Spacer The Night of Fire 13
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    "This is the village of Kishmera, at some point it was the town of Kishmera, that was a long time ago, but there's still a few of them left. Strange folk."
    "People live here? What do they do?" Melantha looked at the unpromising forest.
    "Hunting and gathering, mainly. They don't even know that there's a Grand Duke of Karameikos. Nobody ever gets back here."
    "True, we had no idea there was a village still here. We had no idea there was a village ever here," Roman told him.
    "It must have been centuries ago, judging from the ruins," Kant shrugged.
    The village was nearby, very small. The people were slightly shorter than normal, wore brightly colored checkered clothing, and stared at the newcomers. None of them wore a white cloak.
    "Welcome to our village," one of them said to Roman in a very strange accent.
    "Greetings," he returned the bow.
    "We're glad to have you. Please stay with us for as long as you wish."
    "That's very generous of you. Thank you." Later that night he asked Kant in Thyatian, "Do the villagers know about the treasure?"
    Vineleaper looked vaguely annoyed at being left out of the conversation; Kant explained to him, then replied to Roman, "We told 'em why we're here, when we came here, we figured there was something up, something guarding it. They don't know, don't seem to care. They're really strange folk, let me tell you."
    "What do you mean?"
    "They're spooky. There is the fact that they don't know anything that's happened in the modern world ever, as far as I can tell."
    "Interesting. How long have you been here?"
    "About two weeks now. We came up from Luln. We heard about this place from an old guy, so I decided to check it out. Picked up Vineleaper in Kelvin. I'm a warrior, adventurer, I've been around," he went on. "So I could really use one big break, y'know? 'Cause let me tell you, I'm gettin' too old for this."
    "I understand."
    "So how did you hear about this place?"
    He remembered that they were supposed to be there for the Singing Falls. "School."
    "You look like a wizard. Do you go to the magicians' guild in Specularum?"
    "I do. But I live in Threshold, and school's out, so rather than just hang around town...."
    "I'm surprised the place isn't crawling with wizards, actually. Do you have any idea why it does that?"
    "No. Nobody I've talked to does either."
    "Let me know when you go check it out."
    "I will. I really didn't think I'd be able to figure it out either," he said modestly. "Just wanted to see it for myself." He knew that there were sound-related magics in the world. There might even be a portal to the Elemental Plane of Air somewhere in the cliff. These theories went straight over Kant's head, of course, and he went off to talk to Vineleaper some more.
    "Are you just snowing him to make him shut up, or what's the deal here?" Nadya asked Roman later. "Mr. Hyper-Educated Man?"
    "I'm making the story good," he shrugged. "It's believable. I'm not lying, it's not like I don't want to figure out why the falls make that sound."
    The villagers began putting out the evening meal, on long tables they set up in the center of the ruins. The food was nuts and berries, honey, and other wild food.
    "I don't think I like it here," Melantha decided, looking around at the overgrown town.
    "It's better than Dog Alley," Roman replied. He had a point.
    "It's creepy," Nadya agreed.
    "At least I know Dog Alley."
    There was a long prayer to the Traladaran gods before the meal, requesting a blessing for the freikulaks of Traladara. None of them knew the word.
    Afterward, as they sat around the fire relaxing, it occurred to Nadya that it was a warm night, and the river was nearby. She could take a bath, get some of the road dust off.
    "Y'know, I think I'm going to go down and take a bath." She glanced at Melantha. "Would you like to join me?" she asked a bit awkwardly. Nadya was a very thoughtful person; she didn't want to insult or anger the woman, but keeping close company on the road had proven something of an olfactory burden.
    Melantha looked blank for a second. Bathing was not something that featured in her life. Being used to it, however, didn't mean that she wasn't willing to try a change. After examining the question carefully for possible traps she replied, "Um, okay."
    They went down to a quiet little backwater off the swiftly flowing river, where Melantha kept a watch for anything dangerous coming out of the woods while Nadya washed up. There was a bright half moon, the stars were brilliant, and with singing falls it was all actually quite beautiful.

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