Sylvie leafed through her diary, more than two three quarters full, wondering how small she could cramp her handwriting write while still keeping it readable to strangers.
Place names, travel distances, notes on different currencies and measurement systems, calendars, descriptions of people, animals, plants, diseases, recipes for medicines and, collected in occasional bout of self-indulgence, food, her little discoveries in magic. Three alphabets and one syllabary, vocabulary and what she could figure out of basic grammar for a handful of languages, phrases from twice as many. She sometimes doubted the balance was right; there should be less of the notes she needed only temporarily, but she told herself at least she would make it up in volume. On the third hand, she had had more time, too.
Traditionally, when you returned to the school after your three journeying years, your diary would be read, or at least skimmed – but if it was half full, it was exceptional. She was not entirely sure, but thought she had been away closer to twice that long. And still no way home in sight.
With a sigh she let it flap open on a random page, ending on one near the start. It showed a painstaking illustration of a plant used to cure fevers. For redundancy and because she had been taught to do it, a detailed description that someone familiar with the terminology could use to identify it even without the illustration was right next to it, pushing most of the notes on preparation and usage on the following page. The last plant description in the book consisted of abbreviations for the key terms, and to replace the illustration, she had grafted a small section of leaf to the paper. She, or anyone with some practice in plant magic, could construct a mental model from that. It was less useful for most people, but it did save space.
She never considered starting a second diary for more than a moment. The conviction that she either would find a way home before her diary was full, or not at all, had formed slowly, never clearly put in words consciously, and was bone-deep for just that reason.
Sometimes she had nightmares of the world disappearing around her when she filled the last page.