Starlark’s mood has lightened notably since leaving our Nantese hosts behind. He seemed ill at ease among them, as if offended and simultaneously threatened by their very gentleness. And seemingly in response to the apparent changes in Bolton’s character, a dark cloud has settled over him. It was good to laugh with him tonight, though I remain concerned.

I don’t know how we got on the story, but I think Balthandar mentioned how unpleasant it can be imprisoning friends. One of the hazards of being a nation’s ranking bodyguard. Starlark laughed and suggested Balthandar try being the one imprisoned if he wanted to know what ‘unpleasant’ was. But then, he said, not all prisons are the built same.

He told how he had been arrested in some backwater in the woods north of Silverdale. He’d gotten drunk and had tried to seduce some farmer’s daughter, or steal a pig – he wasn’t certain why he had been arrested. He was pretty drunk at the time. Bolton suggested that perhaps he’d tried to seduce a pig.

In any case he found himself in a small room with a dirt floor and only one window, the sill of which was just a few feet out of his reach. His friends, as drunk as Starlark, staged an ill-fated rescue attempt. It was easy to find his cell as they could hear him through the window, singing off-key as he is so irritatingly apt to do when he’s had too much to drink.

Starlark said he was startled when one of his fellow bandits dropped to the floor in front of him from the window above. The ugliest miracle of his life, he said. The would-be rescuer told him the plan: He was aided over the sill by their comrades, and now that he was in the cell he could help Starlark back out.

It didn’t occur to any of them until Starlark was standing outside that they had a gaping hole in their plan. They laughed in the drunken joy of their success until a pitiful “Lads?” came floating out of what should have been a vacant cell.

Various iterations of the same plot ensued. Two of their party were aided in climbing into the cell, and then three. Eventually some crates were found upon which they could all climb to the sill without needing to help each other. The crates, however, were too large to filter through the window with them to the other side.

An argument broke out within the cell, as it was now occupied by seven grown men – each of whom had his own equally brilliant plan for escape. Finally it was agreed that they should sleep on it and make another attempt come dawn.

Sometime well after dawn, a confused jailer discovered his prisoner along with six unexpected additions sleeping in his solitary cell. Jailers, understandably, pay little attention to those whom they are jailing when there is only one cell and only one prisoner within it to identify. Thus it should come as little surprise that he would not have recognized Starlark from a raccoon in the first place. The ability to do so would ordinarily be unnecessary.

However in his only cell, for it was a tiny prison to begin with, he was faced with identifying one criminal in the midst of seven presumably innocent men. It would have been a difficult task even had he not met Starlark in the middle of the night, and to be fair he hadn’t truly been all that sober at the time himself.

Thus confounded, and considering that whatever crime Starlark committed had likely been more pitiable than damnable, he simply stood to the side, dumbfounded, as the seven men exited. As Starlark said to bring the story to a close: it was simultaneously the simplest and most complicated escape he had ever made.

It dawned on me as I wrote that story down, what concerns me in the deepening shadows of Starlark’s face. I’m not sure how to put it, but I can best do so in contrast to Dionus.

Dionus is the kind of man you want at your side when the world is coming to its end. When all is dark and defeat most certain, Dionus carries with him the last light of hope in his very presence. In fact he thrives when death looms unavoidably on the horizon. In many ways it is precisely why he is alive today.

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Starlark, however, is only good on a quest whose odds of success increase over time. He is the kind of man you want around you when you’re winning. The kind that exults on the wave and rides it crashing over his enemies.

His arrival in Calith was not a surprise – I doubt that there is anyone in the world that Starlark holds more dearly than myself. But this mission is not one for him. I worry that he will only get worse from here as our path leads ever deeper into the horrors of the Nanten.

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