Entry 364 – Day 494

Entry 364 – Day 494

The walls of Matasten are impressive, but serve as no barrier to the paths of the treeborn. We crossed the water by canoe in the middle of the night, then climbed into the canopy and waited. Nothing stirred to greet us so we moved through the trees until we sat above the walls where we could watch the streets below.

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This place is rank with Daedric power. There is a scent here, like a stain on the city, one that only the reek of human sacrifice can produce. The streets themselves are crowded, the buildings in different states of disrepair. This was a majestic city once, but the Daedra have let it slide into something less. There wasn’t a lot of movement when we arrived, though the torches of guards on patrol could be seen bobbing about across the expanse of the city.

It easily covers a few square miles, the dark silhouettes spilling out from its center as if poured into a pan. The trees within the walls are sparse, and the spires near the center of Matasten soar to twice their height. They feel as tall as the Crystal Spires of Sterling, though I doubt it possible.

We dropped to the far side of the wall near one of the two insertion points marked on my small map of the city. The safe house was marked with a symbol I only recognized because I held it in my hand as well, reproduced on Salisir’s letter. We knocked as loudly as we dared, the darkened street as black as any avenue through the jungle. The stars were an unfamiliar addition, lending drama to the jagged edges lining the low houses running in either direction.

Finally an old woman opened the door to us and, after a few quietly whispered words, permitted us inside. She is not our contact, though she has been expecting us for some time. She told us that she would bring her to us, and left as soon as she had settled us in with some tea and dried meat.

Waiting in that dark little hovel, the oppressive weight of Daedric Society upon us, it was an anxious few hours to say the least. Wudan took the brunt of it the worst, his sensitivity even higher than our own in its raw state. Dionus kept him close, arm over his shoulder as he leaned in for comfort. There is a corruption in the Atmosphere here. It’s tainted just to the touch, which makes me wonder what it will feel like to draw upon it.

The woman that came back with our host was lean and, though she didn’t look particularly unhealthy, showed signs of great stress. She showed us the route by which she plans to take us to the palace at the center of the city. We are to stay at a safe house a few blocks from it at the end of a long parade ground, enabling us to strike immediately when the opportunity presents itself.

Getting there, she said, will be the most challenging part. All of the Daedra have been withdrawn into the city. There is to be a massive sacrifice in the coming days which they believe will enact the ascension of a Demon. That is what they’ve been waiting for this entire time, and once it has come to pass they will launch an assault with the intent of finishing off the Nantese resistance.

The palace grounds are thus filled with Daedra. The whole city, she said, is as full as it has ever been. She will do her best to move us first thing in the morning. There are underground tunnels that pass beneath our destination, but the entrance is almost a mile closer to the palace from here. As long as we cover ourselves properly, we should draw no attention. There is a curfew, and the guards tend to harass people at random, so we will move early and break up in pairs to hopefully pass unnoted. I should try to get some sleep before the attempt.

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Entry 365 – Day 495

Entry 365 – Day 495

I made it to the safe house with little issue but Dionus has yet to arrive. We were broken up into pairs in the early hours; it made little sense for the two of us to stick together since neither of us speak Nantese. Or are Nantese. Our spymaster was my guide and she artfully deflected a group of Daedric guards who regarded us suspiciously.

She told me later that one had asked after my cloaked appearance, and she told them I was sick with some rancid skin disease. It worked, though barely, and they gave us a wide berth. I hope they didn’t stumble upon Dionus in the same fashion.

The two treeborn paired together have made it, though they were spaced twenty minutes behind us. This house is larger than the one in which we stayed last night. Where that one was a low single-story building with only a small room to the side of the main one, this is a true house hewn from stone. The closer we got to the palace, the higher the quality of the buildings and roads. And the taller they stretch.

Even though they are falling steadily into disrepair, the buildings are impressive. They are a strange combination of architectural styles, blending what we saw in Motasta with Imperial and Klotian forms. This place, though exotic in many ways, feels more familiar than any building within which I have set foot in a year. The stairs and their bannister are carved from stone, as are the walls. Possibly marble. The biggest difference here from home may be the vines that are growing in through gaps in the ceiling.

Entry-365-The-deterioration-of-Matasten

I’m trying to keep my mind from wandering to what could have befallen Dionus. Even moving as early in the morning as we did, there were hundreds of people out on the streets. They don’t move freely as we saw in Motasta. Their commerce is kept to the fringes of the streets, desperate attempts to earn enough for food without drawing attention to themselves. The desire to remain unseen is evident in how people move.

With the exception of Daedric Followers. We saw groups of them moving together, and at each point we withdrew to the shadows to let them pass. As did everyone else we saw on the streets. “They will murder for any small inconvenience,” my guide whispered to me. “I saw a man selling bamboo picks dragged into the street where they slit his throat, all because he didn’t get out of their way quickly enough. It is best to hide when we see them.”

She left me as soon as I was safely within this house. There are two girls who keep watch over the place. They fed me and then went back to their posts, hidden somewhere within the mansion. They looked small, unassuming, and yet I get the feeling they’re both wicked with a knife.

Entry-365-Quote-liberate-Matasten

We have to succeed here. We have to liberate Matasten, or this Daedric Society will spread to the rest of the world from here.

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Entry 366 – Day 496

Entry 366 – Day 496

We have been forced to hide within a secret compartment in the floor of the house. Dionus never returned and rumors of magic users have apparently reached the ears of the Daedra. Our entrance was partially masked by whatever sacrifice they have prepared for themselves, but they finally sensed our presence. I hope it was not Dionus, but it’s possible Wudan has let himself slip.

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And what of this new sacrifice for which the Daedra are preparing? Wudan and I both wondered if it was his brother, Wauloo. Perhaps his escape led to a fall from grace with his former master and, assuming he escaped the slaughter of the Daedra by the Yatusu, was brought back to be bled.

Wudan has hardened to his brother’s fate, whatever it was. There is grief there, punctuated by the shame of having a brother broken by the darkness, but there is also an acceptance that such things were beyond his control. Wisdom peeks through what cracks show in Wudan and they are quick to heal over.

The house has been searched twice. We can hear the fervor building outside as footfalls rush past by the hundred. If they’ve found Dionus, he could escape even by flying in desperation. But will that betray our entire plan? And what if they have some method for countering his power?

I wondered if we were sent here to die. The odds are looking good.

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Entry 367 – Day 497

Entry 367 – Day 497

I have spent nearly a year and a half in exile under the false pretense of a mission to find Brin Salisir, a man I was destined to hate, and complete his mission should he have failed it. It was assumed he was dead. It was assumed I too would die. His exile was imposed under a guise as phony as my own, the punishment for crimes I came to realize I don’t fully understand.

Nor do I understand how such an exile was ever imposed upon him.

Whether the Daedra had taken root in the heart of the Nanten was a total mystery. That the theory was used as pretense to send us into exile speaks to the weight they gave the idea. Now there is a full-blown Society thriving here, on the verge of bringing about the very cataclysmic end that my order is sworn to prevent. To which my order has turned a blind eye.

Dionus, possibly the only friend left to me in the world from my life before, is lost somewhere in this city. Lost in a sea of Demonic worshipers who would take him the instant they found him and sacrifice him for the power they believe is carried in his blood. The spies that hide us now assure us he hasn’t been caught, but they do not know where he is.

We need to find him, both to keep him from being murdered but also if we are to carry out the assassination plot we have been entrusted to execute. We may only have another day before we are thrust into action. I was able to see the palace briefly from the roof of this place before we were forced into hiding. The compound is only a few blocks away at the end of a long parade ground. The palace is imposing, a broad collection of high colonnades and layered domes that soar over even the tallest structures nearby. The spires that surround it make it appear all the taller.

We will have to use our new skills of moving through the treetops if we are to make it there both quickly and undetected. The hope, of course, is that the swarm of Daedra between us and their Prince will be drawn into a battle on the southern end of the city. We need them to vacate this place. Dionus and I may be powerful, and Wudan may push us to ascendance, but we cannot contend with Daedra in the thousands.

Entry-367-Quote-contend-with-Daedric-Prince

We may not be able to contend with this Daedric Prince. When we saw him a few months back, he wore armor of impossible size. Not only could he carry the weight of it, whether or not he filled its nine-foot frame, he was also able to cast fire and walk through it unscathed. Even the most powerful fire expressionists succumb to their own flames. And now our spies tell us that he is convinced he is on the verge of summoning a Demon.

If he succeeds in that, we will be hard pressed to do anything about it. Demons aren’t something against which we will be strong enough to stand. Not so far from home and completely devoid of support. If a Demon rises in the Nanten, it will spell the certain end intended for me when my sentence was passed.

We wait now for our window to open. Then we strike, with or without my friend. I hope that Dionus is safe.

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Entry 368 – Day 498

Entry 368 – Day 498

We have to move on our plan, first thing tomorrow, no matter what Fodafa’s army does. The Daedra captured Gront, the Titan from the jungles west of here. They have him chained in the parade grounds that butt up against this house, separating us from the palace.

He’s standing at the center of the open space on a platform that can barely hold his weight, surrounded by thousands of Daedra who watch him silently. Expectantly. They believe this will be their final ritual, the overture that draws a Demon from the depths of the Dread and into reality. For all we know, they could be right.

Their activity was so focused on the Titan that we were able to sneak out of hiding and make for the roof. We watched them guide him into the square before lashing him to four posts at its center. He hasn’t stopped moaning since. The sound is loud, low, and as pitiable as any captive mortal might make. Wudan was so moved to pity that he nearly lost control of the damper on his power. I empathize, but we can’t afford that yet.

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Gront is thousands of years old. The very thought of his death is a tragedy in itself. The fact that it could happen at the hands of the Daedra in order to draw forth a Demon makes it horrific. Freeing Gront isn’t an option with the masses surrounding him. We could try to kill him from a distance, but they would still be able to get his blood.

We need Fodafa to force them into an engagement. He was supposed to do so today. I fear we offer too little to this fight, and far too late.

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Entry 369 – Day 499

Entry 369 – Day 499

The battle rages on to the south but I cannot fight any longer. I need to sit. I should sleep, but I fear the nightmares that will come, inspired by all that has happened.

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The ritual was what woke us early, before first light. I have never heard the song on so many lips, never felt the pound of the rhythm through thousands of feet. We scrambled to the roof, met by thousands of torches held high. There were hundreds of priests dancing around the platform upon which Gront stood still. No longer did he groan. No cry left him as layer upon layer of priest spun around him in grand flowing circles.

I saw the first deformed Daedra we have come across in all the Nanten. Their arms elongated, their bodies warped and twisted, they joined the priests in their dance. The whirlpool of them slowly drew upon the surrounding followers who shifted and swayed to the rhythm of the song. To the bloodlust of the ritual.

Then he appeared, head and shoulders above the crowd. The Daedric Prince set foot on the parade ground and, without saying a word, a path opened straight to the platform. The masses cheered, they roared, they screamed. Fury overtook them in their exultation. A madness.

Gront lowered his head and leaned against the chains, so heavy they would have broken any human neck. He couldn’t see the approaching monster. He could feel him. Gront bellowed his own roar as the Prince approached, the very strength of his presence like a physical force in the parade grounds.

“Children of the night!” the Prince bellowed with a voice augmented by inhuman strength. “This is the deepest of the dark, the end of our calendar, and the beginning of a new era.”

The crowd didn’t fall silent as expected. Their fury only rose to new heights, checking even the Prince’s speech for a moment. “With this act we bring forth our Eighth Brother and, with his coming, step closer to our Father.”

The chanting lost its tempo. Even the priests seemed carried away in the moment. Then a troop of guards burst into the crowd near us at the south. “War!” they shouted. “The Untouched bring war!” Word spread like fire through grass and suddenly the masses were pouring south to the walls. Fodafa had come at last.

The Prince roared at them to stand their ground and finish the ritual, but few listened. It was in that moment of confusion that we struck. Dionus, wherever he had been hiding, was watching as we were. We moved along the sides of the square across the rooftops until we were in place, and then we attacked. The Prince felt us coming and instantly blasted the rooftops with fire and some other power that ripped entire chunks of the walls free.

I grabbed Wudan’s hand and moved to slow time, but a concussion struck us. The shockwave rolled through the square and sent us sprawling. Dionus was up and unleashed his own barrage of attacks in moments. Wudan was dazed, so I left him with the treeborn and rushed to assist Dionus.

The Prince pulled out the single largest sword I have ever seen, easily eight feet in length. He blasted Dionus with a torrent of flame, forcing him back, and then plunged the blade down the length of the Titan. Gront barely grunted as his life left him. The Prince called for aid, forcing us back with yet more blasts of fire. Dionus worked to deflect while I set to using the SwordSkills Salisir taught me to block the rest. I slowed time. I was able to rush around the fire and got behind him, but there was no weak point in his armor to exploit. It was as if he were made from metal himself.

I couldn’t hold my shift for long. In the rush of the moment, all I could remember was how to use SlitSweep. My attempt only knocked him forward a step. Steam escaped where I cut, but then time resumed its pace and he backhanded me away with the flat of his blade. I spun to a stop as Wudan poured himself into Dionus.

Dionus rose above the ground, the winds roaring as they swept along the parade grounds, ripping the roofs off the nearest buildings, and then Wauloo was there. He put his hands out towards the Prince who roared anew with the infusion of power. His armor was powered by Machina, so obvious in the moment though we hadn’t ever thought something of such size to be possible. Suddenly four metal contraptions burst from nearby walls and flew towards Dionus. They were spherical, covered in sharp sword-like arms.

They spun in the air, whirring as ancient weapons activated and spat lead at Dionus. He was pushed back, forced to focus his energy on deflecting the assault. I rushed forward again, hoping to find a weak spot in the monster’s armor, when Inifra appeared on the far side. She rose from a nearby well, the water surging up behind her.

Ice lanced out towards the Prince, pulling his attention away from Dionus long enough to send three balls of fire arcing her direction. She extinguished each and pressed in as I did the same. The Prince responded with a quick series of concussions, knocking us both to the ground in a haze. Dionus must have dismantled the artifacts because the Prince refocused on him and brought him down in a hailstorm of fire.

Inifra launched forward again, and in the haze of my concussion I saw her sent flying down the grounds towards the palace. Scattered and unhinged, we were coming undone. I could barely get to my feet. The Prince stepped back onto the platform, hands dipped into the blood of a Titan, and then he bellowed in frustration. Fire rose from the buildings beyond him, dark smoke pouring from windows as they collapsed in on themselves.

“Why?” He screamed, then hacked Gront’s corpse in half. I saw him point. Two priests brought Wudan forward.

“No!” Wauloo shouted behind the Prince, words which would be translated for me later. “He was to be spared!”

“He would have had a place with our Brother,” the Prince said as Wudan was forced to kneel in Gront’s blood. “Now he has the honor of bringing him forth.”

The Prince brought his blade high. In that instant Wauloo put everything he had into his master’s armor. Electricity crackled in the air between us as the armor ground to a halt around him, sword slowing to a halt above his head. Wauloo screamed with his Prince as the armor vibrated, and then suddenly the plates separated at the back where I had cut between them.

I froze time. It was the only chance we would have. I rushed forward, holding onto the shift with everything in me. Every fear for what might come should that blade fall. Should Wudan be slain in ritual. His back was exposed to me. Just the smallest of cracks between thick plates of armor, yet I could see him. I rammed my sword in as hard as I could.

I instantly lost control of the shift. Wauloo’s power jumped through my blade and knocked me sprawling, or so I’m told. I blacked out. When I awoke, the Prince was dying in a heap. Wudan’s captors had been slain by our spymaster and her spies were dragging Dionus and me from the inferno. Our poor treeborn escort died protecting Wudan. We haven’t found Inifra.

There is still a battle raging at the walls of Matasten, but we are alive tonight. Wudan is alive. And there is no Demon in the Nanten.

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Entry 370 – Day 500

Entry 370 – Day 500

The backlash was severe. We thought we could escape the battle long enough to recuperate. We were wrong.

Entry-370-Quote-escape-the-battle backlash

Whatever Wauloo’s power did to me, it left me unable to walk for over an hour and left me covered in a scar reminiscent of those one might expect on a full-fledged Render. Dionus suffered a few burns and went into shock before we were even dragged free of the parade grounds. Three hours later a thousand Daedric Followers returned to the grounds with a vengeance. They hunted us down by sense alone and set the building in which we hid on fire. And then the entire block for good measure.

We barely got out alive. I struggled to run and Dionus vomited every time we did. We found ourselves assailed shortly after. Wudan’s strength returned more quickly than ours, permitting Dionus to cut down the initial wave of attackers, but we needed to hide or extract ourselves.

The night turned into a long stumbling horror, struggling just to make it away from the palace grounds. We wanted to make the wall.

It didn’t matter. There were Daedra that intercepted us at every turn, and even though our allies within the city rallied to us in tandem, there was no easy victory to be found. Hundreds of local Nantese rose to fight nearby, but so many more stayed subdued in their homes.

They were a help in the end, giving Dionus and I enough space to quell our touch on the Atmosphere and lose the pursuit. We have holed up in another house and will try to rest for a few hours before going back out. We need to get out of this city, or Fodafa needs to take it.

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