Dear Professor Thad: First, thank you for your kind concern. I feel no ill effects beyond simple embarrassment at a foolish mistake I know my brothers would not have made: this is burdensome, but I am certain I shall overcome it in time. I shall speak to our cleric to ensure there are no unexpected problems.
However, I am afraid there are some additional questions I must ask you. I am troubled by the encounter with the Ninjas, and particularly the enchantment placed upon the ghoul finger, which you yourself have had the opportunity to examine. The enchantment might loosely be translated to, “Point to the map which Thad copied.” In considering the construction of this enchantment, the following implications may logically be inferred:
1) The magician who cast the spell either:... a) personally knew Professor Thad or … b) had a personal item from Professor Thad, such as a hair, nail, etc., to use to construct the enchantment. In addition, they:... c) knew that copies of the map were being produced by Professor Thad, which further implies that:... d) they know of the existence of the original, or have at least deduced its presence.
2) The Ninjas do not currently have a map of Freeport which displays the information that is present on our map. (Yes, I realize that it is theoretically possible to craft such an enchantment while not personally knowing the target, or not having a personal item to use. However, the quality of the enchantment in question seems to suggest that this is not the case.) Continued meditation upon these points leads to many questions, but few answers.
I have included some of these questions below:
1) If the Ninjas know of the existence of the copies, and are prepared to send troops to recover them… why do they not go after the original? (I find this question to be somewhat alarming. One presumes that your household is suitably guarded against Ninja attacks, but this does raise concerns for your safety – please be doubly certain that you take suitable precautions!)
2) The ninjas knew we were coming (undoubtedly via use of one or more ghoul fingers.) However, the fact that such items were left here in wait for us, and not sent over the sea to University with additional Ninjas, is a clear indication that the Ninjas were either aware that an expedition was being formed, or expected that one would be. The most logical distribution of ghoul fingers would involve splitting the Ninjas into two parties, sending some across the ocean to University to try and obtain the original map, and leaving the other on the mainland to try to obtain copies, in case the first group was to fail. Did I mention that you should be particularly cautious?
3) The aftermath of the attack leaves me with the impression that we put up considerably more resistance than the ninjas anticipated. If the copies of the map were important, why send a low number of relatively inexperienced ninja trainees to retrieve them? Again, this implies that either this operation was either not important enough to allocate greater forces, or possibly that the more experienced ninjas were off doing something else – yet another indication that an attempt may be made to obtain the original map.
4) Why do the Ninjas want the map? We have established the presence of Ninjas and undead – at the very least, Vampires and Ghouls.
We have further uncovered the indications of a hierarchy in which it appears that the undead, perhaps the vampires, are commanding the Ninja forces – who, by the way, appear to be legitimately alive beings, and not undead ones (at least, the ones that attacked us did not appear to be undead.) On the surface, the only logical reason for the Ninjas to want the map is for the same basic reason we want the map – they wish to go to a specific destination within Freeport. This also raises more questions than it answers. If I was, say, a vampire, leading a clan of Ninja warriors… why would I want to go to Freeport? Presumably, food is not an issue (Ninja snacks) and one also presumes the item (?) within Freeport would be one which could not be found elsewhere.
Let’s review the main points of interest on our map:
A) Sunken ship with treasure! .....Gold is always fun but one presumes that when one is running an organization of ninjas, one has a solid money supply. Furthermore, there are surely easier ways to obtain any necessary funding?
B) Armory!.....What sort of weapons might Ninja-vampires want that they don’t already have? While it is possible that I am overlooking something here, nothing springs immediately to mind.
C) Hospital!.....What happens if a vampire drinks a raise-the-dead potion? Might the head vampire of the ninja-vampire clan want to become alive again? Does he crave warm ale instead of blood, or does he want to lie on the beach and work on his tan? I find this thought amusing, but unlikely.
D) Library!.....What tome might a ninja-vampire be interested in reading? (Or, is it possible that his library books are just really, really, REALLY overdue?)
E) Non-magic gate!.....Now this is a possibility. Perhaps he wants to go somewhere? Where might a ninja-vampire want to travel that could only be reached by a non-magic gate?
F) Mansion of the Wizard Xavier!.....Somehow, I envision candlelight as a painful way to travel for a ninja-vampire, but even so, but this seems like a strong contender.
This leads me to a brief bout of sheer speculation: how old is this ninja-vampire-leader anyway? Might he have known the wizard Xavier? Perhaps they were enemies – or friends? Is it possible that the original undead attack which laid Freeport low involved ninja-vampires? Could they have tried, at the time, to get something… and missed? Could they be trying again to obtain whatever it was they didn’t get the first time around?
Forgive me for saying so, Professor, but it can be difficult to adequately explain the effect of Immortality upon those who have not been gifted with it. (Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but upon our meeting, I did not have the impression that you were Immortal.)
Time is something like the tide. The tide comes in, and wars are won and grand empires rise to prominence, each thinking themselves the apex of all that has gone before. Eventually the tide goes out again, and wars are lost and the empires fall and crumble to nothing. New empires rise in their place, and shine proudly until the tide comes back in, and washes them all away.
So it was with the fall of Freeport, whose destruction was widely considered to mark the changing of the tides. Obaa-san (my grandmother) was a young girl at the time, and remembers well the effects upon the Misty Isles where my people dwell.
If this Ninja-clan is led by a vampire, one must not discount the possibility that this vampire may also remember the fall of Freeport. Vampirism is a cheap and sneaking form of Immortality, but it is Immortality nonetheless. Given a bit of luck and a steady food supply, there is no reason that a Vampire who was involved with Freeport at the time of its fall might not rise to prominence in the ages afterward, and be around to have a hand in the re-discovery of its ruins.
This question – of whether or not the head of the Vampire clan is immortal and/or remembers Freeport from before the Fall – is of critical importance. Is our Vampire-Ninja chasing a legend? Some facet of song or tale which has captured his imagination? Or is he pursuing a real thing that he actually remembers? The former scenario is more likely to be business, while the latter could potentially be personal – and the “game” changes completely depending upon the answer.
In this context, I believe that your actions so far have been perfectly logical and admirable. You are well set up in University, and could easily take the position of distracting (I almost said “The enemy forces,” here. I wonder if Father and my brothers would be proud?) the vampire-ninjas with the tempting bait of the original map, while your expedition sneaks unnoticed into Freeport, at which point we could summon you as we discussed and… what? Move on to Phase II?
Unfortunately at least one part of the plan, if it is something like what I have outlined, appears not to have worked. The vampire-ninjas definitely know we are here. Furthermore, I have every reason to believe that they will be back.
It is too much to hope that the vampire-ninja organization will not employ a cartographer, and any cartographer worth his salt will immediately realize that the false map I planted on the ninja is worthless. If they subsequently fail to retrieve your map, they would be likely to make another attempt at ours. With luck, there will be some time before they realize they have been duped, but I am reluctant to depend on luck too heavily. Having taken our measure the first time around, I would expect them to be much better prepared in a second attempt. Furthermore, they now know that at least some of the maps which we are carrying are deliberate deceptions. I believe that their two most likely goals in a second attack would probably be 1) kill everyone, take all maps, and let the experts in the vampire-ninja organization sort out which ones are accurate or 2) take the map-maker alive along with all maps and let them explain which one is real. Needless to say, I am not fond of either of these options.
Professor Thad, I don’t wish to pry, but there is ample evidence which suggests you may have had encounters with this vampire-ninja organization in the past. One the one hand, I don’t want to jeopardize your plans by requesting information which is dangerous, or to which I am not entitled. On the other, our decisions as a party during the expedition phase can only be as good as the information which we have available to us. It is obvious that there is a larger picture here.
What are you able to tell us about it? What do you know about this vampire-ninja organization? Are there any pertinent facts relating to vampires, ninjas, or ghouls which might be useful to us in our probable upcoming interactions with them? Any tips or guidance which you are able to provide would be greatly welcomed.
I remain as ever,
Your Servant, Miasaki
( Thad, The Wizard )