Past And Future
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The crunching of leaves underfoot betrays the arrival of a man in the forest, and the spirits within begin to grow wary. These woods have not seen another traveler in many months. The chirping of the birds falls silent, and the woods become deathly still.

The intruder seems not to mind the warnings of his surroundings. In fact, he is too engrossed in the ripped journal page he is holding to pay any mind to his circumstances. The manuscript he holds is dwarfed by the size and strength of the hands clutching it, and all attention is focused on deciphering the script which is written upon it. The man is so absorbed within this page that he nearly trips over an abandoned shield on the path ahead. As the iron buckler skitters to the side, he snaps to attention and leans down to investigate the dirt upon which he is standing. Poking out of the soil, a glance of silver catches his eye. In one deft stroke, an elegant, albeit tarnished, silver sword is pulled from the ground below the man’s feet. Such physical challenges had never been anything more than a trivial affair for the man. He chuckles to himself heartily. It seems he has yet to lose his touch.

As the man grumbles to himself, he leans down to remove a shovel from his pack. At this point, it is no longer a question of if he will find what he is looking for, but how quickly it will be until he has located his prize.

Each shovel swing dislodges more of history. In one, a rusted dagger. Another, a bundle of rope, left to fray and disentangle its windings below the ground. In the third strike, an innocuous leather-bound notebook is dislodged. The book is, at this point, caked with the dirt and mud of months below the earth. Nevertheless, the hulking figure leans down to hold this small volume in his hands. He closes his eyes, whispers some words beneath his breath, and the poisons of earth and time fall from the notebook as if they were raindrops falling from a great oak.

“If her sword and shield were found here, this must be her notebook,” the figure thought, “and with her notebook…”
His thoughts trailed off. He had been tracking her notes, chasing leads, and following dead end trails for months. Faced with what he had been searching for this whole time, his mind was racing. Valentina Eckhart was one many had seen, and few had recognized. She, and her journal, were known among the circles of traveling historians as a great source of information, as some sort of adventurer's compendium of knownledge and experience.

Powerful legs lifted an equally large body to its feet. The figure could only hope this was not the final resting place of the one who had left this notebook here, but he held no delusions of optimism in this matter. With cautious hands, he opened the leather-bound book to its first page.

The man picked up the sword and the notebook, gave a wry smile to nobody in particular, and began to follow the trail once more.

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