Entry 349 – Day 479

Entry 349 – Day 479

The river is even wider here than anywhere else that we have encountered it. Even flooded above Hamada, the waters along which we raced could not compare with what we have found here. There is no way to quickly cross the river without finding canoes and making across along its surface. I’m not willing to do so as deeply in Daedric territory as we are, so we will have to move east along the river tomorrow and cross in friendlier lands.

Entry-349-relish the trees-of-the-nanten

We found a small shipping operation bringing supplies into the city from a trading post nearby. Again, it’s difficult to know who is aligned with the Daedra and who is being forced, but we can’t afford to spend too much time making determinations. I ordered all of the barges and small boats sunk. The trees grow right to the edge of the water, so killing everyone on the docks was quick, it was the sinking that took time.

Some outpost nearby was mobilized quickly enough to make it a close call. They came swooping up from the south and almost caught us on board the last barge. We were able to light it on fire in our haste and get to the trees before they arrived in force. Their van was caught and killed by the few we had left on lookout overhead.

We were able to finish the rest from the trees, following them as they fled back to their camp. It’s certainly an unfair advantage to operate from a literal higher plane – one I’m learning to relish.

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We went back to the dockside village and rummaged through the supplies we found there. Quite a stockpile to be sure. We took what we needed, including plenty of arrows, and then set fire to the rest. There was an impressive cache of resin that exploded brilliantly. We have made an even larger mark on the Daedric map. Let’s see how they respond.

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Entry 350 – Day 480

Entry 350 – Day 480

Crossing the river today felt foolish to say the least. The far bank is invisible even in the unbroken light of day, with the tops of the distant trees lining the horizon like a pencil line separating blue sky from green river. The gradients of each lighten to the point that without the trees, one would imagine water and air conjoined in the middle.

We salvaged a number of canoes from the docks and left a company on the ground to steer them along the river’s edge while we covered them from the trees. We collected more as we went, and once we had gone several miles east we put to the water and made for the northern bank. It feels like I should call it a shore for the size of the river.

The going was slow. I hadn’t felt so exposed in months. Without the trees to cover us from observers, it seemed like the whole world knew where we were for the first time since we began our engagement with the Daedra. We made straight for shore, not giving in to the temptation to coast along the bank to check for enemies.

There would be no seeing an ambush in wait no matter how long we peered into those shadows. The sunlight on the water was blinding. Watching the trees rise in the distance felt so much like when we crossed the Blight Sea, approaching this place for the first time. The strength of the river’s current and the knowledge of what could be waiting for us stood as punctuated differences to the calm ignorance of our initial entry into the Nanten.

We arrived at the mouth of a small creek and I chose to make our way up it a hundred yards before we landed. Twenty treeborn abandoned the canoes as soon as possible, climbing into the trees so as to be in position overhead when the rest of us disembarked. We hid the canoes for future use, burying them under the roots of the trees and covering them with dead foliage, then ascended into the trees ourselves.

I can’t express the relief that comes with returning to the trees other than to say that it feels like regaining a sure sense of safety. The uncertainty of being on the ground is only compounded by the knowledge of what could happen should someone be in position above us. I have seen what we can accomplish and I only hope there is no one in this jungle that can do the same to us.

We made back west immediately. I wanted to strike once more before we settled in for the night to sleep. It was a small party, maybe 70 Daedra. The satisfaction of killing them was offset by the day’s sense of vulnerability. What if the Daedra have more of those monsters that can scale the trees in seconds? What if we are caught in our next river crossing?

Entry-350-Quote-Pleasure-of-the-Advantage

The pleasure of our advantage has been stolen tonight, but that does not negate the advantage itself. We will continue to put it to use until we cannot. Still, it is a good reminder of how valuable this treeborn unit is. I have to keep them alive – the future of the Nanten Kingdom might not fully depend on us, but any mistakes we make will be felt for years to come.

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Entry 351 – Day 481

Entry 351 – Day 481

Wudan could be the key to drawing the Daedra out in force. If we align him with the Yatusu army, we could amplify our abilities in one of our ambushes, clean house, then move laterally as quickly as possible. In theory this would draw an army out to find us and into the waiting maws of the Yatusu force.

We will find Salisir and Oroun tomorrow to see if they would be ready and able to support such a plan. There is a chance it will elicit no response; there is a chance it will draw out an overwhelming force with which the Yatusu cannot contend, even bolstered as they are by the remaining Batsu.

Entry-351-Quote-Wauloo-or-Wudan

Were the Daedra after Wudan at all, or only Wauloo? Did they intend to deliver a blow to the Batsu? Was Wauloo a conjoined objective to that mission? Perhaps it was the other way around, and the opportunity to strike was illuminated by the presence of Nianatara’s forward operations. We still don’t know how the Daedra are communicating, nor how their spies practice their craft.

There are too many unknowns to feel certain of our own intelligence, especially as we rely so heavily on the Yatusu for it. I thought it was the Batsu who were supposed to have the spies. We have yet to encounter any Batsu spies, though perhaps that is with whom we are to work inside Matasten. I have been tempted more than once to open this letter from Salisir and read the names it contains, but I fear what will happen if I remove it from the pocket in which it was placed.

It lines the space between my breastplate and the linen beneath. Next to the key and turtle gem I have carried through this hell. Perhaps I should return the key to Salisir before the final engagement. I don’t know what he intends to do with that Mentalist box, I am loath to be associated with any such magic, but we have seen what the Daedra hold in store for us. We need every advantage we can get.

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Entry 352 – Day 482

Entry 352 – Day 482

I never thought I would form these words on my tongue let alone put them to paper, but I was glad to see Salisir today. The old dog is war-worn already, but the joy of battle is on him. He’s as bloodthirsty as the stories say – the man is made to kill Daedra. There is nothing more he hates in all the world. It is through this that Salisir and I are brothers in arms, even if all our history and that of the Tetrarch should put us at odds.

We were made to kill the Daedra; it is our highest calling.

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He took me to see Oroun immediately and, along with Hembila and the assembled field generals, they liked and approved of my plan. There is an overwhelming risk in the potential response of the Daedra, and without my treeborn to forewarn them of what is coming they will not be able to react quickly enough to save themselves a lethal blow. But opportunity is what we need now, risky or no.

We could be committing the Yatusu to a fight to the death.

It all depends on how badly the Daedra want Wudan. We will keep apprised to the result and react accordingly. Not knowing the full size of the force within Matasten isn’t helping matters. Salisir says that the Batsu spies put their numbers near 50,000 in total, but we both know that will be short of the final tally.

Whatever the Daedra have formed into regular troops will be what that count consists of, general followers will not. We will have to fight every last Daedric follower, soldier or not, and that is the number we need to know. The population of Matasten was in the millions under the Arbor Kings. It could be somewhere near one million today. If that’s the case, then 50,000 troops feels shy of accurate as well.

The Daedra should have militarized more of the population than that. Or maybe they are less concerned with forming a standing army than we had thought.

In any case, they spent around 10,000 troops to crush the Batsu’s elite and recapture Wauloo. Another reason to believe 50,000 is a low figure. The spread of the Daedric advance parties is also significant. Salisir says they’ve encountered resistance along every inch of their advance. So far nothing substantial has appeared, but they expect that to change any day.

Dionus brought up the fact that our plan might also draw Woads or some other monsters out of hiding, not the Daedric force themselves. We could exhaust ourselves on fighting beasts rather than men. Salisir pointed out that we would have to confront them one way or another. It was better to draw something into the killing ground of our choice than to continue to wait until the Daedra placed the battle.

The more we fight at a distance from Matasten, the higher the odds that we win those fights.

Oroun gave the order for his army to spread to the flanks. We will draw a Daedric force to their center and set the largest ambush this jungle has ever seen.

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Entry 353 – Day 483

Entry 353 – Day 483

It appears our plan has worked. Treeborn scouts we left to watch the river crossing just arrived moments ago to report that a Daedric army has sallied out of the city. They put the count at 20,000, nearly half the regular force reported within Matasten’s walls. It is nearly equal to the size of the entire Yatusu army.

I sent those scouts on to report to Salisir and inform him that we will be joining the fight tomorrow. There is no sense in attempting an incursion into Matasten with 30,000 troops remaining within. We need to empty the place better than that. We need to throw it into chaos. Besides, what better way to draw the rest out than to unleash our full power on their advance force tomorrow?

Entry-353-Quote-Treeborn-Bridge

We took the treeborn south this morning to the bridge to Matasten, well behind the front line of the Daedric placement. It was good to see what was there, as little as there seems to be. The river is half as wide here as it is east or west of the city. They have held themselves back on the far side which seems foolish to me. There is no large force on the northern bank to protect the town sprawling north of the bridge.

The bridge was garrisoned, an impressive structure spanning nearly a mile of swirling waters. Where that water goes is a mystery, though one for another time. Dionus and I left the treeborn in the canopy to cover our escape and descended with Wudan. I wanted to experiment.

We have managed to get much of Wudan’s power to bend around him rather than travel through him; I wanted to see if he could amplify both Dionus and I simultaneously while bending that power. I cast Chronos on both Wudan and Dionus, slowing time around us nearly to a stop. Dionus drew to full strength and immediately set about moving the air all around the bridge. He staged reaction after reaction, pulling the wind into whips and slashes that slowed to match time around them as soon as he moved on.

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He returned just as Wudan began to tire and I let go of my shift. Every Daedric follower I could see was slashed apart or cast into the river in an instant. The water rose around the bridge as if drawn by shock, and we fought not to be pulled off our feet as the air around us compensated for the rush. That, I figured, was enough to do the trick. We climbed back up the trees immediately, the treeborn above picking off what Daedra came after us, and left a few observers behind as we made north.

The reports of those observers tonight guarantee that our little experiment was enough to draw out a response, just not as good of one as we had hoped. If only Inifra had been there to cast her strength alongside our own, perhaps we would have drawn more of them out. I hope she is alright, wherever her fight takes her tonight.

Tomorrow we have one of our own to unleash.

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Entry 354 – Day 484

Entry 354 – Day 484

We may have called more trouble to ourselves than was wise. The Daedra brought two of those monsters and set them loose as they joined battle. The Daedra knew we were in the trees and they took no chances. The monsters were quick to climb and made for a terrifying distraction.

Thankfully Dionus was no longer concerned with hiding his power, otherwise we would have lost the last of our treeborn today. He was able to blow them back, even tear them from the branches, but the bastards are tough enough to survive the fall. At least they were able to survive a few falls. Put enough arrows in them and send them tumbling three or four times and they die like the rest. But gods they took a beating.

By the time we were done dealing with those monsters, the battle had commenced below. The ambush worked, but only for the advance half of the Daedric army. Whether the Yatusu sprung their trap early or were forced into the fight, I don’t know, but the effect was dangerous. Engaged with the Daedric flanks, their own southern flank was exposed in turn.

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Even as they ground the Daedra in their midst down to nothing, the wear they absorbed on the south would have broken them if we hadn’t been able to intervene. Dionus hacked a few particularly heavy branches off the trees immediately above the Daedric column at the center of the ambush, crushing hundreds in the span of a few minutes, but we had to move south long before we could do sufficient damage.

Broken into two armies now, one at the center of the Yatusu ambush and the other pressing into the Yatusu flank, the Daedra spun themselves into a fury. The treeborn were too few to make much difference in the grand scheme of the battle, so I set them to protect the Yatusu commanders below. Kill anything that gets close to them, I said, and do what damage you can from those positions.

Dionus and I joined the fight on the ground. Wudan stayed in the trees, but he was able to feed us little bursts of energy whenever he could catch up to us. It was exhilarating to feel his touch from so far – to know the parts of my own body where the gap between physical and metaphysical wear thin.

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The details of the fight aren’t necessary, it was more slaughter than a true battle. The Daedra they sent were well armed, but their discipline broke after the ambush. Unfortunately their loss of discipline meant an increase in frenzy rather than a route. We were again forced to fight until they were all dead. It took a long time for the Yatusu ambush to reach its conclusion, but once it had they surged south and overwhelmed the remaining Daedra.

It made for exhausting work, a day of butchering evil. Gruesome. I hope the jungle claims the bodies quickly for the floor is now carpeted in them. We’ve sent treeborn south to watch for further movements as the Yatusu move to claim the bridge. They should be there by the end of the following day, though if the Daedra strike north again they will surely suffer for it.

We need to make our way to the Sondu and draw them into the fight as well. Salisir wants both armies to press into Matasten at once. It is certainly the only way the Yatusu will survive the battle to come.

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Entry 355 – Day 485

Entry 355 – Day 485

With the Yatusu army encamped in the town on the northern shore of the Nanten River, we can take a moment to rest. There is a great need for the treeborn to resume sewing chaos among the Daedra, but I don’t want to push them too hard yet. We’ve won a great initial victory here. We need to win a few more.

One thing I find strange is how thin the Daedric effort was north of the river. To the south we encountered far more scouting parties and light infantry units on patrol. Their concern seems heightened there. I’ve made my observations known to Salisir and Oroun, but they seem to think that there is nothing to glean from the information.

Nianatara took the opportunity to say we were walking into a trap of some sort. Pull back, she said, and force the Daedra to come to us. It was pointed out to her that there seems to be no way of doing that. The Daedra have little reason to leave their stronghold in Matasten as we eat at their edges. With the losses they’ve already accrued, they have less reason to move to fight us when they can sit behind their fortifications and wait for our alliance to falter.

Between the Batsu and Yatusu, we still have roughly 10,000 troops ready to fight in the north. The wounded number in the thousands and have been withdrawn accordingly. With the bridge under our control numbers won’t matter greatly, but once we advance across it they will matter all too much.

Oroun has sent a sizeable scouting force along the river’s banks as well to watch for any attempts to cross and attack us by surprise.

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We are close enough to Matasten to see its spires again. To feel the weight of its corruption hanging in the air. The city walls are only a few hundred yards beyond the first line of trees across the way.

I’ve done my best to avoid Inifra. Not for lack of wanting to see her, but precisely because she is who I want to see. This curse confuses things; her curse. Infiri’s bizarre hatred of love. The two are tied closely enough to confuse them I suppose, love and hate.

I’ll take the treeborn back east tomorrow to where we hid our canoes. We’ll cross there and move to help the Sondu get into position. Once both bridges are under our control, we will need to do our best to draw the Daedra out again. If that fails, I’m not sure what a siege will look like in this place. I imagine it’s impossible with ready access to the river, but perhaps we can find a way.

I can’t imagine we have the time or discipline to starve the Daedra into fighting. Our assassination attempt will have to progress one way or the other, for without that success there may be no victory in the end.

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