Gorung and ClickClick returned to us today as we continued searching the palace grounds. They do not know what it was that Salisir discovered to drive the Klotians insane, but we need to find out. I have never heard of its like. Whatever it was left the remaining Nantese unprotected against the Lost Children when he took it. Much as the Life of Graylag protected the bandit warlords from the KoraKora, so this relic kept its own darkness at bay.
ClickClick has become a painful reminder to me of Kantoo. The boy looks like him, but is far more serious in how he conducts himself. Unlike Kantoo, ClickClick rarely smiles. He is curious, and quite helpful, but the joy in him is greatly diminished. Perhaps the fact that he limps on the leg Starlark shot only heightens the likeness between him and our legless friend.
I asked them today what the Chief of the KoraKora’s words meant when he killed Kantoo, “Bora no kandoh mahotoo.” They said it meant “All traitors die, so balance restores itself.”
I did not tell them why I knew the phrase. Kantoo and Bolton died within seconds of each other, and in a way I suppose Kantoo did betray the KoraKora. They saw him as their cattle, his life no great thing to cast aside. But Kantoo was a brilliant boy, a joy to have around. He may have been Nantese, but he was every bit as human as any of us.
ClickClick’s resemblance to Kantoo is how I found myself seething most of the day. Starlark was far ahead of me on that mood, his distaste for our Nantese companions hidden about as well as the moons in the sky. Balthandar hasn’t lost all of his dislike of the Nantese either, but unlike Starlark he is far more political in his dealings with them.
They showed us an underground route around the catacombs to a series of vaults under the palace. Gorung said it was here that much of Salisir’s search was dedicated. There were four of them, one of which was already open and empty. It took us a few hours, but we were able to breach one of the remaining vaults with considerable effort. Inside we found various treasures but no relics, nor any clues about the item Salisir took from here.
We need to know what it was he took, for once he took it the Makonga’s power grew in this place. Discovering what it is will hopefully lay its weaknesses bare. It will also help us better understand Salisir, for while we have discovered his path we have yet to reveal his motives. Those will be more useful.
We will try to breach the other vaults tomorrow. Gorung says there was a demolitions alchemist in the quarries north of Senida. It’s a half-day’s journey in total, but it should make blasting the hinges off these vaults a simple task.
I just want to forget Kantoo, the KoraKora, and Bolton… I can’t believe I miss him. Of all that we have lost, Bolton is the last person I would ever expect to find myself saddened over. He deserved worse. He was old, contrary, and painfully difficult. Why do I miss him today?
The alchemist in the quarries north of here was nothing short of a genius, that much was made clear today. I’ve seen various alchemical combinations used to create explosions on command, but I’ve never seen anything as elegant as this man’s devices.
We made the trek north at dawn. Gorung and ClickClick stayed with us on our rooftop last night so that we could leave as early as possible today. The quarry was divided into two sections, one of limestone and the other of granite. To the west of both was the ore mine that reddens the river that runs through all three. It is the iron ore, Gorung said, that normally bars the passage of the Lost Children.
There is a fourth mine to the south, he said, where Senida’s name derives yet another source. The Klotians never did take all the gold, he said. He hoped they’d never come back to try.
Down near the bottom of the granite quarry stood a series of small buildings within which we found the alchemist’s workshop. It was left largely untouched, or at least so it appeared upon entering. There was a thick dust covering most everything, but there was a clear organization to the room and its contents. It didn’t take long to find the explosive devices he had created and left behind.
Each was roughly the size of a large book, and they all had different capabilities built into them so that the uninitiated could use them with certainty. The caps at the center of their broad side were numbered like dials, and once twisted would ignite the device in the amount of time corresponding to the number desired. They also had slides on the top that dictated the direction and overall strength of the explosion.
I have never seen such precision in alchemy. It concerns me on a greater sense of scale that the Klotians have alchemists that are talented enough to come up with things such as this. It makes me wonder if this man was unique in his abilities, or if he belongs to an expression that we know nothing about. Gods save the Old Empire if the Klotians can turn such men into engineers of war.
What was even more concerning was how well the devices worked. We brought four with us just in case any malfunctioned or were insufficient on their own. We only needed two, one for each remaining vault door.
The devices were created to blast rock loose on a large scale, so we dropped the first one to its minimum strength and set it against the massive hinge of the vault. We twisted the dial to three minutes and then ran for the surface.
After the blast we returned to find the vault door on the ground and its interior untouched. There was an abundance of treasure, yet again, and a varied selection of weapons unlike anything one would find in the Old Empire. We each took a gilded Klotian dagger for ourselves, the blades jagged and the hilts curved to fit comfortably in the hand. They were magnificently balanced, and the edge of each blade was sharp enough to slide into wood under its own weight.
The second vault opened much as the first, but this time there was something wrong with the concussion. Whether it was the shape of the vault itself, or some other misunderstood alteration in the device we used, we may never know. It torched much of the inside of the vault, which was the tragedy of the day as it contained a large quantity of books and scrolls.
We were able to salvage some maps, and a few books that might be useful, but most of what was untouched were state ledgers and tax surveys. I hope we have not destroyed the very clues we have been searching for this entire time.
One of the books that survived was an original copy of the Hierarchies of Power. Its binding was masterful, something hailing back to the days of the Golden Era. I take it as a small consolation to the day’s unfortunate outcome, and will be searching it for clues to the Deadwood as we continue our search.
I should not have despaired so quickly upon opening the third vault and ruining half of its contents. Starlark was quick to realize exactly what we had in the state ledgers and taxation documents: a record of every valuable item in the city.
Not only that, but we have evidence that whatever Salisir was seeking may not have been the solitary enchanted item within Senida. We have hope. There are three different houses in the city that are recorded to have vaults of the same strength as those we blasted open under the palace yesterday, and four other houses with redacted entries in the official ledgers. Whatever treasures Senida holds, they are not limited to what Salisir was after.
We must hurry. The Lost Children made an attempt at the trapdoor again last night, and Balthandar says he had to knock one off the vines growing up the western face of the building. They are growing stronger, or perhaps only more daring. This bodes ill for our time in Senida. We must find our solution quickly or risk everything in a confrontation with the Makonga.
For its part, the Makonga does not feel like a direct threat from the stories we have heard. More the kind of thing that would keep overly-adventurous children in their beds at night. But if it controls monsters like the Lost Children, things that fight and kill and disappear when harmed… well then the Makonga clearly has more power than a mere children’s tale.
We will move as quickly through the city today as possible, and discover what clues we can. Gorung has told us that he and ClickClick will leave us at sunset. They are too frightened to stay another night, and I cannot blame them.
We brought this evil upon them. We have opened the door to their greatest fears. I would leave it at that if I could, if I were to be honest, but I fear that we would only draw this monster after us and be exposed. We have no choice but to stand and fight it, if fight it we can.
I have wasted enough time writing. The sun is up, the hunt is on.
The true wealth of Senida lay in its accumulation of relics. Only one of them was too large to carry off, so it was destroyed and left in shattered pieces where once it had stood strong.
What happened to the rest I cannot say with any certainty, but they are all gone. What was most fascinating was that each was given its own suppression box in which to rest. Suppression boxes are rare, as rare as Daedric Black Runes or ancient MARD devices. Each serves the same basic purpose – they keep the Atmosphere at bay, preventing any form of magic from taking place within its effective range.
Suppression boxes are one of the few obvious examples of the physical world having a direct effect on the metaphysical, which is covered at length in Hierarchies of Power. The physical composition of such materials is not well known, if it is known at all, and thus they are rarely created. Only Daedric alchemists tend to know the process by which they can be formed. Otherwise you must stumble upon one if you wish to have it.
But there were six in this city, and each was left behind. It makes me wonder if the people taking the relics even knew the value of the boxes from which they took them. If only we could carry them ourselves.
The purpose of the boxes is clear, whatever relics they contained were to be kept hidden or inert while in the houses of their owners. The combined value of it all is staggering. It could have created armies, floated armadas… why was it all kept secret?
Perhaps it was only in their combination that they could keep things like the Makonga at bay. Perhaps that was the very base cost of this trade and mining operation, one that had grown to become a wealthy city of its own in the process.
One thing seems clear from today’s excursion, we have no real protection from the Makonga nor its Lost Children. We must escape the city first thing in the morning and put as much distance between ourselves and Senida as possible. We can only hope that the monsters are content to take the city by night, and pray they will not notice three humble adventurers slipping away by the light of day.
Seeing its face is to look into the depths of sorrow. Its eyes dive to the very pits of human despair. Black. Soulless… the Makonga is worse than I could have ever imagined.
It does not come all the way to you. It stands in the shadows, on the cusp of your ability to see it, hanging in the darkness like a dream half-forgotten. But it is also half-remembered, like every monster to haunt one’s childhood just beyond the reach of one’s bedside candle.
The Makonga calls for you in a language only your heart understands. It reaches for you without ever lifting its withered arms. It sings to you without ever opening its dead dry voice.
The Makonga hunts us.
We made it out into the Akari Grasslands today, but had to set up our camp before even dreaming we could see trees. There are five days of marching ahead of us before we reach the jungle. If we can reach the jungle.
I saw the Makonga during my watch, my back to the fire, my sword in my lap. I saw the Makonga and I cannot unsee it.
The face is like a skull as the stories say. What they don’t describe is the sheer sadness of that face. It is lonely. It is broken. And it wants nothing more than the company of the living. This is its power, to compel its victims to join it in the darkness. To bid them come die willingly.
I can only imagine its power grows if it truly wears the face of a loved one, for I found myself thinking of everyone I have lost. Bolton, Kantoo, even my longing for Dionus was piqued by the phantom in the dark.
But chief among them all was Naline. To follow the Makonga was to be rejoined to her. I could hear the promise in my head, as if placed there by my own thoughts yet so out of place as to stand out: “Follow and be free.”
I wept, though I could not take my eyes from the beast before me. I did not wish to rouse my companions for fear that they might prove weak where I was barely able to hold on myself. But I cannot express the gravity of my loneliness in those hours, mingled with the terror that only a waking nightmare can concoct in the soul.
Finally I took to writing all this in my journal. Somehow I know it will not come for me, and I must do everything I can to resist its call.
The Lost Children haven’t approached, though I see them flit around the edges of the firelight. They wait for us to join them in their haunt. To lose ourselves to their master, whose thirst knows no end.
We must find a way to free ourselves of this beast, or we will all go mad.
To our immense surprise, Inifra appeared at the blood river today as we crossed it. We were shocked to see her outside the confines of the jungle. She looked fearsome. Angry. All she said was “It hunts you.” And then Dionus struck the water between us.
A monstrous thunderclap erupted around us as the shock of his descent cast us into the water. Then they fought.
The very air around us hummed with Dionus’ power. The water rose like snakes, writhing up and snapping off frozen daggers at him from all directions. He pulled the air down around him like a solid object to deflect the ice, sending his own whips against her in turn. They exchanged blows like this for agonizing moments. Inifra’s eyes raged with power. Dionus’ were lost behind his own.
She vanished into the river, reappearing elsewhere to unleash her attacks. Dionus flew above the surface, launching everything he had at her every appearance. Suddenly a whirring globe formed around him in the air, shimmering and spinning as if to capture the very light of the sun.
Then he cast it around Inifra.
Before she could react, Dionus plucked her from the water and threw her into the grasslands. Dionus arced up to follow and was upon her in an instant. She relented then. By the time we reached them she was pleading her case with an enraged, godlike Walker. Dionus stood above her, chest pumping from the exertion, fists clenched, cloak flapping around him. His eyes were glowing white.
I had never seen anything like this in my friend, the sheer power was stultifying. He was waiting for me.
Inifra said she had come to help, not to hinder us. If the Makonga was hunting us, she said, we were in need of greater help than we knew.
Why would she help us, Dionus demanded, not realizing that the rest of us were wondering the same thing about him.
She said the Lost Children needed to be confined to the Akari Grasslands, or untold damage would be done to her people. Even beyond her people, she said, the Nantese as a whole. She did not wish to fight, only to help.
I asked her to return tomorrow for our answer. As much as I want her with us, I cannot be sure I can trust her. What’s more, I need to understand Dionus and where he has been before I can feel assured that he will not attempt to strike out at her again.
We walked Inifra back to the river’s edge where she said “It hunts for murderers. That is where its hunger grows.” Then she disappeared into the water. As always I was left stunned at her departure, with more questions than answers.
We turned to Dionus. I was overjoyed to see him. My heart was made infinitely glad that he has returned to us, but why did he leave? What happened to him? Why did he return?
Dionus said that the winds had indeed been calling him. The fate of all Walkers, he affirmed, is that once they taste flight they will one day lose themselves to it. What he didn’t know, he said, was that he could surpass the calling.
He said he had taken flight the instant it became possible. Once free of the jungle of the Nanten, with blue skies stretching above him, he was overwhelmed with the desire to fly. The first few days were nothing but bliss, he said. He could conjure water from the clouds with ease, and for a while hunger never entered his mind.
But the day came when he realized he must eat, and though the thought of touching down was repulsive to him he managed to find some fruit and quickly take back to the skies. That was when he began searching for us. He said it was like a vague curiosity at first, as if we belonged to some distant memory that he wished to revisit.
But once he found us entering the golden waves he began to feel a pull that was distinct from the call of the winds. Something else in him was growing, something older.
He continued to fly, finding ways to eat without landing and even sleeping in the clouds. But every day, he said, he would check on us. He could see the gradual encroachment of the Lost Children over the bounds of the blood river. He could sense a growing danger surrounding us. As the danger grew, so too did the tension within him.
And then the Makonga was below. He knew it by presence alone, and the impulse to rejoin us became as strong to him as that for flight had once been. He watched, he waited, and then we left Senida. The fear for our lives, for that was what he now knew he felt, was growing inescapable. When Inifra had appeared at the ford, every threat she had made, every hint at her power, all of it came flooding back over him.
He landed then. He overcame the call of the winds to save our lives, and in doing so became more attuned with his Expression than he had ever been. He had been called a Master before, he said, but that had been premature. A misunderstanding of the Wind born of ignorance. Now he truly was one.
I asked him if he wouldn’t just leave us again, and he simply shook his head.
“Someday,” he said, “I will choose to resume the skies. Until then I am yours more completely than I ever could have been before.”
My friend has returned to us more powerful than he left us, and while I resent his leaving at all I am most grateful to have him back. I can barely fathom that he has returned… I had assumed him gone forever. If only Bolton were so lucky as to overcome the grave.
We will discuss Inifra’s involvement tomorrow, though I doubt we can turn her offer of help aside. If anyone knows what we are to do to rid ourselves of the Makonga, it will be her. What murderers it hunts I can only guess. In its own way I suppose that could qualify any of us. Inifra will have to tell us more.
Secretly, I hope for the chance to befriend her at last.
Before we had a chance to resume our discussion of Inifra, she was among us. The Makonga, she said, had removed itself from us until it better understood the new powers with which it must contend. The addition of Dionus and herself to our party, she said, was enough to buy us a day. Maybe two.
It was not enough to save us.
Starlark lashed out at her immediately, enraged. He was weeping as he shouted, unstoppable and inconsolable. He called her a liar and a witch, among other things. To Inifra’s credit, she stood solemnly through the entire tirade. She listened, never once looking away from Starlark. Finally, when his every insult and venomous spew was spent, she spoke so softly we could barely hear her.
“I understand your fears, for my people are terrified of the Makonga as well. So was I once, before my calling to become High Priestess, before my immortality was granted for a time. I am here as your servant and your friend, for this evil is one that all must face within the confines of the Nanten. We have been given time, and we must use it wisely.”
Starlark muttered that he had had his fill of friends and sat to the side to sulk. What are we to do with him? He only grows more distant with time, and no vein of conversation can draw him back.
I asked Inifra what she had meant about the Makonga’s hunger for murderers. She said that the Makonga is a beast of happenstance. It wanders the jungle, lost and alone, and only feeds when it stumbles upon a source of food. It keeps to the outskirts of villages or encampments until it has taken its first victim, and will attempt to build upon that success.
If the village realizes what is happening, she said, they can perform certain rituals that will drive the Makonga back into the jungle. She said that it can be blinded by them, and will thus continue to wander on as if the village did not exist.
Dionus asked her why we couldn’t just do the same now. If the Makonga could be confused, we should do whatever was necessary.
Murder, she said, awakens a hunger in it that cannot be blinded. Whether from some ironic inborn sense of justice, or a jealousy for its own methods of gathering food, she could not say. The Makonga can see murderers, she said. It will hunt them until it claims them. She looked at me as she said the words, as if she was actually worried for me.
The necessary materials, predominantly roots and leaves, were not to be found on the Akari Grasslands in any case.
Balthandar asked if we couldn’t simply kill it. He said that every monster has its weakness, why not this one?
She shook her head. If the Makonga were so easily dispatched, she said, it would have been done by now. The Makonga escaped from the Deadwood; that was the story that made the most sense to her. It was of the Third Tier, a creature more spirit than physical, and was thus beyond our power to kill. Someday, she said, it might be possible to trick it back into the Deadwood. Until then we must find a new way to blind or redirect it.
I asked about the Lost Children, and told her we had been led to believe they were servants of the Makonga. She denied that, claiming that while the Lost Children shared ties to the Deadwood, they were not the victims of the Makonga. They are weaker, however, and thus will stay away from us so long as the Makonga hunts us. Its presence has broken their natural boundaries within the Akari Grasslands, but as soon as it returned to the jungle they would be trapped again.
That came as a relief to me for the people of Senida. If we lead the Makonga to the jungle, at least they will regain their safety for now.
Inifra said that all we could do now was continue to move and attempt to turn the Makonga aside when it next appeared. How we would, she said, she was unsure. But we must try. That much was certain.
It was strange to spend the day marching with Inifra in our midst. She kept out ahead, marking good time and keeping away from conversation. The only time she spoke again all day was quietly to me as we made camp. She simply said to keep my wits about me, and then walked away and lay down to sleep.
Starlark sits across the fire from her, staring out from under lowered brows. It would seem he’s found an outlet for his inner torment, a replacement for Bolton in our party. I hope we can release that torment somehow before my friend is lost to me forever.