The mill was empty, at least of people. Dieter said he could take us to the miller: he was probably meditating in his cell, as do all the monks for portions of their days. None of us wished to disturb him, so we looked around the mill on our own. We didn't find anything particularly interesting, and then decided the kitchen might be a better place: the miller merely produces flour while the kitchen produces bread, "the staff of life". How a rod of iron might play into that we weren't certain. Our only guess, the rod for the millstone, was wood.

We snooped around in the kitchen for some minutes and again found nothing of interest. As we were deciding this was probably a dead end, too, a large man entered and yelled out, "What the hell are you doing in my kitchen?" José tried to smooth things over and also see if he knew anything, but the cook merely reiterated that food was served only in the dining hall at the proper time. He was willing to play cards with us, but only at lunchtime. He knew nothing about the cards we held or the ones we sought.

Then it was decided that we follow the coins on the card's face instead. Dieter said the monastery's coins are kept in the chest next to our own in the workshop beneath the smithy, so that's where we headed next. We all looked around the room, and Prestley looked inside the box.

Yazerin's workshop is now storage. We saw old furniture, old flagpoles, ropes for the well, the ladder to upstairs. Prestley said the box contained lots of coins, some gems, some table silver, candelabras, statue of a knight kneeling. Nothing particuarly unusual and no cards.

Yazerin gave seven coins to the mason, but there isn't a mason currently, so that was also a dead end. Dieter had no idea why the mason wasn't replaced, and he didn't know where the old mason's tools are now.

Running out of ideas, we searched the armory, just in case. Of course, we found nothing there either.

Prestley suggested that one of us should climb the flagpole to get a look around. The flagpoles are rooted in Norbert's room, so we decided we should ask his permission before simply barging ahead.

Dinnertime arrived just as we had completely run out of places to search. Turns out the nondescript meat we were eating was from the "yakyak" birds that fly around all over the place up here. A monk told us the medium-sized birds were related to crows. The orcs were still on their way, no one knew when they would get here, and no one seemed to care.

After dinner, Goldrim had one of his visions: of the west face of the base of Yazerin's statue. To refresh our collective memory, which is often contradictory, we walked to the statue and scrutinized that portion of the base again. It showed his death, and the text said "Yazerin departs, leaving a sadder but wiser world. Yorgi inscribed this stav when I took my seven coins and laid him in his grave". So, there were a staff and seven coins.

Then we went to talk to Norbert, who opened his door at our knock. He said Yorgi was the last mason and they no longer needed one because this place was finished. We told Norbert we wished to look at Yorgi's tomb and his tools. Norbert pulled out a book, thumbed through it, and asked us to follow him. It must have been some sort of index to the tombs.

In a procession, the whole group of us and Dieter followed Norbert down the long stairs to the level that held the tombs, deep within the mountain. Norbert led us unerringly to the tomb in question. The plaque said "XXXIII", which we figured out eventually was the number of his tomb in classical Imperial. Norbert said the book only mentioned his name and the year he died, which was about ten years ago.

Prestley looked inside the tomb itself. He couldn't tell us what he saw with Norbert there, but he nodded. José told Norbert that we needed to open the tomb and look inside for the next clue. Although surprised, he believed us and told Dieter to fetch the armorer. Before he ran off, Goldrim said he could take care of the matter himself, and opened the pack of smith's tools he carries everywhere he goes.

He had no trouble opening the tomb up, and even added a flourish, happy to be using his skills again.

Inside was the body of a large man and a small wooden box. José carefully removed the box and opened it: it held another card, which he handed to Prestley. José just carefully replaced the small box and Goldrim closed the tomb again, although he had some difficulty getting it back exactly the way it was when he opened it.

This card had a picture of two swords over a triangle that had some sort of strange loopy thing at its top point. The text read, "Atop the mountain comes the dawn". It also had what looked to be the number two in classical Imperial, and we asked Norbert who was buried in tomb two. He didn't know without looking it up, but said it was about a hundred years old. Prestley scanned inside it quickly, but saw nothing important.

Norbert tried to explain what the loopy symbol meant. Something about lasting forever, something without beginning or end. Some sort of odd philosophy that really didn't make much sense to any of us, and didn't seem important to our immediate goals anyway.

Hy said something, and Miara said he suggested that we research all the symbols in the morning, which came very early around here. That was a good point, and we all retired for the night. I have gotten used to everyday life and nearly forgotten what it was like to live in a structured environment. It is very dark here at night. Miara says nothing about the candle I insist on burning all night, but she sort of burrows her head under the covers to sleep now. I have stopped even trying to simply be in the dark, it's too disturbing. I don't think the ice in my bones will ever leave me.

Breakfast was early, but I awoke with time enough for my own meditation beforehand, something I have had too little time for recently. At breakfast, José showed the card to the armorer and asked about the symbols. He said the swords looked just like the two hanging on his wall. After breakfast, we went to look at them, and he was right: they were a near-perfect match!

It took little inspecting to discover that one of the hilts was hollow: we screwed the pommel off and removed the next card. It pictured the knave of coins and a kneeling knight by a chest. The text read, "Flag not the weary will conquer". The armorer looked very interested in the cards and asked us about them. After we explained, he said he had one that looked very much like the ones we had, given him by the previous armorer. Prestley and Goldrim had been whispering in the background and looked like they wanted to leave without Dieter, but he saw them and followed them anyway, and José also accompanied them. The rest of us followed the armorer to his cell.

He gave us half a card with the words "last is not" showing, a cup pouring water into a well and a 2 symbol (II). He said the cards were made by Yazerin and the instruction that came with the card was to hand it down from armorer to armorer until the right time came. He said this seemed very much like the right time. He said he had given the other half of the card to his brother the tailor, and he took us there.

Nicolas the potter answered the door, and called over Siggi to speak with us. José being absent, Miara jumped right in on the attack and as usual succeeded only in scaring her prey. He said he didn't have it. We couldn't get any other answer out of him, and she asked Klaus the armorer why he refused to even admit he had it, when we knew he did. He said his brother didn't want to get in trouble because it was only supposed to go from armorer to armorer.

I asked if maybe Siggi could give his half to his brother, but Klaus suggested we leave him to his studies for the time being. Klaus apparently meant to speak to him alone. Miara agreed, reluctantly. I doubt she picked up on his intent and she didn't really want to let the card go.

We returned to the courtyard, where we saw José, Goldrim, and Prestley. The picture of the statue of the knight looked just like the one Prestley had seen within the chest belonging to the monastery. Norbert had opened the chest for them, and sure enough, the base of the statue held the next card. This was the 3 of rods and its phrase was "The first is always the nearest". As we clustered around looking at our latest, the potter came up to us. I was hoping he would hand us the half card from his cellmate Siggi, but instead he handed us another whole card. He said he'd had it a long time, and since it matched the ones we were looking for, he must be meant to give it to us. It showed the four of cups, all grouped around a shining sun. Its phrase was "Birds of a feather flock together". Suddenly we were replete with cards.

This burst of fruitful activity had taken all the morning, and lunch had arrived. On our walk to the dining hall, Klaus walked crosswise to us, quietly and discreetly handed the missing half card to Miara, and continued walking away. She quickly tucked it away and continued as if nothing had happened. Since she was still dining on the dais, we couldn't see it until after lunch. Next to her, Scar stood up and anncounced that the orcs had arrived and the guards were on full alert. Again, nobody seemed unduly disturbed. They were certain that nothing could reach them: the ground was too far below for bows or even catapults, and they believed implicitly in the strength of their gate. Miara didn't look so assured, and none of us felt particularly complacent either. What was Yazerin's prophecy except a warning of impending doom?

We pieced the two halves of the card together after lunch. We weren't really missing anything important from the picture: we had seen enough to understand it all. But now we had all the words: "The last is not the least".

We also asked Norbert to take us to the flags so we could have a look around.

The flagroom was just off his room. It was a long, thin room and three tall flagstaffs rose from its floor up through the roof. One wall was covered with cubbyholes that held different flags and pennants.

José cast a spell and flew up to the roof and higher. The rest of us waited for the ladder Norbert brought us. José flew up quite far: he said he saw a lot of bird nests, but no other signs of magic aside from his own. Once the ladder arrived, Hy climbed to the roof and then shinned up the tallest flagpole. Since we were looking for the crystal of air, José suggested that Hy feel around above him in the air. Neither of them found anything, though.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~