Starlark went raving mad in the night. He started screaming into the darkness, hollering challenges at the Makonga as if it were an enemy to coax into a duel. Balthandar physically restrained him until there was no option left but to tie him to a tree.
It took hours for the episode to pass. Starlark has not been the same since. He remains fidgety, anxious, and unwilling to speak to any of us. But his eyes continue to rove, darting from tree to tree as if they might uproot and fall on us at any moment.
For my part I found our return to the jungles of the Nanten brought me unexpected comfort. There is a sense of familiarity to these trees. I have overcome their initial challenge. I have learned how to survive in this place.
Balthandar was sad to leave the sun behind.
Dionus stood among the roots of the first trees, staring up at the sky for a long while before he finally turned and submitted to the canopy of the Nanten. Of us all, only Inifra seemed truly eager to enter the Nanten. And the trees are tall. What other obvious statements can I make?
While we waited for Starlark to regain his composure, she gathered the necessary roots and leaves to perform the rituals that she says will blind the Makonga to our presence. If it does not, then we know it hunts a murderer among us.
It does feel strange walking among these trees without Bolton. I continually expect some grunt followed by a string of complaints. There are no insults between him and Starlark. No pleas to better appreciate the Nantese. Only silence he once filled with words I used to loath. Bolton and Starlark. One would think they had nothing in common.
The irony is that when I saved Bolton’s life, he was tied to a post much as we tied Starlark to that tree.
Bolton swore to kill me when we purged a Daedric sect from a stronghold in the Great Wastes. They had been a consistent client of Bolton’s, purchasing slaves off his crew for sacrifices and worse. Killing the lot had an ill effect on the local economy. Years later, on another excursion into the Wastes, we happened to catch up to our Daedric prey in the midst of their own slaving efforts.
The irony was that it was Bolton and his crew who were in captivity.
His malice didn’t lessen that day, but what little sense of honor existed in Bolton steeled him against the idea of killing me. His revenge would be in repaying me for my unintentional kindness.
Now he’s dead, all for following me. In a way I suppose I did kill him after all.
Let us hope I can save Starlark where I failed Bolton.