Entry 327 – Day 457

Entry 327 – Day 457

The battalion assigned to secure the tunnels through which we made our escape has broken west. The river at which we made our stand against the Daedra runs in the east not far from here. So many memories I will be happy to leave behind me forever. I never want to revisit any place I have been in the Nanten – they are all of them filled to the brim with sour memories.

Salisir has told us that he plans to leave us north of here to join the majority of this force with the standing Yatusu army. A contingent of light troops will be left with us, predominantly Batsu treeborn who will be dedicated to harassing the Daedric flanks. Salisir’s unification of this people is already underway. While he allows the Yatusu to keep their orange and the Batsu their green, he has given them new symbols. Standards for their units, not of the kind we are accustomed at home, but staffs for the commanders and pins for the soldiers.

I can see it at work already, bridging gaps by providing common links. It’s amazing how useless trinkets can become the symbols for which people will fight and die. We ascribe great meaning to such meaningless things.

Salisir’s plan hinges upon overwhelming pressure on Matasten. After the show of force against the Batsu he expressed some unease about this in private, but the mechanism is already in motion. Hembila has made promises to Oroun that his people will be given positions within the government once the throne is secured in exchange for placing a Sondu upon it. Oroun’s assessment of Hembila must be akin to our own because he has agreed. I only hope he doesn’t meet Fodafa before the coronation ceremony. He might rescind his offer.


Pride of the kind those two men carry is that which will not easily find peaceful compromise. When all of this is over, I wonder what kind of unity will truly be had. Civil war is the last thing we want to lead the Nantese into; Salisir claims he has accounted for that in his plans. What we need to focus on right now, he says, is killing that prince.

“That prince” is something that haunts my dreams, both waking and not. Thinking of the task before us naturally leads to memories of what we saw on the bridge to Matasten, the carnage, the sheer volume of blood spilled to the river below. How is he capable of carrying the weight of such armor? And the fire he drew forth, like no inferno I have ever seen.

Is he close to an Ascension?

What if a Demon ascended into the Nanten before our very eyes? We would be undone. There is no contingency in place for such an event, and surrounded by the faithful which this prince has amassed for it… the jungle would burn. How could Starlark turn so sharply as to serve him?

I need to spend some time stretching and get some sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to make it into the canopy of the Nanten and I’ll need all my strength for the climb.

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Entry 326 – Day 456

Entry 326 – Day 456

I can’t tell which burns more, my legs or my ass. Walking was difficult after running; it’s near impossible after climbing. What the trees don’t tell you from the ground is that they taper ever so gently as they rise. The surface appears smooth, yet the higher you climb, the more grooves and rifts you find in which to place your hands.

I got well over seventy feet off the ground today and froze there for a good while. I told myself I was taking a rest. In reality I was trying not to follow my head and spin right off the side to my death. Climbing back down is the worst part.

Entry-326-Quote-spin right off

I watch the treeborn elite with a new fascination now that I have first-hand experience. They move along the surface without any sense of impediment, like snakes take across the ground as if legs were superfluous. Tree-born, I tend to think this term refers to the fact that they were all actually birthed into the trees. They’ve probably spent more time swinging among the boughs of the Nanten than walking between the trunks.

That is the part I am not looking forward to at all. I can handle the climbing, it’s an exercise, something that makes me stronger in a new way. Tossing a rope out from one branch to another and then swinging across open space, hundreds of feet in the air… it makes my toes curl just to write it out.

Timber has started climbing as well, but she won’t go with us. I’m grateful for that, though it’s bittersweet that she wants to come. There is a part of me that wants Timber at my side forever, to apprentice under me, to grow into a premiere swordsman and enter the larger world as a true sword. I could teach her so much. It makes me long for just such a student to pour myself into, yet dissuades me at the same time. How could I ever invest in someone new? Thinking about that future draws me into a grief over things which have yet to befall us.

We have to kill this prince first.

Inifra watches us all and laughs. She’s the only one who doesn’t feel any need to participate in the exercise. It’s good to see her smile, even if it’s at our expense. She bites her lip to end her mirth as often as it tapers off naturally. She can’t feel happy without a well of sadness rising within her, tears brimming in her eyes with an irregularity that betrays how chaotic her emotions must be right now.

Has she ever experienced loss on this scale before? I sat with her around the fire for a while tonight and realized as I looked at her that I forgave her for letting Starlark go. In many ways I suppose I would have done the same thing. In reality, I already had.

When I told her this, she fell apart. I never thought I’d see the day that Inifra would weep openly. She clasped my arm and did just that, bringing all conversation around the fire to a steady close until the only thing that racked the silence were her cries. She has lost so much.

Her bodyguard was comprised largely of girls with whom she had grown up, but she hadn’t told us that one of them was her sister.

“Malala,” she said her name with a longing I would describe as severe. “As children, she was my best friend. In times, my only friend. When there was famine, we scavenged and shared what we could find. When the KoraKora roved our territory, it was Malala who always knew the best places to hide. There was a time I was sick, too frail to move quickly enough into hiding, and she led the KoraKora scouts on a chase until I could crawl to safety.” Inifra shook her head. “She ran before the KoraKora for me.”

When Infiri’s call had settled upon her, had transformed her from within, she said that there was a period where she hadn’t even recognized her sister as family. She said that each time Infiri incarnated herself in a new priestess, this period of forgetfulness increased incrementally. There were too many memories, too many faces through which to sort, too many links to too many emotions and no way to process it all without losing one’s self for a time.

She said she operated on instinct and Infiri’s instruction for two years before she was able to see her sister’s face and know who she was. By that time the damage had been done. Malala never looked at Inifra the same again. There was love, Inifra said, intermingled with the respect that was her due, but the distance between them never shifted back to proximity. The walls raised were never toppled. Malala joined herself to service with Infiri’s priestesses as she had planned, but never served alongside her sister as she had intended. Instead she served her sister, and Inifra had no choice but to assume her superior role.

So many things left unsaid. So much unresolved and brought to sudden and incomplete resolution. There is no going back; we know this, all who have tasted death. That doesn’t mean we don’t still wish we could step through the veil for just one last conversation. If only we could close one of the doors left eternally ajar by the passing of our loves, block out the glaring pain they allow into our world in standing open, perhaps then we might reduce our suffering by that mere fraction necessary to permit ourselves to heal.

Perhaps we never truly heal from something like this.

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Entry 325 – Day 455

Entry 325 – Day 455

One thing for which I can be grateful is that an army moves far slower than any regular unit. I’d like to keep from running for another year if possible. Unfortunately, I think Nianatara has devised a far worse fate for me in the interim.

Her treeborn elite came to us at the heart of our marching column with orders to take Dionus and me into the trees. They handed me a rope harness padded in leather, then two smaller ones for my boots. When attached, they add small spikes to the arch of each foot, enabling me to climb the face of the trees. At least in theory.

The sheer face of each tree is so broad that it can lose any discernable curve along its surface as one climbs it. I only made it about twenty feet before they told me to come back down. This is to be my exercise for the next week, climb ten trees every day until my legs and core are used to the exertion. It’s miserable, like walking a vertical staircase with my face against the wall and nothing but air to catch me should I tip backwards.

Dionus laughed until they handed him the same gear and told him it was his turn to try. If we are to make it into Matasten unmarked, they will take us through the trees. There can be no use of magic until the fight ensues. Wudan jumped up with Dionus to show him how to do it, and in bare feet he scurried twice as fast up the tree as the Walker.


I don’t know if it’s wise to take Wudan into Matasten with us, but how foolish would it be to leave him behind? We know now just how powerful we can become with him at our side. We need to continue seeking a way to allow his power to pass around him and not through him. Such theoretical work is best left to the great schools and universities, but we have none present to aid us. As always, in the Nanten we are on our own.

I just hope I don’t fall out of a tree before we figure it out.

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Entry 324 – Day 454

Entry 324 – Day 454

Timber took my hand as we walked today and didn’t let go for hours. She didn’t say anything; for once Timber remains silent and without curiosity. What burden she bore today I couldn’t tell, but I can take any number of guesses. Losing Balthandar was a hard blow, one that I dwell on regularly myself. I’m quick to return to the rooftops of Senida in my mind and watch the sun set with him. I miss him.

Perhaps it was that she finally took lives in a pitted stand against an enemy. We have had close calls and she has had to fight before, but never on chosen ground. She’s never put the skills she’s developed to use, watched her honed passion slice through a man and bring him to his end. I didn’t think about it until now, but she hasn’t asked for any lessons since we left the Eye.

Distance from home, the loss of Inifra’s priestess bodyguard, survivor’s guilt. We were allowed to live because we’re different. We were reserved for a far worse fate than our friends, and thanks to chance we have been spared all fates for the time being. Whatever it was that ate at Timber, I was happy to hold her hand in the midst of it. We need each other.

Inifra bore her own burdens alone today. Her guard seems lower in the midst of a people that do not worship her god, though I know she would see more of them come to know of Infiri’s power. She watches the path before her feet more than the space between the trees ahead; her chin rarely holds its rightful place of pride. I lost one friend last week; Inifra lost twenty.


We were given a brief respite from our melancholy when some of Oroun’s aides and captains joined us in the march. They weren’t particularly curious, I just think they saw the gloom surrounding us and wanted to dispel it.

One told us of his home in the north, a smaller tree where he’d set up a tent that he’d never had to move. He claimed it was an old magic he learned from a Batsu wise man that kept it free of rot and decay, that kept the snakes out and the wind from tearing it free. His companions goaded him on about this until he was forced to drop the story, though not without assurances that if we came to visit after the war, we would find it in immaculate condition.

I asked after Golara, assuming one of Oroun’s aides would know the man as he was close to Salisir. I wanted to get tabs on the snake, but he must be off on some other mission. The aides looked at me strangely, as if they didn’t recognize the name at all, but perhaps I only mispronounced it. Golara is the kind of person on whom I would very much like to keep a close watch; I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t trust him enough when he’s present, let alone missing in action.

I let it drop after a few attempts and they pushed on to other conversation. Termites seemed to be among the favored foods of the Batsu, they agreed. They favored a particular breed of red ones found only in the canopy of the trees. I asked if none of them had spent time among the Batsu before this trip south and they said they had not. There were occasional exchanges, diplomatic missions, but it was rare for any of them to go along.

“Why bother with the Batsu?” one of them asked. “We would rather eat fish than worms and live in homes than in trees.” There was more than one jab aimed at their companion with the magic tree tent over this comment.

Even after realizing that none of us really wanted to talk, they continued with us and chatted through and around us, laughing and enjoying the march. I’ll never understand soldiers who enjoy the march. It’s the worst part.

Some of the men we met today will be leading the effort to secure the tunnels east and south of Matasten. They will leave us tomorrow and I sincerely hope they find no resistance to their efforts. After the events of the last month, I can only fear far worse. I don’t look forward to my own mission in Matasten but I do not envy these men the subterranean struggle that awaits them.

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Entry 323 – Day 453

Entry 323 – Day 453

Oroun is a beast of a different kind. He’s massive, with Balthandar’s build and shaved head. He dresses simply, the hem of his vest stitched in orange with symbols not of wealth or military prowess, but of letters and learning. Quills are as common a symbol among his affects as spears would be among Fodafa’s. Both men command a presence, but the force of Oroun’s pride is kept in check by eyes that quest for knowledge.

I walked with him today as the army marched north. It will split in another day or two, and our noses will be spared some fraction of pain for it. Even Nantese armies leave a wake of wreckage, stink, and filth as they pass. I’ve never seen so many Nantese in one place before, moving as one unit. The real questions demanding answers now revolve entirely around discipline; we will have to wait and see how that pans out.

They forage as we move, though it doesn’t help that there are no villages or cities to bear the brunt of them as they go. While I suppose the requirements of a Nantese army are less than that of an Imperial army, all humans share the same basic needs for which the Nanten will be hard-pressed to provide as we move. I’ll leave the logistics to the quartermasters, or whatever the Nantese have as an equivalent; I have an assassination to plot.


Oroun seems to have a good handle on logistics in any case; he takes great care to mind the numbers as the conjoined armies move. I’ve never seen a spreadsheet in the jungle before today, let alone entire accounts set and bound in leather. The man seems far more concerned with supply lines than glory in battle, and it is for that reason above all others that I feel confident in his contribution to the effort. He puts as much time and care into the maintenance of his ledgers as I do my journals.

We discussed a surprising breadth of topics at length today, principal among them the Tetrarch and the Ascension of Demons. Even before Salisir arrived to tell the Yatusu of the dangers they faced from Matasten, Oroun and what he called his “fellow scholars” had discerned that there was more to this rot in the heart of the Nanten than simple occultism. He’s surprisingly well-read. The library of the Yatusu is difficult to maintain in this climate, but he claims they keep nearly 100,000 unique books from rot or mold within it.


I don’t even know how that compares to the universities or royal libraries of home, but good gods that’s a lot of books. He claims the Yatusu pride themselves in guarding the wisdom of the Nanten Kingdom, keepers of knowledge that would otherwise be long lost. He claims his city has not regressed into horror and depression like the rest of the jungle, and it is because of those very books.

It seems worth noting that he too was skeptical of Salisir’s blanket assessment of the Tetrarch. From his books, he knew my order had an old and prestigious lineage. His main questions revolved around why the modern Tetrarch didn’t appear to be located anywhere but the Old Empire. I didn’t have an answer. The idea struck me as strange, strikes me as strange… I never even thought about it before.

In the past, the Tetrarch was a pervasive presence around the world. There were Tetrarch agents to be found in every city, canvassing the surrounding areas and keeping an eye out for any Daedric activity; I know this from my own research, not from the Tetrarch itself. I read about it when I studied in Sterling, occasional asides whenever the right book fell in my lap.

Oroun had his own theory that he wanted to posit, something he had been dwelling on for years. The Tetrarch are dying, he said. They’re being eaten alive from within, cannibalized and cut off like a river squid’s tentacles being eaten one at a time. The body remains alive, but in time it will be blind and unable to sense the world around it. Unable even to move when the moment calls for it.

I asked him why he would say “cannibalized,” and he corrected himself to say it just seemed like the most fitting word, though inaccurate upon reflection. I let it go, but that word hasn’t left my mind since.

I told him that the Tetrarch was alive and well in the Old Empire. Surely there were still members out in the greater world keeping tabs on the state of things. Oroun said if that were so, surely they would send messengers to Silver Hall to report. I agreed.

“If that is the case,” he asked. “Then why have you never met one of the Tetrarch from some distant land?”

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that since. I let Inifra ask him her own questions in turn and fell out of the conversation for a time. The Tetrarch is a global order; our vigilance derives from many disciplined eyes watching from as many vantage points – always watching. Have we been blinded?

No one knew if the Daedra had arisen within the Nanten, and rise they most certainly have. To an unprecedented level. I can only assume that no one in the Old Empire knows this even now. Salisir was sent here under the pretense of finding out, but it was only to ensure he died in obscurity. Only to force him out here away from the Tetrarch to whom he posed some threat… some unknown threat. What the hell is going on?

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Entry 322 – Day 452

Entry 322 – Day 452

We are on the move again; no rest for the wounded. Salisir’s plan is enacted, even if he is not in the position he had hoped for. The Sondu have indeed mobilized in the south and press north into territory that only Daedra have occupied for years.

Nianatara’s Batsu move with us, conjoined to Yatusu forces by her reluctant consent. The meeting we were called to over the matter was beyond uncomfortable, but Salisir gained control from the midst of chaos. With Hembila and Oroun standing at his elbows, Salisir managed to remain civil and undeniably gracious with Nianatara, whose attitude and tone turned petty.

Her generals had already been won to our cause by the Yatusu’s decisive victory over the Daedra. Niantara’s attempts to withdraw from the conflict were called down by her own people; they see the danger now. They know the price of hesitation. We all do.

Salisir laid the war out on maps for us, the latest intelligence from the joint spymasters giving us a better idea of what it is we face unified than alone.


The Sondu will be within striking distance of Matasten’s southern strongholds in a week. The Yatusu’s main force stands to the northeast, already within range and questing out to test the city’s defenses. Salisir wants to take the Batsu north to join forces with the Yatusu and put the greatest pressure there just as the Sondu begin their engagement with Matasten’s scouts.

He still wants Dionus and me to take what’s left of the treeborn elite and make for Matasten itself, but he wants to give it a little more time. Draw out the real strength of the Daedra, he said, then aim for its heart. Our assassination attempt will be bold, he said, reckless even, but that is what will give us a greater chance of success.


It feels like he’s hoping we’ll succeed at dying quick bloody deaths.

The majority of the army assembled here will head north at a quick march tomorrow morning, while a small contingent will be sent to secure the tunnels leading to Matasten nearby.

The rest will be left up to chance and fate.

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Entry 321 – Day 451

Entry 321 – Day 451

Wauloo is gone. I assumed he had been swept off by healers or taken into custody, but he’s gone. One of the Yatusu scouts told us that he had seen him taken by a small group of Daedric troops in the chaos. Did he escape? Perhaps they were all killed in the fighting. Gods, I can only hope he was killed.

It’s horrible yet certain to say that we would be better off if Wauloo were dead. There is an enormous power in him to command such desperate attempts at reclamation. I wish I could have traded his life for that of Balthandar. Nine times over I wish precisely that.

But was this all an attempt to reclaim Wauloo? It seems like too great a commitment for one soul, even if their previous efforts demonstrated just how valuable he was to the Daedra. No, I think Salisir has underestimated this prince.

With his enemies divided, three nations unwilling to unite, there would be no better time to attack than now if he were capable. And capable the Daedric Prince has most certainly proven himself to be. Why wait for an army to unite when he could strike out and remove one of the greater threats. It leaves me to wonder what kind of spies he has.

Was Wauloo just such a spy?


It would be a clever act of intrigue to deliver him to us and let us run with him only to follow us to Nianatara’s forward camp. But that seems too fortuitous.

There is a massive vacuum in our camp tonight, one that can only be filled by an islander and his spear. Balthandar’s life was not something he ever considered his own; it was something he had put on the line for others for decades. He died exactly the way he would have wanted.

Still, I wish he hadn’t.

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