Thom Landry, Dig Leader for The Dorset Site in a letter to Pontius III Bearer of the Light of Truth
My name is Thom Landry, a common-born scholar who has received the great honor of leading your appointed expedition to the Dorset site. It has been three long weeks and we have made little progress towards the alleged ruins at the heart of the Thornwoods. The way is treacherous, and filled with every cruel joke nature has ever played upon man. After losing three porters, two men at arms, the staff cunning man, and a small (but quite vicious) dog, the expedition made camp at Wynfor’s Rest at the edge of the Thornwoods to lick their wounds and wait for additional supplies and manpower from our Dwarven associates to the north.
While we waited for supplies, Sir Allen, looking for a rock to sit on uncovered what appeared to be the base of a statue (or perhaps a grave marker, further study is doubtless required), of a strange gray-green rock. The pedestal (or what remains of it) still holds it’s polish, and bears this inscription, which I am led to expect is contemporary with both the Night of Fire and the Dorset Affair:
At will she makes swift streams retire
To their banks whilst their banks admire
Seas toss and smooth
Clear clouds with clouds deform
With spells and charms she breaks the viper’s jaw
Cleaves solid rocks
Oaks from their seizures draw
Whole woods remove, the lofty mountains quake
Earth for to groan
And ghosts from graves awake.
(A note to everyone, before anyone calls me out on this. This is straight-up plagiarized from Ovid, from a boast that Circe makes about her sorcerous talents. I take no credit, except for any owed to me for finding what is in my opinion one of the most kick-ass descriptions of a spellcaster this side of Robert E. Howards People of the Black Circle.)
At first the discovery of such a rare find elicited great enthusiasm from my colleges and our servants and guardians. But over the past few days a pall has fallen upon our company. The men say they can hear her whispering in their ears as they fall asleep singing songs of blood and death in a tongue never written by mortal hands. They blame the inscription, the superstitious fools. Our remaining magus inspected it and found it to be no more magical than the fried nug I had for breakfast this morning. (Greasy, tough, and tasting vaguely of dirt. A less magical meal would be hard to conceive).
Despite this, there have been ongoing problems as a result. Most of our remaining men-arms have deserted, muttering under their breaths about not getting paid enough to brave ancient curses and soul-sucking witch queens. Sir Allen, the man who discovered the artifact, among them. Without collecting his pay. Unheard of for a mercenary-but not at all unexpected, given the dread that this site inspires in the simple-minded.
I have submitted requests (in triplicate) to Antonius for additional soldiers to ensure the viability of this expedition, but have as of yet received no reply. Which is the only reason that I would presume to disturb your worship’s studies. (A list follows, dictating a need for strong porters, plate armor, anti-venom, a well-trained pyrourge, dwarven mercenaries carefully screened for a lack of superstition, and a larger dog).
We must go on. Far greater knowledge lies within the depths of those unhallowed woods. The glory of the Gods, and the greatness of the Empire demands it and your servant will not be dissuaded.
Your Faithful Servant,
P.S: If it would not be an imposition, would it be possible to arrange for supplies to come from a clan other than Grimtooth? They possess a great and noble pedigree to be sure (not every dwarf can claim descent from Thurgrim, He Who Forged The Crown of Empire), but their taste in food is not to my men’s liking. One can only have Fried Nug so many times before they begin to welcome death.