I’ve been shot, and the black tide surged upon the wake of the arrow. To make matters worse, I think Starlark is alive… it was he who tried to kill me.

Dionus barely registered the passage of the arrow as it sped through the air. He reacted too late to deflect it, but quickly enough to knock it off course by a few inches – a few inches up and away from my heart. Two more arrows followed so quickly behind as to be instantaneous, but those Dionus batted away. The first took me from my feet.

Then the foliage between the trees in the distance turned black. Thousands of Daedra came pouring through the jungle, the rise and fall of their feet suddenly rumbling beneath us. They had been held back in waiting and then launched at us on cue. Wauloo had been acting strangely – if only we had foreseen why.

Dionus and Balthandar immediately made to run, but with an arrow clean through my shoulder I wasn’t able. I could feel the Daedra then. The weight of their presence corrupted the very air around them, every step of their approach strengthening the stench and the fear. They closed quickly. Then Dionus grabbed Wudan’s hand.

He drew to full strength and spun the winds around us until they solidified. As the Daedric warband roared up to us, Dionus pushed off from the ground and shot us eastward, back through the trees and over the canopy. It was exhilarating and sickening all at once, branches cracking and snapping until we were above it all, flying higher than any man has a right.

We landed to the south of the Batsu camp, Dionus shouting for Wudan to release his power even as the winds continued to swirl around us. He grabbed two of Inifra’s guards and told them to run north. They had to warn the Batsu.

“They’re coming for Wauloo,” he said when he finally knelt next to Balthandar in front of me. The Islander broke the shaft and rolled me onto my stomach. I don’t know who stepped on my back and who pulled, but it didn’t come free easy. The warm gush that followed was as unwelcome as any of the day’s surprises.

“They’re coming for Wauloo,” is what I tried to say in agreement as they stripped my armor and patched me up. At least I tried to say so, but it probably came out as more of a groan.

“More than Wauloo, this is an invasion,” Balthandar said. “They’ll be here in a day, two at most. There were thousands.”

“Tens of thousands,” Inifra said, offering to help Balthandar as he sutured me up. Just a few quick stitches, but Balthandar isn’t one for half-measures. “It went through the bone?”

“Starlark,” I said, pointing to the fletching on the arrow. Blue. The shaft was made of oak, not a wood one would find in the Nanten. Unless he carved them from the Oaken Throne itself.

“Impossible,” Balthandar said. “Starlark is dead. Even if he weren’t, why would he help the Daedra?”

“He’s not dead,” I insisted. It was hard to speak, my breath was short and the pain sharp. “Who else can shoot from far enough away that Dionus wouldn’t sense him release?”

“He’d have to hold position for a long time to pull that off…” Dionus shook his head. “He could have done it, but Balthandar is right. Starlark is dead.”

“Starlark is not dead,” Inifra said at last. We all looked at her, waiting for her to continue, but she seemed unwilling until Dionus made an exasperated gesture. “I watched him go. I thought the Makonga would take him, but somehow… it did not.”

“You let him go?” I reeled from the shock. She let him go.

Starlark, we thought you were dead. Did you come back to find us gone? Had we abandoned you so completely that you would betray us? Betray humanity?

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I motioned them away at a loss for words. Balthandar came back for me with a litter between himself and one of Inifra’s guard. I didn’t say anything as they loaded me into it. Couldn’t. I think I slept until we arrived at the Batsu, and even then I didn’t bother to speak. Some captain from the Batsu guard came and yelled at us, trying to shoe us away, but they worked things out.

I couldn’t write in my journal. I wouldn’t have eaten if Balthandar hadn’t shoved the food into my mouth.

It’s taken me until now to find the strength to pick up my pen. Starlark is alive, and Inifra knew this whole time.

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