I started with the harder side of my investigation, the Rising Stones. It took some coordination, but I managed to get both the Scions and Cid's team to sit down for a meal.
To be honest, I didn't need all of them, but it's also a way to thank them, since I can't put it into words. For all the praise they heap on me, they don't realize how much greater their own accomplishments are.
What I made was a stew--I decided while scavenging Thanalan for ingredients. I wanted to give them as much of "me" as possible, despite not knowing much myself. It's an unusual recipe, but it felt right--my Archon loaf, I think.
It's hot as always, but in the end I even found the "Thanalan" garlic, being tended to by one of Hildebrand's old associates. As I suspected, it had gone wild years ago, crossbred with the local flora, and become almost unidentifiable--especially as garlic.
And yet I knew how to harvest it, how to prepare it.
And the flavor....how do you describe missing something for longer than you can remember? It's why I decided on food, and on this recipe. Of course, I'm too shy--too scared--to say all this directly. I can only hope my intentions came through.
When it came time to the actual meal....overall I'd say that it went well. It also confirmed my theory--what guildmaster Lyngsath didn't want to tell me before.
The well-travelled Scions, particularly Tataru and F'lhaminn, took the wilder flavor in stride. If they had any personal criticisms or dislikes, they hid it well.
Y'shtola and Raha reacted to the scent alone, as I predicted. I had a separate stew for Miqo'te preferences, but Raha insisted on eating the original.
I'm pretty sure he was holding his breath every time he took a bite, and I'm also pretty sure it didn't work. None of it showed on his face, but I've never seen ears wilt that far or twitch so much. I'm starting to wonder if the robe was to hide their expressiveness rather than his identity.
Alphinaud....strangely had an expression similar to Raha's. Given how smug Alisaie got after a few bites, he's been adverse to one of the ingredients for a while. Based on his tolerance and the proportions of the seasonings, I suspect it's the mustard, not the garlic, but I know he won't admit either way.
As soon as she was distracted, I swapped his bowl for the one Raha rejected--it was better received, but he gave me a look somewhere between "I'm not a child" and "Thaliak heard my prayers".
I wasn't expecting it, but both Thancred and Urianger reacted. The latter seemed like he might know the original, either by the ingredients list or recreating it during a research binge.
Thancred, on the other hand....one bite in, and he looked like he'd spotted Lahabrea's mask among the carrots. I guess the relevant culinary trends haven't changed much in the last twenty summers or so.
And then Biggs and Wedge--I think Cid told them about my investigation. Biggs seemed to catch on to my other motive, and Wedge....didn't. He spent half the bowl thinking about the taste, then proclaimed it was "just like the Chief's"--at which point Biggs not so subtly nudged him to be quiet.
As for the chief in question.....Cid had thirds. A damning confirmation on it's own, doubly so when combined with the rest of the group.
But it lines up nicely with what I've already determined.
The sparse number of the H clan, who followed a different route to safety. A guardian that could live off the land, but couldn't identify or use native plants--knowledge I (we?) gained from the Ala Mhigan refugees.
And of course, the heavy influence of the one plant he could identify, wild and far from home. A conclusion Lyngsath couldn't have overlooked, but still didn't want to say.
A Garlean. A Garlean and a Miqo'te child, in an encampment of Ala Mhigans.
A repentant wolf supporting the sheep he would've once killed or subjugated. It sounds absolutely insane, doesn't it? But it's the only explanation that fits. I don't know if he told them his real name, let alone his former allegiance, but....I know they worked together. I'm proof
that they worked together.
I suppose I should be bothered by this--most people would be, I guess--but it's more like finally scratching an itch. Besides, Garlean society may be twisted, but its individuals aren't inherently so--I know plenty of living proof already.
Still, I can't remember what he looked like, what he sounded like--and that does
bother me. I still have a lead to check, but being trapped on the cusp of realization is wearing on me.
In the meantime, an old travel picture.