Log Entry 160819.188

We remained in good spirits, chatting and laughing as we made our way down the slopes towards the village. The path continued to weave through the forest until suddenly, we spotted a blast of vivid colour. It's hard to explain just how bright the colours were because Dirria is such a bright planet anyway, but I'll try.
I have already mentioned that the forests of this world are verdant and green, and speckled with blooms that are really big, flowering high up in the trees. The blasts of colour we spotted, though, were visible between the trunks, splayed across the forest floor. We approached inquisitively and broke through the tree line to find ourselves on the edge of a small, open glade. Thick, emerald green grass bordered the area, but the middle was an explosion of colour. Blues, pinks, reds, oranges, purples, whites, yellows—every colour under the sun formed a thick carpet. It was glorious.
"Wow!" I couldn't help exclaiming.
"It's awesome!" gasped Al beside me.
The colours rippled gently in the soft breeze. I took a deep breath expecting lots of splendid perfumes to serenade me, but there was nothing. The blooms had no scent at all. I commented on it to Traeth but he could shed no light. He'd never seen the like of them before either.
Not wanting to spoil such a beautiful display, we decided to walk around the edge. It didn't occur to us to question why the path disappeared beneath the carpet of flowers.
We trod carefully around the circumference marvelling at the colours, the petals fluttering in the breeze … and that's when I got overly curious. I bent down, screwing my eyes in an attempt to focus more clearly on one of the flowers. I moved forward but didn't see the tree root in the thick grass. My foot caught in it and I flew forward with a little yelp, arms outstretched.
As I hit the flowers, they flew up—a massive cloud of colour, thick like a swarm of locusts. They weren't flowers at all! They were hundreds of thousands of butterflies.
They battered against my face and beat against my clothing. I closed my eyes tightly against the melee and my arms thrashed in the air to ward them off. They shushed around me, whirring, and in the thick of their beating wings, I heard someone scream. I think it was Al (but she'll never admit to it). I certainly heard Rutter cuss—words I've never heard him use before! And then it was quiet again.
When I opened my eyes, all the colour had gone. It was just green grass in the glade now.
I looked behind me and spotted Traeth first. He had dropped onto his knees and had his head still buried in his arms. Then I found Rutter and Al. Both looked startled but were grinning broadly.
"You are a dipstick, Jenny!" said Rutter.
Al asked, "What's a dipstick?"

Log Entry 160806.187

It was a little after noon on the third day when we breached the top of the mountain— just as Rutter had promised, and looked down into the basin below. The volcano had been extinct for hundreds if not thousands of years, as evidenced by the forests that heavily carpeted the sides of the crater. They were so verdant and green, a speckled with blooms that must have been massive. They looked animated, as though they had just been snatched off the easel, freshly painted by a Naïf artist, and in the centre of the crater a lake lay, its aquamarine blue surface shimmering in the sunlight.
Birds squawked and circled in the air above and as I looked up, a huge butterfly came down. I'd like to say it fluttered but with a wingspan of nearly half a meter across, it more or less just dropped out of the sky. Being the twit that I am, it frightened the bejeebers out of me and I squealed like a silly schoolgirl. The others laughed as I flailed about, fighting the thing as it flapped about in the air above me like a ill-tempered duvet cover on a washing line, but they did have the good grace to agree that it was an exceedingly large butterfly!
Despite my little scare, it was all breathtakingly beautiful and we stood admiring it for some time. Al screwed her eyes up as she peered hard towards the lake and nudged me, pointing towards the water's edge. There, snuggled against the shoreline was a settlement. It wasn't very big but had one stone building and a number of smaller, wooden huts, but we could see little else from up here. The cover afforded by the trees hid much of it.
"I can't see any signs of life," said Traeth.
"Maybe the savages got to them," replied Rutter.
"We don't know that there are any savages," I said in all seriousness. Rutter looked at me in disbelief.
"Skulls? Remember? I don't suppose those people chopped their own heads off and shoved them up there!"
"But who knows who did that and when. Dirrian history isn't particularly exact over its dates. That was probably centuries ago. The people that did could be long gone and these people might be really friendly."
The chorus of tuts told me of their disagreement and Al pulled a face.
"I would have thought that if it was centuries ago, the skulls would have disintegrated completely by now. I mean, they are exposed to the elements and everything."
It was a valid point, but if it wasn't the Dirrians from Traeth's tale, who was it?
Traeth interrupted my thoughts.
"Always the optimist," he said. "Even when the ship is sinking, Jen will be the one saying, 'Oh well, at least we won't have to wash the decks tonight'."
I'm not sure that was particularly funny but Traeth said it so matter-of-factly, we couldn't help but laugh.

Log Entry 160730.186

If it hadn't been for finding five skulls stuck on the top of pikes, Tikarra Island would be idyllic. It's lush, green forests are not too dense, there aren't lots of bugs to bite and annoy, and the temperature and humidity is just about right. As I say, shame about the skulls.
It was evident that they had been there for a very long time, undisturbed. The bones were yellowed and crumbling, and each one wore a mossy green cap, but the path that led to them was in regular use. Although narrow, the earth was bare. Even in an English field, if untouched, the grass will start to cover a footpath in less than a week. That the bones had been placed by the path served to warn travellers to beware if they chose to proceed. I wondered, what travellers?
Nevertheless, we pushed on, trekking further into the island making exceptional progress. As the afternoon sun dipped into the trees, we found an area where we could camp for the night. I won't call it a clearing, but the forest had thinned enough to allow us to put up our tents and make a camp fire. Rutter reckoned we'd breach the top of the mountain tomorrow and then we'd be able to see the valley below. As we prepared an evening meal, he explained the geographical characteristics of the island, a long extinct volcano. It was a bit dull but I nodded politely and made all the right noises.
As night fell and we sat around the campfire in the darkness, we decided we should set up a sentry. I didn't fancy sleeping alone while Al stood guard and the tents weren't big enough for three, so we agreed to stand watch in twos. Besides, it would ensure that no one fell asleep while on duty.
"Can I ask a question?" asked Traeth. "If Jenny is an Acting Ensign and Rutter is a full Ensign, why is Jen in charge?"
"'Cause Jenny's T'Roc's pet," replied Rutter before I could respond.
"That's not true!" I retorted indignantly. "If anything, we're all her pet project!"
"No, Jen. I just got caught up in events. I'm here by fate and circumstance."
"How'd you make that out?" argued Al.
"You were the one that picked the fight with me."
"You were being an arse!"
I burst out laughing at which everybody stopped and stared.
"Oh dear! Aren't we a bunch! But—" I said before they could argue further, "—the only reason I'm leading this mission is because I'm the one that got us into this mess because I wasn't paying attention. T'Roc gave me the assignment to teach me a lesson. I picked Al and Rutter for my team for their experience and expertise, otherwise Rutter would undoubtedly be leading it."
"Glad you recognise the fact," snipped Rutter to which I simply rolled my eyes.
Boy! Have the three of us come a long way since that day in the cargo bay. T'Roc must have known something. Why else would she have thrown us together, locking our destinies into a single outcome?