By the third day, Buck had gotten used to being in saddle again, both literally in the saddle of a horse, but also he had gotten used to giving directions and making decisions without asking anyone’s permission. While he did often ask Hamreth’s advice, this was more out of a desire to help him feel useful than out of a need for judgement. This close to Waterdeep the dangerous and problems were negligible. But Buck knew as they made their way further and further north, he would have to rely on Hamreth for advice. For now, he was happy getting out of the city again, and traveling the open road. He even enjoyed Lila’s incessant questions and awe at the remarkably tame “nature” around them.
Buck was deep in thought about whether or not they had bought enough supplies for the slow pace they were making when Hamreth rode up beside him. “This crossroads up ahead is where Old Fangmeyer and I held of a band of kobolds with a pretty green band of teamsters.” “Really?” As Buck asked him questions about the event, one story led into another, and soon Hamreth was telling stories of his experiences guiding caravans in the North. It seemed to put Hamreth finally at ease, as he told stories of battles and strange races, plants, and animals he had encountered in his travels. Buck began to realize that Hamreth probably wasn’t that good of a farmer if half the stories he told were true, because he would have been away from home so much. But there didn’t seem to be any hint of fabrication in Hamreth’s stories. As the days wore on, and the stories continued Buck learned as much as he could, while he had made perhaps a half dozen trips into the North, his experience was quite limited compared to Hamreth’s and the stories helped to fill in the gaps. What is more, the shock of losing his family seemed to have eased somewhat, even if the pain hadn’t. It seemed good to get Hamreth talking about something, because otherwise he sat silently with a pained look on his face.
As the days and stories went on, a question kept nagging Buck, “How did Hamreth have any time to farm?” He was only a year or two older than Buck, but it seemed he had been away from home quite a lot. Finally, one evening after the evening meal when everyone was preparing for bed, Buck asked Hamreth, how he had time to farm in the midst of all his travels. Hamreth paused for what seemed like an age, and then looked at the ground kicking at the dirt with his toes. When he looked up at Buck he began to speak with tears in his eyes. “You are right, and it has been eating me up. I was hardly ever there.” Buck felt embarrassed, “I didn’t mean to say that you were… I mean, I wasn’t trying to make you…” But Hamreth stopped him, “I know, but it’s the truth and its why I feel so lost and guilty. I always told myself that I wanted to be at home farming, and one day I would spend more time there. But actually when I heard the news, part of me was relieved. Relieved that I didn’t have to go home and sit with a wife I loathed and children I didn’t want. I tried to tell myself that I was outraged and sad, I tried to make myself feel loss, but I actually felt free. I realized that I had been living and telling myself a lie, I didn’t want to go back, I wanted the freedom of a wanderer’s life.” Buck was stunned. He grabbed Hamreth by the shoulder and said, “I understand, thanks for trusting me with this.” Hamreth nodded, and turned to take up his post for the first watch.
That night Buck had a dream. It was the same dream he had when Gwaeron Windstrom, The Tracker Who Never Goes Astray, came to him while tracking a party of orcs. When Buck awoke, he realized that in the morning they would continue East, while the Long Road would strike off North toward Triboar, and the grove where Gwaeron slept. He wondered whether he should take the party north on the Long Road. It wasn’t out of the way exactly, but the Dessarin Road was probably a little quicker, if more dangerous. But what would he do if he went to Gwaeron’s grove? He wasn’t sure, but he felt he should go there. Nevertheless he had a job to do now, get Alora and the party to the High Forest to find her grandmother. But there was nothing keeping them from stopping by Triboar on the way back, was there? After some thought, Buck decided on a compromise. They would go via the Dessarin Road to the High Forest, but they would return via Triboar, and he would visit to grove to help him figure out his path. Who better to guide him on that path than Gwaeron?