The Goblin Diaries, Vol 7: The Forest of Baeth and the Neleh Berry

 From the January 19, 2024 Newsletter:

22nd Day of the Frost Moon, 1218th year, Human Age of Magic …

The dragon Pieter has become a regular visitor here at the late Alchemist’s estate, and I’m not entirely comfortable with that. Rather than go into hiding—as I assumed he would—he stayed in Azurith overnight in his human guise and got a room at the Royal Goose—the very inn where the mercenary Tsing stayed when he was in the city! Then—as if to purposefully draw attention to himself—he seems to have grilled the staff there about the activities of both Tsing and the dream walker who’s been assigned to “take care” of the man.

There’s something that dragon is not telling me—some scheme he’s cooking up with his human cronies—and I’m afraid he’s trying to draw me into it.

However, his question about the neleh berry and its side effects have led me deeper into investigations of the activities of the two faeries inhabiting the Enchanted Forest to the south, which has become the home base for a plethora of mischievous activities in which they are engaged. The two faeries, Fauche and Floreze, are undoubtedly responsible for introducing the neleh berry into the city of Azurith.

The neleh bush, native to the faeries’ home world, produces fruit with a powerful aphrodisiac to which humans are particularly susceptible. The faerie siblings have been cultivating the plant and shipping its berries to some of the wineries in the northern part of the kingdom of Azurith. The effects of the aphrodisiac are not long-term, as Pieter feared—the culprit molecule binds with the alcohol in the wine and is broken down along with it in the human liver—but it is addictive, and regular use has caused some problems within the population of the kingdom. King Palatus was right to ban the use of it in the brothels of Azurith, but I fear the damage has already been done.

But something else is going on in the Forest of Baeth. There is regular commerce along the River Wiste between Azurith and the southern kingdom of Ozua. Cargo barges ply the waters daily, and a regular stop along the trade route is a port called Holly’s Landing, right in the middle of the faeries’ forest. There have been recent reports of the disappearance of entire crews of the barges that put in there for the night, never to be heard from again.

The more I hear of the Forest of Baeth, the more convinced I am the artifact I seek, Ka’il Idreth, is hidden there. But, regardless, the activities of those faeries should be investigated and reported to my superiors at The Protectorate. I must go to the Enchanted Forest as soon as possible.

And I’ll have to sneak out of Azurith somehow—right under the king’s nose.

Progress Update: This morning I crossed the 80k word mark in the first draft of A Verse for Witches, book one of my epic fantasy / sword & sorcery series, The Song of Tsing, to be released in 2025. I'm very enthused about the story, so far.

Well, that's it for now.

Happy Reading!

- Red Wolf John

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