[Lol day month year what are months even called in D&D land I don't know lol]

There is something deeply unsettling occurring around the monastery. Perhaps what is most unsettling to me is that no one seems willing to talk about it.

I overheard some talk while tending to the gardens, but it was hushed quickly once my presence was discovered. Often times I wonder if the mere act of focusing one's attention on a person causes some sort of signal to go out into the world, as if the listener is suddenly illuminated. The sheer conspicuousness of the act of eavesdropping, at least in my experience, has always resulted with my immediate capture. Aoibheann was always more successful at getting information, one way or another, though her methods were often much more upfront and direct than mine.

I digress, as usual. I have my theories about what troubles the others, but I think we'll all learn what is in store for us soon. The fact that our structures have been falling into disrepair for years has become such a way of life that hardly anyone bothers to comment anymore about the way almost every roof leaks during even the lightest rainfall, or the fact that the entire floor in one of the oldest prayer rooms will soon be removed altogether to prevent injuries should it give way. Our elders wear expressions of slight distraction, too subtle to be worrisome to most of our neighbors, but a glaring sign to those within our walls that times are tighter than they ever have been before.

[lol next day lol]

My suspicions have been confirmed. Our financial troubles have reached a pinnacle, and if we do not find a more lucrative source of income, the future of our home is bleak.

Aoibheann noticed at once the change in my demeanor upon hearing this news. I had divulged to her our troubles within perhaps five minutes of our meeting for lunch today. Though I have always known her to be a steadfast friend to me, and beyond that, never one to turn away from those in need, I was still profoundly touched by her assurance that we would find a way to help. Though I am not all that much older, it still stuns me sometimes to realize how quickly she is growing up. We've stopped training together as of late, partly due to her increased duties as a paladin of Pelor, and my own additional responsibilities around the monastery, but truth be told... I am reluctant to face her again in a round of sparring, for I'm no longer at all confident that I would hold my own!

We will continue to brainstorm ideas to raise the money needed for the monastery, and I am trying not to be pessimistic. The estimate of what we would need is well over what I can imagine making within the limits of Sonnestrom.

[couple days later]

Sometimes answers to our problems try to present themselves to us in frank and honest ways, and when we are too obtuse to see them, simply drop themselves down on our heads. The last sentence of what I wrote earlier was evidently not clear enough a suggestion to me, but no matter; Aoibheann and I have thrown together a plan.

I should start at the beginning. Sonnestrom's courier's guild has also fallen upon hard times. Two couriers have vanished along one of their routes, both within the last two months. I had heard of these strange disappearances, but I had not considered that Aoibheann and I could be of assistance. It came to us while we were walking past, though. It was providence, really, that we overheard the discussion about attempting to hire someone from out of town to aid the guild. [Name of the courier guild leader], however, was quite receptive to the idea that Aoibheann and I could be enlisted to investigate the disappearances, and ideally, locate the lost couriers.

I have never been particularly gifted when it comes to creative flair, and as a result our two-person guild has a rather unimpressive name: we are the Sonnestrom Questers, and quite soon we will be departing for our first job as adventurers. I had expressed concern that Aoibheann will be taken away from her life here completely for an undetermined amount of time to help me, but I was comforted to learn that she has her own reasons for wanting to embark on this journey as well. This endeavor of ours will be an ideal way for her to prove to her superiors that she is more than capable of whatever trials await her, and upon returning to Sonnestrom with travel and experience to her name, she will have banished whatever doubts certain members of the order might have about her abilities. She has worked so tirelessly to prove herself, and has risen to whatever challenge she encounters. I have managed to convince myself that this journey will be good for both of us. I only hope I am correct.

[couple days later]

I am not quite sure what I will do with fifty feet of rope, but it comes in the adventurer's kit and I won't question it. I somehow thought preparing for our departure would be a little more difficult, but in these kits we have been provided bedrolls, the rope, flint and steel, three torches, rations good for five days, and a water skin. In one purchase our preparation for leaving Sonnestrom has been completed. I suppose I'll use the rest of the hours I had blocked off for packing to tend to the gardens a bit more. I am somewhat doubtful that any of the lilies, orchids or other more delicate plants will still be alive when I return; Brother Abel, though well-meaning, is notoriously absent-minded.

There has been some muttering about whether or not Aoibheann should be allowed to leave on this quest at the age of seventeen, but no one from her immediate order seems about to contest it. I'm not so certain about some of the other paladins, though... but truthfully, what can they do? They don't have the authority to stop her. I'm sure nothing will come of it.

Though we leave tomorrow morning and it is already well into the night, I doubt I will be able to sleep. Still, it is time to put out the candle and make a solid attempt. It is pointless to wonder endlessly about where the road will lead. I'll know soon enough.

[later that day--full disclosure, I can't remember how we met Fnipper, and it's not in my notes. Help?]

It has been an extremely eventful first day of travel. If every day brings this much commotion and excitement... well, I'm actually not sure I'll be able to handle it.

I'm rather exhausted, so to make a long story short, we have a new member in our guild. Her full name is... something I am utterly unprepared to butcher on paper right now, but she has graciously suggested we call her Fnipper instead. I am not entirely certain I have even written down her nickname correctly, though.

Fnipper is a gnome from Fellwheel, a place I have never heard of. She is a study in bright colors, disarming enthusiasm and song. She is a bard, and recently left her home to spread her songs across the land, though from what I understand, she is aiming to have adventures that will serve as proper inspiration for said songs along the way. [Not sure if this is true, my memory is spotty:] Aoibheann and I ran into trouble on the road, and Fnipper came to our aid quite unexpectedly. As far as I'm concerned, additional help is always welcome, and she certainly seems trustworthy if my first impressions hold any merit. She is new to many human customs and ways, and conversing with her about her home is as fascinating as experiencing her equal fascination about our rather dull life back in Sonnestrom. The perspective gained by meeting someone from such a radically different background does shed light on aspects of my own life I had not once deemed remarkable.

Yes, I did mention earlier that I am exhausted. It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to finish this entry, and sleep beckons me.

[however many days it takes to get to that first town later]

We have arrived in the first stop along the way to Escaroth, a small town called [name]. Nothing of major consequence seems to have cropped up here; so far everyone has received their mail, and nothing seems amiss. Still, it's a fine opportunity to rest, stock up on rations, shower, and ask around for information regarding troubles other towns and villages along Northeast Road might be experiencing.

Fnipper discovered me tapping out a rhythm on the table in the inn where the three of us were eating lunch, and she is currently in the process of trying to convince me to drum along with her songs. I doubt I have the skill required for such a performance, and hopefully if I remain silent on the issue she will forget that she asked this of me. Then again, with her obvious passion for song... perhaps this is not something I will be able to worm my way out of so easily.

[not dated]

I'm on watch right now and I am starting to wonder if I'm not made out of as hardy stock as I would like to think. Perhaps the spotty sleep patterns and long days of foot travel are getting to me. I swear we are being followed.

[not dated]

It is the next day, we have stopped for lunch, and I no longer believe we are being followed. What I heard last night was most likely some manner of forest creature. I suppose a little late-night paranoia is to be expected on this first leg of our travels.

I just became extremely distracted. Fnipper was studying Aoibheann quite intently just now, and when asked what her purpose was, she stated that she is working on a song about each of us. For now I will put aside this travel log, and any vestiges of my imagination running wild like it was last night, and will instead focus on the banter between Aoibheann and Fnipper, which is becoming rapidly amusing.

[not dated]

It's been a while since I've updated this journal turned travel log. To sum up, each previous village we stopped in reported no mail trouble or odd events, but no sooner had we given voice to the strange lack of trouble in the area than we found an overturned wagon along Northeast Road. It bore the emblem of the Couriers Guild, but the lockbox had been taken. Though we searched the area for suspicious individuals, whoever was responsible had long since moved on.

We arrived in Escaroth this morning, and at once it became apparent that the atmosphere in this city differs greatly from that of the towns before it. There were guards stationed at the main road near the entrance of the city, and after speaking to them we were told to proceed to the mayor. Though tired, getting a lead on this mystery encouraged us, and it was an unspoken agreement to head straight to his office.

Escaroth has been plagued with bandit trouble as of late, according to the mayor, and the missing couriers have definitely put the city into a bind. No one can be spared to send out to deliver messages, or to search for the couriers and their lost mail and wages. Our guild offered at once to assist in any way we could, and though the city does not have much to offer us by way of payment, they will be putting us up for the night, feeding us, and will be offering us whatever compensation they can afford if we are able to recover the stolen currency. I chafe at the idea of taking money from a city already in need, but I must remind myself that we are on this mission to help the Sonnestrom monastery, and while I will not demand payment from Escaroth, I will not refuse whatever they are willing to offer to us.

Showing the mayor of Escaroth our slip of paper bearing the Sonnestrom Questers title and our names signed below in three greatly differing hands, I felt a sudden surge of both how official and unofficial that moment seemed. This slip of paper seems so feeble and meaningless to me at times, but I realized fully today what a peculiar power it possesses. We are truly being taken seriously, though I must admit our group was received with a bit of skepticism at first.

We are bunking in the guards' quarters tonight, and tomorrow we will set off to further our investigation. We report to the mayor in the morning for whatever specific task he has arranged for us. May Pelor look favorably upon us in our endeavors.

[dated: my book says it takes a few weeks to travel from Sonnestrom to Escaroth so... yup. whatever date that would be]

We are eating a quick breakfast, and I am taking this opportunity to jot down what our general role will be as temporary members of the guard. From the sound of it, we will be extra hands wherever there is a need; today we are being enlisted to search out a man by the name of Lars [I think... we just talked about him tonight but hell if I can remember his name] who owns a farm on the outskirts of Escaroth. Though there has been trouble with the bandits, and this danger has increased remarkably over the past many weeks, he and his two children have remained sequestered and cut off from the protection of the rest of the city. We are to check in on the family and convince them if at all possible to at least temporarily retreat to the safety of Escaroth proper. Here's to hoping that our guild can exercise a certain diplomatic finesse.

[later that day (I believe)]

I now have an violent and irrevocable aversion to barns.

[not dated]

I feel somewhat more human now that I have slept. That last bit was scrawled while waiting for my three companions to be patched up.

Yes, three companions. There is a lot to record.

We arrived at the [Lars' family surname] farm yesterday and it was immediately apparent that something was horribly wrong. The doors had been torn from the hinges of the house, and upon searching through the contents of various drawers for clues as to what had transpired, we uncovered a few letters. These letters spoke of debts owed, as well as questions about rats, dogs, and enclosures for said animals. We also found at signet ring along with the correspondence. There was no sign of the father or his two children. Overall the situation was rather bleak.

Upon investigating the rest of the farm, we came across the barn, which was barred shut. We could hear shuffling inside, and perhaps against our better judgment, we opened the door to see what was inside.

I can't say I ever want to be faced down by a charging bear ever again. Aoibheann took most of the damage, as she was in the forefront. We were able to take it down, but not a minute after we had dispatched that opponent there came a new scurrying sound from within the barn. Six dire rats emerged from where they had evidently been hiding from the bear and attacked us. Though we held our own for quite a while against our foes, I wonder if we would have made it out of that encounter alive had it not been for aid from an extremely unlikely source.

Recall the entry from weeks ago where I denounced the sounds of someone following us as paranoia; as it turns out, I was correct. Duncan, a paladin of Pelor from a different faction in Sonnestrom, has evidently been tailing our group for quite some time. He was held up in Escaroth, sending a report on our progress back to Sonnestrom, but he caught up with us in time to help us dispatch the rest of the rats. As you can imagine, our reception of him was somewhat... mixed. Fnipper was at first grateful for the help, as was I, though my gratitude was tempered with wariness and confusion. Aoibheann too was suspicious at first, and her suspicions turned rapidly to indignation as Duncan revealed the reason he has been tailing us--evidently his order sent him after Aoibheann, to "keep an eye on her" and to make sure that she doesn't get into trouble. Whether this "trouble" would be merely danger to her well-being or some sort of poor reflection on the paladins of Sonnestrom, I am not certain, but the tension between Duncan and Aoibheann is palpable.

Once the barn was cleared, we were able to recover an adolescent boy from the rafters, and we quickly learned that he was Paul, Lars' son. Paul informed us that his younger sister, Mara, had been taken in a raid, and that in an attempt to thwart the assailants, Paul had released the animals. The animals, indeed, had done a fair job of dispatching many of the attackers, but that had left Paul trapped as a result. He had been sequestered in the barn with these creatures for days, unable to descend from the rafters. The poor beasts had apparently been raised for fighting, and as such were much more predisposed to rabid violence. Fnipper expressed sadness at the necessity of dispatching them, and I agree that to raise creatures bent on killing one another in the name of gambling and sport is reprehensible. We were given three salves and as much medical treatment as Paul was able to administer, and after healing up to the best of our abilities, we started off after the tracks that lead away from the farm and to the north. We briefly wondered if heading back to Escaroth proper for backup would be wisest, but ultimately decided against it. The city can't truly afford to spare us extra guards at the moment, and every minute counts if we are going to recover Paul's sister (and hopefully his father-- I am laboring under the assumption that both are in the same place. If they are not, I am not sure where to start searching for him.)

We have been following the tracks for hours now, and though all of us wanted to continue until we found the girl, it was much wiser to stop and regain our strength for the night. I have the final watch, and the sun is just contemplating rising. The huge disparity between the violence and fear of yesterday and the surreal peace of this cool spring morning are things I can hardly reconcile within myself.

I intended to stop writing there, as I felt I was done recounting the events of the day, but evidently I am not done. Something is bothering me, and I think I know what it is.

For the first time today I became truly and completely aware of how inherently dangerous this mission of ours is. I do not speak merely of this journey to find Mara's kidnappers and return the lost girl to her family. The entirety of what Aoibheann and I set out to do is steeped in risk. I suppose I realized this on some level when we left Sonnestrom, but I can't help replaying some of the more terrifying images that flashed before my eyes today-- the bear, blood-stained and crazed, bearing down on Aoibheann and sinking its jaws into the platemail at her shoulder-- I thought for certain she would be killed in that instant. I do not know what ran through my head at that moment, and I certainly cannot express it in my limited language. I only know I wish to never feel that burst of fiery, dreadful fear again. Fnipper, surrounded by rats on all sides, and the certainty that I would not be able to disengage my own opponent and come to her aid on time-- Pelor's grace was surely with us in that barn today, or else Fnipper is the luckiest soul alive. Though the rats bit and clawed towards her, she was able to evade and back out of the attacks, or else duck behind fallen crates for cover. I was able to make it over to her and help at last, and together we held off the rats until Duncan appeared to assist us. That feeling of helplessness while my companions fought for their lives around me is... again, not something I have language for. For those long moments of combat, when the outcome looked much more bleak, all I could think was that if anything happened to them, it was my doing that put them into this situation. In signing us up for this guild, I have committed us to something much more profound than pressing ink to paper. The registry list seems heavier and more powerful than ever in my pocket. How does mere paper continue to imbue such properties?

I'm not sure what I hope to achieve by expressing this. We will obviously not be turning back, not with a girl who needs us in the hands of unknown brutes down this road. Even after this leg of our journey is over, Aoibheann and I will still be committed to raising money for the monastery, and I feel that Fnipper and Duncan will remain with us. Though I don't know either of them very well, yet, I find myself hoping they will. There is strength in numbers, and not just for the extra hands in combat. I can't quite express what I mean yet, but perhaps it will come to me later. The sun is rising in earnest now, and it won't do to dwell on what might have happened to our guild. In the end, we made it out alive, we are on our way to find the missing girl, and that is what matters.