The battle rages on to the south but I cannot fight any longer. I need to sit. I should sleep, but I fear the nightmares that will come, inspired by all that has happened.
The ritual was what woke us early, before first light. I have never heard the song on so many lips, never felt the pound of the rhythm through thousands of feet. We scrambled to the roof, met by thousands of torches held high. There were hundreds of priests dancing around the platform upon which Gront stood still. No longer did he groan. No cry left him as layer upon layer of priest spun around him in grand flowing circles.
I saw the first deformed Daedra we have come across in all the Nanten. Their arms elongated, their bodies warped and twisted, they joined the priests in their dance. The whirlpool of them slowly drew upon the surrounding followers who shifted and swayed to the rhythm of the song. To the bloodlust of the ritual.
Then he appeared, head and shoulders above the crowd. The Daedric Prince set foot on the parade ground and, without saying a word, a path opened straight to the platform. The masses cheered, they roared, they screamed. Fury overtook them in their exultation. A madness.
Gront lowered his head and leaned against the chains, so heavy they would have broken any human neck. He couldn’t see the approaching monster. He could feel him. Gront bellowed his own roar as the Prince approached, the very strength of his presence like a physical force in the parade grounds.
“Children of the night!” the Prince bellowed with a voice augmented by inhuman strength. “This is the deepest of the dark, the end of our calendar, and the beginning of a new era.”
The crowd didn’t fall silent as expected. Their fury only rose to new heights, checking even the Prince’s speech for a moment. “With this act we bring forth our Eighth Brother and, with his coming, step closer to our Father.”
The chanting lost its tempo. Even the priests seemed carried away in the moment. Then a troop of guards burst into the crowd near us at the south. “War!” they shouted. “The Untouched bring war!” Word spread like fire through grass and suddenly the masses were pouring south to the walls. Fodafa had come at last.
The Prince roared at them to stand their ground and finish the ritual, but few listened. It was in that moment of confusion that we struck. Dionus, wherever he had been hiding, was watching as we were. We moved along the sides of the square across the rooftops until we were in place, and then we attacked. The Prince felt us coming and instantly blasted the rooftops with fire and some other power that ripped entire chunks of the walls free.
I grabbed Wudan’s hand and moved to slow time, but a concussion struck us. The shockwave rolled through the square and sent us sprawling. Dionus was up and unleashed his own barrage of attacks in moments. Wudan was dazed, so I left him with the treeborn and rushed to assist Dionus.
The Prince pulled out the single largest sword I have ever seen, easily eight feet in length. He blasted Dionus with a torrent of flame, forcing him back, and then plunged the blade down the length of the Titan. Gront barely grunted as his life left him. The Prince called for aid, forcing us back with yet more blasts of fire. Dionus worked to deflect while I set to using the SwordSkills Salisir taught me to block the rest. I slowed time. I was able to rush around the fire and got behind him, but there was no weak point in his armor to exploit. It was as if he were made from metal himself.
I couldn’t hold my shift for long. In the rush of the moment, all I could remember was how to use SlitSweep. My attempt only knocked him forward a step. Steam escaped where I cut, but then time resumed its pace and he backhanded me away with the flat of his blade. I spun to a stop as Wudan poured himself into Dionus.
Dionus rose above the ground, the winds roaring as they swept along the parade grounds, ripping the roofs off the nearest buildings, and then Wauloo was there. He put his hands out towards the Prince who roared anew with the infusion of power. His armor was powered by Machina, so obvious in the moment though we hadn’t ever thought something of such size to be possible. Suddenly four metal contraptions burst from nearby walls and flew towards Dionus. They were spherical, covered in sharp sword-like arms.
They spun in the air, whirring as ancient weapons activated and spat lead at Dionus. He was pushed back, forced to focus his energy on deflecting the assault. I rushed forward again, hoping to find a weak spot in the monster’s armor, when Inifra appeared on the far side. She rose from a nearby well, the water surging up behind her.
Ice lanced out towards the Prince, pulling his attention away from Dionus long enough to send three balls of fire arcing her direction. She extinguished each and pressed in as I did the same. The Prince responded with a quick series of concussions, knocking us both to the ground in a haze. Dionus must have dismantled the artifacts because the Prince refocused on him and brought him down in a hailstorm of fire.
Inifra launched forward again, and in the haze of my concussion I saw her sent flying down the grounds towards the palace. Scattered and unhinged, we were coming undone. I could barely get to my feet. The Prince stepped back onto the platform, hands dipped into the blood of a Titan, and then he bellowed in frustration. Fire rose from the buildings beyond him, dark smoke pouring from windows as they collapsed in on themselves.
“Why?” He screamed, then hacked Gront’s corpse in half. I saw him point. Two priests brought Wudan forward.
“No!” Wauloo shouted behind the Prince, words which would be translated for me later. “He was to be spared!”
“He would have had a place with our Brother,” the Prince said as Wudan was forced to kneel in Gront’s blood. “Now he has the honor of bringing him forth.”
The Prince brought his blade high. In that instant Wauloo put everything he had into his master’s armor. Electricity crackled in the air between us as the armor ground to a halt around him, sword slowing to a halt above his head. Wauloo screamed with his Prince as the armor vibrated, and then suddenly the plates separated at the back where I had cut between them.
I froze time. It was the only chance we would have. I rushed forward, holding onto the shift with everything in me. Every fear for what might come should that blade fall. Should Wudan be slain in ritual. His back was exposed to me. Just the smallest of cracks between thick plates of armor, yet I could see him. I rammed my sword in as hard as I could.
I instantly lost control of the shift. Wauloo’s power jumped through my blade and knocked me sprawling, or so I’m told. I blacked out. When I awoke, the Prince was dying in a heap. Wudan’s captors had been slain by our spymaster and her spies were dragging Dionus and me from the inferno. Our poor treeborn escort died protecting Wudan. We haven’t found Inifra.
There is still a battle raging at the walls of Matasten, but we are alive tonight. Wudan is alive. And there is no Demon in the Nanten.