Chapter 31: Another Clue
Marching through mountains,
bringing death and destruction
like blight. Winter comes.
~ Miyara Miwa
The area of the courtyard in which Yazeran's statue stood was called the Square of Joy, and the large building in the middle was on one side, which Dita showed us next. It was two stories from the ground level, and also had a level below. On the roof was a windmill, which powered the mill, the well, a lathe, and a few other things, all within this building. The ground floor held both the mill and the smithy. On the second floor was the brewery, where they make both beer and wine, a woodshop, and a pottery. In the basement was the former workshop of Yazeran, which was used as a storage room and was also the resting place for our chest, and another beside it. Res Li later told us that there were many metal pipes underneath the smithy, and a short hallway whose end he could not see. With further description of the pipes, he and Ravena stated that the room probably held a "pipe organ". From the conversation, it's some sort of western musical instrument, and steam is usually involved in some way. Although I do not have an ear for western-style music, finding it unmelodious, I am curious about this instrument, as it sounds quite large. I cannot imagine how it must produce sound of any sort, nor what kind of sound.
Each tower was about three stories high, and each followed the same pattern. The ground floor held bathhouses and privies, the middle was a large cistern, and the top was a protected roof area, used as lookout posts. Each has its name according to its nature: Foul corner, rowdy corner, windy corner, and sleepy corner.
Dita next showed us the dining hall, which held six large tables in the usual cup shape. The table at the base of the cup was raised slightly from the others. The hall was full of tapestries and faerie carvings on the walls and large statues in the corners. This room was important to them, and they filled it up with whatever they thought was impressive. It was impressive, in the western style, but it had little of the delicacy of temples back home. Overlooking the tables was a balcony. Although we saw no stairs leading to it, Dita said the library was on that level. We only peeked in for a moment: several of the monks had gathered there and were speaking with one another.
On the other side from the Square of Joy was the Square of Anger, where the guards practice. Dita said that is the only place anger is allowed, and it must be left there. I made note of that: I would have to ask the Flagmaster if we might be permitted to also practice there. The other warriors were interested as well.
Most of the buildings around the edges were sleeping quarters, but he showed us the few that were something else. The first was a shrine to Varina, with a small wooden altar at the west end. This room was quite plain. Res Li whispered that a piece of the stone flooring was false and he saw a sarcophagus beneath it, which we assumed (correctly as it turned out) was Yazeran's. Hosei mentioned that he had taken a vow of poverty and all his worldly good must always be donated to Her. I did not know what made him make his statement at that particular moment. He had mentioned it before. He feels it is very important. I wondered if that was a part of his balancing.
The room next to the Roostmaster belongs to the Flagmaster, and that is also where the flagpoles were located. Between the rooms assigned to us is a blank wall, with no door. Res Li said that was not entirely accurate: there is a hidden door into a wine cellar, and another hidden door into the dining hall across the alleyway, both probably for servants. He also noticed that the intricate iron-work decorations inside the dining hall on either side of the large entrance were actually portcullises of a sort. They could be rolled out to block off not only the dining hall, but our alley and the stairs to the Roostmaster and Flagmaster.
We walked downstairs to the level of the crypts, to get a closer look. There are two rooms, ringed all around with the tombs of the dead within their walls. Each tomb is marked by a square of metal, with some sort of writing that not even the westerners could read. I silently offered a polite greeting to the dead, then we returned upstairs again.
The monks were all gathering for dinner at the dining hall, and we immediately walked to the statue in the Square of Joy. Dita remained with us, our constant shadow. I followed the plumb bob down to the pedestal where it pointed, and examined that area. The others followed its shadow painted on the wall of the dining hall by the sunset. They had correctly interpreted the prophecy, and I realized I would not be much use in trying to decipher the oblique language of clues in a foreign tongue.
Hosei carefully pulled out a loose brick and removed the second card, then just as carefully replaced the brick. This card depicted an anvil with seven swords above it. He read from around its edge, "Seek the source find the cause". Ravena and Hosei then recognized the style of the cards, now having two of them. They are something called Teiro and are used in foretelling the future. I was not certain if this was significant in their role as clues, or just side information, as the brick had hidden them but was not important by itself. We then joined the monks for dinner.
We entered rather late, but there were still others coming in as well. One of the monks met us inside and said I was invited to dine on the dais with the leaders of this community. I followed him up and was seated between the Roostmaster and the captain of the guard. The captain's name was Udo Suvena, but everyone called him "Scar". Another monk had led the rest of the group to one of the other tables, where they sat together among monks and guards both.
The dinner was simple, with nothing objectionable about it. They served rice, which although not up to the standards of our cook at home was still a very nice surprise. Alongside the rice were some rather poorly cooked vegetables with little flavour. That is one thing that seems universal amongst the western barbarians: they have absolutely no idea how to cook and serve vegetables. The meat was offered separately and I of course refused.
Captain Scar had some sort of club attached to his arm, having lost his hand, much like Hosei had a hook rather than a hand. I asked him how he had acquired his battle wound, and he told me about his campaign in the army fighting the armies of chaos in the north.
The Roostmaster was vaguely nodding off over his dinner, and I asked the Flagmaster across him if some of my group would be permitted to practice in the Square of Anger with the guards. He seemed surprised by my request, but said he would approve if I checked with the captain and he also approved. Captain Scar, of course, approved immediately and said we were quite welcome.
After dinner, Hosei criticized the statue of Varina, saying that she always holds her sword pointing down, rather than up as depicted here. While he was examining the statue, the White Faerie was struck by a Vision: he saw an army. Putting together the prophecy, the signs of orcs we saw on the road here, his vision, and the history of the crystals, we all know what the immediate future holds: battle with an army of orcs over the crystal of air (and of fire, if they knew we had it), most likely right here at this monastery in the sky.
With breakfast served at the fourth hour after midnight, we split up to our respective sleeping chambers after our brief discussion after dinner. In the darkened room, the red glow from Caramela's crystal was noticeable. Merely another hint to what we know: the other crystal is somewhere nearby. Still, the faint glow was not enough light for Ravena, and she insisted on sleeping with a candle burning all night.
Altogether too soon, Dita knocked on the door to call us for breakfast. I do hate rising in the middle of the night. Breakfast was very much like home, although not prepared as well. Rice, vegetables, and egg. After breakfast, some of us gathered in the Square of Anger and practiced our various skills. It reminded me much of the years I spent training: small breakfast in the dark hours of the morning followed by a strenuous work-out. I also covertly watched my cousin at his training. It is certainly a very odd fighting style, but I have seen its effectiveness. As for myself, I am gaining some of my old skill back and am compensating for my lack of depth perception better and better.
When we had finished and washed up, the others joined us from their activities and told us what they had been up to. They went through the door next to the workshop and discovered that the pipes were indeed a "pipe organ", although they did not see a way to make it work. They also found another door to a small hall which led to another room; the tomb of Yazeran. Apparently their casual entering into rooms disturbed our young guide Dita, and he fetched the Flagmaster to scold them. We should not go into strange places without asking first, but we can be assured that we will be allowed wherever we need to go.
They also put together a few things to round out the story from the past. When the original group of entertainers traveled to the Yetsin Valley, they discovered a cave. Deep inside, guarded by a magical ward, was the dead body of a wizard. From the writings he left behind, it was obvious that he had been a decoy to keep the orcs' attention about a hundred years ago, while the crystal of air was sent somewhere safe. So, Yazeran was the one who took the crystal, selected Iri for its hiding place, and built the monastery around it. He then looked into the future and hid the crystal for us, so that we may now save it in our time.
From the card we had found last night, it was obvious that the next card would probably be found down the well somewhere. Res Li, being the smallest of us, volunteered to ride the rope of buckets down and search for the next clue. He wished to ride all the way down, starting at the top, so that is where we went next.
He stepped into a bucket, holding a lantern, and we watched him disappear into the darkness. He came back up with a box in his hand: it had been hidden in a crack in the wall far below. He had grabbed the box, and then moved from the bucket moving downward to the next bucket moving upward on the other side and rode it up.
Inside the box was another card. It depicted a monk in a barrel of wine, and next to that another man, which they called a Knave, holding a cup. The text around the edge stated, "Tallest and shortest provide the range."
As we inspected the card, we heard a commotion from one of the towers. Hosei yelled up, asking what they saw. They shouted back, "An army!" I asked how far away, and they said a very long way away, but headed here. We all went to the tower and looked out: orcs. They were filing past a mountain, so we could not see them all. Still, there were many hundreds. We are now on a time schedule: we must find all the clues and follow them to the crystal of air, and find out what to do with it, before the army arrives.