Vol 21 Joseaneaut's Mission

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#8. Creeping Tonberries

12/20

Leada’s keen nose caught the smell of blood as we passed through the lengthening shadow of Mount Ghelsba. The sun was setting, but I estimated that we were a mere five malm from the capital.

Trusting Leada’s gut instinct, I followed her off the road, where we found two bodies on the ground. The blood spattered in the dirt and on the trees indicated that this was the remnant of a nasty fight.

One body was that of a young Elvaan man who was, by the look of his armor, a Temple Knight.

The other was small like a Tarutaru, but with green skin and yellow eyes. I’d never seen one before, but this was clearly a Tonberry. But how did a beastman from Elshimo get so near to our noble kingdom? Leada was also giving the beastman a puzzled look.

Had the Tonberry and the Temple Knight stabbed each other? The Tonberry had fallen to the ground, still gripping a blood-soaked knife in his left hand and a broken lantern in his right.

I paused to pray for their souls, and then hurried to San d’Oria to inform the Temple Knights. I knew not the details of this odd find, but a Tonberry in the forests of Ronfaure is not to be overlooked.

Passing through the gates of the city, we headed straight for the guard post, where we explained the situation to the Temple Knights. Several of them followed us back to the site.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Only the corpse of the Temple Knight remained. The Tonberry had vanished, along with his knife and lantern.

“That wretched Goblin fiend must be to blame,” shouted one of the knights. The group drew their swords on Leada.

I tried to dampen their suspicion by explaining my mission and her role in it. The Temple Knights would not listen, nor would they believe me when I insisted that there had been a Tonberry lying on the ground. Worse still, they suspected me of lying to protect Leada and imprisoned me for the perceived offense.

Sometime around midnight, a priest from the cathedral arrived to plead for my freedom by explaining who I was and what I was doing. They released me, but they would not consent to do the same for Leada, as they had not yet found the real killer.

Now I must prove Leada’s innocence. Though I am safe in the cathedral, Leada is trapped by the cold stone walls of the Watchtower.

Goddess, shine upon this city your light of truth!

12/21

I was permitted to delay my mission’s progress report by a day so that I might have time to study the writings kept the in cathedral library and learn of the Tonberries.

Tonberries live in a temple called “Uggalepih.” They are known to have a deep and burning hatred for people. They never set down their lanterns or knives until they have died.

The records also list many instances of Tonberries being employed as very effective assassins.

That was all I could glean from the many books I read, but it was all I needed.

Could this Tonberry be an assassin? Perhaps the knight found him and attacked. But could the Tonberry have survived?

If he had, he could have sneaked into the city. Perhaps he is simply waiting for the chance to strike?

Realizing that this was a very real threat, I ran from the cathedral and began searching. I looked on Pikeman’s Way, Watchdog Alley, Cavalry Way, Ranperre Gate, Squire Alley, and Laborman’s Way. I had to find him and convince him to stop the assassination.

I ran all about the city, asking everyone I met. Alas, majestic San d’Oria is far too large.

It felt like no time at all before the sun had started to set.

Could it have all been in my head? A meaningless obsession? I sat down by the fountain on the Parade Ground as I mentally perused such a possibility.

A piercing whistle and a shout from Ranperre Gate shattered my reverie. “We’ve found the intruder!”

Temple Knights began to appear and rush across the square. I rose and followed after them.

The Tonberry stood under the gate at the entrance to Laborman’s Way, surrounded by the advancing guards. He held a broken lantern in his right hand.

There can be no doubt that he was the same one I had seen previously.

Even from such a distance, I could see that there was no escape for him.

But I could not, in the mercy of the Goddess, allow such a wanton taking of life.

I stepped forward to save him, but one of the Temple Knights grabbed my sleeve—a clear signal that I was unwelcome to proceed further. At the same moment I yanked my arm back, the Tonberry pulled something from the folds of his cloak.

A flash of red light leapt from his hand, sending a shockwave to wash over us.

This last-minute attack seriously injured four knights. No clues remained of the assassin, who his target might have been, or who had hired him. Not even a body could be found. The Tonberry had simply vanished.

In the middle of the night, the priest brought Leada back to the cathedral, but I was unable to greet her with the good cheer she deserved.

I had set out on my journey to spread the light of Altana so that I might bridge the gap that exists between people and beastmen.

But what good has come of it?

I was unable to convince the Temple Knights that even though she is a Goblin, Leada is not a murderer. I was not even able to prevent humans and beastmen from attempting to kill each other right before my own eyes.

I am worthless.

I do not think Leada is used to soft beds, as she is currently jumping up and down on hers, singing:

I took a pickaxe and I dug,
Work’d to the bone and I dug,
Shining gold, home I drug.

But from that dream, I sadly woke,
In real sweat did my body soak,
And without that gold, I am broke.

Goddess, will my mission fail to light the road to understanding for my brothers?


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