Chapter 45: The Last Lord of Osohara
An empty city --
Two conflicting prophecies --
Shadows of the past.
~ Miyara Miwa
The demons had unnerved me, and I was feeling weak from my wounds. With so many dead around us, we decided to move the camp a couple hundred yards away. Hosei, noticing my wounds, kindly bandaged me. Ashe, Res Li, Baku, and Hosei were the only ones who were conscious and present. The White Faerie had disappeared into the forest chasing beastmen, and Caramela, although conscious, was entirely absorbed by her grief over her sister and sat weeping on the ground, cradling Ravena's head in her lap. Still, there were enough of us to move the camp that short distance before scavengers arrived. I, however, was not able to help. I allowed my wounds to overcome me, and I fell unconscious before I walked more than a few steps.
I awoke shortly after dawn in the new camp. Everyone was staring into the distance, and I turned and looked, too. In the early morning sun, it was easy to see that which we did not the previous evening. In the mountains which we walked along, a steep hill rose to a cliff. On that cliff, set back just a bit, was a tall wall, as for a city. Behind the flat space where the city surely sat was another cliff towering above the city.
We all agreed that was likely Kara Osohara. A large mountain city approximately where the map said it would be. How many such cities could there be in this general area? Still feeling weak, I sat down and tried to organize things and make plans. Hosei was a great help, being uninjured and a quick thinker. We sent Kyosuke and Ashe to scout towards the mountain, to determine how long it would take to reach the city, and if there were a path we could take instead of scaling the cliff.
When they returned, Ravena had recovered, but felt weak. She began healing us as soon as she was able. Caramela was much relieved at her recovery, but still stayed very near her, unwilling to let her get more than a few steps away. She completely ignored Ashe's attempts to return the Crystal of Fire to her, and he simply said he would keep it safe for her until she wants it back. He acts with a curious deference to her, almost as if she were one of the druidesses he venerates, or perhaps even more.
There was indeed a path, and they estimated it would not take us more than an hour's walk if we were in full health. With a full day in front of us, we rested at the temporary camp and allowed Ravena to heal us. Baku and Res Li returned to the battle site to see if there were any weapons it was worthwhile to take with us, and Baku also wished to retrieve the sticks he had thrown at the beastmen. They came back with Baku's sticks but nothing else -- everything the beastmen had was junk. Hosei spent a little while looking for herbs, although he seemed disappointed. By midday, we packed everything up and started walking along the path.
The path had obviously not been used in many, many years. Brush grew into the path and grass in it. Still, it was clear enough to follow. It led us right around to the tableland where sat the city, 20 foot high walls around it. The wall stretched around the city in a semi-circle, and the cliff behind the city was the back wall. The large gate that served as the entrance to the city was wide open. The White Faerie read the blocky, Faerie script above the gate, "Kara Osohara", the Faerie City of the East. We had found the fabled city.
My throat closed for a moment from sheer homesickness. Although the construction was different, and was certainly faerie-built, it reminded me strongly of the mountain estates in Nippon. Indeed, although my own family's estate nestled in gentle hills, that of the Isawa, which I had visited often, was a mountain citadel similar to the one I saw before me. I must have whispered, "it's kind of like home" out loud, because Kyosuke turned and smiled in agreement.
It seemed obvious the city was uninhabited, and had been empty for a long time. There were no guards, no signs of intelligent life. Still, we entered cautiously, weapons at the ready. The White Faerie, my cousin, and I entered first. Res Li moved up between my cousin and me to scout for any traps or falling portcullises, such as we had seen before. Sun led Shan, joined by Hosei, Ravena, and Caramela in the middle. Ashe and Baku were the rear guard. No one alive was here, but even with my weapons drawn, I tried to enter respectfully, so as not to anger any spirits still here.
Inside the walls were many buildings, and no people. Another wall with another open gate was between the first wall and the cliff. Obviously the city had outgrown its first set of walls. The area was like an abandoned monument. The faeries built well, of course, and their stone buildings and paved ground were in excellent shape. Still, trees, grass, and shrubs grew where they were certainly not meant to be, and the paving stones were covered with moss in the shadows.
Hosei asked the White Faerie where the faeries would be, were they here, and he silently pointed ahead, through the second gate. We walked that way and entered the second gate as we had the first. All was silent, save the sound of gentle breezes through the trees and the singing of birds. Inside the second wall were more, and larger, buildings. Straight ahead from the gate, the paved path led to a gate set in the cliff. Buildings lined the wide path, and a reflecting pool in the middle of the path still held water, and some plant debris.
Any faeries would almost certainly be inside the mountains. I was beginning to doubt we would find anything more than an empty city. We needed more provisions before delving into the mountain. We figured four days' worth of food and water should be adequate -- enough for two days in and two days out. That would be enough to tell us what we were looking at, and further planning could be done then.
I decided that it would be best to select one of the large buildings to set up camp in: it would be sheltered from both weather and prying eyes, and would be defensible. Ravena sampled the water in the reflecting pool and said it was fine for drinking. As we looked at the buildings, trying to decide which to look into first, the White Faerie read the signs above the two largest, on either side of the path: one was the Banker's Guild, the other the Merchant's Guild. He pointed at the Banker's Guild, and started walking to it. We followed him.
The door was stuck and took an effort from the White Faerie to open. Inside was a large hall running across the entire front of the building. The White Faerie didn't hesitate, but walked in and straight across to the mostly blank wall across from the door. The wall was broken by a single empty alcove, and I followed him to it, and stood in front with him. He pointed to it and said what I feared he would say -- "This is the alcove."
His vision had led us to the alcove that sheltered the precious statue, as I knew it would. Yet the alcove was empty and the statue was missing, without a trace. I stared for a minute, nearly despairing. Res Li came up to the wall and used his special sight to look through the alcove to the other side. He said the wall was thick, but there was a room on the other side. He did not see the statue.
I set aside my personal disappointment for the time being. We glanced into some other buildings, and it was clear that the inhabitants had left deliberately and not quickly. They were left utterly empty and clean. The Banker's Guild, though, was different. We found that the fireplaces had been used relatively recently, and several of the rooms held cots and some personal belongings. Something about it all niggled at the back of my brain, and then Ashe stammered, "It kind of looks like some of the stuff you and Kyosuke carry with you, but a little different."
Then I realized what I was looking at: these people had been Chin, from the mainland west of Nippon. I said out loud, "The Chin," and Hosei said, "Ah, your enemies?" I explained they were not really enemies, at least not all the time, yet certainly not friends either. I searched for the right word and came up with rivals. Ashe tried to determine how recently they had been here, but it had been quite a while: he said probably ten or fifteen years.
Unlike the original inhabitants of the city, the Chin had obviously intended to return, yet never had. There were no weapons here at all, but they had left personal belongings behind.
I pulled myself away from the odd sight of the Chin encampment, and we decided how to spend the rest of the afternoon. Kyosuke, Ashe, Bark, and Ravenna went foraging and hunting to prepare ourselves for exploring the faerie caverns. Res Li walked through the bank, looking in every nook and cranny.
I looked through the Chin stuff a little, but kept returning to the alcove, hoping against all reality that I had been mistaken and the statue really was there. Before long, though, I began seeing the sparks that presaged one of my headaches, and then pain spiked through me head, right behind my missing eye. I found the darkest room and lay down in misery. The headache lasted all afternoon and into the evening.
By the time I could function again, the hunters had returned and had started preserving the meat and vegetables to carry with us for a few days. The Chin had left the kitchen fully stocked with everything besides food, and Hosei had cooked dinner for everyone. Despite its apparent fine quality, I could not eat a thing, as I still felt unwell. Sun said he and the White Faerie had gathered wood for the fires, and Baku and Ashe were smoking venison and rabbit. Ravena had collected enough berries and vegetables for us all and was busily cleaning and preparing them as well.
They had not collected enough for four days' travel, though, so we decided to spend the following day camped here while they collected and preserved more food. The rest of us explored the city.
I returned to the rooms the Chin had used, and I realized they had used this place as a monastery. Thousands of miles from home, they set up a monastery here, of all places. As I rummaged through things, I determined that, at least in part, the monastery was devoted to the study of the martial arts. I found no evidence of Godanji or the statue. I called Kyosuke to come look around, and he found a scroll. He immediately passed it to me. I could make out some of the characters, but it was written with the Chin language and I could not read it easily. There were finely drawn illustrations, though, and it was obvious this was some sort of scroll on the martial arts. I handed it back to Kyosuke, and he was able to recognize more of it than I could. In fact, he said this scroll was a beginner's introduction to clown-fighting, the very technique he uses. We tried to piece out the names of the authors or any other names cited, but names are the hardest to decipher in the Chin script -- they construct names differently than do we, and the sound of the character, which has nothing to do with the Nipponese sound for the same character, often determines meaning.
They had left here 10-15 years ago. I silently wondered how old Og had been, and if he learned clown-fighting here. But that would not explain the scrap of his vest which I still carried with me, that had Isawa Godanji's name worked into the cloth. I also wondered if they had taken the statue with them, wherever they went. Did the orcs have it? Had it disappeared with the original inhabitants of the city? Or had its disappearance been recent? What was Godanji's connection with clown-fighting, Og, and the Chin?
I shook my head in wonderment. These buildings were all built to human size, by faeries in a faerie city; they had been long-abandoned by those who lived here, and then briefly inhabited as a clown-fighting martial arts monastery by the Chin, from thousands of miles away. This was almost too much even for the complex webs of Fate.
The following day we had enough food to last the four days we planned on. The gates opened to a tunnel, which we followed straight in for about 50 feet. Then it opened up into a large hallway continuing straight into the mountain. The hall was about 100 feet wide and the ceiling at least 100 feet up. It disappeared into the darkness. Kyosuke stared into the dark, which his eyes can always penetrate somehow, and stated he thought the hall was about 1000 feet long. The floor was slightly dusty and looked undisturbed.
We suddenly realized the chanting was real -- we all heard it, a lone person, elderly by the quality of the voice, chanting in the faerie tongue. The White Faerie and Hosei both understood the words, and said it was some sort of religious chant to the faerie god.
A faerie! I said that was the place to go -- find the faerie. The voice came from ahead of us, so we walked forwards, passing many doors, some open and some closed, and some open hallways on both sides of the hall. About 200 feet in, we found an open hallway on the left, which was the voice's origin. The White Faerie said this was some kind of shrine. Hosei and I asked if the White Faerie should enter alone, if should all go in, or if we should wait respectfully outside. He thought a moment and said we can all enter, but only with sheathed weapons. I immediately did so.
Uninhabited for decades at least, and yet here is a faerie in the shrine. I wondered briefly if we would find an ancient faerie spirit rather than a live faerie. It seemed more likely.
We entered through the opening, and it opened up almost immediately into a large square room, more than 50 feet on a side, angled differently from the main corridor. The walls were lined with altars, and before one of them, directly across from us, knelt a real live faerie, chanting, his back to us. Hosei and Ravena looked around at all the altars with some interest, and Hosei went to one and bowed to it for a few moments. Ravena marked one to return to later, but stood silently, respectfully waiting for the elderly faerie to finish his duties, as did the rest of us.
Hosei made a slight sound returning from his altar, and the faerie stopped suddenly, turned around, and saw us. In evident surprise, he leapt up, pulled out his axe, and shouted something threateningly. I did not wish to spill blood in a shrine and did not draw my weapons, but I did surreptitiously loosen them a little, in case I needed them in a hurry.
The White Faerie and Hosei both spoke to the other faerie in calming tones. I understood Hosei, who was using his spell. He told the faerie to wait, they both bowed respectfully to him, and Hosei introduced himself as Brother Hosei of the Monastery for Varina, and he apologized for interrupting the other's prayers.
The faerie asked something, and Hosei answered that our friend, gesturing to the White Faerie, led us on a quest. The White Faerie stammered something. The other faerie answered, sounding somewhat sarcastic. He did put his axe away, though, and began walking towards us and the door through which we entered. In the barbarian tongue I understood, he said, "I guess as long as you're here, I may as well be hospitable", and he left through the door.
We followed him back in the direction we came from, into and across the big hall, then back to the main entrance we came through. He led us through a small doorway that into a small apartment that he was clearly living in. He gruffly bade us welcome. Baku looked with some alarm at the small apartment, and sat down outside. We did rather fill up the small space. Since Sun was aiding Shan, I let Baku remain outside.
He tried to find seats for us -- he had few and they were all faerie-sized, so most of us sat on the floor. He offered us wine, beer, or water. Hosei, Ravena, and I requested wine, although I did so with some trepidation. I had not been impressed with western wine, and suspected western faerie wine would be even worse. The others asked for water or beer. He started to pour drinks, then he muttered that there weren't enough glasses, and walked out. He motioned Baku to come with him, they disappeared from view for a minute, then returned, each with an armful of dusty and varied glasses. Baku handed his armful off to Sun, who took them and deftly helped the faerie pouring and serving everyone. I was pleasantly surprised at the wine. It was quite mellow. Hosei said it was fine and quite well-aged.
Hosei asked the faerie if he lived here alone. He answered yes, except for the Something, in faerie. Hosei said it translated roughly to the Grey Mountain clan. We said we hadn't seen them, unless we was talking about the beastmen we had defeated a few days ago. No, he said, orcs.
We explained that we had battled orcs at Iri in Wintersteeth pass, built by Yazeran the blue faerie prophet. He had not heard of Yazeran or Iri. We also shared with him the White Faerie's prophecy.
Kara Osohara has lost its way.
Help them find their way again.
If you do you, will know what to do.
He said disbelievingly, "I am what's left. I have lost my way? And you're going to help me find it?" He's been fighting orcs for ten years and didn't need our help. They're down beneath and he didn't know how many were left. We asked about the Chin, but he never seen them. He thought the orcs had come to Kara Osohara at about the same time he did.
He said, "I'm the last faerie of Kara Osohara, and I will defend Kara Osohara for as long as I can." He had traveled here from another faerie city whose name none of us recognized. He said he wasn't needed there any longer.
Hosei even asked about the dragon statue, but the faerie had not seen it and never entered the Banker's Guild.
He was as determined to not accept our help as we were to offer it to him. I felt if it were his destiny to fight the orcs himself, we should not interfere. Yet, our prophecy clearly stated we had some role to play here. He did ask what "we were good for", and Hosei gave a quick description of our basic skillset. He was uninterested in most of us, until Hosei introduced Shan as a bard and himself as a decent cook. The faerie said, "Ah, entertainment and food. That I can use, and welcome."
He said he was interested in storytelling, and we all have some interesting tale to share. Shan had written a long piece of music to tell the story of the Battle of Iri, which he had worked on diligently around the campfire every night for the past two months. The others regarded it as an excellent song.
We did tell him stories that afternoon, and ate a fine meal. Being elderly, he sometimes dozed off for a few minutes. Kyosuke debased himself to the level of a common entertainer, using his clown-fighting skills to elicit laughter from the old faerie. I shall have to have a private chat with him and remind him of his family's status, which he dishonors by behaving so.
He never admitted to a name, saying, "Well I'm the last Lord of Osohara, so you can just call me Osohara."