Book Two: The Lone and Level Land
CHAPTER FIVE:
Janarl and the Lonesome Path

Berrona Clairesularday-Umberfreeday

An Account by Janarl

I said nothing.

Long after Quinn had finished his tale, describing what he had discovered about the end of the Time of Justice, Domaldi Justinian, the Companions continue to pepper him with questions. The cunning and the guile of it confounded him. The unfairness broke my heart open and filled me with fire. A slow smouldering fire, like wet peat.

Quinn answered politely, evenly, and seemingly honestly. There was not a hint of dishonesty about the man and that bothered me most of all. Even in the short time I have spent amongst these hairy smooth skins, I have had learned to pick up their many obvious signals. It was like tracking a wounded doe. All have secrets they preferred to keep to themselves, obviously, but these people keep them so close to the surface they could probably be picked as younglings pick bunches of flowers. But not Quinn.

Quinn said nothing to me, but did make eye contact and respectfully nodded his head when we first they met and when at last he departed. Janarl's Companions were overtaken by their need for sleep and their dozens of tiny chores. They had promised to fulfill the request that Quinn had made of Domaldi, learning what they could in the Order and contacting him when they returned. He had promised to deliver a device that would allow them to do so the following day. The last thing he did before he departed.

l waited below decks on the flying ship of Linkosplitzit's uncle for the circling of three hawks, and then I went above decks through an open portal on the side. I had listened carefully to all Quinn had said and picked up a few hints that might help when I set about to track him through the smelly city. I knew enough to recognize that this prey would not be easy to follow. He was like a fox, dressed as a peacock to fool other birds, but I think I knew him for what he was.

I surreptitiously swung down a rope to the roof of a nearby house, silent as a bat. I waited there and watched from the shadows, until finally, Quinn descended. What had he not said? Who were these Unspoken? What traps did he have in store for them? I knew my Companions had been fired from a bow, and their path had been set. There was little else they could do but listen to what Quinn had said and cautiously follow his advice. I could see the wisdom in this. I, knew, however, that I had been fired form a different bow, and need not always follow the path of my Companions.

Quinn disappeared into the shadows as effortlessly as a crocodile slips beneath the surface. I would follow, I would listen and I would learn more. To what end, I did not know. But, before dawn, I would know more. I did not trust a man with no secrets. All trees have roots.

Quinn proved a challenging quarry. I grew to trust him even less. I kept to the high ground as much as discretion would allow. It let me follow from a distance. What moonlight there was could not break the thick cloud cover of Berrona-month. A reaping sky, I thought, and I wondered what else Quinn had sown.

The false priest moved like a shadow. He was good, but this night I thought I was better. My chest heaved with the exertion. Quinn had walked nearly to the other side Cauldron pond, and entered a building. Before I could discover a way in, I found Quinn, dressed differently, leaving again. "What is your name now, sly fox?" I wondered.

Quinn made his way now, more cautiously than ever, covering his tracks, backtracking, hiding, moving stealthily. At one point he managed to seem in two places at once, another he seemed, impossibly, to disappear and reappear elsewhere.

Quinn eased his anti-surveillance activities when he reached the busier commercial docks. Cavefishers and divers lolled drunk or asleep, some still selling their wares amidst the whores and dandies, even at this hour. When Quinn entered the market, mask or no mask, I had wished him back into the shadows. It wasn't just the stink of it, the shadows were the same whether they were in the woods or in this strange city. Public places such as these were utterly alien to me and they bewildered my senses.

I did my best to pick his way through the crowds and the refuse, but was surprised to find that few paid me much attention. When Quinn hired a boat my heart leapt. Soon after, I slipped noiselessly into the water.

Quinn's boat made for a barge of several stories, moored to a small quay, built up a little off shore. The lights inside were ablaze, music roared and there were crowds of revellers all around. Small launches swarmed the barge, coming and going. I watched as Quinn disembarked. The Unspoken one cast a look ashore, seemed to look for something and then, satisfied, turned moved up a flight of crooked wooden stares and into the bowels of the racket.

I moved onto one of the moored boats where I had found a cloak. Silently, I unwrapped my kit and redressed. The wet did not bother me. It was the smell and the noise. How could they stand it? I watched the comings and going long enough to realize that a hooded man, such as myself, would draw little suspicion here.

At last, I boarded the barge and began to search, discreetly for a way inside.

I could still remember the first time I attended Fair Day in the Enclave. All the T'kel would gather in Grial to celebrate the end of the harvest. That day was so overwhelming, my head had spun for weeks afterwards just thinking about the sights, the smells and the sounds. When I set foot in the Caver's Dive I had new standards for noisy, crowded and chaotic.

I was somewhat relieved to find some other patrons wearing masks, many of which only covered half their faces. I systematically began to move through the barge. The bar was filled with creatures of all races, including many denizens of the Great Below - what Arek would have called the Undermountain - and not all of them humanoid.

I was able to spot only a few apparent authority figures, but these watchers were well hidden, blending into the crowd. Each floor had two performers at opposite ends. None were the equal of Tiberio, I frowned, though they came close.

Before long I found Quinn, seated in a corner, his back to the room. Quinn was hunched over a table, apparently deeply engaged in a conversation with someone hidden in the shadows.

For a silver, I helped myself to a dim sum platter of roasted fish kebabs. Originally, I took the platter more for the cover it provided than anything else, but soon I realized how hungry I actually was. It was strangely spiced, but not unpleasant. I made my way through a crowd of rough looking men shouting around a gambling table near where Quinn sat. I pretended to watch them throw dice and knuckle bones while I found a place that I could listen.

I cursed the noise, but remembered a trick of sifting through sound that Argea had taught me. In my mind, I peeled away each level of noise like the layers of a sharproot bulb. A table creaked a chair moaned and men spoke. Quinn had changed his accent again, but the voice was clearly his - the other who spoke was heavily accented almost beyond understanding.

"That's not an answer," Quinn stated plainly.

Amused or angry, it was hard to tell through the thick accent, the other replied, "Tonight. You may don the masks and the True Worship of the One may begin in these final days. It has been..."

"I know when the shipment arrives. That's not what I asked."

"Of course. Of course. The lights and the sounds above the village of the masked lizards prior to their disappearance. The Brother who witnessed the divine spectacle is well protected."

"Protected," Quinn bit the words. "Where?"

"Not yours to concern, even if he is your kin. Trust the True Worshippers."

One of the barbarians at the gambling table lurched and bumped into me, breaking my concentration. Cursed fools! My anger flashed hot before I gained control of it again. Zuras's Egg Clutch! My predator's blood was being sorely tested tonight. The shadow draped man had spoken of the mass disappearance at the Enclave!

The lurching barbarian's mates roared. An argument began. I shifted back, and began to search for the threads of sound he had lost. Finding them did not take long. I moved so now he could watch Quinn's back.

"... and we depart. The masks move forth into the city through a chute on the western slope. Be at the Billy-Goat cross square past the Owl watch. The brothers will be waiting," the dark voiced finished. "A most appropriate place of meeting this was," he added, "All of these souls cry out to become one." He rose, For the True Worship, May You Become One." He was clad in layers of robes from head to toe. His dark skin and clear eyes were strikingly different from those of my companions, but he was clearly human. Tall and slim, but muscular and lithe, by the way he moved.

The dark and robed man stood, inclined his head. I watched him leave.

"I thought that conversation might satisfy your curiosity, T’Kel Janarl." When my attention returned to Quinn, the Unspoken was turned around in his chair, staring right at me. A casual smile on his face.

Quinn raised his finger to his lips and smiled, "Shhhhh."

I was such a fool! I tracked so that he could lure me here into this nest. Now I knew how Domaldi felt: that man could manipulate the wind it seems.

I approached closely but remain standing. I gestured to the door but as a question, not intending to speak until he did.

I believe now that he had allowed me to track him with difficulty to think I had the upper hand. I believe he had orchestrated my arrival and "successes" in finding this place. I am an open book and cannot out-manipulate, cannot beat him at guile. It was Domaldi's folly not to trust him. It will not be mine today. Later I will not trust him again for he is a true sharproot bulb: too many layers! Right now I swim in a whirlpool: I will swim with the flow, not against. It was the darkman who spoke of my tribe and of Quinn's "relative". For the moment I will trust in that. He cannot intend obvious harm for that has never been in his character and would have been easy up until here. He wants me for some plot, I will accept it for now.

Quinn made a look with his face that looked like a shrug. He got up and walked away. It looked as though he moved casually, but he was quick. He moved in the direction of the barbarians at the gaming table, the opposite direction taken by the robed man.

I went to follow the darkman.

That was when the bar fight broke out. I tried to clear my way out rather than get caught in that mess. Since it was getting worse, I tumbled out the window to the main deck. I land in front of a hunting half-orc who I let pass. I notice the Darkman escaping on a boat so I continue to tumble into the water. I swim after the boat but was unable to catch up. I found another boat was chasing as well and it overtook me. I allowed it to pass over me like a wave and hitched a ride on it to shore. By the time my ride made it to shore, my prey had escaped. The half-orc I had previously seen was on board the second boat. He was clearly upset by this failure as well to find the Darkman. I revealed myself and tried to convince him that we seemed to walk the same path. I searched the boat and found some soil from outside the city.

The half-orc’s name was Durgen and he had been hired by a merchant to find a kidnapped boy named Bastin. Durgen stated the Darkman was a Zealot of the One called Zahan Zehaun. I explained to Durgen about the conversation I had heard between Quinn and Zahan that detailed a shipment of masks at the Billy Goat Cross at the Owl Watch.

Durgen and I found hiding places to watch the meeting. Unfortunately, while I was able to find an excellent perch, Durgen was no so capable. A man came out to the cross and spotted Durgen hiding and said, “Are you Rivven’s men?” He emerged and said, “I am not”. The mystery man went behind the fountain and emerged as a wererat. Durgen was suddenly surrounded by dire and wererats. As I poured arrows on to them, Durgen fell. With the Scorpion’s Tail, I was able to dispatch all but the three wererats. Their leader called a truce with a knife at Durgen’s throat. He said that he was not pleased to have lost this night’s business but clearly we had ruined it as we were not Rivven’s men. He said that “someone like me” should know Donavan. He told me not to cross the Grizzen Guild. They left and I went to Durgen.

I carried him to the nearest temple to heal him up. My heart sank when I saw it was a Street Mission of the One. I wanted Durgen healed: my pride and my misgivings I put aside. These snakes slithered and used their forked tongues with their message: they were for everyone but it cost me all my gold to heal our festering wounds.

Durgen recovered and we returned to the Gaff and Bailey where he had learned of Zahan Zehaun. We noticed that the shoppe next door sold masks. We later learned from a halfling merchant named Bobble that its owner was an odd man named Donavan who had been missing for a week. We waited in the Gaff and Bailey for Kelly, the Orindian night manager. We had tea with him while he explained he was looking after the Shoppe. We went into the Shoppe and I began to understand. Donavan was an expert in masks and an extensive collector of every mask of which I had ever heard. He had an old T’kel mask he must have found in a swamp. He had done extensive research into my people. Kelly said he had left a week ago to find my people on the other side of Lake Dakar. It would seem he had