23 Ches 1489

I’ve never been more thankful to need half as much rest as most sentients in the world. With Chauncey, this four hours is the only peace we get all day.

My thoughts strayed back to Argyle throughout tonight’s meditation. Our serendipitous meeting would lead us back to Luskar, where he represented the voice of the Emerald Enclave.

In those days, Luskan was a bustling and thriving port city. It has since been ravaged by the Spellplague, a century ago, and has not recovered. But when I met Argyle there, it was a fascinating place. To the west lay the Sea of Swords stretching as far as the eye could see, and it was beset on the north by the Spine of the World – the “Wall” as the locals called it.

It was here that Argyle would introduce me to the tenets of the Emerald Enclave – and to the focus of my life since then:

Preserve Nature in all her forms.

Control Human expansion.

Magic shall never be used for mass destruction.

This order believed fully in respecting and preserving the natural balance between society and nature. Given what happened to my home in the name of progress and expansion, this always resonated deeply within me – still does today. Argyle and I took to our mission, making quite a team. He would handle the loftier situations involving nobles, political leaders, clergy and the like, spreading our message of peace and balance. I would roam the wilds helping those on the edges of society survive and respect nature – to live in harmony rather than opposition.

I am thankful Argyle did not live to see his home so utterly destroyed by the Spellplague. Even more thankful he lived a long, full life – those seem to be rare for people in a position such as his.

How long have you been gone, brother? Very near two centuries as well, I suppose. I hope you have found peace in the forests of Silvanus.

22 Ches 1489

On the road from Welton towards the Spine of the World.

I had every intention of breaking away from these men, now that Welton is protected, and returning to my search for those in need.

And yet, here I find myself camped with them. For what reason, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps I truly have been lonelier than I realized. Perhaps I’ll be able to earn a bit more money with a group, allowing me to help even more eventually. At any rate, it will be good to see the Wall again.

The Spine of the World is dangerous, treacherous land, but it is beautiful. There is a trade city of Luskan, just south of the Wall at the mouth of the Mirar. The view of the Spine from there is astounding; it’s also where I first encountered a member of the Emerald Enclave.

I’d been tracking some wolves at the northern edge of Neverwinter Wood for a few days. By happenstance, I came upon a man being attacked by them – or perhaps he was attacking them. He was a short, bearded Human – wild red hair, holding his own against this pack. He moved fluidly, and the quarterstaff he used had a faint greenish mist about it; almost looked to be actively sprouting leaves and other growth.

Not wanting to distract him, nor lose my quarry, I nocked an arrow. Taking aim at the largest wolf, I muttered under my breath, “Sacuvanye lé” – “I will pursue you” in Common – just as my father taught me so many years ago. He always said it would help me maintain my concentration on my target. As I said the words, the wild man looked _straight_ at me. There is no possible way he heard me from 100 feet away, and yet he immediately knew I was there.

I loosed the arrow, which felled the wolf. Then another. Soon the rest scattered.

After exchanging thanks and pleasantries, the man introduced himself as Argyle, a druid representing this “Emerald Enclave.”

When I asked how he knew I was there, he gave me a funny look.

> “Boy, you cast a spell. I felt the magic. How do you think I knew?”

My father never knew anything of spells or magic – not that I was aware of at least. However, Argyle explained it was actually a very common spell, especially among the Rangers of Fearûn, known as the “Hunter’s Mark.”

As it would turn out, several of the hunting, shooting, and survival skills my father taught me were actually deeply rooted in the magic of nature. He had never presented them that way, however, so I was taken aback. I still had much to learn, apparently.

Magic or not, those skills had served me well. Argyle would continue to be an excellent advisor and close friend for decades before passing from this world. Because of him, I have found a wanderer’s home in the Emerald Enclave.

I miss you, brother. For expanding my respect for nature, my knowledge of this world – and of myself – I will be forever grateful.

21 Ches 1489

Exhausted. Disbelieving as well.

Not sure I have the words to explain what has transpired today. Suppose I’ll start at the beginning.

Council meeting was a sham. Raucous debate about keeping supplies for the townsfolk or giving it away towards export quotas. Is that even a question that needs to be asked? Good business partners would be lenient in such a situation, and yet I know from my own experience how rare that leniency is when money is involved.

I had no patience for the argument or the Council; the Halfling did the majority of the talking. Least he enjoys it. Continued referring to us as servants. Sooner I have this wolf threat under control, sooner I can be rid of him.

We did end up with a single lead – the location of the farm to the west, where the sheep were abducted from the barn. Councilman Corel offered to guide us, but I had no need of such help – particularly from this Council.

From the barn, it was simple enough to track the wolves into the forest. We were soon ambushed by an owlbear – monstrous creature the size of a bear, with the features of an owl. Tracked and watched them before, but always kept a great distance. This one had no interest in keeping its distance; it was able to wound Norren, but we bested it in the end.

Still no idea what this one was doing around here. Very odd to see one out in the daytime, given their nocturnal nature. It was already wounded; burns, scorches, claw marks, bites. Definitely wolf claws and teeth, but no way to tell what caused the other at the time. Didn’t take long to find out.

Owlbear’s tracks coincided with the wolf tracks, though he was going in the opposite direction. As we followed, we came upon the wolf den at the mouth of a small cave. Wolves were sitting around a campfire; figured they’d found some poor huntsman’s camp. Even found a makeshift alarm trap. Perhaps the Sorcerer had made his home here as well. We would learn that was not the case.

Norren rashly rushed out into the clearing, unarmed. They did not attack, though the wolves did immediately sit and stare intently. One wolf ran into the cave, then emerged with two more enormous wolves – probably the largest I’ve seen. Those two wolves _spoke_ to us. In full, coherent Common sentences. I’m still trying to process the fact that we started negotiating – with wolves.

One male, one female. The male told us a story about how the Sorcerer had tracked them down, but when he went to cast a spell, he simply vanished in a magical explosion. Afterwards, the wolves in the pack could speak; moreover, these two alphas had been imbued with lightning and fire magic, respectively.

While that explains the “storm of lightning and fire” the wounded Halfling mentioned, I still can’t believe it is possible.

The female – Flame, she called herself – was angry, aggressive. The male – Bolt – was patient and willing to talk. Eventually, Flame’s patience ran thin, and she turned on Bolt.

A massive fight ensued, with these two giant wolves exchanging _magical_ blows. We helped defeat Flame, barely saving Bolt’s life.

After that, he was amenable to actually aiding the town, rather than raiding it. We decided to bring him before the Council. This was an interesting experience, to say the least. I did very much love to see their fear and confusion when confronted with this speaking wolf.

We were able to somehow broker a deal that the wolves would defend the town as best they could in exchange for a steady supply of sheep.

I lived this story; however, writing it down and reflecting on it now, I still don’t fully _believe_ this story.

I need some rest, settle my thoughts, figure out what must be done next. I’ll need to be moving on soon.

Talking. Wolves.

20 Ches 1489

Welton.

We didn’t have to wait long to encounter these wolves of Welton. Few hours from town we happened upon a group of shepherds tending their flock; they came under attack from eight wolves.

The way they surrounded the flock, these were not typical wolves; they were absolutely more intelligent, and they were attempting to drag sheep away alive, rather than simply killing them outright. Their pack tactics were swift, more coordinated than I’ve ever seen.

We were able to fell a couple of them, which scared the remaining off. The shepherds were thankfully uninjured, but they did lose a few sheep and one dog. I made sure to compensate them for their loss.

Chauncey proved himself useful with a crossbow, and Norren was surprisingly fast, and extremely deadly with a quarterstaff. I wonder where he learned to move like that. I asked him on our way in, but he was reluctant to provide any information.

The shepherds told us this has been happening for months. Most recently, the Peterson family had a dozen sheep abducted from within a _locked_ barn. Extremely odd.

The attacks began almost as soon as the town’s Sorcerer, Alexi, disappeared. Not likely a coincidence.

About a month ago, some hunters from town were also ambushed as they tracked the wolves to their den. Only a Halfling survived, and he is still being treated by one Father Merrickson here at the Shepherd’s Crook Inn. We spoke to them both earlier; the Halfling had some troubling reports of the ambush:

> We were overwhelmed by a storm of lightning and fire.

These wolves are being led – controlled? Perhaps this Sorcerer has turned on his home for some reason. Magic has been known to corrupt.

The people in town are understandably on edge, not wanting to leave their homes. This is a much larger threat than I’ve ever seen wolves pose to such a town.

The inn’s proprietor, Leanor Slatebeard, mentioned there is a town council meeting tomorrow. We’ll be in attendance.

Some strange occurrences happened during our fight as well. Some tall grass nearby suddenly erupted with the sound of a bear, but I am certain there was no bear there at all. I had my suspicions, so just before he retired for the night, I confronted Chauncey in his room. He was visibly uncomfortable, and he initially tried to lie his way around the fact that he is a Wizard.

Now I must watch him even closer.

19 Ches 1489

Spring Equinox. Holy day for many.

I’m not one for superstitions, but the equinox is known for strange and suspicious events; appears this one is no different.

As I was having dinner last night, I noticed a Halfling – garish and obnoxious – winning an extraordinary amount of money off patrons playing dice games with him. When there was no money to give, he had no qualms taking their personal possessions either.

I could not stand for this and confronted him. He was unapologetic. Unfortunately we were interrupted by another Elf and two others. They likely noticed my hunting gear as they immediately addressed me as “Hunter”. Or perhaps they recognized the Emerald Enclave emblems on my quiver.

They informed me of a nearby town of Welton having very strange encounters with wolves of late. Such problem that the town, consisting mostly of shepherds, was in danger of defaulting on their debts and falling short on their quotas to the nearby merchants. Given my history with such guilds, my abilities to quell wildlife threats exactly as this, as well as my duty to the Enclave, I agreed to set out at once.

I cared not for a reward that was mentioned, but this perked up the cheating Halfling right up and he “asked” to follow along. The second Elf would be following as well.

And that is how I came to be traveling with these two: The Halfling, “Chauncey Blythe of Blythe Manor”, and the Elf, Norren.

The Elf is extremely quiet, and when he does speak up, it’s usually with some _very_ bad jokes. He seems kind-hearted enough, though.

The Halfling is a different story altogether. There is something very suspicious about him, and he has already begun referring to us as servants. I will be watching him closely.

18 Ches 1489

Tiny inn here, sat at a crossroads. Able to sell what I didn’t eat on the way in.

Arrived early in the morning; innkeep had some suggestions on looking for the wolves. I showed him how to look for signs of their tracks, count their numbers. He’s already competent enough with a bow. Sold him the extra arrows I made, gave him some tips on making his own.

Found a couple of the wolves nearby; scared them off – should hopefully keep them from coming too close.

Headed downstairs for a drink and some dinner.

16 Ches 1489

The road is lonelier than I remember. Two centuries I’ve been traveling Faerûn, and I’ve never stopped to think much about it. This journal has forced me to stop, reflect, remember.

I’m yet unsure whether that’s good or bad – though it’s probably both.

14 Ches 1489

Offloaded everything today. Time to stock up and move on. Mirabar’s a bit too loud and crowded for my tastes. Much as I enjoy some rowdy mining Dwarves once in a while, we’re nearing the spring equinox – lots of animals coming out of hibernation. They’ll be looking for food, encroaching on villages. Will be my job to help the smaller villages prepare and cope.

Met my contact from the Emerald Enclave today; he told me about a small inn that’s already seeing wolves about. I’ll need to thin them out just a bit, ward them away. Maybe train the innkeeper to use a bow, let them know not to go out alone.

I’ll set out straight from the market.

13 Ches 1489

Couldn’t find a merchant willing to trade in the slums. Not too surprising, but forced me to go in to the wealthier markets. I despise going there. Already well-to-do shop owners still looking to drive my prices down. Lets them rape the town with their despicable markups, fuel their exorbitant lifestyles.

Took me nearly three hours to reach an acceptable price on my remaining meats and pelts.

Merchant’s landlord came in just as I was leaving; briefly overheard the start of an argument over the lease. No pleasantries, no compromise; only bickering, only money.

Such is the nature of the world when you measure your life in gold pieces. There is always a bigger fish throwing its weight around, claiming your prey for their own.

Drives my thoughts yet again to my father.

78 years he spent in that shop in Loudwater. From scraping by to living well. In those last few years, the merchant’s guilds in the area went through much upheaval. What were once age-old alliances and partnerships dissolved into smoldering grudges. New faces came into power, then were just as quickly replaced again.

But their fleeting nature didn’t lessen their impact on the city, its economy, and most importantly its people. One such man took over the deed to my father’s shop. Our previous owner was a jolly man; we got along well, and we had no issues paying his dues on time, every time.

This new owner was anything but jolly or amenable.

Soon after taking over our lease, he saw the marginal success the shop was having, and looked to take a bite of that for himself. In the span of a few months, our rent was raised ten-fold.

We could not pay such ridiculous rates; even if we could, I dare say we wouldn’t.

Weeks went by with heated debate escalating into fervent rage, though mostly from myself and the landowner.

My father remained calm, but never soft or weak. He would not back down. After one such blistering fight, my father suggested he and I get out of the city for a time. It was early Marpenoth, a good time to stock up on hides and furs for the winter.

It was on this trip he presented me with a new longbow – one he must have saved for months, perhaps years, to afford. It fired true then, as it still does today.

It would be one of the last gifts either of us would be able to afford for one another.

Upon our return, we found our shop in shambles.

Skins and armors strewn about, ripped to pieces. Tools scattered and broken. This was our eviction notice, or “repossession” as the landowner would inform us.

He took everything from us.

He took my father from me.

Forced to live in the poorest of slums yet again, it would be only a few months before my father was taken by illness. Disgusting living conditions, even for those of us who can survive in the woods for weeks, only breed filth and disease. Without our tools, our supplies, we were unable to recover quickly enough.

What contacts my father had made were no help – afraid of the new merchant leadership, afraid of how they’d be seen were they to associate with poor wretches like us.

Sickness ravages the slums regularly. Who knows which one of numerous diseases we caught that week. I came out alright; my father did not come out at all.

That was a month or so before my 103rd birthday, and it was then I turned my back on the society that had turned its back on my father. My bow was all I had left, so I struck out to do the only thing I knew how – to hunt. To survive.