Entry 329 – Day 459

Entry 329 – Day 459

If I thought I was tired yesterday, I was sorely mistaken for just how much energy I truly had. I climbed two trees today and think I’ll take a break tomorrow. It’s become a joy to climb. The work itself remains miserable, albeit a diminished form of misery. But the heights. I never knew I could love them so.

Standing in the trees alters one’s perspective significantly. I asked Dionus if it was like what he felt when flying and he smiled. “Something like it.”

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That desire is still there in him; the call of the Wind remains a very distinct tug on my friend. I tend to forget just how amazed I should be that he has resisted it for so long, that he ever overcame it.

I will master these trees. If Starlark was able, then so can I.

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Entry 330 – Day 460

Entry 330 – Day 460

The treeborn have begun prepping us to move from tree to tree; I am equal parts petrified and excited to give it a try. The harnesses are impressive works, a combination of rope, leather, and iron rings that seem strong enough to hold the weight of three men each. Dionus seems satisfied as well.

Each harness has three ropes attached and coiled at its sides. Two of them are used to swing, and one is used for “emergencies only.” I’m not sure if it’s comforting that they’ve accounted for emergencies or that such a rope needs to exist at all.

The hooks on the end of each rope are a minor wonder of engineering. Apparently, though they do not use these systems themselves, they were originally designed by the Yatusu. Each rope is secured to the hook at its end, but along the rope runs another series of thin wires housed in a separate, thin cord of flexible bamboo. These wires act as an activation and release system for the talons of the hooks, enabling them to fold both in and out, lock in place, and release as desired.

I don’t really think I want to entrust my life to these things.

We will begin training with them on the ground in a few days. Essentially it has been explained to me as follows:

The two primary ropes are linked to the harness under each arm, just inches below the armpit, and are secured to the wrist of the user so as to keep them readily in hand regardless of what happens in the trees. At that wrist binding is a small housing that holds three rings, each of which is assigned to a particular finger. Depending on how one pulls the rings, the three talons at the end lock in one of three positions or release.

The goal, then, is to cast the rope over a distant branch so that it loops, catches itself, and provides for a direct swing out. As we reach the apex of the following swing, our timing should be good enough to reach out for the next branch, release our hold on the first, and secure our grip on the second. All in one smooth motion. Of course, if you mess up the timing you only have a few hundred feet to fall.

I asked how they keep from losing altitude. It seems as though they would perpetually descend until there were no branches left from which to swing. All I got in response was a wink, which builds even less confidence than the tiny rings through which I’m supposed to loop my fingers.

I didn’t bother asking about the “emergency rope.” I’ll leave that unpleasantness for when they actually begin training us.

I need a drink.

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Entry 331 – Day 461

Entry 331 – Day 461

We could almost run between the trees when among their boughs. I hadn’t realized it when the heights kept me dizzy, but the more comfortable I grow walking along the thicker branches, the more confident I am that we could run and jump from one to the other. Asking about it drew smiles.

“Ocada learns as slow as he climbs.”

It comes as a relief to know that the swinging mechanisms aren’t all upon which we will be relying to move from tree to tree, but my trepidation at learning to use them remains. Not that jumping between branches is within the realm of my comfort, regardless of how large said branches may be. The problem with spending so much time in the canopy of the Nanten is that I can imagine falling from it that much more vividly.

The Batsu take turns running and jumping out to thick vines, swinging out and away from us before climbing back up. It’s a game to them, but it terrifies me every time they do it. What if one of those vines snaps?

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They pour themselves into their games and jokes and by doing so cover up the grief that hems their edges. They lost friends, a lot of them. As we begin to speak to them of making for Matasten, of what to expect and what spies they have in wait, the flicker of vengeance lights deep in their eyes. This will be dangerous for all of us, but success will taste sharp and sweet.

Wudan has made strides in bending the flow of the Atmosphere around him; that’s the best description for it that I can think of for what he does. He tried to describe it to us, but words failed him in the end and he attempted to demonstrate instead.

He is able to maintain a gap in the Atmosphere around us while pulling on that which remains inside, feeding it into either Dionus or me. The problem that immediately presents itself is that there is a limitation to how much energy exists within the field he has created and it can be expended.

If it’s only Wudan who touches and uses the Atmosphere then it appears to be recycled, but as soon as one of us touches it, it is converted into an energy that cannot be so quickly recaptured. This implies that the metaphysical world is converted into the physical when we use our abilities. Larger questions reside within that observation than I have the energy to delve into tonight.

In essence this gives us a combination of tactics to pursue. We can use stealth within Wudan’s gap field, but will not be able to accomplish much within it. We can also allow Wudan to amplify our abilities to a much greater extent than before as he bends the Atmosphere around him, but we cannot do so without lighting a metaphysical beacon to announce our presence.

The other question is how the gap field will affect the Atmosphere beyond it. If he’s repelling it actively, will that disturbance register with those who are sensitive to its touch? The Daedra appear to have some incredibly sensitive followers among them; what ripples can they feel?

Another couple days north and we will set up camp to wait; Salisir will set us loose shortly after that. Now to ensure we don’t come tumbling from the Majestic Sky in the meantime.

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Entry 332 – Day 462

Entry 332 – Day 462

If I fall from one of these trees, I hope I don’t survive. Rather, I hope I have the presence of mind to shift back in time and not make the mistake that kills me. At some point I need to gather my nerve and master this expression that has been mine since I was a child. I didn’t choose it, but I am doing myself no great service by refraining from embracing it.

This of course sets off all kinds of alarms in my mind, not least of which is what happens if I slip and use my ability within range of the Daedric presence? Is it worth my life to compromise the secrecy of our mission? But then I am just allowing the fear to dictate my actions under the guise of nobility. I need to master myself as much as my expression.

How many of my problems would I have solved by taking a step just a few minutes backwards in time? How many ill words spoken could I have retracted? Deaths dealt I could undeal? I haven’t dwelt upon those questions for a long time; I shouldn’t start now.

Entry-332 Quote Time

Inifra had tea and some new fruit ready for us when we descended the trees for the final time today. Refreshing, we were happy to eat something immediately upon completion of the day’s exercise. The fruit itself was cut into cubes, though she said it came from something shaped like a pear. The meat was dense but tender, and sweet. I asked her to find us more and she laughed. “If the Batsu leave anything for us to scavenge, you know I will.”

She will leave us in two days’ time. Tomorrow will be the last evening we make camp with the larger army, and then they will leave us behind. Timber and Inifra will carry north, and with them the final sense of this party we have formed over the last year. Balthandar, Bolton, and even traitorous Starlark are all gone. Without Inifra and Timber, it will be only Dionus and I left.

Strange to think that Inifra never spent any time with Bolton, though the old slaver befriended a number of her lesser priestesses. He died before she became an ally, a friend. I will not be ungrateful for the fact that we continue to gain new friends in the wake of our many losses. I pray the separation that approaches does not amount to a loss, but merely a temporary parting of friends. We will see them again.

I’m going to go drag Timber into a surprise lesson just for good measure. We won’t get many opportunities for a long while.

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Entry 333 – Day 463

Entry 333 – Day 463

Inifra has unburdened herself of her curse, telling me what it is she fears and why she has kept herself so removed these past months. In the wake of the conversation, I can’t bear to part ways with her tomorrow. There is simply too much for me to process before that happens.

When she saved me from the waterfall at Hamada, she knew she loved me. Seeing the destruction before her, the explosion rolling upstream as she tore down the river to join us, she knew I was dying. She pushed herself as hard as she ever had, straining against her limits to arrive in time. She almost arrived too late.

When she flung herself from the heights and hurtled down to save me, she was on the brink of blacking out. She was afraid her body would falter, that she would die in the attempt to rescue me. That was her curse, she said. She knew then that she loved me, and that she was destined to die for me. She simply didn’t know when that would be.

I didn’t love her, she said. She didn’t know if that was what saved her, or if it simply was not yet her time, but she didn’t want to take the risk. She withdrew. Whenever she thought I was coming around she put up her walls. She didn’t want to, but she knew she couldn’t afford to die. Not yet.

Entry-333-Quote-Insanity Ifiri's Curse

I couldn’t help a subtle shake of my head. This was insanity; she was saying it was true, the curse of Infiri was true. She explained every death to me in detail. Every lover for whom a priestess had died going all the way back to Infiri and her foolish tribesman.

They all died, she said, because it was how Infiri willed it. They all died because they loved. If they could keep themselves from love, from falling for any man in their lifetime, they were rewarded with a long life. As soon as they fell in love, they fell out of favor with the goddess and she worked to devise a fitting end.

She sounds like a bitch, I said.

Inifra laughed against the tears that had formed in her eyes. “She has her days.”

There was nothing to be done for it. No one had survived their love – memories of that were clear all the way until Salisir’s appearance. That was when things got hazy, she said. That was when her certainty surrounding all things waivered. If she left me now, if she went north with the army, she would be able to stay alive. To help in the fight to come.

No words were exchanged over the matter, but I think she was hoping I would ask her to stay with me. I can’t though, why would I? She really is needed in the north. As much as I will miss her, do I love her? And if I truly loved her, would I ever ask her to stay with me at the risk of her life?

This curse seems cruel enough if it were to happen to anyone else, but I’ve already let enough of the women I loved die. I killed one with my own hands. To be destined to watch another die, and this time in my place, is beyond comprehension. No, I will not love Inifra. Let her go north; if I die in Matasten, may she live a long and healthy life away from men like me.

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Entry 334 – Day 464

Entry 334 – Day 464

She’s gone. I’ve been separated from Inifra before, but it never felt like this. When I first met her I was stunned by her presence, the sheer power she carried combined with her beauty, her strength. Inifra is not like other women I’ve known; she’s not like anyone I’ve ever met.

I was infatuated. Looking back through my journal entries about her now, it’s embarrassing how I was acting. I can blame grief, confusion, lust; there were a combination of things that influenced my reactions but, regardless of whatever won, I sound like an idiot in those pages.

What I had yet to see was her compassion, her love for her people, and her willingness to reach out to those she didn’t understand to ensure they were cared for. She loved Dionus when everyone around us rejected him. She threw caution for her very life to the wind when her people were threatened above Hamada. When I nearly died.

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Inifra is kind. It’s one of the faces she didn’t show us for months. It is one of her defining features now in my mind’s eye.

And now she is gone.

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I need to separate my thoughts from her in any case. I don’t know that I believe in this curse, that my feelings for her could lead to her premature death. I would rather not take the chance.

There is a task ahead of us which demands focus. I am to start training on the ropes tomorrow and I need my mind to be collected if I am to undertake these arboreal acrobatics.

I wish Timber was here to practice. It would take my mind off things. Perhaps Dionus would like to learn something new.

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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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