From an aged journal found in Frostback Basin:
It still tastes strange. No matter.
Several water-stained pages follow before the text resumes:
Have we traveled through lands more remote than these? We must have. Yet I've never felt so removed from life back home as I do now.
T. makes the same arguments as always, though adds a lack of demons as a point in her favor. Lack isn't absence—which I was quick to point out. She called me pithy. There are demons here, though not as many as we faced in those early years together. The Avvar have their mages too. The last were ill prepared for me. I wonder if that's the part that bothers her?
O., as always, was no help at all.
We push on. My head aches. The others are singing the song we learned at that lakeside town. I forget the name of the place. I think my eyes are about to explode. Of course, A. has noticed and tells the others he needs to read something. It's quiet now. The journey here took longer than expected. I must take stock of the rations. After sleep.
There were more than expected. Everything has been more than expected. A few moments later, and O. would not be standing here. I was able to subdue the mage before things became worse. T. said nothing about it afterwards. She knows O. would have died.
"At what cost?" T. asked me that once. I said it costs nothing, but I don't know. I met a man who'd fought longer than I, but his mind had faded with age, and he could not answer. The point remains that I can do more. I can be more effective. We've all seen the demons, what they did. We've seen what some would do with blood. The better question is, who pays the cost if no one takes this chance?
And no one said it has to be forever. Just until things are settled.
"If you count eight times, will the number change?" O. asks. She's been watching me these last few days, whatever she says to the contrary. Damned blue bottles. I did not plan this journey as well as I should.
I lay trying to find constellations through the leaves. T. brought me some water. She just smiled, and there was no admonishment behind it. It made me feel somewhat better. As always, A. cooked our dinner while deriding my own ability to produce something edible. O. attempts to tell jokes—Maker, they're pathetic. Why do they make me laugh anyway?
Long days behind. I fear there are fewer ahead. Whatever costs I've paid, they will be worth it. It doesn't matter. This night—safe beside a fire, the three of them singing that stupid song... I am content.