Chapter 5: Back and Forth
Og, the mighty king:
My prophecy, slain by Brutes.
Will you live again?
~ Miyara Miwa
I awoke the next morning. Weak from my wound, I had fainted in the tunnel before we got anywhere. The others had set up a camp at the mouth of the gorge, where we could safely pass the night.
It would take me days, if not weeks, to heal without assistance, so we decided to try to lure them out again, using the faerie pillars. I disliked sending them in to fight without me, but I knew as soon as I tried to do anything, I would faint again. So I stayed behind, with Kyosuke and Sun. Mongo, the White Faerie, Ash, and Sutoiko proceeded towards the entrance. However, the pillars did not cooperate. Perhaps once they "know" one person in a group, they "know" them all. They went on inside, without the announcement. The three of us waited for quite some time, and all was quiet.
At last, we saw them emerge. From a distance, they appeared healthy, but they carried some people with them, and a few others walked.
I asked how many of those brutes they had killed, and they said none. Mongo said the dragon statue is down with the goblins, and they "negotiated" with the brutes to rescue these people. At least two brutes are apparently still in there, healthy.
Two of the bodies carried back were dead: a faerie and an orc. My attention was immediately drawn to the orc, whose clothing had Isawa Godanji's name worked in the pattern, all over. I lost some of the conversation, but this was apparently the orc from the prophecy. Dead! Did his presence here mean that the dragon statue inside with the goblins was truly the one Godanji sought? If not, how would a dead orc lead me to it?
Kyosuke was quite upset over finding his Master Og dead, in his own quiet way. This was why Kyosuke was following me. He was in search of Og, Master of Clown-Fighting, so he could properly learn this technique from a master. Godanji had actually taught him to fight in this way, and here was Og, master of this technique, wearing his name! Og's vest changes many things. Clown-Fighting must be a Nipponese technique, which means there should be no dishonor on Kyosuke for learning and using it. On the other hand, it is unknown and in disuse among our people. Why?
I eventually learned the identities of those who were rescued.
- Res Li, a very short elf
- Caramela, a half-elf who talked about a rock she wanted to retrieve from the brutes all the time
- Ravena, a human who said she was a physician and of the Biancan order, which I am already familiar with
- Shan Obiron, a blind human who sung, although off-key in the western tradition
These refugees had nothing: all their belongings were back inside the mountain. They were also all badly wounded. Despite my longing to go find the statue immediately, I now had several badly injured and underdressed non-combatants in my care.
We decided to move along the path back to the trees, to take some time to heal, gather food, and bury the dead. Ravena said that she could heal people properly and quickly. I hoped very quickly. Once we were all recovered a decent amount, I figured we could return here, take care of the goblins and the statue, and then the brutes, which they called ogres. I also had a few days to figure out how to take care of the goblins and ogres with the same number of combatants plus extra non-combatants we would have to look after.
We all walked downhill into the forest, and then paused to discuss our options. We could stay in the forest, which was one day's walk; we could go to the ruined tower, which was reportedly safe and a good resting place for King Og, which was about two days' walk; we could travel all the way to the nearest town, which was two or three weeks' travel; or we could go to the Druidic shrine, which was one week away. Ash said this was a place people should wander around in as little as possible. He was going to go around and avoid Yetsin valley to get to the Druidess.
Ravena again said that she could heal people quickly, so we decided to pause there in the forest for a day. It was evening, so we set the watch and spent a quiet night. The next morning, Ravena went to work. She worked hard on everybody who was injured, all day long. By the evening, we were all completely healthy. Our wounds were just well-healed scars, apparently received and healed months ago. It was quite obvious she used some sort of magic, but how was not apparent. She muttered no mystic words, nor did she make any odd, ritualistic gestures. No prayers that I could recognize. No potions or salves. I know this western empire controls the use of magic, even executes those who use it without their permission. I do not care for their silly rules. This Ravena healed me, and that is enough for me.
We debated that evening about what to do with the bodies, and Ravena remembered a room in the tower that preserved bodies. One thought was that Og would have liked to have been buried at the tower anyway. Also, there was the possibility that the Druidess might be able to bring them back from the dead: she has done so before with Res Li. The bodies would decay if we took them to her, but they would not in that room in the tower. If there is a chance that Og can could be returned to life, I must do all I can to keep it possible. Ash had found us plenty of good food in the forest, so we decided to take the bodies to the tower next.
The next morning, we set off for the tower, and arrived there that evening. We carried the bodies to the tower room, which did indeed still hold two other, perfectly preserved bodies that have apparently been dead for centuries. I hoped very much that the Druidess would be able to restore Og to health. Still, it might not be possible: perhaps she would not be able to, or be interested in doing so. Perhaps Og was meant to die, and his presence is all I need to point me to the dragon statue. Before leaving his body, I cut a small piece from his vest, large enough to contain the whole pattern of Godanji's name. If the dragon statue is the right one, I will wrap it in this cloth to take back home with me, to return to his family.
From here, I was not certain how to proceed. We were all well again, but there was much unfinished business in many directions. Res Li said that his group had been on their way to the nearby town on an errand for the Druidess. They were supposed to meet someone there and escort him back to her. Caramela very much wanted to go back to the Faerie Shrine and retrieve her "Zogin Rock". I did not know what such a rock was, nor did she enlighten me. Ravena wished to return for her belongings, but also seemed reluctant to allow Caramela to have her rock again. Shan wished to get his belongings back as well. Ash did not care, but wanted to go to the Druidess at some point.
Although I very much wanted to go back for the statue, I was reluctant to bring these non-combatants with me. They had been captured, and some of them killed, by the ogres, while on a mission for the Druidess, and they were now running late for their appointment. I thought the best thing do to was to take them back to the Druidess immediately, and then return to the mountain. We all could go our separate ways then. I thought the White Faerie might return with me to the shrine, as he was angry at the desecration there. Kyosuke? I did not know what he might wish to do, with Og dead. I was certain that if there were any chance of bringing Og back to life, the sooner the Druidess knew about it the better.
I was happy with no direction we could take. I decided to go to the Druidess first. We could tell her of Og, the refugees could inform her of their situation and she could make an informed decision about the man they were supposed to go meet. We could gather provisions and the refugees could find clothing again. We could each follow our paths. Mine, back to the Faerie Shrine. But for now, we walked towards the Druidess' Shrine.
One evening on the way, Shan was singing, and Ash decided that he was "the songbird in the dark" he was supposed to give the box to. So he handed Shan the box, explaining that it was Shan's. Shan asked how he knew, and Ash just said the Druidess told him. Mongo said "a little bird told him".
Unsure as to what all that meant, Shan decided he would wait until he could talk with the Druidess before he opened it. But then, Res Li said, "There's a colorless crystal in the box, in the shape of the box. It seems to fill the box, as though the box had been formed around a box-shaped crystal." How could he know that? I asked him, but he did not give me a satisfactory answer. More magic, I suppose. I wondered what else he, and the rest of the refugees, are capable of. Perhaps they were not as helpless as they appeared.
Shan opened the box the following night. It was indeed full of a crystal, as if it had been poured into the box as liquid, then hardened. Shan said it felt like smooth, good glass. Then, the "glass" seemed to ignite: flames licked up from the open box he held. Shan did not feel the fire, but then did feel the glass begin to melt. He closed the box, and the fire was immediately extinguished, or at least hidden from our view. Assuming the melting was unimportant, Shan had a powerful light source. If we continued to travel together, we could have light to fight by in the shrine without a warrior having to carry it.
Two evenings from the Druidess' Shrine, we met a caravan on the road. They wanted to hear the news from up the road, of course. They had clothes and food they were willing to sell to us, and Mongo traded some of the pirates' weapons to them.
With clothes, the refugees were much more insistent on returning to the Faerie Shrine. They seemed to be unconcerned with the mission the Druidess had sent them on. I thought perhaps that Shan and Sun and anyone else who did not want to go back to the ogres could go on to the Druidess while the rest turned around. Ash could travel with them and then catch back up with us. But Sun would not leave me, and Shan preferred to stay with the group. Everyone was suddenly very concerned about leaving the "Zogin Rock" in the custody of the brutes, which they called "ogers", and wanted to go back immediately.
I still felt that they owed the Druidess an explanation of why they were not continuing on the mission she set for them, plus there was another warrior back at her shrine, who had originally been traveling with the refugees. So I sent Ash back to give the news to the Druidess and to catch up with us, bringing this Jeisan back with him. I might have non-combatants to look after, but at least I would have another warrior to help. Of course, we would get back to the shrine days before Ash and Jeisan did, leaving me down in strength. I hoped the unknown powers of the refugees coupled with the remarkable healing abilities of the physician would offset that.