A collection of small drawings of various plants, sometimes accompanied by a pressed leaf or flower, and notes fill the pages of this thin leather-bound book. On other pages are rather whimsical drawings, clearly not the meticulous studies of wildlife found on the other pages. Mixed with the contrasting elements are the occasional journal entries, written in a simple, legible though clearly elven hand.
The dancing breeze I followed has brought me here, where the air is heavy, not only with the scent of recent blood and death, but other things. There is a wrongness about this place, beneath the now quiet, and I’ve only barely scratched the surface. There is a coven of foul undead, vampires working in concert, brazenly assaulting the innocent. I shall have to be diligent and seek the stewards and guardians of these lands, to see what my brothers and sisters do, how they mean to address this unnatural blight. That shall be my first task.
My second task will be to find another patch of lavender. I am running low.
My third task shall be not convincing Frog to bathe, but achieving the end result regardless. What they said about the furred feet of hin are true. Kythorin shall be pleased to know it.
This entry follows an illustration of a strange mechanical creature rising from a stream bordered with wildflowers.
A border town like Greatgaunt suffers from being desired by too many competing forces. It wears down the spirit of those who have persistently defended it from these unwanted attentions, until two courses are left: to yield or cut loose. Either way, change is unavoidable, a part of the natural cycle. The people here should learn to embrace it, as a gift and not something to fear. Perhaps then they would be of lighter humor.
Frog perhaps caught wind of my intentions, as he is nowhere to be found. It doesn’t matter, for we quessir have long memories.
In the meantime, I found an old posting about lizardmen by “the Guardians.” Perhaps they’re the ones I need to speak with. Perhaps not.
Regardless, the Winged Mother and the Leaf Lord both have given me assurances that I walk the path they intended. I feel, hear… sense everything more acutely around me – the light laughter of the meandering brook, the whispering of the leaves brushing against each other, the brightness of the slender slivers of moonlight... This is what Father meant, when he said that I would know and then I would understand.
The silhouette of a bird flying against the rising sun appears in the margins of this entry.
It was under the calm of the falling snow that he told me his wretched story. And then he asked if it changed how I saw him. Of course it did. How could it not?
It reminded me of the question posed earlier to me, "To what lengths would you go?" They were satisfied with my answer, but sometimes, I wonder. I've never been pushed to desperation, not in the same way. What lengths then might I go to?
Kythorin. How long has it been? I told your story today and my part in it. Such seemingly small, inconsequential actions they were at the time. Nay, that isn’t true. I knew it was wrong, but desire can justify many things, rationalize all actions to lessen, if not extinguish the guilt. It was foolishness to want more than I should have had.
What was it Rimieh said? “The wind does not ask.” Winged Mother, save me.
[A picture of a medusa, with small notations in the margins follows, along with small notes with location as to what edible mushrooms can be found within the Bramblewood, and then another entry.]
Why did I agree to this? I don’t know the least bit about cooking.
A wyrmblooded threatened me today, for doing naught but supposedly standing in her way. This is not unusual, the threats, the slayings for frivolous things. I’ve been warned how tempers can so easily flare into drawn blood, warned with a list of names to be wary of.
And yet, Glenduil’s words return to me. “Pity, but never fear him.” Perhaps the pettiness I hear of is no more than weakness, the need borne out of an inability to exert control in one’s own path. Those who rage and strike at those near them do so for a reason. I mean to find the reasons why.
And yet, I’m no crusader. Nor am I a healer. I merely need to know how destructive they might become and what lengths they might go to.
[In the margins of this entry is a picture of a skeletal doll.]
An undead child was the source of all the unrest in the catacombs and what spewed forth near the sacred grounds above, a tragic tale according to the Kelemvorite priestess Serenity. Until all the pieces of his coffin are found, the earth within scattered and the wood exposed to the healing light of the sun, the vampire child will remain in his tortured state. Tragic? Yes, but I must remember that it is no longer a child but an abomination. Its appearance is of no concern, but what it does now. It creates further undead, it captures and slakes its thirst on those unwilling, it corrupts the lands it uses for its own purposes. It must be put down.
[The margins of this page have the beginning sketches of a white flower and its violet-hued variant, many-petaled with a long green stamen.]
I came here to escape the reminders of the past, to forget… or did I? Rimieh is right, I cannot, should not forget. We learn from our past mistakes, and when confronted with similar situations, change our actions to avoid repeating the past. That is what those who are wise would do, learn, in order to change.
The Winged Mother teaches us to embrace change. Change is beautiful. Change. This is what she wanted me to do and see. I have a token of her blessing. A gift, a reminder of what I must do here.
[Preceding this entry is a smeared sketch of a quessir.]
I should have remembered Glenduil's counsel regarding patience. However, it's as I told him then -- that I have patience in some matters, but not all.
I'm glad to see our People finally gathering now, not in reaction to any threat, but as a People. Soon, the priestess said.
In recent days I have learned more of the various quessir here. It surprises me that some know not what it means to be quessir, but in time, they may learn. Shamaoke is one of those, like a desert that has suddenly felt the first kiss of rain.
What I cannot understand are those who deny themselves and kin. I cannot fathom what they must have endured, that drove them to such. Is it anger? Sorrow? Such things can be soothed in time.
But it is as Rimieh has said, time alone cannot heal all things.
He's changed, since the time he asked me if I had. Something burns behind his eyes now and drives him in this new direction. I've not asked him what. Was it my words or something else? He'll tell me in time, if he wishes to, but I won't press him. Knowing what he desires is enough.
He has the will, by his words in the quiet of the woods, but desire and conviction alone will not be sufficient. This is true for many things... Regardless, the path before him now won't be easy, perhaps even full of peril, but Kerym and I will see this through. And if I cannot help him, I will find another who can.
Rimieh asked if I was here to incite change in others. I told him it wasn’t my intent, but I would do so if I could. He seems to think I have influence over others already. If I do, it certainly isn’t my intent, nor even my desire. I would rather see others want to change of their own free will, not through my own influence… but if a gentle nudge is what they need, I am sure the Winged Mother will not object if I push others to action.
[The sketch of a non-descript shrub is interrupted, seemingly midway through the drawing, though the words beneath are not hurried.]
Perhaps what I wrote just now isn’t wholly true. There are those I want to have influence over. I never claimed to be unselfish—but then again, who truly is?
I met the one he told me to beware of. I watched, from a distance, at first... and then nearer. And yet, I don't understand his words, his warning. What is there that he feared so much?
Do I tempt fate by drawing closer? Perhaps, but I have never been so fearful where perhaps I should be. I have always enjoyed dancing upon the edge, caught between being lifted up and falling.
Falling... I saw so many fall before my eyes this past eve. Five fallen, but then brought back from passing beyond the veil. Three of them to the shrill wail of a banshee, a tortured cry that haunted my reverie... and yet I was spared, by the grace of the Winged Mother. Spared, then gifted with the sight of a beauteous creature -- with wings the color of the purest fallen snow. It's a sign she watches and protects.
It's a sign I must find what I came here to do. Perhaps I'll start in the mountains, then move to the forest they call the Hullack...
[Opposite this entry is a somewhat vague sketch of a large, brutish winged creature, the form twisted and horrible. ("Angel of Decay")]
I thank the Winged Mother for the storm she sent in response to my prayers. This morn, I left upon the highest hill here in Greatgaunt a beautiful feather I had found in Eveningstar. Though the others believe that Meriss was the one to call down the rains, I know by the single lightning strike that she sent.
There was more death this day, starting with the gnome I found in the road, followed by the fiendish creature that rushed by me as I washed the blood from my cloak. I was able to fire a single shot, a slight wound, but enough to know the beast was mortal and harmed by my arrow. Though I gave chase, it was faster yet and left no trail to follow. Upon my return to the settlement, I found two more dead. It was then that the fires broke out.
Dark clouds, they gather on the horizon. The evidence of it is clear, with the threats from those of the Black Sun openly declared upon the people here, the string of murders that grow more frequent, and now this – fiends called forth to wreak havoc. Something must, nay will be done.
I was asked to speak with a druid in the dark woods that connect with the Bramblewood and warned that all number of foul creatures might bar my path from him. I did not find the druid when I ventured forth last eve, but I did find ruins in the woods that bore a great many markings, Espruar that indicated our People once inhabited them.
Kan and I also found the reason none inhabit the area now. Wyrm tracks. I may need to gather more warriors as I venture deeper into the woods.
Glenduil told me that I had to take time to set my anger aside. He doesn’t understand, truly… or does he? I remember with perfect clarity the expression of dawning terror on the druidess’ face, her sentence cut off mid-way into a shrill shriek that echoes through my reverie. I fired an arrow into her throat to silence her. I fired until I was certain she was dead.
I felt ill afterwards, though I did not tell the others. Not for her death – I am glad I did it and I would do so again, without hesitation. This is something different, a test perhaps from the Winged Mother.
She tells us to embrace change, to revel in it, for change comes with the wind. There are, however, many different forms the wind can take… for ill or otherwise…
I haven't been able to reverie the past few nights, and it is beginning to take its toll. Her face, I keep seeing her face as she changed into that wretched beast. I've searched for Glenduil to speak to about this, in the places that I have found him before and he has taken me, but he has been nowhere to be found. Perhaps this is as the Seldarine wills.
On the way to the shrine, through those dark woods, as I saw the light breaking through the edge of the forest, a hin appeared, running, chased by one of the Beastlord's panthers. Fortunately, the Leaf Lord sent one of his guardians to aid us, allowing me to lead the hin to safety. It then stayed with us, guarding us, a large wolf of immense size, the same one who has followed me from time to time, through various valleys and mountain paths, sometimes at the edge of my vision, sometimes at my side. With its aid and that of others we gathered from the settlement, we were able to return to retrieve the hin's companions, among them the consort of the faernsuoress.
I escorted some of them to Skull's Crag, then returned, to the edge of those dark woods. Her face returned to me, however, and I did not enter as I intended. I should have, but I did not...
[This entry follows a sketch of a particular type of spotted mushroom, with a small annotation that it can be found within the King's Forest.]
It has not been too long since last I wrote within this journal, and yet far too many things have happened, have changed. How swiftly do the winds of change sweep through these lands and I am but one caught, as many.
I have found myself traveling with more and more of those like-minded to me. It is unexpected that I would surround myself so with n'tel'quessir, but here, our people are scattered or lay hidden, distrustful of each other, and perhaps with good reason. Not all follow the Seldarine here, some ignorant to those who granted and blessed them with life, some willfully defiant. Some believe themselves to have drifted from the Way and others do not realize how far they have strayed without intention.
While I long to be surrounded by kin once more, I know my place here. With each passing day I learn more of the gathering storm. The undead are rising, and I do not plan on being complacent, content to watch and act once the storm has hit. It has ever been my way to strike first, when I can clearly see what comes in the distance.
I thank the Winged Mother and the Leaf Lord both that I am no longer alone.
I spoke with Belorian, a blessed of Solonor Thelandira, of the events that transpired on what should have been a day of light laughter and bonding between our People. The rare moment of having so many quessir together in one place was spoiled by dhaerow cruelty. They learned of our gathering, whether through a lack or care or betrayal of one of our own is unknown.
Several dozen warriors, mages, undead, and demons they sent. While my arrows pierced and felled many, I succumbed to the sheer numbers. It was only by the Seldarine’s will, manifested in the actions of the aegisess, that allowed me return passage from the realm between realms. I watched, in pain, those others gathered there as they bound their wounds and tended to the many fallen. It was not through our strength that the dhaerow ceased their assault, but their malice. They desired we serve as examples of their cruel intent, the hunting of each and every quessir that remains in Cormyr. House Quickshadow the illusory form named…
This message I have passed to others, and it is altogether too clear to me now that our People are too scattered. Strength in unity we will need, but we are, as Belorian agreed with me, much given to walk individual paths as the Father has bidden us. This must change. I will speak to the others who call themselves protectors.
As for myself, I must tread carefully along the closed path I have chosen. Aluvia, Kythorin, I know what you both would say, but you would understand why as well…
[On the page opposite of this entry is a sketch of a cloud, with the silhouette of a bird within.]
I made him break his promise, the one extracted from him, the one he regretted, the one that was slowly breaking him. At that moment, I could have asked him for anything. Anything, but I had already told him I would not.
In time, he may resent what I did, unraveling that bond without truly replacing it with something else. It’s not my place to choose, because then in time, he would resent me, instead of my actions. I won’t make that choice for him. If I did, I would be no better than all the others.
I want him with me, when I descend to the night below, but I won’t ask him. The memories may yet be too painful, the darkness of the caverns may envelop him. Only he can decide.
It's begun. Sentinels now watch the old, abandoned temple -- not so abandoned according to both Glenduil and Elvalith, but they will see to the matter of notifying the haphazard occupant of our intentions. The aegisess' consort, Daeun, will inquire about obtaining the petty pieces of paper that allow us to lay claim to it. Of course, there is much work to be done. The stone shall have to be shaped, reformed from the vile images they bear to one of more natural beauty.
Atop, I wish to build an aerie. Another gift, but this time, a selfish one.
In the meantime, I must find Siriandur. He is key in all of this, even if he does not realize it.
[Opposite this page is a pressed four-leaf clover, with no notation beside it.]
I spoke with Siriandur until the stars faded and the morning sun bathed the woods in light. His words give me both hope and worry. Hope in that I have found another kindred spirit. Worry that our kin have failed to see what appears so clearly to me.
The signs have been there all along, and together, the puzzle pieces fall into place. The vision granted by the golden-eyed stag, the declaration of the dhaerow priestess, and the uncertainty that grows among our People – these events are a rising tide that will overwhelm us if we refuse to heed the warnings.
I will seek the Aegisess and her consort once more. I will share with them my worries. And if they do not listen, then perhaps it is as the Seldarine wills, for our arrogance, our pride in refusing to change…
In the meantime, I gather others for the hunt. In less than a tenday, we shall move. So short a time by our People and yet it seems that it has been far too long already.
I live, but the others... Rimieh... Riell, Dracus, Roseif, Hanako, and Eileanora. Was it the Winged Mother who brought me back from that terrible place? But if she did, why did she spare only me and not the others?
I don't know what became of them, in that dark place. The last thing I remember were the sounds of the dhaerow, laughing at us, and Roseif's arm dangling over the ledge like a broken wing. And then I awoke, alone, cold, here in Greatgaunt, the holy symbol of the one the n'tel'quessir call the Even-handed beside me. I need to go to Suzail, to return this to the holy knights there, and then I'll stop by the gardens... and pray.
It wasn’t a promise. In a way, it is far better. Better that desire is followed because it remains true, not because it was spoken once and bound by a sense of honor or duty. Should the desire dissipate, he would be free from any sense of obligation because no promises were made. As it should be…
I thought I might never see the stars again nor feel the fresh wind upon my face nor see those whom I've come to expect to walk beside me beneath the greening boughs of the trees. How many days were we below, deep in the bowels of the earth where rock gave way to fire and the stones themselves stirred in anger? Not so many days, and yet I am grateful we are no longer.
We saw no sign of dhaerow, none save the driders in the first set of caverns we explored, but Chond and the others assured me that the paths we traveled led to them, had we gone further. One path is guarded, the other not, and too close is it to the hidden shrine. Perhaps the Wardens know this, but I wonder, with their eyes only on the Hullack whether they will spare any strength to its preservation. I travel not enough times in that direction, but as the Winged Mother's servant, I must tend to it. This I shall do...
In the meantime, I wonder of this other turn of events. Glenduil says I've been chosen, by the one who spreads the plague in the woods. We exchanged no more than a few words, at a distance, with my legs ready to take flight from that dreadful place we stood. What causes him to seek me I am unsure of, but this is the question I needn't an answer for.
'Consider both action and intention in equal measure' -- this Serendil always told me. Yet, they are almost never equal. Even now, here, as with many other things.
As much as I want to stay with him, I know I cannot. So each moment is precious, each moment I savor, each moment I commit to memory, that when I should part these lands, his voice, his eyes, his smile shall be as fresh to me as the morning dew.
He thinks what I do is folly, and perhaps it is. But all I have, I owe to the Winged Mother. All that I’ve lost was lost when I showed a lack of faith. He does not believe as I do, he hasn’t the faith that I do, and he may never… if so, it will be by her will and his choice that we remain separate when we both pass beyond the veil… as much as it grieves me. Until then, I will revel in each of these stolen moments.
Moments between hunts, between the dhaerow threats, the orcs, the followers of the Beastlord. Moments between the demands others make of him and me, the attentions that others desire, the many things that seek to drive us further from each other. Time, distance, even those we should call friends. So few moments, and time, which we ought to have more of, seems as if it slips away.
The spring festival is less than a tenday away, a mere blink of an eye to our People, but it seems an eon. Some time ago, I promised him a dance, to teach him how to release everything holding him down and dance freely among the clouds. I pray to the Winged Mother I can keep that promise. Just that one, if nothing else.
Perhaps it had been a deception or merely a foolish hope he knew could not be fulfilled. The truth of the matter is that his actions were born of desperation and loneliness. That is the main reason he desires my company. The other was to simply have someone who would listen, without judging before the entirety of the story had unfolded.
This is what I offer each person, for it is as I told him. Each one of us is colored by our past, but we are not defined by it. We are not made of stone. We are malleable.
Expectations, they can be hopeful emotions that turn hurtful when they are too great. After Kythorin, I learned not to expect more than the smallest things, and even then, only when I was certain of them.
When they are demanded, because the lack of them is more hurtful, when they are born on mutual wings of hope, one must remember that all walls must eventually crumble. The hesitation that one holds must be released. The moment must be seized, enjoyed.
He only wants three things. That I pray for him, that I stay by his side, and that I learn to expect it, for I already have it.
His story is filled with suffering, a tale that is far too common in this place. With the fear of losing everything, he grasped at anything. It was one of those moments, those points of no return. A point of weakness, a point of pain, a point where even a dark whisper seemed hopeful. When everything seems impossible, even the offer of the smallest amount of control is a mercy. Yes, I can understand why he did those foolish things then.
But can I forgive him?
Even when I have despaired, I’ve never gone to such extreme measures. I’ve never been faced with the prospect of losing everything though. I’ve only lost what was never mine to begin with. What would never be truly mine.
[There is a sketch of a bench behind a wall and a patch of clover.]
As I sit here, waiting in the gardens of Suzail, I have been considering the words exchanged with Entori. If there are many other quessir who believe as he does, then the People ought to retreat, for they’ll not find a place here, in these lands that are not solely quessir.
That he would name Glenduil n’tel’quessir troubles me. If he names Glenduil this, Glenduil who extends his hand to aid each quessir until they prove themselves unworthy, then I understand why our People are so scattered, lacking in strength and unity. It is only a matter of time that I too will be named, despite my service to the Winged Mother.
It is not for them to judge, however, but she of the Azure Plumage, and the Lifegiver, as well as the others who stand beside him. Servant of the Twilight Lord Entori may be, but he hasn’t the omniscience of his patron. Judge they will, however, but I willingly choose a different path.
The Hullack will never become a home to me. This I foresee.