A difficult night showed hard on Hasver’s face. The sumptuous breakfast and the crisp Servilan went largely unnoticed.
Over lizards in a blanket and char, Hasver took a turn at confessions. He seems to have known Lily from somewhere behind the opaque glass of his past. She seemed to be bound to the Tichronus estate by a vow or some machination. Hasver shook his head at the strange coincidence of connecting with her again. Jack pointed out that coincidence is the evidence of inept manipulation. This produced silence and a round of orange juice.
Jack announced that he had contemplated the situation and that the misadventure of finding the gharolan drug seemed fit for such persons as Hasver and Roz et. al., but that perhaps Jack might use his talents (ching goes the diamond tooth) here in Uxphon to explore the Impossible Blade that was needed, and to dig into local politics, the Lady Isaltha, and generally look after the place – because “Absolutely no one wants to leave Brune here unattended. Even, I expect, Brune.”
In the short term, Jack would go into the market and try and find a way to get the group to the Tithe and down it safely to Harmuth. In the meantime, Takir needed some … personal business attended to, and against the head shaking of the rest of the company, Hasver was going to see … Sabazia (gold flourish not included).
Even Hasver, it seemed, would tire of Sabazia. Perhaps it was the crankiness of the dark night behind him, but he could not abide her evasions, and used his staff to … hopefully… compel the full truth from her. Her newly-darkened shop closed about him as she gave him what sounded like The Truth, but even servants of that auspicious entity sometimes have difficult telling it from the other thing. At the end of the interview, he offered that he would pay her with a trinket for her advice when he returned from the adventure, “Should I not be killed,” meaning, should she not be complicit in his death while pretending to save it. “I had never considered that,” Sabazia 2 replied calmly, and after a beat, “…having you killed,” meaning, well….
Back at Tichronus Manor, Jack elatedly told them about the caravan passage he had arranged with an old school chum he’d managed to find here in Uxphon (apparently, Tichronus was fond of hiring old students). Koingan was the loadmaster of the caravan and would bring the group along as guards and advisors (at their discretion). Hasver asked whether there might be any reason for the man he had known from school to have a reason to hold a grudge against Jack. Surprised, Jack suggested that he and Brother Harmony (now assistant to the Bishop of Lhauric in the East) had started a nickname for Koingan which was derogatory of his manhood, but that they had parted chums.
Hasver laid out what Sabazia had told him: the caravan master planned to take Jack’s friends to the river and murder them en-route, but that the floating caravan carrying materials to be converted to arms and armor from the Undercity of Uxphon to Harmuth and that a Gaian group using terrible weaponry would murder everyone in the caravan before Jack’s friend could help them to swim with rocks. Another silence.
Sabazia had offered a route to a small village that dealt mostly in fish on the upper Tithe. There was an angry river god they could subdue in the name of the Truth; there was passage down the river to be had. They agreed to this plan, and made their preparations.
Jack suggested he had plans for Koingan that would spice up the man’s life, and maybe find something out about Sabazia while he was at it.
Very early the next morning, the first Servilan they’d made (the brave, scouting one who dealt with strangers) met them at the door. Ariadoca was dressed just as she typically was. She picked up a small pack and a wicker picnic basket, and announced that she was ready to go with them. “Because you can’t possible be expected to arrive at your destination poorly-fed and disheveled.” There was some resistance from everyone, but Ariadoca shrugged them all aside. Her cousin would end up taking care of their family that sheltered here in Uxphon. He had gone to war and one thing the Red Keep (the government of Uxphon here in the kingdom of Navarene) always did was pay death benefits. Outside, she put on “entirely sensible traveling shoes” which were shorter stilletos with a heel 3cm wider, and a “traveling cloak” which seemed to be a kind of body-sculpted riding cape. Later, they would learn that the benefit of Arioadoca began with sausage biscuits kept warm hours and hours and carried easily across bogs and through blackberry hedges.
Arriving at the little village, they met their first villager, the “at least a thousand years old” Trillip, who was fishing for “very delicious pike, not good from the river” in a stream gushing out of the earth.
He told them that there were no boats in the village, and looking them over asked “who has done the bad thing!?” since clearly, they were a team of heavies sent by the Truth. The village had asked many times for help with the Monster, but had gotten no help. The Priests were said to always come, though, when someone went against The Truth.
When they assured him they were here for thier own purposes, and to find passage down the river, he laughed, “We have no boats! The shore is the only safe place! Hah! See my thousand-year-old wife! She will have a tongue-lashing for you, if no boat!” They left the man to his silver-striped pike.
In the village, they were assaulted by children, whom Ariadoca bribed away with powdered peppermint pilloves.
At the end of the street, smiling, they meet Sulucu, who was one of the … caretakers of the village. She wondered if they were the warriors the Truth had finally sent to deal with the Hidden Mouth that had been terrorizing their village.
Every night, she told them, they hid the children on the floating barges to keep them safe. It had evidently been going on for some time.
She invited them to come with her to her riverside hut.
They settled on the rattan floor with her as she poured them tea.
They began to ask about this Hidden Mouth, about what was going on in the village, but before they got beyond Sulucu’s diverting manners, they were interrupted by her partner, who stepped into the hut as Hasver spoke of a surfeit of aid now upon the village.
“Who are these people? And I will be in charge of any … surfeit that may be going on about … around here!” and Rhotia had arrived.