Remember when we last talked, and I said I wished envoy work wasn't sooo boring? I can still hear your deep and wise voice and see your weathered, kind face. You ruffled my hair and said, “Ach, Maebh, m'wee Creena, ye'll find th'adventure y'seek ere long. Mind y'dunna have too much excitement!” And you gave me a roll of parchment and told me to write you (I know, I should have written to Mam and Da, too…).
Well, I hate to say it, but orcs stole all the parchment. I'm pretty sure they just ate it (it would be better than the swill they gave us on the ship). I hope my last letter got back to you - our Ath Daran convoy was attacked the day after I sent it (It was the one where I told you about Kilkenny and Cross-eyed Flannigan, and I asked about how chordal harmony affects spellsong differently than vocal quartal harmony - I'd still like an answer, please!). I'm not sure how long ago that was - maybe only a week or so, but it felt like a month or two: Daideó, the orcs were slavers, and they chained me up! They forced me to bail water every day (thankfully they knew that I wasn't cut out for rowing - I think I would have actually been killed if I had to do that… I'm NOT being melodramatic) - it was awful.
But not as awful as it was for the others. Some of my fellow slaves would talk to me a bit, with a lot of cheerful urging. Like you always say, “A sunny smile gives hope to the weary” - I like to think that it helped at least one or two others. One orc, Sharn, seemed to like me and we became friends. But Daideó, some of them seemed to have almost lost their souls. They were catatonic just to survive, maybe. I think I'm starting to understand your words about how everyone has a unique life song, but it was dark and terrible.
On the bright side, I saw the ocean for the first time. It wasn't as bad as I expected - in the stories everyone's getting seasick and puking over the edge, but it reminded me of a cradle, and it was rather fun to waltz around with a pail of water. I may have accidentally spilled foamy sea water on some of my surlier shipmates a few times. It didn't help their attitudes, but it made me feel better.
The captain was a devil of an orc, though. I just tried to stay out of his way. I tried to imagine what his story was - he was probably dropped on his head as a baby, or maybe he has some sort of chronic disease. He killed a man for not rowing - it didn't make any sense; I think he must have been drunk. He basically chopped off a guy's head for fainting - that isn't normal.
Now, you may be wondering how I've come to start writing to you, since I was captured (well, if I ever have a chance to send this letter to you). Interesting story - you'd be proud, I think. I was practicing my vocal warmups, but I had to hum gently because the orcs didn't enjoy normal singing, and I didn't want anyone to think that I might be a spellsinger like you. I don't even know if anyone else knows about spellsingers, but I couldn't risk it:
On my first day, Gerry, the gnome I told you about who is a priest of Rhya, healed a slave who had lost his thumb in a terrible rope accident. Well, the second the orcs saw the thumb grow back, as clean as the day he was born, they went into a frenzy, chopped off Gerry's head, and told us all that any magic users will die. It seemed a bit theatrical, but I decided to play it safe.
In any case, I think the focus on gentle humming actually has helped out my spellsong - I had a lot of time to just work on my natural pitch, and the relaxed humming helped me centre the resonance in my head a bit better. Just wait until I tell you about what happened when I got on land! It's getting late, so I'm going to have to continue this story another day. Maybe I'll give you a summary - I made some new friends (you can tell Mam there's no handsome lads in my group, so she doesn't have to worry :P ).
We are currently camped out in a house in a town called Smallwater, and the orcs that have taken over don't know we're here. Well, except for Sharn, but she's not really like the other orcs - she helped us escape. There is also a human that I called Brenna at first because she forgot her name, but now I call her El (short for Elesandra -she REALLY needed a friend); the fourth member of our merry band is Firia (It was hard to get her name, too) who I think is partially a catperson? She speaks clearer than most that I've met and is magical. The forest is nice - a bit like Ros Liadh back home, but with fewer tree hags and pixies (so far).
PS - Don't tell Mam and Da about the slave murdery bits - they worry too much as it is. But let them know I'm safe, on some sort of land called Polonia. We're heading to a city called Soutly Fort, and I'll try to send this letter to Ath Dara from there.
Right now we're camped out in the forest right by a large river - so much nicer than the slave ship, the beach, or the orc town that we were stuck in when I wrote the first letter! Where did I leave off… Hmm. I was skipping around a bit, let's go with the beach.
We had been sailing for what seemed like years (or months, or maybe a week or so, not sure) when we suddenly landed on a beach. Captain Zughug (or Zookug, it's been a while) made some lame excuse about needing grog or running out of money, but I didn't really believe him. I was chained to an elf with totally black eyes (a bit scary - that's El) and Firia (the catfolk girl). I tried to make friends with them, but it took a while.
Sharn, the orc woman who has always been friendly to me, is very curious for an orc, and I convinced her to help us escape! I happened to spy some nearby chamomile and valerian that Sharn could use for a special recipe she needed. I remembered Maimeó's nature walks with me when I was her “wee stóirín”. I miss her - it's been so long, Daideó - I'm sure it's harder for you.
Back to the story. Sharn whipped up some alchemical potions, and bang! Our guards were knocked unconscious. It was still night, and the fog rolled in, and so I shouted out to cause a distraction since some orcs had seen us (too bad that fog didn't arrive sooner…). Sharn gave me the key, and we started freeing prisoners. I made sure that the others knew who I was - you always said, “Hope is a thing with feathers, that perches in the soul…” and so I thought I'd give everyone a big dose of hope! Well, I hope that the “legend of the maiden Maebh” will spread here and inspire others to act with courage!
Anyway, we ran off into the forest, and eventually made our way into Smallwater, the town I wrote the last letter from. Oh, outside of town I found a shrine to Shallya - in a bole of a great oak, there was a carving or a totem, and I could feel the healing calm of the place. I could have stayed there, but we needed to wash up and scrounge for some decent clothing.
We followed a befuddled woodcutter back to town. It was really easy to sneak into Smallwater - I guess the orcs think all the humans here are just slaves and have accepted that fact. I keep finding useful things - Maimeó always said, “Yer a grand keener for the loot, aye!” whenever I picked up a bit of string or a funny rock. In this house, you'll never guess what I found - a finely crafted lute! It had no strings, but the soundboard was solid and uncracked, and I think I'll try carving some runes on it as I find time. It feels powerful - I can imagine some dark, brooding, powerful spellsinger crafted her.
We slept there for the night, and I had found some parchment and charcoal is abundant - the town was burnt a fair bit - and wrote the letter. The next day we blended in and gathered supplies. Apparently the orcs are preparing an invasion on Soutly Fort, and since we didn't much care for our slavers, we thought it was a smashing idea to foil their plans. I waltzed right up to the main longhouse, and demanded some food for my “master”, and I actually convinced the humans there to give enough for a few days' worth of travel. Confidence does the trick!
We decided to take the shortcut to Soutly Fort - I can see your eyebrows raise, Daideó, but I think it will also be a great chance to meet some mystery tribe called the Mambir - and you always tell me how important it is to meet new and different people to expand my horizons. I just don't think we have a chance of beating an army of orcs - they had a big headstart on the road, though I guess an army goes real slow since they need rations and all that.
On our way out of town, we briefly discussed taking the bridge and using it as a raft on the river to the South, but I didn't think that was very considerate for the townsfolk we're leaving behind. I tried to convince a farmer to come with us as a guide, but he was stuck with his family.
Reece was his name, and he kept going on about “Valour, the One True God”. The gods around here are interesting - Sharn also talks about “Memona, the One True God” - folk around here don't understand the poetry of archetypal personification, but I suppose most folk back home don't, either. I know what you're going to say - “T'each her own; truth shows in th' actions from th' 'eart.” That's why I'm happy to have Sharn along - her heart shows that she's more like me, and that manky Captain Zoogoo is a fecking mess.
Well, I wasn't going to write about it, but I've come to this point, and I'm not tired yet. When we first camped, I sang some soothing songs like you taught me, and it felt good - we were all knackered from the chaos of the last few days. As I was finishing up, we were attacked by wolves at this very campsite, and I have to admit it was exciting. I felt rather bad afterwards, what with all the dead wolves lying around, but I swear, Daideó, I didn't hurt any. I may have used a battle chant using my new lute as percussion - the blood sure pounded through our veins! It was life or death - I don't know why they attacked. Oh, and Firia is a mage of some sort - she made vines grow up right quick to trap a wolf, and Sharn is insanely strong (she ripped a wolf right apart with her own two hands - I swear I am not exaggerating!). El is handy with a sling and was hurling rocks around.
I don't think that the others understand spellsinging, and that's okay since magic doesn't seem to be very accepted around here, at least the places we've seen so far. I really don't understand the behaviour of the wolves, though - just attacking a campsite seems terribly odd. It's not like we were the only escaped slaves, either, and the forests seem to be full of prey.
Maybe this is all why I'm thinking of Maimeó so much now. I should have reached out to them, I should have remembered her Ways of the Forest. It came back to me after, and I promise I'll try to understand all creatures, not just the noisy ones like us.
Well, I feel much better getting that off my heart, so I think I'll take a nice rest. We should be crossing this river in the morning if we can convert this old wagon into a raft. There are several pines growing around here, and the pitch should be perfect as a sealant.
P.S. Pleeeeease don't tell Mam and Da about the wolves. They'll be worried sick as it is. And could you lay some chamomile and valerian on Maimeó's grave for me? I miss her.