Letter #3 From the Expedition

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**Posted on a few flyers around town**

This letter has been published on behalf of Lady Ileana Gristle so that all of Voidsmarch may share in the findings of the Void Exploration Expedition.

My dearest Alyx,

It would seem that our expedition and thus our time fumbling for answers in the darkness of the void is nearing its end. While I acknowledge that we have gained much from our time exploring what exists within the great dark, still I fear that we have only scratched the surface of what it might be possible to learn. I am more than happy to report however that we were able to collect a variety of samples from the depths of the Void with us to further our studies upon the return to the surface. It is my hope that this will allow us to gain even further understanding of the conditions at Void’s End and allow our next expedition to prepare for the unique problems we encountered.

We have once again set up our encampment in the ruins of the ancient dark elven city. I cannot believe how much has changed in such a short time. I remember spending the last night before our final descent sitting exactly where I am now, staring into the fire we made that night in amazement as I watched the darkness of the Void devour what meager light it produced. It seems so long ago now, and oddly normal compared to some of the other oddities and phenomenon we have encountered during the course of our time in this strange place. My heart is filled with joy at our findings and the overall success of our expedition, and yet I feel a sorrow, surely as deep as the great pit itself as I look through the gloom to see how few of us have made it this far.

I am happy to report that our ascent to the surface has been -significantly- easier than our descent into the pitch black of the void had been. Although we had regretfully left the beguiling light of the grand crystal and the beautiful aurora that it produced it behind, we were able to claim a sizable sample of the unique formation at the core of the Void and its brilliant light has continued to guide our way even to this point in our return journey. This shard has been invaluable to us not only in pushing back the dark but in that it gives us a promise of continuing to answer the questions the Void Exploration Expedition was created to answer in the first place.

The feeling of magic has faded away as we turned our backs from the powerful crystal source and continued to climb higher and higher though the darkened ways. We had grown so used to the pure arcane energies swirling around us that it had grown to be a comfort of sorts. I personally find myself missing the feeling of the unrestrained powers surrounding me as I go about my daily tasks… Although I will admit to drawing some residual comfort in the latent power I can feel radiating from the sample shard we collected as one would a campfire on a cold winter night. I suppose it would be fair to say that leaving that power behind, even though it is something I am sure I will never truly come to understand or be able to offer the academic appreciation it deserves, was one of the most difficult parts of our return.

It strikes me now that even though the crushing, demented darkness of the void could not harry our journey to the surface thanks to the gift of light that radiated from the core crystal we recovered, the feeling of thousands of imperceptible eyes glowering though the darkness remained. As the sensation of magic saturating the air grew more and more distant to us, the haunting presence of the unseen lurking just out of the boundaries of vision grew far more constant. That said, such things were far easier to pretend not to be noticed now that we had something bright to cling too in the smothering dark and I will admit, clinging is exactly what I found myself doing.

Reflecting farther, upon things that do not cause my blood to run cold… as we prepared to depart I had set the others to the task of collecting a sizable sample from the great crystal cluster while I took one last walk around our encampment. The sound of their pickaxes striking against the crystals was literally music to our ears as they produced a soft chiming song of sorts that I found to be almost as calming and beautiful as the multicolored light that bathed us in that strange place.

Although our encampment had only been home to us for what was surely only a few days, I will not hide the fact that our camp there had begun to feel like exactly that. A home. I realize now as I write this that it still feels as if an eternity had passed beneath the brilliant light emanating from the crystalline formation. Indeed it is likely impossible to quantify exactly how much time we actually did spend nestled at the base of that great crystal due to the unusual disruptions in our ability to accurately measure the passing of time alluded to in my previous writings. Still, I will always hold fond memories of the occasions when I found my hand aching from all of the notes I had written or drawings I had sketched, I would simply lie on my bedroll and watch the lights dance across the empty void above. I think out of all the sights we bore witness too, it is that particular one that I shall miss most. My dearest hope is that perhaps one day, you too may witness such majesty.

I suppose then, with that in mind, I can understand why the others made the choice to stay in that place. Upon the eve of our planned return to the surface, a few of our party simply elected to stay behind. It came to pass that no amount of persuading could convince them to do otherwise! I urged, no, I implored them to return home with us, only to be met with a soft smile and a shake of the head. It seems the splendor of that place, the peace that it offered compared to the chaos above and the promise of mysteries left uncovered was too much to pass up. Even more concerning were the disappearances that occurred AFTER we had set out destined for home. It seems a few others had changed their minds and had simply packed their possessions and walked out into the darkness while the rest of us slept. I can only assume they were heading toward the light we left behind.

While I truly wish we could have spent even more time at Void’s End in hopes of delving deeper into the mysteries posed by what we encountered, I fear if we had waited any longer none of us would have been able to make a return to the surface. I admit to you, light of my heart, that were it not for you and my will to return TO you… I may well have elected to stay in that serene place with the others. That… paradise of light and sound and raw power is not something I shall soon forget and I would be made a liar and a fool if I put pen to ink to say that leaving it behind was at all easy for me.

Still… as much as I look back, I find myself looking forward. Soon I will be home once again. Soon we shall be together once again and soon we can begin to plan the next stages of how we shall push our understanding of the world around us even further. If our harrowing voyage into the dark has taught me anything, it's that there is so, so much more to learn.

From smothering darkness to blinding light and back once again to you,

Vincent Burke
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