One of Hembila’s men has gone missing. There is no certain explanation, but the word “Bangara” is never far from the lips of the rest. The formation around us has tightened notably yet again.

Hembila spends his time weaving through the trees to check on his men, both on the move and at camp. The grim determination on his face washes away all possibility of reading his thoughts. It was while we were on the move that his man went missing.

Hembila called for a full stop when he made the discovery. His men pulled in to make a defensible perimeter, torches burning in every other hand, and Hembila counted heads. I was surprised to see him hesitate before he gathered a small search party and made off in the direction the man had last been seen in rotation.

His men trust him, but with every passing mishap I can see the strain on him grow. Morale cannot be easy to maintain on a mission like this.

They discovered nothing during their search, but Hembila agreed with the rumors that the Bangara was to blame. There had been signs of it, he said, and nothing else. I know those signs. Fresh gashes in the bark of the trees, undergrowth stamped down in a swirling depression. I asked Hembila how they kill Bangara.

“We don’t.”


Not the comforting words I was looking for.

“Bangara die in their own time,” he said. “Until then, it is best to avoid them.”

Unfortunately avoidance is no longer an option. I asked Balthandar if he had come up with any ideas on how to kill the Bangara. He shook his head in response. We are still two weeks from Batsu territory. We may not make it as long.

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