Chapter 53: Scouting and Planning
Mountain rocks and brush,
Silver-gilt in full moonlight.
Our way -- deep, dark holes.
~ Miyara Miwa
We returned to Keda Ravaning. The White Faerie looked things over and said, "Given the terrain we are in... When we were in the valley with the entrance, we saw several places that looked like extra entrances, but they looked like they had been caved in long ago. There is probably a real back entrance, but it could take forever to find it."
That night, we decided that Kyosuke and Bark would scout the entrances to see if there was one with some hope of connecting, either by the entrance itself or from above. There was a full moon that night, and it was clear and cold. Bark offered to carry Res Li with him, so he could also look. They rigged up a harness for him to ride freely.
Before they left, the White Faerie gave them some advice. If they can remain quiet, the ones close to the main entrance are the best bet. It was likely, since this place was attacked, that all the entrances really are sealed. If any were left unsealed, or have been unsealed since then, it was more likely to be the ones near the main entrance. Of course, they may also be guarded, in that case.
Bark and Res Li went to the lighted side, on the west face of the cliffs that hid the valley, and Kyosuke started out on the darker east side. At the other end, they met, quietly discussed anything likely they had seen, and then came back around each on the other side, double-checking each other's work.
As we waited, I considered the valley. It was about 300 yards long and 100 yards wide. The stream that joins the Yetsin river emerges from the door and flows out through the middle of the valley.
I placed myself where I could remain hidden but still could watch the entire valley. If they were caught, it would be obvious and I was ready to leap to the attack, if necessary.
They returned and gave us the report. Res Li had found a clear entrance. He said there were two extremely ragged and thin faeries guarding the opening, sitting in an alcove a ways in. They had slipped and made a slight noise. The faerie guarding the main entrance who had come out to investigate the small noise did not appear to know about this entrance. Or at least he ignored it's presence.
I did not want to move in that night. We had alerted them, and it was a clear night with a full moon. Ravena the next few days would be just as clear, and the moon will only wane a little each night. The two entrances were about 30 yards apart. The official door is a cave mouth, with a natural bridge over the stream. The real doors were a little inside the cave mouth, and so far we had not seen them. The stream was about two feet across and about a foot or so deep.
Hosei suggested the direct approach: just walk right up, waving at the guards, and walk into the entrance. The White Faerie like that approach.
Kyosuke said he should distract the guards while the rest of us snuck past them. Once we were into the side entrance, he would slip away and then come join us. Hosei said he could make bright lights that Kyosuke could either use to distract them, or at least to blind the guards.
It seemed that might be our best chance. I carefully considered things. Crossbows shoot accurately for a pretty good distance, from what I've seen. It takes a long time to re-load one, but if they shoot us with a volley of eight or more at point-blank range, the second volley won't need to be hurried.
I can shoot much faster, but I'm not as good as I used to be, with my missing eye. And my one bow against eight or more crossbows is very poor odds.
Ravena reminded us that she can produce a blast of wind with the Crystal of Air, which would make the crossbows all but useless. Hosei said he can also do something similar, but he cannot move while doing it. Hosei also reminded us that he can produce balls of fire. Fire plus water equals a lot of steam. We tested the amount of steam he could produce. We moved downstream a bit, and he threw a fireball into the water. He produced a considerable amount of steam. It will dissipate quickly, but would suffice to hide our movements for a minute or so.