Another of Hembila’s men has gone missing. The simple silence of their disappearance is the most unnerving part. If it were not for the weaving pattern they make through the trees, crossing paths with one another at regular intervals, we might never notice them gone. Hembila has added a nightly muster to our routine for just this reason.
The discipline in his troop shows through in their ability to continue using Hembila’s pattern to move through the jungle. It has to be unnerving to walk out among the trees, alone for minutes at a time with a Bangara in the shadows. The fact that they haven’t collapsed in upon our center to huddle for a greater sense of safety is impressive. Perhaps Hembila understands the Bangara better than he lets on.
From our limited experience, the monsters relish a crowd.
When we were first tracked by a Bangara months ago, it stalked us much as a cat might. Unlike a cat, however, when confronted with a massive crowd of KoraKora, the Bangara barreled straight into them. The result was much like that of a fat child discovering an unprotected basket of sweets.
Grouping together is only safe at night, when we can build fires around which to sleep.
One would hope that the tensions driven by a Bangara’s presence would draw the focus of Hembila’s men, but they find their ridicule of Dionus to be the perfect distraction. I do not know how he has kept his calm.
If my journal hasn’t already illustrated this fully enough, Dionus is not just a man but a force of nature.
The story that leaked out about Dionus to make him famous was one of the few I have heard which has not been, and probably cannot be over-exaggerated: the Glass Feast. That doesn’t mean it has been told properly.
The Crown Prince of Earlshine was as famous for being a prick as he was for being a prince, which isn’t necessarily all that uncommon of princes, but he made quite the show of it. Dionus has never told me who it was that hired him to kill the prince, professional standards and all that, but he has told me that he was paid an exorbitant amount to ensure it was a noteworthy end.
Assuming that’s true, I would argue that no one has ever gotten more for their money.
The halls of Gromond, the capital of Earlshine, are the perfect example of how a ruling class can contrast their subjects. Within the eight kingdoms, I doubt there is a finer show of it. Gromond itself is a dump, a place that waste goes to dispose of its leavings. The streets are narrow and cast in a gloom not unlike that of the Nanten. The buildings are crowded and loom over the streets where they can’t press any further into one another.
The palace of Gromond is the exact opposite. Its corridors are wide and well lit, the halls and chambers tall and filled with the finest glass gold can buy. It was the glass that undid them.
The Crown Prince was to marry the daughter of Silverdale’s wealthiest landowner, second only in station there to the Crestwards. It was a marriage that would strengthen ties that Gromond hoped would help unseat the Crestwards as the High King’s scepter and bring that title north. This is where most speculations arise that it was the Crestwards who were behind the plot. I actually asked Starlark about it once, but he said his father would never be so bright as to assassinate anyone who threatened him.
There were a number of other people who wanted to see the union disrupted, if not many within the families themselves. For this reason it was probably one of the best guarded events in modern history.
The way he told it, there were seven Masters at the feast as bodyguards. Only two served the King in Gromond directly, the rest had either been hired on or loaned to him by close allies. Two Breakers, two Hydrons, a Telekenetic, and two Kinesthetic warriors of immense strength and aptitude.
These on top of a few hundred house guards put in strategic locations all around the palace, including a ring around the walls of the main hall itself. Outside, on the palace grounds, a full battalion of soldiers stood as a buffer against any assault. As if the slums of Gromond didn’t serve as buffer enough.
Dionus once told me that he took the job not for the pay, but because of the sheer challenge it presented. Timing was important, too, as he needed to ensure that the casualties inflicted would be acceptable to his client. Thus the Temple was out, as were the open streets. The feast was the best location and the last opportunity before the marriage was consummated.
He said he struck seconds after the first course was served. It would be expected, he assumed, that any assault would come after the guests were good and drunk. He preferred to attack while the guards were still settling into their watch after permitting the guests.
He told me his only regret was that he wasn’t inside to see what the glass looked like when he first struck. The windows were twenty feet tall, filled with massive unbroken panes. The entire length of the hall was dressed in them, and every single one shattered in the same instant. Dionus sent the glass shards swirling inside, then floated into the hall after them.
Unlike with the Shahn he had assassinated in the Northern Range, Dionus stayed afloat. He rose the winds around him, calling forth a tempest within the hall. He said he never drew his blades. The glass served as his weapon that day.
The roar of the glass scraping the walls drowned out the screams and the tearing of flesh below. The room sparkled red with every flash of lightning outside. No light remained within the hall itself. They say they were never able to get the blood out of the walls.
War was only prevented because no one knew whose purse had paid the price. And Dionus certainly has never told. He did say that they built iron bars across those windows when they finally made repairs.
If these men that surround us tonight knew stories like that, I wonder if they would continue to pester Dionus like such spoiled children.