Saturday, January 30, 2016

From Happy Valley to Pasar

Sheng Zhu-Shi, the chief engineer responsible for building Beatriss’s fortress had supervised the laying of the foundations when a message arrived from the Emperor. Zhu-Shi was needed elsewhere. Kubla Khan was planning fortifications in the south, on the borders of his empire, near the independent city of Pasar. Two of his agents—foreigners named Sir Crowler and Prince Slash— had come to escort Zhu-Shi to his new assignment. Beatriss’s castle would have to wait.

Bayan and Bangqiu realized they could not hope to argue against the emperor’s edict. They offered to join Sir Crolwer and Slash in guarding Zhu-Shi on his way to Pasar—hoping that when Zhu-Shi finished his work in the South, they could rush him back to the Happy Valley. Bangqiu’s home village was near Pasar so he was especially eager to join the mission.

They traveled with a large caravan, including a contingent of imperial soldiers, and were joined by other travelers as they moved south. One of these travelers, a pretty young woman named Jasmine, (travelling with her stern and suspicious older brother), showed a strong interest in Slash. She often interrupted Slash as he pored over maps to ask “Whatcha doing?” Although Zhinan, an imperial guide was in charge of plotting their route, Slash was beginning to fear that they had lost their way.

Sir Crowler had also attracted an admirer—a Siamese cat that belonged to, Zhinan the guide. He had a strange intuition that the cat was other than what she appeared. One evening, he and Prince Slash went together to confront Zhinan in his tent. The cat followed them, and playfully swatted Sir Crowler’s legs as the knight angrily accused the guide of leading them astray and demanded to know who the cat “really was.” As the conversation became more heated, the cat slipped away and Zhinan finally did confirm Crowler’s suspicion—the cat was a witch in disguise.

Crowler and Slash ran to Bayan and Bangqiu’s tent— arriving in time to see the cat slipping inside. When they entered the tent, they saw the cat taking the form of a woman, standing over the sleeping Bangqiu. Crowler and Slash yelled to wake up their companions, but only Bayan was roused. Bangqiu stayed in a deep slumber. The enchantress began to wave her hands—Bayan leaped on top of her to prevent her from casting a spell, but was too late. The woman became invisible. Sir Crowler noticed the edge of the tent lifting up. Unswayed by any sentiment, Crowler drew his sword and slashed at the invisible form. They caught and killed the woman. In the day light, Bayan and Bangqiu saw her face and recognized her—she was the enchantress in the service of Red Nar. Zhinan confessed that he had been tricked by the witch and was dismissed from his position as guide.

The rest of the journey was long and hazardous—the caravan was confronted by bandits and the warrior of a rival Khan. But Crowler, Slash, Bayan, and Bangqiu successfully brought Zhu-Shi to the place designated by the Emperor. While waiting for the engineer to finish his work, the adventurers decided that they would rest in Pasar.