dead-grey looking and had wings and was covered all over with nasty sharp spines, kind of like a flying zombie porcupine (Eustace says it was a spined devil). It then looked right at Tristan and hissed “What is thy will, o lord?”
See what I mean be weird? And definitely not comfy? And how now we’re all wondering just what Tristan has gotten himself – and maybe the rest of us – into? Not good, Very much not good.
But even with this devil’s help, it was still a tough fight. Especially when the priest summoned this giant shark that leapt up and dragged the devil under the water. I actually ended up taking out the demon with my mother’s frost kukris. Actually shattered the damned thing into pieces killing it. Also used this trick they can do – creating a burst of freezing cold – on the giant shark. Didn’t hurt it all that much but it did immobilize it for a bit by freezing the sea around it, which let the devil attack it from the air by hurling spines at it and Shaper to warp reality around it and actually teleport it onto the island, which was also pretty impressive, given that it was a giant shark. It was the devil that finally finished the shark off though, after which it bowed to Tristan and then disappeared with a flash of brimstone once again.
Like I said, Tristan has a lot of explaining to do.
So anyway, we finally got the upper hand and managed to subdue the priest and one of the ordinary sea devils after we killed all of the others. We found some stuff they must’ve been intending as deal gifts for the Orcs. Mostly some pearls and a coral necklace (which would look pretty nice on me, I’m thinking). There was also this sealed box, but we decided not to open that just yet.
And finally Kidalis said we could go back to shore. I wanted to ask if he didn’t want to wait for the rest of the entire sea devil nation to show up, but I was afraid he’d say yes, so I kept quiet. So we take our new prisoners back to shore, only to find that our original prisoner – the one-eyed Orc – had escaped. Apparently another Orc who’d managed to get away from the first fight came back to free him. I’m a little annoyed but again I don’t say anything. We did – in spite of everything – kill a lot of Orcs and sea devils and capture some of their leaders. So one getting away isn’t much of a price to pay. And all of this is definitely going to get us noticed by the camp leaders and make the Fire Wasps a name amongst the other groups.
But all that aside, I’m still kinda troubled. A lot of weirdness on this trip. Tristan making deals with strange voices only he can see, at least one of which appears to have infernal ties. Deals that might involve the rest of us. Crys suddenly showing up again as Shaper, more powerful than even before and more than a little scary. Especially since he seems even less… emotional? And Kidalis getting like he wants to just leap straight from the frying pan into the fire at every opportunity is kind of worrisome. And people think I’m impulsive! And reckless. I mean, sure, sometimes, maybe a little, but not like this!
Anyway, I better close this and get it to this ship captain who’s heading north. Some cousin of Tilly’s I think. I hope you’re all well. Miss you guys lots!
Hugs ’n slugs,