Entry 226 – Day 351

Entry 226 – Day 351

We have discussed escaping Hembila’s escort at length but have decided against it. Perhaps there is a way we can profit from Salisir’s alliance with the Sondu. They know the region, they can offer us advice, and it seems likely that, with their help, we will avoid pitfalls into which we would otherwise tumble headlong.

What’s more is that I feel compelled to meet Fodafa after observing his younger brother. Hembila leads well. Exceptionally well. Perhaps our search for a leader truly does end in Motasta. That would ease my mind, regardless of whatever we must do on our own. Knowing who will sit the Oaken Throne after all is said and done is a major step towards restoring the Nanten to its former glory.

Entry-226-Quote Hembila leads

I have come to hold that desire close to my heart. I don’t know if it was Inifra’s influence or if I have simply come to respect her people, but seeing their nation restored has become a true goal of mine. It coincides brilliantly with my primary directive, that of destroying the Daedra in Matasten. More than that, it is a way of making a lasting difference in the lives of these people.

The calling of the Tetrarch is a high one, but I am coming to realize that it is too high. What good is saving the world from the Ascension of Demons if the world we save only consumes itself from within? Our aim as the Tetrarch should be double-edged, with creating stable societies around the world conjoined to our mission of saving them.

If only I could impress this upon the Tetrarch. Being cut off from the world in which one was immersed turns out to be the surest way to gain a clear view of it. Unfortunately, it is also the most certain way to entirely lose one’s influence over it.

Should we succeed here and survive, perhaps I can return to make that impact. After all, it would be difficult to ignore the man who singlehandedly restored the Nanten Kingdom.

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Entry 225 – Day 350

Entry 225 – Day 350

Two of our escorts fell into an argument this morning that escalated quickly into a fight. They were impossible to separate until Hembila arrived on the scene. They quieted at once and stood waiting for judgment like children caught stealing.

It was fascinating to watch him listen to their explanations, even though I couldn’t understand a word they said. He was calm and listened patiently until each had said enough to satisfy himself. Hembila’s rebuke was soft, but devastating. It was all that was necessary to get them to embrace and seek reconciliation. I doubt either will act up again for a long time. I was impressed.

If his brother is anything like Hembila, perhaps Salisir’s judgment is not misplaced.

Entry-225-Quote-Argument

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Entry 224 – Day 349

Entry 224 – Day 349

Hembila is surprisingly well educated. He walked with me all day, and though no conversation was forced I found myself falling easily into it with him. He is regal in his bearing. He tells us that their family is the direct line of the Arbor Kings of old. The Sondu made Matasten the Sapphire City, and he intends to see it restored to that glory under his brother’s reign.

I asked about his reference to the Oaken Throne yesterday. Salisir was the first person from whom I had heard such a name. I told him I had seen no oak of which to speak in the Nanten.

Entry-224-Quote-Hembila

“That is why it is so valuable. The largest oak in all the world was found in the forests of Ba’hral, carved into a throne of one solid piece, and given to our forebears as a gift from the Prince of Ba’hrain. Soft wood is invaluable in the Nanten. Why do you think we build little from wood, but prefer clay, bamboo, or stone? These trees are difficult to fell and impossible to mill. Some of their branches are used to make canoes, musical instruments, or even works of art. But to build an entire house from this wood? It is simply not done, nor is it worth the effort.”

I hadn’t really thought about that. I told him that wood is ubiquitous in the villages of the Old Empire, but that much of the cities there are made of stone as well. What I found lacking in the Nanten, I ventured, were roads.

“Roads kill everything underfoot. They are a way of destroying for the sake of convenience. Perhaps this jungle makes for slower travel, but nothing needs to die so that we might pass.”

Since we are to meet his brother, I asked what we should expect him to ask of us.

“My brother’s plans are his to disclose, but he will listen to you. I hope he does, for he listens too closely to this Salisir and, like you, I do not trust him.”

“We’ve been told his is not the only claim to the Oaken Throne,” Dionus said.

“His is the only legitimate claim, and you would do well to remember this when speaking with him. My brother is a good man, but he is proud. These usurpers are a source of anger for him. We will unite the kingdom again, but for that to come to pass there will be blood spilled on both sides. It is the way of civil union forged from the ruins of war. No one will exit this generation with clean hands, but we can protect the consciences of our children.”

We will have to keep that in mind for when our plans to visit the Batsu are revealed to Fodafa. The players in this game are as ruthless as Salisir led me to believe. I only hope he knows what he is doing in putting his hopes behind the people of Motasta. I found it reassuring that Hembila doesn’t trust Salisir either, but wonder what that means for us. Suddenly I want to earn Hembila’s trust myself, especially if Salisir never did.

Entry-224-Hembila

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Entry 223 – Day 348

Entry 223 – Day 348

The Latala have been run off, yet I am not so certain we are rescued. We seem to have exchanged one set of captors for another.

A patrol from Motasta found us this morning, led by the second brother of the Sondu family: Hembila. The Latala must have known they were coming, which made sudden sense of why they had resumed binding us. They made us run before we knew what was happening in an attempt to escape. Some stayed behind to act as a rearguard and skirmished with the approaching Motastans, but we only found out about that later.

Hembila Sondu led a flanking maneuver that headed us off. The Latala attempted to scatter us, but the Motastans were too numerous to be so easily circumvented. Rather than fight, the Latala fled, leaving us to our fate with the Motastans. They took their suppression relic with them. The relief that flooded into me with the return of the Atmosphere was like water sating a week-long thirst. It left me tingling for hours.

Hembila is spear-shaft straight. His bearing is righteous, but not nearly as condescending as one might expect from such a description. His men show him great deference, and he spoke kindly to us in the common tongue – which he speaks very well.

Entry-223-Quote-Hembila-Captors

We told him we were trying to reach the Batsu. He recognized the blue blade on my armor and asked why we were not with Salisir. Was he not our friend? We were on a different path, I told him, but our goals are shared. He nodded, then told us he was obliged to refuse our passage. I think we all bristled visibly at that because he put up his hand to ask for patience.

“There are dark excursions to the east,” he said. “They come south from Matasten with impunity. We came north to disrupt them, but we fear their activity this deep into our territory means they have found Expressionists we were unable to bring safely to Motasta. It is impossible to pass safely east. We have given up on traveling there ourselves, for their numbers are far greater than we have seen in a very long time. You are very lucky we stumbled upon you.”

When he asked what the Latala wanted with us we were forced to admit we didn’t know. His men found our packs and weapons nearby, which they returned to us, and then Hembila asked that we accompany them to Motasta. I asked him what choice we had in the matter.

He was very cautious in his answer, which he gave after a moment of deliberation. “I only ask that you meet my brother, Fodafa. His goals are much the same as yours, I am sure, and he would expect you visit him if you pass through his land. He is the rightful heir to the Oaken Throne and king of all this land. If, once you have spoken to him, you find your path leads you on, you may pass in peace.”

I agreed, mostly because to refuse was to fight, and to fight was to ruin a potential alliance. They are not who we wish to befriend, but we cannot so quickly dismiss potential friends in the Nanten. Over everything else, I simply do not want to fall back into Salisir’s plans. I also fear that these men will attempt to use us to their own ends.

Perhaps we can use them first.

We begin our final march to Motasta tomorrow. Let us hope we can leave in peace from there.

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Entry 222 – Day 347

Entry 222 – Day 347

The motives and sympathies of the Latala remain an undiscernible secret. They have bound us again, though we don’t know why, and they no longer withdraw entirely from us at nightfall. We were freed to eat in camp, but I have a feeling that as soon as I put down my pen I will be tied again.

All the more reason to write for a while.

Oddly, I can’t think of what to put down. The paper is blank and refuses to change.

What awaits us at the end of this march? Why do we continue east as we had intended all along? I wish I had my sword close by. I don’t think it would be wise to try our luck against the Latala in our current condition, but it would bring me comfort to rest my hand on the hilt.

Bitterness. Perhaps that’s what keeps my mind blank. There is so much upon which to reflect, from interacting with a Titan to the very real probability that there is a Daedric society mere leagues from us tonight. There are mysteries to unravel and dangers aplenty, yet I find myself dwelling on my pack. My ‘brothers.’ The men who watched me enter my exile and spared not a breath to oppose it.

I suppose I cannot blame them. I was a pariah to the Tetrarch, and their association with me was strong enough as it was. We fought and bled together for over a decade. I suppose I expected more protection from them. Together we functioned as a more cohesive whole than any other team I’ve been a part of. Even Dionus and Balthandar cannot hope to understand my thoughts as they once did.

We were a single fighting organism, alive and growing on the deaths of our enemies. We shared something special. There’s a reason we were regularly stationed in Sterling. If it wasn’t for our proficiency we would never have stayed, and I would never have met you. Had I not met you, I would not have had the opportunity to teach you what I was able.

Entry-222-Quote-Slience

Had I not come to love and befriend you, Marsuvius, I would not have been so disappointed when you too remained silent at my sentencing.

I have been so thoroughly abandoned.

Even if Dionus or Balthandar never congeal with me into the whole I once knew, they have one thing over every other person I have ever known. They have taken my death upon their own shoulders and are carrying my burden where no other dared. They are the truest friends I could ever hope to have.

I hope we make it out of this alive.

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Entry 221 – Day 346

Entry 221 – Day 346

We march with the Latala. They are lethal; it’s clear in the way they carry themselves. Each of them has bloodied his or her hands; the lingering presence of death is visible in their eyes. They’re killers, all of them, perhaps even moreso than we. They come and go from the trees like wraiths of the Deadwood. Silent, intent, and dangerous. It is rare to see one for more than an hour, and I’ve only seen each once or twice. There must be dozens traveling with us.

There are always six within reach of us. Our packs and our weapons, however, are carried out of sight. We only get our gear back at the end of each march, and our weapons have remained hidden since they took us. They are cautious. I would go so far as to call them professional.

Their leader is only marked by his bearing. The others treat him with respect, but he seems to accord himself no real honors or privileges. We only see him in camp, and only for a few minutes before he disappears into the night. He seems to want to assure himself of our condition before retiring.

Entry-221-march with the Latala

My mind is awash with possibilities. They could very easily be taking us to some Daedric post to trade or sell us. They might be working for one of the three nations Salisir told us about, and perhaps they are bringing us in as mercenaries. They obviously knew we were Expressionists, and perhaps the arrows were a test to see of what sort we were.

They could be taking us for some purpose of their own. The villagers we met some weeks ago described them as nationless, between the light and the dark. If they’re independent, then, what can we expect from them? Perhaps their true leaders have hopes to use us for their own war. Perhaps they have their own purpose for our blood.

Entry-221-Quote-March

Gront the Titan was right; we are too dangerous for this place. Our very presence might sway balances we don’t understand in ways we cannot control. We are cards to be played from a deck that is unbalanced at best. I have never felt so completely like an asset to be traded as I do right now.

If we are lucky enough to be traded and not killed or eaten.

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Entry 220 – Day 345

Entry 220 – Day 345

They took us completely by surprise. We could have recovered, but they have a suppression relic unlike any I have ever seen before. Balthandar and I were on watch when something thunked into the ground between us. It looked like a dagger. Its hilt was thick enough to be a spear, the tip of which glowed like fire caught in a gemstone. Instantly I could feel it. Something was wrong.

Nets fell as we scrambled to our feet. Heavy nets. Dionus awoke and tried to lash out, but nothing happened. I couldn’t get my sword untangled before they were upon us, striking and knocking us to the ground. I tried to shift time but there was no response; we were completely cut off from the Atmosphere. There was no power upon which to draw, like trying to use a limb only to discover it dismembered.

Once they disarmed us and bound our arms, they set us aright and began the march. They were silent and difficult to see in the dark, so there was no telling their numbers. They didn’t respond to any of our questions, but their guidance was sure. We didn’t stumble once.

We marched for a few hours before they sat us down together in the darkness and disappeared. Still they remained close, as did the relic. We were unable to move on our own and removed from our power. There was nothing to do but sleep, so sleep we did. If they wanted us dead, there was nothing we could do in any case.

Entry-220-Quote-Relic

They marched us all the next day. Their faces are stern, with hardened features and long narrow noses. Their dark skin is lightened subtly by a blue paint. The designs are reminiscent of the KoraKora, a fact that caused me no small distress upon seeing them. But they remain gentle with us, if stern. They continued on the same path we would have chosen for ourselves before having been spooked to the south.

I remain ill at ease, but our reception by their leader was disarming. We arrived in their camp late in the evening and he made certain we were well fed before sending us to sleep on thick mats of grass. They didn’t unbind us last night, but they were kind.

They remained silent at all times; that, along with the paint, maintained their ominous force of presence. The next day they marched us again, moving as quickly as we might on our own. Sometime in the afternoon one of them cut our bonds, eyebrow raised to remind us not to take advantage. It was tempting, but we were outnumbered. And that blasted relic was ever present. I believe there may have been more than one, but I couldn’t tell.

We made camp tonight and they wove fresh grass mats for us. They still refuse to talk, and it’s clear we remain their prisoners, but I don’t know what to make of it. Are they delivering us to someone? The fletching of their arrows marks them as the ones who shot Balthandar the other day, but they show no intent to harm us now.

They have disappeared into the darkness again, but they have permitted us a fire. We too remain silent now, afraid of what they might understand. We will do our best to come up with a plan without speaking, but so long as their numbers remain a mystery and that relic close by, we are at a grave disadvantage.

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