The lower levels are where they keep their prisoners. Inifra came to us in the middle of the night to tell us. She asked us to find a way to help them escape. There is no destroying this place without assuring the safety of the prisoners first.
Apparently the dungeon is overflowing, so sections of their dry storage have been reassigned to hold their human wares. When the KoraKora mobilized they took their demand for human flesh with them. If they don’t return soon, Zorga will begin executing the surplus.
It makes me feel better to know that the KoraKora are nowhere near, but now we have to find a way to get those young men out of there. Images of that first encounter with the KoraKora, watching them eat a young man alive… I cannot permit that to happen again. Not when I can do something to stop it this time.
We continued exploring today. Dionus suggested that we use the girls to sneak off into some of the more discreet areas of the fortress. They seem willing enough to help us in exchange for our attention, but I decided against the tactic as we do not know if they are spying for Zorga. We should assume they are. Dionus is just picking up on some of Starlark’s bad habits.
Instead we have done what exploring by daylight we must to know our way around, and have left it at that. We spent the rest of the day swimming and eating, trying to appear as carefree as possible. That was where Zorga’s spies come in handy. Enjoy them, I told my companions. Spend the day with them so they have nothing of note to report. We will do our real exploring in the night.
Inifra continued to pay us no attention during the day, and again ignored us at the evening feast. Zorga watches everything she does. What he is hoping to catch I cannot say, but whatever it is the two of them are playing a dangerous game. Timber has stayed right by Inifra’s side. I was glad to see that. Zorga’s servants had dressed Timber finely as well, and she seems quite calm for her expressed hatred of the man.
It turns out most of Zorga’s lieutenants speak the common tongue after all. Apparently they are no longer trying to overhear our conversations at the table, realizing that we aren’t about to divulge anything in the open. I asked one of them who built this fortress, and he said one of the early Kings of the Nanten built it to prevent the Klotians from entering the land.
That, he admitted with a chuckle, was an obvious failure. But so too was the Nanten Kingdom as a whole.
Now, he said, it is the capital for the King of the Mountains. He pointed at Zorga drunkenly as if I didn’t know to whom he was referring. I asked him why they feared the KoraKora, for the fortress seemed impregnable to such savages. He sobered up at that and said that Zorga fears no man. Then he muttered something about needing another drink and walked off.
No one talked to us for the rest of the feast, although we were coaxed into a few of the dagger throwing competitions. I won those easily, which led to even fewer interactions. It didn’t take long before we were ushered back up to our tower.
I can’t help but feel uncomfortable, angry even at the amount of food that is wasted in this place. There are thousands of starving Nantese within a few days march from here.
I need to sleep for a few hours before we begin our search for the entrance to the lower levels. Whatever other curiosities I have about this place can come later. More likely they will never be resolved at all.
There are hundreds of men in the dungeons, and over a hundred more in the level above them. They are all chained down, kept for the return of the KoraKora in unbearably tight quarters. They stink. It appears that their waste is washed out daily with buckets of water, though it’s not nearly enough. Drains run along the floor and straight out into the waterfall beyond.
There is no way to get rid of that smell completely.
We had to break off into three directions to best avoid detection. Balthandar and I both found our way into the dungeon at separate ends of the fortress, but there appear to be a number of partitions with locked doors. The most challenging in the form of a solid, load-bearing wall that cuts the dungeon in two main sections.
There were few guards, none of which were awake – even in the barracks. This would seem to be the benefit of the smell, for none of the guards were within the dungeons themselves. Still, I doubt there is any concern among the captors of escape.
What proved most useful was Dionus’ discovery of the original plans for the construction of the fortress. They had been located in Zorga’s offices at the top of the central keep. Locked from the stairs, Dionus said with a smirk, but the windows were wide open.
They show two potential routes out of the fortress for the captives. The first and easiest is a side door in one of the pantries that leads out to the western shore of the reservoir. It comes out immediately under the northwestern tower to a path used for supply carts. There may be guards in the tower, but we should be able to deal with them. The other route leaves from the dungeon itself: the sewer that the drains run into.
According to the drawings, the sewer should have ledges on either side wide enough for a man to crawl. Balthandar’s main concern about that route was whether the water levels would be too high, and if the captives would have the strength to swim against its current. Failure to do so would lead to a drop that none of them would survive.
But for those in the eastern portion, there is no easier route out. For them to exit upward would lead into the barracks, and from there the inner courtyard. They have to go down to get out.
Balthandar said he was content with what we had accomplished. Dionus seemed almost giddy to be helping people for once instead of killing them. Granted there will be killing involved in the process, but I think he relishes that just as much. That was as far as we got before we started falling asleep.
We spent the day surrounded by servants again and unable to speak freely. Inifra came to us during the evening feast for the briefest of moments. “The rains are coming,” she said quietly. “Do it tomorrow, during the feast.” Then she continued on as if we didn’t exist.
Zorga made another speech, though this one was longer and had nothing to do with Inifra. He reminded his men of an upcoming raid, worked them up to a chanting fervor, and told them to gird themselves for a hard fight. No one had stood against him in all his years. He said that with a sideways glance to Inifra. No one could stand against him now.
I don’t understand the game that they’re playing, but it seems as though each is preparing to wrest the hearts of these men from the other at the earliest opportunity. To what end, only Zorga’s motive seems clear. I do not understand what Inifra could hope to gain by winning any of these bandits over.
Seeing her up there, being ignored by her as I sat below, I realize now that it was eating at me. In the moment I felt irritated. Restless.
I challenged our table of Zorga’s lieutenants to another game of daggers. I didn’t know how else to release my frustrations, but I wanted to beat someone at something. So I did. None of them volunteered until I started offering wagers of silver, though. That got their spirit up.
There are two games they play, one that resembles the dart games we play at home: throwing a dagger at the ring of a tree and scoring higher the closer you hit to the center. The other was more fun: breaking clay pots or skewering thick gourds tossed in the air.
I even played a round with a blindfold on, feeling as cocky as Starlark might have been at an archery competition. Winning didn’t make me feel any better though. The tightness in my chest just built, the lack of satisfaction growing with each victory. Each stupid, meaningless victory. Gods it was frustrating, and I don’t even know why.
I did make off with a nice pile of trinkets and jewels, however.
When we got back to our chambers, and Dionus was certain no one was listening through the walls, we began formulating a plan. He had hidden the drawings high on the wall behind a tapestry – it’s unbelievable how useful it can be having a Walker around.
Tomorrow, during the feast, Dionus and Balthandar are going to lead their own escapes through the two routes we have established. They are going to make themselves appear quite sick during the day, which should provide the perfect cover for their absence at the feast. Then they should be able to kill the guards and start breaking chains.
We haven’t seen them change guards during the feast. It seems that drawing guard duty means missing it in its entirety. Dionus and Balthandar will just have to wait for the guards’ food to be taken down and then there should be no interference at all. I will go to the feast to keep my eyes on Zorga and alert Inifra when the captives are safe.
Dionus will go to the western half of the dungeon and the men kept in the storage above that. He will lead them out through the pantries under the kitchens. Balthandar, being the strongest swimmer among us, will take the other half through the sewers. Once at the reservoir, they will lead the captives out and over the mountain path that we are able to see along the western ridge.
It all seems straightforward, and unless things change dramatically tomorrow we should have no difficulties in pulling it off. Dionus will kill any guards in the northwestern tower that he sees, and when the captives are safely away from the fortress he will send a wind into the central hall to alert me.
That’s when I hope that Inifra will enact whatever plan it is she is withholding from us. If she doesn’t, we might never leave that feast to join our companions.
Gods, what have I done? I had no choice when I revealed my power today. I cannot bring myself even to write more than that, but it is done, so what’s the use in hiding it any longer from even my private written thoughts? Part of me hopes that somehow the secret is kept, but I know it can’t possibly be.
Dionus and Balthandar ran into their own separate problems tonight while breaking the captives free during the evening feast. For one, a handful of servant girls thought that they would take advantage of their weakened state and see if they could win any favors off of my companions while they rested in their chambers. It took them a while to convince the girls that they only wanted to rest, having pretended to fall sick earlier, but I believe that the whole encounter raised suspicions.
The two of them were finally able to sneak down to their entry points into the dungeons, arriving well after the guards’ food had been delivered and eaten. Balthandar decided not to kill the guards at his entrance in the barracks as they were already drunk and asleep. Dionus killed his and hid their bodies before unchaining the first captives.
During all of this I sat alone at a table full of Zorga’s most loyal men. None of them showed any of the levity towards me that they had in nights previous. Even Zorga finally rested his eyes on me. He had ignored me the entire time we had been in his fortress, but tonight he watched me.
Dionus had his captives unchained and ready to move within an hour. Balthandar was able to move a little more quickly as he had fewer captives to free. His problems began in the sewer. The water levels were high enough to wash over the ledges upon which the captives were to crawl. The captives were weak from their imprisonment and initially quite reluctant to move. He had to practically force them to form a human chain, pushing each captive from behind so that they propelled each other out.
Dionus’ problems began when the servant girls returned to our chambers. They hadn’t bought the act and returned with two guards. Of course they found the rooms empty.
I was confronted shortly after this, just as I was trying to break the tension of my table by challenging my neighbor to a game of daggers. “Where are your companions?” I was shaken from behind by the two guards. I told them that my companions had been sick. Perhaps they were walking the ramparts to get some air.
Zorga turned aside from his conversation with Inifra and asked what was happening, then demanded I be left alone. Surely there was some mistake. Regardless, his guests were not to be mistreated. What I didn’t see was he quietly sent men out to search for Dionus and Balthandar.
Dionus was already beginning to filter the captives from the storage rooms to the pantry when a pair guards arrived to investigate. He killed them both and immediately began to rush his captives out.
When others arrived at the barracks they initially thought that all was clear, as Balthandar had left the guards there alive. Only when the two sent to storage didn’t return did more get sent into the lower levels, including the dungeon through the barracks.
Balthandar had most of his captives in the sewer by then, but they were struggling to move towards the reservoir. He found himself defending the opening to the sewer as well as the last few captives from a sudden and continuous flow of armed guards.
Dionus’ captives were out and moving towards the ridge by this point, as best we can guess. He was able to spot and kill any guards that appeared in the tower, but soon arrows were raining down from the ramparts as well. I’m not exactly sure how Balthandar got his captives out. He still refuses to speak of it hours later, calling the sewers “An unspeakable shame,” but it must have been challenging with the wound he received on his left thigh.
It mustn’t have taken long for Zorga to figure out what was happening, but he didn’t act immediately. He was smart in that, for he didn’t reveal his mind until Dionus sent his signal.
But he had stopped ignoring me.
“Do you like our little kingdom? Little, at least, in the great expanse of the Nanten,” he asked me. I answered that I had come to appreciate its beauty, and the majesty of the trees. It was unnerving that he would speak to me suddenly.
That was a very appropriate choice of words, he said. The trees were where the Nanten got its name. “Did you know that? In the old tongue of the jungle, in the age before it was unified as one kingdom under the Arbor Kings in Matasten, ‘Nanten’ meant ‘Majestic Sky.’ We have no need for the open blue of the Akari Grasslands or any realm beyond. We have our great Majestic Sky, black and pure, to guard us day and night.”
He smiled then. I have never been so chilled by any smile in all my life. He knew, and I saw it in that wry look. “It is a dark sky that protects dark men. What sky will protect you this night, Ocada?”
Dionus sent his signal then. The wind came straight in through the hearth, blowing embers and smoke out into the hall to provide cover for our escape. It was too little too late.
Zorga was already standing. I saw it happen so slowly. My scalp tightened in fear, realization of what he was doing, but I was too late to react. He had a blade hidden in his sleeve, one that extended beyond his hand with the flick of his wrist. He buried it in Inifra’s spine, just below her skull.
I didn’t see the blade, but I knew it when her eyes rolled back. He raised his arm and she slumped forward. He was shouting for his men to grab me. Shouting that Inifra had betrayed them, had freed the men from the dungeons.
I could have fought them off. I could have killed the lot of them in the confusion of the smoke and ash. I could have escaped just like that, but I couldn’t bring myself to let Inifra die. I couldn’t hide any longer…
I can’t write it. I have never told anyone, and now when all hope of secrecy is lost, still, I cannot bring myself to write it.
We escaped. That will suffice for tonight. I got Inifra out of there alive as Dionus began to assail the ramparts with an unhindered fury. And then the rains began to fall. I have never seen rain like the rains of the Nanten. It came in sheets, in rolling vertical waves, and then Inifra transformed into something else.
We ran to the ramparts where I allowed Dionus to cast Timber and I onto the shore of the reservoir. But not Inifra. She rose above the ramparts of her own accord. Suddenly she too could fly. It was the rain, I realized. She was surrounded by her element in the purest form imaginable.
If I didn’t believe she incarnated a goddess before tonight, I will never doubt it again. She rose up and flew out over the reservoir. She turned slowly, her eyes aglow, white mists pouring off her body and mingling with the cascade of the rain. And then she boomed.
A shockwave rolled out from her, casting the rain straight at the walls of the fortress. It struck so hard that the very mortar between the stones was shattered. She did it again, and again, and each time the fortress shook. Then she lifted the very waters of the reservoir beneath her and rolled them hard.
The fortress could not hold against the swell of the water. Steadily the whole structure broke up, giving way and falling over the cliff to the darkness beyond. I had never seen power of that magnitude. I was stunned. I am still stunned.
She came to us then and collapsed on the shores of the draining reservoir, unconscious. We had to carry her to the caves where many of the captives were still hiding.
We are alive for tonight, but so many questions remain unanswered. So many risks have been taken, and to what end? To save a few harmless young men from a grisly fate? I almost lost everything tonight, and may have still lost my greatest advantage. All because I couldn’t let her die.
Gods help me. This woman had better be worth it.
Dionus’ face paled when I explained to him what happened at the feast. What I did to save Inifra. What I did to Zorga and his men. He alone knew my secret, and he knows precisely what I have lost.
This cave is small, one of many in a cluster that housed many of the captives we freed last night. Most of them spent the night prostrated around our cave, paying tribute to the unconscious priestess within. The goddess. Come dawn, they all fled. I imagine, and hope, they have returned to their families. They are safe from Zorga now, and from the KoraKora – at least for a time.
Inifra regained consciousness late in the afternoon, but was too weak to continue today. One more night and we should be able to resume our march. I was able to ask her questions soon after she awoke. First and foremost, I wanted to know what she had been doing in Zorga’s fortress.
The Nantese respect proven gods like Infiri, she said. Even if they don’t worship that god or goddess, once their power is known their priests are treated with great deference. The only major tribe to defy this custom is the KoraKora.
Thus, knowing she would be recognized, she was unconcerned for our safety. It was Zorga she needed to understand. She needed to see whether he was deferential or not, and she needed to know what he was up to so she could undo it. The reason he ignored us was simple, she said. To openly extend the hospitality he owed her was to elevate us to her level. To do so would put himself beneath us.
That was how she immediately knew what kind of man he was. His men feared her, and it is beyond bad luck to assail a holy priest to whom hospitality had been extended, so he was caught. He couldn’t openly show his hostility – hostility, she said, born of a knowledge that Infiri was a goddess who opposed the KoraKora and all that they practiced.
Freeing the captives was her main goal, for she knew there would be some in the fortress. She did not realize how many there would be. She also did not realize just how loyal Zorga’s men would be to him. Had they been less loyal, or perhaps more superstitious, she would have demanded they kill him and disband.
But that would have been difficult regardless of their level of fealty. She knew that she needed us to get the captives out surreptitiously, and then we could deal with the rest.
Why the games then, I asked. Why didn’t we just band together and slaughter the lot? We had been there for days. Certainly we could have discussed it, gone into it with a plan of attack, and made it out in half the time.
She said that wouldn’t do. She wanted the reach of Infiri to spread farther east, and this was the opportunity by which to accomplish that.
I was furious.
I demanded on the spot if we had risked our lives just to spread some religious propaganda?
“My goals were never different from those I shared with you. How one accomplishes their goals, however, leads to different results. I wanted those men to see me, to know me. Those who survived will tell the tale of how Infiri, goddess of river and lake, crushed one of the great strongholds in the Nanten to save the weak. They will fear me more. Had they not known me before I struck, no greater gain would have been had.”
I left then and went for a long walk along the emptied reservoir. I don’t even remember finding the rock upon which I now sit.
We risked so much just to spread the influence of some backwater goddess? I confess that what I saw yesterday was impressive, and Infiri deserves to be known more widely. But my friends could have died. Inifra did die. And now I may be exposed, all to press the agenda of this water goddess.
I can still see stones of the foundation in the waters below me. The only remaining markers of our accomplishments. I wish this rain would stop, but it has continued without pause since it began last night.
Accomplishments. What did we accomplish last night? Were those lives worth what we risked?
I knew that entering the Nanten was an exercise in futility. No one will ever know what has transpired under this ‘Majestic Sky,’ this oppressive canopy of green turned black. No one will know if I lived to accomplish any of this, or died within minutes leaving the Blight Sea.
But is that what matters? What people back home know and think of me? Can I truly clear my name, even if these words ever reach the Old Empire? I am doomed to obscurity, lost to humanity. Destined to the futility of this jungle and all of the unimaginable threats it has to offer.
Perhaps Inifra is right. Perhaps the lives of the weak are worth the efforts of the strong. Perhaps I should have risked more sooner in order to save the few I have encountered already. Certainly, I am stronger than most within this jungle. There is much good we could do.
But that doesn’t negate the necessity of finding and ending whatever Daedric presence is at the heart of the Nanten. Even if we forget our quest to find Salisir, we cannot ignore his path entirely for it is our single best clue to that very presence. A Daedric society, if one has truly taken root here, will be of greater consequence than ten nations of KoraKora.
Yet the KoraKora are at the root of so much of the evil we have encountered. Without them there would have been no mutilations. Kantoo would have still had two legs. These villagers would have never lost their sons. Their daughters would never have been impregnated in such horrific ways.
Still, what good can spot justice do in a landscape of such perilous inequality? Gods save us, but we will die in this place for no reason regardless of what path we choose. And no one will ever know it. But I cannot allow myself to believe that this is truly futile. I know it is, I have known it since my sentence was passed, and yet I know that somehow there is good that will come of it all. Known or not, I will accomplish something in this jungle that will resonate throughout history.
But I want to control the story they tell of me here. Inifra wishes for hers to resonate throughout the jungle. I fear that mine will be carried along with it, my secrets laid bare.
I should get back to my companions. We need to leave this place early tomorrow, before the KoraKora catch wind of what has happened here.
I cannot stop thinking about how Inifra utterly destroyed Zorga’s fortress two nights ago. The rain continues to pound the jungle around us, often coming down in isolated waterfalls from the canopy above. Each drop serves distinctly as a reminder of Inifra’s hidden power.
Hidden power. My expression… gods.
The incessant rain makes it difficult to keep the pages of my journal dry. The mountains are lost to us already as we march north. It took half of the day to descend, but already we are back in the relative flat we have come to expect from our overlong time in the Nanten. Inifra said that the mountains we had entered continue directly east for a few leagues, but it is not a very long range.
Will the KoraKora hear of us soon? Will they know it was more than just a priestess that uprooted their protectorate and come looking for us? Their chief has sworn himself to our destruction. How far will he go to fulfill that vow? Destroying his supply lines as we go cannot ease his hatred of us any.
I had to explain what happened in Zorga’s hall to Inifra, for she saw enough to know what I am. Balthandar seemed unsurprised, though I doubt he ever had any inclination. Perhaps I didn’t do as well as I thought at hiding what I can do.
But no, I must have. Inifra would have known if I had let my guard down. She would have sensed it.
I am a Timeshift.
I’ve never written that phrase. I’ve barely ever spoken it. I am a Timeshift and I am exposed, but gods it feels good to write it.
There are a lot of stories about Timeshifts, and a lot of misunderstandings as to what it is we are capable of. I feel as though I can finally share my story here, though. I have longed to unburden myself for decades and if I cannot do it in this journal, which no one is likely to ever read, then where else can I?
It felt so freeing to tell my companions today.
When I was a boy, probably around the age of seven, my mother realized that I was a Pure. I had a natural connection to the Atmosphere, my ability to interact with it was expressed without training or the need to study. She could sense it before it fully manifested; before I knew it myself.
In her wisdom she kept that knowledge a secret as she waited and watched. She didn’t take it to the Silver Council, though it is required by our order, for she knew she needed to see what my expression would be before she could trust anyone with the knowledge.
It was when I was almost to my eleventh summer that I first skipped. It was only a few minutes. I think I was bored at the table as my father pontificated about the glorious history of the Tetrarch. Then suddenly he was off in the kitchen. The lecture was over. My mother was the only one still sitting with me. If she hadn’t seen my reaction to the shift, no one would have known. I had skipped forward in time.
Little is really known about Timeshifts, for the ability has never been formalized into an expression. It is too dangerous. The consequences of its use can be grave and far-reaching. I know this all too well myself already.
But in that moment I simply skipped forward. My mother took me aside immediately and began to test me. To push me. She made me swear I would hide my ability and never let it show. To do so early would be to invite a quick death. To do so later would be to give away my greatest advantage.
To keep something like that a secret at such an early age is no small task. I wanted to use it, to brag about it to my friends, but I was forbidden. The powerful, my mother told me, seek to use all expressionists as their tools. But Timeshifts they kill, for there is no controlling those who control time.
I should explain now what my mother barely knew then: Timeshifts do not control time. I control my perception of time and carry my consciousness with me as I shift time around me. With practice I have been able to pull even my body along with my consciousness to a degree. This is more dangerous than you can imagine however, because my consciousness can only handle so much before I black out. That is when I skip.
If time moves too quickly or too slowly around me, if I go too far in either direction, I can lose my connection to my consciousness entirely and awake once time has resumed its normal pace. Assuming I am still alive.
In this way it can be an advantage: When the world slows down around me I can see more, hear more, and react more quickly to whatever is happening. There are any number of advantageous applications like this, but the danger is that the more I use it the more I weaken my anchor to reality. Someday I won’t be able to control my perception of time. On that day I will suddenly find myself an old man, withered and dying with no memory of the life behind me. Or I will simply shift time beyond my death and cease to live.
Moving backwards, I affect if not alter everything I have ever known from that point. Then, in moving forward, I do not know how far I can go without completely losing my grip and being unable to return.
So hiding my power is an act of self-preservation, both to keep it from those who would hunt me for it and because someday I will simply lose my grip on the present. I have already experienced my first jitter, my first uncontrolled shift of time both forwards and backwards in rapid succession. I do not know when something like that will happen again.
So I understand Tarsh, Bantish, and Prestorn better than any of them would have guessed. They hide their abilities to avoid discovery, to avoid the tyrants of the Nanten. But they can still use what abilities they have when they must. I, however, must remain conservative to the point that I practically never use my abilities. To do so is to play with forces I still don’t fully understand. To reveal my ability in this place is to risk losing what advantage it gives me where they are already so few.
But when Inifra died I could not hide any longer. I took the greatest risk I can and I moved backwards in time. There is no knowing what the consequences of moving back in time will be. If my consciousness had broken then, and I lost control of time’s speed around me, I do not know how far back I would have gone. Once there, to return to what I knew would have been impossible, for that one shift would have changed everything from that point forward.
I shifted time back just before Zorga stood. As Dionus’ signal struck the fire I resumed time’s forward momentum and slowed it. I reached for a throwing dagger as Zorga began to stand and threw it into his arm so hard that he was carried back into the fire.
I didn’t stop there. I was so angry. So scared for Inifra.
I kept time slow, gods I kept it so slow. I’ve never held a shift for that long.
I ripped through those godsdamned bandits. I could see their every move, their every intention. I never use my ability in a fight, and if I ever come up against another Timeshift I absolutely will not be able to. But in Zorga’s hall I slaughtered his men before they knew they were under attack. I finished the last of them just as the ash began to settle.
I was exhausted but invigorated. I had done something I thought was impossible and kept my mind intact. Focus, I realized. All I needed was this intense focus driven by my fear for Inifra.
But who knows if and when I will have that level of concentration again? I certainly do not want to need it. But it felt so good to be myself. To do what only I am capable of and save the life of the woman I… of this woman who… to save Inifra’s life.
Using my power only makes me want to do so again.
I felt so uncertain today. What do they think about me now that they know what I am? Do they hate me?
Are they wondering why I didn’t save Bolton from his death at Starlark’s hand? Why I didn’t stop us from entering the Deadwood once I knew its danger?
Why didn’t I go back and not kill Lystra?
I couldn’t do any of those things, though. That’s what no one could understand, and why I wish no one knew what I was. If I had saved Bolton, the KoraKora would have known me for what I was. And the Deadwood, that was too much too late, and to what alternative? We were so far in before I knew. I didn’t know which risk was worse, going into the Deadwood or going back to avoid it with the KoraKora right behind us.
Lystra… I didn’t save Lystra because I meant to kill her. I meant her to die, whether physically or from the heartbreak of her loss. Of the shame she would endure for having loved a Daedric follower. I may not have meant to run her through with my sword, but the result I wanted was the same in the end.
I hated her so much, and only because I had loved her so intensely.
I didn’t care enough for Bolton to take the risk. Saving his life was not worth revealing my advantage. Should I be ashamed of that? I have spent my entire life assessing situations, calculating risk, deciding whether I absolutely needed to use my ability or not. I never did.
A pattern formed over a lifetime of conservative decisions is not so easily altered.
And yet why did I save Inifra? They must be wondering that now. He saved the priestess whom he barely knows, yet would he save me?
I kept to myself most of the day. This rain has made it so hard to sleep and is causing my mat to fall apart even more quickly. Strangely, I find that I need it less and less. Perhaps soon I will be able to do without.
Until then, I had best try again to sleep while I have it.
I asked Inifra how long this rain is going to last, to which she simply shrugged. “A month?” She thought about it for a second. “Maybe more. I always hope it’s more.”
I can understand why she hopes that for herself, but I certainly do not. Inifra seems to walk taller with the rain cascading around her, as if she is lighter for the added weight of the water. She intentionally steps under the tree-formed waterfalls, and sloshes through the runoff and standing water at every opportunity.
If she wasn’t so elegant I would liken her to a child for her glee.
She seems so very content with how things played out in Zorga’s fortress. She doesn’t seem to realize the level of risk at which she has placed me.
For one, no one knows what expression counterbalances a Timeshift, but that does not mean someone in the Nanten has not figured that out. Secondly, even if they cannot neutralize my expression (which fighting another Timeshift would effectively do), they can plan for me accordingly. All they need to do is ambush me, kill me before I know I’m in danger, and it’s over.
If a true enemy knows what he’s dealing with, he will not allow me to see him coming.
If he is a Timeshift, he will know that he can fight me man-to-man. While I am not terribly worried about the loss of my advantage in a fight like that, for I never use it in any case, it does mean that what is effectively my last resort is taken from me. It also means that if he is clever enough, he will lock me into a fight with himself while his co-conspirators attack me as they can.
I have never fought a Timeshift, but my mother did what research she could when I was young. From what she found: if two are in the same place and one uses his ability, the other’s perception of time instantly conforms to that of the first. Thus if the one slows time down, the other will see and experience time in the same way. Supposedly the Atmosphere locks time to both if they are close enough to one another.
I don’t know if that applies to the abilities they have built up around shifting, or only the actual shift of time itself. I also do not know if there is an aspect to the skill I do not know. All expressions come with at least two balancing powers, but I do not believe shifting forward to be the counter to shifting back. I think ‘Shift,’ is one power. I have heard the name ‘Chronos,’ in rumor only, but I have yet to discover it for myself and I am too scared to explore enough to find it.
Gods, I hope that word of what I can do does not spread. I keep replaying that night in my mind, trying to see if there was any man in that hall that I left alive. If there was anyone who could have escaped before Inifra pushed the whole fortress over that cliff.
If I did leave any of them alive, it is too late now to do anything about it.