Early Winter – on the western border of the forest, somewhere north of the Meandering River.

Winter arrived early, and I am running late. The River is still ahead somewhere, this map makes the journey seem much shorter than it really is, and I have been forced to camp, and to travel, in the shelter of the forest. The noises at night are of two qualities, unnerving and terrifying. I have hardly slept for a week, though I have been warm each night, burning the plentiful dry firewood on the forest floor, though it throws off a strange smoke, and when I have been able to sleep, I have woken from strange dreams of a foreign land.

I should take the time to describe something rather beautiful from the day of first snow. Early in the morning, I was foraging for mushrooms when I spotted an unusual yellow flower which was just opening, morning dew heavy on its tiny transparent leaves. I knelt down and began to sketch it, when a frail ray of light touched a dew drop and I heard a musical note. As the dawn took hold, and the whole flower was warmed, I heard a melody being played, each note seeming to correspond to a petal, playing in a regular pattern, repeating for almost half an hour until the dew had evaporated.

I could find only one flower of its kind in the field.

But that was two weeks ago. Now the snow is so deep the grasses are all hidden and I have to pick my way slowly between the trees. The forest is dark, nearly lightless. The trees all seem too old to be real, and at every turn I see what look like eyes peering at me from within wrinkles in the bark. Rodents and other scurrying creatures scatter at my clumsy approach, my short legs are not suited to climbing over fallen branches and I have tended to make a lot of noise as I walk, partly out of fear.

Well, mostly out of fear.

Ta