This message was originally written in code, but has been translated for House viewing. It seems that the First House wants this matter to be kept under wraps. It is signed by one “H” - a code name, one presumes.
Hereupon follows the first report of the decided-upon mission to examine into the whereabouts and status of the redstoneer Jolvis Volt of Genhoven, a Human.
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Our journey to Genhoven was fortuitously uneventful. As discussed, we travelled under false names and disguises. U and X disguised themselves as merchants, while I took on the guise of a scholar. We do not believe that we have reason to believe anyone we encountered suspected anything of us.
We travelled mostly by caravan, but covered the final leg of our journey on foot. The uneven terrain surrounding Genhoven makes carriages and mounts impractical. The spring rains have made this even more true, and this was a boon to us: there was a great cluster of persons - almost all traders - before the gates of the town, and it allowed us to enter the town practically unnoticed and unremarked-upon. While U and X established a temporary stall (to serve as our facade of merchanthood within the town), I began inquiring into the affair of Jolvis.
It would appear that Genhoven’s opinions on Jolvis Volt are complex. Though he earned the ire of many when it was initially believed that it was the carelessness of him and his that caused the great fire that ravaged this town two years ago, when it was discovered that the workshops of him and his apprentices had been the target of saboteurs within the town, most changed their minds, and indeed turned their fury on the saboteurs themselves. It is not easy (or necessarily in the scope of our mission) to speculate on such matters, particularly with my relatively limited knowledge, but I believe an altercation of some scale could have resulted from that had it not been for the town council’s deft handling of the situation. At present, the entire quarrel seems forgotten.
But returning to the topic of Jolvis: before the Incident, it appears that he and his apprentices had earned the respect and even the good opinion of many, though not necessarily their trust or understanding. Many of the townsfolk I spoke to (in my guise as a scholar studying the bold new field of redstoneering) had fond words about him, chiefly about his sincerity and beneficence, but just as many expressed concern of his strange field of study, and its potential consequences. It is my belief that this concern is what resulted in the saboteurs and their actions. For from what I have gleaned from these many conversations, it would appear that Jolvis’ chief goal was the betterment of the lives of his fellow Genhoveans (and perhaps all peoples’), but an unintentional side effect of this was that many of the improvements he and his apprentices introduced or proposed to introduce threatened to make many previous tasks and professions redundant. As an example of this, let it be mentioned that one of the mills surrounding the town had been improved upon by Jolvis and his apprentices, eliminating the need for persons to operate the cranks and levers by hand. This increased its output, and demands much less physical exertion, but in consequence the labourers at the mill were purposeless, and thus without work (the Genhoveans of course do not have Lords or Ladies to look after them, meaning they are reliant on their own private labour). The woman who related this anecdote to me (who had been one of the labourers at the mill) summed her, and I suspect many others’ thoughts on the matter with: “High ideals aren’t more important than people’s damn livelihoods.”
On another note: as mentioned, Jolvis had very many apprentices (I have not found an exact number yet, but it is my understanding that they numbered approximately 50). Most of these were from Genhoven or the nearby towns, but many were from around the world - it seems that Jolvis’ name is well-known, and revered, in redstoneering circles, enough so that many would travel from other ends of the continent to tutelage under him. They seem to be capable unto themselves (so not merely servants of Jolvis), and Jolvis treated them well by all accounts, but beyond that I have (at least yet) not uncovered more of import enough to mention here about them.
Four days into our stay in the town, I was fortunate enough to be granted an audience with the town mayor (a leader of sorts for the town council), Jenys Kam. He was most accommodating, and very supportive of my mission to learn about Jolvis Volt. Jenys was unhappy about Jolvis’ departure, chiefly, I understood, on account of the practical loss his departure was for the town: in addition to his inventions, his mere presence served as an attraction for redstoneers, and it had been Jenys’ hope that this could have been a source of growth and prosperity for the town. Jenys is also personally friends with Jolvis, and eagerly affirmed the many positive statements about him I had heard before.
Jenys did not know any more about where Jolvis had gone or where he could be now than his townsfolk, but he shared with me a wealth of writings from Jolvis that he had stored. Most of these were sketches for his work, musings on redstoneering and his ideology (of serving the common good), miscellaneous communications with others and technical writings, but there were some that I considered to be of interest to our mission (With the kind permission of Jenys, I took copies of these), chief of which was a brief letter he sent to Jenys on the eve of his departure. In it, Jolvis attributed his departure to “these recent frustrations and my weariness at them”. It seems to me that he was more tired than angry, and considered the lack of understanding and appreciation for his and his apprentices’ work and the setbacks they had experienced as inhibiting circumstance, rather than a personal slight.
Even more importantly for our mission, he also wrote in the letter that “Though the journey ahead will be difficult, I feel I should take this reprieve and this rest, and I will go through the thorns [a Genhoven expression] if I must.”
It has now been two days since I spoke with the town mayor, and in that time new information has reached us by the word of some traders: Jolvis and his apprentices were supposedly seen in nearby Hynhoven (another of the trade-towns in the region), buying supplies, after they departed Genhoven. It is to there that we will head next. It is difficult to estimate when our next report will come, but I suspect it will be soon (we do not presume to hear more of Jolvis’ movements in Hynhoven, and will send an update before embarking on whatever our next step will be).
Like the first letter, this was originally in some manner of code - this is the decrypted version. The First House clearly still wants the whole investigation to remain out of the public eye. It is written by a servant of the First House calling themselves “H”.
Directed to the Ladies and Lords of the First House of Bormar,
Hereupon follows the second report of the decided-upon mission to examine into the whereabouts and status of the redstoneer Jolvis Volt of Genhoven, a Human.
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We apologise for the long pause in our communication. We believe we have reached the unsuccessful end of our investigation, and as such wanted to examine everything we could before sending this message.
As said in our last communication, we travelled from Genhoven to Hynhoven. We learned on the day of our arrival that Jolvis and his apprentices had indeed passed through the town after they departed from Genhoven, and that they had bought a large amount of supplies there, but as we expected, that is where the trail ended. The following day however, U learned from a local butcher that Jolvis and his party had departed northward from Hynhoven.
In this, we (U, X and I) saw three possibilities:
One, that Jolvis and his party had ventured into the vast northern wildernesses
Two, that they had only begun on the north path and then turned elsewhere
Three, that they had been following the road to Ashtof
In the cases of One and Two, we thought that we could not follow. If they went into the north, any tracks they left would have been long gone now, two years later, and without some manner of trail it would have been practically impossible to find them in such vast, inhospitable, practically-unmapped territory. And if they had turned in some other direction from the northern path, they could be anywhere on the continent (or even on the outlying islands) and thus again beyond us three’s means of finding them.
As such, we saw that the only possibility we could reasonably investigate was Jolvis & Company having gone to Ashtof. Indeed the words from Jolvis’ letter (quoted in our last message) came back to me: “I will go through the thorns if I must.” , for Ashtof’s moorlands hold fields of thistle. It is likely coincidence (and certainly seems so now), but at that moment, combined with our lack of options, we thought it our best course. Specifically, we decided to search the northern port-town of T’Orgrynd first, as the amount of supplies purchased by Jolvis’ party suggested a particularly long-lasting journey, perhaps via ship.
Our journey to Ashtof was fortunately quick and uneventful. We maintained our guises and false names, and continued travelling along primary roads and in the company of traders.
We took the travel-time as an opportunity to study the writings of Jolvis’ we had acquired from Mayor Jenys Kam in Genhoven. It seems to us that his reputation for beneficence and idealism in Genhoven was earned. He believes, as he writes, in “the infinite potential” of redstone, and in the power of ingenuity to solve problems and improve the lot of every person on the continent. It is to this end that he has taught all of his apprentices, working towards a “better world” and the good of all. Likely of interest to the House is that we also learned that he has refused all offers and suggestions of employing his craft to martial (or other morally questionable) ends. Indeed, he holds in his writings that though redstone has the capacity for evil “when used to selfish ends”, the best solution to this is the dissemination of knowledge through responsible, principled education, “the same as on any field of study the fruits of which may be misused”.
Indeed for all his passion, he does still seem to maintain something of a temperate view on his craft. He says in his writings that redstoneering is only the means to the end, and its practitioners should not become lost in “fantasies of power, even ones in which their work creates great good” and that “Put simply, before contemplating how a thing could be done, one should contemplate if it should be done.” He also writes that he regrets the unintentional harm his work had brought to some (as detailed in our last message). Apparently, it has caused him to reflect, and he feels that he has learned “a valuable lesson: that every action, even seemingly purely beneficial ones, can have consequences one did not consider or foresee, and that even the best of intentions must be tempered with careful deliberation. One cannot claim to be working toward a better world if one ignores the people in it.”
As much as we learned of Jolvis from his writings, we unfortunately had no such luck in T’Orgrynd. We reached the town surprisingly quickly, but even after two weeks of exhaustive inquiry, we found no trace (verbal or otherwise) of Jolvis’ party. Given the unlikelihood of over fifty persons not being remarked upon, or everyone in a busy town collectively keeping a secret, we came to the conclusion that either Jolvis and his apprentices did not come here, or they did so with such exceeding discretion as to be beyond agents of the First House of Bormar. In either case, we did not believe that we had any further reason to remain in T’Orgrynd.
After we departed the town, with no further clear leads, we began a search of the entire country. Ashtof is a small land compared to Bormar, but we were still only three dwarves, and I will not claim that we have managed to examine every spot of land in Ashtof, but we went through all the towns (of which there are relatively few, as most of the people live in villages), circled the coast, and even braved the southern moors, but throughout the entire country we found nothing to suggest Jolvis’ or his apprentices’ presence.
I currently write this from the border-town of Irno (in the eastern end of Ashtof). We have conversed, and do not believe that we have a trail to follow. Unless unexpected circumstances arise, we believe that this will be our last communication on this matter. If so, we will be returning to give a final accounting and to share the evidence we have gathered so far.
As with the previous two messages, this was written in some kind of code - no doubt to keep unofficial eyes from reading it. This is the translated version for use by the First House. Like the previous messages, it is written by someone identified only as “H”.
Directed to the Ladies and Lords of the First House of Bormar,
Hereupon follows the third and final report of the decided-upon mission to examine into the whereabouts and status of the redstoneer Jolvis Volt of Genhoven, a human
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We (U, X and I) are very happy to inform the good House that our mission has met with most-unexpected success.
As we departed Ashtof to return to Bormar, X had something of an epiphany. The letter Jolvis had sent to Mayor Jenys Kam of Genhoven (as discussed in our preceding two communications) said that he would “go through the thorns” if necessary. As stated before, this is a Genhovian figure of speech, but X, having studied the geography of the far north, remembered a distant cluster of mountains in the far north - The Thorn.
Given what we knew so far, this seemed a very possible circumstance. To summarise:
Their party had been seen going north from Hynhoven.
Jolvis’ letter to Jenys had spoken of a difficult journey.
Their company had brought very large amounts of supplies from Hynhoven, even for a group of half-a-hundred, possibly suggesting that they expected to be away from civilization for a long time.
We also did not consider it implausible that Jolvis would leave a hint, so to say, such as this for those who wished to find him before he returned on his own - perhaps a test of cleverness of sorts. After we exited Ashtof, we followed the roads we had taken to get there for a good distance until we turned northwards (where there of course are no roads).
We wish to take this opportunity to mention that the reputation the far north has is not exaggerated. The weather is cold, the forests are thick and dark, there is no civilisation within weeks’ travel, the terrain is frequently difficult to travel through and the wildlife is used to a life of struggle. The nightwolves (who, we three all now agree, are larger in this part of the world) and their attacks alone kept us from resting as much as we otherwise would have. Indeed for this part of our journey, we travelled without disguise, and in our usual travelling gear - we did not expect to encounter any persons, and in any case the risks incurred by keeping up our facade, and not being equipped appropriately, would not have been worth it. Our travel was fortunately otherwise without noteworthy incident, but I will confess to a certain relief as we left the forests behind us.
X’s memory had been correct. After we emerged from the treeline, we were greeted with the far northern coast of the continent, and, beyond the plain, the snowy mountains of The Thorn.
To our surprise, we encountered a fishing village nearby. The locals were what could be called a motley crew - adventurers, hermits, the descendants of settlers, exiles and so on, but cordial and helpful.
From the villagers we learned that they are not the only such village here in the far north, but more importantly for our mission, that Jolvis and his apprentices had indeed passed through here two years ago. They had indeed made the trek through the forests, and, having traded some with the locals, had entered The Thorn - and presumably passed on to the peninsula that lies beyond it (according to the villagers - we could not confirm this ourselves, though we do not doubt the villagers).
What is more, Jolvis and his apprentices had also spoken with the villagers, and shared some information that expands on what we knew. Jolvis’ letter to Jenys mentioned “a reprieve” and “rest” , and it appears that this is indeed what he came here for with his apprentices. It was their intention to take a break from their work (and tribulations) in Genhoven, to spend some time in unfettered creative freedom, and rest and recuperate. I imagine they were willing to share this more openly with these north-dwellers on account of the fact that this information was not likely to spill out elsewhere, given how few ever come here.
The locals also affirmed what X remembered reading: The Thorn is a great obstacle for travel. The mountains are not very large in area, relatively speaking, but harsh, cold, and difficult to move through. This would not be an obstacle to we Bormar on its own, but the locals also warned us from entering - and here we reach the conclusion of our mission. In addition to the mountain range’s usual dangers, they stated that, about a year ago, they heard great commotion carried on the wind from the north, as though some kind of upheaval was taking place. None of the locals ever enter the Thorn, nevermind pass through it, nor do they sail their boats out far enough into the sea to visit the peninsula, so they could not say what exactly had happened, but the consensus was that Jolvis and his apprentices had somehow destroyed themselves. Certainly none of Jolvis’ party had been seen returning, despite, as Jolvis had mentioned to the villagers, the fact that they did not intend to stay on the peninsula for longer than a year at most.
We have examined everything we know, and our own experience with mountains, and we have come to the conclusion that we will not attempt to pass through The Thorn. We believe that the risk is too great given our current means, and the unknown element of what has transpired with Jolvis Volt and his apprentices. The task is better suited, we think, for a full expedition. Or better yet, the mountains could be bypassed via ship. In any case, we believe that we have followed the trail of Jolvis as far as our party can. This will be our last message before returning home to share our findings in-person.
Our counsel to the House, may they consider it, is to be prepared for the unpredictable and unusual. Whatever lies beyond, on the peninsula, we feel confident in saying that Jolvis and his apprentices are not mere tinkers, but intelligent and ambitious folk with the skill and vision to make good on their grand designs. Whatever happened a year ago, we truly do not know, but we do not believe that a mere experiment gone awry (or somesuch stroke of the gods’ bad luck) would be the end of Jolvis & Company.