1628, Fire Season, Stasis Week, Waterday (ish)
Xenofos took time after the meeting with Mirava to go to the library, where he was somewhat disturbed by the fact the female scribes had chins, and not beards. Some of them did not even have moustaches. He looked for reports on the previous logistics of the Bat, but these were deemed too secret to read, even in Fazzur’s Dunstop. He did have access to the hagiographic autobiography of Fazzur (in the third person). The writing indicated that Fazzur was positioning himself as a rising man, as the Emperor was in wane. He paid for a copy to take with him.
After Yelm rose, Berra went to find Irillo, explaining that it was time to get on the road. Irillo had alternate plans, revolving around joining caravans with an old flame to travel more easily through Lunar territory.1There was an extended conversation about how Berra should try to avoid telling Serzeen about Irillo and this other trader. The Humakti pointed out that Varanis needed to get out of town urgently and between them they decided that a scouting mission should take care of things.
Berra collected Varanis and Xenofos and the three of them sat down with Irillo to discuss the plan. The two caravans would be travelling northeast from Dunstop towards Stopover. The scouts would check out the route, crossing the river Teslir and trying to get as far as Belensfield. They’d return to meet the caravans near the river crossing. Berra pointed out to the other two that they should not mention the Lunar merchant to Serzeen.
Berra left her bison with Irillo and borrowed the trader’s mule for the journey. The roads were clear and well-maintained, if not the equivalent of Sartar’s royal roads. The ferry crossing was uneventful, with an option on paying for it to be quiet. Xenofos used it to practice his New Pelorian a little. As they travelled, they became aware of horse messengers posted at small places selling roadside refreshments. Varanis also noticed that on the skyline there were other messengers, on the Furthest side. She could make out they were wearing different neckerchiefs. With the aid of Xenofos’ Farsee spell, he and Berra also looked. The messengers on the road were in yellow kerchiefs, and the others, presumably Pharandros’ followers, were in red. Little else distinguished them.
Along the road, Berra was able to point out maize, and Xenofos knew that it was fertilised with blood, although he could not remember which animal.
In Belensfield they took stock of the various options and went for a relatively cheap place that sold the local food. Shortly after making themselves comfortable, they were joined at their table by none other than Onjur. He made a few politely snide remarks; Berra made some impolitely snide remarks.
The conversation that ensued was interesting. Xenofos attempted to compel Onjur to speak the truth and Onjur mostly told as much of the truth as he wanted to. Naturally, he did not lie. He said that he expected the bat to be guided to Tarsh this year or next, and that the army was required for following up. His opinion was that the Emperor was badly guided, and better advisors would be helpful, with the implication that he or his allies would be among them.
He had suggestions for how they should proceed to deal with the Bat. His options included removing the Bat’s food sources (which Varanis was interested in, as the Bat might turn on its own people then), killing the Bat (which none of them thought likely to succeed), and performing a variation on the Lightbringers Quest. It emerged that his main reason for preferring the Hero Quest was that they could bring back the recently murdered Mask of the Emperor, a leader he preferred to the current one. Onjur admitted that the death of the party was possible and this would be either a bonus or a silver lining, depending on what happened with the Bat. But, he also acknowledged that they had a reasonable chance of survival, as compared with trying to kill the thing. One potential benefit to performing the Hero Quest is that it could provide an opportunity to negotiate with the resurrected mask of the Red Emperor – a version of the Great Compromise.
After a little verbal sniping from both sides, including Berra literally making him pay, Onjur left, and Varanis checked how Xenofos was. He was fine to ride after the food and drink, so the scouts set off to ride back to the Teslir river. A few minutes out of Belenfield, Berra said that they had done what they had been asked to by Kallyr, and they did not have to do what Onjur said. Varanis wanted to talk to everyone about it.2But the critical on Air and special on Loyalty Kallyr made her really want to send Koraki with a message and do the quest. She could do as promised AND save Sartar from the Bat!
“Just trolling Draznk.” – Salid