Ormsiir Mrhulaedir gently refused to answer his son's excited questions about nocturnal trips and meetings, but just knowing his father slipped out to meet with powerful folk in secrecy, to do things that mattered, stirred something in Oenel. He knew he needed to do such things, too -- do something important, something that would make him as excited as he'd been one afternoon, when a tall, fast-striding human woman had "accidentally" bumped full into his father while he and Oenel were unloading a cart of wares in the rain, and Ormsiir had turned away from hasty mutual apologies with a wink for his son -- and a glowing sword that hadn't been there before clutched under his cloak.
From their first meeting, the Dawntree four agreed on utter secrecy, even from their parents. They also agreed that to go running around Waterdeep trumpeting their idea would invite ridicule and possibly an unfriendly visit from the Watch and long-term residency in a dungeon cell for "spreading unrest." They must go out into the world like mice, quick and quiet, and search for a suitable location for their realm before they mentioned "Dawntree" to anyone.
Ardeep was a logical site for a moon elf settlement, but it was very close to Waterdeep (hence easily reached by thousands, any of whom might decide to seize it -- to say nothing of what orders the Lords of Waterdeep would give the City Guard, about any fledgling realm on the city's very doorstep). It was now too small to hold many elves, often suffered woodcutting that rapidly made it ever-smaller, and was said to be full of lurking drow, human outlaws, and monsters. The High Forest was farther away, and both vast and old, but wood elves dwelt there, plus treants, korred, and darker things besides. There were tales of the Unicorn Run being hallowed ground to human deities, as well. To learn the truth of all this, they'd just have to go and see.
Nemmer "borrowed" a map of the Sword Coast North from a caravan master, hastily copied and returned it, and the Dawntree four spent hours gazing and wondering. What of the Silver Wood? The Kryptgarden Forest? The Misty Forest? Did Trollbark Forest have trolls? Did the Moon Wood have moon elves? What was Neverwinter Wood like? The Far Forest? And what could the "Forgotten Forest" be?
They'd have to explore them all. Perhaps they could find adventurers who'd been to some of these forests to ask what was truly there, but how to do it without revealing why they were interested? And how to trust the answers of those who might be protecting treasures they'd found, or embellishing dangers to make their exploits seem more heroic?
Of course any living forest would have inhabitants already, and any new elven realm might come about only after battles to drive out incumbents. Yet they were only four young and inexperienced elves; any place they chose would have to be inviting enough to let them survive there for the years it would take to found a small elven "fastness" and begin the long, careful process of growing it into a realm without attracting the attention of orcs, hungry dragons, or other predators -- or letting a tyrant among elves into their midst, who'd seize control of Dawntree and turn it into something horrible.
Yes, their task was nigh-impossible. Bewildered, they set out for Ardeep, just to see it for themselves and learn what it was like to dwell in a wild wood.
Already they had one strong weapon: They could judge themselves honestly. Tasar is the dreamer, who could imagine destinations and results and see how the reality of now must change to make desire the reality of the morrow. Rauve is the "how we can get there from here" strategist, who forever hammers out alternative plans with Tasar and sees to how they all dovetail. Nemmer is the disputer, the "question the details until they're right, revised by real-world practicality" elf. Oenel is the tactical thinker who asks "where will the water and supplies come from?"
In Ardeep they were almost slain by the spells of a drow female, who was standing alone in a glade. She was a priestess of Eilistraee, and she summoned Qilué Veladorn to question them -- and to her they blurted out their dream.
And Qilué promised to whisper word of Dawntree to many elves, everywhere, to spread hope . . . and see what might happen. . . .
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, sf, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .