Ah, I remember it as if I were yesterday. In those I used to write home to mother every day; now, well now, that’s not so easy, if mother even still lives in those Grugni-forsaken mountains. Would that we had never moved away from the rock-salt caves of Barak Varr…
I find notes from the time. This is in my hand;
“….(unreadable) is dead! Blasted apart. We’re heading for Bogenhafen now, to make our fortunes. Best gap year ever…”
I remember little of that journey, but I remember Bogenhafen; I was stunned at the size and folly of it; a town of perhaps 5000 men undefended by mountains, built into the open! Pride prevented me gaping openly, but I think my comrades must have picked up on my shock at the squalor of it all. To think men live like this, on mud and amidst their own filth, drinking from the same turgid waters they defecate into. No wonder they are so short-lived and hold their lives so cheap.
The town was in uproar; disease was spreading through the ramshackle old quarter, which had been hastily barricaded off, and the people were awaiting St Helena, the Shallyan saint, who’d cured this ‘blue plague’ before. None of our group were trained in medicine else, being the brash young fools we were, we would have doubtless dived straight into the squalor of the plague quarter alongside poor Goodle Spittle and died like the rest.
Quickly, we made our decision; we’d win fame and fortune by finding this Saint and saving the city! We made our base in a fancy inn, the Cockatrice, which suited my status, and stashed our belongings there; meanwhile, the most insalubrious of us, the boatman Heinrich, went to a lowlife establishment that he ascertained to be a den of Ranald worshippers. We found that a well turned-out young lady had been enquiring of a murderer and rogue by the name of Sharp Jake. Foolishly in hindsight, we left the address of our quarters and a good lump of money in the barkeep’s hands, saying we’d pay well for more information.
I do not recall the exact sequence of events that followed; but we made our acquaintance with the Pastor Rufus, the head of local Shallyan mission, who we immediately conceived a dislike for; the noble mayor Ludwig, who I got on famously with, and who was to prove so helpful later; an irritatingly-clever Elf named Aine, who was well ahead of us in the investigation; and Dolf the truthseeker, a blessed priest of Verena. With help of Ludwig and a guard named Saul, we calmed the Old Quarter a little by supplying them with water and food.
Despite all this, we could find no clues to the whereabouts of the Saint; she’d disappeared on the road from Frederheim to Bogenhafen and a huge crowd of adventurers was scouring the countryside for her. Heading back to our rooms, we encountered a Ranaldian wench – the barmaid from the Black Festag – ransacking our goods. Heinrich gave chase across the rooftops and caught the maid; but, brashly, we let her go in return for our silence on her ineptitude and the return of our goods.
I recall at that stage, we broke for the night, so I shall rest my aged hands too, whilst teasing you a little. The next note I have is not in my hand, but the florid Quenya of a High Elf – I presume Aine’s. It reads;
“…confusion and plague. Hordes of orcbrains unable to see beyond their noses. Do they not understand; the priestess kidnapped herself…”