Dear Daideó,

I have had such a wonderful time getting to know the Aljana - a very fun group of forest elves! Yoshe and Moshe are the two brothers that I rescued from the giant troll-beast, and they assured the others that I was a great ally.

I briefly referred to Firia in my last letter - it turns out she had been with the Aljana for a few days already, but unable to speak their language. They can speak Common, but they don't like to. I don't blame them - they have a lovely elvish dialect that reminds me of Al-Madena.

I came across Firia while she was in the middle of some crazy eating contest - I may have hugged her a bit tight which caused a bit of a gastronomical mess. She didn't seem to mind - I guess the cat part of her is used to hacking things up. Kinda gross, actually.

After catching up, we decided that it would be a smart idea to gain some credibility with the Aljana. If we could ingratiate ourselves with them even further, we thought they would be happy to help us find the rest of our friends.

Prince Bottil is the highest-ranking elf here, and he is very courteous - my Envoy training came in quite handy. He was kind and said many sweet things about my courage and abilities. Great politician.

We managed to convince him that we should have a feast, in which Firia would include some healing potions to help the elves recover from their constant raids against the orc invasion.

We began the day collecting herbs and spices from the forest, and Scáthfile helped us hunt down a deer. Venison sounded very appetizing.

By the time we returned, the news of our feast had spread throughout the camp, and it turns out the regular chefs, Fazi & Muki, were not very happy. They took it as an affront to their honour, so they challenged us to a cooking duel!

While Firia started making the main course, I decided to visit the elvish chefs. I was hoping to convince them to stop competing and just work together to make an epic cross-cultural feast, but they were quite firm. I salvaged the conversation by trying out a few elvish words, drawing from my past training, and they remained quite good-natured. At least to my face.

I found out that they hate horseradish, and that they've never had cane sugar before (just honey). Their culture also puts enormous stock in presentation, so I knew we had to do something special.

With my intel, Firia decided to make a sugary souffle for dessert, and while she was busy, I tried to gather more data and even distract Fazi & Muki.

Instead, I was the one distracted - a young elf named Ilyad was busy turning the spit for their roasting meat, and he was an excellent storyteller! He was quite charming, and loved talking about local lore. This came in handy later.

Firia told me that she caught an elf trying to slip some suspicious powder into her cooking - it seems as though these guys take a cook-off seriously!

We decided that we should incorporate a ballad into the meal - start the evening off with music, and have the meal unfold as the story was told.

While I was fancying up the plates, adding garnishes and colours, Firia tried to write a story about some young elf searching for his true love… She was trying to draw from her cultural background, and thought that maybe the common setting (living in the forest, connection with nature, semi-nomadic lifestyle) would help; honestly, I thought it was a bit on the bland side. For the actual performance, I decided to twist it completely into a romantic comedy with a female protagonist. “The Ballad of Zarif”.

In my conversation with Ilyad earlier, I noticed that they REALLY like puns and plays on words, so I incorporated as many of your jokes as I could remember, Daideó. It made me miss you a bit, but in a funny way you were right there with me!

The changes worked well - even Fazi & Muki were roaring in laughter by the time Firia was serving dessert! She was exhausted by the end of the evening, but I was quite energized - it had been a while since I performed last, and I loved it!

The night went well, and this morning we gathered a few supplies for a search. Fazi packed some leftover kebab for me - he gave me a pat on the shoulder and said the feast had been a great success.

Yoshe and Moshe volunteered to help us with the expedition, and we are about to leave.

I'll write to you again once we're back. I'm confident that everything will be just fine. Sharn is pretty much indestructible, El can obliterate anything in her path, and Aeowynn can heal their bumps and bruises from the inconvenience.

I'm sure they're fine…


Maebh the Minstrel