Let's Get It Strahded
Gilfillian 'Guzzle' Titmouse
Exuberant Gnome Druid
For as long as he can remember, Gillfillian “Guzzle” Titmouse has always been the odd gnome out. He never meant to be any trouble, he just always found typical forest gnome life so…. BORING. Why run through the oh-so-familiar undergrowth with the other kids, when you could climb to the tippity top of the biggest tree in the whole forest? From there, you can see all the way to the horizon. Why hide from the adventurers tromping through your forest, when you could actually meet them, and steal glimpses of the faraway places and wondrous things they’ve seen? Why spend all day gathering nuts and berries when you could spend it gathering stories?
He had a natural sidekick in his sister, Ellywick. Three years his junior, Elly idolized Guzz and learned quickly that if she wanted to keep up, she’d better learn to climb and jump and swing and crawl and tumble with the best of them. And by the best of them, she knew that meant Guzzle. He was the swiftest, climbiest, flippiest gnome in their tight-knit community. He was also the loudest, and the most irritatingly forward, and the most reckless. And while she loved him for all those things, no one else seemed to appreciate it.
If it wasn’t for Elly, home would’ve been unbearable for Guzz. It was Elly who shared his love of learning, his thirst for adventure (although she was much better at going unnoticed. Not once did she ever earn a scolding from their parents, Hoperich and Faralee, for talking to strangers or being rude to the elders of the community. Something that happened to Guzz on a weekly basis.) It was Elly who, with a rude gesture and her trusty slingshot, helped him chase away the other young gnomes who came to taunt him. And it was Elly who was there when he first heard the call of Baervan Wildwanderer.
One evening, following an incidental encounter with a human ranger and the subsequent lecture from his parents, Guzz retreated to his favorite place in the forest: The very highest branch of his family’s tree. He would come up here whenever he needed to escape the nagging and the odd looks, but didn’t want to go far enough to incur another another lecture. The stars and the breeze and the gentle rustle of animals settling in and waking up for the night filled his ears, as he nestled into his favorite spot. It wasn’t long before Elly found him. She said nothing and just settled herself in the branches next to him.
They sat in silence, gazing at the stars. Their reverie punctuated only by the occasional sigh escaping one or the other’s lips. After some time, just as Guzz was resigning himself to clamber back down to bed, a moth fluttered into his field of vision. A perfectly normal, brown and tan forest moth. Perfectly normal, save for the slight amber glow that seemed to pulse with each flap of the moth’s wings. In that moment, Guzz felt the forest go silent around him. The crickets stopped chirping, the leaves stopped rustling. Even the stars stopped twinkling, each one becoming a fixed, steady point of light, staring down from the heavens. The entire forest was holding its breath.
Enraptured, terrified, Guzz reached out his hand to the moth. It landed gently on his finger. BOOM. The amber halo washed over Guzz’s entire body like warm honey, and suddenly, he was somewhere else. Flash. He was in a high mountain valley, soft snow falling all around him, a pack of wolves closing in on him. Flash. He was floating on his back in a hidden pond surrounded by lush jungle, unidentifiable birdsong in his ears, a cloud of bright blue butterflies swirling above him. Flash. He was in an open field, frolicking as torrential rain pelted him, lightning splitting open a nearby oak tree with a violent roar. Flash. Flash. Flash. Exploring a coral reef. Dancing in the desert. Gleefully flinging himself off a sea cliff into the surf below. Flash.
He was in a tree, gazing at the gently twinkling stars. Crickets were chirping. Leaves were rustling. And Ellywick was calling his name. As he turned to follow her down to the forest floor, something caught his eye. There, gazing directly at him, concealed by the dense foliage of a nearby oak tree, was a large raccoon, its eyes glittering with intelligence and understanding. As he watched, it slowly and deliberately winked at him.
Guzz was gone by the next morning. He knew his parents would be relieved that he wasn’t around to embarrass them anymore. That he wasn’t there to be a bad influence on Elly. He knew that Elly would be better off without him. Maybe she could make some new friends. She would fit in without him around. He knew this was the right decision.
But most of all, he knew the stories. He knew when Baervan, patron of the forest and of travelers was calling him. Calling him to see everything. To know nature in its entirety. To put his natural curiosity and thirst for adventure to good use. He would explore the world and learn and see and feel and experience everything it had to offer. And only then would he come back. Elly would be proud of him. His parents would accept him. Every forest gnome would finally respect him. A master druid.