The Ashen Kingdom

A Fool's Errand

Gurd: I hope my son does not die on the front tonight.
Pell: What is “hope”?
Gurd: Yes. I know the feeling.
Pell: No. What does the word “hope” mean?
Gurd: In truth, I do not know.

—The Trials of Father Pell, a famous comedy

Final Entries from the diary of Countess Petras

Wensel told me his exciting news at dinner. He has bid for and won the rights to the possible iron mine discovered last week. I do not look forward to leaving the safety of the palisade, but have kept any reservations to myself. He is overburdened enough without adding the worries of his wife.

The first day has been a disaster. Our party is overburdened with supplies and civilians. I am no expert forester, but father taught me enough to know how loud our expedition is. The Forest feigns quiet to lull us into death.

All is chaos. The sacred ash circle was broken earlier when several fae tore through our camp. Terrifyingly, closer examination suggests they were not fae but ice constructs. If that is the case, a watermancer hides nearby. Worse still, a storm is building. We have found a promising rock to make a stand, and Master Morrow thinks he can fashion a suitable shelter, given time. Everyone else is busy gathering wood or preparing the supplies. I feel so helpless with nothing to do.

[Ed. Note: The remainder of the page is damaged by ink and blood and is not legible. For obvious reasons, this was the Countess’ final entry.]

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