I am conflicted. Had I known that the apple sold to me the other day was infested with borer beetles, I would not have left it on the Archmage’s desk. Although, as much as I feel bad for laughing, I would have liked to see his face as he took a bite, chewed briefly, and, upon taking a closer look, threw the infested apple across the room with all speed. The hall is abuzz with rumours to this effect, in any case.
As the merchant was one to get joy from another’s suffering, and as I did in fact not take a close look at the fruit I grabbed, I am inclined to believe in the proposed situation’s truth. Or, at least, the truth of there being an infested apple that made it to both the Archmage’s hands and mouth. I would not presume anyone’s guilt, least of all my own.
Grandfather’s journal continues the record of the Elves’ verdant journey.
“As we get closer to our new home, deep forest gives way to lighter, hilled forest. We gave the mountains a name – Roan – named for a lost friend who would have loved to spelunk near his new home. As time passes I find I am reminded more and more of those who fell. It makes me wish that they were here, because they didn’t deserve what the demons brought them. That I still live is a testament to my good fortune, and that I gained from their loss makes me feel ill. I chew on some nullroot to calm my nerves and let me focus on the job.
“With our arrival in the hilled region, within the largest cleft I have ever seen, we have found our home. The earth is rich and black between massive slabs of rock split as though a great power simply tore it in two, and would bear our young sprout well. In this cleft we gathered to watch the tree be given a place in its new home. Under shadows cast by the circle of elves, the sprout was planted. By the hand of the Druids the tree was given mana, to grow and be fruitful. By the voice of the bards the tree was welcomed, and brought hope and love and truth and the wishes of a people. The moment the Tree was in the ground, we knew we had chosen our home well.
“We knew, for the forest fell silent. Each tree stilled its leaves, each bird quieted its song. Each worm ceased its burrowing, and bowed solemnly in the sprout’s direction, as though paying homage to a master, though also like admiring a beautiful child with a great destiny. The air even calmed, for a short while, but that is all you can expect of wind – it is flighty by nature.
“Each of us, one by one, took a handful of the loamy soil, and carefully, so carefully, we let it fall into the hole we had dug for the sprout. Every soul paused to reflect when their turn came. I can’t speak for what they were thinking of, but I was thinking of my friends and family I’ll never see again, thanks to some power hungry politicians’ demon fueled power grab. If war is a hell, surviving it must be a circle yet beneath. I will live, to spite the North, to spite the demons. It was then I crumbled the soil into the hole, letting my intent to survive go into the tree. I am sure others had similar thoughts. This tree would grow, and would be beautiful. We were sure of it. It was everything about us that wanted to survive, and it would thrive.
“Its name is Lucent. Lucent, the Third Light. It will grow with the years and us with it.
“There was one who was not calm and at ease, though – Alchemist Naejor was among the last to help plant the sprout, and once the seriousness of the situation was over he realised that his young cousin, Inchel, had wandered off, enchanted by the change the planting of the sprouted heartseed had inspired in the forest. As we lined up to play in the dirt, this child was heading back towards the deeper forest. I can only imagine where they are now. We will send out a search party – how painful this is for all of us aside, we cannot afford to lose so many children.”
Indeed, they cannot afford to lose so many children! I am taken aback at how careless these remaining elves are. It is almost as though their best and brightest fought off the demonic host, while the rest fled and survived, only able to cope because they were being guided by not only one, but two deities. They lose track of children so often you’d think the young ones were all named hairpin!
On the other hand, their new world isn’t exactly one that promotes their wellbeing. We have had many chances in the hundreds of intervening years to become experts in this or that. The survivors right now aren’t as much as I’d like to think, representative of the elite of Elven society. Rather, they represent the lucky. The merely fortunate. The ones with cups above their doors to hold luck in.
“Naejor is likely beside himself with worry about Inchel, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him. Sylmare seems like she wants to be supportive, but you can see on her face she’s still hurting from the loss of Ruven. Jhilsara Cartris, our resident carver, is keeping company with Naejor in Sylmare’s stead, trying to bring some comfort to the moment. You can read it on everyone’s face, though – this is one more fear we have to bear here in this damned place, this end to us all, this ... Terminus. But I must be hopeful. Perhaps follow Naejor’s example. He is, outwardly, coping well, and is using the task of establishing a small garden to distract himself, but inwardly I know there’s a sense of panic and dread; I can see it in his eyes. He’s not all there.
Still the Rangers are searching the forest. They go in pairs, now, having learned the costly lesson from their prior expeditions. Non-Rangers have decided to help with the search, as well. Everyone is giving what they can, even if it is just keeping their children quiet.
Hours pass and still no sign of the child. Either he ran off or he was taken without struggle.
The rangers returned a full quarter of a day later, having searched high and low for the child, with no success. None. How could our rangers not track a child? I wish we had our best and brightest here. I wish my mother were here. She’d know what to do. What do you say to a man whose child you just lost?
The desperation and heartbreak on his face when we told him of his child not being found was one of stubborn refusal to accept the truth. Naejor denied the child was lost, saying that Inchel would be back in due time, whenever their walk through the danger infested forest finished. Such folly, but such is desperation that it makes fools of us all. We have only to let Naejor walk his path and learn his lesson, that he might one day accept his child’s death.
On the journey here we kept coming across plants that look remarkably similar to fare we’d find on Sio’laen. One of these, and the most commonly found, is a grain which, when dried and ground up, produces a flour you can use to make a basic bread with. At least, that’s how the Sio’laen version is used – I can’t speak to this new plant. We’ve yet to find enough for a whole loaf AND for seed stock. Luckily the seeds of this plant grow in fingers, each poking up at the sky. We’ve decided to call the plant ‘Sun’s Grasp.’ I pray it makes good bread, and that the potters hurry and fashion the bakers’ ovens - bannock cooked on a fired stone has limited appeal, especially over the course of weeks.”
Had I lost a young cousin to wandering off, I would be beside myself with worry, and simply unable to cope with any added stress. I’d be weeping openly; every light footstep I’d hear would give cause to perk up, hopeful, only to have my hopes dashed on the rocks all over again. Alchemist Naejor’s focusing on the future of the Elves would make him a solid role model, if one were given to that kind of thing. I admire Archmage Gallad but I am more concerned with staying in his good books for the sake of my career than I am with preserving the Elven way. Perhaps I should take a note from Alchemist Naejor and put my efforts towards a better cause; one other than simply burning my foes might be better suited to keeping a tree alive, as obvious as it may seem in my saying it.
I should go have a word with that fruit merchant from the other day – the one who sold me that bad apple. He should not be harvesting from what Nature has claimed for her own, and I should not be held responsible for an uncouth, inconsiderate merchant.