Tomorrow we will creep within sight of Matasten to decide our course of action. Nodora has done an amazing job of keeping us from sight these last few days. Her knowledge of the area was something required for survival, she told us. Having a family with magic in their blood didn’t just endanger their lives, but hers as well. It was a secret that must be kept or she would be chosen.
Chosen. Not a word I have heard, but one I would certainly put to the process. The Daedra do choose their victims, but Nodora makes it sound like an honor for how little she desires it. An honor to be sacrificed; that puts a new spin on it.
Daedric Slicks are terrible places. They reek. The only thing that keeps the rot out is the fresh blood that flows every night to cover and wash away the old. I’m sure you can imagine how ineffective this is over any period of time. The stench of death thickens as all manner of disease and filth accumulate, and still they practice their arts unceasingly.
The Daedra believe that to build upon the residual layers of blood is to bring good fortune to their rituals. They believe the closer death is kept at all times, the more likely it will open the necessary gateways for ascension. Perhaps this is true. If it is, Matasten must be ripe for such an occasion. I could smell it for the last two days.
One never forgets the smell of a Daedric Slick. One never wants to smell it again.
I wish I could say they smell sweeter when you burn them, but I would be lying. The stench can sour the satisfaction.
The smell is not the greatest repellant right now, however. There is a sense that we are walking into a tangled hopelessness, a darkness of mood has settled in us as a shadow spreads over our minds. I see why they call it the darkness. Every step north intensifies the oppression that laces the air. Even the gloom of the Nanten has deepened. I hope I’m only imagining it, but I know I am not. I can see its effect on my companions.
Only Salisir and I have seen Slicks. I’m not certain we will see any tomorrow, but I am less certain how the others will handle it if we do.
We are all of us nervous tonight. Our conversation has dwindled to a minimum. Dionus sits with his back to a tree, flexing his hand in a fist and then spreading his fingers as wide as he can. Hembila chews on a root as he stares off into the distance, forgetful that his mouth is even occupied. Salisir has been polishing his sword for far longer than necessary, and Nodora has been obsessing over one of her braids for as long.
It’s on nights like tonight that I am grateful for my journals. If it wasn’t for the distraction of these pages, and the ability to think in private on paper, I don’t doubt my own sanity would have frayed in these past few months.
After Nodora shows us the safest route to the hills outside of Matasten, she will leave us to return home. She says we do not need to accompany her over the river to the island on which it sits, and for that I am secretly grateful. The closer we draw to Matasten, the farther from it I wish we were.