The surface of the Blight Sea could be made of glass. I’ve seen tranquil water before, but never on such a scale as this. Even the wake of the barge disappears within feet of our passage. It creates an eerie sense of motionlessness as nothing breaks the horizon save sea.
My companions have voiced their discomfort at length. To be honest, I couldn’t agree with them more, but I am prone to withhold my complaints. Even in front of men I would count to be friends, I will guard my tongue. I worry that their agitation for our conditions will turn to aggression towards each other. Bolton and Starlark are already at odds.
I often fear this exile to be a ruse, nothing more than a method to get me away from watchful eyes and what few friends I have left. I wonder if I should expect blades in the dark to be as much a danger as this jungle to which we travel. I trust these men, but I have also learned that trust is an excellent blinder.
If I hadn’t saved each of their lives at some point, I would never have called upon them for aid.
A party of five, that’s all we have against the unknown dangers lurking in the Nanten. A Tetrarch and four adventurers who have no ties to each other save the Tetrarch they follow. A notorious thief and archer, a Walker, a spearman from the Summer Isles, and a slaver from the Great Wastes. I am lucky that they would come with me, a man marked for death on a suicidal errand. But without them I doubt I would stand any chance at all.
Which raises the question of how it could be expected that Salisir could do this on his own? The odds are very good that he could not, that he died decades ago in the sweltering suffocation of the jungle. He is most likely dead, and I fear I am soon to follow.
Such thoughts, and the potential that this entire mission could be for naught, drive small spikes of despair through me when I dwell up on them. I don’t want to die out here. Not with my name in disgrace and my future in the Tetrarch stolen from me. Shamed obscurity leads to no legends being told. I owe these men more than that. Especially Roos Starlark.
You would know him as Roos na Crestward if he hadn’t forsaken his family name and taken up banditry in the west. He was never meant for greatness in his house, but he became a masterful archer and later a thief of no small skill. Of all the men I travel with, he is the only one who has already saved my life in return.
Bolton’s wary watch of Tarsh is only broken by his glances towards Starlark. The two met just weeks ago, and already Bolton hates him. I credit this to the fact that Bolton hates anyone who he esteems as “high born.” He is proud, and insecure. I’ve already warned him that if any harm comes to Starlark it will fall back upon him tenfold, but I can’t guarantee such threats will work.
Starlark’s long, shaggy blonde hair is an odd contrast to Bolton’s, white and pulled into a short tail behind his head with shocks of gray along the sides. Where Starlark is young and fresh in every way, Bolton is pocked and well-worn. Bolton’s face is covered in salted stubble, where I doubt Starlark could grow a beard if he tried. Bolton wears the tight-fitting leather of a slaver, while Starlark is robed in the baggy blue hood of his days in the forest.
It often looks to me as though Bolton is staring at the longtail star that is emblazoned on Starlark’s shoulder, pouring all his contempt into the symbol as if it were an enemy unto itself.
For whatever reason, Bolton disapproves, and the long scar over his left eye only emphasizes the point. But we need Starlark. He may be held in disrepute within the realm of the High King, but he is my friend, and I would gladly kill for him. I already have.
It is likely that Salisir is dead, and all I will find are his bones in the depths of the jungle. However, a great difference exists between the two of us in the form of my companions. One day soon I will find proof of his demise, and return to the Old Empire when I do. When I return I will reclaim my place in the Tetrarch.
I will not die for nothing. Nor will I lead these men to ignominy. I will not be so easily cast aside and forgotten.