Tales of the Sea Bitch (21)


    At our first night's stop, I wondered aloud if we'd considered what Tony had said the night before about the Princess bolting.  Perhaps she really had done this herself.  Did we actually have any evidence that she was abducted?  There was no sign of a struggle.  Nothing had been disturbed.
    Mwa compared the two notes from Niban carefully, the first from Himitsu's room, then the supposed abduction note.  As far as she could tell, the chops were the same, either the same one or an excellent forgery.  The writing style was different, but that could be different mood or hurriedness or something rather than what we would expect, written by different people.
    I suggested that Phoebe compare the aura of the notes.  The sense from the first one is very much what the letter said, but not very strong emotion.  The second note has stronger emotions attached.  It is a sense of deception and perhaps a tinge of exasperation.
    Tony pointed out that if she staged this kidnapping and pointed the finger at Niban, then escaped, she could regain some honor.  The other thing is that the two people who knew this were the older maid, and Shinjo Gidayu.  The latter could be doing this for exactly this reason.
    Either way, Niban was likely to end up dead unless we can clear his name.  The whole situation was looking really bad for Phoenix too.
    Grieg said that if we went to the village and the princess wasn't there, then that would help clear Niban.
    I said that wasn't going to happen.  If she staged this -- or, as Tony said, someone else did -- then they were going to be at the Nightingale village anyway.
    Grieg said he could poit ahead of the princess and see if she arrived as a prisoner or not.
    Phoebe had an object of Niban's, and decided to go spirit walking to see if she could find him.
    I liked Grieg's idea.  I'd have liked to see the princess the night before they staged the arrival at the village.  I suggested he take someone who could see in the dark... like me, for example.
    Grieg looked to Miwa for approval.  She nodded.

    We walked off into the bushes to leave out of sight of everyone.  At least there wouldn't be any rumors about the two of us doing something else in the bushes.
    The good thing was that I didn't think they'd be hiding their camp on the road, not expecting anyone to catch up with them.  So while they'd have guards, we should be able to spot their camp.  They might even have a fire or two.
    Off we went.  Grieg told me he'd take 15 minutes preparation for each jump.
    I had wondered what it would feel like, but it didn't feel like anything.  One moment I was here, then I was there.  That was it.
    Grieg had brought us in on the road, just before we crested the hill to go into the valley itself.
    It was pretty dark.  Grieg looked like he was struggling to see, so I offered to leave him here while I slipped in.  Or he could poit in if he wanted.  Grieg said he'd wait right here, and I'd find him later.
    I snuck towards the village, looking for guards.  There were no guards, nor was there anyone stirring in the village.  It didn't look like anything was going on here.  After a while sneaking around, hearing sleeping people and clearly no sign of anything strange, I went back to Grieg half an hour after leaving him.
    He'd been meditating on the next jump.  We both agreed that hopping 5 miles along the hilltops would be the best approach to start.  We'd be taking four minutes between jumps.
    We hopped hilltops.  On the fifth jump, Grieg stopped and didn't go anywhere.  We took another four minutes and tried again.  We kept going.  30 miles.  35 miles.  On into the night we poited.  45 miles.  50 miles.  60 miles.  Another stop and wait and re-poit.  We had scanned 70 miles of road in about an hour.
    We had arrived back at our own place.  Time to shorten the gap and do it between our previous landings.  I stopped trying to keep count of jumps or track of where we were.  That was Grieg's job, not mine.
    Maybe they were not on the road.  Back at the Nightingale village, Grieg asked what we wanted to do now, halve the increments again?  I didn't see any other choice, or reason not to.  I suggested we start back near our own camp and skip back from there, since they weren't that far ahead of us probably.
    Grieg suggested we hit the mountaintops and look down from there.  That seemed like a good idea.
    We poited mountains.  And then...

    ((Phoebe had a sense of how to get to Niban's spirit, but he was a long way off, longer than she'd ever tried to trek in the spirit world.
    Peter watched her.  She'd been in a trance for several hours now, and eventually Peter decided it was time to wake her up.  It took her a while, but she woke up.
    Phoebe wanted to know why he woke her up.  She was just a long way away.
    Peter said she had been gone about three hours and was starting to get dangerously tired.
    She said that if she went a long time and a long way away, she could get lost and her material body die.

    Tony had assessed the group and decided they were a rabble.  He told Miwa this, and suggested she take command if this was appropriate.  Also there should be watches posted, he said, since they could be so close to the enemy, and set our own group to the task.
    Miwa ranked second in the weird Nipponese system of honor and glory, but the one who outranked her was inexperienced.  She decided to slip herself into a position to command from the back.  She set herself up as second in command, and told him she'd take care of all the details.  So she could give the orders in his name.))

    We were in a densely wooded tropical jungle, with loud animal sounds around us.
    My initial reaction was "Cool."
    Grieg's was "Oh, shit!" and clutching his head in genuine pain.
    Suddenly I realized there was a demon sleeping about twelve feet away, snoring loudly.  It had a sword too.  I poked Grieg and gestured to move away carefully.
    We crashed through the underbrush, pretending we were quiet enough.  Even I didn't really go that quietly.
    It woke up slowly, noticed us, screamed some horrible sound which woke up his friends scattered through the trees around us.
    We ran.
    That's when I noticed I couldn't see colors.  It was pitch dark.  Poor Grieg.  Maybe I could come back for him later.  The creatures looked like they could see in the dark too, and that wasn't at all good.

    I ran through the woods for a while and realized I wasn't being followed by anyone or anything.  I stopped and climbed the nearest tree.
    Back the way I came was the sound of... giggling?  Insane laughter perhaps.
    Time to work my way back carefully and stealthily.

    There were seven of them.  They were in a rough circle around Grieg, who was stumbling in the dark with them all around him.  The creatures were laughing and poking and pushing him.  It was clear he couldn't see them, but they could see him fine and were playing with him.
    They had eyes.  If they had eyes, they could be shot in them.  But they were dancing around and too unpredictable, so I couldn't make the perfect shot.  I could still shoot if necessary, though.
    I came to a stop about ten yards away.  I stood to take my shot and aim.

    It wasn't a good chance, but I had to make an impressive shot.  I took careful aim and shot for an eye.
    The arrow struck home, straight into the eye.  It fell down, and I shouted "Run!" and took off as fast as I could.
    They didn't come after me.  That's very odd, don't you think?  But they were still poking and prodding and playing with Grieg.
    They didn't notice, apparently.  I could get there for another shot.  So I did.
    My second arrow struck home too, but not as hard.  Nevertheless he fell down.
    This time I said nothing, but waited ready to run.  No chasing.
    Third arrow, a hit again but not hard enough.  It screamed, holding the arrow.  The others stopped and looked in my direction.  I ran as fast as I could, with them all coming after me.
    After a while they were still chasing me, but had fallen behind.  Now that there was some distance between us, I tried working my way back to Grieg very stealthily.

    Grieg was wandered around blindly.  I could hear them behind me, slowly working their way back towards their toy.  We started out quietly, but Grieg couldn't manage it in the dark.  We switched to fast.
    They were still following our general direction, tracking us rather than chasing us.
    I asked Grieg how long it would be until he could poit us out, but he didn't know.  Not yet, anyway.
    After ten minutes we reached an overgrown temple.  It had obviously been here for a really long time.  It didn't look like a temple to a happy god.  It was dark and nasty, and the doors were shut anyway.  No way was I going in there.  I told Grieg, "Old temple.  Not going in.":
    So I dragged Grieg around and away.

    After a while, the creatures fell way behind.  We kept moving, several times we stumbled around over rough ground.
    About three hours later, Grieg said he was ready to jump again.  We were a very long way from where we started.  I told him to take as long as he needed.  He said he'd take half an hour now, and between jumps.
    It took us four jumps, as far as Grieg could go, to get us back to our camp.  We appeared on the road, roughly where we left.

    We walked into the camp from behind the bushes as it was starting to break.  Grieg was wounded with stab marks all over his body.  I wasn't exactly in great shape myself.
    Phoebe came to greet me.  I said, "Seven chaos beasts, three arrows, three eye shots.  A hell of a lot of jungle.  I'm going to sleep on the wagon."
    I have a vague memory of Phoebe healing me while I lay there, passed out from exhaustion and jungle scratches.

    ((Grieg was wounded, fatigued, and running a fever.  Phoebe and Peter both worked on him, but whatever was wrong with him was beyond their abilities.  This was a rough disease, obviously, some kind of rotting disease they hadn't seen before.  They thought they could cure it eventually, but at the moment all they could do was relieve the symptoms and help him sleep.))

    Later that day I also came down sick with the disease.  Perhaps it was the temple.  Thank goodness we didn't go in.

Glossary of people who might be important at the Winter Court.

Otomo Yoroshiku - Emperor's Niece, second in line to the throne behind the Emperor's son.
Hida Yauta - Yoroshiku's maid servant, the big one.
Kitsu Saia - Yoroshiku's maid servant
Kakita Nantoko - Yoroshiku's maid servant

Mirumoto Hansu - Yoroshiku suitor, Dragon Clan
Miyara Sanru - Yoroshiku suitor, Phoenix Clan

Miyara Ryuden - Yoroshiku suitor (sorta), Phoenix Clan

Miyara Ujimitsu - Phoenix Champion, Miwa's father
Miyara Himitsu - Young man traveling with Ujimitsu
(wispers are he'll be the next Phoenix Champion)

Shinjo Gidayu - Unicorn daimyo who started your previous journey

Isawa Tomo - Elemental master (of Earth ?)

Asako Kagetsu - Your host at Gisu Palace

Koan - Shugenga from the village of Nightengale

Shosuro Tage - formost actree of the Imperial troupe

Hiruma Usigo - ranking Emerald Magistrate, just retired, headed for
monastery in spring