I finally know Salisir’s plan in full, but the results remain up to me. I am paralyzed tonight, unable to act for fear of the cascading effect any retribution might enact.

Dionus, Inifra, and I found Salisir in one of the palace wings where he has set himself up to work. We waited for the various aides and messengers to leave whatever meeting he was holding and then confronted him. I had only hinted at my suspicions to Dionus. Inifra knew instinctually what I feared.

Salisir, surprisingly, told us everything without so much as a threat.

He needed something to sway the balance, he told us. Expressionists that could stir the pot and get the Daedra moving – a rarity in a jungle where Expressionists had been hunted and killed for decades. More importantly, he needed someone to sway the Batsu to action. To get them to stop listening to Nianatara and see the dangers for themselves.

When we broke off from him shortly after meeting, he sent the Latala to watch us and, if we continued east on our own, keep us from harm. If we turned south, however, they were ordered to capture us and later allow us to escape once we were near the Batsu. He didn’t want us interacting with Fodafa for fear that the elder Sondu would try to take and use us for his own short-sighted purposes. When we broke south, they intercepted us, then tried to keep us from both Daedra and Sondu. While they were to protect us they were also under orders not to resist any rescue attempt from the south.

Our interactions with Hembila were fortuitous, in Salisir’s mind, as it helped open the younger Sondu’s mind to new ways of approaching the Darkness. When Salisir found out that we had been rescued and were headed for Motasta, he sent Latala agents ahead to arrange for Dionus’ seduction, then outed the young man with another spy. I could feel Dionus fury rise as he listened to Salisir explain the cold calculation of gaining leverage over his life, and by extension my own.

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It bought space from Fodafa as well, who would see Dionus’ actions as reprehensible. That prevented the Sondu from making a claim over us, which would have limited Salisir’s ability to put us to use. I asked him how he was so confident we would be of such help, and he responded that with the threat of execution, we would have little choice. However leaving us with the Batsu unattended would build our pliability, as would the temptation of learning SwordSkills.

He shrugged, “No secrets left to hold here. You should know all of this.”

It suddenly made sense, why the Latala he had killed in the jungle knew his name. Why he reached out not in fear from an enemy, but pleading with a superior for his life.

Nianatara had nearly botched the whole thing in refusing to fight and losing the treeborn elite. He told us that we were fully aware of the rest of his plan, save for the assassinations. He had Latala trailing the national leaders into battle, ready to kill them should the Daedra fail to do it for him.

“Aren’t you afraid that they’ll kill you for this?” I asked him.

“It was all I had to give.”

“You’re a monster,” Inifra said.

“Do you think this could have happened any other way? This jungle was on the verge of being engulfed, and all for the pride of a few fools. Fodafa couldn’t see the need for allies, nor allow himself to compromise in order to draw them in. Oroun, for all his bluster and political prowess, would never have stepped aside. And Nianatara. She wanted to stay out of Matasten’s new government? She would have sparked a civil war in the attempt if Oroun and Fodafa didn’t manage to do so first.

“When the dust settles, there can be only one ass on that throne. Why do you think coups are always so bloody? Upending a government is easy; properly filling the vacuum is the challenge. I preempted that entire process and now there is peace under Hembila. There will be peace under Hembila. The Nantese had it all within themselves, they just didn’t have the time table right and they couldn’t survive another civil war. That’s all I gave them. I could have died months ago and it still would have turned out this way because they wanted this.”

Dionus stormed from the room immediately, followed shortly by Inifra. I stood there for a long time, Salisir’s hands open on the table between us.

“If you tell anyone how Hembila took the throne, you threaten to undermine him. To begin an erosion of this peace that will be unstoppable.” He spread his hands. “That’s why I’m not afraid to tell you, ‘cause I’d rather there were no surprises left.”

“Dionus will probably kill you,” I told him.

Salisir shrugged. “I’ve lived long enough.”

I walked out then. I still don’t know what to think, but he’s right. We can’t tell anyone what we know.

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