I must write all of this before the sun rises too high. If what Kantoo said about these stones is true, then we will not be able to stay long into the morning. I do not want to find out what other horrors await us if we do, but I am terrified to brave the grass again.
As soon as Bolton felt ready to move yesterday we followed the gap in the magic as we had planned. It became increasingly narrow and difficult to track for both Dionus and me, but then suddenly we were in a completely quiet space. There was no activity, the magic was absolutely silent. Inactive.
Surrounding us stood four trees, and beyond them four different darkened pathways through the forest. Four symbols were carved into each tree in the darkest black I felt I had ever seen. Each tree had the same four symbols upon it in a diamond, but each was in a different order.
It was as if they had been rotated between each instance.
Dionus pulled Prestorn’s map out and held it up. There were plenty of symbols on it, and among them were these same four, but on Prestorn’s map they were arranged in a square.
Did the symbols between them matter? Which was the top, that on the left or the right? We debated for a moment before I heard Starlark shout, “Compass.”
It was the compass rose for the map, and as Dionus tilted it to match north it also matched the symbols of the tree before us. I held him back from dashing past it. We would exit, we hoped, but where? And could Starlark follow us? He was difficult to hear.
If we rotated the map, the orientation changed and matched the different trees around us. I turned the map in his hands so that the easternmost symbol was on top, then pointed towards the tree with that order upon it. I felt certain we would exit on the east if we did so. Starlark said he could see the same pattern, so we walked past that tree. And then the green began to return to the forest beyond.
Dionus and Balthandar picked up the pace and I followed without thinking, leaving Bolton on his own. It’s all my fault. We were in the jungle again, the Deadwood behind us forever. I was elated. And then I heard Bolton scream.
I looked back at him through the trees. Then I saw what he was screaming at. Out before him stood the chief of the KoraKora, his hand gripping Kantoo’s hair like a handle. Kantoo pointed past me, he shouted to run, and then the chief slit his throat.
The chief laughed. I will never forget the look on his face as Kantoo died. Though the words he said meant nothing to me, they too are ingrained in my mind: “Bora no kandoh mahotoo.”
Bolton howled. He stumbled forward, struggling to draw his blade with his remaining hand, and then the KoraKora came flooding through the trees beyond him. I ran back, calling for help as I drew my own blade to defend Bolton, but I was intercepted by more KoraKora. New ones sprung up as quickly as I cut them down, but I hacked through the savages even faster and left them to die.
I made it to Bolton just in time… gods… I made it to Bolton just in time to watch him die. There was a hole in his throat, straight through the side and out the other. He was gurgling, and as he dropped to his knees all I could see in his eyes was guilt. The guilt of Kantoo’s death closing in upon him along with every ghost that had ever haunted him.
I had to break away then, fighting to run the way that Kantoo had pointed. Fighting to keep the tears from flowing. I was in a rage, but I could not die too. Arrows flew around me and Dionus began to bat them away. I shouted for Starlark, but he was nowhere to be seen. There was nothing we could do but run. Night was falling, and the KoraKora were all around us.
I was angry. I was so angry, and all I could see was the smile on that bastard’s face when he killed Kantoo. It’s all I can see now, and all I can hear is his voice. Bolton is dead, and Starlark is lost.
Gods, I can’t write any more of this… the sun is rising anyway. We need to move.