To my most treasured nephew Garth,
I hope this letter finds you in good fortune and good health. You won’t believe how far afield I have found myself travelling ever since I have taken up with this merry band of wanderers that call themselves “The Seven.” In truth, I wonder at times where the name of the group has come from – in my travels and travails we’ve numbered as few as two and only on some rare occasion do we ever number more than five. It wasn’t until the first time I was invited back to their headquarters, the Easterly Inn, where I met the woodsman they called “Dog” and his shaggy beast named “Bill” that I even met the remaining members.
I tell you this, the Woodsmen are a hardy folk – prone to a sudden cheer and much bravado at times – but this Dog, he is a man changed by what he has seen. He smiles, sure enough, when the weather is fine and the music plays at the inn, his loyal hound curled up by his feet – ever faithful and watchful. But I’ve never seen another man with such a far-away look in his eyes – and such a sadness within.
The dwarf, Khorum, confided in me that Dog had never been the same ever since he witnessed some dark business that resulted in the near death of one of their allies, an elf maiden of ancient age and untold beauty. The darkness claimed some part of his will, some part of his heart that day. Said that the poor man – who was once the keenest eye in the party, would wander off on his own when he should have been keeping watch. Said that he retired to the inn, to linger close to friends and far from shadows – and to spare his party any danger he might lead them into.
Khorum, and his brother Bifur, are the very heart of our company. A dour bunch, at times to be sure, but a pair of more loyal, more steadfast friends and fearsome foes you’ll never meet anywhere on that Lake of yours. The three of us have endured so many trials together, I sometimes wonder if my beard will grow out and others will mistake me for one of their own – so tight is the bond of friendship we now share.
Their father, a stout dwarf named Vidor, had been taken captive by some foul orcish host and the brothers had been seeking out signs and clues as to where he had been taken ever since the end of the battle of the five armies. Dwarves might not move fast, but I tell you this much my dear nephew – if a pair of dwarfs seek you out, they will surely find you in due time. So it was, the brothers heard tale that their father yet lived – but as a slave deep in some mountain holdfast, being kept as a gladiator for the amusement of evil men and orcs alike.
Did they balk at the news? Did they run to recruit some army to assail the mountain? Nay, my nephew… they set to work, clever as anything, conspiring with their friend Falco (a hobbit, if you would believe) to pretend to be enslaved themselves – with yours truly and the halfling to pose as their erstwhile captors! You’d not credit it if you weren’t there – your uncle, playing the part of some northern slaver! But the guise worked and we were able to free that ungrateful dwarf after a harrowing series of close calls that I will not disturb you with in these missives, just be thankful that you will never know that sort of hardship in your life amongst the guild of Laketown.
It grows late and we dare not light a fire out here in the blasted wastes of the Withered Heath, so I shall continue when next I have the chance. Give Herrik and your mother my love and do me proud – when I next return I’ll want to hear that you’ve done well by them.
Wishing you all the comforts that I’m missing,
Your favorite uncle