"12 the Falling, 530 A.K.N." from the journal of Febbum Pinneljeck
Today I was humbled by a complete stranger.
I was walking through the forest when I felt a deep chill. I had thought that is was perhaps the winter coming in early, but I noticed it was odd because there hadn't been any other signs of winter. I was suddenly knocked to my back by a white wolf. I was sure that my life was about to come to an abrupt end when a voice asked "What are you doing here?"
The voice came from behind the wolf, from my point of view from on the ground. It was male, and at first I thought it sounded human, but there was something odd about it that made me unsure, something precise. However, I didn't have time to think about the voice. I felt it best to answer quickly and truthfully, since I had nothing to hide, so I told him my name and that I was searching the forest for provisions for the winter, since I live alone in the woods. The wolf's snarl relaxed into an icy gaze at that point, and it stepped off my chest so I was able to stand up.
Now I saw to whom the voice belonged. It was a frostsoul. He looked human, but he had no hair and his skin was deathly pale, cracked, and giving off an icy mist. When I saw him, I must admit I felt afraid. I had only heard legends of humans during the Elemental War who betrayed the mortal realm and fought alongside the elementals. They were given elemental powers, becoming frostsouls, firesouls, and others. Since the Elemental War was over five hundred years ago and was won by the mortal realm, and I had only heard of elemental humans and their vile deeds in legends, I had been under the impression that they no longer existed. Yet here was a frostsoul standing before me.
He had a spear pointed at my nose. "You're afraid of me," he said, and I could tell he knew why, yet he asked why anyway. I continued to be truthful, telling him that the only frostsouls I had heard of were those who were enemies of gnomes and other mortals. He seemed both angered and saddened by this. Dangerous emotions for an armed stranger to have, but I hoped they were better than no emotions at all.
What he said next gave me immense pause. "Frostsouls, as you call my species, may or may not have once been the heinous men from your legends. I have been told different stories. Stories that tell of humans who fought against the elementals on the front lines of the Elemental War, only to be abandoned by their commanders and trapped in the elemental realm, where the only way to survive was to adapt and become elemental themselves. This is the story most elemental beings believe, and as such, we are hated by them for descending from their enemies. Yet here in the realm we once called home, we are despised because we are said to be descending from betrayers. I do not pretend to know which story is more correct. Perhaps both, perhaps neither. Either way, we are not the same as the people from any legend. We are their descendents. We can be different."
His wolf circled him and brushed up against his leg. He then said, "Go, gnome. I can see you are not dangerous. Stay clear of this place until spring brings life back to this forest, and you will be left alone." With that, he turned and walked straight into the trees, his wolf following at his heel.
I immediately headed home, feeling lightheaded but full of life. I had thought I was going to die. Unfortunately, my excitement for the day was not over.
On the path home, I spotted a beautiful blue and violet flower that I had never seen grow in the area before. It stood out drastically from the red and yellow leaves that had fallen from the trees. I was surprised it had managed to survive this late into autumn, so I wanted to pick it to study and preserve with my collection. When I reached down and touched the stem, it suddenly twisted around my hand, and I noticed that the stem was actually a vine that stretched back into the forest. It yanked me between the trees, up into the air, and I looked down to see the maw of a carnivorous plant open below me. For the second time in one day, I feared for my life. Only this time, I wasn't going to be shown mercy.
I heard a soft crunch and the vine loosened around my wrist. I wriggled free and landed on the ground, which writhed beneath me with more vines. I looked to the bestial plant, which was cleverly camouflaged with the fallen leaves, and I saw a spear sticking out of its body. A shape leapt over my head, and the white wolf tore into the plant, cutting off large chunks from the body. Not before long, the plant had been killed.
I turned to the frostsoul and asked why he had saved me. He admitted that he had been following me. "I had to be sure that you were as harmless as you seemed," he said, "and I am now quite sure of it." I risked telling him that he didn't actually answer my question. He smiled and put his hand on my bruised wrist. I was surprised to find his touch warm, and when he removed his hand, my wounds had vanished.
"I was not going to let a fellow living being be eaten by a creature lower on the food chain than he," he said, and once again left with his wolf into the depths of the forest.