I’ve seen poverty before, but nothing like this. Bantish has brought us into his meager village, although such a title seems generous for where he lives. There are huts made of vines and clay that stand well-hidden within the thick undergrowth, and little else. This appears to be the only defense they have: to hide.

The people have nothing, barely enough cloth with which to cover their shame. There are rudimentary tools available to them. Surprisingly they have iron even though I have yet to see steel. They bind it to pieces of bamboo to make spades and other utensils. What small gardens they have grow plentifully enough, so at least they are not starving.

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Most speak in a tongue I have never heard. Even Balthandar, who has traveled more broadly than any of us, holds no recollection of such speech. It is punctuated with very distinct consonants, but still slurs together in my ears.

The women appear to be every bit as strong in presence as the men. They direct whatever work unfolds before them, and even partake in some of the heavier lifting. Everyone who is able to work is expected to. This is probably the most respectable aspect of these people as far as I have seen.

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Bantish bid us rest a night, and although I begrudge him withholding his help at least he gives us time to recuperate. I doubt I’ve ever felt as tired as I do right now, lying on my mat writing these words. The last week of travel through this jungle has made me ache to my bones.

In some strange way it makes me smile. I welcome a new challenge – I haven’t had a good one in a long time.

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Journaling like this has been cathartic – and my sketches give me some small glimmer of joy. It takes me back to more certain times, allowing the flow of the pen to carry itself across the page. It is strange how you can find nostalgic peace couched in the crux of exhaustion. How moments of peace spring upon you in the midst of constant danger.

Tomorrow we set out directly east. Bantish says that’s where the heart of this menace will be found. They’re some form of ape, although he claims that there has never been such a ferocious breed in all his years. Something darker is afoot in the jungles near Bantish’s village. Something that seeks to undo him, and anyone else who would enter this territory.

We have no choice but to seek it out and kill it for him. If this is what I must do to move closer to my goal of finding Salisir, so be it.

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