Bantish is a small man, especially when compared to my companions. Among them Starlark is by far the smallest, and even he stands a head taller than the little savage. He is wrapped in a fine, brightly colored silk, with bare feet and a small staff to which his few possessions are tied at the top. They rattle as he walks, along with the wooden charms around his neck, but he moves without making a noise.
Bantish is dangerous. Of this I am certain. I have never met a man whose nerves remained so calm in the midst of the carnage we faced last night while moving unarmed. Neither have I ever met one who could move so quietly who did not have good reason to have learned.
He is darker in skin than even Balthandar. His head is clean-shaven, knobby joints protruding like the knots in his staff. His eyes are huge.
He brought us to a waypoint last night. That is the best description I can come up with for it. There is no settlement, only a few rickety lean-to’s built against rocks and an established fire pit covered with ash. It is the first sign of human settlement we have seen since Blithe.
He seemed to be taking measure of us. We were all of us on edge.
It took me the better part of the day to realize that Bantish was speaking the common tongue, but I suppose such oversights are justified in the wake of death’s near-passing.
He assured us that many within the Nanten still speak the common tongue, a lingering effect of the lucrative trade it once maintained with the rest of the world. It is hard to believe anyone could live long in such a hostile place, let alone trade. The fabled wealth of this country remains hidden from my eyes.
Bantish, however, seems to have a breadth of knowledge that will prove valuable in itself. I asked him if he had heard of an Imperial named Brin Salisir, and he nodded solemnly.
The name, he said, carried weight in the land. That says something in a place with so little inherited memory. I asked Bantish where we could find Salisir.
He said he didn’t know anything beyond rumors, and asked why we were seeking him.
I explained my mission to him, to find Salisir and obtain proof that he had completed his goal of unseating the Daedric Prince. If that hadn’t happened, I was to do it myself. Bantish just shook his head.
“Of princes there are none left in this place, save for those who fashion themselves into such and claim rights that none have bestowed upon them. Great violence ravages this jungle, from north to south and east to west, there is no safe place within its borders. Yours is an impossible task.”
I told him that supplies and direction to Matasten would suffice. With those we would be on our way, but he refused. He told us that such things were not to be given freely within the Nanten, and that the currency for it would be our aid.
This is not what I expected to hear, so I swallowed my indignation and asked what help he needed.
“There is a menace in these parts of the Nanten, the briefest encounter with which you have come into contact. It savages my people, and keeps us from building lives for ourselves. You must save my people from this danger, and in payment I will put you on the path to Matasten with whatever supplies you require.”
Bolton almost killed him on the spot in a rage. Starlark suggested his lips might loosen with a blade under the ribs. It was almost nice to see them agree on something for once.
“This is the price you will pay,” Bantish said without the slightest sign of trepidation. “No threats will open my mouth, and no torture will open my stores. How else will you survive? You know not where to go, nor where to find food. You don’t even know what horrors roam this jungle, and yet you crash heedlessly through it. I know all of these things and more. Serve my people, and I will serve you.”
Dionus stood before Starlark or Bolton could respond and reprimanded them. He told them they were no longer slavers or thieves, but in the service of a greater calling. And he made a painfully accurate point: we were in no position to proceed on our own without help.
I was forced to agree.
Thus Bantish, a name that has been so mysteriously impressed upon me, has pressed us into his service. If we survive, I expect exactly the aid that we need. We have nothing to lose. I should not begrudge his guile considering his need, but I cannot help myself. I do not want to face those howling creatures again.
There was such hatred in their eyes… an evil resides within them that I do not understand. It leaves me shaken to be so ignorant to these things. I can’t share these fears with anyone but this journal. I never thought I would be so grateful to be able to do just that.