Feb. 18th, 2013

Twenty-Two

Feb. 18th, 2013 12:12 pm
“I paid his asking price for a pair of them!” Tyrol says, which tells me just how good a price it must have been. “I recognized that sometimes some flexibility is required in these matters. He wasn’t directly competing with legitimate merchants, not really. He didn’t want to stick around. It seemed like the best thing to do for all involved was to help speed him on his way. I brokered a deal with some established merchants in good standing to buy him out and then helped him purchase a steed.”

“I’d wager you even escorted him right to the gate,” I say.

“He was in a hurry to leave, and I saw no reason to keep him,” Tyrol says. “I might have been less hasty if I’d known there was any connection between him and the disappearance of our customs man, but at that point I’d only received a report that he appeared to have derelicted his duty.”

“Just out of curiosity, did Heizer leave by the eastern gate?” I guess.

“He did.”

“I suppose that was the nearest exit handy.”

“No, he asked to be directed that way,” Tyrol says.

“Right,” I say. I’m sure you’ve noticed what I was driving at, dear one, but I don’t mention that this explodes the theory that his newfound “freedom” had come from escaping the east. It’s such an obvious thing that Tyrol must be choosing to ignore it, and it’s hard to puncture that kind of studied ignorance. I’ll need to have some more facts in my possession before I attempt it. “Well, I have some ideas… or some ideas of where to find ideas. I’ll need to take a look around. I’ll start with the pool you told me about. I’ll need to inspect one of Heizer’s boxes. Could you have it sent around to Bel’s bakery, off the square?”

“Absolutely out of the question,” Tyrol says. “You may come around and examine it under my supervision, this afternoon sometime after the bell tolls two but before it tolls four.” He looks me up and down and seems to be struggling to categorize me in some way again. “Do not use the front door.”

“You’re the boss,” I say.

“And do not forget that!”
I pick out west and head in that direction, swiftly finding the wall and then the gate. It stands open, though attended by guards. I touch the brim of my hat as I sweep past them. If they remember seeing me leave, they’re less likely to want a conversation when I come back in.

The well-worn footpath is easy enough to spot. I get my first real look at the local geography outside the town walls. It is indeed up on a sort of bluff. We seem to be on the edge of a hilly territory, in the foothills of some old and gentle-looking mountains that are probably not the ones that Heizer hailed from, unless this world is very small indeed.

The footpath leads down into what looks like a river valley, with no sign of the river. It’s probably still going strong underground. Some ancient cataclysm shifted things somewhere further upstream. It’s unlikely to be related to the current trouble, unless that cataclysm buried something that’s been working its way free. That’s plausible, but it doesn’t strike me as likely. The aldic dirge points to some connection with Heizer and his boxes.

The pool is easy to find, and would have made an idyllic and picturesque spot if not for the fact that the trees and plants around it seem to be in an unseasonable state of wilt. All the greenery that you would expect to spring up around a ready source of clean water is there, it’s just… not green.

Not a lily, not a cattail, not an inch of algae grows in the water itself, which only heightens the impression of being clean and fresh. It’s not just clean, it’s sterile. So clear, I can look down and see the bottom like I’m looking through a fine glass window.

Still, as I look down on the scene, I feel that same itching apprehension of dread I’d felt when I looked into the bucket. I can see nothing in the water to explain it, nothing at all.
I go back to town feeling stymied once again. I’d expected to come away with something more tangible, some concrete notion of what the matter might be. I’ve gained some information, but no solid answers.

My trip to the pool did confirm that the water is definitely wrong, possibly lethally wrong… it might not be poison, but it is somehow inimical to life rather than sustaining it. Animals know better than to drink it, people feel silly and drink it anyway. They only stopped going to the pool so the wrongness wouldn’t be staring them in the face, but they still use the well.

I spend some time wandering the lanes of Peram, simply observing. Despite my mode of dress I am very good at blending into the background when I wish to. I can disappear into the crowd even when there isn’t much of a crowd, as is the case here and now.

A lot of the people who are abroad during the day look pale or sickly. They shade their eyes from what is a rather mild sunlight. Much of the town seem to be late risers. That’s a contrast to the barflies… possibly because they drink less water? It takes water to make beer, but Peram is a trade town. It might not all be local. It might have been put up before the well went bad. It might be that whatever’s in the water is something that alcohol can kill.

Bel seemed to be in better shape than the late risers, and she said she boils her water. Wherever her family had originally been from, they were ahead of the curve on a few things at least. If boiling can disinfect the water, maybe alcohol could, too.

Of course, it’s still an open question whether boiling makes a difference. I resolve to make a few experiments to try and see.

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theonecalledwander

June 2013

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