My past is one clouded in mystery and mysticism. I no not know my real name, nor birth date, nor birthplace, nor true parents. But that does not matter. I am known now as the one called Fenwolf, Ranger and Beastmaster of Dreadwood. But my earliest recollections are not of the wilds of the Dreadwood or swamps of the Hool Marsh, they are vaguely of the dark and confined quarters of the Silent Tower, far to the north of my current home. My story begins there.
The Silent Ones or Those Who Must Not Speak are a eldritch order of mystics and sorcerers older than Keoland itself that are fanatically dedicated to uncovering and safe-guarding ancient secrets of magic and arcane history. Most of the order dwells in the Silent Tower just a day's ride south of Keoland's capital city, Niola Dra. They are an extremely secretive order, rarely recruiting new members and then only those judged to have great magical potential and devotion to their cause. But known only to a few outside the order, every three years the Silent Ones admit three infants into their order that are groomed to serve in its highest circles of power. Few know where these children come from. Some say they are fathered by the senior members of the order, or even by their leader himself, the Wyrd of the Silent Tower. Others think they may be clones of members who have passed away from this life. Others yet believe they are kidnapped from across Oerth and assimilated into the order. No one who knows will likely ever divulge the secret. Never-the-less, in the year 560 CY, I was one of those three infants.
I spent the first ten years of my life in the Silent Tower and I have few fond memories of my time there. The three were to go unnamed and locked away in the tower, training until our tenth year when we moved up as anchorites of the Silent Ones. This was not the path I would have chosen for myself. Unlike my peers, I always yearned for the outdoors, not the study of mystic tomes and arcane experiments. My mentor, a wise and gifted sorcerer named Ulrich understood this and empathized with me. Over the years he watched me struggle with the training and always assured me that better times were ahead.
On the evening of Midwinter's Day, 569 CY, the day before my tenth year, Ulrich appeared in my cell and told me to gather my things because I must to come with him. Surprised that I would have to attend more training on that evening, I began gathering my books. He told me to leave those here as I would not need them anymore and to quickly gather a day's worth of clothing. As I stuffed clothing into a small sack, Ulrich began chanting an incantation. I remember hearing raised voices coming down the corridor outside my cell as the room began to spin and become hazy. In an instant we were standing in a copse of trees on a small hill with the full moon of Celene shining down on us. As I looked around, off in the distance I could see a large cylindrical tower jutting up hundreds of feet from the grass covered plain – the Silent Tower. That was my first view of the outside world. Ulrich turned to me and said "Follow me; we have little time to spare!"
For the next week Ulrich and I made our way southward through Keoland's plains, around the southwestern side of the Dreadwood, then eastward just north of the great Hool Marsh always keeping to ourselves. Ulrich never spoke of why we left that night and always averted my questions. It did seem that he often looked over his shoulder until we settled in a glade within the southern boundary of the Dreadwood. We built a small cabin and began the meager life of outdoorsmen, subsisting off the crops we planted, and raising goats for milk, meat, and cheese. As I got older, I found I had a talent for hunting and fishing. I taught myself how to track, and it seemed I had a natural affinity with animals. Ulrich gave me the name Fenwolf due to my expertise in the wild. Despite the first ten years of my life, I was now truly at home in the outdoors.
We received very little company at our cabin. Because the southern side of the Dreadwood is the most dangerous, with its close proximity to the Hool, only occasional elves and the Dreadwalkers frequented that area. A Dreadwalker named Hawthorne often stopped by to check in on us on his regular patrols. Hawthorne was a Ranger and had been knighted as a Knight of the Watch, as he had once patrolled the Dreadwood with Kimbertos Skotti, the King of Keoland, saving his life on one more than one occasion. Intrigued by his outdoorsman skills and rugged code of honor, I asked him to teach me his ways. He and Ulrich agreed that I would be an apt pupil.
I learned much from Hawthorne and eventually began patrolling with him. Ulrich supported me in these new endeavors because he new I had found my natural calling. For the next five years, Hawthorne took me on as a squire and taught me about the Knights of the Watch. He taught me new survival skills, horsemanship, the use of blade and the bow, and how best to employ them against different opponents. On several occasions I demonstrated my prowess with the weapons warding off the denizens of the Dreadwood and Hool. We often met with other Dreadwalkers and would hold competitions at camp with the sword, axe, and bow. I particularly excelled at the bow and developed quite the reputation as one to not challenge lightly.
One evening at camp, Hawthorne and the other Dreadwalkers encouraged me to attend the Arrowsong Fletchery and Archery Academy. It is an archery school in the town of Archer's Bluff, just at the western border of the Yeomanry and run by a renowned Wood Elf archer. It is a member of Keoland's Royal Fraternity of Archers and Arbalesters and is known as one of if not the finest archery schools in the kingdom. At the conclusion of that patrol I spoke with Ulrich about Hawthorne's suggestion. Again, as a great mentor and step-father, he encouraged me to attend the school. "After all," he said, "I can't really expect you to stay here and raise goats for the rest of your life, now can I? And besides, I think I can probably take care of myself." With that, my course was set.
Hawthorne arranged for me to start at the academy the following month. I stayed off patrol the last month to prepare and practice more bow skills. As the departure day approached Ulrich talked with me about my future. He cautioned me to not talk of my days at the Silent Tower or of him and the cabin's location. When I asked "Why?", he said that it would only bring us both trouble and sorrow. "One day it will all be revealed to you Fenwolf. But for now concentrate on what you do best. Let the past be forgotten – the future is yours." Ulrich never lied to me. I can only trust he is right.