Our ferryman, Tarsh, sways between moments bordering on utter madness and others marked by clear lucidity. This worries me. If he were to turn on us, or sell us out to some unknown ally across the sea, our journey could end here.
It is in the mad moments that he mumbles the name, Bantish.
I have asked him many times now for a name or a place where we could find traders that could guide us into the Nanten. He never responded until last night, and now the name is rarely far from his lips.
I don’t know who this Bantish is, if it is a name that even belongs to a person, friend or foe. Perhaps he is thinking of some forlorn trading post or faded memory. But it sticks with me now too, as if this name on its own will act as the key to the Nanten for which I have been searching.
There is power in it. Even from the lips of a muttering fool.
Bolton hasn’t stopped watching Tarsh since. He’s as suspicious of the old man now as the old man seemed to be of us from the start. I can’t blame him, every passing moment on this barge leaves me increasingly distrustful of Tarsh as well. At least Bolton has stopped harassing Starlark for the time being.
Slad Bolton is by far the least likely member of my patchwork crew. He has hated me for so long I was surprised to find that his honor could outweigh his spite. Almost as surprising as the idea that he had honor in the first place.
Bolton is a slaver from the Great Wastes, one who once swore to kill me. I suppose saving his life turned the debt in my favor.
When I sent out to the men who owed me, he was the last I expected to respond. His disposition towards me has never been kind, and he has tried to kill me more than once. But how can I refuse his help, especially now when my position is most dire?
As long as he does not try to kill Tarsh while we rely on his service, or Starlark, who is like a brother to me, I can put up with his bile.
The surface of the water passes steadily under the broken edges of the barge, marking the advance of our progress in spite of the never-changing nature of our surroundings. The thought of what’s to come makes me anxious. My chest constricts. Nearing the Nanten feels like approaching a wall. Knowing I must pass through it somehow or press into it and be crushed. I see no way over it, nor around it, and there is no slowing its approach.