My friends remain lost, if they are not dead already. To make matters worse, the woman with whom I was enraptured has been drawn into the plan of the man that I hate most in the world. I feel as though I have been tossed from the heat of the jungle into the frigid waters of the north. If only Brin Salisir had been dead as I had hoped.
What bitter words to begin a new journal.
I sit and write by the Nanten River, a mighty trunk of water flowing in opposition to itself. Alone, it forms the vein and artery both that feed the heart of this jungle: Matasten, capital of the fallen Arbor Kingdom. Somewhere nearby I can only hope that my companions, my dearest friends, remain alive tonight.
Dionus, Balthandar, and even little Timber. It is their plight that keeps Inifra close another day, and only because Salisir has concerned himself with their fate.
The last few days have drawn me from a hole within myself. My grief dragged me into blindness, into foolish action. Grief over my exile. Over Naline, and Lystra. The appearance of Brin Salisir shocked me from my stupor. I wonder now how I could have acted with such certainty before, but my muddled missteps stand before me in stark clarity. I suddenly find myself with nothing upon which to stand.
He seemed set on leaving until he discovered we traveled with a Walker. Dionus, my closest remaining friend, is an Expressionist of legendary skill. He is somewhere in this jungle tonight, and now Salisir wants him for a pawn in his scheme.
It requires all the self-control in the world to keep from ripping his throat out every time he speaks. I hate Brin Salisir, more now than I ever have before. Somehow seeing my old teacher in the flesh has awakened a primal fear in me – one that converts itself to rage in his presence. This man beat me, cut me, and would have killed me without the intervention of the other teachers of the Scourge.
Now that he is an old man, Salisir is weathered but sharper for the wear. He is not nearly as large as I remember him, though that should be expected. Still, I can see the violence that made him infamous. It rests just beneath the surface like muscles twitching under the skin. He has new scars that I don’t recognize; each marks a disappointment, a failed promise of death to this man who has no right to live.
And now he has a plan.
I don’t know the full extent of it, but the goal is simple enough: unify the warring factions of the Great Recess and turn their energy towards the darkness in Matasten. Salisir claims he wants to unite the Nantese under one stable government again. Who he intends to put on the throne remains a convenient omission.
Inifra’s imagination has been captured by the concept. She speaks to him like she knows him. Worse, she looks at him through eyes filled with memories from times long past. Memories she herself did not create, but received as a gift from her predecessor. This gift seems to be more a curse from Infiri than a blessing. At least so it seems to me.
Inifra says she does not remember much with clarity, but every hour in Salisir’s presence recalls more to mind. How can such talk make me feel so sick to my stomach? Have I lost all self-respect?
Salisir wants to help us find our companions, but he doesn’t believe waiting here is the best course. There are dark things in the Great Recess. Things that hunger for magic and consume those who wield it. Someone as powerful as Dionus would attract attention quickly. The fact that we have not heard from them in days only heightens my anxiety.
Do I choose to believe Salisir? Do I leave the river and its obvious aid as a landmark, or do I stay here on my own and pray my companions find me? If they are in trouble, I should go to them. What if they’re already dead?
Suddenly, now that Salisir sits a stone’s throw from me, I have lost all sense of direction. He was my mission. Find Salisir. Finish what he started.
Now that I’ve found him, helping him is the last thing I want to do. When one reaches north, where can their compass point?
My indecision has led us to wait another night in this fishing village, but I doubt he will be so patient tomorrow. We have stepped into a whirlwind within the Great Recess of the Nanten, and I fear it will sweep us up into chaos.