Greetings to you Demotep, old mentor. I hope you enjoy your citizenship and your assignment in Calimport. I was caught by surprise by the decision, but it fills me with pride.
The opportunity to write has not presented itself until now. That is, a month or so before you receive the letter, as it is not a high priority delivery.
The barbarians are just as exotic as I had read. Many walk without decent clothing, some use blood as a sort of decoration. They have many strange rituals and social codes, and I endeavour to learn more of them from a neutral perspective, without becoming absorbed by the savagery. I have taken your advice, and tried to not comment on the odd, often on the verge of insane behaviour I see. It seems to work rather well so far, most have accepted me. I can not escape the feeling of betrayal however, even if not by my design. Most of them do not recognize a Thayan, and our people do not provoke the best sort of reactions here. I must remember to divulge even the most basic information, as I am not such a good judge of understanding as I thought. Truth will change it if fate allows. If not, adversity will be my fuel in the forge that makes men strong.
I have practiced, increased my strength and stamina as your instructions command, as well as some swordsmanship. I hope to find an instructor among our people here, as there seems to be no academies for warriors here. If not, I might travel south to Calimport and have my skill appraised. There will be more letters as I continue to explore. Until then, good luck with your new life and may the Zulkirate shield you from harm.
I hope the city treats you well. I hear it is filled with poverty, theft and misery, but I hope it is not as bad as I have imagined.
I have finally met some representatives of Thay in my travels. One Captain Zayyid Rashand and one Red Wizard Apprentice Akil. It is comforting to meet people from the motherland again, as I have felt stranded and isolated on some level since my arrival.
Despite the implied warning my father gave me, I believe my path will lead me to service in the armed forces of the Zulkirate. A man can indeed die out of cruel misfortune on the battlefield, a stray arrow or spell. But I reason that if such a death would befall me I thereby save a comrade in arms who would otherwise have suffered it, and that it is more a noble sacrifice than a meaningless one. I have also been inspired by the people of Thay I have met here. I realize that it is one thing to serve in the safe and comfortable heart of Thay and another entirely to be its shield in these untamed lands, and I hope to be up for the challenge.
I hope the work in Calimport proceeds well. As depraved as the inhibitants may be, they are probably a step closer to civilization than those of this island, although there are certainly exceptions. Art has been created and feats of engineering and architecture have been accomplished here, and I hope to find more in my travels. Diamonds in the dirt, as the saying does.
I have been given the possibility to earn a place among the soldiers of our nation, after meeting with both the ranking officers on this island. It is up to me to prove my dedication and loyalty as well as my unquestionable honor and integrity. I do not for a moment imagine this will be easy.
It did provoke some thought to ponder the scenario in a greater perspective. To be a Thayan is a paradox. One person, one life, does not matter to our nation. The death or birth of a single man is insignificant to the millions of others and their common purpose. At the same time every act as a Thayan must be correct and in line with the teachings of right and wrong passed down from parents to children, and from rulers to citizens and slaves. To fall short of the standards set by our nation repeatedly is to become a barbarian, thereby failing ourselves and our people. Therefore every life is important because it can either achieve greatness or fall from grace.
I come to no conclusion. My interpretation, faulty as it may be, is that when there comes a time to lay down ones life in the service one should not hestitate in the belief that one is irreplacable. Until that time one should however live as virtously as possible, to give glory to oneself and ones people. I know you have not had time to read much Thayan philosophy, but maybe you have some insight from the old country that may be helpful.
Your reply has shed some light on my rather clouded speculations on the society and the individual, for wich I am thankful. I suppose however that the full truth remains to be learnt.
There is an army here called Empyreans who hold a village named Hamley. I do not know of their numbers, but there seems to be a chain of command and good discipline that warrants the name. These barbarian warriors seems fearless, but their generals are incompetent. I watched several die just outside their village in attacks by giant spiders, despite my attempt to help. These spiders provide little challenge to me unless it is a prolonged engagement that may lead to poisoning.
The soldiers did not talk, but I spoke to a local resident. I mentioned the heartless sacrifice of novice troops when fully their armored warriors could perform the patrol duties without risk of death. This was not well recieved, and my empathy for lives thrown away mistaken for criticism towards those who sacrifice themselves. Emotion is high among the barbarians at most times, and no further reasoning could be done.
I wonder if I should help these poor souls guard the road? I still hope to be accepted into military service for the Zulkirate under the local officers, but until then it would be a decent cause. What are your thoughts, old mentor?
Sometimes the world really moves and we are but leaves in the wind!
Shortly after I had determined I should aid the Empyreans I was accepted as a private in the local regiment. I was challenged into improving by a Major Chambers, as he demonstrated skillful offense and defense wich I am far from achieving. I would not say he is your superior with the sword, but I can imagine he would be a match for anyone I have met when it comes to survival and victory on the battlefield. I have been given the task to become proficent with unarmed and unarmored fighting, and to report to a Jindal, who serves as a squad leader at the local Enclave.
All of this renders my previous intention obsolete, as there simply will not be time to make any real contribution. I still feel that had circumstances been the same it would have been right, despite your cautious words about aiding strangers. However, a greater cause demands my service and I have no regret.
I am continually amazed by the greatness of our soldiers, and ashamed by my own ignorance. There is none in my squad better with the sword than I, but that is of little comfort. I have much to learn about soldiering. How to set up a proper camp, wich supplies to bring where, how to estimate the danger of any given area based on signs in the surroundings, but most of all the art of fighting as a unit. I feel the cohort is akin to a steel-clad war machine and I am still an unworthy part of it. Slow to move as ordered and unable to fully fill my role at the front line, I would say.
Experience and continual exercise will hopefully provide the tools I need to fight well among my fellow soldiers. I must learn to trust my brothers in arms instinctively and unlearn the unease I feel when moving in closed formation, unable to dodge and attack as I please. At least my physical shape is good, and I have no problems with that part of our training regimen. I push myself harder continually, to be prepared for the day when a routine patrol is cast into chaos and blood. From what I hear, there are so many hostile beasts here it may happen sooner rather than later.
Yes, the patrols. I move through a sothern bog at night, fighting the hostile undead. None of them are well preserved, and they have the filth of the bog upon them. Still they are deadly, so I am often sent north to patrol the similarly populated but less dangerous graveyard. That also involves goblins and predators wich must be kept from the roads. The roads must be kept open by volounteers, as there is no central government that cares for them.
For now I have quite a few days to dispose of as I please. I often travel to see new parts of the island or aid the semi-civilized tribes that are often under siege by rival tribes or nature itself. I have learnt that Thay has enemies here, but until they move openly against me or any of our people, I will try to make them friends.
May the Zulkirate shield you from harm Mandar Lucian Aghanim
I was having words with some locals a few days past and came to think of an item, or really more of a concept: the silver sword.
It is mentioned in many texts but only now have I come to understand it. Silver is not a good material for weapons, it is relatively frail and soft. But I believe the silver represents an ideal of victory. Clean, bright, perfect in smooth, captivating leathality. I also understand why the wielder of the silver sword is usually destroyed.
No battle is fought without sacrifice. Comrades in arms, loved ones and family may face cruel deaths at the hands of the enemy. The price of victory is blood, and the reason to pay the price is that the price of defeat is greater. To win one must be willing to sacrifice.
Its simple to sacrifice oneself, and once battle begins, there is no time for regret, nor any purpose in it. I think the challenge is to sacrifice others. To command others to fight knowing that one in ten, one in two, or more may face brutal, drawn-out deaths. Screaming painfully at uncaring skies for the last moments of their lives. The realization of sacrifice is what shatters the illusive power of the silver sword. To think that one can win without loss is a dream that is unapplicable to the real world.
May the Zulkirate shield you from harm Mandar Lucian Aghanim
The more time I spend here the more comparabe I find myself to barbarians. We travel and fight together and for the most part I am not adverse to their methods and mentality.
There are times though when the differences become appearent. As a civilized man I know that the warrior is both saint and butcher. There are so many contradictions in being a soldier, and I cannot explain them fully. There is the ugly and gut-wrenchinly brutal, and the noble and courageous. Most I speak to seem to disregard one of these aspects, or believe they are both the same.
My swordsmanship has improved much due to the insights I gained when fighting the drow. I was hardly the most skilled in the group but still I learnt. My reactions are much quicker, and my strikes deadlier by far. I am thinking about requesting a few weeks off duty to visit you and demonstrate my advancement.
My request for personal time must be delayed, for I have excellent news. My constant efforts as a soldier here lead to a mission of great responsibility, where Thay recieved honorable success under my leadership. Because of this, I have been promoted. I am not a low ranking officer of sorts. Major Dwent described the title as a Squad Leader. I am pleased that I have been deemed worthy to lead, and I am convinced it is my solid background as a son of Eltabbar that my success is based on. The only minor issue is the title itself. It seems stale and impersonal, no doubt a result of the frontier nature of this cohort. Certain artistic aspects may be been left behind in favour of establishing an effective military presence. I did some research and found the word princeps to be rather well suited for my position. I believe it would represent myself as the foremost of the common soldiers; and yet not greater than them in any spiritual sense, as a high officer may be. I hope this letter finds you in good health, and that the work for our nation is met with continued success in the reams.
I bring grim news. Your son Tertius has met death in the line of duty. During a patrol in hill country some distance from the closest settlement several trolls ambushed him. The carnivorous beasts eventually proved too much for him, and he was slain.
I served with your son first as a soldier, then later as his commanding officer. During all my time here I have never had any bad words to say about him, and neither does anyone I know. He was known as a man who eagerly followed through any tasks his duty demanded of him and always honored the Zulkirs and his nation. From evidence and experience we know he died as he had lived, with honor and in defense of civilization.
I understand the unbearable grief his passing must cause. I dread the day where one of my children die before me. It is not the way things should be. His passing grieves us, although our grief could never be blacker and more oppressive than yours. You have my outmost sympathy.
Tertius lies buried under the Enclave on this island, which is sanctified Thayan soil. Should you wish to visit his last resting place you may use this letter as proof of my approval and travel with one of the frequent trade ships that leave from Alaor.
Signed Princeps Mandar Lucian Aghanim Armed forces of the Zulkirate The Thayan Enclave of Thain