(After Ting Ting's Gambit, Book 3 Run 10)
Takanata, Shen-Ji, and Wei Han head out to look at the village where Wei Han grew up. Wei Han brings some extra supplies.
- You head into the northern border hinterlands, and wander around for a while. There's a large area where Wei Han thinks the view of the mountains is close to right, but all the lower bits are all well-terraced, not rolling hills, and there's no small village there; there's a larger town a few miles beyond. There's a lot of villages, and some larger towns, but none of them look right.
"I'm sorry, Sirs, this may take more time. Could it really have been so long that the hills themselves are different?"
"I would take any suggestions you have. The only thing I can think of is to go to that town ('there's a larger town a few miles beyond'), look around, and sleep on it. Maybe we can find somebody there who knows about the history of the area, or a painting of how it looked long ago."
Shen-Ji: "Asking around in town is probably a reasonable thing to try. I suggest having Takanata perhaps ask around as someone interested in the history of this area or such as one possibility..."
Takanata happily makes a Gather Information/Gossip roll about the history of the area, but gets zero successes. (If I can add Art History 'cause I'm looking for a painting of how it used to look, then I get one.)
- Apparently, your sheer impressiveness cows the locals into a lot of bowing and "my lord"ing, but doesn't lure them into gossip.
- There's not a lot of antique art in the area, though when you make it clear that you're looking for some, you're introduced to an elderly stonecarver.
Grace with Gather Information after Takanata-sama settles for the evening: 10 7 5 - Two successes
- Bandits have been very bad this spring and winter. And the Northerners have been more trouble than usual.
- Longer ago than that? Well, eight summers ago was a terrible drought, bad for the herds and the crops both, bad enough that they actually didn't have to pay taxes!
- Longer ago than that? Actual history history? Well, did you know, this used to be part of the Qin Chao Steppes? Many hundreds of winters ago, it was! But there was a feud between a clan here and a clan there, or maybe the other way around, and it came to blows, and then to battles, and the Steward's men, no, well, it would have been the King's men then, they took all this land in recompense.
Takanata happily chats with the stone carver for a while, to see what sort of work he does. (I'm expecting he's more a practical worker than an artist, but I'm fine just talking.) While he does ask a little about how long the guy's been working here, and if there are any examples of older stonework around, he doesn't really push the matter.
- He makes little luck tokens and netsuke and statuettes in addition to more practical things like inkstones; Takanata doesn't think he's a brilliant artist or anything, but he's clearly a very good craftsman with a decent sense of aethetics. He's lived here all his life, and if you're interested, can point out some examples of some of the nicer carving work on the older buildings. The central plaza in the town has some nice embedded colored stones in the ground, in a geometric pattern.
- As you're wandering around the town, he looks at Wei Han a couple of times, a little puzzled, then seems to come to some conclusion.
Takanata will look at the old buildings and the patterns on the ground, and make an artist roll at them to think about how old and how interesting they are, and whether they remind him of anything from elsewhere.
- Your guess is the plaza stones were put in as the town was starting to expand from "village" to "town"; some places have been repaired with newer stones. You'd guess that they're three or four hundred years old. The older buildings are about that old, as well.
- Most of it is not particularly artistically inspired, though there's one building, the upper cornerstones of which have some more impressive grotesques. The plaza stones are like hundreds of other plazas throughout the Empire, more in the rocky areas than the lush verdant ones; the buildings are a little more "Roof of the World"ish.
Takanata buys a luckstone. Preferably either a butterfly, or an aquamarine waterdrop, but if neither of those is available he picks something pretty.
- You can get a butterfly; nothing as valuable as aquamarine, more like polished common stones.
He doesn't particularly try to figure out what the guy decided about Wei Han.
Wei Han: At some point when Takanata seems occupied, take him aside. "I think I have some long-lost ancestors from somewhere in this area. I'd be grateful for anything you might know, or remember, which could be relevant."
- "You remind me of someone I served with in the Dragon Army, the northern infantry, when I was young. He said he was from around these parts, and used to complain about how it had all gotten built up - I thought he might be your grandfather?"
Do I remember serving with a younger version of this man?
- Yeah, if you look at him carefully, he could be the grandfather of one of the rookies you served with a couple of years back.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he were related, Sir. "Wait... are you Ting Mat? As a recruit on the west end of the Wall, noticed the training weapons a trooper left out and brought them in before the storm hit... without ever telling the commander? You made an impression on the better troopers that night. "The man I looked like, did he say anything more specific about where around here he was from?"
- The stonecutter looks rather boggled. "Cheng Mat, yes, sir. Your grandfather told you something about... me bringing things in out of the rain? I would have thought he had more interesting adventures to tell than that. He said... he was from some village around here somewhere? But I guess it had been flooded out or something, it wasn't there any more."
"I suppose having someone pick up your mistakes is a bit more important to the person who would have been disciplined for leaving the training weapons out to get rusty. Look at it this way: you had the good sense to do it, rather than ask if you should, and you didn't make a big deal about it later. That's rare in as new a recruit as you were then.
- (He's starting to get an odd look on his face.)
- "It wasn't like I was ever a very good soldier. I suppose being good at picking things up might have seemed really noteworthy...? But that was a long time ago, sir, and I hardly remember it myself."
"Hm. So what I want is an old map, which might show which villages around here flooded out. Probably a very old one. You wouldn't know where I could find that around here? Or maybe an old picture or carving from before the place was built up?"
- "Tsing Fu, the scribe might have some maps. I don't know how old they are - he's a young man himself. I don't know any old carvings other than the ones I've already shown you."
- He pauses for a moment or two, and then looks at Wei Han with a softer look.
- "If you'll forgive an old man his foolishness, I think your grandfather would be proud you were following in his footsteps, regardless. It doesn't matter where he was born, it matters what he did. Burn money for him in the World Beyond, keep a shrine for him in good order, give him healthy great-grandchildren, and that's all he'll need."
"What he did? I'd enjoy hearing some of those stories over a few drinks tonight, if you're interested. You'd be surprised what gets lost over time... I'll buy. Besides, you probably know the good places around here. "But before that, perhaps you could introduce us to Tsing Fu and help me give him an idea what I'm looking for."
- He tries to demur about the beers - he really doesn't have any stories worth telling, but he clearly doesn't feel very comfortable saying no to such important people, and you can buy him a drink. He does seem to be correct that he doesn't have any very interesting stories - he got in some fights against Northerners, he didn't die, some of his friends did, but it was a long time ago. Sergeant Shen did some drills with them, but he didn't actually fight in his troop or anything, though he knows Sergeant Shen was one of the guys in the heavy infantry battalion and it saw a lot of action, and it (obviously) protected the Empire from the bad guys.
- He'll introduce you to the town scribe, but he's a little fuzzy on exactly what you're looking for.
- "I think the captain is looking for a map of where his grandfather was born?"
- Not unsurprisingly, the scribe asks where your grandfather was born.
Tell the scribe that my ancestors came from what was then a small town, on the Roof of the World side of what was then the border, somewhere near here. The stories I know say that the town didn't really have a name, it was too small. Apparently it got flooded or otherwise destroyed a fairly long while back, too.
- He has maps at all sorts of scales, from local area to Roof of the World sized to Empire sized. However, he points out that if you are looking for something too small to have a name, what you want is something that is keeping track on the level of "there are four houses here". You probably don't want a map for that level of detail, you want tax rolls and census records. Those may even give you names.
Look closely at the maps for later.
"Takanata-sama, I don't think I have any authority to look at that. Do you?"
"I have no official position that would allow me to look at such things in the Roof of the World, no. But I do not believe tax rolls or the census are private information."
We go to look at whatever census and tax information is available without having to go to the Hidden City. GMs, what happens when we do?
- That's jumping ahead a little more than we would prefer, especially as "everywhere that isn't the Hidden City" is a little broad.
- We will start for you with an Int roll with bureaucracy.
- (Takanata) Successes: 4
- You can think of a couple of places you might try:
- The lord of the clan that officially rules this area might have census/tax records for this area. You can find out who that is without much trouble.
- The Steward's people in the Reflected City probably have some census/tax records for the whole country. Takanata's guess is that these may go back farther, but have less fine-grained detail, so it may depend on what date you are looking for.
- Takanata will also realize that while tax returns/census are not *secret* information, they are probably also not records which are open to the public to wander around in.
- Where would you like to go and what would you like to say to them?
Let's go talk to the tax collectors of the local clan lord. The story is simple: "My ancestors are from a very small town in this border area. At some point, it got flooded out and abandoned; I'm trying to find it. The family tree's a bit muddied, so I don't know how far back that was, but if we could find some likely areas we will leave to see if there are any clues there."
I figure that if we get a likely place or two, we'll go there and I will see if I remember any of it. If we get no likely places, perhaps we should lay this aside until I remember more.
If this is in the Steppes, I'll also try to see if I can talk to whichever lower-level bureaucratic official is involved for a while about Master Zhou's homework: a low-status official whose allegiance is to the Kingdom or Empire in the Steppes is someone whose viewpoint I'm missing. If there's any issue with taking his time, have that discussion over a dinner I pay for. Or maybe Takanata pays for until I get a couple li from Merit, depending on how thin my purse has become. :> The whole incident where the border was moved is a good starting point for the discussion, since it's about friction between Empire and Kingdom.
- With Takanata along, you can get an appointment with a tax clerk of the local clan.
- He doesn't seem to think this is a totally crazy request, but does ask, with some puzzlement, what you expect to find in a village that is not there any longer?
An old shrine, stories from people living nearby... I won't know until I find it.
- He kind of thinks that if the village isn't there any more, there *won't* be people living there with stories, but... far be it from him to argue with these gentlemen.
- When was the last date you know it was inhabited?
int+memory to try and remember more of the conversation with the younger version of the person who said the village had flooded out.
- Yeah, you kind of remember the conversation now - it was during leave, when he was talking about going home to see a girl. You said you were from around there, but the last time you went home, the village wasn't there any more. The two of you figured it was probably a flood, as the spring floods down from the mountains can get pretty dire, and there was some commiseration.
- (You can deduce that the conversation was order 40-50 years ago, but during that conversation, the village was already gone. When the village was still there, or when you first saw that it was gone, didn't come up in the conversation.)
That's hard to tell. The stories I know are very muddled about the time frame and number of generations involved. I know it was gone 50 or 60 years ago. It being a flood... that's just a guess.
- "So... villages in these holdings, paid taxes last between fifty and, say, eighty years ago, then were taken off the rolls but not marked as delinquent?"
Yes, although it could have happened more years ago than that. A description of the area, wherever it is, about 50 years back had it completely terraced in a way which isn't compatible with the original town.
- He looks more confused. "You have a description of the location from fifty years ago, when the village wasn't there any more? Can't you go by that, then?"
Wei Han massages his forehead a moment, like he's getting a headache. "Tried that. Didn't get better than 'somewhere in this area'" He'll describe the area we found best he can, incorporating names and information from the maps we looked at earlier.
- "Do you know what it was called?"
"It wasn't big enough to have a name."
- From your description, he can find the approximate place you're talking about on one of his maps. "Okay. So somewhere around here (tapping the spot on the map)... you want to know the last time there were a couple of mud houses in this area? This looks to be in the north runoff from the terraces, so I can tell you now, probably every twenty, thirty springs, you'll get someone building something, last another five springs, fifteen with luck, before it gets flooded out."
Wei Han sighs. "Takanata-sama, perhaps we should stop wasting this man's time. I can try again when I know more, but it sounds like there will be possible villages every 50 years or so however far back we go, with no way of knowing which one's right and even less chance of finding anything relevant."
After we've left, when we're alone "Takanata-sama, Master Yang, the village I came from lasted more than five or fifteen years, which means it predates the terraces. I don't think we're going to get more clues unless I remember more.
Takanata: "I think, Sergeant, that you should consider the possibility that the village was long enough ago that the records no longer exist. And consider whether you will find anything there that still matters, even if you did locate the place."
"And that said... I'd like to get a drink or two. No, I take that back, once we get to the Circus and you are safe I'm going to get drunk. I think I've figured out why I forget things. Think of the old man, the one you bought the jade carving from. I remember him when he was a raw recruit, wet behind the ears. What am I supposed to say to someone who's gotten old, and I haven't?"
Takanata: "What would you say to a man who had lost a hand, when you had not? Most likely, you would simply not speak of it. Simply do the same.
"But perhaps a night of excess will help you to accept what cannot be changed."