Starlark. My thoughts turn to him constantly as the weight of the Deadwood bears down upon us. There is little light left by which to write, but I must put something down. Anything. This journal is my last connection to the world beyond these ghostly trees.

As long as I have known Starlark I have felt responsible for him. He is young, the youngest of the Crestwards and always young among his second family of bandits. From the second most powerful family in the Old Empire to the margins of society, his story is more unique than any of ours.

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What Starlark lacks in maturity he more than compensates for in skill and passion. He has seen more than twenty summers. By the way he acts you would think it was far fewer. By the way he shoots you would think it was far more.

I saved him from hanging. That’s what no one knows. I saved him from being hung by a very justified, very lawfully appointed executioner. It wasn’t my intent to save him. That’s what Starlark doesn’t know.

I was on a mission gone very wrong. The Daedra we had been hunting in the forests north of Silverdale had successfully ambushed and run us from their territory. Of the five of us that went into the ambush, only two came out alive. Daedric followers tracked us for miles, we were running for our lives. And then I stumbled into a makeshift gallows.

They’d caught Starlark and two other bandits stealing chickens from a nearby farm only to discover that they were in fact wanted for many more grievous crimes. One of his companions was quite infamous in the region, mostly for murder and arson, which led to the speedy construction of a gallows out in the woods.

The patrol that had captured Starlark was actually loyal to his father, though they failed to recognize Starlark for a Crestward and Starlark refused to identify himself as one. Pride probably kills more young men than any other affliction.

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We burst into the clearing moments before they were to roll the plank and drop all three to their deaths. I demanded that the patrol join and protect us in the name of Silver Hall. Either they didn’t realize that the Tetrarch commanded that authority or they chose not to heed it, but they decided to ignore me. I tried reasoning with their captain, but he would not listen.

So I cut the hanging ropes at their anchor. I figured that would get their attention more effectively. I asked the bandits if they would fight in exchange for their lives as they jumped to the ground. That may have been a poor choice on my part. The patrol drew their swords.

Thankfully that was when the Daedra caught up to us. Daedric followers aren’t necessarily well trained in war, they rarely live long enough to learn the skills that only open combat can teach you, but they can often amass quite a force. Thankfully we had a fresh patrol-full of morons to absorb most of this one.

In the brawl that ensued, Starlark managed to repay me twice over by saving me from both the Daedric followers and the patrol. When the killing was done two Tetrarch and two bandits remained. I told them they could go free, but Starlark asked if he could help us finish our mission in the woods. He licked the corners of his mouth in a devilish grin that I have come to know all too well. He relishes winning as I relish swordplay. That was the first time I fought alongside Starlark, and the first mission he helped me complete, but it would not be the last of either.

I’ve always enjoyed his energy, his zeal for life – as short-sighted and foolish as it often winds up being. And now he is lost to me, separated by forces I don’t fully comprehend. There is more than a touch of the third tier to this, more spiritual power than I have ever felt. If Kantoo was right, and there truly are spirits here, then we may have wandered into a rift. I’ve never heard of one like this before.

I hope it does not take Starlark away from me.

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