A Letter to the Mirith Vanguard

Dear Lady Cassandra, Lord Nedved II, and Royal Guard Amere of Mirith,

Hello old friends,

I pray this letter finds you all well. By now, some of you will have already heard of some uncertain business being conducted in and around the recently constructed portal in the Foehan woods, just a short hike northeast of the Vanguard’s walls, led by my compatriots in The Hidden Vale and our other allies in the Gestalts, the Circle of Friends, and Citrinitas Aegis. I will have to ask for your forgiveness for not writing sooner—so caught up in the minutiae of the operation have I been, that I neglected to make contact with the people who have lived in the very shadow of this foul portal for all these years. The oversight ends today.

Let me tell you a little bit about the operation itself: our stated goals revolve solely around exploration, discovery, and reconnaissance in the aforementioned portal and the mysterious, treacherous realms that lie beyond. At great risk to our personal health and sanity, we seek to answer some of the burning (the word “Legion” here is crossed out) questions about this arcane doorway, questions that we have all shared for far too long. And why now, might you ask? Our longtime curiosity was crossed with our mutual friend Lenne’s spontaneity, and the result is what lies before you.

Now then! First and foremost among our questions: what is this strange land that lies on the other side, really? The portal’s creators—the secretive, conniving, and suspiciously absent Arcane Research Development Enchanting and Tinkering group, or A.R.D.E.N.T. for short—they called it the “Void Realm”, a name which surely conjures up memories of the Rift and flames and dragons from the abyss. What might we uncover about this realm’s nature, through careful study and collaboration? How comfortable should we be with the fact that this portal remains open, so close to our homes and our families? What if a day comes where we need to destroy the Voidgate, as its creators called it—how might we go about that daunting task?

And then there is the matter of Morgans. The dear senator, lost in this shadowy realm… I hate to think of what may have happened. And let us not forget the mysterious Lord Edgard, leader of the A.R.D.E.N.T. group, whose actions seemed noble at the time, but now look increasingly nefarious with the benefit of hindsight. And then to bring up a more current enemy: what of the Jealous Jalux, and his Hell Mages and Magma Golems? Recently his forces, forged in the fires of the laboratory in Haven, have been seen in both the Ice Dungeon and the Atoll, but it was only about a year ago that they were found conducting some operation of their own, at the same Voidgate where I now sit. Just what are they up to, and did their operation here in Foehan last year have any bearing on their current, dastardly plans?

Such are the questions we seek to answer. To that end, there are two critical items of which we are in short supply: small moon fragments (which are required to activate the portal), and able-bodied explorers. We burned through an astonishing number of fragments during our attempts to retrieve the advance team on our first mission, a fatal expedition that was doomed from the start, in part because of our lack of force. In regards to the first item, we would be happy to work out some sort of trade, should you happen to have any fragments you wish to part with. And in regards to the second, we would be greatly honored by the presence of any one of you who wish to accompany us on this foolhardy adventure.

Now I will lay it all out on the table: I will admit that the last formal meeting between Mirith and the Vale, many years ago in the royal dining halls, did not end in the most amicable terms. But times do change, and it is with the utmost confidence that I say only good things can come if we resume our search for common ground.

But goodness, I have just broken another pen, and the inkwell is running low. Perhaps it would be best for us to hammer out the details in person? Our campground welcomes you, one and all, and though my current quest for fragments may keep me at bay, there will surely be someone to receive you. I look forward to our next meeting.

Yours sincerely, and in representation of The Hidden Vale,
Jedd the Fighter

Comments

  • edited January 28
    “Being suspicious is bad for you, Cassandra.” With these words repeating over and over in her head, she let the troll flee. Not that she trusted any of his promises about letting her live, if she dropped her stave, but because she was superior in strength and firepower and she could burn the creature with a slap and a spell. Then it was not a matter of trust anymore, just of who was in control of a situation. The King trusts his Vanguard because he knows he can sentence any of them to death and his orders will be followed. The seasoned druid trusts her pet because she knows how to subdue it in case of rebellion. The father trusts his children, only while they are young enough to need his help to walk. “Trust comes easy, when it comes with power.”

    This bitterness, though not unusual in the moody wizard, was not completely unfounded either. The King was (still) nowhere to be seen, leaving the Kingdom in the hands of his Vanguard, of a drunken captain, a banker who hated the rich, a loony blind seer with cyclic metamorphoses, and a boy permanently covered with bird excrements all over his shoulders. Out of this, the only true trust she could hold was towards her Vanguard. She trusted her fellows, she always had. Even when they turned away and followed a different path.

    “Jedd…” Did she trust Jedd, still, despite everything? After all those years, yes, she thought. In fact, she had a hard time remembering why wouldn’t she. His departure from the Vanguard had never affected their cordiality which, with time and thanks to their shared interests in history and myth, turned into friendship. “Of course I trust Jedd, you silly narrator!”

    The wizard frowned, for no apparent reason. The troll had not returned, and the Sleeping moon shone bright.

    “Let me take over. I don’t trust you, narrator, to read my thoughts and interpret how I’m feeling.”

    She hurried back to town.

    “So, we received a letter from the Hidden Vale. It’s signed by Jedd, it mentions Lenne, that’s enough for me.”

    The wizard reached for a piece of pa…

    “Shut it.”

    Trying to shut the narration that always followed her in her head, she grabbed…

    “Shut it, I said. We already know. ‘ She grabbed this’, ‘she thought that’, ‘she talked to the guards’, ‘she raised an eyebrow’ , ‘she greeted the cat’. Do you think my life is a constant role play? Go narrate the adventures of the Miners Nurses! I have a letter to write.”

    Dear Jedd,

    First of all, thank for your letter. It is good to have someone to exchange ideas with, other than the voices in my head. Mirith has been quiet for a while now, and I haven’t seen much of my friends, each of us busy with our personal burdens. We have seen new births in the castle, but we have also lost friends and family. Some have made progress in their private affairs*, while others, are stuck in their old vicious paths. So it is in this mix of joy and grief, stagnation and breakthrough that life carries on, as usual.

    I have read your request for small moon fragments. I think I have some at the hall and would be happy to give them to you. Alas, I know very little of that A.R.D.E.N.T. folk. They were around at a time I was focused on getting the Red School running and less dependent on me. I know, however (how could I not?), of the terrible consequences of their experiments.

    I belong to the generation who remembers the Rift. I have seen an Abyss dragon. I have read the stories of Darkstar. Whichever project you had in mind, please, beware that it may mean your - our - perdition. I share the most dangerous feature of all wizards, the sad cliché that is oh so true: I cannot turn down an expedition for knowledge. Besides, the Void has certainly intrigued me since my early studies. So, yes, you can count on me. I cannot speak for the Vanguard here, but I dare say that you can very likely count on them too. It’s not like we have a King we can ask for advice.

    On a tangential subject (or maybe not), we do possess some information regarding Jalux’ intentions. Commander McTyr visited Mirith to present his theory that lead to the discovery of the galleries in the Atoll. What we know - and we don’t know if it’s true - is terrifying. You will understand, however, that I cannot discuss this in a letter. I can say, however, that there is a possibility that Jalux was looking for a different way in, to reach whatever it is he is after inside the Atoll’s volcano. Sounds bizarre? Give it some thought. You may reach the same conclusions as I did, and understand my worries.

    Until then, I shall gather all the fragments of the moon I can find around here. I’ll also try to find my dearest Vanguardians - it’s about time we focus on the same mission again. It will be good for everyone.

    Yours, and in representation of myself, because Mirith is bordering anarchy,**
    Cassandra


    * I don’t know if you have seen the collection of drawings and pictures that an old wizard left in our desk - it will blow your mind, if you haven’t!

    ** Don’t quote me on this!


    The wizard sealed the letter with her personal seal, a luxurious red ros…

    “Shut it.”
  • The fighter removed his beaten and battered helmet. It was sundown in Foehan, and a gentle smoke rose above the campground that stretched out before him. The various camp followers moved about the tents with purpose, attending to cookpots, hauling bags of flour, or lugging buckets of water from the creek. Dried trout and roasted garlic filled the air, but even those delectable aromas could not derail him from his present quest. Running a bruised and bloodied hand through his disheveled mess of hair, he slung his pack over his shoulder and strolled into the camp. He wandered about as the hubbub of voices echoed around him, hoping to catch a glimpse of those familiar green robes with the black leather accoutrements. Finally, he caught that flash of green out of the corner of his eyes, back toward the tents. Kindly excusing himself from no one in particular, he marched over, turned the corner, pushed his way through the flaps of their shared tent, and found the good cleric seated on the floor, somehow already buried beneath a pile of papers.

    “Ah.” said Lans, nose still in his notes. “Back at last, good. Any luck with—“ he suddenly stopped, and looked up at the fighter. “By the goddess, friend, you look like you’ve been to Hell and back!”

    “I may as well have,” said Jedd. “The hunting was long…and fruitless. Well, not entirely—I did come across some sort of signage put up by Waltham’s World of Wool, outside the Sheep Meadow. It said something along the lines of ‘don’t trespass or murder the sheep, or else’, I suppose for an enclosure they plan to build there, or something… but oh yes: no fragments.”

    “Ah, tough luck. But worry not – I have good news.” Lans suddenly shot up from his post, and took a peek outside the tent. Satisfied that no one was in earshot, he leaned in close and spoke in a whisper so faint that even Jedd could barely hear it. “The Eye of Andris has made contact. Seventeen fragments are to be delivered.”

    “Seventeen?!” Jedd blurted out. “But how?”

    “The culmination of two years’ worth of Blue Moon Festivals. I hope you know we haven’t been sitting on our hands here!”

    “I suppose not! But goodness, we must be getting close, no?”

    “Almost, but not quite. After that last fiasco, I’m not leaving it up to chance here—I’ll take as many fragments as we can get.”

    “I’m with you all the way. But oh, this does push our schedule up so much quicker than I would’ve ever imagined, and, well… well there’s just so much to do!”

    “Heh,” Lans said with a crooked smile. “Welcome to my world!”

    Suddenly a silence fell upon them, and a faint voice—a child’s voice—could be heard from a few tents away. “Message for Mr. Soryn!”

    “Ah,” said Jedd, pulling out a letter from his robes, “that reminds me. I received this earlier, from Lady Cassandra.”

    “Aha! So do we have the vanguard’s support? Or at least their fragments?”

    The fighter couldn’t help but smile at the needlessly cynical remark. “Let’s just say we’re going to need a lot more roses.”
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