Chapter 15: Found and Lost
Death, knowledge, questions.
We ask much but learn little.
We move at Fate's whim.
~ Miyara Miwa
Once we arrived in Kurusa Hoven, we immediately started asking for Bastiyan. Res Li asked convenient deck hands about the man, and we discovered that he had been on the boat berthed next to ours. The peasant knew nothing, but did say Bastiyan seemed somewhat depressed or sad about something.
So we entered the village again. We stopped at the first inn, the Red Bull. The innkeeper remembered us, but did not recognize either the name Bastiyan or the man from the White Faerie's vision.
The next inn in our path was the Black Eagle. Apparently this is where the others had stayed before. The place was in disarray when we arrived: the barmaid was crying on the shoulder of an inn laborer, and everyone appeared quite busy.
Res Li asked a man sitting at a table, apparently a guest, what had occurred, but he didn't know. He said the barmaid had come down the stairs crying. A man came down the stairs then, saw us immediately, and said he wanted to speak with us.
It appeared that he recognized some of those I travel with, and not in a good way I didn't think. I simply listened.
He said he knew last week we had been here asking for Bastiyan, and he is now dead in this inn upstairs. He said this and looked very suspiciously at us. Someone told him we had been on a boat on the river last night, as though our word that we had not killed him would not suffice. He did not some completely satisfied even with that answer, as though we might have somehow witched him dead from the river.
He did not admit to knowing what had caused Bastiyan to die, although he had just been up there and must have seen the body. He asked why we were searching for the man, and I spoke up, as technically I was the one searching for him. I told him the Druidess had told us to bring him to her. He merely replied that the village leader would wish to talk with us, and we should go to him today. He would not let us see the body, go upstairs, or answer any further questions until we came back after seeing the village leader.
Before leaving, we stopped at the bar, as Res Li wished to speak with the crying maid. He spoke plain words to her in a soothing manner, and he managed to calm her and quiet her sobs. He then asked her a few questions about the events upstairs. She found him when she went in to clean his room, thinking him gone for the day. She thought perhaps he died in some terrible manner, but I discounted that: she's a peasant of a tiny village and likely has never seen a dead body other than those dead of old age or disease.
The others knew exactly where the village leader was, and we were immediately taken into his office. He, too, asked first where we had been the previous night, as though he suspected us. Again we answered his questions, telling him we were traveling on the river and did not know who would want him dead, as we had never met the man. We did not even know why the Druidess wished to speak with him.
I was quite insulted that he still viewed us as suspects in the killing of this man. Not knowing who he was, I cannot even view his death as a murder: he may simply have been a peasant who angered a warrior in some way and deserved to be killed. But then, these barbarians have views different than mine. Disgusted with him, I readily gave him my word that we would not leave this miserable village until this matter was resolved. I would not have left in any case, as I must learn everything so I can discharge my obligation to the Druidess and fully restore my cousin to health.
Ravena passed on the Druidess' greetings and wish for her and her sister to aid him. The message surprised him, but he said it was a start. Of what I did not know, but he charged Ravena and Caramela to find him who killed Bastiyan, as though we were not already doing so. I must try to be patient with these barbarian peasants: they understand nothing, and the village leader is no different than the rest. No different than home, except there I did not have to deal with them as I do here, and if one died in some way, what did it matter? One must, of course, care for one's peasants in the broader sense: they are a lord's responsibility. Farmers in particular are due some honor for performing their duties well, as they feed us all and are peaceful people. Town peasants, though, tend to create trouble.
We returned to the inn, and the village leader came with us. He remained downstairs while we all went up. Upstairs there was no one but the innkeeper, who was cleaning up the room. It was quite a mess, but the body was missing. Ravena asked where it was, and the innkeeper said it was in the basement, where it would stay until burial. Ravena inspected everything carefully, and Res Li discovered Bastiyan's traveling bag. He found little but some papers. He read the small ones to us, and they stated Bastiyan's name with many different professions under it. The other papers Res Li said were letters of introduction from different minor nobility, but we all agreed they were most likely false. It was apparent that Bastiyan was a man of no honor whatsoever, and his identity was even murkier. I imagine there were many who wished to kill him.
Ravena did find the murder weapon: a crude knife. We took that with us and the bag and returned downstairs. Ravena wished to inspect the body itself, and I wished to have nothing to do with it. I, and Kyosuke, remained in the common are of the inn while the rest followed Ravena to the basement.
I quickly determined that only the inn people (the two laborers, the barmaid, and the innkeeper) had been here last night, along with three guests. The one we had talked with earlier was not one of them: he had just arrived this morning.
One of those guests was sitting at a table downstairs, so I talked with him to see if he knew anything. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was a monk. Hosei willingly shared everything he had seen last night. Basityan had been there when the monk had arrived. He said Bastiyan had eaten alone and talked little: he was not rude but clearly did not wish to speak with anyone. He retired by himself, and the monk thought perhaps he wasn't feeling well. He ate what everyone ate, and drank the beer like everyone did. Foul stuff. The monk had slept in the dormitory, which he had to himself, and heard nothing for the rest of the evening.
Hosei was friendly and talkative and continued telling me about himself. He had not meant to stay here at all, but was on his way to Iri, but had missed seeing the flags in the fog. He plans on returning on a clearer day and would prefer to travel with others. I can understand that: the roads are not safe here, and he is an elderly monk.
With nothing else to learn about Bastiyan, and with the possibility that I may go to Iri with the others, I asked him about the place. He said it was a monastery of Varina, and they are known for their extensive library. Many people travel there to research the library. It is a rare place where humans and faeries live together in harmony. The monks are interested primarily in rare knowledge and studying their history. I asked him what his interest was: what was he going to research? He said he was interested in a war in this area about 200 years ago between orcs and faeries, in which it was rumored that the orcs had a magic stone of fire. I thought perhaps this might be the stone of fire Caramela has, but was not sure, and I said nothing.
He asked if he was a suspect in the murder, and I agreed that he was. I find it unlikely, but possible if he is lying about who he is. I cannot read these foreigners well. He showed me his right arm, which ended in a hook rather than a hand, and hinted that he was unable to use it to kill anyone. I retorted that perhaps his right could not, but his left was hale; as I am missing one eye but still can see with the other. He smiled and admitted that was true. He also carries a sturdy walking staff with a small carved owl at its top.
He said that those who follow the path of Varina cannot lie, and often act as go-betweens and mediators for disputes. He added that followers of Varina are perhaps the least likely to be suspected in any crime, along with the followers of Bianca, who are healers.
I asked him point blank if he had killed Bastiyan, and he said no. Assuming he is a follower of this Varina, he was not the killer. I will check his credentials and be sure that he is who he says he is.
Hosei was waiting for the next group heading south so he did not have to travel alone to Iri. He told me to tell him if there's anything I needed to know, and I asked him to not leave without saying something first to us. After all, we are also going to Iri, so we may be the group he seeks.
After learning more about Iri, I wish to go there myself. I may be able to find information about the dragon statue there.
The inn had returned mostly to normal, with the laborers going about their business, and guests around the bar. The rest of the group trooped downstairs again, although I hadn't noticed them going back upstairs. The village leader had left, as had the constable.
We all gathered together, pulling a couple of tables together and shared what we had learned. I told them about Hosei and what he had said of Bastiyan, and Ravena told me about Bastiyan himself. He had been killed four times over: hit on the head, and poisoned with manbane, shot with an acid-covered dart, and stabbed with the dagger. Truly he had angered someone, or perhaps more than one person. The room had been locked and sealed, so no one else could have gotten in. It appeared he had killed himself four times over.
Hosei came over to us and said, "Any good news?" Apparently monks of Varina tend to be very curious, if not nosy. We replied that we had not solved our problem. Hosei expressed a wish to join us, and none of us objected. The others are familiar with monks of Varina and trust him. I could see that Ravena immediately trusted him upon learning who he was.
We asked Hosei about the other two guests who had been there the previous evening: the two Tai Lians, who had left this morning. He said they were primarily interested in the barmaid, but they had mentioned the name of their ship: the Cloven Hoof. He had even caught their names: Toni and Guwido Saradushi and they were brothers.
Hosei said Bastiyan did not appear to be carrying anything of value, and we of course had no ideas beyond what he had found in his bag. Jeisan said he did not have any weapons and his hands had been soft, not working hands.
Hosei expressed an interest in the calling cards and the letters, and we showed them to him. He, too believes they are likely false papers. The White Faerie mentioned that the that the body in the basement, which we assumed was Bastiyan, matched his vision. We did not truly know if that was Bastiyan, but it was all we had to work with at the time.
When the barmaid brought us another round of drinks, Hosei asked her if Bastiyan had said anything about meeting someone here in town. She said he came in for a room mid-morning, went up to his room, went out somewhere, and was here for dinner. That was all she knew.
Ash stammered that perhaps he could trace Bastiyan's movement by scent. He sniffed Bastiyan's travel bag and started crawling around sniffing the ground. He attracted some attention doing that, but he did find a trace of Basityan, and followed it, and we followed him.
Ash could not trace Bastiyan's exact path, but he could tell where Bastiyan had been: the inn across the bridge, the wharfs, and the doctor's place.
At the wharf, we asked after the Saradushi brothers, and their story was verified: the Cloven Hoof had been here two days. The Tai Lians had stayed at the inn for two nights, and had shipped out with the boat, which regularly travel led through here, along with the brothers. They did not appear to be likely suspects, and in any case we had no way of following up on them.
The next was to be the doctor's.