As I write you this letter I have nothing but shame and regret in my heart, and only my sense of duty causes my hand to move and my heart to beat. Just last year I failed you, and in your wisdom you decided not to excommunicate me, but instead to grant me the opportunity to spread word of the Holy Turnip to the unenlightened tribesmen of Antaria. I vowed to you that I would not fail you, but my promises lie sundered like the bones of our brethren, now scattered on the desert sand.
We arrived in Antaria several months ago, having met with the most favorable winds as we sped across the sea. I did not know what to expect from the native Alswani, but immediately found that the reports of their barbarism were greatly exaggerated. They were very welcoming of us, and were also open to hearing the Gospels of the Legumes and Other Tasty Things. My hope grew with every passing day!
There were challenges to overcome, of course; the poor tribesmen knew nothing of the very vegetables that play the vital roles in our tenets. These barren lands do not foster the growth of turnips, cucumbers, radishes or even rutabaga. The denizens of this desert do not even have words for these things! But we were making progress, and I think that very soon we would have welcomed new Alswani brothers into the New Life.
But even as we spread the blessed word, a troubling malady began to settle upon the land. A strange disease, the source of which we were unable to discover, quickly spread among the scattered tribes. It was quite unlike any disease I had ever seen before; those who were infected mostly stopped eating and drinking, and seemed to lose their connection to the world. Their skin grew pale and they began to wander around aimlessly. It soon was apparent that we were facing a sort of magical curse, for some of the victims began to slip away into the ethereal realm, becoming shadowy figures barely tied to our plane of existence. Others became so gaunt that they almost looked like skeletons. Still, although the infected were shocking to behold, they remained peaceful and at times were lucid enough to converse with.
We did our best to try to comfort the sick. We found that the glaring sun made them uncomfortable, so during the day we helped to cover them with the cooler soil that lay beneath the sun-baked sand. At night we simply held them and sang them songs of our faith in order to sooth them. We tried to communicate these practices across the desert, and we heard that the disease had also taken hold in The Outpost. With the larger workforce available there, they designated a large patch of land in which their infected could rest, and dug dozens of pits.
When it became clear that our small group of missionaries were unable to take care of all the diseased natives throughout Antaria, we begged one of the local landowners to provide us with a safe haven where we could establish a colony to treat the infected. He led us to a beautiful mansion in the rocky southern lands. It had been built by foreigners a hundred years ago and until recently had been used as an inn and trading post under the name “The Burial Grounds.” We were told that the inn had served a hot beverage known as ‘kaffe’ and had been a popular place for the tribesmen to reminisce after funerals, which is how the name was derived.
We sent word across the desert, and soon the Alswani began to bring their infected family members to the Grounds so that we could take care of them. We discovered an underground spring beneath the mansion’s basement, and we tried to provide the afflicted with as much comfort as we could. We felt blessed to welcome a wise and powerful priest named Bishop Worem, who had sensed the troubles in Antaria from his temple across the sea, and had set upon a pilgrimage to lend assistance. He was not of our faith, but his heart was pure and we were happy to receive his help and guidance.
As the days passed, the effect of the sun on the victims became more profound, until we feared that the disease would progress to the point where sunlight would be instantly fatal. Bishop Worem and I then toiled to create of a magical orb which created a cloud of twilight and thus protected the afflicted for several miles around the mansion.
At first the disease attacked only the Alswani, and we missionaries passed safely among them. But one day, it was as if some unholy spigot of pestilence had been opened upon us, and the disease struck with full force. Of the twenty of us who had landed in Antaria, only I and four others remained healthy! And for some reason, possibly due to our foreign heritage, the disease affected our brethren in strange ways much different from its course on the Alswani.
Brothers Peacemonger, Fuzzybear and Snugglepuss became ravenously hungry and could do nothing but eat. They holed themselves up in the dining room, and we did our best to provide them with food.
Brother Happyshoes (my dear apprentice) and Sister Sweetcheeks became skeletal, and for some reason began to flame like candles! They had to be very careful not to stand near anything that could burn, but were of great use in the kitchen cooking food for the ravenous Brothers.
My dearest Sister Lovebug became incorporeal and seemed to be freezing. As we tried to warm her, she began to fade away and we realized that her very existence depended on her being kept cold until we were able to cure the disease. We bade her to remain in a room in the mansion, and surrounded her with a sleet spell.
With renewed vigor, we set about to find a cure for the disease. We created batch after batch of antitoxins, dumping them into the underground stream in an effort to speed their dispersal to the infected masses. But try as we might, we came no closer to a cure, and I could barely suppress the shame in my heart. Bishop Worem worked even harder than I did, refusing to sleep for days and nights on end. Finally he collapsed, and we placed him gently in his bed. Even then he did not sleep, and we heard his gentle sobs emanating from his room.
Then, soon afterward, our devastating predicament became even more horrible. All of we healthy Turnipites were on the second floor of the mansion working on a new formula, save for Brother Squeezie who was in the basement distributing the most recent batch into the underground spring. I was resting for a moment, peering out of the window and the wandering infected, when I saw some strange figures sneaking closer. I watched in horror as they mercilessly started to slay a number of the afflicted! The brutality of the attack was incredible, and my memories were immediately torn back to the similar savagery that I had beheld in Realmaria.
In those first few moments, I could not have suspected that here in the land of the so-called savages, the TRUE savages had somehow followed me halfway across the world!
In what seemed like mere seconds, the attackers drew close to the mansion. They mercilessly cut down the sick Alswani and we could do nothing but watch and pray for their souls. I only got a brief glimpse of the evil invaders before the slipped beneath the roofline and I could hear them downstairs.
I saw a towering orc with a falchion, who was obviously taking great pleasure in killing with abandon. Slipping in and out of the shadows, a tiny figure followed at his footsteps. Then I saw a strange elf, who I was unable to identify as either male or female (nor determine arcane or divine). He/she was followed by a vile gnome who was gleefully lobbing exploding vials. Then there was a shifty fireball-lobbing halfling, who was looking at the backs of his companions with the same contempt that he regarded the tribesmen. He looked at the tiny shadowy figure with an especially contemptuous glare.
But the sight of the last figure caused me to feel faint, and the world slowed down as he triumphantly strode toward the mansion. Blood was splattered on his chiseled elven face, and he casually swung a wicked rapier as he walked. At his hip dripped a vile barbed whip that bore the bloody evidence of his crimes. Even from my vantage above, I could see the smirk on his face. It was impossible, but this elf was one of the bandits who had slaughtered our brothers on the road to Easton!
The shock paralyzed me, until an overwhelming fear took hold and I activated my Blessed Amulet of Withdrawal. It was a cowardly thing to do, but I was not in control of my own actions. The magic sucked me into an interdimensional pocket where I would be safe, and when I finally regained my senses it was too late to dispel the magic. I was trapped away from my friends until the spell took its course and returned me to the world.
Time dragged on as I floated in space, and dread grew in my heart. I had abandoned everyone I cared about, and they were now doubtlessly being slaughtered by the murderers. If I had stayed, I may have been able to dissuade the attack, or at least I could have martyred myself in order to buy the others time to escape. But I instead had acted the coward, and it is a shame that I will bear forever.
Many minutes later, the spell ended and I faded back into the world. I was still facing the window, and outside I saw a horrible sight. Where there had previously been shade, there was now bright sunlight, and it harshly illuminated the many acres of land around the Grounds. Oh, the horror I beheld! Motionless on the rocky earth, all the many hundreds of infected Alswani lay dead! The murderers had discovered the orb, and had deactivated it with their vile magic in order to more easily slaughter their victims. Men, women and children lay around the mansion as far as I dared to look.
I turned around and saw a much closer scene of carnage. The rest of my brethren lay where they had been cut down, beakers and reagents still clutched in their hands. Dead, too, were the gentle Alswani who had been helping us in our research. I ran downstairs, but heard nothing but the stillness of the grave. The first room I came across was where we had blanketed Sister Lovebug in the cool sleetstorm which helped her remain among us; this was gone now, and Sister Lovebug had faded away into nothingness! She posed no threat whatsoever to the invaders, but they had destroyed her just for the pleasure of it!
I then ran into the main hall and saw the ashen remains of Brother Happyshoes and Sister Sweetcheeks. It looked as if they had literally been blasted apart. Through the open door of the kitchen, I saw the bodies of Snugglepuss, Fuzzybear and Peacemonger. Their eternal hunger had been sated only by the foul blades of the murderers.
I then turned to the sitting room, where earlier a group of mourners had been paying their last respects to a chieftain who had recently succombed to the disease. These peaceful folk had been surprised by the invaders, and with the entire room had been burnt to cinders.
I rushed to the basement, in the hopes of discovering that perhaps Brother Squeezie had been able to hide himself from the wrath of the demons, but my hopes were dashed. They had killed him and had stolen the barrel of antiplague; I fear now that they intend to corrupt it and use it to spread the plague even further!
Sobbing uncontrollably, I returned to the main level to search for Brother Worem. As I approached his room, I heard a gentle wailing from beyond his door. My heart lifted ever so slightly, for although he was in distress, he was alive! But the murderers had played yet another cruel trick, and I discovered the Bishop’s lifeless body still on his bed, with arrows protruding from his back. If I have not yet adequately described to Your Holiness the wickedness of these vile men, then please consider the scene that I described above, for it perfectly captures the purity of their evil. Not only did they slaughter a holy man, they did it in his sleep, and from afar with their poisoned arrows. They then trapped a sliver of his soul to be forever tormented in this place.
Mere months ago, I thought that I would never encounter such horror as I saw on the bloody road to Easton. But this catastrophe is an order of magnitude more horrible, and I am losing my faith that there is any purpose in redeeming this world. Can the word of the Holy Turnip really overcome such evil? Can our ways of nonviolence and quaint vegetable-themed rituals truly make the world a better place? This doubt mixes with the regret in my heart, and together they feed my overwhelming doubt and dread. My own shame is unbearable, and so now I plan to cast myself out into the desert. If the Holy Turnip wishes me to live, then he will send the means my way; but I must honestly admit that I am wishing that such favor does not find me. I dispatch this letter to you now, and hope that Turtley Wurtley delivers it to you with haste. Warn our brethren about these men, but I fear there is little we can do to stop them. Doom is upon us, and it bears the smirking form of a vile elf.