Chapter VII.

7 Aug

Three guards from within the claustrum were the first to reach the fallen body and examine it for signs of life. The pursuing posse only arrived after Hegumen Tiso walked out of the gate to investigate the shooting noise that had broken the silence of the summit. What could it have been? Who was causing the loud, awful sound?

Nomb Aacn identified himself to the head of the community.

“We have been chasing a criminal fugitive who attempted to enter your fortress,” he explained. “That was a horrendous mistake on the part of one of my subordinates. He shall be punished for this act of his, because it is now impossible to question the belower he brought down.”

The mind of Tiso was working faster than that of the other abbotial.

“It is best that this seriously wounded person be carried at once into the claustrum for treatment of his injury. I have people skilled in the surgical arts who will take care of him.” He looked past Nomb at the large contingent of mounted Red Hats. “We do not have space or supplies for so many guests. There can only be a single person admitted and taken care of. That will be you, sir. The others must return to whatever shelter can be found for them in the valley, not here on Mt. Enfin. First of all, we must take care of the fallen one. Please order some equine-riders to return below while it is still twilight. Is that clear?”

Tiso turned about to watch his men pick up and carry off the unconscious body of Cacique. He followed this small group as Nomb dismissed his group of Red Hats.

I shall hunt for my daughter within these walls, the Hegumen of Zeviv said to himself as he followed the rescuers through the gate into the claustrum.

As soon as he heard the carabine’s report, Yie rushed out into the corridor. Joa and Gui soon joined him there.

“What was that?” asked the young woman.

“Both of you must stay here while I try to investigate,” her lover told her. “I will ask the Brothers guarding us first. They should know what it was.”

The Red Hats, excited and confused, were not able to tell him anything.

Yie, thinking fast, came up with a request that might be acceptable to the two.

“I must see Eter, the mechanician, at once. There is no time to lose. He can find out what the noise was better than any of us.”

Surprisingly, the Brothers guarding the prisoners were so disoriented that they accepted this proposed method of learning what the situation was.

Within less than a minute, Yie had been escorted to the door of the chamber occupied by the tiny Eter.

A knock on the door by one of the Red Hats brought no reply.

“He is not here. Perhaps the man has gone to see what the trouble is,” concluded one of the Brothers.

“But he will return,” opined Yie. “I must stay here till Eter is back. You can leave me here, I cannot run off anywhere with all the snowfall around the summit. It is impossible for anyone to flee.”

The Red Hats exchanged looks, then walked away, leaving Yie as the only figure outside the rooms of the technical.

Eter, with some knowledge of the human body, aided the medico in treating the wounded man. Guards had carried him into the personal quarters of Hegumen Tiso, who had secretly issued orders that Nomb Aacn was to be kept from entering these chambers. A chamber had been assigned to him, together with three Brothers to see after his immediate needs. He was to be watched and followed at all times, Tiso had commanded. He was not to be permitted to walk about on his own or investigate conditions concerning the other visitors within the claustrum.

It was only after the successful removal of the ball lodged in the neck of the victim that Eter had the opportunity to return to his own rooms.

“The patient needs a lot of sleep and rest,” said the medico after placing a strong soporific pill in the mouth of the injured Cacique.

Eter left, going back to his quarters with slow, tired steps. He picked up his pace when he spotted Yie standing at his door.

“What has happened?” asked the one waiting there, the fugitive.

“Let’s go in and talk,” said the short mechanician. “There is a very complicated story to relate. It will take some time.”

Once both of them were seated and the explanation began.

Yie gaped for breath as he heard the name of the Hegumen from Zeviv. He interrupted the narrator with a question.

“The Red Hat official is no longer surrounded by his mounted guards?”

“No. He is under watch in one of the office rooms of our own Hegumen. Special guest quarters are being prepared for him. He is not in a position to wander or look around on his own.”

“Could you please describe the man who was shot? I may be able to identify who he is.”

“He is large and very heavy. His hair is red and curly, and his eyes are a leaden gray.”

In an instant, Yie identified Cacique, the stage lighting designer.

“You must take me at once to your Hegumen. I can tell him who this fallen person is. And there is much that I know about the misdeeds connected with the high official who is here now. I must warn this community of the character of their visitor. He has a dangerous aura about him. All of you must know why he is carrying out his horrible hunt through the mountains in search of me and my companions.”

Eter studied the face of his new friend for a moment.

“Come along with me. This matter cannot wait.”

The two of them quickly hurried out, the small one leading the way with unbelievably speedy steps.

Hegumen Tiso sat stupefied, listening to the tale told him by Yie. Only after the latter finished did the head of the claustrum turn to his mechanician with a pointed question.

“Is this fellow making up a bizzare story to fool us into something, or is he credible in all he says? Has the governor of the Zeviv conventicle acted so monstrously toward this pair, their friends, and untold belowers? Has he become a merciless pursuer and torturer?”

Eter looked his superior straight in the eye.

“I fall on the side of belief. And there is a way to check up on him. Have the daughter brought here to you and question her yourself. Even the smallest difference in what the two say can provide ground for doubt and suspicion on your part. Then conduct your own examination of her account of what has happened. See whether these stories coincide.”

Tiso, pondering hard for a while, made an irreversible decision.

“I will have the young woman brought here. You can take Yie to your quarters and keep him there until I have use for him. For now, that is all.”

Eter and Yie rose and departed as ordered.

Joa related exactly the same series of events that Tiso had already heard. Every fact and detail matched. No more questions were needed. The truth was plainly evident for him to see and understand for himself.

The next step was clear to the Hegumen of Enfin. He had summoned Eter and gave him specific, drastic orders to carry out.

“First of all, take the most recent guest, the official, to come here and escort him down to the locked barracoon. He is to be kept prisoner there until I can arrange a trial by a united court of all the claustra of our northern zone. The charges against him will be serious ones, with grave penalties resulting from his conviction.

“Then, bring the man named Yie back to me. I have important plans to work out with him.”

These commands were carried out with rapid, unprecedented precision.

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