Entry 318 – Day 448

Entry 318 – Day 448

The Daedra have stopped moving altogether. In fact I think we have been pushed south today, though I cannot say how far. That monster caught our scent this morning and went berserk on its chains. I think they must have lost a few of their own keeping it from us – how can it know of our touch when the Atmosphere is nowhere near us?

Entry-318-Quote-stopped-moving

Wauloo collapsed yesterday and has been carried by a Daedric follower ever since. He keeps his distance from the rest of us, but then does his best not to draw too close to the perimeter either. The Daedra really don’t trust themselves to handle us properly. Further proof that we are in serious trouble should that priest decide that now is the time to finish us off and hope for the best.

The rest of us are improving across the board thankfully. In spite of the constant marching, we’re freshening up. Perhaps it’s only in comparison to the increased sluggishness of the Daedra around us, but we aren’t struggling as hard as I would expect.

One Daedric follower came over to inspect us earlier, sniffing around as if he were going to find something new about us. Someone called for him to return, it was easy to get the impression that he was on his own. Dionus and I put him in an early grave for his arrogance and none of them dared approach us.

Daedra are miserable creatures. Their beliefs put them so far from one another even in the midst of unifying them. Perhaps he thought he could advance his own personal ascension by being near us. Maybe he was drunk. In any case, someone should have stopped him.

Entry-318-Daedra-are-such--miserable-things

Killing never feels good, not really, unless it’s Daedra that you’re killing. There’s something satisfying about it, like swatting a mosquito or taking a shit. Let’s hope a few more of them get curious and follow suit.

We’ve begun huddling closer together at night to keep from being separated when chaos finally catches us up. I want my sword back so badly. I could wield it, pain or no. Just put the hilt in my hand.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 319 – Day 449

Entry 319 – Day 449

Brin Salisir has added another monster to the list of things he’s killed. I saw a flash of purple this morning and then it dropped from the trees to the north of us. Thank the gods it’s gone.

Entry-319-Quote-priest-vein

Oroun must have come in force, for the Daedra are surrounded. Fighting has erupted on all sides today, fierce as any I have ever heard even without the cacophony of steel on steel. We’ve set up our own perimeter. If that priest approaches us, he’ll find his blade in a vein he’d rather not see opened.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 320 – Day 450

Entry 320 – Day 450

The Daedra fought to the death; to a man, they all fought until they died. There will be no surrender in Matasten, only chaos and slaughter. I hope Salisir has accounted for this or there will be no one left in the Nanten to enjoy the peace.

I am simply glad to be liberated of the Daedra.

All of us were immediately overwhelmed by a flood of healers who began inspecting our wounds and shoving food in our faces. It made me think of Balthandar. Who will take such good care of me now that he’s gone? Such a constant friend, selfless. The world has lost a better man in Balthandar than it ever will in me.

Salisir graciously spoke with Nianatara and reunited her with a pair of her generals. She bristled at the proceeding, that Salisir should be the one to release her from captivity, but she held her tongue. It was a good thing she did, because as soon as the Batsu had left us Salisir went on a tirade that lasted for minutes about her foolishness.

I couldn’t agree more.

“You can thank your magic asses that the Daedra value fresh expressionist blood over any other commodity, or you would have all been killed already. If that damnable woman had mobilized her main force…”

I asked if she wasn’t an expressionist herself.

“Not that one, though it wouldn’t surprise me in the end to find out she’d been hiding it all this time. No, it would seem the dark bastards have the common sense to capture and hold leadership for leverage. This is going to be a real fight.”

He launched into another tirade at that point. The elite force of the Batsu largely destroyed, their overall force decimated if not worse, and Nianatara would still likely try to disengage from the war. I asked if she would succeed at that and he said no, he’d seen to that. “She’ll hate me for it, but she can go to hell.”

I reminded him that he had said it was what the Batsu knew that made them important to him, and he said knowing how to attack from above was as valuable as their spies. The question led him to another brief rant before he straightened himself and said ‘Enough.’

We’ll meet Oroun tomorrow and have a chance to discuss the overarching strategy to the war now that things have changed so dramatically. The Batsu have lost more than just a tenth of their number, by the sound of it they’ve lost almost half. Salisir’s fury seems to be over the loss of the treeborn units over everything else. They were what he hoped to deploy behind enemy lines, to keep the Daedra off balance and demoralized.

Entry-320-Quote-trained-to-sense-magic

I told him how little I would count on affecting Daedric morale after what we saw; he grunted in response. I also expressed my uncertainty over the wisdom of attempting an incursion into Matasten. Whoever it is they’ve trained to sense magic, they’re incredibly sensitive. He responded that we just needed to draw their forces out and opportunities would present themselves. He wants Dionus and me in there. When I mentioned the strength we perceived in the Daedric Prince, he mentioned Wudan and said we will have the strength we need.

We’re to move off tomorrow. If things have gone at all to plan in Motasta, then the Sondu should be on the march north. Oroun has already sent forces west to secure the tunnels between us and the capitol. Once they’re sure no Daedric forces will be able to pop up behind us, we will advance on Matasten. It’s time to get some sleep and prepare ourselves for the real event.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 321 – Day 451

Entry 321 – Day 451

Wauloo is gone. I assumed he had been swept off by healers or taken into custody, but he’s gone. One of the Yatusu scouts told us that he had seen him taken by a small group of Daedric troops in the chaos. Did he escape? Perhaps they were all killed in the fighting. Gods, I can only hope he was killed.

It’s horrible yet certain to say that we would be better off if Wauloo were dead. There is an enormous power in him to command such desperate attempts at reclamation. I wish I could have traded his life for that of Balthandar. Nine times over I wish precisely that.

But was this all an attempt to reclaim Wauloo? It seems like too great a commitment for one soul, even if their previous efforts demonstrated just how valuable he was to the Daedra. No, I think Salisir has underestimated this prince.

With his enemies divided, three nations unwilling to unite, there would be no better time to attack than now if he were capable. And capable the Daedric Prince has most certainly proven himself to be. Why wait for an army to unite when he could strike out and remove one of the greater threats. It leaves me to wonder what kind of spies he has.

Was Wauloo just such a spy?

Entry-321-Quote-daedric-spy

It would be a clever act of intrigue to deliver him to us and let us run with him only to follow us to Nianatara’s forward camp. But that seems too fortuitous.

There is a massive vacuum in our camp tonight, one that can only be filled by an islander and his spear. Balthandar’s life was not something he ever considered his own; it was something he had put on the line for others for decades. He died exactly the way he would have wanted.

Still, I wish he hadn’t.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 322 – Day 452

Entry 322 – Day 452

We are on the move again; no rest for the wounded. Salisir’s plan is enacted, even if he is not in the position he had hoped for. The Sondu have indeed mobilized in the south and press north into territory that only Daedra have occupied for years.

Nianatara’s Batsu move with us, conjoined to Yatusu forces by her reluctant consent. The meeting we were called to over the matter was beyond uncomfortable, but Salisir gained control from the midst of chaos. With Hembila and Oroun standing at his elbows, Salisir managed to remain civil and undeniably gracious with Nianatara, whose attitude and tone turned petty.

Her generals had already been won to our cause by the Yatusu’s decisive victory over the Daedra. Niantara’s attempts to withdraw from the conflict were called down by her own people; they see the danger now. They know the price of hesitation. We all do.

Salisir laid the war out on maps for us, the latest intelligence from the joint spymasters giving us a better idea of what it is we face unified than alone.

Entry-322-maps-and-plans-matasten

The Sondu will be within striking distance of Matasten’s southern strongholds in a week. The Yatusu’s main force stands to the northeast, already within range and questing out to test the city’s defenses. Salisir wants to take the Batsu north to join forces with the Yatusu and put the greatest pressure there just as the Sondu begin their engagement with Matasten’s scouts.

He still wants Dionus and me to take what’s left of the treeborn elite and make for Matasten itself, but he wants to give it a little more time. Draw out the real strength of the Daedra, he said, then aim for its heart. Our assassination attempt will be bold, he said, reckless even, but that is what will give us a greater chance of success.

Entry-322-Quote-aim-for-its-heart

It feels like he’s hoping we’ll succeed at dying quick bloody deaths.

The majority of the army assembled here will head north at a quick march tomorrow morning, while a small contingent will be sent to secure the tunnels leading to Matasten nearby.

The rest will be left up to chance and fate.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 323 – Day 453

Entry 323 – Day 453

Oroun is a beast of a different kind. He’s massive, with Balthandar’s build and shaved head. He dresses simply, the hem of his vest stitched in orange with symbols not of wealth or military prowess, but of letters and learning. Quills are as common a symbol among his affects as spears would be among Fodafa’s. Both men command a presence, but the force of Oroun’s pride is kept in check by eyes that quest for knowledge.

I walked with him today as the army marched north. It will split in another day or two, and our noses will be spared some fraction of pain for it. Even Nantese armies leave a wake of wreckage, stink, and filth as they pass. I’ve never seen so many Nantese in one place before, moving as one unit. The real questions demanding answers now revolve entirely around discipline; we will have to wait and see how that pans out.

They forage as we move, though it doesn’t help that there are no villages or cities to bear the brunt of them as they go. While I suppose the requirements of a Nantese army are less than that of an Imperial army, all humans share the same basic needs for which the Nanten will be hard-pressed to provide as we move. I’ll leave the logistics to the quartermasters, or whatever the Nantese have as an equivalent; I have an assassination to plot.

Entry-323-Quote-logistics-assassination-Oroun

Oroun seems to have a good handle on logistics in any case; he takes great care to mind the numbers as the conjoined armies move. I’ve never seen a spreadsheet in the jungle before today, let alone entire accounts set and bound in leather. The man seems far more concerned with supply lines than glory in battle, and it is for that reason above all others that I feel confident in his contribution to the effort. He puts as much time and care into the maintenance of his ledgers as I do my journals.

We discussed a surprising breadth of topics at length today, principal among them the Tetrarch and the Ascension of Demons. Even before Salisir arrived to tell the Yatusu of the dangers they faced from Matasten, Oroun and what he called his “fellow scholars” had discerned that there was more to this rot in the heart of the Nanten than simple occultism. He’s surprisingly well-read. The library of the Yatusu is difficult to maintain in this climate, but he claims they keep nearly 100,000 unique books from rot or mold within it.

Entry-323-Oroun

I don’t even know how that compares to the universities or royal libraries of home, but good gods that’s a lot of books. He claims the Yatusu pride themselves in guarding the wisdom of the Nanten Kingdom, keepers of knowledge that would otherwise be long lost. He claims his city has not regressed into horror and depression like the rest of the jungle, and it is because of those very books.

It seems worth noting that he too was skeptical of Salisir’s blanket assessment of the Tetrarch. From his books, he knew my order had an old and prestigious lineage. His main questions revolved around why the modern Tetrarch didn’t appear to be located anywhere but the Old Empire. I didn’t have an answer. The idea struck me as strange, strikes me as strange… I never even thought about it before.

In the past, the Tetrarch was a pervasive presence around the world. There were Tetrarch agents to be found in every city, canvassing the surrounding areas and keeping an eye out for any Daedric activity; I know this from my own research, not from the Tetrarch itself. I read about it when I studied in Sterling, occasional asides whenever the right book fell in my lap.

Oroun had his own theory that he wanted to posit, something he had been dwelling on for years. The Tetrarch are dying, he said. They’re being eaten alive from within, cannibalized and cut off like a river squid’s tentacles being eaten one at a time. The body remains alive, but in time it will be blind and unable to sense the world around it. Unable even to move when the moment calls for it.

I asked him why he would say “cannibalized,” and he corrected himself to say it just seemed like the most fitting word, though inaccurate upon reflection. I let it go, but that word hasn’t left my mind since.

I told him that the Tetrarch was alive and well in the Old Empire. Surely there were still members out in the greater world keeping tabs on the state of things. Oroun said if that were so, surely they would send messengers to Silver Hall to report. I agreed.

“If that is the case,” he asked. “Then why have you never met one of the Tetrarch from some distant land?”

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that since. I let Inifra ask him her own questions in turn and fell out of the conversation for a time. The Tetrarch is a global order; our vigilance derives from many disciplined eyes watching from as many vantage points – always watching. Have we been blinded?

No one knew if the Daedra had arisen within the Nanten, and rise they most certainly have. To an unprecedented level. I can only assume that no one in the Old Empire knows this even now. Salisir was sent here under the pretense of finding out, but it was only to ensure he died in obscurity. Only to force him out here away from the Tetrarch to whom he posed some threat… some unknown threat. What the hell is going on?

Share on Pinterest
Entry 324 – Day 454

Entry 324 – Day 454

Timber took my hand as we walked today and didn’t let go for hours. She didn’t say anything; for once Timber remains silent and without curiosity. What burden she bore today I couldn’t tell, but I can take any number of guesses. Losing Balthandar was a hard blow, one that I dwell on regularly myself. I’m quick to return to the rooftops of Senida in my mind and watch the sun set with him. I miss him.

Perhaps it was that she finally took lives in a pitted stand against an enemy. We have had close calls and she has had to fight before, but never on chosen ground. She’s never put the skills she’s developed to use, watched her honed passion slice through a man and bring him to his end. I didn’t think about it until now, but she hasn’t asked for any lessons since we left the Eye.

Distance from home, the loss of Inifra’s priestess bodyguard, survivor’s guilt. We were allowed to live because we’re different. We were reserved for a far worse fate than our friends, and thanks to chance we have been spared all fates for the time being. Whatever it was that ate at Timber, I was happy to hold her hand in the midst of it. We need each other.

Inifra bore her own burdens alone today. Her guard seems lower in the midst of a people that do not worship her god, though I know she would see more of them come to know of Infiri’s power. She watches the path before her feet more than the space between the trees ahead; her chin rarely holds its rightful place of pride. I lost one friend last week; Inifra lost twenty.

Entry-324-Quote-lost

We were given a brief respite from our melancholy when some of Oroun’s aides and captains joined us in the march. They weren’t particularly curious, I just think they saw the gloom surrounding us and wanted to dispel it.

One told us of his home in the north, a smaller tree where he’d set up a tent that he’d never had to move. He claimed it was an old magic he learned from a Batsu wise man that kept it free of rot and decay, that kept the snakes out and the wind from tearing it free. His companions goaded him on about this until he was forced to drop the story, though not without assurances that if we came to visit after the war, we would find it in immaculate condition.

I asked after Golara, assuming one of Oroun’s aides would know the man as he was close to Salisir. I wanted to get tabs on the snake, but he must be off on some other mission. The aides looked at me strangely, as if they didn’t recognize the name at all, but perhaps I only mispronounced it. Golara is the kind of person on whom I would very much like to keep a close watch; I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t trust him enough when he’s present, let alone missing in action.

I let it drop after a few attempts and they pushed on to other conversation. Termites seemed to be among the favored foods of the Batsu, they agreed. They favored a particular breed of red ones found only in the canopy of the trees. I asked if none of them had spent time among the Batsu before this trip south and they said they had not. There were occasional exchanges, diplomatic missions, but it was rare for any of them to go along.

“Why bother with the Batsu?” one of them asked. “We would rather eat fish than worms and live in homes than in trees.” There was more than one jab aimed at their companion with the magic tree tent over this comment.

Even after realizing that none of us really wanted to talk, they continued with us and chatted through and around us, laughing and enjoying the march. I’ll never understand soldiers who enjoy the march. It’s the worst part.

Some of the men we met today will be leading the effort to secure the tunnels east and south of Matasten. They will leave us tomorrow and I sincerely hope they find no resistance to their efforts. After the events of the last month, I can only fear far worse. I don’t look forward to my own mission in Matasten but I do not envy these men the subterranean struggle that awaits them.

Share on Pinterest
Page 3 of 512345