Entry 344 – Day 474

Entry 344 – Day 474

We’ve moved into position east of Matasten. The Batsu treeborn camp in the boughs when in action; I doubt I’ll get much sleep tonight. I can’t help but think of rolling over the edge of this branch and to my death in the night.

Five scouts have been sent off in different directions, each pursuing the intelligence passed on by the Yatusu messenger we met yesterday. They’ll determine the actual positions of any nearby Daedric troops, then we will ambush them in the morning. I want to strike three times a day at the minimum, which means we will need to be scouting constantly. It also means a lot of time spent in motion. We’re going to be very sore this week.

Entry-344-Quote-Callouses from blisters

My blisters, thankfully, are turning quickly to callouses. Balthandar developed a trick for this with Martingue, something he said they did when training at length in formation with their spears. It wasn’t hard, he said, to tear the skin of one’s palm clean off after a day of jabbing and twisting heavy shafts. A thin layer of Martingue paste over the blisters, mixed with the root of one of the small flowers we find frequently, leaves them dried out and healed the next morning without fail.

I’ve been using the paste religiously over the last few days.

Tomorrow we will set out on our first few ambushes and I relish the thought. Hunting and killing Daedra is the sport for which I was raised. This is my duty, and it coincides brilliantly with this faux exile into which I was sent. Perhaps I cannot bring myself to reject any duty given to me by the Tetrarch, even one so blatantly empty as this death-sentence in the Nanten, but I can find some joy in the fact that it has turned out to be the most important mission of my life.

Unleash me upon the darkness and watch it flee my wrath.

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Entry 345 – Day 475

Entry 345 – Day 475

They never saw us coming. We struck two forward scouting parties and a larger encampment of light infantry over the course of the day. None survived.

This shifted my goals entirely. I had imagined that we would attack each group and sew terror as their survivors spread rumors of death raining from the canopy. I didn’t imagine we would so easily obliterate them. What has less of an immediate impact, but I believe will cause greater distress in the long run, is if they simply disappear. How long it will be until word spreads, I cannot say, but even the Daedra can’t hide the fact that entire companies are vanishing in the jungle for long.

So long as Dionus, Wudan, and I quell our touch on the Atmosphere, there will be no way for them to detect our passing nor track us as we move. Daedric morale is not something we can expect to affect greatly, but their logistics can be thrown off entirely if they remain unaware of the gaps in their line.

Entry-345-Quote-Blind-Ignorance

It will force them to shift their positions and they will be doing it late. If we can open enough holes, and do so quietly, they will begin to leave them open from sheer ignorance. Blind spots will grow, and when they finally engage with the full force of the Yatusu or Sondu there will be chinks aplenty to exploit in their collective armor.

This is going to be fun.

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Entry 346 – Day 476

Entry 346 – Day 476

We struck another two forward encampments today as they broke their fast. There may have been two hundred Daedra in each. None survived. I’ve set the Batsu to a circling motion overhead as we attack, much as the monsters who plagued Bantish’s people circled around them. The monsters did it to sew terror; we do it to catch any Daedra who might make to flee.

Entry-346-Quote-Terror-is-the-tool-of-the-Daedra

There will come a time for terror, but not yet. It is the tool of the Daedra, and one that I have never known to have any desirable effect upon them. Fear is the lifeblood of the occult, and to increase that in them only finalizes the hold the Demonic has over them. It only makes them fight harder.

So for now we will be satisfied with extinguishing them one troop at a time and being done with it. I’ve instructed the treeborn to avoid any full battalions they might encounter; we are not ready to engage with any full force. I want to lead the Daedra by the nose, killing off their scouts and vanguards until they are run ragged trying to find us. I want them confused, enraged, and blind.

We are not the force that will kill them in the end; we are the instrument that will blunt their edge before the real fight begins.

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Entry 347 – Day 477

Entry 347 – Day 477

I broke the Batsu treeborn down into squads of five today. Daedric scouts have been spreading out to make contact with scouts of the Sondu as they arrive, and we are going to keep them from reporting what they find. It makes me smile to imagine the frustration of Daedric field officers, sending scouts out by the dozens and only receiving two or three back alive. We will blind them.

We must move north to the far side of Matasten soon, however. There aren’t enough of us to spread between the northern and southern flanks. Thankfully we can make our way between the two over the course of a day, but time spent traveling is time that could be spent killing. We have to find the best balance for our efforts.

One of the Yatusu messengers found us tonight. I don’t know where Oroun found such capable men, but they are incredibly adept. This one traveled on the ground, but appeared among the trees to speak with us – he appeared so suddenly and quietly that he was almost killed by the Batsu when he spoke. If the Batsu are the shadows of the trees, these couriers are their ghosts.

He told us that the Sondu have engaged on their western flank and successfully pushed the resistance they met back. The Yatusu have likewise captured the banks of the river west of the city. The Daedra have not withdrawn any cities under their protection. Instead, he says it is believed they will leave them occupied to slow down our advance.

Using the innocent as their buffer, something we should certainly expect from the Daedra.

Entry-347-Quote-Innocent-as-their-buffer

Where the lines are drawn between innocent civilians and Daedra is a conversation I didn’t think would be necessary, but I fear we will be forced to make the distinction soon. There are innocent people even in Matasten, that much has been demonstrated to us. We must take into consideration that there are even more people like them in the outskirts and beyond.

We should be liberators to all, especially those held immediately under the thumb of this Prince. We cannot kill indiscriminately. I’ve passed just such a message along with this messenger. I don’t know what influence I truly have in this place, but I must use what I do have to protect the future of the Nanten Kingdom.

And what of Inifra? The messenger told me that she fights with the Yatusu to the north. She brought the river under their control in what proved to be the decisive battle, and now she will be brought closer to the city to draw them out. The Daedra can only resist such a display of power for so long – their hunger for her magic must overpower them eventually. They will want her for their ritual.

I hope they never catch her.

We will move to the river’s edge east of the city and disrupt whatever we find there in advance of the Yatusu. If we can keep the Daedra in disarray, then our friends should find them easier to fight.

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Entry 348 – Day 478

Entry 348 – Day 478

Our movement north was slowed by too many good opportunities. This is like picking cherries and I cannot help the glee that rests within the task. The Daedra have sent small squadrons out in every direction to search for us. Their most recent idea was to bring crude ballistae with them and try to shoot us out of the trees. Unfortunately for them, the machines can barely angle high enough and are too cumbersome to use effectively within the undergrowth of the jungle.

One group would have successfully ambushed us if we had crossed their path as they had hoped. We traveled directly above them instead and, as our advance scouts keep us apprised to the safety of our chosen path, they stood little chance. We burn each of the war machines before moving on.

This brings up a sobering possibility, however, beyond even the fact that they are actively trying to cope with our presence. With this many squads sent out to probe for us, we may very well be giving away our movements through the pattern in which we kill. I’ve ordered every third squad we encounter to be left untouched, and will send a small team back south tomorrow to dispatch with those we have left in the exact opposite order in which we left them.

My hope is that it will appear we are strafing this flank of Matasten and will therefore draw more attention to it. Then we will swing around to the western flank by way of the northern bank. By the time they react, we can move again and continue to appear exactly where they do not expect.

My goal now is to inflict enough damage that they significantly overestimate the size of the treeborn force and expend a disproportionate amount of energy upon us. We will keep moving. Nianatara may have been a fool, but she was right when she said that to stop moving was to allow the Nanten to catch up.

Entry-348-Quote-To-stop-moving-Nanten-catch-up

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Entry 349 – Day 479

Entry 349 – Day 479

The river is even wider here than anywhere else that we have encountered it. Even flooded above Hamada, the waters along which we raced could not compare with what we have found here. There is no way to quickly cross the river without finding canoes and making across along its surface. I’m not willing to do so as deeply in Daedric territory as we are, so we will have to move east along the river tomorrow and cross in friendlier lands.

Entry-349-relish the trees-of-the-nanten

We found a small shipping operation bringing supplies into the city from a trading post nearby. Again, it’s difficult to know who is aligned with the Daedra and who is being forced, but we can’t afford to spend too much time making determinations. I ordered all of the barges and small boats sunk. The trees grow right to the edge of the water, so killing everyone on the docks was quick, it was the sinking that took time.

Some outpost nearby was mobilized quickly enough to make it a close call. They came swooping up from the south and almost caught us on board the last barge. We were able to light it on fire in our haste and get to the trees before they arrived in force. Their van was caught and killed by the few we had left on lookout overhead.

We were able to finish the rest from the trees, following them as they fled back to their camp. It’s certainly an unfair advantage to operate from a literal higher plane – one I’m learning to relish.

Entry-349-Quote-Learning-to-Relish

We went back to the dockside village and rummaged through the supplies we found there. Quite a stockpile to be sure. We took what we needed, including plenty of arrows, and then set fire to the rest. There was an impressive cache of resin that exploded brilliantly. We have made an even larger mark on the Daedric map. Let’s see how they respond.

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Entry 350 – Day 480

Entry 350 – Day 480

Crossing the river today felt foolish to say the least. The far bank is invisible even in the unbroken light of day, with the tops of the distant trees lining the horizon like a pencil line separating blue sky from green river. The gradients of each lighten to the point that without the trees, one would imagine water and air conjoined in the middle.

We salvaged a number of canoes from the docks and left a company on the ground to steer them along the river’s edge while we covered them from the trees. We collected more as we went, and once we had gone several miles east we put to the water and made for the northern bank. It feels like I should call it a shore for the size of the river.

The going was slow. I hadn’t felt so exposed in months. Without the trees to cover us from observers, it seemed like the whole world knew where we were for the first time since we began our engagement with the Daedra. We made straight for shore, not giving in to the temptation to coast along the bank to check for enemies.

There would be no seeing an ambush in wait no matter how long we peered into those shadows. The sunlight on the water was blinding. Watching the trees rise in the distance felt so much like when we crossed the Blight Sea, approaching this place for the first time. The strength of the river’s current and the knowledge of what could be waiting for us stood as punctuated differences to the calm ignorance of our initial entry into the Nanten.

We arrived at the mouth of a small creek and I chose to make our way up it a hundred yards before we landed. Twenty treeborn abandoned the canoes as soon as possible, climbing into the trees so as to be in position overhead when the rest of us disembarked. We hid the canoes for future use, burying them under the roots of the trees and covering them with dead foliage, then ascended into the trees ourselves.

I can’t express the relief that comes with returning to the trees other than to say that it feels like regaining a sure sense of safety. The uncertainty of being on the ground is only compounded by the knowledge of what could happen should someone be in position above us. I have seen what we can accomplish and I only hope there is no one in this jungle that can do the same to us.

We made back west immediately. I wanted to strike once more before we settled in for the night to sleep. It was a small party, maybe 70 Daedra. The satisfaction of killing them was offset by the day’s sense of vulnerability. What if the Daedra have more of those monsters that can scale the trees in seconds? What if we are caught in our next river crossing?

Entry-350-Quote-Pleasure-of-the-Advantage

The pleasure of our advantage has been stolen tonight, but that does not negate the advantage itself. We will continue to put it to use until we cannot. Still, it is a good reminder of how valuable this treeborn unit is. I have to keep them alive – the future of the Nanten Kingdom might not fully depend on us, but any mistakes we make will be felt for years to come.

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