The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 96: Who Are You People?
As we eat, we try to determine what the new information means. There is a new political situation, which is dangerous, but that is not a real change from the old situation. We can now suspect that there is one or more Serpent King or Queen, behind the Serpent Prince. We are still sure there is only one Serpent Prince. "Our side" includes the City Guards, and "the other side" definitely includes the Palace Guards.
"How can we turn this to our advantage?" muses Mandorak.
Bavör blenches. He has no political acumen. "All we can hope to do is walk the razor's edge between the two factions."
"We could talk with the Captain of the Gate," suggests Mannie. "He may be able to give us suggestions. Or, at least, we won't be attacked there."
We decide that we will consult with Tala-a'zahd and the Captain of the Gate, and turn in for the night.
In the morning Tala-a'zahd appears to translate for us, and we head for the Gate. After some discussion, we agree to go first to Madame Fishilashi's. We intend to explain that we feel that we should spend more time with our ship, but that, although we will not actually stay any longer at her place, we would like to continue to keep our rooms, to take occasional meals there, and to pay her.
We arrive at her door, surprised to find it closed. We knock, but there is no response. Eric notices a young person hiding among the shrubs around the next house, and definitely watching us. Since there is no answer, we head back to the main avenue. Eric spots the same young fellow surreptitiously trying to follow us. Eïr steps in front of Mannie, who is taller and wider than she, and slips into unnoticability mode. She glides into a doorway.
The rest of us continue walking. Eric is lucky enough to spot our young tail dart towards cover – the same doorway. Eïr has an instant's warning before he could collide with her. She grapples with him, and actually succeeds in pinning him. He starts babbling something like, "Fijal'adasi."
Eric points out the conflict, and we dart back to the doorway. "What's he saying?" we ask of Tala-a'zahd. He listens, and goes very pale and small. There is another strange word among the babble: "Fishiladi."
"The boy is correct. Madame Fishilashi has been arrested. In the city. By the Palace Guard."
"He… he doesn't know." Tala-a'zahd seems distressed.
We decide that we should go to the Gate. We are sure that Madame Fishilashi's nephew can help her more than we can, but we will do what we can. Mannie gives the boy a small coin, and shoos him away. By the time we turn for the Gate, Tala-a'zahd is well in front of us.
We feel that we should not draw attention to ourselves by running, but then Eric points out that all the windows here are shuttered, and that there are no people walking around here. By now, Tala-a'zahd has broken into a run, and is racing pell-mell for the Gate. We have no hope of catching him at any speed we can manage, so we just calmly walk for the Gate. And walk. People do notice us.
By the time we are a block from the Gate, there are seven guards on the portico of the Gate. A pair is dispatched in our direction. We keep walking. The two guards separate, one on each side of our group. They escort us in this fashion to the steps of the Gate. Guards appear from everywhere, and swarm towards us. A top guard barks an order, and everyone steps back as he marches down to meet us. He is in the golden armor and brush-topped helmet of a high-ranking officer, and six soldiers fall in behind him. He announces, "Fijhal!"
To our left, the City Gate is closing with a loud, grating noise. Every eye is on us or on the gate. We are directed to what is the reception area of the Captain of the Guard. It is empty except for Tala-a'zahd and the Captain. Our translator is looking very small and frightened.
"As I said, there is a problem." He nods deeply to the Captain. His speech to the Captain includes the word "Fishiladi." The Captain barks at him.
"He wants to know what we know about the arrest of his aunt."
"You know more than we do. You could understand what that boy said. You know we were afraid that our presence was pulling her in trouble's path. This seems to be what happened."
He and the Captain talk some more. The Captain takes a deep breath, then turns to our uniformed escort, and addresses him.
Our translator explains, "Captain, Lord Fijhal, has very little time, but needs you to tell him anything you can that sheds light on this." We mention some incidents from this visit and our previous visit that may be pertinent. He summarizes our explanations as, "So you took part in the conflict between Jhejhaleen, and Nijaldeem and Lalameen."
"Oh. We had no intention of doing any such thing."
The Captain of the Gate gestures us to follow him into the inner area of the Gate. At the same time, a handful of non-City Guards and the Prefect of the Gate stride in, demanding something of the Captain of the Gate. The Captain of the Gate gives an order, and his guards push the Prefect and his men out of the room entirely. "That was the Prefect of the Gate," whispers Tala-a'zahd. We follow the Captain into a map room. He orders everyone already there out of the room. They go. He leads us on into his own office. He sweeps all the papers off his desk, sits on his desk, folds his arms, and invites Tala-a'zahd to speak.
Tala-a'zahd talks and talks. The Captain mutters something occasionally. Eventually, the Captain asks a question. Tala-a'zahd translates, "Just who are you people?"
"We are just who we say we are. We are here to pick up scholars to bring back to our land."
"Strangers from a new fey land. Wonderful. Do you always stir up nests of vipers?"
We go compute-bound. There were those incidents with the pirates. On the other hand, we didn't stir up any trouble in the Floating Islands. "We're very new at this," apologizes Mandorak.
A small man bursts into the room. The Captain is instantly between him and us, sword in hand. The newcomer says something like "Kadoom, kadoom, gishad." The Captain sheathes his sword with a flourish, and mutters back.
"It's gotten worse. It is no longer just a City matter. Now it's Family." He smiles.
A voice out in the corridor shouts, "Tee-jhan! Teejamani!" The Captain dashes out.
"Do you feel lucky?" asks Tala-a'zahd? "I must see this." He dashes after the Captain of the Gate. We have to see it too. We follow.
We see the Captain in his splendid armor and weaponry, facing an older man in robes, surrounded by junior fellows in the robes of similar color. The older man is making demanding questions of the Captain, and giving him no opportunity to answer them. This must be his father. We do not enter the room.
With a final, rhetorical demand, the father finishes. The Captain looks around, sees us, shakes his head, and quietly begins answering the questions.
Tala-a'zahd whispers, without moving his lips, "If you don't feel lucky, leave." We don't see any cover, so we glide back through the door. Eric is not quick enough. The robed gentleman heads towards us, while his robed juniors fan back. Tala-a'zahd quickly steps forward, and says, "Ajhadi Kha'o'om tar Fijhal'an, may I present to you Eric Wright, scholar and emissary of the elves of Lanthil." He then introduces Ajhadi Fijhal'an to Eric.
The robed gentleman speaks. "I understand that you have been staying with my sister. What have you done to cause her arrest?"
"We don't know!" Eric protests.
"But there must have been something, because he would not have acted so openly."
Eric flounders. He explains that there was an underling of the vizier who took a dislike to us, and that we spoiled a possible deal to acquire our Captain's daughter from the Fifth Temple, both on our last visit, some three hundred and ninety days ago. The Captain's father nods thoughtfully, and dismisses Eric.
Tala-a'zahd explains, "The Captain of the City is marshalling his guards against the Palace Guard for the release of his aunt. He has closed the Gate against the Guard of the Gate. His father has gone off to gather his personal guards, and to enlist the aid of other families and their guards. It is hard to understand how you six strangers have managed to bring this about."
We don't understand it either. Eïr explains how we worked with Lt. Jhejhaleen, and with the Fifth Temple, and the Healing Temple to restore Sarah to her family. So, it would seem that we have helped those two factions work more closely together.
Tala-a'zahd is thoughtful, but shakes his head. "Rather, I would say that you have helped to drive a wedge between those factions, and the faction of the Serpent Party."
Updated: Aug 3, 2008
©2002, 2008 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.