Dear Daideó,

Spring has finally arrived! We finished the winter with more performances, saving up money for a journey North. I suspect there is a forest full of elves, perhaps El's family - she doesn't recall most of her past. Other than being involved is some sort of epic struggle between good and evil…

It's terribly rainy here - I suppose we are on the windward side of the mountains, and it makes my hair even frizzier than normal. Very hard to get it right for performances. I don't have access to the proper ingredients Maimeó always used back home - maybe I'll have to ask Sharn about it.

The nightmares are worse - inky shadows, black tendrils whipping around like some annoying mummer's melodrama. Wings and talons - very symbolic, I'm sure. We all have had these dreams, though, and killing off those cultists didn't seem to help much.

Not long ago, the “great” King Gerald himself visited us. Apparently his incompetent commanders couldn't hold off the orcs, and Aeowynn's former master, Prince Tog, hasn't brokered any sort of truce. All the eastern lands are taken, including Soutley Fort. I suppose if we hadn't warned them, the capital city would probably have been taken by now!

The King was more insolent and sickeningly patronizing than before, and I was ready to slap him in the face for his condescending attitude, but you taught me enough diplomacy to know that wouldn't go over well. He wanted us out of the city - he doesn't believe that cultists are responsible for the disappearances, and he thinks I'm making up my story of capture. Ridiculous - unacceptable!

He set us up with a poor excuse for a wagon, so we traded it in for a proper riding carriage. A few other supplies were provided, but we had to purchase the rest - he is sending us out to see what's wrong with the North. Ironically, with the nightmares we've all been having, we were planning on going there anyway, but I didn't let him know that!

Unfortunately, the Valour cultists thought they had to send a priest along with us “for our safety” - so far, he's only managed to injure us with his terrible aim…

When we were camping near the Rothbour river, more bloody zombies arrived. Apparently it's a plague now. I had been giving voice lessons to El (and trying my best with Sharn), and we were settling in for the night when the monsters appeared. I began to sing Augment, and I scrambled for better cover: onto the roof of our carriage where I could see the battle but avoid slow zombies. Bad idea.

This time some weird bat creatures appeared - monsters composed of shadow, horrible maws of dagger teeth. The talons were the same as the ones we saw in our nightmares.

The battle was chaotic - Firia was off somewhere else again, hunting or scouting or something. I hope she's okay. My spellsong was helpful, but the monsters were tough. I was injured when one swooped in on top of me, tearing my shoulder. I screamed, weaving my pain into the music, and Aeowynn scrambled to my aid. She's an excellent healer under duress - it's like she can hyperfocus on her patients and block out the rest.

I was so mad, I grabbed my loaded crossbow off my back and fired at the closest monster. It was VERY satisfying to see my aim go true, and the thing dissipated in wispy shadows. I tried to watch them for patterns - they have a unique strategy, different than the zombie swarms.

My compatriots finished off the attackers, and Sharn managed to somehow retain a shadow creature's heart! And then she crafted a trophy amulet out of it - interesting, but she earned the right.

I just don't understand why these things can't attack during the day…

Well, I hope the rest of the journey is less stressful than the beginning - but I'm not counting on it. I suppose it will sharpen our skills in time for this “Last Battle” El keeps referring to. I'll keep writing you as long as I have an arm to write with, Daideó!