I thought it awfully strange that the giant brute would be carrying a letter on his way to kill me, so I nervously snatched the dampened parchment, broke its red wax seal, and unfolded it gingerly. Its horrific contents were as follows:
My Dear Young Niece,
Let me begin by stating that, if you are reading this and not dead, I am thoroughly impressed by you and disappointed by that bestial frost giant I sent after you. One would have thought that the promise of a secluded piece of land and a pile of riches would have motivated him well enough to get the job done. But worry not; this only gives you a chance to die in even more pain.
You see, I realized recently that mercy was holding me back. I was too focused on the valuable pieces while letting the pawns be. So I decided to go ahead and send an army to slay your entire clan back home in that dear little valley of yours. The valley, you see, was to be the giant's reward. They are all quite dead, your people, from the oldest to the youngest. You will be joining them soon, no doubt, but I thought that I would simply inform you that, even if you were to live, you have no kind of life to which you might return. This is the kind of hopeless situation your cousin put me in all those years ago, and I will be very pleased if you take after me in your misery.
My mystic will be keeping an eye out for you in case you refuse to stop your shenanigans, but meanwhile, I will hunt your precious 'Dechar' down and kill him myself, as my sympathy and physical condition had prevented me from doing in the past. I have finally hardened my soul into the relentless shadow it must be to gain my vengeance. You will continue to lose everything and everyone until there is nothing left but a hollow, black pit where your heart once lay. It makes no difference what you do or do not do. You will be stopped.
May this be the one thing you can count on for the remainder of your life: there is bad blood between us.
Your Majesty the King, Uncle Gillireth
P.S. As Fate would have it, my mystic has a sister who practices dark arts, and she was able to curse that pesky healing spring, so do not think for a moment that you or that hound have any security.
The words on the page before me became more and more difficult to read as lachrymosity and despair clouded my vision and my mind. Everyone I ever knew had been murdered in cold blood, save for Dechar, and he was in grave danger of suffering the same fate. I collapsed over the damp cave floor and wept until what little remained of my strength had left me. I was barely aware when Keon picked me up and said, "We're almost there, dear. I don't know what that letter said, but hold on. We've nearly made it. See, here's your Fia..." I felt a chilled muzzle nudge my arm, and fell asleep.
When I awoke, my eyes struggled to focus into the fading light of day which I had seemed to nearly forget in the latter part of our journey. I heard an elf murmur something, and looked up to find myself still cradled in Keon's shaking arms.
"Are you awake, dear? I've missed you. Gave me quite a fright, but not so much as Orlo." He tilted his head in a gesture toward his adoptive father. Orlo was situated on a makeshift sled drawn on rope by two of the bandits, and it appeared he had not regained consciousness after his encounter with the giant. "He's still alive, but unless we get him to Carlena soon, that could change."
"Carlena?" I managed to ask. As I was not yet fully awake, I was managing to tell myself that the letter might have only been a dream.
"Yes. She's an Alfarian medicine woman we know who resides in Sekerheim. She often requires some sort of rare token for her troubles, so I'm bringing her the horns of the giant. I believe she can heal Orlo, but it's too late for the other friends we lost." Keon averted his eyes from mine a moment and swallowed before changing the subject. "Have you any idea how heavy you are? I think you can manage to stay atop your horse for this last leg of our trek, don't you, dear?" I don't know how, but I managed a weak smile in response. I rode Fia the rest of the night until we came upon the city shrouded in darkness. "The inn should be able to house all of us tonight," Keon said. "They have stables for your flying friend." Then he repeated it in a louder tone in the language of the elves, and likely also explained that he would take Orlo immediately to see this Carlena.
We came to a large wooden lodging with an arched door facing the cobbled street, above which read 'The Crabbit Rabbit.'
"We've made it," Keon sighed. Perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me, but I noted that his tone seemed joyless. I wondered to myself whether we would all sleep deeply or not at all that night for the terrors we had been dealt that day.