Chapter 16: A Small Village that Requires Much Walking
Like a donkey's bray
Is the ceaseless Western talk.
Like a stream through a quiet valley
Is the sound of my native tongue.
~ Miyara Miwa
The physician's house was of a good size, and two floors tall. Ravena said the sign outside said Doctor, and the odd symbol also meant Doctor to them. I do not know why they use snakes to indicate physicians. The sign also listed the hours he was open for business: from the second hour of the afternoon to the fifth. We were about two hours early for his office hours, but perhaps he was home eating his lunch. We knocked and waited, and knocked and waited again, but there was no answer. Hosei thought perhaps he had gone to one of the inns for his lunch, and said that surely a man of such stature and wealth in this village would dine at the best inn here. Accordingly, we walked to the Helmsman.
As we walked in, the innkeeper greeted us politely and asked if he could serve us lunch. Hosei asked what he was serving, and it was the usual meal: bread, cheese, soup made from the previous evening's meat. I do not understand why no one here eats the fish from the river which runs through the town. Hosei told the innkeeper we would eat there, and then he asked if the physician was here. He was not.
We ate lunch there anyway. Hosei thought the bread was good. I have eaten a great deal of bread in these western lands, since they do not seem to eat good rice. I cannot say I have a great appreciation for it, but by their standards, this did seem to be a superior quality. Hosei said it was Buretonian, but it had a unique flavor he could not place. Ravena recognized it, though: truffles she said. There was some laughter about a pig which I did not understand. I ate the bread and cheese, and wished for some proper soup. Kyosuke and I taught Hosei the correct words for our meal, although of course bread and cheese did not translate. I am still not entirely certain what cheese is, although it seems somewhat similar to tofu.
The innkeeper, whose name I think was Gurosu, came over to speak with me. "You clearly come from long way from here," he said to me, and he asked why I was here. I simply told him why we were here in his village: we had been looking for the man who is now dead. He said he thought more people had died then slept at that inn. Hosei called him to task for the exaggeration, and he apologized, realizing Hosei was a monk of Varina and did not tolerate falsehoods. Hosei was understanding, however, replying that telling tales is the way of the merchant. The innkeeper did not seem to understand the insult.
Looking around the inn, I thought this one was nicer than the one we were staying at, and Kyosuke agreed with me. We did not know why the others apparently always stay at the other one. The innkeeper was aghast that we were at the Black Eagle, and thought that I should stay at a "decent and safe" inn, by which he meant his own, of course. For now, I preferred to stay at the center of the inquiry into Bastiyan's death. But in the future, if we return to this miserable village again, I would prefer to stay at the Helmsman instead.
Hosei asked me about assassins from Nippon who can walk through walls, and presumably kill Bastiyan four times over. I simply told him I doubted one would come this far to kill a western peasant, which is true enough. Why would anyone in Nippon care, even one of the black-robed ones? Hosei said maybe he was not a peasant, but even so, there was no way he could have been important enough to attract attention from that far away. We just do not care about the barbarians here. I did not discuss with him methods of killing: this certainly did not look anything like an assassin's kill. Not even four assassins' kill.
After we finished lunch, we still had quite some time before the physician would be available. We returned to the Black Eagle to ask a few more questions we had thought of over lunch. We asked the barmaid where Bastiyan ate breakfast and lunch, and Hosei and Res Li looked around outside the inn to see if there was anywhere Bastiyan could have hidden something. Why did he go outside for a brief time after dinner? The barmaid did not know what Bastiyan did for his breakfast, but he lunched at the inn, and again ate what everyone else ate. She said he seemed to be a man running out of money. She said not like a sailor drinking all his wages, which she sees all the time, but more like he had been down on his luck for a while and had run out of options.
Kyosuke suggested blackmail to me. Perhaps that was who he met outside the inn in the evening. Hosei and Res Li returned without finding anything. Hosei is the most civilized barbarian I have met yet, and Kyosuke is also favorably impressed with him. We will have to try to teach him some of our beautiful language.
I put forth Kyosuke's blackmail theory, but Res Li asked if he had no money for a blackmailer, why did he come here and stay at an inn? I did not know: why does a westerner do anything? None of us has any idea why Bastiyan was here. Kyosuke asked me why everyone persists in calling Bastiyan by his familiar name, thinking that was barbaric even for these people. I explained to him that the western barbarians put themselves over their families, and name themselves first and their families second, when they have family names at all. He was disgusted, of course.
Hosei and I realized at once that we had not questioned everyone at the Black Eagle: we did not know who was present at dinner the previous evening. Hosei told us who was there:
- Etiyen Bastiyan
- An elf, whose name was typically impossible to speak. His family name was Leafglow. Hosei said he seemed to be well known by the locals. Hosei had spoken briefly with him and said Leafglow had decided to live among humans for a while. He had rented a large house in town and enjoyed meeting human artists.
- Dagamara Tasuke. He said she was a rather striking woman, and was happy to talk to Hosei. Most people seem to be. He said she seemed to be reasonably well travel led and intelligent. She was dressed like she was ready for traveling, carried a knife, and she evaded all his questions about what she did for a living. She said she had recently inherited some money and a cabin in Wailuburu. Hosei said that was just outside Kurusa Hoven on the Wailuburu estate. She did not say where she had come here from.
- The two inn workers, who were interested in Tasuke.
- Guduren Mangelu, an old woman who Hosei said was fat and ugly. He had greeted her believing she was a man and did not speak with her after that insult.
- The two Tai Lians
- Ludo Lindentalu, some sort of official who authorized official village papers. His title is "Notari".
The two inn workers were present. As we walked towards them, I could see they were not quite arguing, but were having an urgent, hushed discussion. They stopped immediately when they noticed us, but I had heard one tell the other that he must tell us something.
Hosei, Kyosuke, Ravena, and I spoke with them. I asked them, "What do you need to tell us?" They stared at me in astonished disbelief -- did they think I was half deaf as well as half blind? Hosei told them that whatever it was would stay between us. They asked why we cared who killed him, and Hosei said the village leader would not let us leave until we found it out for him. One said he held nothing against the elf, and was uninterested in Bastiyan, but he believed the killer was the elf. He saw the elf put something in Bastiyan's food when he was not looking at dinner. Hosei asked how long the elf had been in town, and he said a year or more. Kyosuke muttered that accounted for one death. The worker said he did not know that the substance was not merely pepper, but it did not look good now. Hosei told him it was good to tell the truth, and he promised not to tell the elf what he had said. I asked if they had seen anyone else going into or near Bastiyan's room, but they had not: many people went up and down, but no one was noticeable.
Hosei asked them about the lady who makes poultices for the village in an effort to find out where Mangelu was, although she was not the same person. The workers said Mangelu lived on the other side of the river, not too far from the dock, and she ate at the Black Eagle fairly often.
Hosei also learned that the Notari's house was near the inn, but he spent most of his time with the village leader.
By that time, the hour was near to those the physician kept open, so we walked over to his house. This time, he was there. His name was Entesangu. Hosei greeted him politely and said the village leader had asked us to investigate the death of his patient, Bastiyan. Upon hearing that, the physician showed us in. I was happy that Hosei liked to talk with people: I find speaking with westerners difficult and generally unrewarding. He, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy it, and others seemed to enjoy speaking with him. I think I will let him carry as much of the conversations with these villagers as I can.
Hosei and Ravena spoke with the physician, while I translated the conversation for Kyosuke. We heard little of any use. Bastiyan had come to the physician complaining of indigestion and was given some potion Ravena approved of to treat it. Ravena told Entesangu the many ways in which he had been killed, and he seemed entirely shocked. He said he had not really talked with Bastiyan about anything besides his complaint, and none of the insults offered to his body had been present when Bastiyan was there: the physician would have certainly noticed such.
Hosei then asked about some of the other people of interest. The physician knew Leafglow: in fact, he lived right behind Entesangu's house, and he had little complaint against the elf. His opinion of Dagamara Tasuke was not as positive: not the nicest or brightest person, and not the sort of person one wants in a village like this because she might attract a certain "element", he said. The man who had previously lived in her cabin had died of plague some years ago, and she has been there for a couple of years.
As we made our exit, he said something to Hosei in one of the strange barbarian tongues, and Hosei said he would return later to talk with the physician. Once in the street again, Hosei looked around to be sure we could not be easily overheard, and said the physician was a mage. I asked him what sort, and Hosei felt he was probably "nice". Mages, of course, can often walk through walls and do what they will with locks, but Hosei did not seem to think it was likely the physician was involved in Bastiyan's death.
We stopped to speak with Guduren Mangelu, as she was not far away. Although she apparently had enough money to be able to eat at inns often, she lived in a very poor house.
Hosei greeted her and asked if she had time to talk with us. She suspiciously asked who we were, but upon learning we were investigating Bastiyan's death, she was happy to talk to us at great length about nothing important. She was simply a peasant gossip and spoke of things quite freely: Tasuke was an assassin, Leafglow was a thief (as are all elves, according to her). We declined her invitation to tea (the thought of her "tea" made me shudder), or we might still be there yet listening to her prattle her nonsense.
However, she did mention darts as something Tasuke knew about, and if a person were interested in lying in wait for someone to come along to kill, this would be as good a place as any, with the river traffic.
The next place was that of the village leader, where we found the Notari, as well as the village leader. Hosei asked what the Notari what he saw of Bastiyan. We got much the same answers as from everyone else: Bastiyan kept to himself, did not talk to Tasuke or Leafglow. The Notari also knew little of Leafglow beyond what we already knew. Although Hosei asked him about both Leafglow and Tasuke, he did not tell us anything of her, which caused me to wonder if he knew her in some way.
The village leader asked if we had made any progress, and Hosei told him we had uncorroborated evidence that something was slipped into his food by the elf. The village leader wanted very much to know who had said that, but did not press Hosei when he said he had promised not to tell anyone. We pointed out that even the person who had seen this action did not know that the substance was the manbane: it could have been entirely innocent. Although it did not seem likely, given the circumstances.
Hosei asked for directions to Tasuke's cabin. The village leader said just go to the estate and ask: there were only six houses there. A noble lives on the estate, a Count Aisensatu. On the estate in those houses live the Yeigers, a Helena, two men named Bushu, the gravedigger (Hipulu), and a Kuladya Ubera. Hosei noted that Ubera is also the name of the lady who makes poultices. Tasuke does not blend with that group of people.
We decided to talk to the elf next, since he was close by, in a non-confrontational manner. The village leader did not want us to mention the accusation to him. If he really was involved in some way but we cannot obtain clear proof of it, the village leader may not be able to do anything about it. He cannot afford to anger the elves. We can tell the elf that we are visiting him for several reasons: to speak of the previous evening with him, and to see his art and his artists.
Again, once we were alone in the street, Hosei looked around to be sure we were unobserved. He cast some sort of spell, and then he spoke to us in our own language! He could only speak properly for a few moments, and he took the time to speak primarily to Kyosuke, who greatly appreciated being able to communicate with someone directly aside from me. Hosei even took the time to learn Kyosuke's name, which gave me great joy. Hosei is the only one who sees Kyosuke as a real person, and is the only one to bother learning the boy's name.