A Field Report
Special Instructions for Messenger: to be brought to the immediate attention of the Circle; do not open; do not stop for any reason
C/O: Highlord Darius
Memo: Report & Letter of Resignation
Since the Nefari incursion, grief has become familiar to us all—as you are well aware, I’m sure. It was no different for me and my companion, Gretling Farbearer, another ranger of no particular renown. Gretling and I had, in our time, become quite close to the elves in our unit, and on the day that the traitors moved on K’thiras we lost several in routine patrols throughout the forest. Stung with mourning, and unable to bring ourselves to return with the dreaded news to our superiors, Gretling and I made camp in a small clearing. We dared even to kindle a modest fire and huddled in grim-faced silence for a chance at sleep.
I cannot say with confidence what hour it was when I saw the light. I remember only that it was dark and, not wishing to rob my companion of his rest, I alone stumbled towards the source. I came upon a glade, a place familiar to many as home to several ancient treefolk, and there I heard a chant unlike any I had ever heard before. Bodies I could make out only vaguely, but they seemed to be Nefari and our own traitors alike. Their cries rose into a hellish din, and just when I had resolved to run and save my ears, an enormous fire rose up in a tower before me, and the whole grove was obscured in every direction with smoke.
The next thing I saw I do not think I will ever be able to unsee: an elf who looked just like Gretling being borne by two of the Circle’s own Enforcers towards the fire. His cries curdled the blood within my veins, and I started up with dagger drawn. Too late, however, as I realized before I ever cleared my cover. The elf was thrown forward and his body consumed, gear and all, and then I saw in the fire the outline of an enormous tree, horrible but beautiful. The flames seemed to harden before me into the bark of a fully grown Gnarlwood, one as red as the fires of Sheoul itself. There amidst the flames I saw, and I swear by the Ranger’s Code, the face of Farbearer staring back at me, his eyes and mouth no longer writhing but pained and empty as death.
I immediately ran from the place, but the traitors heard me and struck me down with magic. My consciousness failed me, but somehow I awoke the next morning by our original campsite. Battered and broken, I gathered myself together enough to check our tent. Gretling was nowhere to be found. As I tried to recuperate enough to leave that awful place, the smell of burnt wood filling my nostrils, I noticed on the edge of the campsite something glittering in the dirt. It was the Farbearer family signet ring—intact, but singed, its inlay now gray with ash.