Hvat has made paper, of sorts. I have not given up on finding a papyrus tree so we can simply pull down sheets of real paper but Hvat shows no signs of making that a priority. Not that it should be since the raid that cleared the southern home of supplies – we have enough to do to build our reserves back up.

We should not have left the southern home empty for so long. Raids from the savages were inevitable, and there was no one to defend the place. Hvat’s brother went scouting to the East nearly two months ago by my count and we have not heard from him since. We headed north along the tributary closest to home and found spiders and crocodiles and more savages. It was meant to be a two-day trip at most but we followed a chain of coal and iron to a place in the north where the sand was replaced by grass. It was pleasant after the scorching desert.

Then, just as we were about to head back, a miracle: the Goddess spoke to us.

There is a ruined temple on an island in a lake. I touched a wall and it came to life. The Goddess spoke words of reassurance and solace.

I was a devout follower of Derketo as a child. As devout as a child is able to be, that is. I looked forward the day when I would join the other girls of the kingdom to be presented to the Goddess and undergo her sacred initiation. But it was not to be – my father, the now deposed (and presumably de-headed) king, had promised my virginity to the Sultan Abernethian on my nineteenth birthday. I watched in bitter despair from my window as the other girls, dressed in the finest silken gowns, entered the temple far below.

I admit my faith waned after that. It is difficult to worship a Goddess one is not allowed to visit. When the castle was stormed and my family was put to the sword and I found myself alone in the desert, naked and waterless after bandits killed the thrall who whisked me out of the postern gate, I feared that the Goddess had abandoned me for allowing my faith to falter. When she spoke to me, my relief was more refreshing than the first sip of water after escaping the desert sands.

With such a sign from Derketo herself, it was clear that we were meant to settle on the island. So instead of heading back we started to build a new settlement. The northern land is rich with raw materials, including the iron and coal that spurred the original quest.

We spent a month when we had meant to spend two days. It is no wonder that when we finally went back south Hvat’s rickety attempt at our first house had been raided and stripped of supplies. We have decided to wait for signs of his brother before making a more permanent move to the north. In the meantime, we’re back to day long back-breaking treks to gather iron and coal from the mountains.

*the next page is a crudely drawn map*

Author Sunscryer
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