Chapter 46: Taking Stock
through empty halls. Dust, cobwebs.
Even death is gone.
~ Miyara Miwa
We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening exchanging stories. Hoping for some hint of how we were supposed to help him, I asked for a story from his ongoing battles with the Grey Mountain clan. Although it is always instructive to hear of others' battles, it was otherwise unhelpful.
He found Kara Osohara after months, perhaps years of searching (he was unclear). He had searched out this city purposely, but did not mention why. When he finally discovered the rumored city, he said at first he thought it was less infested than he had imagined it to be. He noticed the same thing we did: it was remarkably clean. But after time (again, a vague amount that could have been days or years) he discovered the Grey Mountain clan of orcs in the depths of the faerie city. For many years now, they have hunted him and he has hunted them. He considers it his life's work to outlive the Grey Mountain clan.
The other stories he told us were mostly about his several battles with creatures of chaos (orcs, goblins, beastmen). From his slightly rambling stories and vague sense of time (possibly purposeful), it was clear that he has spent a lot of time in the World's Edge mountains, which the western barbarians believe are the boundary between civilization and chaos. Ravena showed me where the World's Edge mountains are on one of her maps. We are in the Black Mountains.
As evening approached, Lord Osohara said he would show us places to stay for the night. He apologized for the lack of amenities in this deserted city. There were a block of apartments next to his, and another block along the same cross hall but on the other side of the main hall. There are three empty apartments on his side of the hallway and four on the other. He also showed us where the stairs down were, but told us not to go down them. He left us free to explore this top level.
The long, main hallway ends in the main staircase down. At the midpoint of the great hall were two smaller flights down. Hosei asked the last time Lord Osohara had met with the Grey Mountain clan, and he replied that he goes down on patrols and meets them regularly. But, he said, it has been many years since they had the audacity to come up and attack at night. He smiled, because we had been discussing how to set a night watch. He hinted that such was not necessary. However, we will set watch: one person at a time, to keep an eye on the corridor.
Hosei looked carefully for any signs of magic in the armory and along the two apartment corridors, but found nothing. Later, he told us that Lord Osohara carries much magic with him. /p>
I decided that we should stay together, and so we took the three rooms next to Lord Osohara and left the four rooms on the other side of the great hall empty. Ravena, Caramela, and I took the middle room. Baku, Ashe, Shan, and the White Faerie took the outside room. Sun, Kyosuke, Hosei, and Res Li took the inside room.
Hosei cooked a fine dinner, and we shared more stories. The night passed quietly, and we were not, in fact, attacked by hordes of orcs.
Next morning, Hosei supplied breakfast, but Lord Osohara had already disappeared. We discussed what we would do for the day. There was a strong contingent who wanted to immediately ignore Lord Osohara's wishes and go down the stairs. But I said no, because we should not disobey the lord's orders. Of course, I am not held by the orders of a gaijin, but I thought it best to find out what was on this level before moving downwards. And I do not believe we should openly flout him: we may require his good will later. It seemed strange to me that the one person Lord Osohara could hope to command, the White Faerie, was the most insistent that we ignore his orders. Westerners have no sense of honor.
Then, everyone started saying what they wanted to do, and I suggested that we stay in groups: no one should wander around alone. Ashe went into the forest hunting. Hosei decided he wanted to search around, inside and out. Res Li, Kyosuke, Baku, and the White Faerie went with him. I told Sun to stay near the apartments and assist Shan. Ravena indicated she wished to spend some time in the shrine, and that seemed safe enough, being close to the entrance. Caramela said she would stay with Ravena. Baku wanted to start tanning the hides, and outside was the best place for that.
I told Sun, Shan, Ravena, and Caramela just to stay right up near the rooms. Then I broke the rule I had just laid down for everyone else and went looking around the top level of the caverns by myself.
I took a lantern with me and first walked along the small corridor on "our" side of the great hall. I peeked into random rooms, just to get a feel for what was where, and then I came back on the other side. The first block was an empty library. Then some larger and nicer apartments, a school room, a carpenter's shop, a tavern, a few stores, more apartments, another tavern. Then I turned the corner. Taverns, shops, an arena, and an amphitheater. Coming back, I saw lots more of the same. It ended with the temple and the small apartments. I had seen several areas that had once been gardens, though they were dead now. At the end, I saw the very large staircase. I also found the smaller stairs in the middle.
By the time I returned, the others also returned. We exchanged stories over dinner, which Hosei burnt rather badly. They had looked around the outside city in much the way I had looked around the inside. They had found many different kinds of buildings, but little of direct interest. Hosei and Res Li did say there were numerous good luck signs carved everywhere. Lord Osohara joined us for dinner.
After dinner, the faerie lord excused himself, explaining that it was time for his rounds. He again refused our offers of assistance. Hosei pointed out that maybe some help would make things go faster, but said he doubted it. Kyosuke asked if he could accompany Lord Osohara simply as an observer, which request I passed on, feeling it was a good offer. But he declined that as well. He walked towards the main stairs, fully armed and armored and carrying a lantern. The armor was good quality but plain and very workman-like, and we assumed it had some sort of magical properties.
When he had gone, the White Faerie said the metal neck guard he wore had the insignia of a member of the royal family. At least, he said he thought that was what it was, but he seemed a little reluctant to say anything more about it. So this Lord Osohara is, perhaps, a king or prince of the faeries. All the more reason not to annoy him, but also all the more reason to assist him. And even more important if he has "lost his way".
Hosei opined that some one of us should secretly follow Lord Osohara, and he suggested Kyosuke. However, I refused. Lord Osohara commanded us not to go downstairs. Res Li said he could follow, but again I said no. They did not seem to understand that we needed to gain his trust, or at least not lose it. Lord Osohara has been here for some ten years, and I did not think we needed to try and hurry and solve everything in a few hours when we know nothing of what is really here. Lord Osohara should be fine without our meddling for one more night. At least, so I tried to convince myself.
I showed them the arena and the amphitheater, but there was not really anything of interest. I bade Hosei throw a lighted pebble down the stairs so we could see what was down there. We saw just empty stairs, about 50 feet wide and perhaps 100 feet down, with empty floor at the bottom. We peered down the two smaller staircases in the same way and saw about the same thing. It was not until we had done this three times that Kyosuke pointed out he could have just looked without glowing pebbles and told us what he had seen. I pointed out that throwing glowing things down the stairs might attract the orcs to us, if they are there, giving us a perfect reason for disobeying a royal faerie's orders. These smaller stairs appeared to go down much farther, perhaps as much as 400 feet down, we estimated.
Res Li suggested searching Lord Osohara's quarters. Aghast, I said sharply that we could not possibly act so rudely to our host. I suggested we could wait and see where he comes back up.