Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chapter 12 – Go To Where The Treasure Isn’t

Wherein one changeling's quest for the truth yields unexpected results.

The band hurries back to the granary to make sure that Rodion/Raskel and the supplies are safe. He is, and says he is not seen the apparition. Those who have just been attacked by her are quite drained and want a chance to recuperate. Rodion would prefer making the granary their base, and slowly taking over the entire warren, but Plamen objects that the warren is already home to the poleviks, and that his companions are the ones spreading darkness and destruction. Dmitri adds that it’s unlikely Plamenka could have killed all those people and turned them into skeletons, considering how easily the group bested her. Rodion suggests that they don’t know the full story, and Plamen is being blind to the fact that he is a good son raised in a family of monsters. He futher ventures also that the group needs to think through what it’s doing here – there is little reason to continue putting themselves into harm’s way just to become enslaved to Baba Yaga. Chonkorchuk is offended by this, and responds by saying they do this voluntarily to learn ancient secrets, and to win the hand of Katarina. In any event, there is little sense in staying here and look for a treasure trove other than the grain, because they have searched the whole warren already, and Plamen asserts that there is nowhere else it could be stored. His visions from his queen have been cloudy, likely for a reason, and he needs to separate himself from the group for a while to meditate on what to do next.
Is this the real treasure?
Chonkorchuk departs for his hermitage, while the rest of the group prepares to leave also. Rodion comes up with an idea to use Plamenka’s blankets and tapestries to make more sacks, since no one thought to bring any back. While he is busy sewing them up (and Dmitri - stuffing his quiver), Lionia shows up, bringing one additional sack with him. He had just encountered Chonkorchuk on the way out of the warren, and had a brief exchange with him, in which the ascetic told the Old Fox to inform his companions of any tales of flaming skeletons ahead of time, and to stop worrying so much about the material world. Lionia did not see the apparition on his way to the bedchamber and the granary, but he is concerned that the band is being pulled in different directions, and seems to lack a plan. If people cannot continue with the search after the previous day’s encounter and insist on leaving, they should have a place to recuperate and store the grain without risking dying of cold, or burying full sacks in the ground (much less taking them to the hermitage, which has already been attacked once). He again offers his own house. Rodion accepts gratefully, while the others, including Plamen simply accept it silently as the most viable move in the absence of alternatives.
Before leaving, Rodion would like to close up the granary. Thinking this should be done the same way it was opened, he traces an outline in the entryway with Plamenka’s sickle, while burning another section of the sash with a sigil on it (one now remains). The outlined doorway glows green for a moment, but nothing happens. A discussion between Rodion and Druvvaldis establishes that the characters making up the sigil are for opening portals, and may be successfully reproduced by someone who knows the formula for the opening spell, and acquires the necessary ingredients for the ink to scribe it. Druvvaldis successfully reproduces the sigil on his drum. The band then pushes the section of wall that swung outward back into place. The entryway glows for a moment, and then the doorway once again becomes invisible.
Exiting from the warren is easier now after the burrowing job done by the fefila, and the group proceeds to Lionia’s house in Medunitsa across the frozen river. The bitter cold spell has ended, but the ice is still solid, and everyone arrives at his house without difficulty. It is a small hut at the edge of the village, and it does seem to have hives in the back, suggesting that the occupant does indeed keep bees. The inside of the house is stuffed to the brim with jars, tools, and junk of various kinds, but Lionia declines Rodion’s offer of helping him clean the place, saying he knows exactly where everything is. He would appreciate some help with the chores – chopping wood, carrying water, and perhaps, catching some game in exchange for his hospitality, while he is off at church in the morning (it being Nedelia). He finds a plucked chicken and some other viands in his cellar, and sups on it with his guests.
Lionia's place: a house of mystery, or a just hoarder's hut?
The next morning, after breakfast, Dmitri takes Druvvaldis into the woods to teach him how to set traps, while Plamen has a conversation with Lionia and Rodion about what happens next. He reiterates that he does not believe the story about any skeletons, as he has not seen them, and thinks it is the band, and not his mother, which is the cause of great evil, having invaded his family’s home, and engaged in wanton slaughter. Further, the doesn’t think there is any treasure, as he has seen nothing other than the grain, which he thinks his family grew themselves. Rodion and Lionia contest his take on the proceedings, and point out to him that everyone has seen the skeletons (they were responsible for Dmitri’s loss of his arm). The disappearance of the villagers at Crows’ Meadow, and the fact that parts of the meadow remain unexplored need to be taken into account. They should proceed on the basis of what is known, not fantasies, of the type Chonkorchuk peddles. Plamen says that he wants to investigate the matter for himself, asserting that he wants to protect the rest of the sleeping poleviks, and that he will learn more by himself by specifically going to where the treasure isn’t and talking to the denizens than the party will by following the violent methods it has been using. Lionia says it is too dangerous to go there alone. Even though he disagrees with Plamen and Chonkorchuk about their approaches to the task at hand, he respects their abilities, and does not want to lose them as allies in a common enterprise. But in the end, he and Rodion realize they cannot stop Plamen from going back. Lionia demonstrably mouths a prayer, and Plamen sets out alone.
He approaches the warren in the same way as before, but proceeds south rather than east from his own chamber, and works his way toward the rooms of his stepfather and half-siblings. When he comes to a long hallway that he recognizes as leading back to a shed in Lazarevo, he encounters four skeleton warriors, who attack him, as he cannot flee quickly enough with his limp. The skeletons are clearly armed with old Kochmak weapons, and wear old pieces of Kochmak armor, he notes. Plamen draws upon the power of thunder to smash them to smithereens, but he also wants to awaken the warren’s denizens with the noise. He manages to survive the encounter unscathed, but is almost immediately confronted by the livid image of Plamenka, who floats up to him, and mouths a demand that he leave immediately. Plamen complies, and exits the warren via the long tunnel.
He sneaks out of the shed cellar at Tsibulka Tsibulkovich’s tavern. The yard and the village are quiet and almost entirely empty – everyone is at church.  After he surreptitiously leaves the yeard, he runs into Chonkorchuk, who had returned to the meadow from the hermitage. After he heard the thunderous noises of battle, the fefila directed him back to Lazarevo. The two of them now make their way back to Medunitsa.

Lionia returns to the house from church shortly after Plamen, claiming he feels cleansed after the service. Plamen then admits that Lionia and the others were right about the skeletons, and tells them about encountering the apparition again. He now doesn’t know what to think, and is ready to return to the warren to inspect the passages in the other part of the warren, that he was warned by his mother to stay away from, the following day. Lionia is happy to hear that, and pushes for a new expedition, saying that the enlarged entryway is increasing the chances that someone else will find what they are looking for first.

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