I purchased this journal with some of the proceeds from my last successful law case. As I now sit against a tree, watching the morning further illumine the cave that we have yet to enter, even as the light of day further illumines the task we have committed ourselves to, I marvel at the potential irony that I have purchased this journal in order to make a single entry. I am presently near the beginning of the slopes of Droskar’s Crag, it being a bit past dawn. I am accompanied by Leonora Barandyai, a soothsayer and mystic who makes her living at Quinn’s Carnival, not far from Falcon’s Hollow. We have come to this place in search of a group of missing children that we believe, based on the evidence collected, to have been abducted by a band of kobolds, currently hiding in what appears to be the ruin of a monastery at the foot of the mountain.
I was born in Darkmoon Vale, but the truth is that I know very little of it or its environs. As my mother or Tablic, the man whom I consider as close to a father as I might know, would tell you, I am no woodsman. Even now, it is somewhat remarkable to me that Leonora and I have managed to cross the breadth of Darkmoon Wood intact and unmolested. I do not expect that to remain the case for very much longer, but that is for the future, and a journal is for the past, for reflection. At least, so Professor Steelbeard used to say.
This story could be said to have begun when I defended Miss Barandyai, my current traveling companion, in court three days ago. Ralla’s appearance in court, even without speaking, testified to a willingness to risk in order to see the innocent protected and the guilty punished. I admit that I was humbled by her request to aid in the search for her brother, even as I demurred on the grounds that, as I conceived them, I have few of the requisite skills involved in the finding of missing persons. Still, she would not be dissuaded, and I possess that inability to refuse a lady in distress that, I should think, is a quality of all men of character. Before you think me a misogynist, I protest that my first request as partner in this undertaking was to Miss Barandyai – not as assistant nor helpmeet, but as partner, for her skills are assuredly as vital, if not more so, than my own.
My University education was guided around the mystic arts, only coming into contact with them tangentially. Young Argent, a fellow alumnus and capable wizard, told me that the secrets of my bardic training derived from the same magical sources as his own incantations, but I never could agree with his evidence. He and I might arrive at similar destinations with our efforts, but the precise incantations of his own art, when juxtaposed with the nimble argumentation in my own, seem worlds apart.
All of this is preface to saying that Leonora Barandyai is an enigma to me. I have met few enough Varisians in my travels, but she presents herself as if she stepped straight out of one of the many folklore tales about the traveling folk. I wonder occasionally if her presentation is just a bit too spot-on, but she has never given me cause to question her sincerity or skills. Already, her talents have removed enemies from our road twice, overwhelming their will with a soporific charm that put them at our mercy. Her understanding of the world is so different than my own that I do not hope to reach mutual comprehension in a year of discussion. This does not mean that I fail to recognize its power or utility.
Because the Wood is as dangerous as I remember from my boyhood. Already we have been beset by a werewolf, albeit one whose human form was that of one the children from the late lamented Elara’s orphanage. I had not seen and recognized a werewolf since before I left for University, and never had I experienced the unnerving dread that comes from recognizing that such a peril could wear the face of an innocent child. I confess that Leonora showed a finer caliber of character than I did in meeting Jeva, whom I likely would have run through without discussion in my fear. I hope that, upon our return, I might make some small amends, though I also hope that we do not misplace our trust in a fiend wearing a kind face.
Our second encounter with peril would have been farcical, but for the grim source of the principals’ argument. A pair of bugbears were arguing over who would get to consume certain parts of a poor unfortunate who had fallen victim to the woods (quite possibly to the bugbears themselves). Here my mistrust and quick tongue had a more salutary effect, in driving them to fight one another. Together, Leonora and I were able to eliminate the survivor of the fight and escape that danger as well. While I do consider that one more of a joint victory, it is worth noting that it was Leonora’s mystic abilities that rendered the bugbear harmless. I merely ensured that he would stay that way.
Finally, we came to Droskar’s Crag. I believe this monastery also bears some significance in the mountain’s history with that dwarven god, but Professor Steelbeard would, no doubt, be dismayed to learn that I never did acquire a good copy of Hammer and Tongs. We subdued one of the outer guards, who confirmed that the children had been brought in, and, far worse, that they were destined to either be meals for the kobolds, or sacrifices to some dark god. We know we must go in to save them, but we also know that we have wandered all night through the woods and, in our exhausted state, would prove perhaps more of a hindrance than a help to their rescue. We shall rest here inside the tree line before pressing on, likely coming upon them in the late afternoon. I know all that awaits us, but I pray to the Father of Creation that these reflections may help shape a plan that restores children to families and peace to our town.