Chapter 32: Chasing Our Tails
Within fog, blinded.
The mists briefly part, then close.
We are lost again.
~ Miyara Miwa
Lunch was announced just after the coming army was discovered. I asked Scar if we could now arm ourselves within the monastery against the coming army, and he agreed. After lunch, we lost no time in reclaiming our weapons and armor.
At lunch, the others had discussed the possible meanings of the clue on the card we had just located. Many seemed to think it possibly referred to the pipe organ, whose tallest and shortest pipes provide for the range of notes. The flagpoles were the second guess. From atop them, we could certainly see the mountains ranging below us, as well as seeing how far away the army ranged. Although most agreed that the organ was the better bet, we decided to inspect the flagpoles, as that would take far less time and effort, allowing us to eliminate them quickly.
We walked to where we could see the poles clearly: there were four of them. One was certainly taller than the rest, but the others were all the same height. That seemed to remove them from consideration, so we left them behind and returned to the organ. Since it needs steam to power it, we took along a large pail of water, enough to fill up the hidden bowl that we did not know how to fill.
Res Li looked at the bowl that he said should contain the water. A pipe rose from it through the ceiling into the armory, and Hosei walked up to look around, and we made a chain of a few people to relay information easily. There was a sluice for water to move into the smithy, and at the spot that corresponded to the pipe from below was a valve that could open and drain water into it. Hosei asked the armorer how often they drained the water through it; he said he had no idea what it was for and he had never used it. So Hosei poured water into the empty sluice and opened the valve.
Immediately, Res Li reported that water started filling the small reservoir. Before we could ask how to heat it, he recalled that the fire in the smithy was very close to the pipes, and in fact it was already heating the water.
I had never seen a contraption like this, and only Ravena and Res Li had seen something that vaguely resembled it. Res Li suggested that we just press two of the paddles, which he called keys. A very high and a very low note sounded, filled the room, and reverberated in my head. I could not imagine how anyone who was not deaf could stand to play the thing. The White Faerie, though the closest to deaf among us now, was uninterested in the organ and went to the kitchen to look for other candidates for the "tallest and shortest". I was tempted to follow him.
The tallest pipe, as we faced the keyboard -- as Res Li called the bank of paddles -- was on the right and in the back of the rows of pipes. The shortest was just above the keyboard in the front and on the left. We traced them to their respective keys and played them at the same time. Then every key from highest to lowest, then from lowest to highest. Then just the middle note. Res Li pulled a bunch of levers, which he called stops, and we played all the notes again.
By this time my head was ringing and I could not think anymore. I also have no idea why anyone would want to listen to either the discordant music one could produce from this thing, or the rather wheezy-sounding notes. Kyosuke, eyes a little glazed, thought of another meaning for range: stove. That, I realized, was what the White Faerie had decided to go look at in the kitchen. Kyosuke figured that the forge in the smithy was a kind of stove, and therefore a range, and went up to look at it. I thought his reasoning was far-fetched, but knew he would need an interpreter. Anything to get away from the organ.
We inspected it quite thoroughly, taking our time. But it was just a forge, after all. I could hear bursts of sound from the organ and was quite happy to be inspecting the innocent forge.
We started to return to the organ, but met the others coming up. Hosei had gone to look at both the kitchen and the wine cellar, but the rest thought that maybe the pipes signified a distance from something. The statue being the most significant landmark here, we went to the statue and looked all around it, ten feet away. We found nothing, though.
I realized that Kyosuke had gone missing, and figured he must have returned to the organ room. No other ideas, we all returned there, meeting Hosei along the way. He had found nothing of significance on his search. In the organ room was the White Faerie, and he said the Kyosuke had gone into the tunnel towards Yazeran's tomb. I immediately went into the tunnel, followed by Hosei (and his lights), Res Li, and the White Faerie.
Inside the room was Yazeran's sarcophagus, a large chest at its foot, a distraught eagle looking threateningly at Kyosuke and us, and Kyosuke flat on the floor, apologizing. I asked what he had done, and he said he was going to look for the next clue in the chest. The bird, who had been a stone statue, came to life and attacked him. The White Faerie indicated he would like to enter the room, so I stepped aside for him. The bird eyed him, but let him be as long as he remained away from the chest. He searched the walls.
Res Li also entered the room and looked at the chest closely without touching it. The bird became tense as he approached the chest, and he stopped about three feet from it. Barbarians are all too willing to desecrate the tombs of the dead, and it was no wonder that Yazeran had placed a guardian over his. I remained respectfully outside the room, and I told Kyosuke that since he had offended the tomb's guardian, he should leave. I told him to stay down and back out, as one does before those of high rank. Yazeran certainly deserved our respect and Kyosuke's obeisance.
Res Li said there was nothing of interest inside the chest, and inside the sarcophagus was only the dead prophet wrapped in a shroud. I watched the White Faerie and Res Li from the door, wishing they would leave the dead prophet in peace; they circled the room, searching carefully under the watchful eye of the eagle. Kyosuke disappeared back into the organ room, and then started playing what sounded like random notes.
Finally, they admitted there was nothing in this room of interest to us and left. I stood in the doorway and bowed deeply to the prophet and his guardian and offered an apology for my kinsman's lack of respect, and shut the door.
They searched the hall next, finding nothing. Res Li watched the bird through the door. He said it remained on watch for a few minutes, then returned to its place and became stone again. I returned to the organ room to see what Kyosuke was up to, and the others joined us shortly.
Again, we contemplated the possible meanings of the card. We considered the buildings themselves in light of "tallest and shortest", but all the towers were the tallest, and all the one-story buildings the shortest. The card itself showed a wine-sodden monk in a wine cask. Having inspected the room where they store the wine already, Hosei suggested we visit the brewer, who makes both the beer and the wine. It was above the mill, and we all filed up to it.
The brewer was there, inspecting his latest beer. Although there was wine-making equipment in the room, he was not presently making any. Kyosuke looked inside the cupboard, but it held nothing but the windlass.
The room itself also held nothing of importance, thought we searched carefully. Kyosuke, bored, began speaking to the brewer. Although neither understood the other, they seemed to sense some sort of comradeship in each other and conversed meaninglessly anyway. Again, I reconsidered teaching Kyosuke to speak the western tongue.
Believing there was nothing for us to find, we returned downstairs. Hosei rummaged around and discovered he only had two mouse tongues left, which he requires for that most-useful spell that allows him to speak and understand different languages. He asked if perhaps Sun would mind tracking down mice or rats and gathering tongues for him. I will discuss the matter with Sun. I do not wish to force him to do something particularly distasteful.
Then, Hosei described what he saw in the cask room, which none of us thought sounded useful: all the casks were the same size.
By that time, I noticed that Kyosuke still had not joined us and was still up with the brewer. Wondering what he was doing, I returned for him, only to discover that he and the brewer were both absent. Ash was in the woodshop, working on a carving of a stork, but he was the only one there.
Downstairs, I told the others they had disappeared, and I asked Dita where the brewer's room was. It was right across the courtyard, and none of us ever figured out how they got there without the rest of us noticing them.
Kyosuke emerged, and it was clear that he and the brewer had not been conversing as much as sampling. He staggered around in an approximation of his fighting style when I asked what he had been doing.
Returning to the usual topic of conversation, we wondered where we might find the next clue. Kyosuke said he had an idea, fumbled around a bit, and pulled out a card. He said the brewer had given it to him, and it had been given to the brewer in strictest confidence by the previous brewer. Its face depicted the seven of coins and its verse read, "Staff of life rod of iron".
Someone said that might point to either the miller or the armorer, so we returned to that building. It seems that they call bread the "staff of life".