Crickets and night birds sing in the starry night as Ingonne sits at the small table cramped into the wagon. A single candle fights valiantly against the cozy dark as he dips his pen, a new blank journal opened before him. Outside, a few soft tinklings of chimes attest to the breeze, though inside the air is still enough that the coiling vapor rising from the piping cup of tea formed cohesive abstracts, highlighted dramatically by the point-source of light.
I awakened early this morning — very early! — when a rather vivid vision of omens obsessed my dreams. Most dreams, yes, are merely the fantasies of a sleep-drunk mind, and yet the practiced diviner, one attuned to the whisperings of the spirits, is necessarily able to discern meaning from montage, patterns from collage, omens from the abstruse. I say without pride that I have learned over the years to listen to the winds, perhaps not with perfect understanding (can a mortal even aspire to know the Pattern of Fate absolutely?), though the hints and clues provide enough education to make respectable guesses better than chance… for those with practice and patience.
Here I shall record as usual what I dreamt, felt and sensed in order that I might refer to it later when recognition of the inevitable future demands.
I was looking up at the stars when I first gained awareness. They were so crystal clear, vivid to the point of surreality (the first hint that this was no mere dream). Then shone a star from the West, falling as though to earth, aglow with a rainbow of hues and growing brighter as it neared. There were currents bearing it hence like the sun rushing through turbulent waters. At first, I thought it was simply descending from the heavens — but when it struck me, I awoke so completely and with such a start, I couldn’t lay back down.
It was the stirring of the autumn airs outside, subtle at first, that drew me from bed: I had thought the skies would be calm. Not to say there was any great windstorm. Just a persistent zephyr… and yet… Even now I cannot shake that chilling certainty that change draws near. From the Western wilds.
As must be evident to anyone reading the previous journals I’ve kept, we three have been traveling together for some time, and I am by now certainly among the road’s most familiar consorts, but I still don’t know how Vokk can sleep so out in the open as is his custom. Though his frame is imposing even in repose, what beast or fey might find him a tempting target while so exposed only the imagination may know. May it ever be so! I confess, it did comfort me to hear his snores. Woodsaws and gravel. Perhaps he is growing on me, though I would still describe his loose familiarity with hygiene as an… acquired taste.
Ingonne pauses to look over at the hulking orc filling the bunk so near. A mildly sardonic quirk plays the corner of his mouth before he puts his attention back to the page.
Apparently even roused as I was, I was quiet enough not to have awoken our resident rodent extraordinaire. He has the nose of a blood hound and the memory of an encyclopedia, but I swear he will sleep through Armageddon before waking to want breakfast. Not that I could complain: his waffles would be worth the slaughter of throngs. I wanted to believe that it was simply an indecipherable augury of some far distant future that I’ll never live to see, even if it does come to pass precisely so (not so common an occurrence as the mundane would like to believe!). That is, usually there is more than enough ambiguity to require interpretation and common sense.
We have heard rumors of troubles interrupting trade on the outskirts of the Coalition’s settlements upstream, but it has only been in the last few weeks that entire shipments have gone unaccounted for, and I’ve heard no reliable information about what might cause it. How realistic would it be to assume, in these untamed, uncivilized and unexplored lands, that there would not be the odd band of ruffian opportunists?
While hunting for spices and mushrooms as the others slept, the certainty grew: whatever whispers wend their way upon the winds, these were not of petty troubles with minor goblins or highwaymen. Besides the power of the portents, think of the matter logically: the merchant barons hire swordarms aplenty to protect their profits. If the pickings were so easy all along, we’d have heard of troubles with bandits long ago, not only just recently and not hints only from the West upstream.
In any case, no doubt this is a matter that will make itself unavoidably clear with time, not with worry over scant little solid information. Half of knowing the future is knowing present facts, after all.
Of more immediate concern are the consequences of recent behavior by one young fool orc. Gods know youth has stricken us all, but some of us have more muscles than we have sense to use them by: Vokk apparently was lead along by a hateful, despicable dandy this morning. Fooled would be too strong a word since our orphan savage simply hasn’t the guile to navigate the less trustworthy segments of society. The nonsensical laws of these lands apparently not only allow but incentivize cowards to prey upon the gullible and the naive. Sorting through it all now afterward, apparently young Vokk thought it would be entertaining to serve as champion in a duel for the dubious honor of one “Jeremy Hold”? An insultingly pitiful purse of coins bought his attention, though I know that Vokk has never really understood the value of money — or of his own life.
Again, Ingonne glances over to the bunk, his gaze lingering just the barest moment with a mixture of both rueful concern and tart annoyance as he brushes a long lock back behind his ear.
He claimed he thought it would be an easy way to bring us a pleasant surprise. The most infuriating part in all this, knowing how ignorant the adorable brute is of society’s workings, is the ridiculous laws concerning contractual agreements and their ghastly combination with the legal etiquette surrounding the duels which are oh-so-fashionable in this regressively macho frontier. Bourgeois lads and posturing lord-poseurs believe it makes them somehow superior to “prove” their “honor” in grotesquely wasteful duels to the death. Who knows what insult motivated this Hold fellow to believe he had good cause to risk someone else’s life on his behalf (nevermind the absurdity of begging for another man to fight for his “honor” or the “honor” gained by manipulating a naive youth to do the deed…).
What matters is that Vokk ended up in a mangled heap of the ogre’s entrails with one of his own broken ribs frightfully close to puncturing his heart. Thankfully the bone seems to have inserted itself between the pleural membrane and the lung proper, so I was able to hold it away without doing too much more damage while our delightfully resourceful rodent retinue prepared an emergency infusion to at least close the wound and set the bone. One more scar probably won’t mar his sex appeal if you’re into testosterone-drenched boulders of meaty animal with the perfume of seasonal bathing. If he doesn’t learn his lesson from this, so help me, I’ll see that he spends the entire week resting abed just so he’ll remain conscious to suffer long enough as I beat him to bloody pulp myself for putting me through that.
Ingonne’s eyebrow arches coolly, his lips pursed in acerbic contemplation as he sets his pen down and, with a puff of breath while rising, blows the candle out.