6th Day of Harvest Season, 342 Days After Mourning
The message arrived before dawn, and mine were the only eyes to see it. For two days, I have risen before first prayer to check on the birds in the early morning silence, hidden from watchful eyes. Thankfully, we are too short-handed to assign a priest to their daily care, and I’ve avoided suspicion. For now.
I crept back to my chambers to read the tidings. And what tidings they are! The farm thrives! With a shaky hand, Hilla recounted her initial days and sends greetings from each of the others. A memory of her sitting beside me in the dark dungeon, rubbing salve across my swollen eyes while she recounted her families struggles flashed before me and a feeling of loneliness washed over me. I long for her guarded, but honest friendship.
The children have begun the harvest in earnest. In two days, Hilla wants to meet where the twin rowans guard the river. She will bring three sacks of grain, two bushels of berries, and information. I know not how, but I will find a way to be there. Perhaps, I’ll leave the temple and join them. Oh, that I could walk away this evening! Disease and death fester within these cold walls and the lure of sunshine and hope are strong. Guide my footsteps, Sisters, to the path you’ve laid before me, for the shadows have blinded me and if my road still lingers here, I can no longer see it.
Mouse has uncovered two more visits from the woman wearing green robes, and another from a merchant who stank of fish oil. He will continue listening for information while I’ve approached two priests whom I believe might share our suspicions, Brother Milton and Brother Roon. I must go slowly, for fear of discovery and so we share gentle words, hints about integrity woven in with descriptions a long-destroyed temple, as if we were three old men, reminiscing about a forgotten era. Another day, perhaps two, and I will shed this cloak of mystery and speak plainly.
Five dwarves barged through the guards yesterday, much to Imorgan’s displeasure. They were merchants from Foundry, traveling south and hoping to establish a stall in the famed market of Aramas. Before the plague struck them. Angry and confused, they demanded we heal the two sick members of their party. We could not. The disease moved quickly, distorting their faces into hideous grimaces. Both passed before the second bell this morning. Of the remaining three, one burned with fever by the time the sun set.
For all their grief, the dwarves are gregarious. They must know every victim by name and have spent the entire day trading stories with any who were willing to speak with them, and a few who weren’t. Wohlrin and Mouse have never seen dwarves before and I fear they might expose our midnight mercy missions by engaging them. For all their good intentions, the mountain men do not know how to whisper. They don’t even have a word for it in their language.Unfortunately, I have not the strength to devote to ensuring our secrecy, and so I must lean on your mercy, Sisters, to shield our work from the Grand Cardinal’s eyes.
Forty-one died today, including the two dwarves, fourteen women, twenty men, and only five children.
One day, the survivors will outnumber the dead.