My dear Father,
Our company is returning to Treff, back from another ranging into the swamp. This particular job was given to us by the Order of the Moss-Covered Sword, one of the biggest and most authoritative factions in the City of Keels and Piles. It seems there is more going on in the swamp than the usual beasts, bugs and terrible weather.
They sent us out to another old ruin belonging to the former Mosquito Kingdom (well, I’m not quite sure any more just how ‘former’ it is). The structure itself was fascinating— an enormous titan tree turned into stone, by lightning or magic or both. It had been carved out and built onto, to make it into a fantastically eerie tower. The outside alone was intimidating, but nothing compared to what we found inside.
A storm started up as soon as we reached the place, so we piled inside rather quickly. I got us through the door all right, with Cyrus right behind me. There was an odd sight inside, a passel of digging automata. They’re mechanical men as tall as I am, with digging implements for arms. They were commanded by something I’d never seen before: a skeleton in wizard’s robes. It walked and spoke and fought like a living man, though with horrible magic no properly living man should use. He clung to the ceiling like a bony spider, casting viciously damaging spells that hurt Mina fairly badly. Thank goodness, as always, for our faithful and capable Galen— he keeps us alive and well through all of our adventures (or misadventures, as some tend to be).
Having taken care of this first hurdle, we made our way up through the rest of the tower one room at a time. We faced a breath-drinker (a vicious spirit of air that can paralyze with a look— I’m shamed to say that it froze me from the start, but the rest of the company dispatched it), harpies (awful shrieking bird women, but we got the drop on them and finished them with all haste) and a terrifying golem made of flesh (probably made from the breath-drinker’s victims, to be honest) that was controlled by another skeletal wizard. He seemed to be quite mad, but a frighteningly capable caster. He created a heavy darkness in the room and when all seemed lost for him, he committed suicide with a devastating spell that hurt us all quite badly (it nearly killed me). Aside from that spell I was all right for that battle, Mina and Cyrus took the worst of it. Once again, Galen came to our rescue and kept us alive.
We actually spent a night in the laboratory where the golem was created— full of alchemical implements and gruesome experiments. (One of the other rooms in the tower held the remains of an experiment gone rogue, a spell of some frosty variety brought to life. It seemed to have escaped into the swamp, and I have no doubt it will wreak all kinds of frozen havoc.) In the laboratory we talked a bit about what exactly we seem to be fighting. We learned that this tower is one part of several in a larger movement, and the automata were digging a tunnel for transportation of… something. We don’t know exactly what. I don’t know if our current employers would want me to tell you that, but I don’t see what it can hurt. You keep secrets as well as any, especially if it involves your fried potatoes… anyway, after spending the night there we continued up the tower. Some of the trek upward involved outside ramps, slick with rain and crumbling from age. We were nearly swept away more than once, and once it was due to a pair of air elementals that may well have knocked us right off if they hadn’t been dispelled so quickly!
We reached the top after tackling more air spirits and a bit of very sneaky business— I was briefly invisible (thanks to Mina), so I snuck through a room with another pair of those skeletons (playing draughts, to my surprise) to open a trapped trap door to let my companions up. The skeletal men were actually quite polite and very helpful— Reg and Fitz, I believe their names were. They told us that they hadn’t really voluntarily joined with this movement and so would be perfectly happy to just… leave, if we wouldn’t kill them. They told us a few other things before we let them teleport out. Strangest conversation I’ve ever had.
The top of the tower was one of the fiercest battles I’ve ever fought, and you know that I’d rather slip by than fight— but we had no choice here. Another skeletal wizard awaited us, with a few friends… air elementals, an invisible stalker and an enormous red drake. Cyrus tangled with the elementals, the drake went after Mina. I managed to find the stalker, invisible though it was, and kill it. I wish it had left a body for a trophy, for I’m rather proud of that. Mina, Cyrus and Galen managed to take down the wizard and the elementals, but that left us the drake. It seemed rather intent on killing Mina, maybe just because she is rather dragon-y herself, but we eventually took it down.
There was yet another trial to face— the inhabitants of the tower left behind a signal beacon. It had summoned an enormous group of flying reinforcements, another ‘part’ to the larger movement. Mina and Galen somehow got it to stop working, and with that done, we can finally head back to the city.
I’m out on the boat now, with our catfish towing us along the river. Cyrus and Mina are talking about spears, Galen is navigating, and I’m contemplating uses for one of the treasures we recovered from the tower— a smaller, non-combat automaton. If we can get it to function, I want it to help me dig in the garden when we get home! If not, it can make a very fetching birdbath or maybe a coat rack in the main hall… certainly a conversation piece if nothing else.
You can tell Mother about the tower, but don’t mention the near-death, if you’d be so kind. When I reach Treff again I’ll send this off with a scarf from the Bazaar of Torches for her and some very fine tea from the Venom Deserts. Give her my best, and don’t worry— your daughter is battered and bruised, but returns alive (with all of her companions) to the Gateway to the South.
We’ve yet to discover the extent of this apparent uprising in the swamp, but it seems to me that what remains of the old Mosquito Kingdom may have decided to rise against the city.
Ehlonna preserve us, and restore this ravaged swamp to its original state (though it is humid, muddy and full of insects, it was once a treacherously beautiful place).