~21 Ollarune 998 YK Hello, Lily. I’m not going to bother addressing this letter, because I’m fairly certain you have a good idea already, if the damn thing was delivered as per my instructions. I know you don’t want me visiting anymore – hell, I’ll admit I’m damn glad I’m not – but that doesn’t mean I should be staying out of contact completely. I know we’ve never seen eye to eye, Lil, and that you still blame me for what happened to our mother, but who else can I tell about the strange circumstances I now find myself within? I don’t really have any friends besides Sats, and he’s too busy working for house Sivis… and having the good graces to offer to deliver this letter to you. Now, I don’t care what you do with this letter: burn it without reading, read and then burn it, or just find some ingenious way to feed it to the horses at the stables, but for the love of the gods, destroy this letter one way or another. If house Cannith discovers I’ve been contacting you in any way possible, your life could very well be much less fulfilling and lengthy than we would both prefer. To compensate for this, I’m enclosing eighty silver pieces to pay for any… emotional stress. I’ll be sending more whenever I get around to sending another letter, so at least do me the courtesy of READING the damn things. This all started a few weeks ago, with a letter from an old acquaintance named Bren Ir’Gadden. I met him four years ago when hunting down a tip – a false tip, I might add – of where I might be able to find Cedric, my old mentor and coincidentally enough the same old bastard that turned me into a fugitive… but more on that later. Same time I met Bren I also encountered a rag-tag group of fellows, glory-seekers and the like, who apparently had some business there. Ah, there was some fighting, a few small horrors and the like, but apparently it wasn’t the last time I would see those people I met on the road; In fact, I’ve found myself now being strung along on some rediculous quest of theirs because it might lead me to Cedric. And as for my companions? One’s a barbarian – big, musclebound brute with a maul the size of a small child – named Kolgarth. Surprisingly, he’s not as dumb as one would think a barbarian to be. For someone who doesn’t bathe, his grasp of combat tactics and problem-solving is pretty admirable… well, if you can get over the whole “not bathing” part, at least. On the battlefield though, he’s a sight to see. Actually he reminds me of our first dog: big, mean, and more than willing to tear a few throats out. Only difference is that this guy could – and would, likely – EAT our old dog. But it’s a beautiful thing to see a warrior at work, specially after I’ve taken the liberty of enchanting his weapons. I gotta tell you, Lily, it’s one of the prettiest light shows I’ve seen in a while, that maul of his whirling through the air, crackling with the pure elemental energy I’ve endowed upon it. I guess as an artificer I’m really starting to come into my own. Now, there are two other companions, but one is fairly… well, insane. Some old guy named Gabriel and his cohort – or maybe his roadie, I can’t tell which – Dominaro Walsh. Gabriel seems like some sort of inquisitor from a religious sect, and he’s got all the compassion and clarity of mind that goes with it. I mean, the guy just wont shut up about his god! Always going on with “cleansing this” and “purging that”, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled nighttime shifts at his temple as the dishwasher. And when it comes to attitude, he can be somewhat… unsociable. He seems to regard us as inferior, stupid, and expendable. Well, I could understand me and Kolgarth in this category in his mind, but even his partner Dominaro isn’t anything more than a pawn in his opinion. More than once he’d unleash whatever holy magics he has up his sleeve at a group of monsters… with one of us in it. I think he might actually be out to kill us, though I suppose that much would be good news to you, wouldn’t it? But seriously, this guy seems too dangerous to have around. Take that cold-blooded mentality of his, and mix it with some of the things I’ve seen him do on the battlefield – For the sake of the gods, I’ve seen the guy burn a group of kobolds to ashes with just a wave of his hand – and you have there a volatile mixture, a sick puppy that might need to be put down for the good of those around him… At least his partner, dominaro seems to be of sound mind… for a paladin. I’ll never understand how religious fanatics can place more importance on believing that some big guy up above gives two **** about them then about learning actual combat strategy – and trust me, Dom takes the cake on that one. He’d probably be dead three times over if I wasn’t there with one of my healing concoctions to pull him back from deaths door, and frankly one day I’m not gonna be there to save his life every damn time. Because for someone that wears enough armor for me to build a small boat out of, he certainly has a wonderful habit of getting the snot kicked out of him. And his swordsmanship? I’m no big fighter when it comes to the down and dirty of using blades, but I’m pretty sure he would be doing something right if he tried pointing his sword at an enemy for once. Y’know: “pointy end goes in the bad person, and keep your hand on the round end” and all that. But when he hits, he hits hard enough that he could probably cut a horse clean in half. I mean, the barbarian is a strong guy and all, but there is definitely something behind that paladin giving his attacks an extra kick… And so here I somehow find myself: a fugitive from the only place I wanted to work for, hated by family, out on some crazy errand to find some guy I’ve never met, Douven Stahl or Douben Stahl or something, while being surrounded by three dangerous, smelly – and in the case of Gabriel – psychotic “adventurers” out to make a name for themselves. Well, at least that’s what it looks like with most of em, but Kolgarth seems to be looking for something else. While Gabe and Dom were sent by their order on some silly religious errand, Kolgarth is looking for the old Stonehammer clan of dwarves. Why, I can’t possibly imagine. I mean, what on earth would a goliath want with a bunch of surly dwarves? Oh yes, did I mention he’s a goliath? Big guy. Big, big guy. But here we are. Currently I’m looking for a guy named Douben Stahl, who we tracked down to a small town in the woods named winterhaven. On the way there were some kobolds and some damsels in distress – you know, the usual excitement for a strapping vagabond such as myself – but that’s when things started getting… strange. The damn girl claimed she had been taken prisoner by the kobolds, but no sign of struggle, no real job done tying the bond… hell, for a flower picker she sure didn’t know a damn thing about flowers, either. After we brought our “rescued” maiden back to town we met with some of the locals. Nice enough fellows – for a second I thought Gabe was going to get us run out of town – but nice enough. We met with some old guy, got a lead on Stahl, fairly boring things in general. Oh, and Gabriel SET THE GIRL’S HOUSE ON FIRE. I mean, sure she was likely possessed by some evil entity, but who isn’t these days? But that’s hardly reason to go burn a person’s house down, is it? But the girl had bolted. We followed her out into the woods and wouldn’t you know it, she was working with the damn kobolds the whole time! What frightened me was that these kobolds were unusually hostile, and with a group like that living so close to the town of winterhaven, that could have been trouble for the townsfolk. I’ll never get used to killing, but sometimes it just has to be done. We dug in to clean them outta their little cave setup, and ran smack into what was apparently their leader… of course, it could also have been one of your ex-boyfriends. He called himself “Irontooth”, actually rather clever by giant-goblin standards, and wore this hideous armor over his jaw – probably thought he was being scary, but he just looked rediculous. Eh, goblins. But in truth this was all pretty serious. Like idiots, we had waltzed right in the front door of their cave. I’ve been a fugitive for four years, and I walk right in the front entrance of a kobold lair? What the hell was I thinking? I’m just glad that these kobolds weren’t as trap-happy as their kin are known to be. But even so, there were quite a bunch of the little bastards. And as we fought, of course more and more came – things got bad quick, Lil. Dom and Kolgarth tried to hold them back, but they just kept pouring through, and eventually we were surrounded. Dom went down first – of course – but after that there was no one acting as a shield between me and them. One of their shaman hit me square in the chest with some roiling ball of blue energy – I’d have it pegged as acid, from the emanations it gave off and the way it burned clean through my armor. I got a few of them, but with kobolds they come in such numbers that killing a few doesn’t mean much. While I was trying to get Dom on his feet again Irontooth decided that he wasn’t going to have it – one clean axe swipe and I was down for the count. I think I heard Kolgarth go down as well, but I couldn’t be sure of anything by that point. I know it hurt back when you broke your leg that one time, Lil, but don’t talk to me about pain until you’re lying on a cold stone floor, covered in acid, bleeding to death from an axe being buried in your shoulder. I thought that was it for me. I could still hear the cries of battle around me and I thought: “well, it’s over”. I couldn’t reach my healing supplies; I hadn’t the strength for it. And the world just got darker, and colder, and eventually the pain just… went away. I woke up this morning in a room back in Winterhaven. I couldn’t believe it. Apparently one of my companions managed to save my life back there in that cave – I’d put money down that it was Dom – and the town healers did a fine job patching me up. I was sore from head to toe, but that was just a small price to pay for my life, though I could swear I could still feel the burn of the acid on my flesh. Alone in my room, I found a small box near my bed. There wasn’t a name on it, just a small, unadorned package containing a few parts. Parts that, might I add, were absolutely perfect for tuning up the gun I got from Cedric. But it was unsettling. Who knows where I am? How do they know what the gun needs in order to further improve it? Who SENT the parts? I think it might have been Cedric: he’s the only one that knows this gun as well as I do. He knows I’m looking for him; I wish he could just have the guts to come to me personally. Though really… I’m not sure what I would do to him when I see him. Every time I hold this rifle he gave me, I remember why I’m a fugitive. I remember why there are dozens of bounty hunters in house Cannith’s service looking to bring my head back on a plate. I remember why I have to fight, kill, steal, and cheat my way through life. I never asked for this thing; Cedric just dumped it on me and here I am now, because of something he did to anger house Cannith. They want the gun, but more importantly, they want ME. They think I know where Cedric is, and They’ll damn sure be ready to try and drag the information out of me. I never wanted to fight. I never wanted any of this, Lily. I miss my old life as an artificer. I miss fixing the machinery, making checks on the progress of the warforged, all that lot. I just want to find Cedric and give this gun back to him, and go back to MY old life. Without the pain, the fear, the killing and the running. I miss warm nights in my own bed, perhaps with a ladyfriend, perhaps not. I miss all of my life back in Cyre. But that life is long gone now, isn’t it? Even if I was to give the gun to Cedric, house Cannith would still hound my every move. I have to find a way to end this, one way or another. And finding Cedric is the first step to doing just that. But when I find him?… …I don’t know. I can’t decide whether I just want to talk to him… or shoot him with his own accursed gun. I know you’ll never forgive me, Lily, or even think kindly of me. But almost dying has brought forth in my mind that all I really have left in this world is my sister. Lily, be safe. If not for me, then for yourself. But please… be safe. I’ll send another letter when I can. ~D.