To Ragnar Olsson – Chief Officer of the Cheese Makers Guild of Ylir
When last I checked with Nazariy at our keep, there had been no reply from you. I hope this letter will find you well and that there will be a reply upon my return from our latest mission. In truth, there has not been much time to craft these letters between ministering to the poor and downtrodden of the lands, and uncovering dark plots, but it is worthwhile to communicate with one of my oldest friends. The practice grounds me and anchors me to a less chaotic world.
We have been called to Badderin by Lord Ivan to discover the plot behind missing workers in this region. We have done much talking and sneaking around, trying to learn all we can. I am pleased that my siblings aim to do all they can without first resorting to violence. However, I fear that it will yet come to that, for talking has gotten as all but nowhere, save to discover that we are mixed in some dark business.
I do not want to expose his part in our mission, lest he come to harm, but I trust that you will keep my tales secret. Our contact Nikolai, who works at the forge under Lord Ivan’s holdings, agreed to help us stage a ruse to flush out the attacker. Or kidnapper. Or murderer. Whatever or whomever is behind these disappearances. I was worried we would have to bribe him with half the gold we’ve been promised for this job, but we were able to appeal to his moral sensibilities. We offered gold as payment, but the amount was left unspecified.
We attempted to get hired on as guards in Lord Ivan’s house, so as to have an excuse to help escort workers between the forge and their lodgings. We figured we could cause a distraction and get Nikolai away from the group. Once on his own, he would much more likely be attacked or taken. Piotyr did his best to impress our skills upon the guards, flexing his substantial muscles to show what good hired arms we’d make, but puzzlingly they seemed not to consider this sufficient qualification. Natsuko explained our desire to be hired on, and we were directed to talk to the Master of Arms. It appeared our plan was falling into place, but we recognized the guards at Lord Ivan’s house, and if we recognized them, they would surely recognize us, and so the idea was abandoned. Thankfully we had a back up plan. It is times like this that I long for the straightforward simple days of cheese making, where not too much could go amiss.
Thankfully my sister Aino continues to impress me with her skills and craftiness. She fashioned a smoke bomb and orcish arrows for us to carry out a distraction. Perhaps if we could make people think that beast men were attacking, we could cause a panic, and then we could spirit Nikolai away amidst the chaos. While Natsuko and Aino laid in wait, Piotyr and I attempted to hide in an alleyway. Perhaps it was the sub par food we ate at the overpriced inn we’ve been staying at (we’ve been charged 12 gold just in the past couple of days!), a bad case of indigestion, but we seemed not at our most stealthy best. Still, we were able to carry out our plans unnoticed. Unnoticed until the critical moment.
First I blew my orc horn. I am glad I thought to take it with me so very long ago. It has come in handy. The guards escorting the forge workers stopped. But it was not enough to cause them to investigate. We set off the smoke bomb. The guards pulled their swords. Still no investigation. Piotyr let loose one of the orcish arrows. I fear he either needs a few more practice sessions with the crossbow, or else perhaps it was some acid reflux throwing off his aim, for the arrow sunk firmly into the breastplate of one of the guards. Thankfully the plate was thick and the guard unharmed. We must not kill unnecessarily. Still this seemed not enough to cause the guards to leave their charges and investigate. I decided to do the only thing I could think of and ran screaming toward the group, flailing my arms and yelling about the nonexistent beast attack, urging everyone to run for their lives. Finally, success. In the ensuing panic, one of the guards accidentally attacked me, but I was unscathed. Nikolai got away, and we regrouped a couple of alleys over.
Unfortunately at this point, militia were teeming in the streets, and who can blame them! They thought they were under attack by foul beast men. While I do not enjoy striking fear under the guise of those loathsome beings, it was a most effective ruse. When the panic subsided a couple of hours later, much closer to dawn, we enacted our true plan. Nikolai set off for home, with the rest of us following just out of sight. It suddenly became very cold for such a mild spring morning, and then a shadowy figure appeared and attacked Nikolai!
Though the creature seemed insubstantial, it seemed vulnerable to physical attacks. It gave us quite the fight, but my siblings and I managed to kill the creature. With Aino landing the final blow, the creature dissolved, and a talisman fell to the ground. I can tell that it has been surrounded by dark magic, as traces still cling to it, though it appears safe to handle. It is obviously the anchor for some sort of summoning spell, and since we’ve heard rumour of a shadowy figure seen in Lord Ivan’s home, we are beginning to suspect his involvement, though it does not make sense sine he hired us to find the perpetrator of these dark deeds.
We escorted Nikolai to his lodgings, and rested for a while at the inn. We have done our best to investigate Lord Ivan and this talisman, but have very little information to show for it. We tried to talk to Lord Ivan’s master of house, but he was most unhelpful. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he was trying to keep us away. He certainly wouldn’t help us find cheaper lodgings. I fear we’ll have to spend all of what we may earn for this job at that overpriced place. No matter. We do the Great Gouda’s work by driving out darkness in this world.
The Lady Anna, who has also offered monetary compensation for uncovering this plot, was able to provide us with her uncle’s notes regarding Lord Ivan. Apparently the man didn’t have an especially high opinion of his lordship, something to do with his fatalistic moods regarding the war. The notes also indicated a fascination with ancient artifacts, but this is all we were able to discover. I fear we will have no choice but to confront Lord Ivan. If he is not responsible for the dark creature’s summoning, hopefully he will not turn to us with wrath.
I should send this letter as quickly as possible, for who knows what the morrow will bring. I have no doubt there will be battle, and in that at least I can be useful, for my siblings do not seem eager for me to put my ministerial skills into practice. I forgive their ignorance of the Great Gouda’s ways, and turn my attention to what is ahead. I do not fear death, for I have His protection, and the swift and sure swords of my siblings at my side. I will write again once we are safely home and this matter has been put to rest. Perhaps with part of the gold we may earn, I can convince my siblings to add our own dairy operations to the keep, though its restoration is obviously our top priority. I would be most grateful for your advice and guidance in that endeavour.
Marit Sommerfeldt of the House of the Silverhawk.
Great Gouda who art in heaven,
Cultured be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy curd be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily cheese.
And forgive us our unsavoryness,
As we forgive those who are unsavoury toward us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from unripeness.
For thine is the grated,
The pungent, and the holey,
For ever and ever.