Second Letter

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August 4, 1152

Dear Catherine,

Due to the snowstorm in Rockham, of which I wrote you last week, we have reached Blackshire one day behind schedule. By the time you receive this letter we shall once again be on our way, following the leads we discovered while in town. Kilburn's expedition disappeared a few days march west of here, so we shall soon reach the site of his last stand and begin tracking the killers.

Blackshire received us enthusiastically, and a few hours' consideration was all I needed to select a new town magistrate. His name is Acton Spindler, formal replacement for my previous magistrate and old friend Aaron Hampton. I have reason to suspect that Hampton was murdered—poisoned to be specific—but there is no time for me to conduct another investigation personally. Instead, I am leaving Fineous Hogworth behind to look into the matter.

Ordinarily, I would not involve myself in local criminal matters, but Hampton's death fills me with a vague unease. It is probably a much simpler matter than that, but I am nonetheless anxious to learn the results of Hogworth's inquiry.

In the meantime I am proceeding with my investigation into Kilburn's death. Yesterday evening, at the inn in Blackshire, I received a letter from a rather nervous messenger who said he was paid to bring it to me by a mysterious stranger who "didn't look quite human". Pressed for a description, he could only say that the stranger was very tall and broad shouldered: "You know, BIG—like he barely fit into his own body." And that he wore a hat that could have concealed inhuman ears.

The letter turned out to be a map showing a location near Kilburn's last-known camp with the name "Kilburn" circled in red ink. I smell a very obvious trap, which could, of course, conceal a more devious plan, but I cannot se exactly how. Or perhaps the stranger is honestly trying to help anonymously. Either way, no trap set by man or monster can overwhelm the fighting force I have with me. Caution will see us through this safely.

I will, of course, write you when we arrive in Edenbrook. You are always in my thoughts, and I miss you dearly. Please convey a father's love to Nicolai.

Roland Ironfist