Epistle 3, D&D edition

This post has been migrated from its old post and backdated according to the file timestamps. Backstory and references are explained here).

Dearest Players,

We hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already: “Sergor’s company! We haven’t heard from you in ages!” Well, there’s plenty of excuses to be had, but there’s no sense crying over every mistake. We just keep trying until we run out of cake. The quest gets done and you bring some loot home for the chars who are still alive. Truth be told, we’ve been trying to reach you for nearly four months now, and only recently with anything that resembles success. We know that a lot has happened since the last letter and that you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next update, so let us give you a hastily update.

When we sent off the last letter, we’ve just finished fighting a group of bandits in their lair. Fearing that we haven’t slain all the bandits (given we entered the mines during daytime, we figured some of the bandits could be outside. They could return at any time, catching us off-guard while we rested), we quickly retreated out of the mine and wrote the letter in the safety of the forest while resting from the fight. Then, we followed the path — no detours this time.

We eventually came to the—

[most of the text in the next few paragraphs seems be smudged to the point it’s unreadable]

After making our way across the bridge, we quickly came upon a small town, barely anything more than a square — still, we managed to find a messenger, to whom we gave the previous letter. After wandering around the city for a bit, we found a noticeboard with all sorts of contracts. One of those contract in particular has sent us on a path we never expected.

The contrast was posted by the town’s major, who was a shady character. We were to take a package to Crow Rock. We weren’t told about its contents, nor we were allowed to open it. We ended up taking the contract, as it paid well and led us to Crow Rock, a town where we had some unfinished business with a dragon. Somehow, we even managed to beat curiousity, avoiding sticking our noses into the nature of the thing we were carrying.

When we handed the package over and were paid our money, we made our way to the lord of Crow Rock, as instructed by the dragon. We eventually met him, and he gave us a little something for our trouble (after verifying we speak the truth. He even included something for Gmuk!) — but he promised us even more if we help him with the quest.

He explained to us that the King was doing evil things — making deals with orcs and goblins, which terrorized the kingdom for his personal gain. We were also told that the king was looking for a certain magical artifact, that would (by the legends, at least) grant him immense power if he used it properly. We were to find it first and destroy it. The reward was certainly great and appropriate for the dangerous task — not to mention that we were to have a dragon accompany us. We were given some time to think about it, and after a long discussion we agreed to accept the mission. A lot of work has been done for us already: the mages at Lord’s disposal made a compass that pointed towards the approximate location of the artifact (don’t ask us how it worked). The compass didn’t show distance, but were told that the artifact is far away and moving. How far? Nobody knew exactly, but we were told to expect trouble along the way.

Bogdan was kind enough to make a quick sketch of Crow Rock during one of our downtimes.

The trouble has started before we even left: for some reason, Neri called Lore, the dragon, ‘chicken fucker’ one too many times, which resulted in the dragon swiftly helping to solve the elven overpopulation problem to the fullest extent he was able to. This was a problem because she was the only person who knew draconic — but fortunately for us, Lord provided us with a dwarf — Bogdan — who was able to act as a translator. Unfortunately, everything she owned was destroyed in the fire she burned in as well.

We left the town soon after that. The path would be easy if we were riding on the Lore’s back, but we had to walk as the dragon couldn’t carry all of us with all our gear. Thus, we had to walk through the hills. The roads were full of turns, ascends and descents — all of which slowed our progress. He felt bad for us “lesser creatures, uncapable of flight” and walked with us out of solitude. Every now and then, he did take off, into the sky and was our eyes in the sky. He gave us early warning about any orc, goblin, bandit ambushes and encampments, which we cleaned or avoided based on our mood.

I, Kvothe, made sure to keep the spirits up by playing my lute and singing songs. Everyone enjoyed my songs. True, Sergor said that ‘‘[I] can’t sing for shit’’ and that I’m ‘‘an annoying little gypsy that should be thrown off the edge of the world’’ and that he’d ‘‘rather experience Lore burning him to death than listen to me play the lute or sing;’’ while Gar threatned to break the lute on my ass if I keep playing and singing. I’m sure they didn’t mean it and that they really like my performances. Kali also liked my songs. She even had nice words to say about me, telling me that one day I might become a good musician. Bogdan said nothing of my singing for the first few days. I did talk with him on a few occassions though, and after a few days he taught me some of the dwarven songs. ‘‘The best thing about dwarven songs is that they sound great regardless of whether you can sing or not,’’ he said as he taught me. ‘‘After you’ve had enough ale and beer, it doesn’t matter whether you’re tone-deaf or not anymore.’’

Our first longer stop was Bogdan’s hometown, a dwarven town of Vergenband. It was located a bit off the path, on the border between hills and mountains. Some of it was located at the end of the valley (but still in it), but most of it was under a mountain. This left our dragon mostly bored, as he wasn’t let into the mountain part of the town for various reasons. Gmuk was at first not allowed into the town either, as dwarves feared he might steal things. After some convincing (and Bogdan’s good word), Gmuk was eventually let into the town, proving dwarves’ fears correct the first chance he got (fortunately for us and him, nobody caught him. We only learned about his theft later, when on our way again). In the meantime, we enjoyed a longer rest (about a week), did the town some favours, replentished our food supplies for free (turns that Vergenband was allied with Crow Rock). In exchange for our favours we did to the town, we were then directed towards a druid’s. We were also given a letter by the chief dwarf of Vergenband, which instructed druids to provide with with some help.

The stop at the druids was a short one: upon receiving the letter, they gave us some tamed beasts to ride: Bogdan was given a great mountain goat, Sergor a direwolf, Gar a wyvern. I, Kali and Gmuk — even together, we weigh next to nothing — were allowed to ride Lore (although both Lore and Gmuk protested the idea of Gmuk riding him — it took a long time to convince them both). A druid named Joshua Nissan — the keeper of the beasts — also joined us, riding on a great fox.

After leaving the druid’s groove, there was no more planned stops for us. We continued to follow the compass for long days, which soon turned into weeks. The compass was pointing mostly to the north, slightly to the west. Its direction didn’t change much; the landscape, however, did. The hills soon ended. Then, the forests were gone as well: we travelled across the grassy plains, with settlements few and far between. Eventually the forests appeared again, followed by hills again (this time smaller than the ones surrounding Crow Rock) soon afterwards. After crossing the hills, the villages and towns became more common, and the fields were plenty.

The lands were significantly colder, too. This wasn’t a big problem for us: we spent some money on a good set of warm clothes. Direwolf, goat and fox were also protected by a thick skin and fur of their own, but it was obvious that the wyvern and the dragon were not comfortable (apparently the ability to breathe fire doesn’t mean there’s a fire burning on the inside). As we reached a town at the coast of a sea (which the compass told us to cross), we have made a decision to send the wyvern and dragon home. Of course, the dragon opposed and insisted on staying. In the end, the only creature to return home was the wyvern, and Gar had to join Sergor on the direwolf (neither of whom liked that too much).

But as we tried to buy a passage across the sea for ourselves and our beasts, we discovered another problem: our money was all but gone, and Crow Rock Lord’s influence was worth nothing in the town. This meant that we had to seek out a few contracts in order to earn money. Lore also felt like he needed rest; he was also aware that people were curious about him not attacking them and burning their town. He planned to capitalize on that, so he picked a spot near the docks and had Bogdan erect a sign, which said:

’U can’t touch this.’

’Unless you have skrilla, then you can.
You can also scratch my ich. I don’t bite
(if you contribute towards my pile)’

Makes me wonder if Lore knew Duncan, actually. Below that, the sign also said, in draconic:

‘If you can read this, I’ll argue with you about anything. 1 gp / 5 min’

Unsurprisingly, nobody took him up on that offer (as draconic-speaking individuals are few and far between), but by the end of the week, he had a modest hoard of about 30 gold pieces worth of gold and silver pieces.

Our company had a bit more luck: between all the contracts (neither of which was too difficult), we managed to collect about 50 gp. But the dwarf earned the most: he bought a cheap but sturdy longbow, some paint and a small iron rod. He spent the week carving a long, legged fire-breathing serpent into the longbow, using the iron to burn black lines on the surface of the bow and paint to make the serpent which twisted around the bow pop out more. The longbow looked marvelous, and although though the serpent looked nothing like it, Bogdan said it was inspired by our dragon. He managed to find a buyer for the bow before he even finished making it — a rich nobleman bought it for about 1600gp. Lore was mighty jealous when he learned of that.

But at last, we had more than enough money for a while: we could buy passage on a ship and we could buy food. Unfortunately, the last ship big enough to take us across was gone so we had to wait. It took about two for a new one to come. With no other contracts, we rested. Bogdan continued on carving in his downtime, selling his carvings, and Lore continued on trying to make the crowd throw money at him for pets and scratces. They both earned some money — and while the luck with the longbow didn’t happen again, Bogdan still managed to make 50 gp of profit. Lore’s hoard was another 60 gp. Gmuk — who nobody kept an eye on during the downtime — managed to contribute a few stolen items, 20 gp 89 sp in cold, hard coins (which were probably also not acquired in legitimate ways). I tried to do my job by singing and performing in the streets, but unfortunately I didn’t earn much. Across two weeks, I only got about 6 gp worth in coins, although some people — probably mostly the poorer one — also gave me food. I base my assumption about their wealth on the fact that more often than not, the food they gave me was rotten. But hey, it’s the thought that counts.

After two weeks, we were finally aboard the ship. It took another day for the ship to actually leave the port, and another half dozen to land on the other side of the sea. The weather was cold, and as soon as we crossed the mountain formation running along the coast, it became even colder, to the point where sometimes, mornings would show grass covered with frost. Lore didn’t take that well, but he was adamant about not returning. I think we all knew this will spell eventual doom for the dragon, so when we stopped in an outpost which primarily traded furs, we put Bogdan’s money to work. We bought everything they had, hired some help and started making clothes for the dragon. Obviously, people thought we’re ‘‘absolutely retarded’’ — as Bogdan observed — but we didn’t care, and neither did they. After all, our gold was their paycheck. In the mean time, we also bought some warm clothes for ourselves: the tailors claimed we’d be fine even if we made it to the northern edge of the world.

This ordeal delayed us by another week, but eventually the dragon was wrapped in warm furs from head to the tip of his tail. Of course, his clothes prevented him from flying, but he rather didn’t complain as he knew he’d be shown the way home. As we continued to march forward, settlements became rarer and rarer, to the point we wouldn’t see one for days. Forests — which were exclusively spruces at that point — were also getting thinner, eventually yielding way to endless grasslands that were only disturbed by occasional river and small hilly areas.

In one of the valleys of such hills, we fell into a drow ambush. The drow nearly killed Bogdan — he barely made into cover. Once in cover, Bogdan asked the druid if he would throw him his longbow and arrows, saying it made more sense for someone who can’t take much beating to take a ranged role. The druid, of course, disagreed (he had learned a lesson about throwing in his earlier life) and they continued to argue while the rest of us had to deal with the ambush themselves. Fortunately, at least Lore was of help, making sure the fight ended quickly. Bogdan and Josh continued to argue throughout the entire rest that followed.

Eventually, the compass has led us out of the hills again, into the wide plains. The grassland was full of snowy patches, and the nights were now really cold. Too cold for Lore, despite the clothes. In one of the nights, a blizard appeared out of nowhere. Lore, as well as other beasts, used his big body to shield us from cold and snow. The blizard was followed by immense cold. Gmuk fared the worst of the company, with a few frostbites and nearly hypothermic, but he survived.

Lore didn’t. When we woke up, our beasts already shook the snow off them. Lore was completely still, looking like an undisturbed pile of snow. At first, we hoped that he managed to survive, but after pushing the snow off him it became apparent that he’s dead, frozen solid. The prayers were said, to whom depended on which gods one followed (if any). The druid, having no gods to pray to, instead prayed to spirits and the nature. We didn’t have enough time for proper burial, though: with Lore gone, we had to redistribute our supplies among the other beasts (we did salvage the furs in Lore’s clothes, though, in case we needed them). With only three beasts and seven of us, we also couldn’t ride (at least, not all of us). This further complicated our food supply calculations, as we were going to move ahead slower. In the end, we guessed that we can afford to walk forward for a few more days, so we pressed on.

About half dozen days later, we arrived to a land permanently covered with snow, with some low, but pointy and rocky mountains rising out of the flatland. The one we came to first was even populated and had a lot of buildings: big homesteads and buildings that we didn’t know the purpose of (but at the end, it turned out that crops are grown in those buildings). The population of the settlement was about 500 people. All buildings in the settlement were warm — hot, even — which seemed unusual at first, until we were shown pools full of boiling hot water, coming out of the ground.

We agreed on a few days rest in the settlement — this time, we kept our eyes on Gmuk at all times, so he wouldn’t try to steal. Bogdan and Sergor climbed the mountain on which the settlement was built. From the top, they saw other mountains, shaped just like the ones we were on, except smaller. One of them featured a camp of sorts. This warranted a second look. We were all but ready to travel closer, but the people of the settlement gave us a spying glass, so we could observe from afar. Sergor and Bogdan then climbed the mountain again, observing the encampnent with the spyglass. They told us they saw ship in the middle of the settlement. This seemed strange and unbelievable as well, but the locals told us more about the ship: it’s called Naglfar and is said to harbour the undead. This is not at all encouraging. Especially not since the compass seems to point at the ship (or at least to the encampment surrounding it). Bogdan and Sergor double-checked: they rode their beasts around for the entire day, but the compass kept pointing at the ship and encampment.

So this is our message we’re sending you, we hope you see it (locals promised they’ll include it on the sledge-train that leaves for a trading outpost closer to the sea in a few days). In the next few days, we’ll try to infiltrate the settlement and destroy the artifact hiding in it. We don’t know whether we’ll be successful. We surely hope that you will be hearing from us again, but a part of me fears — as the dwarf would put it — this could be the last letter we ever send your ass.

But seriosusly, see you next time. Hopefully.

— [Kvothe’s signature]
— [Sergor’s mark]
— [ᛒᛟᚷᛞᚨᚾᛋ᛫ᛋᛁᚷᚾᚨᛏᚢᚱᛖ᛬ᚢᛋᛜ᛫ᛞᚹᚨᚱᚡᛖᚾ᛫ᚱᚢᚾᛖᛋ]
— [Gar’s scribble]
— [Gmuk’s fingerprint]
— [Kali’s sign]
— [Druid’s squiggles]

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