Entry 296 – Day 425

Entry 296 – Day 425

Woads attacked the northern flank of the Batsu camp this morning. There must have been over a hundred of the beasts that threw the people into sudden and complete chaos. There seems to be nothing to them beyond muscle, teeth, claws, and bloodlust.

Wauloo knew they were coming somehow. A full minute before the attack he began to whimper, then suddenly ran off to hide in a tent far to the south. It took us hours to find him after returning from the scene of the attack.

By the time we made it there, the last of the beasts were being put down. They just kill and move on. As we walked back through the carnage, pulling survivors out from hiding and investigating the damage, it became painfully clear that the monsters were not killing for food. Each corpse incurred just enough damage to be lethal then was left in the search of fresh victims.

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Scouts were sent out into the canopy of the jungle to search for more trouble before it arrived. How the Woads made it through the perimeter without being spotted remains the mystery that plagues Nianatara’s captains.

How did Wauloo know they were coming? He’s been tainted more deeply by his time with the Daedra than he had already shown – even Nodora, who lived her entire life in Matasten, showed no real signs of the wear that reveals itself in Wauloo daily. Now more than ever, I know I need to keep him close.

I dare not voice this, but I hope that Nianatara will see the need for action more clearly now that she has suffered a direct attack. Things will only get worse from here and if she continues along her chosen path, her people will suffer all the more for it.

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Entry 297 – Day 426

Entry 297 – Day 426

We are out on our own, facing a madness we cannot even yet fully comprehend. A threat of a size that would consume us entirely if only we brushed against it.

Nianatara has put us out with no lack of stern words. The threat of the Daedra may be real, she said, but so too was that of our presence among her people. She called us to council and blamed us for the appearance of the Woads, claiming they sensed us and came questing. I was dumbfounded. In truth, she could very well have been right – it stole my words to be caught so completely defenseless.

It only took a few more minutes of shouting between those assembled to decide our fate. Surprisingly, there were more than a few who opposed Nianatara in front of us, but in the end her will won out. We were commanded to leave immediately.

Any association with Salisir was enough to condemn our efforts from the beginning.

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Why she even bothered to allow us among her people in the first place is a mystery, but Inifra thinks it was to appease Salisir long enough to get him to leave. I suppose she had that figured right. Are we to follow him now?

We travelled a few miles west and made camp as night fell. I am still dumbfounded. It’s the only word that captures how I feel as I stare at these pages in the flickering glow of the fire. It dips beyond exhaustion, reaching past my desire for the alliance of the Batsu and striking at the knowledge that we may have caused those deaths yesterday. Practicing with Wudan in the midst of their camp… but how were we to know there were Woads nearby?

Everyone was caught off guard.

We should head north soon. Once we reach the place where Salisir left us, we will do our best to find the path he took to the Yatusu. At least Inifra will get her chance to see Oroun in person. She’s fascinated by their way of governance, but that fascination has been stolen along with our hopes of aligning with the Batsu. Looking across the fire at her now, she’s as downcast as I am.

No words are shared around the campfire tonight. Whether our thoughts linger with the victims of the Woads or the shattered hopes of a fresh alliance, we are all of us defeated in a new way tonight.

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Entry 298 – Day 427

Entry 298 – Day 427

Woads in the jungle, a Daedric Prince at its heart, and no clear signs that there will be a unified effort to stop this madness. We face a long fight in the best of conditions, a painfully short one with a bloody end as it looks right now.

I feel cynical, defeated today. Of course Nianatara would want to keep hiding – cowardice has served her people well to this point. Why change course even as they speed towards the cliff? There have been no cliffs over which they’ve flown so far.

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Is this really from a lack of trust in Salisir? Would everything be different if he were somehow no longer involved? Why should her dislike of the man lead her to such foolish action? I hate him, too, but even I can see when the benefits outweigh the detriment of holding so closely to my pride. There is no profit to be found in denying his friendship now – he’s the only one who seems capable of bringing the impending war to a favorable close.

Wauloo is getting fidgety. The farther west we move, the more furtive his glances. The quicker his fingers fumble amongst his clothes, winding and unwinding, tying and untying. His nerves are getting on mine.

Dionus has been trying to formulate a plan to get into Matasten, but there isn’t a way. None that any of us can see. We need the chaos of war to cloak our approach. We need friends within the city; more than that, we need friends to get us there safely.

If we were home, we would know what to do. It’s amazing how completely helpless a change of context can leave us. We are certainly out of our depth and unable to cope with the challenges before us tonight. Let us hope the right opportunity to change our fortunes arrives, or the walls of Matasten will remain unassailable before us.

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Entry 299 – Day 429

Entry 299 – Day 429

I’ve been shot, and the black tide surged upon the wake of the arrow. To make matters worse, I think Starlark is alive… it was he who tried to kill me.

Dionus barely registered the passage of the arrow as it sped through the air. He reacted too late to deflect it, but quickly enough to knock it off course by a few inches – a few inches up and away from my heart. Two more arrows followed so quickly behind as to be instantaneous, but those Dionus batted away. The first took me from my feet.

Then the foliage between the trees in the distance turned black. Thousands of Daedra came pouring through the jungle, the rise and fall of their feet suddenly rumbling beneath us. They had been held back in waiting and then launched at us on cue. Wauloo had been acting strangely – if only we had foreseen why.

Dionus and Balthandar immediately made to run, but with an arrow clean through my shoulder I wasn’t able. I could feel the Daedra then. The weight of their presence corrupted the very air around them, every step of their approach strengthening the stench and the fear. They closed quickly. Then Dionus grabbed Wudan’s hand.

He drew to full strength and spun the winds around us until they solidified. As the Daedric warband roared up to us, Dionus pushed off from the ground and shot us eastward, back through the trees and over the canopy. It was exhilarating and sickening all at once, branches cracking and snapping until we were above it all, flying higher than any man has a right.

We landed to the south of the Batsu camp, Dionus shouting for Wudan to release his power even as the winds continued to swirl around us. He grabbed two of Inifra’s guards and told them to run north. They had to warn the Batsu.

“They’re coming for Wauloo,” he said when he finally knelt next to Balthandar in front of me. The Islander broke the shaft and rolled me onto my stomach. I don’t know who stepped on my back and who pulled, but it didn’t come free easy. The warm gush that followed was as unwelcome as any of the day’s surprises.

“They’re coming for Wauloo,” is what I tried to say in agreement as they stripped my armor and patched me up. At least I tried to say so, but it probably came out as more of a groan.

“More than Wauloo, this is an invasion,” Balthandar said. “They’ll be here in a day, two at most. There were thousands.”

“Tens of thousands,” Inifra said, offering to help Balthandar as he sutured me up. Just a few quick stitches, but Balthandar isn’t one for half-measures. “It went through the bone?”

“Starlark,” I said, pointing to the fletching on the arrow. Blue. The shaft was made of oak, not a wood one would find in the Nanten. Unless he carved them from the Oaken Throne itself.

“Impossible,” Balthandar said. “Starlark is dead. Even if he weren’t, why would he help the Daedra?”

“He’s not dead,” I insisted. It was hard to speak, my breath was short and the pain sharp. “Who else can shoot from far enough away that Dionus wouldn’t sense him release?”

“He’d have to hold position for a long time to pull that off…” Dionus shook his head. “He could have done it, but Balthandar is right. Starlark is dead.”

“Starlark is not dead,” Inifra said at last. We all looked at her, waiting for her to continue, but she seemed unwilling until Dionus made an exasperated gesture. “I watched him go. I thought the Makonga would take him, but somehow… it did not.”

“You let him go?” I reeled from the shock. She let him go.

Starlark, we thought you were dead. Did you come back to find us gone? Had we abandoned you so completely that you would betray us? Betray humanity?

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I motioned them away at a loss for words. Balthandar came back for me with a litter between himself and one of Inifra’s guard. I didn’t say anything as they loaded me into it. Couldn’t. I think I slept until we arrived at the Batsu, and even then I didn’t bother to speak. Some captain from the Batsu guard came and yelled at us, trying to shoe us away, but they worked things out.

I couldn’t write in my journal. I wouldn’t have eaten if Balthandar hadn’t shoved the food into my mouth.

It’s taken me until now to find the strength to pick up my pen. Starlark is alive, and Inifra knew this whole time.

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Entry 300 – Day 430

Entry 300 – Day 430

I lost a lot of blood. It feels like I’m drunk.

Nianatara took plenty of time to yell at us yesterday as though this sudden invasion were our fault. I suppose in a way it probably is, but it was precious time she could have spent mobilizing her troops. I can only hope her generals and captains aren’t so caught up in casting blame as their leader.

They’ll be here by morning if they don’t attack in the night. Much of the tent city has been packed and moved, though I don’t know the positions of the troops. I don’t know the position of the enemy, either. I’m helpless, lying with the baggage in position to be evacuated as soon as things go sideways.

I wouldn’t let them remove me with the rest. I want to be close. Gods know what I can do though.

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Perhaps that’s why he shot me. Vengeance has its place, but it’s what Inifra told me so long ago – they fear me now in this jungle. Could it be that killing me was the whole point? I wish I was as developed in my skill as they seem to think I am. I would have gone back and kept myself from getting shot instead of stumbling around in shock.

I need to sleep. Nianatara has promised to send a Sympathetic Healer to get me back on my feet, but she has yet to find one. Rare as they are here, I’m surprised she has one ferreted away. Alchemical Healers are only going to cut the time necessary to heal by half at best, and I don’t have that kind of time. Time…

Without Wudan, I’m even more afraid of using my skill. The lack of control I have over my power is glaring when contrasted to wielding it with Wudan’s help. He and Wauloo were pulled back from the front with Balthandar to watch over them in case Nianatara got any foolish ideas. Timber has gone to the front to test her skills. I worry for her most of all.

Inifra… how could she do this to us? She let Starlark leave in hopes that it would sate the Makonga’s thirst, and in that betrayal created an enemy we would never have thought possible. Of course he would come at the forefront of an attack. Of course he would be the one to warn them of my power and stalk me to my death.

But what happened to him to change him so completely? He was ruined, yes, but to become a Daedric follower? I nearly threw up just writing those words… Starlark… how could he?

I can’t dwell on this any longer. The Daedra are coming in force, and we are alone in the jungle without allies. Damn Nianatara for her foolishness. Damn her bloody eyes.

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Entry 301 – Day 431

Entry 301 – Day 431

I can hear the fighting in the distance. Surprisingly it’s erupting in short skirmishes that fall back as quickly as they rise. I was expecting the Daedra to come rushing over us en masse, but it would seem that the Batsu’s treeborn strategies are throwing them into disarray. What I’ve heard through various reports has been promising on the outside, that the Daedra are divided and struggling to deal with the attacks from above, but things look dismal in the long run. The sheer volume of Daedra is overwhelming.

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I’m able to sit up for long periods of time and move some without growing fatigued. Whatever Nianatara’s healers have in their mixture is working. They think that the arrow was poisoned and thankfully know the antidote. If only I could regain my strength quickly enough to be of use. Wounds to the bone are terrible, though this one in particular seems befitting its source. Betrayal makes it doubly bitter.

I’ve been moved back twice, which bodes poorly on its own. The full force of the Batsu is still far to the east; this outpost is not enough to stand against real contention. I don’t know how long it will take for reinforcements to arrive, but a retreat now would result in a route. We’re committed to this fight. There will be no withdrawal to safety, for the Daedra are equally committed. This is to be a blow that will render the Batsu crippled. We must not let them succeed.

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Entry 302 – Day 432

Entry 302 – Day 432

We’ve been pushed back over a mile as best I can tell. Each advance of the Daedra is intercepted as quickly as possible, but there are too many probing attacks to stop them all quickly enough. The Batsu grow weary, and with it their reaction time slows.

Thankfully the casualties remain low according to Nianatara’s official reports. She’s begrudgingly brought me close to her command post, marked only by a large fire and a handful of tables covered in maps. I can’t deny the spike of envy I felt as I looked a few of them over. They appear to be accurate.

From what I’ve seen so far, the Daedra have flattened their attack into a single front, though their northern and southern ends continue to probe for openings to surround and outflank us. While reinforcements remain a few days away, resupply has arrived in the nick of time, keeping the Batsu’s quivers full and their healers equipped.

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Traps have been dug behind us, more set in the trees above. Once we are pressed to retreat behind them they will be activated. The way they’re described to me, I almost feel pity for the poor bastards that will fall into them. But then they are Daedra, and that helps me wish for an even crueler end.

But Starlark? What of him? There have been whispers among the Batsu of the ranged ghost, a man who can pick them off at will from great distances and never be seen. He is probably the single greatest threat to the fight right now, thinning the ranks of the Batsu climbers more than any assault from the ground.

Only wisps of blue, they say, reminiscent of the legendary Latala. That’s all that has ever been seen. I think it strikes the fear into them twice over to know that they are not alone in the tops of the trees.

I can’t tell if I feel more anger or heartbreak over these rumors.

Gods, but the misery of knowing my friend is out there… and that he is no longer my friend.

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