The nurse leads you to Flame’s bed, and shows you in, then steps out. Flame himself doesn’t seem to be in an especially good mood. Well, who is on a night like this?
“Do you know Theletian?” you ask, holding up the papers.
Badger won’t appreciate you asking, but saving Marian might depend on the answer. So, you’re not wasting time.
“I haven’t used it in a long time,” he replies grimly. There’s a bit of a judgmental glare towards Badger.
“Well, maybe you know enough to tell me what this story is about.” You hand the papers to him. “I have a friend who speaks a little, but not enough to make sense of it.”
Flame glances at Badger.
“Is this important?” he asks.
“It could be. But the main reason I’m here is to tell you about something that’s definitely important.”
He holds up the spellbook.
“We found this in the hostel. You’ll recognize the title, I’m sure. And she confirmed our theory about it.”
Flame nods. Then he turns his gaze back to you.
“Well, then. I’ll take a look at this story of yours.”
Badger helps him with the pages – you just noticed that his hands aren’t in great shape. You feel a little bad for that, but only a little, considering what Flame’s done on the whole.
“Could you sum up what your friend told you?” he asks. “Just so I know where to begin.”
“He said the title translates to Distilling for Rodents or the like,” you reply. “He wondered if it might be some kind of pejorative term for novices. Beyond that, he could only make out common words, and one Theletian proverb.”
“The kingdom will survive the storm, but the stones will outlive the kingdom, and the wind will blow long after the stones have crumbled to dust,” Flame replies. “That’s in here, all right, but it doesn’t make any sense in context. Then again, I suppose it would be hard for him to grasp the context if he only has a few words.”
“And that context is?”
“Let’s start with a more proper translation of the title. Abluni is a type of rodent, it’s true, but it’s also the title of a sort of folk hero. A more clarifying translation of it would be ‘The Wizard’s Apprentice’. So, this story is more or less about a wizard’s apprentice learning to distill.”
That’s close to what you’d guess.
“And is the thing they’re learning to distill wind, by any chance?”
“That… isn’t very clear,” Flame replies. “It’s certainly not any sort of alcohol, but it does involve bottles. The proverb goes right where the explanation would, which seems like very sloppy translation.”
“But shouldn’t they explain what happens at the end?” Badger interjects. “That might clarify things.”
“And that’s where I begin to suspect the mistake was actually deliberate,” Flame explains. “Because that part also doesn’t fit the lines around it. It seems the translator deliberately tried to obscure the subject of the story.”
“So, what, there’s another proverb?” you ask.
“No. It’s something else.”