Letters in the Wind
Ylsa began writing as soon as the expedition stopped to rest, scratching words onto paper by dull firelight while the rest of the party stood guard, or slept, or tore their cloaks into bandages for Stanrick’s wounds. As soon as the party made it back to Onsallas’ Outpost, she sent her messages into the wind.
A very young Longfang volunteered himself as one of the fastest runners in the pack. She sent him to follow the Phoenix caravan, bearing this brief note, written while Selena Stargazer yelled and extorted promises from Thrand the first night of the return journey:
Honored Laertes and Aiden,
Our mission was successful, but the document we sought was stolen before it could be examined. Keep those fine ears of yours in the wind for any sign of them.
Also, as you may have learned on you own by now, the symbol you were inquiring about is mark of the Pack Stormjarl chieftain.
Next, she saw a familiar messenger hawk perched atop her tent, as if waiting for her return. To that bird’s leg she tied this tightly-folded piece of paper, bearing a message scrawled out while the rest of the party divvied up the last of the food and water on the second day of the return journey:
I have reason to believe that the pirates of Oarsmeet are very soon going to be selling a book (or some other form of document) they found in the Dirge Swamp. If you would like to keep the original for some perverse reason, fine, I only ask that I and one of my associates be allowed to handle it and transcribe its contents. I will pay you, I will continue to provide you with information, just get me the book. I do not care where the pirates are, I do not care if Agnosco is who they are selling it to in the first place. Just find me the book.
Finally, a weathered old Ulven hunter began the walk towards the Watchwolves of Sol, with this letter – composed during Ylsa’s turn watching Stanrick in case he stopped breathing in his sleep the night before they returned to the outpost – carefully rolled and hidden in her boot:
The expedition into the Dirge Swamp fared far better than most expected, but not as well as hoped. The mercenaries betrayed us, and were slaughtered to a man. Whether this was treachery by the New Aldorian prince, or whether the mercenaries were secretly under the employ of a third party, I do not know. Most of the volunteers who ventured in have made it back out again despite this treachery, although I fear Stanrick may not last long despite our best efforts. Silvermane gave his life to save Rhodi, a group of Boomhowler’s Bastards, and myself when we became separated from the rest of the group – may the Great Wolf’s ears ring with his name.
As to whether or not the mission was actually successful… it depends on your point of view. Our Truth Seeker’s divinations led us near to a vilely corrupted site (so I am told – I did not see it myself), and at that site we found a small chest containing a few silver and gems, but the book we sought was nowhere to be found. Just before we found the chest, the two Oarsmeet pirates traveling with us disappeared, and just after the Seeker’s magic told her the thing she sought was moving.
Such a coincidence is too great to have been an accident. I could be mistaken, but for now there is no doubt in my mind that the pirates took what we were seeking, and left to try and sell it… to whom, I have no idea. But what I do know is that the pirates seem to be somehow blessed with magnificent luck, and a party of two is harder to find in the woods than a whole expedition. There is a very good chance that the item or items they took made it out of the swamp intact. I intend to make contact with the Agnosco network – if anybody will be able to find the information we need, it will be them (assuming they are not the ones the pirates sell it to in the first place).
Also, the day before the expedition began, two of the Phoenix Syndar approached me regarding a large goldwood claimant found in the swamp some months ago. They did not know where it had come from, or whom it belonged to, and neither did I. Last I heard were attempting to arrange a meeting with Solveig Longfang to discuss it. Since this conversation I have learned that it bore the mark of the chief of Pack Stormjarl – it seems likely to me that they were attempting to contact Longfang and met with misfortune on the way.
Keep your ears up for any news.
May you ever hunt downwind,
P.S. Tell Anjan and Lygari that I spoke with the strange black-skinned Syndar once more. She described another one of her “friends” to me – another Syndar living in the swamp, one that knows the Mordok. A pale, mean Syndar. She said to tell him she has a present for him. I’d love to think that present was my blade, but knowing her it’s probably an interestingly shaped rock – at least in the voice she spoke to me in. Her other voice is more vicious. Either way, it eases my heart to hear of him. I had begun to fear that what I saw when I was captured was just my fevered imagination. Knowing that there is another who has seen him, even if that other has a fractured mind, soothes me greatly.
There were other letters sent out that day, brief missives cryptically seeking word of the stolen journal, passed from hand to hand among the kind of people who learn and tell stories like the rest of us breathe the air. But these are the ones Ylsa Stormherald will remember writing.