With the hope of a birthday party, or adventure, tucked away deep in her heart, Keri busied herself with the day. First order of business – after slipping into her simple robes – was breakfast which, as usual, she shared with the various creatures who also dwelt in the tree-tops. Gnomes had an innate ability to commune with smaller creatures such as birds and squirrels and, therefore, these creatures often favored the abodes of Gnomish druids. Of course part of a Druids training was learning to speak with animals, but not everyone treated them with the same respect that gnomes did. Elves and their half-elven kin had a tendency to be rather standoffish, while the handful of half-orcs who had taken up the staff and cloth were terrifying in appearance (and had a racial reputation for eating creatures indiscriminately, even though, as Druids, they took a vow of vegetarianism) and humans were generally more interested in other aspects of Druid abilities, that they rarely wasted time conversing with small animals. Therefore Gnomes was where it was at.
The Letter – Keri
Unfortunately, for the woodland creatures, there were only five gnomes currently in the Sorbus tribe, not including Keridanyth. Her parents, an aunt and two other non-related (except by race) gnomes. There had been more, her parents both came from a lineage of gnome druids but, over time, they had moved on or died out. Keri vaguely remembered an ancient great-uncle who would bounce her on his knee and tell her stories, but that was a long, long time ago. Great Uncle Nesbar had left the forest decades ago and had died somewhere on his travels, as far as anyone could tell. While he was alive he’d written fairly regularly. When the letters stopped, the tribe had held a memorial for him.
Having shared her breakfast with a couple of squirrels and a blue jay, Keri made her way around the walkways suspended in the tree canopy, towards the central Rowan tree which lent the Sorbus tribe their name. The library was set into the top branches, just above the school, and was the one place Keri spent most of her time. She’d graduated from school straight into a job at the library and had worked there ever since. Even before graduation, she had spent every spare moment helping the head librarian out. It was safe to say the library had always been Keri’s life, so much so that when she succeeded the ancient librarian nobody was surprised. Consequently, it was where she expected to find her parents waiting to wish her a happy day. It could also, she considered, be where they had planned her surprise party. Certainly, she knew many other druids assumed she lived there, expressing surprise at her modest dwellings separate from the library. Of course, what they didn’t know was that she often stayed overnight at the library. More often than not, in fact. As she pushed open the grand entrance doors she held her breath, readying herself for the shouts of congratulations that never came.
Her disappointment didn’t last long. Once she’d thrown herself into her work, thoughts of adventures and hopes of parties soon fled, replaced with the ins and outs of running the biggest library owned by any Circle of the Land tribe. It was rumored that there was a bigger library owned by one of the mountain tribes, but nobody in recent memory had seen it and so, as far as Keri was concerned, her library was the biggest, the jewel of the druid crown as it were. Currently, she was in the midst of rearranging the section on botany, taking the oldest and most worn books out for repair and checking the remaining books against the inventory. Even though books were thoroughly checked in and out and druids, by nature, extremely unlikely to steal, books still got mislaid. When you have a collection as large as the Sorbus druids had books tend to walk. Therefore most of Keridanyth’s time was spent inventorying the library. When she finished the botany section she intended to move onto the maps. Those hadn’t been touched for decades and, having put the job off time and again, Keri finally felt the time was right.
Somewhere around lunchtime, a small halfling druid interrupted Keridanyth’s work to present her with sandwiches. Without Euphemia dropping by daily to do this, Keri wouldn’t think to pause and eat. Euphemia didn’t hang around, just popped in long enough to make sure Keri stopped working at least long enough to put a sandwich in her face. For that reason, she was, as far as Keri was concerned, her best friend. Therefore it was not without disappointment that Euphemia’s visit passed without mention of birthdays, parties or adventures. It was the usual, in, food, out, done. Hurriedly stuffing sandwiches, Keri assumed this meant not that they had forgotten, just that whatever they had planned was clearly a really big secret. It was with this in mind that she started the afternoon job of inventorying the Sorbus tribes’ huge collection of maps. In no time at all, she was so focused on the task that she, again, forgot her hopes and disappointments. In fact, she was so absorbed in the task that she almost missed the letter that fluttered out of the book she was holding. Her awareness of it was nothing more than a fluttering on the periphery of her vision. As she looked down with a startled ‘oh’ she was surprised to see a thick, parchment envelope resting against her foot. She reached for it, feeling the texture of the vellum, marveling in the richness of it. Both sides of the envelope were blank, no sign of who it was intended for, or what might be inside. With a glance around, unnecessary, other than a brief visit from Euphemia, Keri was alone -she was always alone- Keri broke the plain wax seal and opened the letter.
It was written in three or four differing scripts. None of them looked even remotely familiar to Keridanyth. Admittedly she could only read a handful of languages fluently but recognized most others on sight. That left ancient languages or cants. Without being able to decipher it, she had no idea what it said or who it was for and yet she was certain it had been left for her. She gripped the parchment tightly, running her eyes endlessly over the unfamiliar hieroglyphs, the longer she stood, the more convinced she became. This letter had been left for her to find, today, this was the surprise, the potential adventure. Of course, it made complete sense. Nobody had interrupted her day or disturbed her because she had to find the letter. Any distractions would have meant she could have missed it. Her heart filled with joy she turned and rushed out of the library, still clutching the letter.