The farther we move from Matasten, the better I feel for it. My desire to avoid the place makes the thought of assailing it sound doubly miserable. Can it really be saved? I can’t help the temptation to burn the place to the ground, but that is not an option to bring up in front of Hembila. He would save it at any cost.
The gravity of the task before us has settled in his features. Though we are all of us silent as we move through the jungle, Hembila’s silence is of a deeper variety. What is it that he’s pondering? Has he been discouraged by what we’ve witnessed?
I wouldn’t blame him. I’m feeling discouraged myself.
I want to know what kind of armor the prince was wearing. It was massive, unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. It looked to be made completely from heavy plate, but of a thickness and size that would make his strength inhuman. More miraculous than that was his ability to walk through the fire unscathed; and how did he start those fires? Is that his expression? What we saw left too many questions and gave too few methods by which to gather answers.
In any case, we will have to take that bridge. Matasten’s natural defenses are obvious, between the moat of the Nanten River and the wall of trees, there is no way to move a large force into the city at speed. Not unless Salisir has recruited an army of men who can swim in armor, and swim very quickly.
We will have to leave strategy for another day. I asked Salisir if he had been in Matasten, as he had first hand knowledge of the city gates.
“Aye, though what good it will do us… the trick will be drawing them out as best we can to fight on the banks of the river. They will guard their bridges zealously, so we need to amass our armies at both.”
“Why both?” Dionus asked. “Why would you divide your forces like that?”
“They’re divided already.” Salisir chuckled to himself. “I don’t have to do any dividing. Better to let the Sondu and Oroun’s warriors compete to enter the city first. Besides, it will force the Daedra to divide their forces, which will even things out for us. I want to draw out everything they have.”
I asked about the Batsu.
“They’ll apply pressure to the flanks. The Batsu are little bastards in a fight, you’ll find that out soon enough. They’re no Latala, but they’re quick. Send them across in canoes to a few select points, and they should be able to maneuver into position to cut into the flanks. That will be your cover.”
“Shit.” Dionus said it with dread, but there was a smile on his lips. “You want us to assassinate him.”
“You’ve been thinking it all along,” Salisir said. “He won’t come out to the fight, not until it’s desperate; so take the fight to him.”
I asked how we would know where to find him. Salisir told us that Nienatara had spies in the city. “It’s the main reason we need the Batsu. Her troops are excellent, but it’s what they know that makes them invaluable.”
Hembila just shook his head in wonder. “How could she manage? All of our spies were rooted out or killed a decade ago. We haven’t been able to get eyes in the capital since then.”
“Let’s just say that we all have different strengths. Once inside the city, you’ll have to figure out how to kill the bastard. Hopefully Nienatara’s spies have figured him out, but last I knew there was no certainty of his expression or to what level of power he has risen.”
Dionus laughed. “If the other day’s display was any indicator, I’d say pretty bloody high.”
Bloody high indeed. We have never been sent to kill anyone this powerful, neither Dionus nor I. And what guarantee do we have that killing this prince will even have the result we want? Though he is clearly at its center, I fear the society we seek to undermine is capable of managing on its own.
We will have to see how this develops. Salisir talks about these things as though they are rapidly approaching; I suppose that after twenty years of waiting it must feel that way to him. But surely he couldn’t be ready to move within a few months’ time.
At least now our part in his plot makes sense. In order to pull off an assassination like he wants, there may be no better men alive to accomplish it for him. No wonder he talks of us as if he needs us.