Sunday, August 25, 2013

In Flux ep04 : Shadows of Esteren

In Flux
Episode Four
"Donan's Journal - Opportunity"

My name is Donan Roik.
I am an Investigator.
After the exhausting events in Reizh, we decide to go to the southern most point of Toil Carea, Deanagh.  We heard there are people who understand Old Magic there.  I notice Rashid seems to figdet with his things often. Almost makes me wonder if he's hiding something among his things.  (Like that thrice-damned book, for instance.)  The scenic paths change as we journey, with trees becoming stranger and the sky being darker.  I admittedly feel apprehensive.  In this journey, had I been forced to travel alone, I would probably have not survived.  But the Varigals definitely manage the journey well.  And Glenn seems to prove extremely useful given his obsession with food and its preparation.  We do not have even a single night where we go hungry.

[There is the concern of my other appetite.  I've come to a realization that the group I accompany would best not be the target of my sexual wiles given the complications that are sure to arise if I were to ever allow one to feel more favor than the other.   Thankfully, my own skills with the hands combined with tying my own arm tight enough to induce a loss of sensation enough to seem like it was someone else's hand makes things much more... acceptable.]

It was during the first month of camping when I wrote this entry.
Rashid seems to have restless nights.  I opt not to ask what's wrong, but he seems to be bothered by something.   We soon travel to what I am told is the Sighing Forest.  Foraging gets harder as we arrive here, with the woods being less kind to non-wildlife.   We see a small village that might be a place we can consider visiting.  I feel the urge to get the flesh going.  The nearby village means other people.  Other people means opportunities.

"It is a trapper colony," Niall explains as we approach it.
"Are they educated?" I ask, remembering that horrible place that should not be named.
"Are you?" Rashid rebuts.

We squabble on the path on whether or not to go.  Someone at the village sees us, and greet us. I send Glenn to say hello.  They talk about having a wonderful harvest.

"I think its a safe place, Glenn found his people," I mused, remembering how the lumbering giant seemed to be so obsessed with preparing meals and handling groceries.

"Many Feonds about," the man at the gates mutters when we comment on the village's high walls.
"How come he gets to say it?" I ask aloud, impressed.  I guess Feonds is different from Feondas.

The tell us the place is the "Town of the Sighing Woods." They sell furs.   The man, I think, is named Tashvili.  And his kindness is a welcome treat given the horrid people we've met before. Kindness however quickly spirals into unexpected casuality as he starts openly asking me about having "an itch."  The nerve of this man to read into my actions that way.  I feel antisocial.  I talk about wanting to burn an illiterate person once a week.  He asks what illiterate means.   Odd, given he claims their town has only three books of import.  How can one know about books and not know about literacy.  The owner of the books.  Now maybe there in lies the answer.

The hamlet probably has around sixty people.  A small sample size of people.  Here's hoping at least one of them is worth bedding.  Amusingly, Niall mutters to himself, "I could use normal." I admit I couldn't agree more.

Niall offers his belief we cannot outrun winter.   He recommends we stay in til it passes. I admit I rather hear from Rashid.  Rashid, after all, has time and time again shown greater competency in journeyman skills.  Rashid admits any delays would leave us in the cold.  With that, it is settled.  I know I can trust Niall, on the other hand, to handle any threats and danger.

Maurice, a school teacher, owns the books.  He seems to be in charge of the place too, but that might just be because people by nature do then to shift towards the smarter person, so long as that smarter person is also the more social one. Maurice just arrived three, or four, years ago. He is in his 40s.  Had a wife and kid.  But supposedly they have already died.  (I will never openly admit it, but to have one's own child die before you do... that is just horrific.)  Rumored to be one of the "robey" people in the past, but lost his family as punishment from Sustraine.   I will always question this religion which seems so intent in raising itself above all others, then punishing those who seek to free themselves from its chains.

Tashvili's daughter, as it turns out, can read.  She's supposed to be 18 winters old.  Given Tashvili is 29, he probably adopted her from a family that died.  His wife likes to knit.   We are brought to the only Tavern in the city, which he owns, and he offers us the floor to sleep in.  They clear the area each night for those who will sleep.  The drinking, it seems happens during the day.  Different.  Simple but fine.

He also shows us a bright red barn.  He was able to get the one can of paint when the merchant came. Did I stress how odd I find it that they only drink during the day.  I head out and wander to look around the town.  Everyone else I see is a woman.   I presume it is because the men are out hunting.   I focus first on getting to know the location, that way if trouble happens I know my way around.  I note which places are closest to the hamlet's gates, and which places have nooks or crannies where I could theoretically hide in.

I start meeting the women after becoming confident enough about knowing my way around the hamlet.  Then I narrow my focus to a widow named Pauline.  She is childless and has been a widow for around eight years.   She is 24 years old.  A sixteen-winter old bride.  That must have been one very lucky man.  But then again I am luckier I guess, given he's dead and I am here to meet her.

I start charming my way into the women's hears, using Pauline's loss as a reason that each and every wife should do their best to care for their husbands better.  I tell them of the harshness of the wild and how making sure each of them are welcomed home well will make the exhaustion and loneliness fade away faster.  The women are swayed easily, and many start asking me to stay longer.  To share more stories.  I weave a fictional one about a varigal saving my life when I was trapped by a charging bear.  "Perhaps tonight," I tell Pauline, "If you will let me have the honor:  I can be your husband's presence to end your loneliness.  We need not do anything.  I just feel he would have wanted you to feel a warmth close by."

I spend the night with her.

I can only wonder what the others are doing at the tavern.  They are probably chatting with Tashvili's daughter.  Or debating over the events of the previous night.  Or worse, some argument over whether or not the strange book was important.

Morning comes.

I write a poem for Pauline, and hope it perhaps inspires her to learn to read.  I take a fruit from her table to eat as I walk back to the tavern.  It is empty.  Save, of course, for Tashvili.  He teases me about having... relations, but I deflect it and claim it was foot massage.  I tease his curiosity on it, and in the end offer to give him one.  I give him a great one, causing him to scream just as loud as Pauline did.  Pleasure can be given in many ways, after all.  I'll leave them all wondering.

Rashid returns and catches me and the guy panting and tired.  Rashid just judgingly stares at me.   I smile.

Three days later, we meet the literate Maurice.  Small talk peppers the discussions, but I quickly push for the topic of the books.  As it turns out, he owns the following books:  Plants and its environs, How to Cook, and Minerals and Flux.  He turns out to be the school teacher in the hamlet now.   I urge him to share more about himself, and start by asking indirectly.  I ask about the last Feonds attack and he admits it was ten years ago.  From there, it is easy to pull him to share more about his life.  He admits he was once a missionary.  But he has left the order to become a teacher here instead.  He suggests that his wife and daughter's deaths were lessons Sustraine had given him for leaving.  I feel tempted to remind him that such otherworldly forces cannot dominate our lives.  But I inwardly hold my tongue.   Maurice however asks us to clear something for him.  He does not believe the Feonds are always active, that it takes a few years between their attacks, and think if they are quiescent, then they can be killed.  He wants us to help prove this theorem of his, and offers to give us something which in his words proves why, "you need to take Sustraine seriously" at times.  I try not to scoff.  Niall, however, does seem curious.

He draws out a key and a chest.  As it is opened, there is a glint of brightness within.  It is a cudgel made of lead, and yet there are glints of another metal.

I learn the chest is from Gwidre, where reputedly holy people are from.

I throw deception away and ask directly about the Book.

"That book.  Every worshipper and priest knows of that book. The Lost Book," he explains.  He talks about how when Sustraine came, as the legends say, he taught people everything save for the contents of the Book.  The Book contained lessons that we were not meant to learn.  But someone read it and took it away.  He shares how the feonds are "the punished".  They are the ones who read the book but failed its test.

I ask him directly why he knows so much of the book.

"I know of the book because I want to know what could have made those things that killed my family."

The drive he feels is undeniable.  I feel there is much to benefit from in taking this task.   The lair he speaks off is inside the forest, and even the hunters are wary of that place.  One of them is always deeply injured whenever they visit that locale.   Not wanting to be seen as the one in charge, I throw Niall the decision and leave.  But I already know how he will respond.  I know he will take the box and the blessed weapon.

I know this means I will get a chance to see these Feonds face-to-face.

I spend a day teaching Glenn to groom.   The poor man is a mountain of mess.  I show him how to trim his hair, and how to shave his beard to a more respectable level.  Thankfully I confirm he knows how to maintain a level of hygiene.  It could have been much worse.

The signs of the first snowfall come.
The hunters return home, with large furs, animal carcasses that have been recently skinned, or even salted.  I notice how a group approaches not their wives, but Maurice.  I read easily from their body language and facial expressions how disappointed they are.    I suspect they were given the same task we were offered.  A Feonds lair.  Deep down, I must admit, I feel a rush of excitement to see it.


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