Chapter 52: Unsuccessful Negotiations
The fox hides in his
hole from the hound, who finds the
fox's back entrance.
~ Miyara Miwa
The faerie guards at the entrance to the shrine of Keda Ravaning spoke to us in the harsh faerie language, demanding our names and business. Hosei translated for us so we knew what was being said, but the White Faerie moved forward to speak with the suspicious faeries. For myself, I noted the two were well-armed and armored, but I saw no bows, spears, or other ranged weapons. We stood about forty yards from them.
He answered them truthfully, with his name and that we were searching for the lost Keda Ravaning, with the help of a journal of which we had recently come into possession. We were on our way ultimately to Keda Heluga, but as we were here, we would like to visit, re-establish contact with the lost shrine, have some ale and dinner.
Their answer was not encouraging. They laughed, and one said, "Well I don't know what's been going on, but we just found this place and we claim salvage so bugger off!"
The White Faerie answered forcefully, that we were here and we were going to look around, and they needed to treat a fellow faerie and his companions with more honor. He commanded them to tell his lord that he had guests.
From what I have gathered of faerie traditions of finding and claiming lost holds, I could see their point. However, this is a Faerie shrine, to a Faerie hero, and it belongs to all Faeries. They have no more claim to a shrine for all faeries than we.
They answered, "So, who is your lord?"
He answers, "My last lord was King Mendri".
They drew their weapons in anger, saying that Mendri killed his father for the throne.
The White Faerie told them that he had seen the whole thing, and it did not happen that way. Ogres killed the former king.
The commanded him, "Go back to your father-killing lord and tell him that he will not be allowed to disgrace the stones of Keda Ravaning."
The White Faerie asked who their lord was, and they said, "We are part of the royalist party who would see Mendri eliminated."
The White Faerie corrected them; he had asked for their lord, not their political affiliation, but they refused to be drawn into meaningful conversation. We did not back up and leave, of course. Beyond any diplomatic difficulties with faeries is the fact that the Crystal of Water is in there somewhere, and we must not allow the faeries here to discover it.
We readied our weapons, and one disappeared into the hold. Certain we were about to battle the faeries, I said, "There will be more, not that any of them will be surprised, since we've been shouting at each other." I gently swung my swords around, just loosening up a little.
I prefer to speak with steel. It's less open to confusion and uncertainty. Kyosuke, always one to talk before fighting, wished to speak to the guards himself. What harm could it do? He and the White Faerie walked up together. As he left the chest behind, the White Faerie asked us to watch the chest. As if I would let any harm come to it: it holds the statue I must return for the Isawa's honor. Ravena sat down upon it.
The White Faerie told the guard that Kyosuke wanted to discuss a peaceful solution. He moved up to within about 20 yards, and the other guard returned, accompanies by eight other faeries, all armed with crossbows they pointed directly at my cousin.
He bowed politely, and said, "I am trying to find a peaceful solution." The White Faerie translated for him, and Hosei told us that he reminded them that Kyosuke was unarmed. Not entirely true in one sense, but true in the simple, literal sense.
An older member of the new party said, "tell your friend to stop," and the White Faerie relayed the suggestion. The tone of his voice sounded flat and almost bored. The voice of every sergeant everywhere.
Kyosuke stopped and bowed politely. "With whom am I negotiating?"
He answered, "Your maker," which did not make sense to me. Hosei said the White Faerie said, "Oh please, give the boy a name."
Kyosuke answered, "I am not an apprentice, I am a master. I trained Og, the King of Yetsin Valley."
The dwarf said, "Go back to Mendri and if he wants to negotiate, he needs to send someone who can speak faerie."
"I am, but you are not negotiating."
"What do you want?
"A bit of ale and dinner. We're just passing through," answered the White Faerie.
"We can accommodate that. Keep passing."
They exchanged rude banter, and finally Kyosuke turned to the White Faerie and asked him, "Are these the dwarves who are to march under the chaos banner?" He was thinking of the White Faerie's visions of the faeries marching with the forces of chaos, wielding one or more of the Crystals, but he said these were not them.
Kyosuke asked him if they might respond to a challenge of single combat, and he said they probably would. If Kyosuke died, we would leave. He asked the White Faerie to fill in the challenge and make it appropriate.
The White Faerie announced, "My friend wants to engage a warrior of your choosing in single combat. If he wins, we can stay the night, if you win, we leave. They asked why.
"He's human, to begin with, and he's not even from anywhere near here."
"So why is he negotiating for Mendri?" they asked.
"He's not," the White Faerie said. "He's negotiating for us."
"And you are not from Mendri?"
"So you're not here to negotiate for Mendri."
"Nope. I haven't seen him for many years."
"Then move on." I found that odd. They wanted nothing to do with us because we were from Mendri, and yet when they discovered we were not from Mendri, they still wanted nothing to do with us. Had they already found the Crystal of Water?
When Kyosuke heard what they had said, Kyosuke disgustedly called them cowards, insisted the White Faerie relay his words, and turned his back and walked away from them, dismissing them. Miyara blood does tell.
The White Faerie asked him of that was it, and Kyosuke said he was done. He was not going to waste his time talking to unworthy cowards. They returned to us, and the White Faerie asked, "What do we do now?"
I pointed out that finding the back way in, the tunnel that used to connect this shrine with the rest of the faerie holds, was our next step. Even if it was sealed shut, we still have the Stone of Stones, because we will go on to Keda Heluga and retrieve it immediately.
It was a simple two-days' journey, and Ashe collected a deer to use to open the door to the inner temple.
It was easy. The tentacles did not molest us, although the place was still buried under mud and the metal-eating worms, about which the White Faerie complained non-stop.
We retrieved the Stone of Stones, again. The White Faerie claimed it, rightfully, as his to carry and wield.
We hoped, with Ravena's maps and Caramela's perfect sense of direction, that would might figure out where to look for the tunnel from here to Keda Ravaning. Once we had a direction, Res Li's sight should do the rest.
But the White Faerie said this had actually been a minor hold at the time and would not have been part of the tunnel network.
We considered Keda Ravaning. A stream, a natural cave, faerie doors at the back. So where does the stream come out of, or from our point of view, go into? The stream enters the cave opening and then flew into the ground before the doors. Kyosuke suggested we steal their water for a few days, then return it, poisoned with a powerful laxative. The White Faerie pointed out that no faerie hold would be that easily breached. They will be getting water from inside, where there is probably a spring. The White Faerie said that there is probably another entrance, and we can find it.