Perhaps entering the jungle directly was a mistake. I can’t admit this to my comrades, confidence is all I permit myself to show them. The name Bantish echoed in my ears, pushing me inland when perhaps I should have tarried longer on the fringes. Now I cannot guess at where we are to go.
We have been working our way northeast for nearly a week. If it hadn’t been for Tarsh’s mutterings I would have searched along the Siltlands to find his trading partners. That was my one landmark from which to work. My one guaranteed starting point.
And I threw it away.
But there was power in that name. A power that my years of training and life in the field fighting the Daedra recognized at once. You learn to trust that instinct. I could not let it slip me by.
It is the heart of the Nanten that draws me, its very center. The capital was built there, even if I do not know myself how to get to it. Matasten. That was back when it was a city. Now it is said to be little more than ruins piled among the trees.
Matasten was renowned in its time, as much as it is now maligned. The Sapphire City, it was called. Seat of the Arbor King. There were few minerals that were not extracted from the territory under her stewardship. She was rich, endowed with an endless flow of gold, copper, gemstones, and hardwood. These gifts she bestowed upon the Southlands, the Great Wastes, and the Old Empire.
That isn’t to say that Matasten was ever a place you would call accessible. This jungle through which I slog every day has never been tamed. But there were trade routes that were braved, often at greatest cost to the men who traveled them. It’s said that thousands died every year navigating the rudimentary roads out of Matasten carrying goods for their employers.
Wherever great profit arises, the value of men’s lives declines. I suppose it is their lot. None of us can control to what fate we are born. Not all of us can have intrinsic value.
The Arbor King may have ruled from Matasten, but his subjects were little more than slaves. His capital was built upon their graves. Whether this is literal truth or not, the underlying idea is the same.
One thing is certain, their country was exploited by the men entrusted to protect it. A very small group profited from wealth that could have built another Empire, and while the people languished in poverty her leaders lived in luxury.
But eventually every evil is revisited upon its maker. The glory of Matasten was not to last. If we are to reach it in a reasonable time frame, we may need to discover which rivers lead closest to it. The rivers of the Nanten are legendary. They carry the lifeblood of the jungle. Like any good veins, hopefully they can lead us deep into her heart.
I caught Bolton uttering threats against Starlark last night. The two of them seem on the verge of exchanging blows. Bolton feels threatened by Starlark’s pedigree, and Starlark feels rightfully threatened by Bolton’s hostility. The last thing I need is for this party to fall into disarray from within.