Chapter 19: Ignoble Nobility
When the songbird sees her fledgling,
Twice her size, wearing odd plumage,
And her other offspring dashed on the ground below,
Does she blame the chick or herself?
~ Miyara Miwa
As we were divided fairly evenly into our three rooms, we set a rotation of one person on watch in each room for the night. Despite violent precedent, I expected a quiet night, and that is what we got.
I was awakened very early, though, as the sun was just beginning to rise, by Ravena, who said there was a racket downstairs. I heard a banging on the door to the inn, picked up my katana, and went down to investigate.
The inn's proprietor, Yohan, walked towards the door and opened it. I placed myself behind him, katana at the ready, although he did not seem concerned. A peasant woman came in, and I remembered she had been helping to serve dinner at the elf's the night before, and someone had mentioned she was the baker's wife. Weeping uncontrollably, she fell helplessly into Yohan's arms. I had difficulty understanding her sobbing words, but she said something about her husband, whose name was Aruman. When she saw me standing there, she turned and repeated everything to me, equally incoherently.
I finally calmed her down somewhat, and figured out that she was saying someone had kidnapped Aruman and killed him. At some point, I noticed Kyosuke walk in through the door from outside. I had no idea how he had gotten there. I asked her some questions about Aruman. It seemed unlikely, really, that anyone would both kidnap and kill someone. What would be the point? And how would she know he was both missing and dead? And who, and why Aruman?
She said she knew he was gone because the pig came home without him. Ah, yes, Ravena had noticed that he was taking the pig for a walk last night. To this woman, the odd thing was not taking a pig for a walk, but that the pig came home without its owner.
She seemed quite upset and pathetic, and I felt sorry for her. In a weak moment, I told her I would try to find the baker. I was quite certain I would find him in the forest, perhaps injured or killed by a predator. It seemed a silly thing to bother the village leader with, and if he was injured, finding him quickly was important. In hindsight, I can see I should have done the proper thing and gone to the village leader, of course. One should always operate through the local hierarchy properly. I do not know what came over me.
By that time, Hosei had also appeared, and he agreed to go looking for the baker. I explained the circumstances to Kyosuke, then woke everyone else up to see if they wished to come look, too. Ravena agreed to come look, since she would be able to care for him should he be injured rather than dead. Caramela, of course, accompanied her sister, and Ash said he would come. The quiet man is more comfortable in the forest than the village, and is also quite skilled at following trails. Res Li, Jeisan, and the White Faerie said they would stay at the inn.
As we gathered ourselves to leave, the White Faerie was struck by a vision again. He said he saw many flowers blooming, as though watching an entire spring in moments. Then he saw a big man with a horse, wearing full armor. The man was looking angrily at someone. The White Faerie said he had the look of a man who had been wronged by the one who he was glaring at, who the White Faerie could not see.
I could not even guess what that vision meant: it seemed to relate to nothing at hand, so I assumed we would discover more in the future. However, the White Faerie changed his mind and decided to accompany us after all.
We immediately walked to the edge of the woods, where Ravena had seen him enter. The pig followed us. Ash sniffed around the area, and set off into the woods, followed eagerly by the pig. Hosei grabbed the pigs' collar with his hook so it would neither wander off or get in the way. It was quite clear that the pig agreed with Ash's direction.
The forest so close to town was clear, with no underbrush, and we followed the trail quickly. After a while, the forest became much more overgrown and dark. The pig and the trail led us deeper into the forest, and we came to a sign nailed to a tree. Ravena read the sign out loud: "Trespassers will be impaled. Ordered by Sir Thiodoshu Van Aisensatu." The White Faerie remembered Count Aisensatu's estate north of town, where we were headed.
It was clear to me that this was the Count's land, and we should not set foot on it without his permission. To me, the baker's disappearance now made perfect sense. He had trespassed on the Count's land and quite probably had been killed for it, as he deserved. Strangely, no-one else held the slightest regard for one of their own nobility and wished to trespass after the baker anyway. I explained the sign to Kyosuke, who of course saw that we must go through the Count, and that if the baker had trespassed contrary to orders, he deserved it. But I could convince no one else to change their course. Kyosuke and I left them, and followed the road to the Count's estate. My cousin and I do not understand the western barbarians at all.
We followed the road north, and a little east, and found a large house without difficulty. I walked to the front door and knocked. A halfling opened the door and asked who was calling. I told him my name and that I wished to speak with the Count. He asked for my card, and I did not know what he meant. Then I recalled the small papers we had found in Bastiyan's bag. They had listed his name and occupation (several of them), and Hosei had called them cards. I had nothing of the sort, so I selected an origami flower I had made before sleep the previous night and handed it to him. He lead us into a side room with chairs, and left, closing the door after him.
Shortly, a tall man with a large jaw entered the room and looked us over rather imperiously, then made a very short bow to us. I nodded politely. He named himself as Sir Thiodoshu, and I named myself as Miyara Miwa, and my cousin as Miyara Kyosuke.
I explained the circumstances around the missing baker, and Sir Thiodoshu gave us permission to search for the baker on his property. I made sure he knew there were more than just Kyosuke and me, and he agreed to that as well, then requested that we bring the baker to him should we find him. I told him we certainly would bring the baker to him, if we found him alive on his property. He turned and walked from the room, leaving Kyosuke and me still there alone. That was quite odd, I thought, even for a western barbarian. As Kyosuke and I found our way out of the house, I explained everything to him. We both understood that this noble might tire of poachers encroaching on his land continually, and agreed he had every right to take care of the matter as he saw fit.
We returned down the road to the point in the forest where we had parted ways. Kyosuke could trace their path from there. We took only a few steps, however, when we met the rest of the group, coming back out of the woods again. They were carrying the baker as well as Ravena, both unconscious. As we all stepped back onto the road, the Count appeared, a couple of men behind him, and screamed, "Caught you, you scum!" I gaped at him for a moment: had he lost his mind? We had spoken not a quarter of an hour ago.
I collected myself and reminded him that we were there specifically with his permission to find the baker. The White Faerie said something I did not catch, and the Count and his men fired on us with their bows.
Although completely taken aback by his contemptible actions, I always find it easier to argue with sword rather than words. As one, the White Faerie, Kyosuke, and I attacked the Count. His men would break once the Count was dead.
As we fought, two other riders appeared, and commanded us to stop fighting, in the name of the village leader. The Count certainly did not stop. I answered them, that if they stopped the Count's attack against us, we would cease defending ourselves against them. Until then, we would continue to attack in retaliation.
Within moments, the Count screamed in pain, and someone yelled again to stop. The White Faerie stepped back just as the Count grabbed his head and fell to the ground, screaming. His men looked on in horror, but stopped their attack, as I knew they would once we brought their leader down.
The village leader and his two men rode up to us. The fight effectively over anyway, I told Kyosuke to stop the attack, and we both stepped back from the Count. He was fortunate that the village leader appeared just then: another moment and I would have separated the treacherous noble's head from his body.
The village leader looked quite horrified, and I told him exactly what had happened: after explicitly granting us permission to search his land for the missing baker, he then appeared and attacked us, breaking his word to us. The White Faerie said the Count had something in the forest, which I did not understand, but which statement was greeted with some disgust. Caramela said those somethings had set the forest on fire. Hosei agreed with my account.
The village leader told the count's men to take him to the Doctor. Kyosuke offered to tend to the Count's wounds immediately, which I relayed, but the fools declined. Kyosuke and I shrugged. Why turn down the offer of medical assistance? Without it, he might not even live long enough to reach the Doctor.
The village leader said that since I was nobility, he would allow us to return to the inn, but I would not be permitted to leave without speaking with him first, and he wanted everyone else placed under arrest. I pointed out that we had wounded as well, and I requested that my "men," as he called the group with me, remain in the inn with me. He agreed that the wounded would be taken to the Doctor, but directly after all the unwounded must report to the guardhouse. He did have the right to demand that, and although I argued I had to acquiesce in the end. However, I was able to keep the list of people who must be placed under arrest quite short.
Ravena, the baker, the Count, and his two archers all were taken to the Doctor. Hosei was not one of "my" men, and he said he would stay at the Doctor's in case he needed some help. Caramela was allowed to remain with her sister. Res Li and Jeisan had remained behind at the inn: since they were not involved in the altercation, they remained free. Ash had not been with us during the attack, only joining us on our way back into town, so he did not need to report to the guardhouse either.
Only the White Faerie and my cousin were under arrest. I would have gladly locked everyone else in their jail myself if I could have spared him, but I did not have that option. As I explained to Kyosuke that I was placing him in the hands of the village leader, I felt very strongly that I was betraying him. His simple acceptance of his fate shamed me.
I returned to the inn and quickly explained to Res Li, Ash, and Jeisan all that had occurred and what our situation was. I sit here now, furiously scribbling in this scroll, so that I have an accurate recollection.
In truth, I am unsure how to proceed. On the one hand, we were clearly betrayed by a man completely without honor. Although he calls himself a Count, he is merely a Sir, which is apparently quite below a Count. He misled Kyosuke and me, broke his word to us, and basely attacked us. Were this world fair, I would have no worries. Truly, if it were my fate alone, I would still have no worries: I accept what fate gives to me. But I am responsible for Kyosuke, and my fate currently seems connected to those with whom I travel. I placed trust where I should not have, and thus brought this trouble to everyone.
And here, we are unknown foreigners traveling in a strange land, and it would be very easy for the village leader to decide it was easier to blame us than to blame a noble who outranked him.
I hope that the village leader will investigate the matter and come to the correct conclusion. Should that not happen, I shall have to find some way to remove my cousin and the White Faerie from their prison, and then get us all out of this town.