In all the days of my life I would never have dreamed it possible. The noises we heard in the night, the scraping and grinding, all of it was created by a massive forest Titan. I find it difficult to keep my pen steady on the page tonight.
We have met a Titan, a living ancient, and it was the single-most exhilarating experience of my life.
It spoke. Though that should be no surprise, I found myself completely flabbergasted. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Gods, where does one even begin with a story like this?
We heard the sounds in the night, as we have every night, but this time they continued into the morning. We decided to follow them. It didn’t take long before the noises grew louder. Again, we noticed more small animals than usual. Birds flew lower from the canopy singing. Perhaps hindsight tints the experience in memory, but everything felt more peaceful. The grinding and scraping stopped.
Then it was there.
We came around one of the massive trees and a Titan was standing not twenty feet behind it. Sheer terror mixed with exhilaration and joy coursed through me at once. We froze in place. It was looking right at us, its weight on its left leg and its head cocked to the side. It was tall, perhaps fifteen feet, with thick arms and legs of stone overgrown with thick vines. Gray with patches of green, knobby fingers and toes, its slow breathing left it looking like a statue.
It didn’t say anything at first and neither did we. What does one say to a creature that has lived since the beginning of time? Finally I managed to stumble through some awkward introduction of my companions and myself. The Titan nodded as I finished, which sent another thrill through me. It understood. Then it spoke.
“Not often to see men like you so deep in the jungle.”
Thinking it meant Imperials, I explained why we had come but the Titan held up its hand and shook its head. “I mean Expressionists. Your kind die quick in this part of the world. I am Grontmond, though you may call me Gront. Forgiveness if I struggle to speak. It has been a long time.”
I couldn’t hide my surprise. I asked how it knew we were Expressionists. “You might hide well from the Implings, but you cannot hide from me. You have only heard of it though you can touch it ever so lightly; I can see the Atmosphere. It flows around you with great respect.”
Flows around us, I asked? This was not the conversation I would have ever supposed would pass between a man and a Titan – if ever I’d taken the time to imagine it possible. “It’s very fluid, though I do think it would look much more like a thick mist to you. Why don’t you follow me? You look tired.”
Gront, the Titan, turned and moved steadily away. His joints rubbed and scraped against each other as he walked. The vines stretched against his movements and let out small groans. I asked him if they were a part of him. I felt nervous even though he seemed friendly enough for such questions.
“I don’t rightly know any longer. I didn’t always look like this, you know. When we were first born, we all looked much the same. My brothers and sisters liked to blend with their wards, so over time we all changed very much. I have changed many times, though not so dramatically. I don’t even recognize the deep water Titans any longer. Strange things, those ones. It’s been a few centuries since I spoke to one. She barely understood a word I said.”
“Are there more like you?” Dionus asked.
“Not many, no. If there are, our paths cross rarely. Most died in the remaking of the world. I barely survived myself. Here,” he said as he came to a halt. He pointed at the root of one of the trees where a variety of bright flowers grew. I had never seen so many flowers in one place within this jungle before. “I believe humans enjoy the red ones most. I prefer the blue.”
“You want us to eat your flowers?” Balthandar asked.
Gront the Titan lowered himself to the ground and sat with his legs crossed. A small fox appeared on his shoulder moments later. It was so unlike anything I have seen in the entirety of the Nanten that I had to remind myself where we were.
“Yes, eat my flowers. They’re quite good, and they will give you strength for whatever journey lies ahead of you. Which raises the proper question: What lies ahead of you?”
The flowers were delicious – it will be difficult not to taste every new bloom I see.
We sat with Gront and told our story, taking turns as we remembered everything we had been through. Bantish and the Mentalist camp. Running from the Bangara and the KoraKora. Prestorn’s hospitality and protection. Inifra’s hostility, Kantoo’s joy, the Deadwood and Bolton’s death. Starlark’s murder. Balthandar and I shivered over cold obsidian and Dionus pined for the open skies. We remembered the golden stalks of Senida with hunger and the terror of the Makonga with shudders. We recounted overthrowing Zorga’s fortress, our flight downriver, and close calls with the Bromnom. Gront seemed particularly interested in Hamada and the Broken Circle. Finally we told him of Salisir and our goal of reaching Matasten.
The fox played along his shoulders while we talked until it finally curled up against his neck for a nap. I found myself staring at the creature as if it were a gaping hole into another universe.
“So it is true. The land is fallen into a giant pit.” The Titan looked around and nodded to himself. “I guess I didn’t believe such a thing was possible. You would think, after all I’ve seen, that such tales would not be so difficult to understand.”
“You haven’t seen the cliffs for yourself?” Dionus asked.
“I haven’t moved from this region in decades. A century, perhaps. Before that I was farther northeast. But no, I haven’t seen the cliffs. I felt the quake that made them, but I did not bother to explore. I have been very busy. It is sad what you have said about Hamada. It was a beautiful city.”
I asked if he visited the cities often.
“No, no. I doubt any Titan makes a point of interacting with humans.”
“Then why us?” Dionus asked. “Why let us find you?”
“Context. In this time and place you are different. I may not have seen the cliffs, but I have seen the darkness rising in the jungle. The Implings are strong and they call to one of their Demons. I can see it even now, the fraying fabric of this forest. Their influence is everywhere; the Atmosphere twists to accommodate it. Healing the land is difficult enough without their prayers and sacrifices corrupting my work.”
I told him we were here to try and stop them.
“You will need many more men than three. I have seen how powerful your kind can become, but you are not enough. Many Demons have been born before, though it has been a long time since the last. Their followers are often spread wide. They hide, and in hiding they are not so strong. Here they live openly. They control much and thrive. I do not show myself to them, for they would rend me for my power if they knew I lived, but I see their darkness. Their perversions alter the flow of the Atmosphere. The Imp himself showed them these ways and called it his magic. I see it more here than I have ever seen it before. You would do well by us all if you were to stop them, but you cannot do it on your own.”
I told him that we had a legend about Titans who fought alongside the Greater Demon he referred to as the “Imp.” He nodded.
“Such things are true. Some Titans fight. They are the foolish ones. I do not fight and I will not join you, for I know that is what you wish to ask. But your war concerns me. That is why I have made myself known to you so that you might understand how grave the situation has become. The prince of the Implings commands an ancient power – one that few can understand. He is crafty and wise. He has unlocked much with blood, but he has not found his final key. When he does, I predict an Ascension. It is only a matter of time.”
I shiver even now at those words. Dionus asked him what this final key would be. Gront said he did not know, but our presence alone could sway things one way or the other.
“I find myself uncertain whether to ask you to leave or demand that you stay. Your blood is powerful, and I sense you bring others with you who are of great power as well. Such people can make a difference, but to what outcome it is always difficult to say. I will tell you this: do not go to Matasten alone. If they find you they will take you, and if they take you, you will bleed. They will grow all the more powerful for it and you will die.”
He pointed to the flowers and bid us take some for our journey, then pointed southeast. “You must make friends with those who share our enemies. The Imp had plans to lay all to waste and now his Implings and their Demons will do their best to make it so. This is the cycle of our world, and so it will be until all nine are stopped.”
He stood. We stood with him. The little fox scrambled down his back and disappeared into the bush. “Destroy these monsters, or they will consume everything we hold dear.”
With that the ancient turned and walked slowly into the jungle. We watched him go. It felt like waking from a dream. If my mind wasn’t made up before, it is now. We must turn back from Matasten and find a way to bring the Daedra to their knees. We need allies.