You would not believe the adventures I have had in the world these past few weeks. The most recent is indicative of the bumbling nature of my fellow travellers, and my own desperation to regain my agency and fulfill Ilmater’s wishes for me. But I race ahead of myself – I realise you have not heard anything of my movements since we descended into the mines of Wave Echo Cave. Through some mistakes, miscommunications and self-induced bumbling, we were taken captive by a drow mage of some great skill, who we presumed to be our foe, the rumoured Black Spider. Knocked unconscious, when we awoke we were in a drow stronghold in the Underdark, a place only known to me in tales and old soldiers’ nightmares. Our time there is the subject of another letter – nay, another package of letters and an evening by the campfire to discuss them all – but I shall focus here merely on our poorly executed yet ultimately successful escape from the clutches of Lady Ilvara, a nasty piece of work if ever I saw one, and as Mother Mary Agnes would have said in the orphanage, "an evil little baggage." She removed our druid friend from the cell to who knows where, and whipped Talia for insubordination. I can’t fault her for being irritated by the elf, but her punishment was viciousness itself.
One of the guards tipped me off that there would be an opening at the shift changeover, and tired as I was I saw no lie in his words. I alerted my companions, the elf and the half-orc, as well as the other inhabitants of our prison cell, and we made ready our ill-equipped and ill-conceived attempt. We charged from the pens when the guard changeover was purposefully delayed, and surged forwards towards the guard tower and its armoury, borne only with willpower and the desire for freedom. We raced into the tower to find a guard taken by surprise and pushed him out onto one of the bridges over the cavernous drop, with only spider silk webs below him, a vast canopy beneath the platforms we found ourselves on. An orc named Ront - a coward, and a battleshirker by his own account - used his strength to hold the door, and we equipped ourselves and the others from the armoury.
I could hear fighting from the other end of the group, as quaggoth met elf-turned-quaggoth (again, another story for another time – hold your questions!) in mortal battle. However surrounded by Ront, my half-orc friend (I know!) Krugaar, and a brave dwarven shieldmaiden named Eldeth, we fought an oncoming tide of drow as the door fell and we were forced from the tower onto the bridge back towards the slave pens. I lost sight of the others among the fighting, learning only later of their fate – but my attention was focused on the elf who has travelled with us these past times, and Eldeth, who placed herself at the front of the group and used her shield to hold back a veritable wall of warriors who sought to overpower her and bring vengeance upon us all. I threw the crossbow and bolts I had gathered to the elf, Talia (I believe I’ve mentioned my wish to bring her down a peg or two in my letters to you before?) and turned my full attention to Eldeth. Despite the lack of my holy symbol (the pain – stolen from me by those vagabonds who took us prisoner) I was able to imbue her with a few motes of bravery – and then I knew no more.
The next I was aware I was suspended on the webbing I earlier wrote of – and wrapped in spider silk to boot. I was accompanied by a myconid by the name of Stool, whose particular talent allows anyone nearby to converse psychically. And, Stool informed me, I was also accompanied by Talia. Ilmater save us. Stool assisted me in telling me the location of the edge of the webbing and the giant spiders surrounding us. Oh yes, you can’t have giant spider silk without giant spiders! Truly, Aloysius, I have walked recently amongst wonders and nightmares and oftentimes not known the difference until I have thought ‘pon them. I cut myself from the strands surrounding me and wriggled to Talia. Pausing only to try and boost her health somewhat after the battering she had taken in our escape, I cut her free too, before being warned by Stool that the spiders approached imminently and from the clicking I could hear I suspected their purpose was not friendly.
There was no possibility of us returning to the level we had fallen from – none of us possessing the gift of flight – so I threw us all down instead, hoping for safety and as soft a landing as the gods saw fit to provide. Alas we hit cold water. Talia was still unconscious, so with Stool propelling himself somehow towards what he assured me was a shore, I followed myself, grimly dragging the elf through the water behind me, along with her encumbrances of bow and bolts. She reeked of shit from our tasks during imprisonment and at such close quarters it was impossible to stop the smell from transferring its tentacles to myself as well. Once we reached some sort of land, I dragged us out into a darkness so complete that I thought I had been blinded, and kept dragging the elf behind me as I sought to put distance - any distance at all - between our small group and those who sought to harm us.
At some point the elf awoke, spluttering water and indignant complaints in equal measure. I could not see her face in the utter darkness, so I dropped her upper body on the floor and waited for her to return to the vertical plane, and then bound myself to her so she could lead us faster. The myconid located tracks it thought belonged to Krugaar and others familiar to us, and with Talia’s darkvision - my own eyes useless in such total blackness - we were able to follow, hoping they would lead us to friend not foe. The going was tough, made tougher by the extreme darkness; darker than pitch, darker than the souls of sinners, darker even than your eyes in anger, Aloysius. My feet were shredded by scree and shale, even after I wrapped them in festering rags torn from our meagre clothes. We stumbled onwards, relying totally on the elf’s vision and all the time keeping up a meaningless and frustrating badinage as our various annoyances needled the other and forced them into an outburst. It felt like days in the darkness? But it could only have been a few hours before we stumbled upon our quarry, leavers of the tracks we had been following. It was our fellow occupants of the slave cell – all except Eldeth, who I surmised from her non-appearance in either group, and a snatch of overheard conversation during a brief stint of consciousness on the spider web, had perished in the battle against the drow. I felt a sudden blow to my heart as I realised the extent of her bravery and sacrifice.
Krugaar and his merry band had foraged for food and located some sustenance – nothing you would recognise as edible but nutrition nonetheless. We decided to move forwards, away from the drow encampment, and sleep before making a plan. Talia set her face mutinously and I already know she wishes to return for her dog and her belongings. That argument remains, though, for another day and another letter.
And I remain, ever yours, truly ever yours,