The Latala have been run off, yet I am not so certain we are rescued. We seem to have exchanged one set of captors for another.

A patrol from Motasta found us this morning, led by the second brother of the Sondu family: Hembila. The Latala must have known they were coming, which made sudden sense of why they had resumed binding us. They made us run before we knew what was happening in an attempt to escape. Some stayed behind to act as a rearguard and skirmished with the approaching Motastans, but we only found out about that later.

Hembila Sondu led a flanking maneuver that headed us off. The Latala attempted to scatter us, but the Motastans were too numerous to be so easily circumvented. Rather than fight, the Latala fled, leaving us to our fate with the Motastans. They took their suppression relic with them. The relief that flooded into me with the return of the Atmosphere was like water sating a week-long thirst. It left me tingling for hours.

Hembila is spear-shaft straight. His bearing is righteous, but not nearly as condescending as one might expect from such a description. His men show him great deference, and he spoke kindly to us in the common tongue – which he speaks very well.

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We told him we were trying to reach the Batsu. He recognized the blue blade on my armor and asked why we were not with Salisir. Was he not our friend? We were on a different path, I told him, but our goals are shared. He nodded, then told us he was obliged to refuse our passage. I think we all bristled visibly at that because he put up his hand to ask for patience.

“There are dark excursions to the east,” he said. “They come south from Matasten with impunity. We came north to disrupt them, but we fear their activity this deep into our territory means they have found Expressionists we were unable to bring safely to Motasta. It is impossible to pass safely east. We have given up on traveling there ourselves, for their numbers are far greater than we have seen in a very long time. You are very lucky we stumbled upon you.”

When he asked what the Latala wanted with us we were forced to admit we didn’t know. His men found our packs and weapons nearby, which they returned to us, and then Hembila asked that we accompany them to Motasta. I asked him what choice we had in the matter.

He was very cautious in his answer, which he gave after a moment of deliberation. “I only ask that you meet my brother, Fodafa. His goals are much the same as yours, I am sure, and he would expect you visit him if you pass through his land. He is the rightful heir to the Oaken Throne and king of all this land. If, once you have spoken to him, you find your path leads you on, you may pass in peace.”

I agreed, mostly because to refuse was to fight, and to fight was to ruin a potential alliance. They are not who we wish to befriend, but we cannot so quickly dismiss potential friends in the Nanten. Over everything else, I simply do not want to fall back into Salisir’s plans. I also fear that these men will attempt to use us to their own ends.

Perhaps we can use them first.

We begin our final march to Motasta tomorrow. Let us hope we can leave in peace from there.

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