4th Day of the Oak, Year of the Crown
On the letter could be seen dried tears. She wept alone, or so she thought. If she had dared to allow us into her melancholy, she might have known the pride we felt in her companionship. She might have known that she was not, in fact, alone, but stood in the company of family. Instead, she withdrew to her cabin, nursing her woe and planning her escape from ship, woe, and life.
To be sure, a part of me maintains hope that we read too much into the letter. Orieth and I will keep up the search. I suspect that Nilbud would not leave Ester the Mule alone among Dwarfs. There is a chance we may yet see her again. But in my heart, I feel that she is gone.
It was I who killed Nilbud, surely as I had killed young Findelion had I left him where he stood on that ledge ages ago. I knew something gnawed at her and yet I said nothing. I told myself: Focus on the quest; she will come round.
She has not come round.
Only days ago, I vowed to take greater care with those in the world about us. Now I vow to take greater care with those within. If I am to lead this band of adventurers into danger and legend, it must be all or none of us.
We can none of us be heroes if we leave the world to burn around us; nor can we be heroes if we abandon our own to despair. It falls to me to keep watch — both within and without.