I couldn’t believe my eyes today, but there truly are mountains ahead. We came upon a lake, and there across from us they rose above the trees of the Nanten.
They aren’t the soaring peaks of the Northern Range, nor are they the broad giants of the Highridge Mountains, but they are taller than simple hills. With the exception of a few cliffs, they are covered in the same trees and undergrowth as the surrounding area. They appear like waves of green rising in the distance.
What’s more, we can see smoke rising from near their summit. It’s fascinating to observe such an obvious sign of life from a distance. Every other group of Nantese we have met so far has done everything they could to hide themselves.
Why are these not afraid? Should that cause us to fear them in turn?
Inifra is as confident as ever. She has almost taken on an arrogant posture. There is something she is looking forward to in this. Something she wants to prove. She said that the men we face do not hide themselves because they believe they are powerful. It also means that there is little likelihood that they have control of any magic.
Men who have magic in the Nanten, she said, hide it. Bantish, Prestorn, even Tarsh the ferryman, all of them hide their power. There are many who would use such men to their own ends, she said, and rumors circulate that the rest are killed. Only the most powerful dare make themselves known.
I haven’t told her this, but I understand better than she can imagine. I too hide my own power, and have done so since I was a child. Most expressionists in the Old Empire can reveal at least some of their ability and remain safe. I cannot. It is so ingrained in me to keep it a secret that I cannot even bring myself to write about it. Among our party, living or dead, only Dionus knows what I am.
Inifra cannot hide her power, she said, for it is the mark of her office and the proof of her station. She said that she is powerful enough to fear few within the Nanten. The men ahead of us will have strength of a more conventional sort.
Balthandar has stopped complaining about her, though he still doesn’t understand why I follower her so willingly. I think Dionus understands, however. He never questions it. He simply supports me in all things.
There are great changes that have been wrought in Dionus, and all of them appear to be good. He is never anxious. He is always calm, even calmer than Balthandar, and speaks with an even tone. Dionus is still light in his banter and as witty as I’ve ever known him, but the edge is gone. There is never a subtext to decode, never a jab waiting just beneath the surface.
He is simply happy to be alive and with us again. He’s said as much on a few occasions. What fears of the Nanten that plagued Dionus have left him. He is at peace.
I wish I felt so confident. We are on Salisir’s trail, but no closer to having any real answers about his demise. Suddenly we are following a Nantese priestess who somehow incarnates the goddess she serves. We are marching towards an enemy that is not our own on behalf of a people who would rather we did not. And we know nothing about this enemy. Not truly.
And the KoraKora could be anywhere nearby.
How can I feel confident or safe in the face of all that?
Now that I read back over what I have written, how can we expect to survive for long? It’s been a miracle that we’ve made it almost five months as it is.
Let us hope that Inifra’s confidence is not self-deception, and we shall see what this Zorga in the mountains can do against her.