On a sheet of parchment scavenged from the workshop:
You owe me 10 gold pieces. I was right: mermaids are real. Though I have to admit, after meeting one up close, I don’t
On a fresh sheet of parchment:
You won’t believe
On a fresh sheet of parchment:
My dearest Silas,
I miss you, more than words can say. I don’t know if or when this letter will reach you, or even yet if it’s truly for you at all. I am, quite literally, in a deep dark hole miles underwater. The weight of it – on my shoulders, above my head – is a phantom, I know, but I feel it acutely. I could not guess the hour, and mark the passage of time by the slow death of my candle and the sound of my companions breathing. Like old times, they are asleep while I sit awake, pouring over forgotten texts. It is one of Those Nights, when the world feels small and empty, time slow yet achingly short. Everything is vaguely unreal, and in the back of my mind I think that at any moment I might wake by your side, if only I knew how to sleep.
Instead I’m stuck in a forgotten room that smells of age and stale air – the private laboratory of a long-dead sun elf mage, complete with lifetimes worth of his research. Everything else is dust – wine turned to vinegar in the bottles (yes, I was feeling morose enough to check), reagents on his workbench moldered to useless powder. But the research itself, what little of it I understand, is fascinating and terrifying. It concerns elementals, primarily, and means of controlling them. The particulars of his methodology are lost on me, but I have experienced the fruits of his labors first hand. You remember that temple with the sand trap? This mage, Andrathath, found a way to reproduce the results by controlling water elementals, and improved on the design. Rather than leaving a flooded room behind once the trap is triggered, the whole rig can be drained and reset, evidently indefinitely, and when operated properly, it serves as a secret entrance to the very workshop I find myself in now.
I’m torn between frantic curiosity – wanting to spend as long as it takes picking apart his research until I understand it – and feeling that the whole of it is better left forgotten. When I came across the first mentions of the djinn and the Elemental Planes, it was only a tenuous sense of self preservation that kept me from flinging every scrap of paper into the water and shredding it to nothing. I would not let any eyes but my own see these documents if I could, not without fully understanding them, but this is a master’s lab, and I would have hardly been fit to be Andrathath’s apprentice. My lack of understanding is only exacerbated by the massive gulfs of time and language between us; without context, without more information, there is little hope that I’ll ever truly make sense of any of it. I know Tehlmar will have the resources I need, but with the documents in hand, I doubt he would have any further use for me. I am wary of his intentions, and of what he seeks to accomplish with the research. Even if he allowed me access to his own records, to assist him in recreating Andrathath’s breakthroughs, I would not be in a position to prevent him from using the knowledge to whatever ends he intends.
And yet, I’m not certain I have a choice in the matter. The neat stack of papers at my elbow is the foundation of our bargain; my freedom – not to mention the freedom of my companions – hinges upon it being returned to him. If I return empty handed, I’ll be sent out again and again to renew the search. If I confessed to destroying the documents, I’m not certain I would survive the exchange. It seems the right thing to do – not less because I have reason to believe the agents of an eldritch god are also seeking Andrathath’s research, and may already possess some potion of it – but I’m not certain that I’m capable of being quite that good, or heroic. I have spent hours telling myself that there must be another way, that no matter how smart the man, he is not immune to being outsmarted. But I have yet to formulate a brilliant plan, or even a mediocre one. My path would be clearer if only I knew the full extent of what Andrathath had discovered – if his research really did lead to the destruction of this fallen city, or if time and the retelling have made more of it than it is. I know that the knowledge is dangerous, but the full extent of what it might make possible is beyond me.
Perhaps it is best I don’t truly understand. Given what Tehlmar knows of me, I do not doubt that he would suspect me of ferreting away Andrathath’s research to keep it from him, and the gold cuff on my wrist is reason enough to believe he would know it if I had a mind to try. At least by not knowing, if I do destroy the documents, he won’t be able to recover their secrets from my mind.
It’s such a human notion, falling on one’s sword. Snuffing out an already quick-burning candle. By elven standards, I am still a child. By human ones, an old woman who has lived a full and happy life. I suppose the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but it gives me little comfort. I am at a loss. Adrift. I think that you would be brave enough to do this thing in my place, and smart enough not to need to, but that knowledge only makes me feel your absence more keenly. Perhaps most upsetting is that, even after all these years, I’m not entirely certain what you would have me do, were you here to advise me. I wish you were. I wish I could ask. I wish I had left that damn dwarf to drown, and his ring to rot beneath the waves.
If this is the last message of mine that reaches you, I’m so sorry. If it never does, I hope that you know how much I love you.