Chapter 51: Of Heroes
Honor knows no bounds.
From within, it can surprise.
Any may know it.
~ Miyara Miwa
For three more months, we traveled back to Karusa Hoven, peacefully. Again, it was though we walked through some great lord's private park. We found Karusa Hoven much as we left it; they are still recovering, making progress but slowly. No signs of the previous battles remain. The manager of the Red Bull made room for us again. The weather is unseasonably warm, and dry. Although it is late fall, the days are still warm. The nights are chilly, but warmer than they should be. There is no snow on the ground yet.
During dinner the first evening we were there, people occasionally stopped briefly at our table to greet us. The manager arrived also, saying he almost forgot to hand us a small package that was left for us, and it came from Iri. He held it out, not too sure to whom to give it. Since he was at my shoulder, I took it and thanked him. The package was small, perhaps the size of both of my hands held open, but taller than wide. It was well-wrapped in leather to protect it in transit, and tied with twine. I unwrapped it.
Inside were several layers of cloth, which I carefully opened to find a small book. It was similar in size and design to the books in which Ravena writes. Often of an evening, as we sit in whatever room we are sharing, or by the campfire when we travel, we both write our journals, she in her books and I on my scrolls. I recognized the symbol on the front; Yazeran.
I immediately knew I would not be able to read it. Since it had Yazeran's symbol, it seemed the White Faerie was the best person to give it to, and I handed it to him. Indeed, he had come by me to look at it over my shoulder upon seeing the symbol, and confirmed that it was written in faerie. I gave it to him.
He took some time to read through it while we rested at the inn and re-provisioned ourselves to set out again. He reported that it was definitely Yazeran's journal.
In his journal, he began by explaining why he was writing the journal in the first place. He had been assigned the task of finding a way to protect the Crystal of Air. The first few days are his daily diary, plus some of the history of how he was assigned this task and why, and some of his plans for what he was going to do, and his reflections on the subject.
He related what he knew of the history of the Crystal of Air. The faeries of the Yetsin Valley were given it as payment for having built a keep in the center of the valley for a human who styled himself the king of Yetsin Valley. (Who eventually was killed and yet whose spirit later inhabited Og's body. Thus Og became the King Og whom I and Kyosuke sought and found only after he died. And yet, with Shan's box, we had helped set him on his way, years ago. How strange and intricate are the workings of Fate.) When they received it, the faeries of the valley already had one crystal in their possession (the Stone of Stone). Yazeran was given the task of protecting the Crystal of Air because they had seen an approaching army of orcs, and it was too much of a risk to let both of them get into the orcs' hands. The Stone of Stones would stay in Yetsin Valley, and the other was sent out of the valley in Yazeran's care.
He mentioned another faerie-hold he stopped at besides Keda Heluga and Iri: Keda Ravaning. None of us have ever heard of it, and it certainly wasn't on any of my maps of the area. By that time, he knew he was on the run from the orcs and they were only a day or so behind him.
He wrote about his arrival at Iri. When he got there, it was just a village of human monks. But he saw potential in the pinnacle of rock. He changed his mind about going farther and decided to stay there instead to build a hold that could protect the Crystal of Air. Iri would function as both a stronghold and misdirection as a monastery of humans. So he devoted the rest of his life to building Iri.
Once busy with building Iri, his journal entries slowed considerably. At the end, years passed between entries. But he wrote of many details (which we already knew) about building and designing Iri. He wrote about his search for us and his attempt to contact us (through the blue fire at our camp) and his joy at believing he was successful without knowing for sure. He could only hope, knowing he would be dead before we arrived, if we did. He wrote about inventing the prophecy to tell the monks who we are. He had written drafts of the prophecy in his journal, working it out, over and over, until it pleased him. He also wrote about the playing cards he used as hints to us, but without any real details.
The last entry he wrote when he knew he was dying. He hoped his life's work was successful. He mentioned almost in passing his belief there was another stone at Keda Ravaning. If there is one as he believed, it must to be the Crystal of Water. It is the only Crystal that remains.
The White Faerie said that the location of Keda Ravaning was lost a long time ago. Keda Ravaning is legendary in faerie tales. He gave us a brief synopsis, although he was unclear about precise time measurement. 2000 years ago was the peak of the faerie empire, and that's when the faerie wars took place. After the wars, the faeries built tunnels throughout the mountains to connect all the major holds. But the faeries were declining, and the tunnels were overtaken and destroyed by goblins. So for a long time, Keda Ravaning has been lost. The faeries of the Yetsin Valley knew it was there, but they didn't really have any contact with the other faeries. They became twisted, and eventually the orc invasions that Yazeran ran from ended the Yetsin Valley faeries.
The White Faerie thinks he can find Keda Ravaning based on comments in Yazeran's journal. We can go to Iri as a waypoint, then to Keda Ravaning, and finally to Keda Heluga to retrieve the Stone of Stones, where we left it for ourselves.
Res Li still believes the solution to the Crystals is to use Shan's magic box to return each one to the moment of its creation. Unless the White Faerie has a vision that suggests that is what we should do, I do not think it will work.
We spent a day or two only in preparing ourselves for the next journey, to Keda Heluga to retrieve the Stone of Stone, and to try to find Keda Ravaning and perhaps the Crystal of Water. The White Faerie believes that Keda Ravaning is between Iri and Keda Heluga. Ravena said that the weather should continue to be cool and clear.
We reached Iri with no trouble. They have accomplished little rebuilding. The wall is still missing. The faeries they sent away for have not yet arrived.
On our way to Iri, the White Faerie told us more about Keda Ravaning. The area around the Yetsin Valley was settled 1000 years ago by a famous faerie, who fell during the elf wars in the Loren forest, in a battle they call Harugim's Last Stand. The elves, who won the battle, were impressed by their foes' desperate heroism, and treated the bodies with great respect, returning them to the faeries rather than burning them or burying them in an unmarked mass grave. The faeries changed the name of the place to Keda Ravaning, which means something to the effect of Burial Place of an Honored Hero.
The tale reminded me of the ancient Battle of Two Creeks. I have been to the shrine there, to pay my respects to those who fell. Surely Keda Ravaning, should we find again, will become a famed Faerie Shrine to the heroes, visited by a constant stream of faeries from all over the world.
After the war was over, a new clan of faeries took control of it and cleared out the orcs. The tunnels between faerie cities were built. A mere faerie generation later, the orcs poured out of the darklands, overrunning the faeries' strongholds. The faeries at Keda Ravaning protected their shrine by destroying the tunnels the orcs used to attack the faeries. Thus, they saved the shrine but isolated themselves completely. Only the stories are left, and no one knows exactly where it is anymore.
At Iri, Ravena tried to research, with the help of the monks of course, and find the location of the shrine, but they found nothing. She said the weather should continue to be cool and clear. This is unusual weather. It should be cold and snowing by now.
We left Iri and traveled along the road into the Yetsin Valley. An hour or so after leaving Iri, the road follows beside the Yetsin river. Another hour later, the White Faerie said we needed to follow a branch that joined the Yetsin river. We followed him.
Six hours later, we were still following the slim stream, occasionally walking in the cold water. Ravena said her Crystal of Air had begun glowing brightly, and Ashe looked at the Zoggin Rock of Fire and said it was, too. They separated from each other, but still they glow. This is a sure sign that we were close to the Crystal of Water.
As we walked up the stream, we came across a wide, deep valley, running roughly north from where we entered it. At the far, north, end we saw what was obviously a faerie hold, almost certainly Keda Ravaning. The valley was full of streams that crisscrossed along the floor, joining and separating, and joining again, finally all coming together where we stood to make its way to the Yetsin River. There were numerous broken and scarred caves, probably former entrances into the hold. The roofs have collapsed. There were ragged gashes in the hillside still visible, from combat magics. At the main entrance at the end stood three faerie guards.
We wound our way across the valley. As we approached, they gruffly shouted for us to halt, and they asked who we were and why we were there. To me, they seemed to be not nervous, but just on guard. The White Faerie would be our spokesman here, of course.