Dear Arun, Jariel and Vondyr,
I hope this letter reaches you. I’m sending it in care of a merchant caravan that is going to be passing through your patrol area and hoping that they’ll cross paths with you. If they don’t meet you, I told them to leave it at the trading post at the northern road, which I know you guys sometimes stop at.
So much to tell you! The last time I wrote you, it was a long letter from the Faewyld, but I don’t know if you reached you because as you know time sometimes gets weird whenever you cross from our realm to that one. And sometimes it gets really weird as I found, which I’ll be telling you about shortly.
We ended up defeating Limba, Tilly’s nemesis, which I already wrote you about. But after that we were kind of stuck in the Faewyld for a while and ended up having a few adventures there. We finally ended up making our way out by going through the Underdark where a border exists between the two realms. Lots of things happened. We freed some slaves which turned out to include a family of nobles from our realm, Baron Undersee and his wife and son, and some others, all of whom we brought back with us. And Eustace took out a temple to some dark entity and consecrated it to Shandalene.
Eventually we got back to our realm, and to the Crossing, only to find out some spell had made people unable to recognize us for a while. We found that was because of Tarkantus, who we found had taken over our manse. Hmmm. I don’t remember if I told you about that or not, but we have a manse now, courtesy of Baron Greenfield in gratitude for our services. But anyway, we had to take out Tarkantus and his pet Beholder, which was a pretty hairy fight that took us back to the Castle of the Old Ones where we found this secret chamber we’d never even known about. Kidalis and Eustace think that there’s some history there that we need to find out about because too many nasty people seem interested in it for it to be mere coincidence.
Oh, and just to let you know, we’re all fine. Kidalis is becoming even better at just holding up large numbers of foes and keeping them unable to move about while the rest of us pound on them. Wish his love life was going better though. He’s got some serious noble-ish aspirations going on for Baron Greenfield’s daughter, Elanora, but the Baroness isn’t keen on the idea at all and the Baron’s trying to tell him, nicely, that he needs to look elsewhere, Elanora’s got obligations, blah-blah-blah. Seriously, I do not understand these noble types. My mother fought off all rivals with knife and claws before the whole tribe to get my father. Simple, clear and final. Shifter ways are better.
Eustace seems to be growing more powerful as a healer and as a caster of radiant magics. I can’t count the number of times he’s stood between the Fire Wasps and defeat or disaster. He lost some magic armor that he had for reasons that had to do with saints and such, but in truth he doesn’t seem to need it much anymore. Tristan seems to have to have come to some kind of terms with one of the voices in his head. Evidently he’d reached a point where it was time for him to make some kind of choice and he opted for the voice he calls The General. Who it seems was some direct ancestor of Baron Greenfield and who may have been the one who founded Seowyn’s Crossing and who walked with the legendary bear. Don’t know exactly because Tristan doesn’t talk about it much, and mostly we just get bits and pieces of it when he’s distracted and talking to himself. Which he does less of now though since he only has one voice in his head. Most of the time, anyways. I think the others are still there but are just keeping quiet for now.
Shaper is still something of a mystery. Of all of us, he seems the least changed. Or maybe the changes are simply not visible to us, what with his being made of crystals and all. That and his powers are so different from any of ours. Psionics, I think they’re called. We did learn from the fight with Tarkantus that there definitely is some connection between him and Brom, though its nature still remains a mystery. Tilly is still infuriating at times, but dammit he’s just so damned good at what he does. His biggest asset is his unpredictability. Even I can’t guess what he’ll do at times, and we’ve been companions for a long time now. He’s on the top of his world now, having defeated Limba and captured the creature’s essence in a bottle which he gave to his Grandmere Odetta.
Want a scary thought? Grandmere Odetta has a house full of bottles just like the one Limba’s imprisoned in. Dozens and dozens of bottles, different sizes and shapes and colors, all hanging from strings all around her. And each one with its own Limba-type inside. Reminds me to be careful not to get on her bad side. My mother did not raise me to end up in a bottle dangling from a string in some Halfling hut.
But anyway, I need to tell you about something important. We kind of picked up a few things while we were in the Faewyld. I already mentioned the Undersees and their fellows who’d been enslaved. And Eustace ended up bringing back an actual behemoth, which ended up being called Bessie of all things. Well, I ended up with three shifter children. No, not that way! They were three little street thieves who stole something from me, and I ended up having to chase them down – more than once – to get it back. Which I finally did. Only to discover that one of them, the oldest one, was not only a member of my tribe, but was someone from my village. Which is where things get really strange. This boy was just a little older than me – maybe six months or a year – when the goblins attacked and destroyed my village. Like me, he escaped by diving into the river. But his branch of the river took him through a portal into the Faewyld, and for him, only two years went by while for me it was ten. So now he’s only twelve but I’m twenty. Weird, huh?
So anyway, I couldn’t just leave him there. And if I took him, I had to take the other two, even though they weren’t of my tribe, or even of our realm – Faewyld shifters, born ‘n bred. But Fish – that’s the older boy’s name – refused to go without them, so it was all or none. Anyway, I wasn’t going to just leave any of them. I know it sounds strange, but I think I was meant to go there and meant to find them. At least from what Twixt – he’s the younger boy – says.
I ended up sending them home the long way, which would take more time but was much less dangerous than taking them down into the Underdark with us. We actually got back months before they did. They finally showed up here a few weeks ago and are now living with us at the manse. I have to admit that I’m only now realizing the full weight of responsibility that I’ve taken on (Yes, I know I should’ve thought of that first, but I was not gonna leave them there, no matter what, okay?). And that I may end up needing your help with some things, which I’ll get to in a bit. But I need to tell you about them first, so that you’ll have some idea of them.
Fish, the boy from my village, is the oldest. He’s light-skinned with the pattern of the Snow Leopard clan like I have, and seems to be about twelve now. And he is a handful. There are times when I feel like throttling him. He’s impulsive, never thinking about the consequences of his actions. He’s also headstrong as hell and would argue with a fence post, especially if it means admitting he was wrong. On the plus side he’s tenacious, fiercely loyal and protective of the younger two shifter children he ended up taking under his wing. But I just can’t seem to get through to him! It’s like he has to fight me on every little thing. I don’t understand how we can have so much in common but be so different.
Twixt and Tween are the younger two. They’re twins – Twixt is the boy and Tween the girl. They are darker skinned, more of a woodish brown, and have distinctly different markings from Fish, but are clearly brother and sister. They look to be between nine and ten years old. It’s easy to see how they got their names – they’re really good at moving through crowds. Slipping between people as if they were standing still, diving through narrow spaces that would give a cat pause, or dashing under carts and horses while they’re still moving. Definitely some serious street survival skills there.
Tween is actually the one I should mention first as she’s the more outgoing of the two. I think you’d like Tween. Unlike Fish, she’s more level-headed and practical, and she at least tries to think things through. She’s also very clever. Too damned clever at times. It was her tricks that not only allowed Fish to steal from me but also got him free later on when I’d managed to catch him, getting me into trouble with half the town, from angry barbarians and angry dwarven merchants to outraged priests and monks and finally the town guard. When I didn’t do anything! Honest!
Twixt is the quiet one. He follows his sister’s lead and after her he follows Fish’s lead. Even when he knows he’s doing something wrong. Which he tries to apologize for even as he’s doing it. But there’s something special about him. I think he’s like you, Vondyr. He seems to have some affinity for the spirit realm. After he finally realized that I wasn’t going to beat him or his sister for robbing me – and after I’d made sure they had enough food for the first time they could remember – he told me about seeing “a strange cat” in his dreams. A big one, one that was white with odd markings he’d never seen before. The cat, he said, seemed to be telling him that someone was coming to find them, and that they needed to be found. He’s too young to remember anything of his tribe, being orphaned with no memories of even his parents, but I’ll wager anything that whatever tribe it was, their spirit totem was not Snow Leopard. So like I said, I don’t think this was just coincidence.
All this has gotten me to think about some things that have been stirring around inside me for a while now. Ever since that adventure at my old village – or what was left of it – up in the north, actually. I feel like I have some things that I’ve been neglecting. There were some rumors I’d heard that there might be other survivors somewhere – people seeing or hearing about shifters that resembled the Snow Leopard clan. And then there was not finding Asha’s body among the others at the village. I keep wondering if she survived somehow. If she did – if any of them did – I felt I needed to find them one day and bring them all back together.
And that’s the thing, you see. I found Fish. Far, far away – in another realm in fact – but alive and definitely a Snow Leopard like myself. And as you’ve always reminded me, where’s there’s one, there might be others. And now, again seeming more than coincidence, no sooner am I back than I come across someone who’s seen another shifter like myself, far away, across the sea in fact, a land called Ministal. A female pit fighter called the White Cat.
I need to go track down these rumors – the ones from the north and this new one from across the sea. More and more I feel this. And it seems like an opportunity to do so may be coming up soon for one or both of these. Which kind of leads me to a couple of things I need to ask of you.
The first one’s not a big deal – just that if any of you should hear any new rumors about any shifters who look like Snow Leopard’s, let me know. I know you probably would anyway, but I just wanted to make sure you know.
The second is a bit more to ask. I need to think of what to do with the kids. I’ve thought of taking them with me, but given the dangers we seem to run into every time we go anywhere, I’m thinking that might be not a good idea. But at the same time, I don’t want to leave them alone. The staff at the manse will look after their basic needs, but they need more than that. A lot more. These kids have been on their own for too long. They need family. They need guidance. And training. And to feel like they’re part of something. I’ve been doing what I can, trying to familiarize them with their shifter heritage, tribal legends and such, but if I leave them behind to go searching for others I won’t be able to do that for them.
And then there’s the fact that because of the way they’ve had to live, they’re more street kids than anything else. Fish remembers some of his skills from when he was younger, but Twixt and Tween don’t even have that. I think it would be good for them to spend some time in the forest, out in the wild, with people who know everything there is to know about that sort of life. People I can trust to teach them what they need to know, and who know something about shifters. People I can trust with their lives, because I learned to trust them with mine.
I know it’s a lot to ask, and I’ll understand if you can’t do it. You have your own lives and responsibilities after all. But if you can take them under your wings for a while, you’d really be helping a lot. And giving them experience which will shape them and prepare them for the road ahead, what ever may come. I don’t know yet how long I might be gone. Some months certainly, but I’m thinking less than a year. With luck I’ll be back before winter so you won’t have to winter with them (though even that would be good for them, I’m thinking).
Anyway, please let me know if this might be possible or not. And any advice you might have. I’m rather new at this taking-on-kids stuff. But you guys seemed to know what you were doing. Even if I didn’t always think so at the time. (Hoping you won’t remember some of that too much!).
Miss you all lots!
Hugs ’n slugs,
PS – If and when you do meet the kids, if Fish tries to tell you his name is Ghost, box his ears or give his nose a good flick. That’s my name! He has to find his own.
PPS – Change in plan! I’m going to leave this letter for you at the Tarry. Shaper pointed out to me that I could – and should – simply use his ability to ‘send’ you a short message because this letter might take weeks or longer to reach you. Sorry again for asking so much on such short notice. I owe you guys so much. Hope one day I can pay you back somehow.