Dear Daideó,

I like being out of the city again. I kind of enjoyed the entertaining I could do before, and making more money (the townies at the inn we visited didn't appreciate my music - probably can't relate to anything remotely new, these people are all stuck with cultural blinders…), but the air is fresh and I don't feel closed in.

Aeowynn had bandaged up my shoulder nicely, and Sharn managed to mix up some amazing concoction that got all the blood stains out of my cloak! I tried sewing it, but Aeowynn ended up helping me with that, too - I'm better at strumming a lute than I am darning cloth. I guess it's good to have friends around - we can help each other.

We traveled past an amazing lake - we even went swimming a bit! I think Aeowynn was worried that we'd all catch colds, but El and I were brave and went in. I don't know if Sharn had ever swum before, but she's always willing to give something new a try! Firia was off scavenging food with Scáthfile, so she missed out. I think she's extroverted - she probably gets tired of my constant conversations. It's just who I am - I can't help it. The water was ridiculously cold, but it refreshed our spirits. We made Martin stay with the horses up on the road - priests aren't allowed to have fun and he needed to build us a fire anyway.

A few nights later, we arrived at Beton Chin, a small hamlet that apparently has a local seer, or just a crazy old woman who is a terrible gate greeter. She blocked our carriage, causing us to stop, and then started yammering at us, something about us being invaders from far away, and shadowspawn, and other nonsense. Well, I guess technically Sharn is an orc, and maybe El has shadowed eyes (but the stars shine through her darkness). Then the old woman babbled on about us needing another person to join us. I think not - Martin is already one too many!

We asked who the old woman was, and she ignored us (typical of seers/hags). I can't remember exactly what she answered - something about no way out, and light and darkness - the stuff that sounds all symbolic, but actually doesn't mean much. I guess she said what she wanted, and just wandered off. Strange.

The next morning we chatted up the locals to find out about the area, and got some ideas of how to cross the mountain range. El did something crazy, though - we took all the gear out of the carriage, and she proceeded to SHRINK it down to a pocket-sized toy! It was impressive - it not only took up less space, but was lighter, too. The horses weren't too happy about the loaded saddlebags, but they'll adjust. Scáthfile has been content to let me ride him - though it might be better if we rigged up some sort of saddle, just in case he has to run or do some battling while I'm riding!

Sharn and I pored over the maps, and with my excellent geography skills and her intuition, we figured out a good pathway, trying to avoid the higher peaks.

We followed the river up to another lake, sitting at the foot of the range. We picked our way along the edge, and then had to climb a rough trail. Scáthfile carried me up just fine, but Firia had to do some earth-moving magic so that the horses could pick their way through the tumbled rocks and crevices.

When we got above the treeline, Scáthfile started acting funny, and I took a deep breath and focused on his mind. His words formed clearly - the danger was very near, coming from behind us: mountain lions! I called out to my companions to watch out, and prepare for a fight - these guys were super hungry, starved from the harsh winter.

The birdsong also transformed into language as I breathed out slowly again - I whistled at them, and they answered - nothing unnatural around this time, at least. No shadow creatures or darkness, just hungry lions.

As the lions approached, Sharn went into crazy mode, making an insta-pelt. I shouted encouragement at the group, something very inspiring and motivational. The words just came to me - I had the help of the Teanga Ainmithe, and the animals were calling out exactly where more attackers were coming from.

Firia seemed to be holding her own, so I left her to fight one lioness, and I sauntered over to help Sharn butcher the dead one. Well, I shouldn't have let my guard down - 2 more jumped at me out of nowhere, but before they could rip another hole in my beautiful cloak, Martin finally showed up from his scouting and shot them both. Somewhat impressive - he has some talent with a bow.

I really was bothered by killing these innocent mountain lions. They were just hungry - it wasn't their fault they were starving - but I didn't want to be their meal, either. It's rough understanding their language. It puts our violence into perspective. Maybe we are just invaders…

Good night, Daideó. I hope you and Da and Mam are okay. I do miss you all.