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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Journals...journals never change. Memories do. Life on the road has gotten more dangerous. And I have a future to think about. I guess I just don't want it all to fade away, my life, the things I've learned, the people who've shaped me into who I am today. Perhaps that's why I'm writing this, or perhaps I just have too much time for myself. Right now I'm in front of my campfire...writing, some roast rabbit and some ale for a meal. If anyone's reading this and things start sounding ridiculous, blame it on the ale.
Where do I start? From the beginning? Can't really remember all the way back to that point. All I remember is spending my early childhood with my family in Tethyr, not far into the Wealdath. Typical family, my father was a woodsman while my mother tended to our home with my older sister. A quiet life. My father knew more of the ways of the wilds than I realized back then, he had a way to live off the environment that I never understood till I was a bit older. My mother and sister would never venture too far into the woods, they were content with our small farm some distance from the nearby settlement...atleast my mother was. Not me, I love it around the trees, playing and exploring on my own. Now that I think back on it, that was probably stupid, I could've gotten hurt...or worse. Suffice to say, I always loved venturing out with my father, and he was happy to take me along. He'd take me with him sometimes when he went out to hunt or forage. And at times to simply spend some time among the trees and the animals, and of course with me. It was a quiet and simple life for us. Then again I was a kid, things seemed all too simple.
Now what else can I write down? Oh right, how I learned my craft. I didn't learn it all back then. I was still a child after all, I still thought of fun and games, but yes, I was taken in by the wonders of it all. From how my father stalked his prey, to making that killing shot, the rustling of the leaves, the grandeur of the forest and everything else. I was there, watching him and very much amazed and interested. And I guess he noticed that in me. He would teach me the ways of the forest in the coming years. The hunt, the trees, the animals, and the bow. The bow...my first try wasn't really with a bow, more like a bent stick with strings tied to both ends. I didn't have the arms to pull back a real bow's strings, not to mention my father's longbow. So I practiced shooting twigs with my very short bow. And I was quite good with it, yup. Now I just needed to kill something with it. Like always, it was fun and games. And my father was amused to say the least...can't forget the smile he had everytime he looked at me.
Eventually, I was able to start training with a real bow. But I'll write about that next time. Right now it's getting late, and I've a lot to think about.
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Nervousness, calmness, exhiliration, then grief. Those were the emotions I went through when I had my first kill. It was the third summer after I started learning the ways of the hunt. I was twelve. And it was a time in a boy's life when he feels the need to prove himself in any way, to those around him, and especially to himself. Atleast that's how I felt during those years. I also felt lots of other things too...but that's for a whole 'nother story...or not. Why should I write that down anyway?
So it was on my twelfth summer when my father took me with him to go hunting. There was a festival held around the settlements for Chauntea, considering most of the people there were farmers. Lots of fresh harvests were being traded and some were even prepared and served for banquets. Some were not farmers and worshipped other deities. But they contributed in their own way. Craftsmen and artists of different sorts, everyone had a part in the event. Being a hunter, my father knew one thing he could give to the community...fresh game. So when dawn broke, he set out, but not before telling me to prepare my things, for I was coming with him. Hah! I was so excited, I even irked Lydia...my sister. Yea, she loves her little brother. So we set out, trekked for a few hours deep into the woods. Father asked me if I had been practicing with the shortbow he gave me a year ago. I said I have, and I have been practicing as much as the day would allow. He said that was good, because I will be the one making the kill that day. Wasn't really expecting that, and suffice to say, I was nervous.
We continued on for hours into noon, until we came upon a small clearing with a stream running through. Father told me to get ready. I guess he was tracking something that led us to that place, for he pointed across the stream, behind the bushes. A deer, moving slowly for a drink. Before I knew it, things kicked in, everything he taught me, finding a good position and not to give it away, I went to work. Got behind some bushes upwind from the deer with a broadside view. Slowly, I got my bow ready, notched an arrow, slowly pulled back on the string, took aim, and waited. I can't remember how long I waited, it seemed an awful long time. Having something in your sights like that, was something personal, especially for a first timer like me. You had a life in your hands, that was a lot for me to think about. But with my target in sight, there was only one thing to do, so I focused. I got calm...too calm, not even realizing I had released my hold on the string. I watched as time seemed to slow down, the arrow flying towards my unsuspecting prey. It felt like forever. It was all new to me. But none of that mattered when I saw my arrow hit the deer at the side to where the vitals are. I regained my senses, and excitement, as I ran back to my father. He was smiling from ear to ear, I was probably smiling a lot more. He told me I did great, as he went for the game. I followed, and as I got closer to the carcass, grief slowly took me. I've never purposely killed a living thing before, and it was hard for me. Then again, I was young...and green. All in all, it was a defining moment for me. I did great 'he' said. That was enough for me.
So we got ready to head back home in time for the festival. That day was not done with it's surprises for me. Not long after we left for home, my father, deer on his shoulders, stopped in his tracks. He seemed to be looking at something off to the side, I couldn't tell what, until something moved from behind a tree. What I saw was something that I saw only in my imaginations. It had light green skin, and long flowing grey hair, rugged clothing and gear not much different from my father's. I've only heard of them from stories and what my family would tell me, so I was surprised to actually meet one. It was a wood elf, a ranger of one of the tribes. But I didn't know that back then, and was confused when he spoke to my father in a language I've never heard before. I was even more surprised when father spoke back in the same tongue. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but it seemed like they were having an argument over something. I was in awe, so much so that I didn't even notice the elf had left until my father told me that we should leave. I asked him if there was anything wrong, and he told me no, but that "elven memory does not easily forget, son"
Well, we got home safe after that by late afternoon. The festival will be held the next day, but as I lay to sleep that night, it was the day I just had which I could only think about. Speaking of sleep, I should go get some. Maybe tomorrow I'll write down about the festival, or that girl...or her dog...maybe.
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Life was good. Growing up and being raised to be your own man had its merits for the most part. It's been five years since I had my first successful hunt, and I've gotten better with it to go out on my own. I've learned a lot during those previous years, with help from my family mostly. Some I had to learn for myself...like women. Back then I never thought I could learn anything about them, but I still tried. I did learn a lot from them though, mostly from my mother and sister...yea, the good and the bad, depends who I talk to. But that's life's lessons for anyone, and some things you just need to find out for yourself so I won't write those down.
Now at that time I was at a point in my life when I'll be considered my own man. Setting off on my own, making a name for myself, taking my own course. I had a lot to think about to where I'll lead my life, but not for a while. That time I just wanted to enjoy life, it was my birthday soon as well. So the family was planning a small feast to celebrate my coming of age. And so I thought I'd provide the game, hunt for myself.
I didn't have much trouble hunting for the most part, but I've learned more about the forest and the ways of the land as I grew up, things my father kept from me until I was ready to understand. One of those were the elves. I was amazed and full of wonder with how they were described when I first heard about them as a child. The first time I saw one some years ago, even more so. I was really clueless, I had no idea they were many, and actually had tribes deep in the forest. I also learned about their affinity with the land, and how they protect it for it is their home. That was reason enough to be mindful of what to hunt. My father even warned me that the elves do not trust us humans, so it is best to steer clear of them as much as possible...even more so then, that the broken nation was having trouble with protecting the lands from raiders and brigands...and from itself. Only later did I learn about the treatment the elves had received from the rulers of the last dynasty. Can't say I blame them, but eternity seems a long time to be holding grudges and mistrust...but that's just me. I adhere to my father's warnings, no need to be on the elves' bad side.
I felt proud as I was on my way home carrying my quarry, a great stag. That would make for a good meal. And so I got back home, welcomed by my family, everyone's spirits lifted. My mother busily preparing the meals, my father helping her out, my sister, well...just came back from the village doing who-knows-what. She's spunky I'll give her that. Either the men around here are crazy, or just plain stupid, whichever it is, they were always following her around. When the sun had set, the meal was served. Everybody was in a light mood, a couple family friends were there as well. It was a nice, quiet life. Discussion turned to me, what I had planned. I really haven't thought of it yet back then, maybe I figured I'd help out the family, or set out on my own. My mother was so elated with how I've been doing that she almost broke down to tears. I suppose I'm no longer the boy she used to take care of, groom, tuck at night, teach, and yell at for being stupid. And I suppose that's why I didn't want to think of leaving. I guess that boy was still in me...even now.
It was a lovely dinner, everyone just enjoying the meal with their loved ones. That was a night I'll never forget, didn't want to forget...for that was the last time we were to have a meal together...
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Every day is a new beginning. That's what Lathander's devout would say. What kind of beginning and how? They can never tell for sure. Too bad I had to go through the ugly one...
It was the morning after. We had a wonderful time during the previous night's celebration of my birth. It's become routine to wake up early in the morning and set out for the outdoors. This time I had to go with my father toward the nearest trade route where a trading caravan has set up shop for the week.
Aside from a meal, hunting also provides for decent profit. My father taught me how to use what I can out of our quarry, like animal hides, sinew, even teeth and bones. Bows and small trinkets are a good trade, sometimes even leatherwork. And you can never let a chance to trade with these caravans pass you by. Our resources are our own, and may not seem valuable enough for those living in the area. But where these traders are going, you never know how much it could fetch. So there we went with our offerings of bows, some leather sheets, and some bone tipped arrows, hoping for a good trade. A few hours into the day, we reached the Tradeway heading northward. Not far was the caravan, just having passed the nearest town of Mosstone on their way to Trademeet through the Wealdath. From the sights and sounds, the tents, people and music, I could tell it was going to be a long day.
Calimshan's got lots of shiny things, and that means lots of hired guards. These guys looked tough, as they should be if they wanted to earn their pay, I suppose. A few gave traders like ourselves wary looks, but that's to be expected if you'll be setting up camp in a forest, and a mysterious one at that. At least they took precautions. Caravans have been known to turn back to where they came from, thanks to the elves. This one was taking its time through the forest, thus the camp, and nothing overly disturbing for the surrounding area. It felt safe too...between the security and the lively music being played by some of the entertainers, it made things comfortable enough to go about with your business. Dealing with the merchants was something else though...
Sell for coin, barter, buy rations. Isn't that a job for the women? I couldn't believe we're over there and they're back at home. I noticed my father was actually enjoying himself, despite almost arguing with some of the merchants over the sales. I learned as time went by that haggling was part of it all, which is quite hard for us simple folk...merchants rule the markets. It's up to us to provide valuable enough supplies to sell if we want to come out of a trade even the least bit compensated. That's what my father was doing right then. As for me, I had to buy some supplies to take back home, nothing a trip to the local market could provide, sure, but these guys were offering things we might never be able to come across again. Caravans, they're the closest most people would get to foreign cultures. Made me wonder if I'll ever have a chance to see more of the world. Anyway, I went on with my business and browsed for useful things, like wares, writings, skins and fabrics, even some foreign wildlife...would make a good meal for a special occasion. The day went on like that...and after a few hours and few dozen gulders later, we packed our purchases and what's left of our unsold wares, and headed off home...
Home...that was one day I wish we'd never left it...
It had already been dark when we left the road. But it seemed the sun was rising back up again as we neared the settlements. But it wasn't the sun, as I would soon find out while chasing after my father who sped off toward the light on the horizon. It wasn't until I got closer and saw the smoke that I knew something was wrong. I dropped what we'd brought with us and hurried to the distant cries. I stopped in my tracks as I neared the settlements...that's when I realized what was happening. The village was being raided, houses were on fire, the villagers were running and screaming...some no longer able to. Brigands, they came from the west, most likely from the outskirts of the forest near the coast. I followed father deeper into the woods a little ways to the northwest, towards our home, weapons at the ready, hoping we weren't too late. I could hear screaming, and my heart sank as we rushed for our house. I can tell from the shouts and moving shadows being cast off the light from inside the house, there was a struggle. We ran for the door not wasting time, only to find that there was no longer a door...it had been broken down. Five heavily armed men, one was pinning mum to the ground, two had my sister against the wall, one was further back holding a torch, while the other one was ransacking the place. We shouldn't have rushed in like that, but fear for our family and by then anger had dictated my actions. I can only imagine what was going through my father's head. He gave a roar like I've never heard before, dagger in hand. Stabbing the man pinning my mother, digging into the back of his neck. And just like that, he was dead. I had a dagger ready as well, but seemed I could not move a muscle. I had thought everything that has happened so far would drive me over the edge, but seeing my father just kill a man...it was something I wasn't prepared for. I wasn't sure why it felt so different from hunting wildlife, but it was. I suppose you could get used to it, like hunting...although I hope I never do. I still had a lot to learn. But that wasn't a time for learning, it was a time for action. I was frozen stiff, I couldn't do it, couldn't kill a man, even as they turned their attention to us and drew their swords. I couldn't. I was in a daze, faintly seeing my father tackle the two who were holding Lydia. I was brought back from my stupor by my father's voice yelling, telling me to take my mother and sister and get out of there as the other two intruders were rushing for us from the back of the house. And so I did. My heart was pounding as I took the women by the arm and dragged them out of the house, not even realizing what would happen to father. The last words I heard from him were "..protect them". I could hear sounds of struggle behind us as we ran, along with cries from my companions. We'd not gone far when I heard a sharp cry from the direction of our home...I never looked back...
I had wondered when help would come. But I knew it would be too late. Even the county sheriff's men stationed in Mosstone would take at least an hour or two at full gallop to reach the settlements, that's if they even received word of the attack. I was even hoping for the elves, but I guess I was hoping too much. I couldn't wait for help, I had to get us as far away from there as possible. We couldn't head south or west for risk of encountering more of those lowlives, not to the east where it only led to deeper forest. So I led them back to the roads, where we came from. Backtracking to where I dropped our goods, taking with us what we can. It was all we had left as far as I knew. After making our way north for some hours and countless looks over our shoulders, I felt hope when I saw what we came there for. What was only half a day earlier were tents and encampments, were now carts and carriages...guards on station were now on horseback. As I had suspected, word has reached them of the raid and was ready to set off. Explaining to the guards our intentions wasn't that hard, and some of the merchants had recognized me. They were kind enough to give us a ride to Trademeet. I felt safe once again.
It wasn't until the three of us had settled onto one of the carriages in relative silence, as the caravan began it's journey, amidst quiet sobs, when it dawned on me. I was never going to see my father again.
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Time heals all wounds. I just wish it would not seem to slow down when you're at your lowest. It was my nineteenth winter, three years since that day. That horrible, sad day. For three years, the feeling of loss continued to gnaw at my heart. I knew my family, what's left of it, felt the same way.
The northern chill numbs my senses as I walk back with firewood in hand. It was to be a cold night once more, something I wasn't used to back at home. Home...three years we've been living in Waterdeep, and yet it still didn't feel like home to me. Those years weren't easy for the three of us, especially my mother. With no farm to tend to, she had to find other means to get by. Hearing news of the settlement being razed took a toll on her. As always, she tried be strong for my sister and myself...but we both knew it was our turn to be strong, for her. It took some months for us to settle into our own place in the city, it wasn't much, but it put a roof over our heads. Mum made due with some tailoring, having been her hobby. My sister, Lydia, was lucky enough to put her charms to good use and put food on the table for us. She always was quite the performer. As for myself, well I didn't feel like there was a place for me at first, the only life I knew was out in the country, somewhere more peaceful. Still, I had to do something, and so I apprenticed to a carpenter. Though old Harald wasn't too keen to take in someone past that certain age such as myself, he realized an old man could use some help. Being neighbors, he didn't need to provide me lodging either.
Despite it all, there was always that feeling of emptiness. Made me glad for the work I did, in some ways it helped keep my mind on the present. The bustle of the city always kept me on edge. It felt like life was being forced into a jar and always on the verge of spilling out. It was too much to take sometimes, but you learn to adapt bit by bit, I suppose. Taverns had been a good place to sit back and relax after a days work. I always did try to stop by whenever my sister was performing for the patrons. Singing songs and playing tunes that made you forget about the world outside...she can be so amazing so long as she's getting paid. And there's the women. Being the young man I was, it seems I had more going for me than before. Women started looking my way, and I started looking theirs. And for a short time I managed to be with this one girl, a couple years younger than I. Not really knowing how such things worked, things seemed fine for the both of us. And she made me smile, I really needed that. But it wouldn't last, she would leave me in the end, finding me a bit boring. That's city girls for you...And the city, grand and majestic just like the stories have told. In some ways, being part of it all would be enough to push you forward, do your best despite the odds and the harsh reality of it all, like a motivation and accomplishment at the same time. Yet in spite of it all, that feeling remained...
And so I sat there in front of the fireplace, staring at the flames, keeping myself warm on that cold night. Times like those I used to think about what to do with my life. Not to say I was bad at the crafts, but I wasn't exceptional either. Harald didn't need my help, but he took me in regardless. People like him reminded me that there is good in this world. I've learned to not take things for granted, and gods bless that man, but I could never see myself as a craftsman. I guess you could say my heart was not really into it...it wasn't into a lot of things those days. No, what I really wanted was closure, or dare I say vengeance? All sorts of questions ran into my head the whole time, the who, what and why. Perhaps I was stupid, or selfish, self-righteous...or perhaps all three. Or perhaps it was a vain notion of wanting to protect my family, being the only man. Protect them from what exactly? I do not know. Did they need my protection? It seemed like I was the one still holding on to the past. Perhaps I wanted to protect them from the past, but instead of moving on, I kept wanting to go back. Back to a time when everything meant something, before things became pointless. Whatever drove me into my decision, I'll never know. Hasty and impulsive, yes, and it makes me wonder what kind of life I would be living right now if I'd been wiser that time. As naive and stupid as it sounds back then, I don't regret it.
And so I got off my chair, packed my things and left a note on Lydia's nightstand. She would know how to tell Mum, and send regards to Harald, come morning. As I quietly stepped out to meet the cold night, I had hoped she, they, would understand. Part of me wanted her to come and find me later on, the other simply wanted them to move on and be happy with their lives. I kept walking past dark streets, watchful guards, past gates and squares till I reached the docks. From there I managed to find a ship ready to set sail that would take me as far south as Velen, a fitting destination for one such as I. Young, stupid and naive as I was, deep down I knew nothing good would come out of this. I guess I really was that selfish...
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Home is where the heart is. And it is with a heavy heart that I return to it. Is that true though? That my heart had been with my childhood home, a place, and not where my family was at that time? Is that why I was making that journey back? One thing I was sure of, part of my heart remains on that small farm of ours, and I intended to pick it up...
I had spent weeks on board the merchant ship Skimming Albatross as it sailed to the naval city of Velen, along the coast west of the Tethyr-Amn border. Those weeks were spent contemplating my decision, what I would do once I stepped of the ship, and whether or not I was pushing my luck. Regardless of what happens to me, I knew I had to see my decision through. I can fondly remember my father telling me as much, how someone like him was made to settle in a small farming community with news of my sister. I would only find out later on in life who he was before starting a family. And so I spent most of my time on deck watching the waves, waiting out the days. The crew left me alone for the most part, so long as I wasn't getting in their way. Sailors are something else, they're good at what they do and they know it. Everyone knew their part...everyone had a purpose. After reaching Velen, I looked back at the ship as the crew walked past me onto the docks, wondering if life at sea was a better option for me.
I hadn't planned on staying in the city for long. I have heard rumors about it being haunted. It was getting late too, and as I glanced at the people around me, I had wondered if they were too jaded from the hauntings to not look worried. It sure wasn't easy to walk its streets while keeping an eye on your surroundings. I needed to finish my business there quickly. I did my best not to catch much attention, and my accent helped show that I was from around the area. It didn't take long for me to buy some supplies, a bow and a quiver of arrows, for I intended to spend most of my time out in the wilds.
I lived off the land for the next few months. Tracing my way back, with ever growing grief, to our old home. I spent a few moments standing there, just staring at the house I grew up in, now slowly being taken by the land. It took a while for me to gather my wits and take a closer look, making my way through the rubble to what used to be the interior. I felt relief, relief of not having found my father's remains, it would have been too painful otherwise. I made my way down to the village, hoping not all had been lost. A hope that was soon crushed, for there was nothing left. What used to be houses are nothing more than charred wood sticking up from the ground. Weeds have replaced crops and covered most of what used to be roads and trails. Nobody has set foot there in a long time.
I walk through the village, Selune providing light on that quiet night. I knew better than to light a torch on what is essentialy, by then, just another clearing in the Wealdath. I didn't need much light anyway, not even to notice that there were no remains to be found anywhere. It took me some time to find it, indiscernible from the years of growth, but it was there, dozens and dozens of small bumps on the ground. Burial mounds, a few of the adjacent farms had been turned into a cemetary. I'd wondered who had done the honors. Survivors? The sheriff's men? Whoever it was, they have shown that much respect for the dead, and for my father, for one of the mounds was his. I spent the next few hours praying, reminiscing, thinking on what to do next. I gathered my things and started south, taking one final look back at the life I once had. Velen may be haunted, but the sight before me was a real ghost town. I guess that's what I came there for, to deal with the ghosts of my past...
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
How I could just kill a man. I was telling myself, rather than asking. I should be asking, asking how could I do it...but I wasn't. That was the thought that plagued my mind as I sat on the ground, my back against a tree, my swelling hands covered in blood...blood not my own. I sat there, staring at the fresh corpse in front of me, a dagger jutting out from his neck. I had taken someone's life. I had found it easy, there was a struggle, yes, but the act itself had been so easy. I had wondered what made it so different from that time when, as a kid, I'd frozen where I stood and could do nothing. I've killed a man. That man laying lifeless before my eyes used to be a brigand, but I sat there wondering many things about him. Did he also used to be a father? A husband? A son? Would anyone weep for what I had done? I sat there motionless, catching my breath, thinking back on what had led me to that point.
It had been weeks since I walked away from the village, in a few more months it'll be winter. Can't say I missed the cold of winter up north, though soon I would also be turning twenty and the thought occurred to me that I would be celebrating it alone for the first time, that was enough to make that Tethyrian winter just as cold. It had almost been a year since I left Waterdeep...since I last saw my family and friends. Time felt so quick back then, I can't remember if the realization even occurred to me. It most likely didn't, for I know the one thing that occupied my mind during those times.
Those weeks living in the wilds have been a time of growth, a time of learning, of hardship and fear. I knew what to expect of life in the forest, but never did I thought I'd struggle so much putting what I learned into practice. There would be days when all I had to eat were fruits and other greens, other days I was not so lucky. Everyday I'd check my snares for any hopeful catch, most days I'd end up moving them. Hunting for my food fared better than the snares, but they usually would end in frustration. The few meat I've managed to catch I'd make sure to stretch and save for days. I needed strength if I wanted to follow any signs of those murderers from years before, strength at least to survive and keep going if all else fails. So far all I knew back then was that they came from the direction of the coast...I had a lot of ground to cover.
The sun had set by the time I returned to camp, with a couple dead hares tied to a stick resting on my shoulder, I was looking forward to enjoying freshly roasted meat days after the last time. I stashed one of the rabbits for another day, skinning the other one and got it ready for the stick. As I sat there quietly watching the meat roast, I looked around me, the darkness of the forest confining me in that little camp of mine, the light from the campfire brushing against the roots of the trees like waves against the shores. Night had always been a frightening time in the Wealdath, the shadows of the forest seemed to hold a world of its own. Nocturnal creatures come alive with the lack of light, relying on their hooting and howling to make their presence known, it was unnerving for the most part. I had decided to finish up early and retire for the night, reaching for one end of the stick that impaled my dinner. And that's when I heard it. The sound of rustling dead leaves, distinct enough from the crackling of the fire that I knew it came from behind me. I looked back for a moment, expecting a pair of glowing eyes. What I saw instead was a glint I'd seen only from steelwork...
The man had me down on my knees on the other side of the campfire, hand behind my head as he went through my belongings, my own hunting knife tucked into my pack, his curved dagger held ready. He had leathers on, tattered and worn that I couldn't see where the scars on his armor ended and the ones on his skin started. A full beard covered his jaw and neck, swept back hair that was crudely cut along the shoulders, most likely with that same knife he had been pointing at my direction. He never said a word, not that whole time, he let his blade and appearance do the talking for him. He had finished gathering my things in my pack, setting it down on the ground as he took a seat on the boulder I had been on earlier. He sneered at me with what was left of his front teeth, eating my dinner as he looked at me with jeering eyes. He stood up as he finished, tossing the stick aside, making his way around the fire to me, knife in hand, as the look on his face took on a new shade. I wasn't sure if it had been the light playing tricks, but I knew I had to do something then, anything. And so I did.
I dove for the still burning embers of the fire, scooping and tossing them with both hands towards my captor's face. It had hurt, but it had done the job. He took a few steps back as he rubbed the heat off his face, his eyes, swinging his dagger to the front in defense. I pushed myself up off the ground and dove for a tackle, all the while praying my face would not meet his blade mid-swing, I was desperate. We hit the ground, I had my left arm gripping his right as it went for a stab, his left hand had abandoned his blinded face as it went for mine. He tried pushing me away as I snuck my right arm below his left, pressing my forearm down on his neck. Using our legs to gain leverage with him trying to roll me to the side and with me trying to stay on top, I slowly dragged his knife arm along the ground until I pinned it to the side of his head. He was a strong man, I needed balance on my side, which was hard to acquire with fingers digging into my face. I was getting tired, my arms were getting sore, and he felt it. He managed to raise his dagger to my face, his left hand no longer pushing my face away, but was then pulling it closer to his blade. It was all I could do to distract him when I clawed on his face with my free hand, but it was enough for me to grab his wielding hand with both of mine, twisting the tip of his own blade towards him. I brought all my weight down on that weapon, we both putting all our strength into our trembling hands gripping each other's, breathing heavily as we grunted our will. It felt like forever. He still could not open his eyes, he could not see the blade slowly inch its way into his neck, he could not see my face sprayed with his blood, he never will open his eyes again...
How could I just kill a man? It had seemed like hours had gone by as I sat there, the stench of death in the air. I had just killed a man. My eyes wandered to the blood-drenched blade, thinking to myself that it had been meant for me, it had my name on it. Was I just going to accept it? I shook myself from my stupor and got back up, looking down on the body at my feet, I reached down and pulled the blade from his neck amidst a sputter of blood. I went to pack up the camp and salvage what I could. I'd risk being on the move, even in the dark, than stay there and wait for the man's friends to come...if he even had any. It was either him or me, and at some point during that struggle, I had made up my mind without even realizing it. No, I would not ask myself why I did it, I simply had to. I only had to think back to that time as a kid when I had watched everything be taken from me before my very eyes, just because some people were able to. That's how I could do what it takes, that's why I would.
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The hunter becomes the hunted. When you realize you've bitten off more than you can chew. You feel fear, despair...a heightened sense of survival. Once you're caught, that feeling of helplessness takes over. Whatever strength and confidence you may have had beforehand goes away. You will not feast. You are the meal.
I felt like leftover carcass waiting for the scavengers to finish me off. Tied to a tree, bruised and bleeding to death, all strength had left my limbs. I struggled to keep sight of my surroundings, but soon even my eyes would fail me. Feeling stupid was beyond me at that point, what's done was done and I certainly was done good. They made an example of my body. The initial stab to my abdomen was all it took, slowly draining the life out of me even as they tied me up. The beating and cutting that followed were merely for their amusement. It didn't matter to me, I ceased to feel the pain at some point in the ordeal...
I had just turned nineteen. The notion of having gone through almost two decades of my life made me feel important in the grand scheme of things. That, and what I had done a few months earlier in the forest, and the ones that came after. It showed me what I could accomplish, yet at the same time it upset me how those two decades of my life had turned out. I chose to celebrate my day in a tavern in Valtreth, getting drunk off flounder beer and waking up the next day piss-faced in my room. It had taken some effort to get off that bed, it was a rare luxury I chose to spend what little I had for that special day. I remember walking up and taking in my reflection on the mirror. I could see the difference from not having to see my reflection on a daily basis. I looked tired and worn. That was the first time in months I'd been able to enjoy a warm bed, a bath and other vestiges of home. After a few more moments of contemplation in the bath, I gathered my belongings and prepared to set out for the wilds.
The weeks prior had sent me on the trail of bandit activity along the trade routes. I was surprised to find these occurences quite common if I took time and asked around. There were thieves and murderers alike, taking advantage of the cover of the forest for their schemes. Most of them managed to slip further away from me, perhaps due to my inexperience, but there were a few who did not know they were being tracked. I shot and killed two of those. One had stolen livestock from a pig farm, the other robbed and beat up an elderly man in his own home one night. Those two I was able to track down. Did they deserve to die? I do not know. What I do know is that I find it easier to end a life from a distance with an arrow than up close with a blade, awake or asleep. And there was no glory after all, aside from some satisfaction in being able to help someone. I gave what coin I could find off the scum back to the victims, although the pigs were a lost cause. A few of the belongings I was able to salvage helped sustain me for the following days, it even paid for the rent in Valtreth. My latest quarry had led me near the outskirts of the town, and remembering what day it was, I decided a little respite from my activities were in order, and so I stayed for the night. Asking around town for whereabouts and news during the day. At night, ale and thoughts of a young woman kept me company.
Her name was Marianne. I'll never forget that name, along With her long raven hair and tear-soaked face. I found her not far from Rock Orchard, hunched over in front of a small burial mound. I can't remember how long I stood there watching her, but it wasn't until she looked to my direction when I, for some reason, decided to approach her. It was then that I noticed she had been crying, and as I got closer, I could see traces of bruising on her arms and pretty face. She looked to be around the same age as I am, if not younger. The detached look on her face told me she couldn't care less who I was to be walking up to her. "I don't need charity..." was the first thing she said as she turned back to the mound. She works at a mill not far from there. Orphaned at a young age, she made ends meet together with her younger brother...the same brother now buried deep under the ground before us. "...I just want him back." We spent some time in silence as I stared at the mound, Marianne weeping to my side. I'd learn later that she'd been raped a few days prior, her brother murdered in her defense as lowlifes had their way with her. She endured the ordeal throughout the night inside their seemingly peaceful cabin by the streams. And then they left. As it turns out, the constable's men managed to capture and hang two of the culprits, but by her account, there were more than a handful of them. So that was her story. I then told her mine. That was the first time I'd met someone who I could relate to, even if only by the terms of loss, and I told her as much. I didn't think it lightened the mood or made us feel better about our loss, I hadn't intended it to, but sometimes you just need someone to listen to your woes. Our idle chatter continued for what seemed like hours, that is until I told her I'd find those who did this to her. She turned back and started to leave. I watched her slowly walk away, then she stopped and looked back at me. With a sad smile she asked "What good would it do?" And with that, she thanked me for my time and continued on her way. I would have a hard time finding an answer to that question.
So there I was, back on the trail of the ruffians. Valtreth was a couple of days behind me by then, but I had still needed to make up for the day I spent in town. The sooner I catch up to the tracks' owners, the sooner I can backtrack in case it had been a false lead all along. I still felt good about the lead since they've been spotted heading to that direction, and I had yet to lose track of them. It wasn't long before I was lead eastward back into the woods, as I'd assumed it would if I had been on the right track. It seems the town was their last stop for supplies before going about their dirty business, and from the cover of the woods, they could head anywhere. It took a few more days until I came upon a small camp, its fire lighting up the distance. Either the campers weren't the ones I was after or they weren't concerned about being found out, their position could be seen far from a good vantage point. I decided to take a closer look, being careful to stay hidden from a distance. I could hear voices and laughter which grew louder the closer I got. It wasn't until I had a clear view of the camp that I stopped in my tracks. There were almost a dozen rough-looking men sitting around and milling about the fire, all armed. I could see small tents scattered about, lean-tos and mats on the ground. To one side was a stack of crates that piqued my interest, I wondered what was inside of them. I'd suspected them to be smugglers off the coast having made their way inland with these wares. I could only guess who or what those crates were intended for. I could have followed them further to see where they were headed, but I never got the chance.
Before I knew it, I felt thick arms tightening around my neck, making me drop my bow as I reached up to grab the arm. I gasped for air as I was lifted off the ground, my legs flailing about in the struggle. I heard my captor yell for the others at the camp. I should have known they'd have a scout about, or at least someone keeping watch. I was starting to lose consciousness when I felt a sharp pain on my belly, the feeling of being dropped and hitting the ground, then being dragged somewhere. I wish I'd completely lost consciousness, for being able to breath again gave back my senses, intensifying the pain I felt from my wound. Unfortunately for me, things had only just begun...
I wondered how my family was doing back in Waterdeep. I could have at least sent them a letter to let them know I was doing fine. At that point though, perhaps it was for the best to not have let their hopes up. I had much to learn, and it didn't seem like I would get the chance for more lessons. I could hardly keep my eyes open anymore, I was feeling the chill as well. Those men have packed up and left a while ago, it had gotten very quiet, or perhaps I was going deaf. I saw a flash of Marianne's sad smile looking back at me, I had hoped to see her again, even empty-handed, at least I'd be alive. She would not want to know my fate anyway, she's seen enough of death. My own family has seen enough of death and I wished I'd made a better choice. Perhaps I deserved it. With my head slumped, my eyes falling shut, the last thing I saw was a pair of feet walking up to me. Come to finish me off, I thought, before succumbing to the darkness.
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I live to die another day. How many times have I told myself that? I'd run my fingers over the healed scar on my belly early one morning. It felt rough and only a shade darker from the rest of my skin. It had been the cause of tremendous discomfort a year or so prior. Always a painful reminder of how my luck had turned for the worst.
I had just finished packing our tents when Kolandir returned from his watch. Kolandir...the elf my father and I encountered all those years ago, my father's friend...my savior. I learned much about my father's past from him, how he had served Mielikki as Her ranger for most of his life. Although he chose to live a life as a farmer in the end, they both remained good friends. It was that friendship that had compelled the elf to track me down upon hearing of my return, leading him to find me tied to a tree and left for dead. For that I am forever grateful. He's taught me more about my father's life before the farm. I look back to the past fifteen months since he found me as we made our way through the thick forest. He not only nursed me back to health, he also taught me the ropes. He tells me it's something Brego, my father, would've wanted for me if he was still with us. Perhaps it was because I'd grown older, or because we were not related, or simply because he felt more responsibility to me, but he was a more demanding teacher than my father ever was. Always making sure to remind me that those lessons will keep me alive. Can't say I expected less from him, he had the scars and demeanor to show for it. He's lived a harsh life out there in the wilds. I didn't complain, being taken under his wing was a priviledge.
He was a quiet one though, keeping to himself most of the time. At first it was hard to get anything out of him that he didn't want to share, but after a while he's slowly gotten used to me being around, opening up to me little by little. He had a funny way of doing it though, as he informed me that we were halfway to the grove, in elvish...always in elvish. That was part of his lessons. Although I still have some trouble speaking it to this day, he's taught me well enough to understand their tongue, even if I have to respond in common. He says it will help me get accustomed to it faster if we communicate that way, and he was right. I've slowly picked up on it during the time we've spent together. And it was not just him, the rest of the grove, whether elf or human, has been helping me understand their ways. The same grove he introduced me to. His home amongst kin. And at that time, it had become mine as well.
We stopped dead on our tracks as we heard a low growl just up ahead. We both knew what had made the sound, we just didn't know why it was there. Bears make sure to mark their territory, and we've not seen any signs of such along our chosen trail. Was it out to feed? That was likely, considering we weren't far from a stream. My thoughts were interrupted then by a loud roar. That's when it came into view, up on its hind legs as it bellowed. Standing about seven feet tall, I was scared and in awe at the same time. There was no time to admire the beast though, as it charged at us through the thick foliage, breaking branches in its way. Kolandir hadn't failed in his instructions, I knew what to do in that situation, he taught me as much. We both stood our ground avoiding any sudden movement, there was a chance the charge was only a bluff, to scare off any potential threats. It was not. As the bear got closer with no sign of stopping or backing up, another option was to go down on the ground and get mauled until it tires of us. There is always a chance that it would eat or kill us, a chance we didn't want to take, especially with numbers on our side. Kolandir moved quick, dashing to the right. I took his cue and went the other way, hoping to divide the bear's attention. I doubt either of us could outrun it, bears can cover much ground very quickly, they're some of the fastest animals out there. The growls and snarls had grown weaker from behind me the further I ran. It hadn't come after me. And so I made my way around back to where Kolandir had run off to.
Following the sounds of aggression, it didn't take long for me to find him struggling in the bear's powerful hug with one hand trying to hold the beast's muzzle far away from him. I didn't wait to see what would happen next. Instinct kicked in as I drew and shot two arrows in quick succession. With true aim and a clear view both arrows found their mark high above its back, just below the neck, causing the bear to stiffen a bit before letting out another fearsome roar. But that was all Kolandir needed to free his other arm as he held it high weilding his dagger. He pushed back hard with his other arm to expose the bear's neck as he drove his dagger down into it. Three times he did until the bear lost its grip on him. I ran to my friend's side, helping him up to his feet as we watched the powerful beast moan its last breath before dropping to the ground. After waiting a few moments to make sure it would not move again, I let out a sigh of relief. It seemed to have been caught in my throat, though, as we heard rustling from the other side of the carcass followed by high-pitched grunts. We realized what it was before it even came out of the thick bush. It was the bear's cub.
I certainly felt bad about the whole situation, though I couldn't tell if Kolandir felt the same. We were standing there, watching the cub nudge its dead mother with her muzzle, perhaps trying to get her to move again. It surely could tell the scent of blood, as its nose traced its way to the bleeding gashes on its mother's neck, drenching it with the thick liquid. If it knew it was her mother's, I wasn't sure. Regardless, I felt so low at that moment, since it also reminded me of how I lost a parent. Then I noticed Kolandir stepping forward, with bloody dagger still in hand. I reached out and grabbed his arm. He looked back at me with resolve and explained to me that we couldn't let the cub live. He told me the cub was still too young and it was good as dead out there in the wilds without its mother. I knew he spoke true and with sincerity. I also knew I'd made up my mind even before I thought about what I told him next.
With care, the cub would live, and had a good chance of surviving. He understood what I was trying to say, but I could tell he still had reservations. "What then once its grown?", he asked...in elvish, of course. I hadn't thought that far into it yet and I told him as much. He stared at me for some time before speaking up, saying that the cub was to be my responsibility and mine alone. I gave him my thanks and assurance that no harm will come out of this, for me and for everyone around me. He held me to that, all the while reminding me that nurturing a life, any life, is not an easy task. I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the difficulty of trying to carry a scared and crying cub back home to begin with...much to the chagrin of my companion.
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- Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:38 pm
Like a moth to a flame. That's what I was. She stood there like a flower growing out of the sand, looking out to the sea. Her auburn hair flickering like a flame against the salty sea breeze, dark emerald dress snug against her side as it flutters from the other, offering a glimpse of her shapely figure. Raising a hand to brush back some stray strands, she looks to the side, then behind her towards where I stood at the edge of the woods. Any doubt about her beauty was washed away in that instant, like the waves gently washing over her feet. Had she seen me? I was of mind to turn back and disappear into the forest. What I was looking for clearly was not there. I most likely would have, had she not smiled. An image forever burned into my memory.
Soon I was walking up to her. Gods. I walked up to her. Would she stay or run away? Would she speak to me or ignore me? Had I washed well enough that day? Those were some of the questions that ran through my head with each step I took. Writing about it now still puts a smile to my face. Truly, I knew that moment was something special. I may have been young, and indeed I was when I had only experience to teach me, but I was not new to the ways of women...but I had never met one like her.
So imagine the dread I felt when she asked me if I'd come to rob her. I could tell her inquiry was quite serious. I was sufficiently armed, after all. I can only wonder how I looked at that instance, how she saw me. I must have looked like a fool, fumbling for words. She, on the other hand, did not need any. She let her eyes speak of the amusement she found in my situation. It spoke of her careful confidence in the presence of strangers such as I. She teased me with another smile, allowing me to breathe again. She knows what mercy is.
"A badger, out here? Through those woods?" the woman asked as she nodded her head to where I came from. Her gentle voice failed to hide her skepticism as she looked me over. "If that is what you intend to have for supper then allow me to be frank...you shall have none." Such fire. This moth has been burnt many times over. Well I couldn't blame her for thinking that way, and I explained to her how I did end up there. I had to save what dignity I had left. I spoke of how my quarry had run off and needed to be brought back home, and not by its tail, I had to add. I tried to assure her that if the animal came to harm, it would be yours truly who will be roasting on a spit. That softened her up some more, and perhaps put her in an even more friendly disposition. She'd even offered to help look for the poor thing after assuring me she'd not seen anything like it on that beach. Now, I was never much for words. But it was one thing to hold your tongue, and another to not find it at all.
Flora. I can write that name down with all the care in the world and never tire of it. It was the name she introduced herself as, with her hand held out expecting requital. I can't remember if I'd been holding my breath for long, but having a name to put to her face made me forget the day's worries. Not to mention the touch of her hand. With great care I took her hand, too content with simply holding it as I introduced myself. It was to my surprise then when she didn't let go, but instead pulled me along further through the woods. All the while calling me a lost lamb needing to be led home myself. Our trek went on for quite a bit, not really searching for the lost, but simply talking to each other about anything and everything. We've long since kept our hands to ourselves, but more than the contact, it was the openness that elated me. She would tell me about herself, her life. She had me giving details about my life I'd only shared with friends. I guess in a way we were, friends that is. It felt...good.
But all good things must come to an end. Dusk was coming, and the chatter had slowed down. I didn't ask, but I knew the path we had taken would lead us to a hamlet not far off the coast, from where we'd been. I had suspected Flora to have come from there. Suspicions that were soon proven right as she slowed to a stop, a couple of small houses coming into view in the distance. She turned to face me, that reserved smile of hers meeting my own. "See you around, ranger", she said. "Thank you for walking me home", she added. All I could give in return was a lousy nod. So with a gentle hand on my arm she would turn to take the rest of the way home, leaving me standing there to watch her from behind, just as I'd first seen her. I did not enjoy that feeling, the heart pounding and the doubt. I had thought it was just how things should be. But just like on the beach, she would look back my way, with that same smile that got me taking the first steps towards her. With a smile and a wave of my own, I reminded myself to save the next steps for another day.
"Did you find him?" was the urgent question that greeted me as soon as I returned to camp. The sun was just about to set. My elven friend Ilikas, who I consider a mentor as much as a companion out in the wilds, had just started the fire that would provide us warmth for the night. He'd been anxious to know how my own search had fared. And I told him it did not fare any better than his. "Kolandir is going to skin us alive" he said from his seat by the fire.
"Tell me you at least found something...anything?" he asked, looking expectantly at me. Had I found what I was looking for? Oh I certainly did. It was one of those times I decided to hold my tongue.