Chapter 74: Tale-Telling
Snow on a mountain;
The sun glints on polished steel.
And the hero leaves.
~ Miyara Miwa
I passed on what Kyosuke and I had scouted out at Kuer La's, and a strange look passed over Ravena's face. "Did anyone else's vision show them a way to destroy the Crystal?" Her out-of-the-blue question confused us all, and she explained.
"When the Crystal merged, we each had a vision. In mine, I was trying to push the Crystal through a small hole. I knew that if I succeeded, all would be well. I failed in the vision, but it still showed a way to get rid of it. Did anyone else see an actual solution like that?"
We all carefully considered our visions, and concluded that Ravena was right. She was the only one who saw a way to get rid of the thing. We pressed her for details. The air was thin, and cold. There was a constant wind, likewise thin and cold, sweeping around her. It was obvious: up on a high mountain somewhere. Like the ones that surround us. That was our next step. To figure out where to go to find her hole, and to go there. Happily, that would also take us away from the Imperials.
And the prisoner was to tell us what to do.
To start, Hosei went to Kuer La's to discuss things with the halfling, to see what he could find out. He was not there terribly long before returning to gather us and the rest of the village. Meitila wished to address us all, to tell us what she and her knights were here for.
She stood on the stairs, so she could look down on the gathering. A position of power. The prisoner and his guard stood below her on the stairs. I smiled when she began to speak. She spoke loudly and slowly and simply, and very sure of her position. She reminded me of Ikeda Aki, the Ikeda and one of the minor Miyara family affiliates. He, too, is overfull of himself.
She said, "We are investigating reports of cursed magical artifacts. These cursed magical items are extremely dangerous and must be destroyed as must anyone affected by their taint. Butolu!" And the man holding the prisoner's chain yanked it hard. The prisoner stood up, looking frightened, and described the four zoggin rocks. Despite his fear and his condition, he spoke in a learned voice. This man was a scholar, and was a prisoner for no more reason than he had knowledge the Cold Fire Knights needed. Meitila continued, "We are prepared to offer a large rewards for any information leading to such dangerous and cursed artifacts." She looked around the crowd expectantly, receiving only blank and somewhat bored expressions from the ignorant villagers. As best we could, we tried to emulate their blank expressions. After a minute or two, she rolled her eyes and gave up on the stupid villagers.
The other knight came downstairs and shooed all the villagers away, who were grateful and eager to get back to their pathetic livelihoods.
We returned to our miserable hut, and Hosei said he also recognized the prisoner as a scholar, like he is. Perhaps we can set up a formal meeting between Meitila and me, and thus provide an opportunity for Hosei to speak with the prisoner. I looked down at my tattered rags. We needed to get me a lot more noble-looking, and we needed to provide a formal introduction.
I helped him try to word that formal introduction, although I fear it did not translate very well. Sun, as my personal servant, took it to them while I worked on my formal wear. I have had little need to use it, and it is still in decent condition. Sun returned with their reply.. He said they seemed to think it humorous, and the knight Sun helpfully described as handsome (they all look the same to me) asked if I were married. I put the insult aside, with some difficulty I'll admit. But after all, they do not know the insult they offer, and neither does my family. Destroying the Crystal is the only important thing here, now. They said I was welcome to come over anytime. Not the formal invitation we were hoping for, but it would do.
Once dressed, I looked fairly impressive, I think. Certainly very foreign, and the rich fabrics and my fine weapons make a good impression. Baku and Ashe remained behind, and I left the Crystal with them. That, I would not carry anywhere near the knights.
At Kuer La's, everyone was downstairs, socializing after their meal. The prisoner was still in his corner near the window, and the fat man was guarding him. The guard ate, while the prisoner did not.
I was welcomed formally by Meitila's second (the one Sun said asked about my marriage status). For a foreigner, he did not mangle my name and titles terribly. He also formally introduced himself, Meitila, and the other knight. Someone was booted out of a chair, and I was invited to sit down. Appropriately, although we had not discussed it earlier, both Kyosuke and Sun stood behind my chair. The rest of my party found places for themselves, and Hosei and Peter went to see if they could get a chance to speak with the prisoner.
Hosei was unsuccessful, and asked directly if he could speak with the prisoner, as a fellow scholar. Unfortunately, they all wanted to hear the conversation, so the prisoner was brought to the table briefly. He and Hosei discussed enough so that the prisoner's status and knowledge was clear to us all. He had no knowledge of chaos, but he had extensively studied faerie history in books he from libraries in and around Al Dofu. Hosei asked him detailed questions about the university, about titles and authors, and tried to sound as boring as he could. The prisoner was an expert on his single subject: faerie history between 4000 and 5000 years ago: the Time of Woes the dwarves call it.
People were listening, but also looked bored. I felt I had an opening, to try and distract them all from Hosei and the prisoner. At a lull in the conversation, I began to tell an historical tale from Nippon. To may amazement, I gained the full attention of everyone. Although I have never been a noted story-teller, they hung on my every word. I saw Hosei and the prisoner scoot a little out of the way, then I turned from them and continued telling stories, anything I could think of to keep everyone's attention away from them.
I spoke as long as was decent, and kept them all riveted with tales of Nippon for over an hour. By that time, Hosei returned to the table, yawning, saying it was time for old men to get to their beds for the night. I gracefully closed my tales down, and we took our leave.