Entry 259 – Day 394

Entry 259 – Day 394

The power of the SwordSkill has left me pulsing with adrenaline all night. I cannot get the sensation out of my fingers, the raw power that ripped through my hands every time I made the motions. It was so simple. How are these skills locked away so completely?

I can’t think of anything else. I have stared at this blank page for the last fifteen minutes. Perhaps it has been an hour. The fire is dying down and all I can see is that puff of red, the quick jut of power, and that feeling that only a vacuum can produce.

He taught it to me in a matter of minutes. I think he was surprised how quickly I picked it up, especially after having told me that most men spend years learning just one skill. I am not most men. Not with a sword.

The weapon itself is an integral part of the skill, its positioning as important as the hands, precision to the motions being key. I chopped down two trees while practicing, and I could have hacked down twenty more. There is no cost of using it, save that it might break the blade if done incorrectly. I used a rusted old sword from Salisir’s pack to practice, and I did see a brown puff leave its surface once or twice. I can also see how it would be impractical in a pinch; you need space and a little time to use it.

Still, my life is changed. I have to learn the rest. There is nothing I want more in the world than to unlock the Atmosphere through dance, to twist my blade and literally hear it sing. I had forgotten this thrill; my desire for more will consume me if I am not careful.

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Yet it feels incredible to have a reason to live that is not tied up in duty or shame. I am a swordsman, and now I truly can become the greatest who ever lived.

I cannot sleep. At least I know it will be difficult, but still I must try.

All I want now is to fight.

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Entry 260 – Day 385

Entry 260 – Day 385

The display of power yesterday has changed how Hembila’s men treat me. While I was never the target of their insults, they certainly did not withhold any of their disdain from me. Now that they have watched as I felled the two largest trees near our camp, they treat me with nearly unparalleled deference.

Where their respect for Hembila is unshakeable, and their awe of Salisir readily apparent, I am something entirely new for them. Gods it feels good to be returned to my element, even if only for a moment. Let them look on in wonder – none of them will ever rise to the levels for which I am destined.

Still, their respect is not so quickly spread. Dionus remains the sole recipient of their hate. I don’t know what to do for it. He has maintained his own dignity, I can say that much.

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We found something new to Wudan’s power today. While practicing with him a little, we discovered that he can control not only the outer distance of his suppression ability, but also the inner boundary. In other words, he can effectively create a bubble, the lining of which is a gap wherein the Atmosphere cannot hold.

While standing within it, Dionus was able to affect the immediate air around us, but he could not reach out past Wudan’s barrier. Nor, when I stepped beyond it myself, could I sense Dionus using his skill.

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This is only one step on a path along which Wudan must still travel, but it is a fascinating discovery nonetheless. And I am beginning to see why the Daedra would want him so badly. We struggle to cloak our touch on the Atmosphere even when we are not actively using it. With someone like Wudan at strength, we could use our abilities in full force within his covering and no one beyond it would ever know.

And if the Daedra do not want him for his power, then they want him for the blood that links him to it, and I do not want to know what horrors could be unlocked should they use it.

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Entry 261 – Day 396

Entry 261 – Day 396

Another discovery to Wudan’s abilities punctuated the day, this one even stranger than the last. We had guessed that perhaps he was able to amplify abilities, something not unheard of in the histories of magic, but we did not think he could unlock them.

We had played with these ideas before. Our first few attempts were to get Wudan to reach out, to bolster the Atmosphere around us. Initially that worked; I could feel my ties to the Atmopshere strengthen when Wudan put his mind to it. It took him a few attempts, and his lack of concentration betrayed him more than anything, but he managed it.

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It was a strange feeling, it still is, to know one’s ties to the Atmosphere. To feel the places in one’s body where the barriers between the Tiers wears thin and the flow of energy pours from one into the next. To feel one’s blood pump, even as it stays within the vein. To know the friction, to feel it grate as no liquid has a right to, the very molecules of it bouncing off each other as they travel toward the heart.

Today Wudan’s concentration held so strong that my awareness ran to depths previously unknown.

I saw a clock turning in my mind, a clock whose hands I could reach out and guide with the simplest suggestion of thought. Around me I knew time responded, smooth as you like, no strain or threat of jitter. My mind was whole. The entire stretch of time both past and future lay before me for the taking.

And then I saw the link. Between the clock and I there was a chain, fastened with a cord I could untie should I wish. And dangling from the base of the clock, more chains. Countless links of ethereal steel sparkled in the half-light of their own existence, twisting in a breeze no one could feel save myself. And then the vision passed.

Entry-261-Abilities Time Chronos

Wudan was breathing heavily. We had never exerted him so completely in his training before, but now we saw just how exhausted he had become. His child’s frame is not capable of containing the power that flows through him, yet flow it will. I know that now, too. He is a Pure, Touched, Gifted. He is even more than all of these things. He has the makings of the Swift Gods about him.

Dionus looked at me with a grin. He had seen his own vision. “I always knew I could command the air,” he said. “I never knew I could do any of that.”

There is plenty of time to discuss what we have seen when we find a private moment. I want Inifra to experience this next, when Wudan is recovered and ready for more exercise. I want to understand what I have seen for myself, but I know where it leads.

I have seen the keys to Chronos, the lost skill of my own expression. I think I can reclaim them.

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Entry 262 – Day 397

Entry 262 – Day 397

Whatever we have unlocked in Wudan has set him alight like a beacon. I sensed it in the moments where he did not actively mute his power. I know it now because we have been attacked at last by Daedric followers as we marched.

Bastards. I can’t write of them without spitting. It’s amazing the bile that rises at the back of my throat to think of them. So long removed from my duties as a Tetrarch, and still the old hatred burns deep. There is nothing in this world I hate more. Not even Salisir.

They rolled into our camp like a wave, black floodwaters on the tides of death’s call. There must have been over a hundred. Hembila’s men on our northern flank died well, but they died fast. The Daedra didn’t quest, they didn’t search or spread out. They made immediately for Wudan as if they could see him through the very trunks of the trees.

We launched ourselves into them, breaking their flow and forcing them around us. Hembila appeared in our midst, swinging the blade from his hip with roaring ferocity. It was too little too late. We had been taken completely by surprise. Then, almost to a man, the Daedric followers staggered. Some fell. All of them gaped at us, mouths searching, gasping as if there was no air for them to breathe.

I looked back. Wudan held Dionus’ hand, the latter’s eyes lost behind a white hot glow of power. Slowly, each and every Daedric follower who had not fallen to our blades collapsed choking on Dionus’ will. A number of Hembila’s men wrestled themselves free of the Daedra as they died, including Kodara who struggled to unclasp a Daedra’s hands from his throat.

All eyes turned to Dionus. Slowly he came back to himself as the final wheezing breaths extinguished themselves around us. He blinked away the glow in his eyes, pupils drinking the power down like a vortex, then smiled at Wudan who was grinning uncertainly.

“I can separate the elements that make up the air,” he said so matter-of-factly that I wanted to laugh. “I’d never seen them so clearly before as to name them, but now I can reach out and touch each on its own.”

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The humor left me quickly enough. This boy, Wudan, he is too powerful to be allowed to fall into the hands of the Daedra. Where our presence might alter the course of the battles that are to come, his might alter the very course of history. We cannot afford to lose him, yet I dare not think of what must be done should that possibility arise.

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Entry 263 – Day 398

Entry 263 – Day 398

Over half of Hembila’s men are gone, and those who remain have lost their taste for injuring Dionus. Most appear to fear him, though some have come so far around as to show him small signs of respect. I can only hope this trend continues. Kodara sulks, massaging the bruises around his throat and watching us from a distance. He reminds me far too much of Starlark in his final days.

Dionus explained that he can see the actual composition of the elements that make up the air, though it loses clarity when Wudan is not empowering him. When he can see them clearly, he can separate them. That was how he killed the Daedra – he removed the oxygen from the air immediately around each of their heads.

A man can’t draw much air into his lungs, he said, so it didn’t require much to drown them standing. There was an evil twinkle in his eye when he said it. I’m glad to know the killer is alive and well in my friend. We have many more Daedra to suffocate if we are to topple the darkened kingdom. I only hope we can replace it with something bright.

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Hembila has made his peace with Dionus. Though it was formal, rigid, it was a good step in the direction of reconciliation. I can see now how Dionus’ plan to win our escorts over has been laid out. Through his patient suffering of their petty injustice, he has left the door wide open to restoration.

Hembila’s willingness to begin that process will hopefully lead the rest to follow.

Wudan was very clearly exhausted today. We have pushed him too far, though he would continue his training with us if we would let him. He has that blindness to limitation that only the young can fully master. Both for his sake, and to keep from drawing attention, we have asked him to minimize his touch on the Atmosphere as much as possible. We need to get into safer territory.

There were over one hundred Daedra that attacked us yesterday. One hundred. I’ve killed entire sects that were half as big. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that this is not only not an entire following, but only a minute fraction of a significantly larger one.

Their skin was blackened far more than I’ve ever seen as well. While their coloring was dark to begin with, the open sores and black wounds around them were far more pervasive than I had seen at that scale. Usually priests and the more dedicated followers succumb to the corruption of their arts in some small measures. It’s not uncommon to find what appears to be charred flesh lining their backs and necks in long streaks. But to see it on the hands and faces of a hundred men and women… I don’t know what to make of it.

Part of Wudan’s exhaustion was the result of Dionus’ pull through him. Conversely, Dionus felt invigorated by the experience, filled up. It would seem the price was paid entirely on Wudan’s account. He is too young for this, his body too frail. We have to be extremely careful what we permit him to do until he has grown some more, or until we better understand how to mitigate the cost.

It’s said that expressionists fray; in one way or another they come apart in time. Different expressions exact different costs on the user; some will destroy a person more quickly than others. A few, like the Wind, only threaten the life of the user should they succumb to the joys of their power.

Wudan’s touch is much more foundational than all with which we have ever come into contact. Where Dionus and I serve as bridges to certain specific aspects of the power that is available in the world, Wudan is himself nothing if not a conduit. Where the Atmosphere funnels itself through small openings into us, it flows through Wudan so completely as to consume him.

I wish we had Gront here to give us insight. We need a Titan’s understanding of the world around us if we are to properly guide Wudan. If we are to keep him from being destroyed by his very self.

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Entry 264 – Day 389

Entry 264 – Day 389

Hembila has picked up the pace of our march to the point that we are nearly running. His men on the perimeter killed a Daedric scout in the night, proving we are yet pursued.

My uncertainty at this point is how we will find refuge, even should we reach the Batsu. Are they so strong as to keep the dark tide at bay? Will they have a way to secret Wudan away long enough for the Daedra to lose his trail? I hate being pursued like this.

Wudan is recovering well, his usual levity returned to him today, but I can see the weariness that remains in him. It’s good to know he can bounce back, but what was the long-term effect of his exertion?

If only we could move more quickly. I muttered a curse under my breath today and said that if we restore the Nanten Kingdom, I expect them to build some roads. They don’t have to name one after me, just building them would be tribute enough.

Salisir overheard that and stepped up to walk alongside me for a moment. “Have you ever heard the maxim that you can always judge a nation by the state of its roads?”

“By that metric,” I said, “The Nanten barely qualifies.”

He nodded quietly. “Did you know that before the fall, and all of this went sideways, they used the waterways that crisscross this place? You’ve seen how far they reach; the jungle is covered in them. No map I’ve seen comes close to displaying them accurately, as I’m sure you know now all too well by now. They had no real need of roads; they could get all of their trade and transport done without them.”

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I’ll admit I didn’t get his point. “Then roads don’t really stand as a very good measurement, do they?”

“You’re failing to see the ingenuity, the spirit behind it. There are a lot of hard workers here, but they don’t work at what they don’t have to. You’ve come to love the Nantese, yes. I can see that. But you have yet to learn to respect them for who they are. If you continue to stand them against rules that don’t apply, then they’ll never measure up to much. And that is why you will continue to underestimate them: You don’t understand them.”

I had to chew on that for the rest of the day. I’m afraid it’s true, as little as I want to admit that Salisir was right. I look at the Nantese and I continue to place expectations on them that may not be fair. That come from the wrong angle.

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I can’t admit this openly, but perhaps Salisir truly does have more to teach me than the Great SwordSkills he hordes. I need to earn those from him, just as it would appear I need to work to better understand the Nantese.

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Entry 265 – Day 390

Entry 265 – Day 390

Wudan has been taken by the Daedra. We are in pursuit.

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The bastards struck so quickly we didn’t have time to react. They came in the night, bursting into our camp with reckless abandon. We killed a dozen or so in the confusion, but when they withdrew they had Wudan with them.

Thankfully Hembila’s men are excellent trackers. There was no resistance in getting them to take up the chase; they know just how dangerous leaving Wudan to these monsters would be. We have pursued the Daedra through the day and have only paused to eat a quick meal. Our only meal of the day. We are entering uneven territory, rockier than we have encountered anywhere outside of the Broken Circle.

I need to pack my journal back up. We need to get Wudan back.

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