Woads. Gods help us, but there are Woads in this jungle.
The ascent of all Demons is precluded by any number of signs. The combination is never the same twice, but some are more common than others. Woads are so common to history that I can barely write the word and contain the fear that threatens to overcome me. I am shaking.
Salisir found one this afternoon. All he said was “This was what I was looking for.” Then he held back a massive leaf so I could see its broken body. There was another ten feet away.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me unless I could show you.” Salisir stood silently with me for some time before he began to speak at length. “I’d heard of the furry bastards, Tetrarch always talked about ‘em, but I’d never thought to see one myself. ‘Till I came here. They aren’t common, but they react to magic like sharks to blood when magic is in use. I’ve seen them more this year than ever before.”
Inifra didn’t understand why it disturbed us so. To her they looked like nothing special, perhaps black jungle cats, with stunted tails and no neck of which to speak. Shadow Cats, they’re called in the Old Empire. The ancients called them Woads.
I had to explain. Woads are a remnant of the ancient forces of the Relequim – the Greater Demon – the monster who tried to ruin the world before the Golden Era. When he failed, he left nine Lesser Demons to follow in his footsteps. When he twisted his monsters to make his armies, he gave them a hunger for magic. It was his way of unleashing them on his magic-wielding enemies: the Ancients.
In the years that followed the Relequim’s defeat, his vile pets were hunted down and exterminated. But not all of them could be found.
Woads are infamous within the Tetrarch because they are the first to respond to strong Daedric activity. When the ascension of a Demon is near, they begin to breed. Thus we are taught from an early age what they look like and how to kill them. They are one of the signs for which we are ever watching. Still, none of us ever truly believes the vigilance necessary.
Now I’ve seen them with my own eyes. Salisir says there’s a Daedric society at the heart of the Nanten. More, there’s a Daedric Prince. The Woads, he said, were the proof he wanted to find before he told me.
They stink. Their bodies are tightly-packed, nothing but stringy meat and sinew. Over their jet-black skin is patchy, short black fur. Their legs are longer than their bodies. Even in death, they coil as if ready to pounce, yellow teeth frozen in a jagged grimace. Gods but they’re ugly.
If there are monsters like this in the jungles of the Nanten, then the use of magic will only draw them to us. I am again grateful for the discipline of masking my ability. I hope Inifra can match me in hiding her own. These things will hunt down and kill anything they sense drawing power. Has Dionus figured this out? I have yet to feel his touch on the Atmosphere. I can only hope that he has not sealed his fate simply by defending himself.