A thick, brown leather journal
They killed him in cold blood. For me. Over me.
I can't write anymore. It still hurts. I'm sorry.
I took down a doe today. I'm still not entirely sure how. I felt the hunger in my stomach, and then I just leaped at it. It's like everything went dark except for the deer and I.
It's not relevant now. What matters is that I have food for the next few days if I'm careful to not let it go to waste. I need to go check on the fire.
I had to leave the rest of the deer behind. The remnants that were started to go bad started drawing the attention of predators. Wolves and the like. Let them choke on it.
I still don't know where I'm going. Everything in this forest looks the same.
I may have found a home. I've been sitting in this abandoned house - isn't it too small to be a house? - for hours. No one's come by. The garden's full of weeds, and there are holes everywhere in the roof. At least it has a roof.
I'll stay here tonight. If I'm not being dragged out by a rope around my neck by tomorrow, I'll start fixing it up.
Day 21, Evening
Well, I think I have a home now. I found some fungus in the corner of the house. I took a risk and started there first, burning it off and trying to keep the flame from spreading. Had a few close calls, but I think it's all gone now. I had to lay down for an hour - my vision got really weird.
Spent the rest of the afternoon chopping wood. I'll shape them into planks as best I can and put them on the roof tomorrow. My arms are aching too much now to even think about climbing.
I'm sorry I forgot about you. I got so busy fixing up this old cottage that I forgot to set aside time for you. I got all the weeds out of the garden, and the roof looks really nice. I even started making new things - a pretty terrible fishing pole, and a chair that isn't really that comfortable. I don't think fine woodworking is for me.
I'm going to take this pole down to the creek I found last tenday. I hope that bear has moved on.
Day 212, Evening
I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have gone back to the village. They gave our house to another family. My house! I bet they didn't even wash his blood off the floor before they handed it over.
I'm sorry. I don't know if I can write again for a while.
I miss you, Father.
I never got a chance to say goodbye to him. It was the quick slice of a local hunter's machete that killed him. No tearful farewells over an aging body - just the sudden, abrupt end of everything.
I'm making it up to him (or maybe just myself). I hauled a big rock over to the back of the garden, and I started chiseling it down with a couple of tools I stole from the village. I'm sure they've hired a new blacksmith by now - not like I care regardless.
I'll make the shape first, and then I'll think on what to put as the
Winter's about over. That bear that lives down by the creek came by a few days ago, probably looking for a quick bite before it settled down again. It took a big whiff of the hut over by the door and scampered off, though, like something had spooked it. I'll take that as a good sign.
The headstone is still out back. I haven't thought of what to say yet.
"In memory of Althus Crowborne. Murdered for loving what others feared."
It's not the best, but it will do.
I snuck back into the village a few days ago. Right as Lathander's light began to peep over the hills, I snagged a loaf of bread the baker had just put out on in the windowsill. I still have a few bits of it I've been saving, but something other than fish and squirrel was wonderful.
Happy birthday to me.
A traveling scholar found his way to me a few days ago. It seems he was seeking a shortcut on the way to Highdale and passed through the woods. He stumbled down a ravine and messed his leg up pretty badly. I heard his shouting while I was out hunting more squirrel and came to help him out. It was funny - at first, he thought I was some forest demon and began screaming. Once I convinced him otherwise, I helped him get untangled from the thorns and rocks, helping him to the hut.
We talked at length about his travels, and he gave me news about the world outside - wars brewing in distant lands, trades and taxes, and all manner of things I could barely comprehend from my forest shelter. Before leaving, as thanks for tending to his leg, he left with me a few books: a primer on Common, a few historical texts, and one filled with Cormyrian fables. I have some reading to do it, it seems.
Interlude: Coming of Age
Seasons come and go without much fuss for the young boy. The hunt is plentiful deep in the Cormanthor Forest, and the steady trickle of fresh water from nearby creeks ensures his most basic survival needs are met. As the years pass, the cottage grows from a moldy hut into a quaint but spartan home. Most of Crowborne's waking hours are spent fixing the house or discovering new ways to improve it.
In time, the boy becomes a young man, though truthfully he had crossed this threshold mentally long before. The labor of living out in the forest was kind to his form, barrel chested and brawny of arms now.
I've a mind to go slip back into the village under cover of night and see if there are more books I can steal. I've read these bits of folklore many times over now, and I should like to read more. There's one about an old priest and a terrible demon, locked together in a room. The priest cannot escape the room until he answers the demon's riddles correctly; naturally, incorrect responses mean utter peril for the priest. As most stories go, the priest succeeds through guile and wisdom. Still, the description of the demon bothers me, as I cannot help but draw parallels to myself and the beast described within.
Is that what I am? A demon? How can that be if I'm the child of a man?
Questions, questions. Such appears to be the burden of knowledge. Still, I'll sally myself with an even greater load if it means a catharsis from this inquisition of self.
Day 3,236, Morning
A rousing success, old friend! The baker, none the wiser these nine or so years as to why his early loaves sometimes vanish (for I never swipe on the same day of the tenday - alternate always!) left for me a most luscious morsel on the windowsill. I took a spot behind some barrels out behind the pub and sank my fangs into my prize there, the stench of ale and sweat covering me. I dared not slither through the town further 'till that wondrous aroma was gone.
I then found my way to the schoolyard and the old maester's home. Crotchety old thing, he was preparing his lessons for the day when I snuck in and swiped a few books. I've much reading to do, it seems, and I wager these will make for delightful spring-time reads atop my favorite oak branch.
You're running out of pages, old friend. All these years, and I never thought I would see the day. I think that I anticipated it some time ago, and I began writing less. Daily entries become weekly, then monthly. Alas, we're down to the last ten or so. I'll have to swipe another journal soon, one that's not been marred by someone else.
I'll see what I can do tomorrow. I'm planning on another quick trip into the village and seeing if
The writing suddenly stops here. The rest of the page is blank, save for a harsh line of ink that looks accidental.
The following entry is heavily smudged, as if Crowborne had difficulty penning it.
Day . . 7173
It's gone. I don't understand.
They had horns and teeth, red skin and smelled of death, and all these terrible accents that mark them as nightmares of the worst sort... Why are they here? Why did they do this?
The village is gone. All that remains is ash. I felt no love for them, but this? This was a tidal wave of blood and hatred that I would not wish upon anyone.
I charged into battle like the fool I am, hoping to take a few of those monsters with me. The forest made me strong, but the limitations of my form and experience were soundly made me easy prey. I retreated back into the woods after succumbing to a grievous wound, and I've found my way to a cavern hidden behind a waterfall I had never seen before. I do not recognize this part of the woods at all...
I found some athelas and stitched the gash as best I could. I suppose all there is to do now is sleep...
Day 7174 ?
A queer thing happened last night. I do not know if I should write of it yet.
I am going to see what became of the village. Perhaps there are survivors.
Day 7174, Night
Nothing. Even the monsters have moved on, leaving a barren wasteland in their wake. The baker's house, the school...the smithy...
If it did not burn to ash, it became molten slag and solidified into an unrecognizable lump of refuse. They spared nothing.
I cannot stay here, not anymore. I'm outside what's left of my hut now, sitting on a charred tree sump. It's been reduced to half a pillar, some bits of the floor. A few stones stayed in place. Everything else is gone. You'd not think there was a thriving garden in the back - for who could tell front from back now?
I'll try to find that cave again and sleep there. The night is deep, and moving is painful.
Day 7175, Morning
I could not find the cavern, though I searched for hours. The incident occurred again as I slept beneath the refuge of a yawning oak's roots: a fantastical and terrible dream that haunts my thoughts in the wake of this calamity.
I cannot pen it. I fear to do so, as if that would grant it some license to exist and make it real.
Two Years Later...
I've not thought to write in you since that incident, old friend. You've scarcely three pages left, so I will be brief in this recollection.
Three things have occurred. Two fill me with dread, but the third dissipates all that fear.
I have learned His name, and that is not safe knowledge to possess.
But I met her, and I cannot help but feel a profound peace the longer I stay near her. We've become close, and part of me worries that means for the future. I have never had a companion in such a manner before, so it stands to reason that I concern myself with behaving accordingly. I do not think my blunders have done me a disservice, however. They almost seem endearing to her.
Before I wax further on my happiness, I must now pen a warning, to myself and others. I was visited by a vision once again last night, though this one was no portent of future interactions like the other. No, this one reached deep into my past and dredged up something my mind had thoroughly suppressed. I saw, as if with my waking eyes, the beast that carved me from rib to rib.
He is a gnoll of black fur and deep crimson eyes, like those of a white rat. He paints himself in the blood of men, and he wields a cruel axe. This is the face of the one who destroyed that hamlet I despised so much and the cottage I loved so dearly. He led the demons there.
The war may rage deeper into the confines of the Dalelands now, but this dream did not appear out of spite. He must be near.
If someone finds this journal before another entry has been added, then either I am dead or this has been stolen. If the latter, I implore you - destroy this tome. You have read this far; you know the apex of both my misery and joy. Wield that however you please, but send this final remnant of my vengeance to the cinders.
I will keep this journal for a time until I have found and slain the black gnoll. There is space yet left to declare triumph.