I actually slept last night. My mat is beginning to fray and yet, somehow, it provides even greater comfort that way. We are still making good progress through the jungle. If Bantish’s map is correct, we should reach the road in a few days.

It gives me time to think on Salisir, to wonder what his movements would have been. Bantish made it sound like Salisir was out to make a name for himself, which fits with his character but not with his mission. Why risk discovery on a reconnaissance mission that could quickly turn into an assassination attempt?

I’ve always wondered what leverage the Tetrarch could have over a man such as Salisir. To think that he was pressed into exile when he could have simply hacked his way out of Silver Hall and never returned baffles me to this day. Unlike my exile, which was enforced by the High King’s command, his was purely an internal affair within the Tetrarch.

Salisir’s approach to the mission he accepted seems equally counterintuitive. I suppose an Imperial wandering through the jungle was bound to make discovery inevitable, however. And perhaps he was trying to make amends for whatever happened beyond the Highridge Mountains.

When Brin Salisir returned from his mission to find the Daemon he had become a troubled soul. He was embittered. Forty seasoned warriors left with him. Only Salisir returned.

Where Salisir had once been willing to compromise with his superiors, he was found to clash at every turn. He bucked authority, and struck out on his own missions. It is said he even began murdering bystanders who were unfortunate enough to spark his rage.

The Tetrarch moved to bring him to heel.

This was as impossible a task as you might imagine. Salisir was brought to the Scourge to teach. He had a gift for physical violence and he was expected to pass that on to the youth. Rather than pass it on, he used it on us.

Salisir hated the Tetrarch with all of his heart. He made that clear every time he struck us for reciting our oaths. He didn’t want to hear the words, he would say. Recite them in our drills or on our cots but not on his training field.

He ran us hard. We ran leagues more than any class before us. He beat us with canes when we were slow, and struck us with his fists if we complained.

He spent most of his time staring off to the northwest, lost in the dark storm clouds that brewed within his mind. He had seen horrors. We thought he was broken.

But what was worse was that on the field or in the wilderness we were completely under his power. There was no authority for us to appeal to. We were trapped.

There is little finesse to the first two years of training in the Scourge. There is physical discipline, the renewing of the mind, and training with the sword.

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Salisir cut me once. He was teaching me to parry, and when I missed he let his blade connect with my shoulder. He could have held back. He should have held back. The cut was deep, and I bled a lot.

When I wasn’t back in line the next day he found me and dragged me out to make me run with the rest. When I passed out, he beat me. When my classmates carried me, he beat them. A run that should have only taken me an hour almost took my life.

Thankfully I was relieved by the headmaster and permitted to heal, but Salisir kept his eye on me from that day on. He hated me and I hated him. What’s more, it opened my eyes for the first time to the potential of imperfection within the Tetrarch leadership.

Why would they let me be beaten within an inch of my life before intervening, and then only so far as to keep me alive? They never disciplined Salisir or moved to protect us. What good could that possibly serve?

Now, in some sick twist of poetic justice, I am thrust into this fallen land of darkness to pay for my sins by saving the only person I truly despise. This, above all other reasons, is why I hope to find proof of his death before I ever find him alive.

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