Entry 311 – Day 441

Entry 311 – Day 441

I will never get to see his home, not with him. I promised Balthandar that if we survived this, I would go with him to see the Summer Isles, to taste food in the land of the Spice Barons and sail small boats until my knees buckled. I promised him this over Mortuga meat, a bland meal from a beast with no name we killed in self-defense on the plains of the most hostile grasslands in the world.

Balthandar went through all of this just to protect me. Because he was my friend.

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My friendship got him killed.

It seems I am the one thing from which no one can be protected for long. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of my companions die with me in Matasten.

Wauloo has gone completely still and silent. He is the definition of subdued in the midst of his old captors. They know who he is, which might be the most troubling part. They recognize him, to a man, it’s in their eyes and how they treat him. Whatever function Wauloo served within Daedric Society, it’s one that gives him a level of fame among the followers.

They don’t even bother to tie us up during the day. Suppression relics are kept nearby at all times, and the sheer volume of Daedra around us inhibits even the thought of escape. We are truly lost.

We don’t speak. We can’t. What would there be to say? We have a long march ahead of us, one final captivity.

Even here, what is there to say?

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Entry 312 – Day 442

Entry 312 – Day 442

Dionus is certain we are being followed by the treeborn warriors of the Batsu. I don’t know why, but just the idea has given me some glimmer of hope. What they should hope to accomplish is beyond me, but suddenly I found myself assessing our situation for opportunity.

Inifra has been devastated by the loss of her warrior priestess, her bodyguard. She walked with me for a long while today, holding onto my arm as though it were the only thing that kept her from melting and vanishing into the ground beneath us. Her breathing remains uneven tonight and she is unable to speak. I’ve never seen her so undone. I sat with her and stroked her hair until she fell asleep, and even then she looks like she is in utter agony.

Timber sits with her now, watching over her. Watching over each other is all we can do for the moment, and even then we are incapable of action. Starlark did say they killed the man who harmed me. Perhaps if we can draw them into a fight of some sort it will cause dissention. Somehow I doubt we will have the chance.

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What of Nianatara’s reinforcements? I asked her if they would find us, surely they couldn’t miss the trail of destruction left by our protracted battle with the Daedra. She didn’t respond. She’s as devastated as Inifra, but her grief is intermingled with guilt. She deserves it. If she had only listened, we might have been prepared.

But that’s not entirely fair. We didn’t know the Daedra would strike out like they did. That was a horrific surprise for everyone. Still, why are they keeping her alive? Is she an expressionist, or do they recognize her as a leader among the Nantese? A few more of her officers have joined us in our march, brought up from other places in the Daedric force.

It’s a strange combination of relief and horror to see other survivors. Relief to know that we are not alone, the thought that perhaps yet more survived. Horror because of what awaits us all once we reach Matasten.

We need to find a way out of this, and sooner rather than later.

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Entry 313 – Day 443

Entry 313 – Day 443

We’ve been slowed significantly by a broad thicket of bamboo. I’m grateful for the impediment, though it means we’re off the path we followed down from the Batsu’s original camp. We must have adjusted our course towards the west yesterday at some point. It’s hard to maintain a sense of direction with the stench of the Daedra swirling around us at all times.

I hate these bastards so much, and now I’m surrounded by them. Worse, I am under their control. These are my worst enemies, the scum I was raised to exterminate, and now they have every power to snuff me out at will. It makes my skin crawl.

They won’t approach us, either. Only a few of them seem allowed to come close, and only when we slow too much. They prod us gently along, and then leave well enough alone. I get the feeling they would carry us if they had to, but they’re afraid of drawing us to harm. The thought crossed my mind that we should stage a fight to draw them close and then kill them until they subdue us, but it would be a wasted effort. And we would lose what freedom we have.

I cannot lose these journals. They’re all I have by which to stay sane.

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Nothing that comes to mind rises above creating petty brawls in any case. Certainly we could kill a few Daedra, which would bring me no small measure of joy at this juncture, but it would accomplish little to help us. It could only make things worse.

 

Inifra just told me a story for which I had to put down my pen, but now I want to write it down. Those women, her guard, the majority of them grew up with her. They were born in the same village, raised to worship Infiri, and began their apprenticeships at the same time.

Each of them was skilled, so much so that none felt they were exceptional until the day of her predecessor’s visit to their village. The girls were adept in the rituals of the water goddess, and most were excellent fighters. Without the context of any outsiders, none of them had thought themselves of any particular ability, but Inifra’s predecessor saw something else in them.

She spoke with the elders of their village and made a deal. If they built a shrine to Infiri and dedicated their efforts toward helping those in need nearby, she would initiate their girls into her priesthood and with that bring extra protection to the area. The village gladly agreed and were given two years to build the shrine.

Inifra said that they were so excited for the honor that they built it in six months.

When Inifra’s predecessor returned, she made good on her promise and began training the girls in her magic and refined arts of war. Most showed little promise with the magic itself. The exception was Inifra, who was very quickly singled out by her predecessor as the savant of the group.

What she owed her friends went beyond her life, she told me then. She tried to hide her ability from her friends, to shirk off the special attention she received, afraid of being abandoned for standing out. Instead, when her friends recognized her for what she was, they too pushed her to excel. They never grew jealous, she said, they never tried to hold her back.

Without them, she said she never would have become the high priestess. She would never have become Inifra.

“So many memories, some from my own life and so many from times past.” She sat silent for a long while, staring at her feet as we sat by the fire. “I never want to forget my friends.”

We sat like that for a while before she moved to lie down and sleep.

We have both lost dear friends in this place. Tonight it is my resolve to lose no more.

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Entry 314 – Day 444

Entry 314 – Day 444

Someone has attacked the Daedra on our northeastern flank. The shockwave of it was visceral, like the army was a single biological unit. They rippled and then moved into action, reforming around us to put their strength between us and whoever is pressing south.

Things are going to get desperate quickly if they feel threatened. Will they sacrifice us on the spot rather than lose us, or will they break away and force us to run? We could force them to carry us, but I fear what methods they will have to encourage acquiescence.

Our course has taken a westerly turn, abandoning the attempt to move any farther north. I wish I knew who was attacking. The ring of Daedra has closed in around us notably, but not enough to negate the sense that they are giving us an absurd amount of space. Could they fear us?

If only there was a significant break in their line. I can see through my left eye again, and Inifra’s ministrations have finally gotten me to a place where I feel I could run if I had to. Not long, but enough to break away. If only we had more potent healers among us. If only Balthandar was here.

My blood boils to write such things. Balthandar should be here and Starlark should be caught in the embrace of the Makonga. This will end, but not with my death. It ends when this nation falls and is reborn. I am the watch ringing the camp of humanity. I am the beacon on the mountain side. I am the blade in the hands of the gods.

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Come what may, I won’t die until this Daedric society is ground to dust.

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Entry 315 – Day 445

Entry 315 – Day 445

We’ve swung up to the western flank of the army. The remainder rests between us and whatever force presses in. Something huge is out among them, walking among the trees. Is that the weight Dionus felt before the Atmosphere was banished from us? They didn’t unleash it on us, whatever it was. Will they use it against this new foe? I wish I knew who was engaging the Daedra.

They’re fresh, whoever they are; their advance is compressing the Daedra into us. We would be bouncing off them if they weren’t dead set on keeping their distance.

Dionus and I began testing that resolve today. We stopped, folded our arms, and stared the bastards down as they advanced towards us. I hadn’t gotten that good of a look at them in days. It took every ounce of resolve I had not to throw myself at them and tear their eyes out with my bare fingers. Those eyes are hidden behind slits in helmets unlike any I’ve seen.

Covered in black leathers and random patches of mail, they look inhuman. Revolting.

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Those nearest us slowed, pressed from behind by comrades who couldn’t see, and a small panic rippled across their surface. Then one of the bastards carrying a suppression relic approached us from the side. He grunted something and gestured back violently. Dionus punched him in the throat in response. I picked up the suppression relic and shoved it in his gaping mouth and Dionus gave it a solid stomp that ended his thrashing.

That was enough to get some real attention. All weapons were discarded before fifty men encircled us. We were able to take down a few, though Dionus did most of the work in my weakened state. Still, I raged and kicked and bit until we were subdued by the sheer weight of their bodies. To their credit, I don’t think either of us suffered any new harm.

We were carried for a few hours after that. Eventually they put us down, gave us a pointed shove to the west, and then left us on our own. We might have to try that again, but my shoulder hurts worse for the effort, and I get the feeling we bought ourselves only a few seconds against the march. Not worth the risk, but satisfying to resist nonetheless.

We’re going to find a way to slow these bastards down. My vengeance will be swift when that time comes. Gods but I’m going to shred this jungle once I can touch the Atmosphere again.

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Entry 316 – Day 446

Entry 316 – Day 446

We’ve swung to the southwest again, progress slowing as the fighting intensifies to the north and east. Who the hell is it?

Nianatara’s treeborn have begun harassing our captors and are relentless at it. Arrows fall from above at regular intervals, small ambushes that dissipate as soon as the Daedra try to mobilize a response. They can’t shoot high enough, and every attempt to climb the trees is cut short by an arrow to the neck of the climber.

It’s a good sign. It means that the treeborn warriors have reconnected with their supply line, which means that at the very least it is the Batsu who are chewing away at the eastern flank. I wouldn’t be surprised if Salisir brought Oroun to our aid as well. He did say to give it a month, and it’s been well over that.

We might make it out of here yet. If only they don’t murder us for our blood in desperation.

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Entry 317 – Day 447

Entry 317 – Day 447

They unleashed that beast on the treeborn this morning. It was huge, walking on all fours but with larger arms than legs. They moved it closer to us, but I think they’ve been trying to hold it back this whole time which makes me fear that it’s magic-seeking. As soon as another ambush was let loose on the Daedra the monster was set upon the treeborn.

It’s huge, black, like some misshapen ape with the facial features of a bat. It leapt twenty feet up the trunk of the nearest tree and climbed so fast that the treeborn barely had time to shoot at it before it was among them. It threw at least a dozen to the ground before they were able to retreat. I think it took the Daedra an hour or more to coax it back down.

The fight was quick, and the sight of those poor souls tumbling hundreds of feet to their death was sickening. We need to figure out a way to kill it if we can, or at the very least keep it distracted. Balthandar would have loved the challenge. Damn Starlark. And Inifra for letting him go. Would that she had tried to save him, this would have all gone so differently. And if Nianatara had only listened… it does no good dwelling on all of the mistakes that led us here.

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We still don’t know how to make any real impact on Daedric movements. At this point we are only able to watch and wait for an opportunity to present itself.

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