When the wind blows a tree down and kills a bird,
is the tree the cause of the death?
~ A Wise Old Woman
After interacting with the undead and rooting around in an eta's hut, I sequestered myself for the evening to purify myself as best I could. While I was busy thus, the others spoke with Old Mother Ebahaua, the herb-woman. As wise-women do, she spoke in words that only hint at her true meaning. Kyosuke told me of the conversation after meditating on her words. Apparently, we, as a group, gather chaos around us, and it follows wherever we go like shadows, spreading its fingers where we stay. Once we leave this village, she said, it would gradually return to its normally sleepy self, the chaos left behind dissipating outside of our influence. And yet, she said, we were not the cause of the chaos, either, but merely its chosen instrument.
As always, Fate determines our path: all we can do is act with honor in the framework we are given. It is difficult to grasp the workings of Fate, which set both me and Kyosuke in motion so long ago. Indeed, it began, if such things can be said to have any beginning at all, long before my birth, when Isawa Godanji originally travel led into the west.
The next morning, after breakfast, we decided to inspect the burned out mansion outside of town. The key is there, we were certain.
As we walked along the road north, a young woman stumbled towards us, then fell at our feet. Ravena dropped to her side and said she was poisoned. She asked for Ash's help, and said it was manbane. Again. She was actually holding an empty vial that Ravena said had held some antidote, but not enough. We carried her to the doctor's house, which was close by and would be likely to have the antidote. There was no answer, so Hosei kicked the door in. Ravena quickly found what she needed and went to work. We were pretty sure the doctor had not left town, and we wondered where he was. Jeisan and Res Li searched through the house, looking for him, but did not find him. It did not appear that he had left, however: everything he would have considered important was still here, undisturbed.
I watched Ravena, and as she finished giving the antidote to the woman, she grabbed Ravena's shirt, pulled her close, and whispered something as she passed out. Ravena said "black stump". Res Li and Jeisan re-appeared, and said they had found several rather strange books that Ravena and Hosei needed to look at.
They were books on death, bodily decay, embalming, theory of medical necromancy, discussions of elemental magic, general science, and a book on composition. A truly execrable collection. Ravena said one of them held a discussion on using lightning to make dead things move. There was also a bill for glassware and other equipment. Ravena and Hosei both saw where the implications led: the doctor had caused the undertaker to steal bodies for him, which he was trying to animate with lightning. The mansion was the only place he could do such a thing. I was left speechless, though I wondered if his soul would come back as a frog, which was what the book used to experiment on.
Hosei suggested we immediately ask the village leader and the watch captain to take charge of the woman and the doctor's house, and then leave ourselves to find the black stump she mentioned. Then, the mansion.
Although we showed the village leader everything we'd found, and Ravena and Hosei explained their meaning, he was reluctant to believe the doctor could be involved in something so vile. The watch captain suggested that we put everything back as it was for now, and Res Li did so. They knew of the Black Stump. It was an old tree just inside the ghost wood that had been hit by lightning years ago. They did not know the woman, but Ash said she was the one he smelled at the site of the fake vampire attack. So she was involved with the campaign of terror on the village, there was more than one conspirator, and there had been some sort of falling out.