A longstanding tradition of the Neblina Forest was the offering for interested parties to learn the druidic ways from the master druid. Though the borders of the forest drew ire and fear, occasionally a brave soul would enter and find their way to the druid’s tower. Master druids offered to teach worthy travelers their ways. This was done for various reasons, the most beneficial to both student and master being that a student would learn to protect the forest and other natural resources in the world. But the master druids had a secret reason for inviting students: one day, a master druid would pass on. Who would take their place?
Unlike most other master druids, Deng rarely took on students. The reasons for this were rarely his own fault, though. The dark elves were reviled by most, and on the rare occasion that a traveler would reach his tower, Deng revealed himself and offered them learning. The travelers would see his dark skin and white hair and flee in terror, lest some demon of the Underdark sacrifice them to his cruel patron deities. Every now and then, a student would take kindly to Deng’s offering of learning, but the lessons would last only a few months before other pressing matters caused the students to move on graciously but permanently.
After centuries of this, Deng grew weary of teaching anyone. This changed when a young son of a farmer came into the forest while searching for game to hunt. The ten year old boy was named Gwynn, and Deng found him to be very charming. Gwynn did not seem to mind Deng’s ancestry at all, but rather seemed to celebrate it as a way of learning new cultures and making a new friend. He was extraordinarily kind to the animals that lived with Deng and had even accepted the dryad Arpistis and the hag Griba as a part of his and Riuying’s family. Deng agreed to teach Gwynn druidic magic on the condition that Gwynn would commit at least one year to the teachings. Such, he thought, would be sufficient for Gwynn to master druidic spellcraft and gain a reverence for the forest and the lands around it. Gwynn had to return to his father for permission, though, young as he was. He promised to return in a week. Months passed, though, and Gwynn did not return.
Gwynn’s father would not permit Gwynn to train as a druid, and kept his son on their farm in Prince’s Harbor. The memory of the meeting with Deng was written on Gwynn’s heart, though. For many years, he restlessly contemplated running away and joining Deng’s Circle. It wasn’t until his twentieth year that he finally got the chance. His great aunt, an herbalist named Trinity, had moved to Prince’s Harbor. She had heard stories of the master druid and thought that such training would be ideal for Gwynn. Gwynn agreed to run from his father’s house and return to Gwynn, but only on the condition that Trinity would come with him as a guide. He feared Deng would be angry with him and hoped his aunt could convince the master druid of his eagerness to learn from him.
On the eve before they left, Trinity had a chance encounter in the market of Prince’s Harbor. On her way to gather supplies for the trek through the forest, she came upon a young runaway named Telynor. Telynor was the son of a noble from Starfall, and he had fled his home when his father betrothed him to what Telynor described as a cruel and unkind girl from another noble house. Trinity had compassion for Telynor, but this created a problem for her. She intended to leave Prince’s Harbor in the early morning, but Telynor was skinny, dirty, and exhausted from his journey. Trinity offered Telynor a compromise: she would help him deal with his father and his betrothal, but only after she took Gwynn to the Neblina Forest. The three of them journeyed together.
Along the way in the forest, Deng (in the disguise of Tom the cat) guided Trinity, Gwynn, and Telynor through the woods towards his tower. Deng had already judged Gwynn as worthy years ago, but wanted to give him another test. The night before the three entered the forest, a fourth person had entered the forest from the east, and Deng tasked Gwynn with rescuing him. They found a young E’thor stuck in a tree surrounded by angry Zoogs who sought to punish him for tresspassing. Gwynn hesitated when he saw the Zoogs, but Telynor immediately intervened. He brandished a stick like a club and chased the Zoogs away, rescuing E’thor.
When the party of four arrived at his tower, Deng warmly welcomed each of them. He was pleasantly surprised to judge both E’thor and Telynor worthy of his training, too, and he chastised Gwynn for his hesitation to help someone in need. Gwynn perhaps expected further punishment from Deng for abandoning him ten years prior, but Deng was not angry. To Deng, it was just the same as any other student who left him. This time, Deng was intensely happy to have Gwynn return.