Entry 335 – Day 465

Entry 335 – Day 465

My arms are so tired that it takes a concerted effort to hold my pen and write. The ropes coil automatically thanks to some sort of spring-loaded system built straight into the harness. Still, it requires an immense amount of effort to withdraw and recast the ropes for each swing.

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It doesn’t help that I fell from the training route twice. We were only twenty feet off the ground, but even a massive Nantese fern can only offer so much padding from any height. I cannot imagine doing this in the canopy.

Thankfully we have time as we wait here, nothing but time and watchful diligence, so let us keep our minds sharp by honing our bodies.

Assuming I don’t bludgeon mine to death first.

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Entry 336 – Day 466

Entry 336 – Day 466

I’m learning to love these treeborn harnesses. They’re sturdy and as finely honed as any mechanism engineered in the Old Empire. You wouldn’t think it to look upon them, they’re ratty, with fibers fraying off the ropes at every joint and leathers strained and stretched throughout. But the coils, the springs, the hooks, they’re not only elaborate but reliable.

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I was told that the man who owned mine previously was one of the captains lost to the Daedra at the Eye. He was greatly loved, which was why they made an effort to reclaim his harness. Wudan told me later that it was a sign of great respect that they would give it to me. He couldn’t look me in the eye as he said so, as if he felt the power of such a gesture emanating off of me.

These men and women do respect me. None of Nianatara’s distrust is to be found among them. They are teaching me, yet they expect to be taught. There is a great anticipation building as we await our orders to move towards Matasten, and all eyes are upon Dionus and me to lead the way.

Strange to be the least experienced among a group of elite soldiers and to be handed the reins. They know the treetops, but I know the Daedra. Perhaps I should begin teaching them more, preparing them for what we are to see. They have had a glimpse into the horrors of Demonic culture, but they haven’t the slightest idea what is possible.

I hate to think about what waits for us. It’s not a subject I want to dive into tonight.

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Entry 337 – Day 467

Entry 337 – Day 467

Relequic monsters, something I haven’t even thought much about until today. The treeborn asked after Woads as we took a break from the ropes course they have constructed; where the monsters came from and why they should appear in the jungle where they had never before been seen.

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The surprising thing, I told them, is that Woads are all we have seen. If there is a Demon on the verge of ascending, all of the texts and histories indicate that far worse things will arise in preparation; monsters of a wide variety, whose like are often only seen once and never again. Thus Woads are to be expected, as they appear first in any spike of Demonic power, but after that there is never any certainty as to what will follow nor in what form.

The monsters we know about were all mutations of pre-existing creatures, the most fearsome of which were bred with some lineage of mankind and carry a higher intelligence for it. Ancient monsters we all know of include the dragons and griffons of ancient times. It’s believed that those were bred from Titans that the Relequim was able to capture and abuse to his purposes. Other names that have been handed down include Parnithons and Granhal – something I can honestly say I hope I never see with my own eyes.

Some monsters are believed exterminated, while many hold that each breed lies dormant between Demons to keep that from happening. They feed off a magic we only see in the heights of Daedric society and Demonic Ascension – so Woads are always taken as a sign of just such dangers. They are also attuned to the magic of the Ancients in that they hunger for it, they hunt those who use it, and ours is akin enough to that for them to hunt us in kind.

Woads, I told them, are the least of our worries. Dionus thought I should hold off a bit, but I don’t believe in deceiving people about the dangers into which they must walk willingly.

Whatever comes for us, I told them, it would be something which we had never imagined possible. Whatever strikes will be unforeseen. If there are monsters in this jungle beyond the Daedra and their Woads, it will come at us sideways and leave us in tatters if we drop our guard.

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Stay sharp, I told them. There is no rest until this job is done.

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Entry 338 – Day 468

Entry 338 – Day 468

The trees hold such power in this place – they are the great underutilized tool of the Nanten. The people here can’t make much of them, for their wood is too hard and their bark too rough. They stand in the way of any linear path and prevent great amounts of sunlight from ever reaching the jungle floor. To the outsider, to someone like myself, they appear awesome detriments to the livelihood of those living here. Now I see them as the Batsu see them.

The trees of the Nanten are the highway for which I longed. They are the impediment to any enemy. They are the finest method of warfare available to us.

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Not only do the trees break up the movement of any army by their very nature, but their sheer size and apparent inscalability makes them psychological barriers as well. In the Nanten, no one looks up.

This is where the Batsu derive such great strength, for they can pass overhead unseen and appear where they wish among their enemy. Three entire volleys can be loosed from the trees before the first ever strikes, and by the time the third has landed the Batsu treeborn can be gone. This is guerilla warfare at its finest. Hit and move and hit again.

I understand why we are given the task of sewing chaos among the Daedric ranks. If only Nianatara hadn’t wasted the majority of this force, we would be able to do an immense amount of damage.

As it stands, we will have to settle for what we can accomplish with what’s left.

I finally swung in the tops of the trees today. Watching the world whir beneath me was dizzying – I almost let it overcome me on my first go and barely caught another branch. I would have thrown up if I hadn’t been so busy ensuring I didn’t fall to my death.

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The emergency rope, I’m told, is on an exceptionally tight spring that can launch it straight into the side of a tree. It doesn’t dislodge on its own, at least not intentionally, so using it leaves one stuck to the face of the tree until it can be pried free. I was also told that it glances off the trees as often as it punches home, so that was as comforting.

In any case, it’s good to know I have it in case tomorrow’s exercise goes more poorly. Dionus was hard-pressed not to use the winds to aid him as he moved. Privately, it’s satisfying to see him struggling as hard at this as I am, but it’s equally satisfying to see the Batsu treeborn stunned at how quickly we’re managing. We’ll master this, and then we’ll rain torture down upon the Daedric force.

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Entry 339 – Day 469

Entry 339 – Day 469

My arms are on fire. The training grounds were tough, but there is unlimited possibility within the trees themselves. We took a path that the treeborn told me made a ten mile loop back to our camp. We did it in so little time that the only source of belief for the distance came from how badly my body hurt.

The combination of running and swinging makes for an incredible mode of transportation. There are long stints of running that can be completed from branch to branch. Of course most of this carries us down in the canopy, but the Batsu’s harnesses have it in them to bring us steadily back up towards the tops if used correctly.

Thus any stint of running must be counteracted by twice the amount of swinging, which leaves one’s core and arms afire and begging for just the smallest stretch on foot. Gods it’s exhilarating. I feel like I can fly.

I’ve been practicing with one of their short bows as well, pulling and releasing over and over to ensure that my back has the endurance it needs for when the time comes. I can barely move once I have lain down and I feel amazing for it.

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Wudan has picked all of this up as if he were born to it. He outshines Dionus and I at every turn, swinging through the trees as if he invented the concept. Even the Batsu marvel at him. He moves among us as if the very action were an afterthought. I had to tell him to stop asking me questions as we swung today – some of us still have to focus.

It struck me as strange that the Batsu would use such small bows, but then mobility is key and gravity does half of the work for them when they fire. What a cruel form of warfare. I can’t wait to unleash it on the Darkness.

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Entry 340 – Day 470

Entry 340 – Day 470

We made a fifteen mile loop today. The Batsu want us ready and able to go a hundred miles in a day, which made me laugh in spite of how much laughing hurt by that point. A hundred miles in the Nanten? But then they don’t mean in linear fashion. The amount of zig-zagging and circling they do keeps them in small areas, but means plenty of miles covered in the process.

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Dionus takes less pleasure from this than I do. He wants to fly for real. He does enjoy it though, and today we made a few short races out of the central legs of our loop. Our confidence grows each day, and our bodies have responded well to the training. I have never been so active in all my life as I have been in the Nanten. I have never hiked, marched, nor run as far anywhere else for as long. My muscles are responding to this training in ways I wouldn’t have imagined possible a few years ago.

We are eating even more for it. The Batsu, thankfully, are excellent hunters. Every loop out that we take results in dozens of birds fresh from the branches. The ecosystem of the canopy is entirely different than that on the ground. Everything seems smaller, more like the flora and fauna of home. It’s strange because I would expect it to be the other way around, considering how little sunlight penetrates to the ground below.

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Where the rest of the Nanten must compete to scrounge between the roots of the trees, we have the freedom of choice from the boughs. I could live like this.

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Entry 341 – Day 471

Entry 341 – Day 471

We climb these trees as if there were stairs built into their sides. I can’t believe how quickly we make the ascent now that we have been doing it for weeks. Back when we slept in Nianatara’s tent city, we had to use rope ladders to get anywhere. Now I would barely need these spikes on my boots to do the same thing.

The small marks we leave on the trees heal quickly, gone by the following morning with barely a scar on the bark to prove our passing. I wonder what the enemies of the Batsu think of this troop when they are first assailed by them. Ghosts in the gloom, arrows from the shadows. I can’t wait to put these soldiers to use – we are almost ready to be counted among them.

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My concentration is beginning to shift. Matasten rises ever higher in my thoughts the less I need to focus on the ropes. Each close call brings me back to the task at hand with a surge of adrenaline, but still I think more and more on the Oaken Throne and the Prince who sits upon it.

Let us bring this would-be Arbor King to his knees.

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