Alturiak, 2nd Martedi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
The heathen weather-witch’s fortunetelling had been specific regarding the dates when a stretch of clear, cold weather would hit the valley. On the morning of Alturiak, 2nd Svoradi, yesterday, the clouds emptied of snow, the sun shown through and the temperature dropped, just as she said it would. She was certainly as good as her reputation and worth her fee, usurious as it was. The next storm is not supposed to arrive for a full tenday.
Ailean, Koldo and I had made the necessary preparations for our journey and managed to make some good deals on supplies and equipment, which partially made up for the excessive cost of the weather divinations. Most of the suppliers we patronized were happy to simply have our business during what is their slowest season. We even managed to hire a pair of Whitewater sellswords on the cheap. They probably expected to spend their entire contract comfortably drinking ale in the Whitewater Tavern and sleeping in their own warm beds while the usual late winter snow storms kept us from traveling.
1 wagon, 4 mules, a small mountain of equipment and supplies and 2 somewhat disgruntled caravan guards, we departed Visegrad by way of the Caravan Gate and took the East Road towards my destiny. I just hope it is a good destiny.
Alturiak, 2nd Borisi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
The last 7 days have been torturous and now there are only 3 days before it is said that the snows will return. It is difficult to say which was the greater torture; forcing slow progress through thick and fresh fallen snow which was our fate for the first two days of our journey or enduring the freezing cold which has at least allowed us to make better time over the now aged and hardened snow the last five days.
We have passed through the gap in the Border Hills created by the Vardar River, although we have had no sighting of that waterway, hidden as it is under the ice and snow. We now exit the Kotor Valley and approach the Beastlands, of which I have heard many tales, most recently from Andoni and Manus, our two worthy guides. Even taking allowance for the exaggerations of tellers of tales, it does not sound like a land I wish to sojourn within in such a small party as ours, and not far with even a larger party.
Andoni assures us that there are some farmsteads still resisting the dangers of the wilds hereabouts and some old buildings that may serve as a base for our business venture. I pray that he is correct and that we may find one or both within the next few days.
Alturiak, 3rd Svoradi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
This morning we met with the Levitons, a family that has kept a homestead here for decades. Goodman Oleg and his wife Svetlana preside over an extended family and employ some Yrchish and Elarkish families on their land as well. Several dozen people in all live on their homestead.
The land itself is well sited in a small valley. All is covered in snow and ice, but I am told a small stream runs through the valley and fills a pair of ponds at the southern end. Fields separated by tidy rock walls fill floor of the valley, an orchard with cherry, apple, pear and hazelnut trees lies on the gentle eastern slope while the houses, outbuildings and gardens stand on the steeper western slope to receive the morning sun. Sheep and goats graze the nearby hills under the eyes of the Yrchish folk while several draft animals are kept in a barn nearer to the houses.
The houses and other buildings are solidly built and most are dug somewhat into the ground; I am told that this helps keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I can certainly understand the reasons for building them in that manner! It is only one more day that we are to have this break in the weather and the snows should return tomorrow. It is well that we found the Leviton Homestead when we did!
Not all seems to be well however. When we approached with our wagon and mules we were greeted most brusquely by several of the menfolk. It was only by the presence of Andoni, who was known to Oleg and a couple of the others from past dealings, that we were permitted to say our peace. Koldo spoke well for our intentions, and that we brought such a store of supplies with us certainly helped. We were invited to stable our beasts and provided beds for our use, but a service was requested for the courtesy.
It appears that the reputation of the Border Hills as a bandit infested land is not exaggerated and since the beginning of winter the Leviton Homestead has been subjected to the regular and unwelcome attentions of such a group. It has mostly consisted of sheep and goat rustling, but recently the scoundrels mounted a raid on a storage building and made off with a fair quantity of dried fruits and good grains as well as making a great noise and commotion and putting a fright into everyone.
Several of the younger men have been using the clear weather to carefully check on ruined buildings and caves around the area and believe that they have found the lair of the thieves. While these homesteaders are hardy, tough and not frightened by the prospect of fighting, neither are they foolish nor prone to taking unnecessary risks and they are not warriors. My companions however are warriors and Ailean has been known to take risks that are both foolish and unnecessary, so we have been requested to look into the problem of dealing with the bandits as payment for the hospitality of the Levitons.