Dear Arun, Jariel and Vondyr,
I’m adding this letter to my last one since we got through the tournament without me getting my butt kicked and since Master Holdfast hasn’t found anyone heading out your way yet.
Oh, and as you already know, since I got Master Benathir to do the sending for me, Shale found me and gave me your message. And the earring. And also as you already know, we have to go deal with this green dragon, Valryke, before I can come, but I will be coming just as soon as that’s done. This is the first real sign of the goblins who killed my family in all these years. I swore I’d find them someday, and maybe now I can finally keep that vow.
And in case there’s any doubt, Shale was, if possible, even more annoying than the last time I saw him. I mean, I tried to be nice. Honest! But he always finds some way to get right up my nose and it wasn’t even a minute before he had me throwing stuff at him. Didn’t hit him of course – he’s too damned fast for that. But anyway, he found me and gave me the earring and the message and so he did do what you told him to do. I can’t fault him on that account. But does he have to always be so annoying? And why only with me? I mean, he doesn’t act that way with you guys.
But anyway, I gotta tell you about the tournament. Not only did we not get our butts kicked by these Sworn Sword guys, we ended up winning! Our first tournament – can you believe it? I wish you guys could’ve been here to see it. I mean, these Sworn Sword guys were good. There were five of them against the five of us. Well, actually, only three of them were Sworn Swords – the three that were wanting to kick our butts just because we got even with them for snatching that caravan guarding job from us in Berwick. Though now I have to admit that was kind of my fault – I was the one who mentioned it to them when we met them the first time around. It still wasn’t nice of them to move in and snatch it, though. I mean, you know how I feel when someone snatches prey I’ve been tracking, right?
Anyways, the three guys who were Sworn Swords were this human guy named Carrick Deepford, an elf named Thirnon Sunbrowed, and this halfling woman named Briada Blackbraids. The other two were this dragonborn guy called Hradurik the Bold, who while not a Sworn Sword was working with the first three when they snatched that job from us in Berwick – and kind of unexpectedly this local Reeve’s man named Drum Ketteran. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the older brother of Issak Ketteran, the guy who was always picking on Tristan before I started punching him out for doing it.
Judging by what I saw in the battle, I’d have to say Deepford was the best overall fighter of the lot, though Thirnon was the fastest and Hradurik was the toughest, as you’d expect given their races. Blackbraids and Tilly ended up running off and going one on one, so they were out of sight most of the time until Tilly finally took her down and came back to rejoin the main fight. Drum… kind of surprised me. He wasn’t a bad fighter at all; took some pretty good licks and got in a few of his own. And he didn’t back down the way I thought he would.
Anyways, we won, like I said. Looking back on it, we did have a couple of advantages. For one thing, they didn’t have any real magic-casters like Tristan, so that helped a lot. I think they were counting on Blackbraids to deal with him as she was their ranged fighter, but that’s where we had another advantage: they weren’t expecting someone like Tilly. Since he was armed with his sharrash, they were probably assuming he’d be in the main melee, and I think it took them completely off guard when he went after their ranged fighter instead. And of course we had Eustace and Kidalis who could keep us up on our feet or get us back on our feet if any of us got taken down.
And then I was also something of a surprise. I think they were planning on taking me out first – it was my butt they were most wanting to kick, after all – and then have Thirnon keep the rest of us off-balance and uncoordinated while Deepford, Hraduirk and Drum picked us off individually. And they almost did it; Carrick and Thirnon had me down before the first round of fighting was over. But they hadn’t counted on Eustace being able to revive me. And most of all, they didn’t know that I was trained by you guys. It actually ended up working the opposite of what they were expecting. Tilly kept their ranged fighter from being effective, Tristan got in some curses and blasts that bloodied both Carrick and Thirnon, and Kidalis called up all kinds of wyrdling attacks that kept them from coordinating their own attacks. And I was amazing. I wish you could have seen it. At one point after Drum got in nasty blow on Kidalis that actually took him down for a bit, I made this fantastic charge leaping up and over Thirnon, coming down with sword flashing right on top of Drum. The stunned looks on both their faces was something I’ll never forget. The battle turned our way right after that. In a single turn of battle, I took down both Thirnon and Drum with a blinding flurry of strikes, Tilly took out Blackbraids, and Eustace took down Carrick with this awesome bellowing gore-charge. With all of us up and able, Hradurik saw nothing to be gained in continuing the fight and yielded.
It was funny after the tournament was over. As far as Carrick and Hradurik were concerned, everything had been settled and they didn’t hold a grudge anymore. Briada was still fuming, but I think that was more because she lost money betting on her own side to win than anything else. Thirnon… well, Thirnon had never thought it was that big a deal to begin with. He did ask me something interesting after the tournament though. He mentioned that certain moves and my aggressive style seemed rather familiar and asked if by chance I had been trained by a certain ranger of his acquaintance named Jariel Bladestorm. You can imagine how proud I felt at that moment. I’ve always wanted to make you guys proud of me. Having someone recognize one of you as my teacher is about the highest praise I could ever get.
Another thing I learned from the tournament is that you can learn things about someone from fighting them. Other than how to beat them, I mean. I’d always assumed that because Drum was Issak’s brother and because he worked for the Reeve that he was, well, scum, and before the tournament began, I was wanting to take out Drum before anyone else. Which of course was me not really thinking, as Kidalis pointed out that the others were more likely to be the better fighters and on top of that were used to working together and so taking Drum out first really didn’t make much sense. I still wanted to take him out though, even if it was only after the others were dealt with. But I watched him carefully during the fight. Aside from being a decent fighter, I noticed that he never tried to run or hang back and let someone else do the fighting. He took his licks as much as anyone and afterwards didn’t make any excuses for his having lost. I mean, you gotta respect that in anyone, right?
I was also surprised later at the Tarry when a couple of recruiters were there looking for men to join up to fight the orcs who had been making trouble down south and Drum signed up. My first reaction was that he must have fallen out of favor with the Reeve over losing the tournament – which it turned out he had – but I was still kinda curious and so I sought him out later and bought him a drink at this other tavern where a lot of farmers tended to hang out. We talked a bit and I found he wasn’t really all that bad a sort. I told him he did well in the fight which seemed to make him feel better. And we actually ended up taking on the rest of the bar in a fight when someone threw a mug at us, which is always a lot of fun. I think I kind of learned something from this, though I’m not quite sure what yet.
Anyways, I need to finish this letter so I can add it to the other one I left with Master Holdfast to pass on to you either when he finds someone heading your way or for the next time you guys make it in to the Crossing. We’ll be leaving in the morning to head down to Berwick to deal with this dragon. I admit I have some mixed feelings about it. I mean, I’ve always heard dragons are really nasty pieces of work, and I’m not sure how good my swords are gonna be against something that can fly and whose breath and bite are poisonous. But at the same time, I really want to see one, and actually taking one down would be awesome. So wish me luck and I’ll be up to see you just as soon as this mission is done.
Miss you guys lots!
Hugs ’n slugs,