Entry 257 – Day 382

Entry 257 – Day 382

The Bangara attacked us at last and I finally understand why the Nantese regard Salisir so highly.

Hembila made the mistake of gathering his troop around us in broad daylight. The midday meal was being prepared. Usually the men filter in one at a time to take their share from the pot and then return to their position, but Hembila was worried that setting them farther out would leave them too exposed. He decided to bring them all in to eat together, and the Bangara decided its real meal was finally being served.

The monster must have climbed one of the trees and launched itself at us, for when it burst into our midst it did so from the air. It rolled, throwing men wide and crushing three on its spines.

Salisir surprised us all. He yelled from the far side of the camp, drawing his sword and bellowing a challenge at the monster. It turned in curiosity, and without hesitation it charged him head on.

Entry-257-Salisir-Bangara-SwordSkill

I couldn’t see exactly what Salisir did, but he made three quick motions with his sword as the monster closed on him. Suddenly, from thin air, a red puff flashed beside the Bangara and from it a spike of ethereal red shot through its neck.

The monster convulsed, then lost its footing. It fell, sliding straight into Salisir on its side. The old man simply jumped up, walking along its length until it came to a stop beneath him.

Quote Entry 257 Bangara SwordSkills

He stared down at us, sword drawn, breathing normally. We were all stunned into silence until the moans of the wounded reached our ears. The Bangara itself suffered an injury through its spine wide enough through which to shove my leg. Not that I tried, but it was sufficient in size.

Salisir knows one of the Great SwordSkills. The bastard knows one of the only things I have left to study with a sword, and he used it to kill a monster that none of us knew could be killed.

I have to learn it. I don’t know how I can convince him to teach me, but I must.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 256 – Day 381

Entry 256 – Day 381

Two more men have gone missing. These two disappeared while on the interior of the perimeter. I would be lying if I were to say that this did not put me on edge. There is a level of anxiety within this jungle that never leaves us. There is no respite from that. Things can get worse, however, and they are steadily doing just that.

How those men were picked off while within the perimeter is beyond me, but that is where each was last seen. The first was taken within a few hours of setting out, the second only hours ago. Will the monster continue to harass us? To pluck us one by one from the coop until there are no more chickens to eat?

Even Timber has shown signs of being frightened, and I was beginning to believe that nothing could shake the child.

Entry-256-Quote-Fear-to-Crack

Fear is something that operates along an uneven gradient. Immediate, lethal threats can cause one to panic. But if the mind has no time to realize what is happening, or the threat is simply too large to comprehend, the mind might simply refuse to acknowledge it. Similarly, a subtle or unseen threat may be easy to put out of mind, but keep it on the periphery long enough, with frequent reminders that it is very real, and you will see the fear steadily grow in people until they crack.

That is what I see around me tonight. Something has to give.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 255 – Day 380

Entry 255 – Day 380

My feelings for Inifra are hard to discern. There is need, the desire I might have had for any number of women, but also a distance that dulls it. When my minds is occupied with the challenges that face us, or I find my thoughts wandering to all I have lost at home, Inifra is open and near to me. It is when my attention turns to her that she closes herself off. I do not understand it, but I might as well give up trying.

No Bangara sightings or mysterious casualties to report, which is a relief.

Our time with Wudan is continually fruitful. It is difficult for us to mentor him properly, not fully understanding how he interacts with the Atmosphere, but what guidance we give him seems to be working. He is eager, and learns so quickly that it makes me wonder if we truly were all he needed to begin unlocking his power. Inifra takes simple pleasure in watching him try new things. None of us can keep a straight face when he laughs as he learns, not even Timber.

As I spend more time with Timber, teaching her how to dance with a blade, I find myself wondering how Salisir could have been so bitter. How could he have been such a brute to us when he was our instructor? There is a deep satisfaction in teaching someone to do what you love. My pride in Timber grows with every leap she takes in the art.

Entry-255-Quote-teaching

I cannot imagine hurting her. Spurning her on with my own self-loathing. All I want is for her to improve, to become as talented with a sword as I am. It’s odd, but there is a part of me that hopes she will surpass me. I never thought I would feel that way. About anyone.

Is this what having children is like? That is something else that is denied me in my exile. Did Salisir ever have any children? I cannot even begin to imagine what having Salisir for a father would be like, and I survived my mother’s rearing.

We have begun a slow curve towards the northeast, a sign that we are making progress in circumventing Daedric territory. It was just a slight adjustment to our path, but it was enough to encourage me. Just give us another ten days and perhaps we will find some semblance of safety.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 254 – Day 379

Entry 254 – Day 379

Another of Hembila’s men has gone missing. The simple silence of their disappearance is the most unnerving part. If it were not for the weaving pattern they make through the trees, crossing paths with one another at regular intervals, we might never notice them gone. Hembila has added a nightly muster to our routine for just this reason.

The discipline in his troop shows through in their ability to continue using Hembila’s pattern to move through the jungle. It has to be unnerving to walk out among the trees, alone for minutes at a time with a Bangara in the shadows. The fact that they haven’t collapsed in upon our center to huddle for a greater sense of safety is impressive. Perhaps Hembila understands the Bangara better than he lets on.

From our limited experience, the monsters relish a crowd.

Entry-254-Quote-Experience

When we were first tracked by a Bangara months ago, it stalked us much as a cat might. Unlike a cat, however, when confronted with a massive crowd of KoraKora, the Bangara barreled straight into them. The result was much like that of a fat child discovering an unprotected basket of sweets.

Grouping together is only safe at night, when we can build fires around which to sleep.

One would hope that the tensions driven by a Bangara’s presence would draw the focus of Hembila’s men, but they find their ridicule of Dionus to be the perfect distraction. I do not know how he has kept his calm.

If my journal hasn’t already illustrated this fully enough, Dionus is not just a man but a force of nature.

The story that leaked out about Dionus to make him famous was one of the few I have heard which has not been, and probably cannot be over-exaggerated: the Glass Feast. That doesn’t mean it has been told properly.

The Crown Prince of Earlshine was as famous for being a prick as he was for being a prince, which isn’t necessarily all that uncommon of princes, but he made quite the show of it. Dionus has never told me who it was that hired him to kill the prince, professional standards and all that, but he has told me that he was paid an exorbitant amount to ensure it was a noteworthy end.

Assuming that’s true, I would argue that no one has ever gotten more for their money.

The halls of Gromond, the capital of Earlshine, are the perfect example of how a ruling class can contrast their subjects. Within the eight kingdoms, I doubt there is a finer show of it. Gromond itself is a dump, a place that waste goes to dispose of its leavings. The streets are narrow and cast in a gloom not unlike that of the Nanten. The buildings are crowded and loom over the streets where they can’t press any further into one another.

The palace of Gromond is the exact opposite. Its corridors are wide and well lit, the halls and chambers tall and filled with the finest glass gold can buy. It was the glass that undid them.

The Crown Prince was to marry the daughter of Silverdale’s wealthiest landowner, second only in station there to the Crestwards. It was a marriage that would strengthen ties that Gromond hoped would help unseat the Crestwards as the High King’s scepter and bring that title north. This is where most speculations arise that it was the Crestwards who were behind the plot. I actually asked Starlark about it once, but he said his father would never be so bright as to assassinate anyone who threatened him.

There were a number of other people who wanted to see the union disrupted, if not many within the families themselves. For this reason it was probably one of the best guarded events in modern history.

The way he told it, there were seven Masters at the feast as bodyguards. Only two served the King in Gromond directly, the rest had either been hired on or loaned to him by close allies. Two Breakers, two Hydrons, a Telekenetic, and two Kinesthetic warriors of immense strength and aptitude.

These on top of a few hundred house guards put in strategic locations all around the palace, including a ring around the walls of the main hall itself. Outside, on the palace grounds, a full battalion of soldiers stood as a buffer against any assault. As if the slums of Gromond didn’t serve as buffer enough.

Dionus once told me that he took the job not for the pay, but because of the sheer challenge it presented. Timing was important, too, as he needed to ensure that the casualties inflicted would be acceptable to his client. Thus the Temple was out, as were the open streets. The feast was the best location and the last opportunity before the marriage was consummated.

He said he struck seconds after the first course was served. It would be expected, he assumed, that any assault would come after the guests were good and drunk. He preferred to attack while the guards were still settling into their watch after permitting the guests.

He told me his only regret was that he wasn’t inside to see what the glass looked like when he first struck. The windows were twenty feet tall, filled with massive unbroken panes. The entire length of the hall was dressed in them, and every single one shattered in the same instant. Dionus sent the glass shards swirling inside, then floated into the hall after them.

Unlike with the Shahn he had assassinated in the Northern Range, Dionus stayed afloat. He rose the winds around him, calling forth a tempest within the hall. He said he never drew his blades. The glass served as his weapon that day.

Entry-254-Glass-Feast

The roar of the glass scraping the walls drowned out the screams and the tearing of flesh below. The room sparkled red with every flash of lightning outside. No light remained within the hall itself. They say they were never able to get the blood out of the walls.

War was only prevented because no one knew whose purse had paid the price. And Dionus certainly has never told. He did say that they built iron bars across those windows when they finally made repairs.

If these men that surround us tonight knew stories like that, I wonder if they would continue to pester Dionus like such spoiled children.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 253 – Day 378

Entry 253 – Day 378

One of Hembila’s men has gone missing. There is no certain explanation, but the word “Bangara” is never far from the lips of the rest. The formation around us has tightened notably yet again.

Hembila spends his time weaving through the trees to check on his men, both on the move and at camp. The grim determination on his face washes away all possibility of reading his thoughts. It was while we were on the move that his man went missing.

Hembila called for a full stop when he made the discovery. His men pulled in to make a defensible perimeter, torches burning in every other hand, and Hembila counted heads. I was surprised to see him hesitate before he gathered a small search party and made off in the direction the man had last been seen in rotation.

His men trust him, but with every passing mishap I can see the strain on him grow. Morale cannot be easy to maintain on a mission like this.

They discovered nothing during their search, but Hembila agreed with the rumors that the Bangara was to blame. There had been signs of it, he said, and nothing else. I know those signs. Fresh gashes in the bark of the trees, undergrowth stamped down in a swirling depression. I asked Hembila how they kill Bangara.

“We don’t.”

Entry-253-Quote-Comfort

Not the comforting words I was looking for.

“Bangara die in their own time,” he said. “Until then, it is best to avoid them.”

Unfortunately avoidance is no longer an option. I asked Balthandar if he had come up with any ideas on how to kill the Bangara. He shook his head in response. We are still two weeks from Batsu territory. We may not make it as long.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 252 – Day 377

Entry 252 – Day 377

One of Hembila’s men has taken it upon himself to antagonize Dionus at every opportunity – above and beyond the petty jabs of his companions. Dionus does what he can to ignore the man, but I thought he would kill him tonight. His name is Kodara.

Two nights ago we ate what looked like a handful of roast geese, though I’m not sure what their proper name is. Dionus was eating the leg of one. Kodara pretended to trip and kicked some dirt and twigs over Dionus’ hands, spattering it with the debris. Dionus picked the meat clean, coldly watching Kodara who feigned an apology then walked away laughing.

This morning Dionus awoke to find his pack soaked in urine. We didn’t see who did it, but every time Kodara walks near us he pantomimes choking on the stink of it. We will have to wash Dionus’ pack thoroughly when we get to another creek. Inifra attempted to offer up an excuse for the incident by explaining that in many places, urine is used as a cleaning agent. She stopped when Dionus’ glower turned to her.

I was thinking about putting Kodara in his place until Dionus opened up to me tonight. “Let them laugh,” he said at last. “They’ll be behind us soon enough.”

I asked if he didn’t want revenge, at the very least to humiliate Kodara? Dionus said no. He wants to let Kodara have his joke. “Let them all have their laugh,” he said. “It proves them the fools. Playing into their games would only make it worse.”

I’m not so easily persuaded. It shocks me to see Dionus contain himself like this, especially considering all I want to do is ram my sword through Kodara’s stomach and watch him choke without the need for mimicry. Even Salisir has been put on edge by the hostilities. If I’ve seen any flicker of uncertainty in the old man’s eyes, it has come when watching to see how Dionus will react to the next affront.

Entry-252-Quote-Snap

Will Dionus snap? That is the question I quietly share with Salisir. I do not know the answer. The old Dionus would have responded with his own insults at the very least, or perhaps killed these men right out. This new Dionus is changed. He has some other goal in mind when suffering these fools. I will be happy when we have left them far behind.

Share on Pinterest
Entry 251 – Day 376

Entry 251 – Day 376

As if things weren’t tense enough, Hembila found a Bangara bed not far from our camp this morning. I let out a long string of curses under my breath when he told us. If there’s one, we have learned that there are often many. The giant reptiles are quick, lethal, and terrifyingly silent in their movement.

In fact, aside from the skulls donned by Fodafa’s guard as helms, I have yet to see one dead. We learned to run them off with fire, but that is as close to a defense as we have come. And now one stalks us. Yet again.

Part of me had hoped that they were only to be found in the outer reaches of the Nanten, and not within the Great Recess. That hope has been crushed.

Salisir seems unfazed. At least he took the news in stride, much as one might react to being told that rain was likely when it had previously been assumed merely possible. What horrors has he seen in this place to react so? After twenty years, I can only assume he has seen deeper into the depths of hell here than I can imagine.

A life spent dealing and dodging death will leave one numb – not from emptiness, but from oversensitivity. The brokenness that gradually shatters the nerves and leaves them raw forces one to withdraw over time. Better to dull all sensation then than risk feeling the burn of every passing ghost.

The longer we spend in his presence, the more I realize that I do not truly know him.

Entry-251-Quote-Numb

Balthandar has a look about him that tells me he’d like another stab at one of those monsters. He was the one that figured out fire was the key to frightening them. I doubt the search for a way to kill them has been far from his mind. Balthandar doesn’t like vulnerabilities he can’t patch – I take it as a remnant of his days as a bodyguard.

I would feel safer being at the center of a larger group like this, except that I’ve seen the Bangara crash heedlessly into KoraKora amassed by the thousand.

I doubt I need to put it in writing, but we’ve stoked our fire to blaze through the night. Now to see if we can sleep in the additional heat.

Share on Pinterest