The Rise and Fall of Estess Vorund [Jan 2019 Report]

[Report from January 22, 2019 - posted on Discord only as a result of a forum outage. I'm posting it here now for its relevance to the latest RTQ in Marali.]

Dear Bronte,

My sincere apologies for the belated nature of this missive. Only now have I come back to my home at last, and only now can I afford to reflect on the journeys and battles of recent moons. I hope that the reason for my delay will soon become clear, through my telling of the remarkable events that took place on the first day of the Growing Moon, Year 449. I must say, it seems that we will finally be able to enjoy at least a small moment of clarity in regards to the recent miseries. But I am getting ahead of myself here: before I tell my tale, you will first require some context:

It all began some time ago, while the Fighting Moon still shone over Marali. You have surely not forgotten that day in which myself, Armsman Nial, and several of your fellow guildmates did battle with several deadly wraiths and liches, deep within the catacombs. You may also remember how we found a tattered piece of Commander McTyr's robes in the basement, alongside what appeared to be one of his fallen hounds. The records will show that we pursued this clue all the way to the fiery volcanic depths, before losing the scent and turning back.

But a few others and I resumed the search not long afterwards. We followed his trail far and wide, over a great number of days, from the islands of Lerilin to the atoll of Duldrus, and finally to the Hidden Peak itself. It was then that we were approached by the esteemed forest witch Istra Falvo (who by now had become somewhat of a familiar sight in that region we call home). She had come with the very missing Maralians we had been tracking, and she was seeking a place where they might be able to stay and rest in secret. Who they were hiding from, and why, they did not say; nor did we need to know. Both the Commander and Miss Falvo have shown our members kindness in the past, and we had no reason to distrust them. Things would become clear in time, we assumed.

We were only partially correct. One day, while gathering intelligence in Marali, I ran into a ghost from the past – only, this was Estess Vorund, and he was no ghost. You know all too well what happened next: almost overnight, Vorund assumed control of Marali, sowing his seeds of chaos and confusion at every step of the way. To make matters even more confusing, he was now afflicted with a very serious case of amnesia, the effects of which you saw for yourself. There are still many questions regarding his time in power, the nature of his affliction, the role played by Mother Terwynn Rees – for these I'm afraid I have no answer. But there is much more to be said about the matter of the tomes.

When Vorund requested that he be brought as many ancient tomes as possible, I was initially reluctant, and as confused as anyone else. This confusion was only exacerbated when Miss Falvo gave me a tome of her own, with explicit instructions that it be hand-delivered to Marali. I did as she asked, and some time afterwards, the incident with the bats occurred under the city. As we would all soon learn, Vorund was using these tomes to practice rudimentary Black Magic – an alarming development to say the least. Nevertheless, his obsession would ultimately lead to his downfall, for Miss Falvo was plotting something devious with the tome I had delivered. And that brings me, finally, to the first day of the Growing Moon.

It began in the vicinity of the Vale, where our paths crossed yet again, this time at breakfast. She asked if Vorund had tried her tome yet, I told her that I couldn't tell, she said that meant he definitely hadn't tried it yet. As we dined on scrambled red egg, I thought about how many tomes I had seen in the deposit box at Marali – perhaps seven or eight? Judging by the sheer number of summonings that you and your fellows had witnessed over the preceding days, I knew that the time was fast approaching.

We then spoke of another recent curiosity of mine: a certain short, tiny-footed "woman-child" whom Miss Falvo has been pursuing for a number of moons. For whatever reason, she is hellbent on giving this woman some soup (when working with Miss Falvo, one learns quickly that "soup" generally equates to "death" or "horrific poisoning"). Now, I believe that the woman-child was somehow involved in the initial disappearance of Commander McTyr, but this is still just speculation. Now at this point in my narrative, I suspect that you might be growing rather annoyed by the lack of our efforts to find out more, but you must know we had our reasons. Some might call it foolishness. But for our purposes, suffice it to say that neither us nor them had any desire to answer the others' questions, and so it went.

In any event, Miss Falvo spoke of how she managed to follow the trail to Andris, but apparently the woman-child had already been taken under the protection of Senator Jan Varouf. Her crimes must have truly been great, for the senator had mercifully exiled her to the mines – thus preventing Miss Falvo from administering any sort of soup. "She'll forget it, with time," the senator told her. Miss Falvo's response: "We don't forget things with time – we forget them with soup!" I couldn't help but agree. There are some nightmares in this world that can come back to haunt you if left unresolved – one needn't look any further than Estess Vorund himself.

Next, we talked of the Gellansha – Miss Falvo's freewheeling crew – and of the one called Ginger, that rather tall, red-haired pirate whom we met almost a year ago now, on the shores of east Duldrus. As Miss Falvo told me, Ginger has been running the crew ever since a certain "ant drama" took place in Marali. I feel no desire whatsoever to rehash the details of those incidents, but I was able to glean one interesting piece of information through our conversations. She mentioned that, at the time of that drama, the Commander had received some letter which had made him grow antsy (my apologies), and which evidently compelled him to call on Miss Falvo for help. What made this letter so important, and who sent it, are far beyond me, but I tell you this now in the event that it might one day become useful. But I reckon that this is how she came to be in the companionship of the Maralian force-in-hiding.

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She then mentioned one last thing that drew my curiosity, while she was feeding the dogs. There was apparently another, less toxic soup which she had made, and which she had fed to a certain dog last moon. "We needed the living dog to look like proper dead", she said. I thought back to the day of liches and wraiths – had that fallen hound been a ruse of some sort, by her own design? How, and why, could that be? I might've pressed her for more, but the morning was fast slipping away, and Miss Falvo was bursting at the seams to talk to Commander McTyr. She went to go find him upstairs (by means of teleportation, as opposed to the staircase), and I was left with one thought only: get to Marali.

I made the journey with uncommon haste, so worried was I that something had gone wrong with Miss Falvo's planned deception. What if her tome had been stolen by somebody else? What if Vorund had already read it, but it just hadn't worked? I did not rest or stop for a moment until I had made it to the basement, where I barged past the guards and into the Captain's office – the room where all the tomes had been turning up – and found it devoid of all human life (with the exception of the posted guard named Everett. Who knows what dark secrets might be tumbling around inside his head? The man is silent as a stone, but seems to know far too much, down to the most trivial of details – he once told me, for example, exactly how many wounds I had sustained at the hands of brigands at an unrelated battle in Andris, almost as if he had studied and digested the battle reports – but I digress).

Not satisfied with the lack of answers in the office, I descended into the dungeons. Deep beneath the fort, past the spiraling stairs and into the grimy hall, I found a different guard, whose name I dare not mention here. This man was far more talkative, and mentioned how he was supposed to be preparing a cell for a new, high-profile prisoner. He didn't give me the prisoner's name, but I knew in my gut that it couldn't be anyone but Vorund. I knew then that the time had come. I made my awkward exit, hoping not to arouse any suspicion by staying longer, and then ran upstairs, where I stumbled headlong into the most horrific scene: hoards of giant spiders, crawling up and down every wall in sight.

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For a moment I stood there in shock, until I was brought back by someone screaming for help in another room. It was then the spiders noticed me, and so the painful battle began. I do not remember much of what happened next – somewhere along the way I was joined by a Marali scout (one which I recognized from the contingent staying at the Vale), as well as some other soldiers, and a young cleric named Lilly. The spiders' venom was vicious, and at one point I saw gray. But eventually we gained the upper hand, and beat them back to their source: the office. As we approached, we began to hear the screams for help again – they were coming from just behind the locked door. I don't know who it was I expected to find: it didn't sound exactly like Vorund, but still, it was obvious that another of his tomes had been opened. In the end, nothing could've prepared me for what we saw when the scout undid the lock and burst through the door. It was the most hideous spider I had ever seen, perched atop the chair at the end of the office, tangled up in a mess of his own webs. And then the beast spoke to us, and all became clear.

Perhaps you have heard the tale of Csilith. Csilith was another poisonous creature who lived years ago, a conniving witch from the Division of Diabolical Devices, and a bitter enemy of Mirith. The webs of deception she wove were so great that they could put even the queen of spiders to shame (and this is no exaggeration: at one point, Csilith had managed to capture and tame the Queen Spider herself). But her treachery and deceit came to a sudden and terrifying end all in one moment, when she tried just a spoonful of soup given to her by a young forest witch who was just starting to gain renown amongst the circles of the underground...

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And now here I was, witnessing it happen again, right before my eyes. Estess Vorund, I realized, would have had no idea who Istra Falvo was. And now, he would probably never find out. I must confess, the thought of squashing this spider crossed my mind multiple times while I stood there and stared. Squirming there before me was the ultimate embodiment of betrayal: the man who once tried to have me kill Captain Octar, the man who killed Major Tesdor himself, and the man who brought chaos and dissension with every word that came out of his venomous mouth. Few would take issue if I were to vanquish him right then and there. But in the end, pity stayed my hand – I do hope I won't live to regret it.

Upon realizing that we were not going to help him, the deformed spider scurried up the walls and took shelter in the upper corner, casting all manner of foul curses at Marali and her people. We withdrew from the office, and the scout locked the door behind, with the promise that it would be guarded around the clock in advance of the Commander's return. We spent some time cleaning up and reordering the rooms, cutting through web after web, and then he made his leave to return to the Vale and inform the others. His name was Filp, by the way – Amadlin Filp. Should you ever make his acquaintance, please send my most sincere thanks, as I'm afraid I forgot to do so in the aftermath of the day's astonishing events. He also made sure to tell me to thank all of you from Citrinitas Aegis as well, on behalf of Marali, for your tremendous efforts in ensuring the city's continued safety.

While I sit here in my study, I cannot help but notice how the Vale has quieted down considerably since the last time I left it. By now, I suspect that the soldiers have all returned to the fort... perhaps you have seen them already yourself! And Miss Falvo, I would assume, is sure to have returned to her merry band of sailors. Still, many more questions remain about the rise and fall of one Estess Vorund, Special Advisor to the Majors. Somewhere out there, perhaps, other culprits and kidnappers might still walk free. And down in Andris, some mysterious woman-child labors as a prisoner, of unknown threat to the world.

But as for me: it is now simply the time to rest. I pray that fortune smiles upon your endeavors to the east, and I look forward to visiting your strange city again someday soon. But until that day comes:

Sending my very best wishes to you and yours,
J.
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