Chapter 6 Interlude: Tired Denouement Medwick and his party arrived at the front gates to Barvelle. He did not expect any fanfare, but during the long journey back, the uneventful days as the ground underneath them changed from green to frozen white, the daydream of accolades, women (actually, scratch that), praise, and recognition had grown in him to something he could almost believe. So he felt slightly disappointed when he had to hail at the secret gates, and show his passport to the guard. His confusion mounted as he was taken by a page through the tunnels, clutching the waterskin with the Libras inside close to his chest. In his head, he imagined reporting to his council, announcing his return, telling of his journeys, unwrapping the Sphere and triumphantly showing it before the General Assembly. He would be vindicated, and single-handedly secure the future of Pegulis. When Medwick entered the chamber, he found the inner council in plain dress, sitting in chairs dragged into the chamber, on the other side of a simple table. He had never seen them in their cloak and masks, so did not find it strange. "Welcome home, Sage Medwick." Between Shardis and Medwick, they recounted their journey to the council; the golems, the ghoul sage, the plague, the Chersonese, Viridos, Teadoir ("Worst part of the journey"), and finally the relic. "The Ghoul Sage intercepted your letter." "He paid us a visit." "Cautioned us against Divine Weapons." "Nearly half of the Assembly wanted to pull you back." Medwick's answer startled them. "I am not surprised." He opened the waterbag to show the Libras Sphere. It had turned the water blood red, filling it with microscopic particles of rust. Each member assumed their own personal expression of pensiveness. Michel pushed a finger deep into his forehead, Helena leaned back in her chair, and Arktus folded his arms into his hanfu. "A Divine Weapon." Helena and Michel leaned closer. Arktus gazed at it with a certain disinterest. "A Divine object." "An old god's tool." The Calm Sage leaned forward and peered into the sphere with its mixing concentric colours. "Don't give it any more credit than it is due." "Libras' tool." Michel pinched his nose bridge. He seemed to like poking parts of his face when he was deep in thought ("To massage out the old age."). "The Cataclysm is just far enough for our records to be unreliable. We know that prior to it, the inhabitants of Sunne were largely the same as they are now. In some of the texts that esteemed archaeologists like yourself have excavated from deep caverns, or far north where the Ursani dwell, we can deduce that Libras was -" "That doesn't make any sense." Helena flicked Michel on the forehead. "The creation myth says that Libras is the God responsible for filling up the Prosperos Sea. They say that he was in possession of the Allsource. In fact, the Allsource is Libras, and Libras is the Allsource. His human form was only an avatar given to him by the sphere. When he died, he filled us with knowledge just as he filled up our world with water." "Ridiculous. You can't rely on oral tradition. Relics that survived the Cataclysm are the only records we should rely on." "And how can you even be sure of that? Oral tradition is strong when unblemished. We are not that far from the sundering. Look." The bag overflowed gently, blood-red water tracing rivulets around the floor. Arktus gave Medwick an apologetic smile. They would go on for hours. ~ In the end, they did not come to an agreement about the god Libras. Medwick left with little more than he entered. He stood up and reached for the bag, but froze when all three pairs of eyes set upon him. Water still trickled from the top. A minute - or more - passed in silence. He awkwardly released his hand, gave them a Pegulian salute, and walked from the chamber. They resumed arguing even before the doors completely shut. Later, he sat around a table with 'Caoimhe' ("...") and Shardis. He picked uncomfortably at the fresh robes, battered red sash sitting on his shoulders in stark contrast. "When we left Barvelle, it was a pretty auspicious day. Our caravan was large - we had all the supplies we needed, we had all the experts and security we wanted, and I even had a letter from the Archon in my pocket! I was supposed to use it if we ran into trouble crossing the borders - documentation with the official Aldus [n.b. Aldus and Pegulis are synonymous to outsiders] seal." He showed it to them - nothing more than a tattered, sun-bleached piece of parchment now, the writing long leached away. "We're back now. We did our job. Did we get all we wanted to? No! I'm back with what I started with. Nothing I've done out there will help me in Pegulis. Dressing and roasting wild rabbits, evading rogues, suffering from some ilium-forsaken disease, and nearly having my throat ripped out by a giant predatory goldfish - how have we grown or gained from any of those experiences? We retrieved a Divine Weapon for Pegulis - so what? They took it away, squirreled away - probably to throw it into a vault, locked down by portents spoken from a wrinkled mouth older than age." "The founding ideals of Pegulis are - supposedly - democracy and passing on knowledge. Neither of those helped us out there. I had to force us to take directions many times. I had to impose my decisions on the rest of you. There was no time to explain what I wanted to do - I knew what was best and had to act fast for our sake. Sitting down to talk about it like educated adults wouldn't have accomplished anything. No one likes foreign diggers sifting through their own history. We couldn't even tell them we were pursuing a Divine Weapon - they would have flayed the blood from our bones. Democracy wouldn't have saved us from Teadoir." Medwick slumped onto the table. Life outside the ivory tower had changed him. A nascent idea swirled in the back of his mind. An idea ... ... that perhaps he knew better than most people around him. Whump. His bench jostled. Medwick could never forget that smell, that faint scent of herbs, soured kresnik, and donkey musk. "What," he began, "are you..." "GLYPH!" 'Caiomhe' leaped over the table, arms outstretched. She did not quite make it, but still managed to wrap her arms around the grizzly bard. "Ay-yay-yay, feygela!" Yellow nails and taut, browned skin combed her hair. "If I had a daughter like you, perhaps I could finally die happy!" "Glyph?" Shardis' tail nervously swished to and fro. "Glyph, you can't be here without the papers! The guards will come! Glyph ... !" "Yes, of course, that is the problem, dear sister." For the time being, Medwick was re-infused with his sense of duty, and he stood up with both palms on the table, pulling 'Caoimhe' away. "You are a Kaustrian. You are not supposed to be here." "Lucky me!" Glyph withdrew an authentic, if not worn, passport from his robes. "A ganif sold me a new face." The colour drained from Medwick's face as the bard tamped his pipe. "There are many maps at the border, Medwick. Many maps. The klots spreading them around has been sent on ... vacation. All expenses paid by Lut Sar ("Lut Who?"), I hear. But many remain who are eager to book travel, for a heavy enough pursesack. I had an easy time, yes, but then again, I like to travel ..." "Tell me ..." He inhaled deeply from his pipe. "Can you smell the kresnik?"