Entry 304 – Day 434

Entry 304 – Day 434

The Daedra have broken through our line. What’s worse is they’re beyond the traps on our northern flank, rendering them useless to us as a defense. Nianatara has pulled us back and activated what traps remain of use to the south, but we are forced southeast now. Any farther and we will be cut off from both resupply and reinforcements.

Fireballs crashed through the undergrowth into our midst this morning. It doesn’t bode well for our hopes that there are no expressionists among the Daedra, but there were only three and then silence. What else do they have in store?

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It would seem that they’re relying heavily on their numbers to win out, which it seems is increasingly probable. The stench of them is overwhelming now, both alive and dead. Any closer and the fighting will be within sight of Nianatara’s command.

Timber came to check on me today and fell asleep next to me. She’s transformed in the last few days; she looks taller, leaner. She’s becoming the woman and shedding the child. The weight of the killing is there on her, but it is overwhelmed at present by the satisfaction of coming into her own. I hope that balance doesn’t swing soon. Coming to terms with what we are is a costly battle that I pray she doesn’t enter into any time soon.

We need to find her a better sword than the Klotian blade she carries.

More fighting nearby. It sounds close, to the south. If they’ve broken through the line of traps there too, we will be outflanked.

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Entry 305 – Day 435

Entry 305 – Day 435

I’m able to move on my own, but not quickly enough for the evacuation. There is a fortified location to which we flee, but whether we will make it is another question altogether. All of our defenses have collapsed. The treeborn units are swarming as a rearguard to slow the approach of the Daedra, but slow is the best they can hope for. They are a magnificent fighting force to say the very least.

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Salisir’s plan hadn’t taken into account the possibility that the Daedra would strike first. It makes perfect sense that they would want to fight a divided foe. If only the Nantese had allied themselves sooner.

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Reinforcements are not only too far off, but are now separated from us by the advancing darkness. I only hope this hidden fortress is sufficient for our cause.

We have caught up to Wudan and Wauloo, the former grateful to see me and the latter avoiding contact. He has been shackled. It would seem Nianatara felt as uncomfortable with the man as I did. Balthandar says he would have protested, but Wauloo’s behavior had turned erratic with the approaching battle. The terror runs along the tension in his neck as he strains against unseen hands – he’s gone mad.

We may join him soon enough.

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Entry 306 – Day 436

Entry 306 – Day 436

This place is useless. I don’t know what Nianatara was thinking, but we’ll die within days here. I guess that explains why we didn’t fall back until the point of desperation. Her fortified rallying point is little more than a cave with a series of overlapping walls built out around it.

The water source runs underground, which would make it ideal for a protracted siege if it wasn’t exposed to the surface some three miles north. Once the Daedra figure that out, they can foul the water and force us out. There is also scarcely enough room for half of us inside.

The rest of our force is arriving steadily as Nianatara’s engineers work to fortify the walls and build traps. There is an open clearing directly north where I imagine the bulk of the fighting will be done at first. Once they realize we’ve dug in, however, I expect we should be surrounded and steadily crushed.

The number of Daedra has been officially declared uncountable. There is no way to know how many are coming, but without reinforcements there is little hope at this point. I can’t even console myself with the idea of taking any down with me. I am still useless to this fight.

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This was not how I intended for things to end, but I suppose I never had a say in the matter. Let’s hope Nianatara’s generals are faster-moving than she gives them credit.

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Entry 307 – Day 437

Entry 307 – Day 437

We are as packed into this place as possible. They call it something that translates as the “Blind Eye,” which seems about as positive a name as one might expect given the circumstances. The Daedra are close, they have begun sending raiding parties south and are working to clear the area around us before settling in for their full assault.

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The bastards are far more organized and disciplined than I would have expected after our previous encounter. This is not going to go well. The traps set around us have begun to spring, and I’m told that they are effective, but all told we are just nipping at the fringes of a monster. Most are heavily reliant on pits laid with spikes, much like crude cavalry traps back home. They can only work once.

Wauloo has gone berserk. He’s been taken to one of the deeper caves and chained for his own safety after he tried to take the Seventh Death by throwing himself into one of the pits. Thankfully it was as yet unfinished, or perhaps he would have ultimately done us a favor, but only time will tell. So long as he doesn’t find a way to betray us in the end, we need to protect him.

Wudan has been kept deep within the Eye as well, though not so far as to be inaccessible. Between the two brothers, we are presented with our greatest conundrum yet. Should we face defeat, none of us should be permitted to be captured alive. To be taken to Matasten for sacrifice would be detrimental to the fate of this jungle. So how do we handle the possibility?

I know for myself I would rather Balthandar rammed a spear through my heart, but what of Wudan? How can we kill the boy in good faith? Perhaps it is the right thing to do, but how can killing a child ever be right?

Wauloo at least is making it easier on us. I have no qualms killing a grown man who’s as likely to betray us as he is to piss himself in a fight.

Hopefully that moment is averted, but so far the steady press of the Daedra has proved unstoppable. Give it another few days, and we may have no choice but to turn on ourselves and finish this.

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Entry 308 – Day 438

Entry 308 – Day 438

Things are getting truly bloody now. The fight has compressed, with a small no-man’s-land forming around us for a few hundred yards. Forays out have been met by such an oppressive presence of Daedra that they have been abandoned altogether.

If only chance would unleash Bangara upon them. The only thing keeping them at bay is our treeborn defense, but they are steadily losing out to Starlark’s persistence.

Worse, Starlark is in range of our line and there is nothing they can do to stop him. He moves freely through the trees above the Daedra and picks off whoever he pleases on our front. It’s demoralizing, and if he keeps it up the Daedra will be able to break through with much greater ease.

Nianatara is exploring options for escape, but I doubt she will find any. The question was finally posed: Why not just move through the treetops if the Daedra cannot follow? It sounded promising, except we would have to leave behind the wounded – including myself. Only her elite troop has the proper equipment to move quickly, and any mass exodus would be slow, cumbersome, and vulnerable to attack from below.

But what chance do we have in this tiny hole? With pressure on all sides we will either crack or solidify, and unfortunately I’m certain the latter is impossible.

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As for the wounded, there are depressingly few for how steadily the casualties occur. Most are killed, and poison is distressingly common among the weapons of the Daedra. It presents less of a problem logistically, but the emotional toll is immense. Normally it would be the cries of the wounded and their added burden that one would fear overtaxing an army in battle.

In this case, the true cost is the stark manifestation of death looming inescapably among the trees.

I’m glad the children and their caretakers were evacuated as soon as the camp was hit. It leaves these warriors uninhibited for the fight ahead, and in their cornered state I can see them hardening. They’re going to die well, but I do not see a way out of this.

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Entry 309 – Day 439

Entry 309 – Day 439

The Daedra pierced our defenses in the night and were barely repelled. The casualties were catastrophic, so bad that we can barely man the puny defenses surrounding the Blind Eye. Nianatara has given the order that the remnant of her elite are to retreat as soon as we’re overrun on the ground. I had hoped she would take the risk to move us up into the trees, but now it is too late. There aren’t enough left alive to defend the transition skyward.
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And so it is under this Majestic Sky that we meet our fate.

Dionus quested out in the night to find Starlark, but came up empty handed. There is something in the ranks of the Daedra, he said, something that has a heavy pull on the Atmosphere. Something dark. I have yet to feel it – the sheer weight of the Daedric presence on its own has been enough to blind my senses. Perhaps that is the point. Gods, there are so many things we don’t know about Daedric Society and now I’m going to die without ever being able to share what little I’ve discovered.

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I’ll try to join the defense on the wall tomorrow. I’m able to move well enough to make it there myself, even if wielding my sword is out of the question. Just a few more days with Nianatara’s healers and I could be ready. Damn Starlark. Damn the Nanten and damn this bloody exile.

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Entry 310 – Day 440

Entry 310 – Day 440

What can I write? Have I made things worse or better? I couldn’t kill Wudan. I could never kill Wudan, and now we will see what price there is to pay for my weakness. We will all pay for it now.

The assault came at dawn, what one can call dawn in the gloom of the Nanten. Their hidden Fire expressionist launched a series of high-arching attacks that completely preoccupied Dionus for the first wave of the assault. It came from all directions at once and did not stop.

Even through the last rain of treeborn arrows they pressed into us until they were upon our line and weighing against it. It was a slaughter, both sides churning up against each other and drowning the forest in a cacophony of the dying.

Wudan cowered next to me as I tried to watch for my friends. For any way to help. And then in desperation I reached for his hand. Time slowed to a stop and the clock appeared before me, as much in reality as a mental image, then I cast the chains. Instantly, Inifra and her guards, Dionus and Balthandar were pulled into the perspective of time as I saw it.

I shouted at them to do their worst. They threw themselves into the press of Daedra before them, hacking and twisting their blades, setting reactions in the wind and waters around them that would activate with the resumption of time’s passage. I could feel Wudan begin to buckle, to draw away from me, but I pressed him harder. This was our only chance.

I called for them to come back, but they were spread out. Working their way through the ranks. Isolated. Then Wudan collapsed and time resumed its pace. Two thousand bodies dropped as one.

But still the Daedra pressed in from ranks unseen, momentum unchecked from the instant they froze to the one they thawed. I screamed for my friends to retreat but it was too late. Inifra’s priestesses were consumed. Dionus launched Balthandar back, then leapt above the fray and unleashed a brutal series of attacks. Nothing could stem the dark tide.

They came on, pouring over the corpses piled between us, and a howl erupted from them unlike anything I had ever heard. A chant. A song. A blood-curdling, feral mingling of animal ferocity and inhuman bloodlust. Then they were upon us.

Balthandar found Wudan and me and shoved us into a corner, the bodyguard in him taking over in the moment. Timber rushed over to us as well, making her stand with her old protector. I could barely keep my feet and fell just as Wudan passed out behind me.

The Daedra were upon us in an instant. Dark helms covered their eyes, red streaks aglow amidst blackened hide and dark leathers. The stink of them. The sheer terror.

They rushed between the walls like water into a sinking ship, crashing against each turn and flowing towards the center. The first died before they ever reached us, Balthandar’s spear lancing out so fast I couldn’t see it. Red wounds opened throats and the bodies dropped only to be trampled. Timber spun and twisted the Klotian blade, opening up any who made it inside Balthandar’s reach.

A bright spurt of red shot out behind him. Balthandar stumbled back a step. Just beneath his skull jutted a speck of imperial steel. He managed another thrust before a second arrow took him in the eye, and Balthandar went down.

My screams were lost in the press of rotting bodies as the Daedra took us. Blood seeping between the raised lines of his tattoos, the last thing I remember before the Daedra beat me unconscious.

I awoke on my knees with a suppression relic three feet in front of me. My left eye was swollen shut, but I could see leather boots just another foot beyond that.

“Told them all about your little tricks at Zorga’s fortress. I didn’t see them myself, of course, but I heard about them. Always knew there was something special about you. Something that stank. Makes sense you’d be so damned good with a sword when you can cheat time.”

I couldn’t even bring myself to say his name. I would have thrown up.

“It’s too bad Dionus saved your life. Tactical move to kill you first of course, but it would have kept you from the worst of it. That’s about the only concession I could have offered, but now that they have you there’s no way they’ll let you die on them. The poor sod who blackened your eye got skewered on the spot for wasting blood.” He spat on me then, squarely on the top of my head. “Turns out you’re as precious here as you are back home.”

I would have killed him, I thought, but I knew I couldn’t. I don’t know what Starlark has become, but I couldn’t turn against him as completely as he has turned on me. He stood there for a long while waiting for me to speak, and when I didn’t he gave a short laugh before turning away.

“You won’t see me again, don’t worry; my job here is done. You were my end of the bargain, both bargains, and now that that’s finished I can go home. Very economical for you to be so precious, Marceles. So very very precious.” He watched me for a second longer before walking off. “Die well old friend. The Daedra keep their blades sharp just for such occasions.”

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I blacked out, I don’t know for how long, but I awoke with my face on the ground and was pulled roughly to my feet. Dionus was there, bound but alive. I was so happy and yet so sad, if he had died he would have been spared. There were over two hundred Batsu chained and amassed, pressed closer into one another as more were brought in from other parts of the Eye.

And then a priest came forward. Silence fell over the Daedra, standing erect and motionless as statues. The priest was different, body wrapped tightly in cords that normally hung loose. Horned mask replaced by a tight iron helm, the teeth of which reached down over his face to his chin. I could not see his eyes.

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He moved to the first prisoner, sniffing loudly, then prodded her in the stomach. A Daedric follower stepped up as the priest moved on and rammed his dagger where the priest had prodded. The woman’s cries were muffled by another follower’s hand.

The priest moved to the man next to her. He sniffed at him, bending at the waist and moving his nose down the man’s quivering body. The priest shook his head, then drew a finger across the man’s throat and moved to Timber. I hadn’t seen Timber until this moment and my heart sank. Behind her the man’s throat was slit as the priest began to sniff at her. I wanted to launch myself at him, to strangle him for putting that filthy nose anywhere near her, but it was all I could do to stay on my feet.

As the body of the man dropped behind Timber, the priest nodded and gestured in the distance. A follower stepped up and pulled her away from us until she disappeared into the crowd.

He was hunting for expressionists.

This horror continued, the majority of the survivors slain as the priest went about his search. In the end there were so few of us left. Wudan, Wauloo, Dionus, Timber, Inifra, Nianatara, two healers I recognized, and three other Batsu I did not. We are all of us in terrible shape.

The Daedra marched us north until nightfall and then gave us a wide berth to set up camp. They are around us in every direction for what feels like miles, though they stay clear of the light of our fire. We are captives of the most monstrous force on earth, and they are leading us to be slaughtered in Matasten.

Balthandar is dead, and Starlark is the one who killed him.

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