I confronted the merchant about the beetle-filled apple. I was not the only one there to do so, either. It seems this merchant had decided against getting fresh apples with a small tithe, electing instead to gather a bushel of fallen apples - some days old - and indiscriminately sell them. Their actions will not go without notice, either. Skirting around paying one’s tithe to the keepers is highly frowned upon, and I would argue, makes one a poor neighbour. Nay, taking from what has been given to nature will only chase further hardships from the brush.
Elves are given to live, regardless of what scurries from the shadows, to try to steal our light. They must exist among nature as the Gods intended it, with it, yet separate, until the final day when Nature takes what is hers. And Nature will take it all, day by day, as she creates. The old must serve to enrich the young, whether that be in life, sharing knowledge of joys and sorrows alike, or in death, as a lesson, or as a memory that inspires the young to greater heights.
When the young die to enrich the old, well, I hope that’s not the case with Naejor and Inchel, but it’s always tragic when a child dies before their parent.
Grandfather’s journal elucidates,
“Naejor’s experiments with the local greenery have proven useful. He has found a plant whose juice makes your fingers and palm glow. In addition, the finger glow transfers to other surfaces with a touch. From this plant Naejor hypothesises that he can make a tonic that would illuminate anywhere touched by an Elf, provided this plant - which we’re calling Elfglow - works the way he thinks it does. I hope it helps us find Inchel. While they are an innocent child lost in the woods, they were also being trained by their father in the ways of the wild. If any child could survive this green hell, it would be Inchel.
While Naejor is keeping his nose to the millstone, he has been ornery, and sometimes downright cranky. He curses Inchel under his breath; their innocence, their foolhardiness, and their outright lack of life experience. I know he curses out of worry, though. I am glad that he is taking action to find the child. Ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it better, and neither will getting angry at the one who’s lost.
It is best to focus on what we can do, which to put a name to our next task, it would be to improve our shelter. While we plan to have more permanent buildings in the future, for the moment we must make what is fast and easy, that we might better endure any harsh weather ahead.
Naejor keeps working on his tonic. Shelter is being improved as we need it. There aren’t a great many Elves left. All the better, for shelter calls for clearing land. I am unsure what we will make the houses out of - the forest has been good to us, and we would not be good neighbours if we were to craft our city out of wood alone.
It has been three days since Inchel went missing. Naejor has been talking to his alchemy tools as he works. I don’t think he thinks anyone hears or notices, or if he does, he does not care.
Not five minutes ago, Naejor began walking the perimeter of our clearing, splashing tonic at trees. I wasn’t sure what he was doing at first, but then I saw - the print of a child-sized hand on the trunk of a tree, glowing, plain as day. Naejor didn’t stop to celebrate, though. He only rushed forward into the brush in the direction the hand’s owner was likely facing. I should follow.”
I had always wondered how we learned of Elfglow’s oil-fueled bioluminescence. The glowing works with oil extracted by alchemical process, as well; Elven artists of today sometimes paint with oils on a canvas and then spray the canvas down with Elfroot tonic to produce a glowing effect. That we have turned what once was a life saving technique into something we produce beauty from only goes to show how well Elves can adapt. But then, if our adaptability were ever in question, I would likely not be sitting here, penning this journal, would I?
Elven greatness aside for a moment, Grandfather, the rest of the Rangers, and Naejor are on the chase. I pray they are successful.
“A handprint deep in the forest, smeared as though they were being dragged away, and a small tree stripped of its leaves & snapped, laying on the ground in a direction I can only imagine they were taken. By what, I am unsure, because the ground is well held and hidden by greenery, but from the blood spattered on the trees and leaves - I can say with some sureness that the child was silenced here and was taken by something large and vicious.
That did not dissuade Naejor, though. He forged ahead, heedless of the danger, wanting only to find his child. That was when we came towards the mountains & found a cave in the wall of rock, big enough for a full grown Elf to enter and deep enough that we could not see. Naejor, apparently having developed a sense of self preservation, stood back, looking worriedly, expectantly toward the more combat ready of those present.
His pleading look wasn’t needed, though. From the cave emitted a deep rumble, and from the looming shadowy depths lumbered a fiercely scarred bear, fur black as pitch and unkempt, swinging its claws wildly in a ferocious display.
We lept into action. Before you could say ‘bear’ I had my bow drawn and an arrow nocked, while the other of the corps’ number present drew their blades and met with the roaring mass of fur, muscle, and claw. Dodging out of the way, and being careful, I was able to sink a couple of arrows into the beast’s hide, while Taenaran, the other ranger present, drew it away from the cave.
Naejor took this chance to leap into the cave to try and find Inchel.
The alchemist’s daring action distracted the bear for a moment, and as it moved to intercept Naejor, my fellow ranger spotted an opening. Cozying up to the beast’s alchemist-hungry jaws for a split second she sunk her blade into the beast’s chest, pushing between the ribs, and piercing the bear’s heart. Taenaran jumped backwards, and watched as the beast reared in pain briefly before weakly collapsing, and lying still. We two rangers then entered the cave, wondering what had happened to Naejor.
Inchel (or rather, Inchel’s body) lay on the cave floor in a gory sight; the mother bear had taken an easy, wandering prey and made it into a meal for herself and her children. The infant bears - nearing a year in age, from their size - were still there, in a corner, cowering from the ones who took their mother’s life. With their meal ticket having expired, and without her protection, the cubs won’t last long. Nature will come and claim them for her own, as things always have been. It is sad for them but safer for us. I would not like to settle near a cave of vengeful bears.
We gathered what we could and brought Inchel back to the settlement, for burial.”
Such tragic loss seems to be the hallmark of what it is to be an Elf. One by one the things we care about are cruelly ripped from us. Are these things even worth pursuing, knowing that there are forces who would tear it all from me in a snap of their fingers? ‘Tis a rhetorical question, but one I wonder at nonetheless. No, it is better that I focus on what I can do in the moment, without worrying about the what ifs, wherefores, and howevers.
I sympathise with Alchemist Naejor. The loss of a loved one is felt as keely as a blade slipping twixt one’s ribs, and to find one you expected to greet you with a smile, to be in pieces on the ground, well, that would break a lesser elf.
Speaking of lesser elves, I wonder; if I follow that merchant from his home tomorrow morning, will he lead me to the spot he’s getting these beetle infested apples from? It is certainly worth a try. I will write of everything that happens tomorrow - I pray my memory serves well - but until tomorrow, ‘tis best that I find rest, and continue my transcribing at a later time.