When I woke up in the next morning, there was a letter waiting for me. I stayed with Zedd overnight in a small inn on our way towards the eastern province of Ashdar's, after Cara and Kahlan had departed for the quest of the Golden Branch. The host of the inn handed over the letter.
"This came late yesterday evening. It's a pigeon that I know, but I haven't seen it for a long time. I can't tell exactly where it came from and who has sent this letter. It's addressed to Richard Cypher."
"That's interesting, really. How this person knows where to find us?"
"Yeah, really interesting", Zedd said, "Open it."
I opened the letter which was rolled in a cylinder. It read:
Dear Richard Cypher,
I wish this letter finds you in good condition. First time I got to know about you from the stories I heard in my home village. I didn't believe they were true. But when I and my friends heard more and more of them and what you have done, we started to believe that you are the only one who can save us. I ask you to find us. I know this is a big wish that you will most probably not be able to fulfil. And when you read this, it is not even certain that we are any more here. But if you accept to find us, you need to follow the signs of the rose. I can't tell you more. You are our only hope.
I was stupefied by the message. It felt like very personal in style.
"Why the person didn't sign it?"
"Maybe it's dangerous for him? Or her? We cannot know", Zedd said.
"And what kind of signs? There are no more details."
This would mean a difficult choice, I thought, when I turned the small parchment in my hands. There was nothing more, just the message on one side. The back side was yellowish and empty.
"It's also possible that it's a set-up. A trick to fool us to reveal ourselves, if we are asking around a lot. And remember Richard, we are also bound by time."
The last sentence of the letter touched me. The person writes that I was their only hope. And that final 'yours, forever'. I was shocked that somebody writes like this even he or she hasn't probably seen us ever, or that's what I thought.
"Zedd... despite everything, we must take this one. I need to know who has sent this letter and if we really can help."
"Richard, are you sure? It's your call, but think what you are possibly risking."
"I know Zedd. I'm risking time. But everything what I do is already risky. If I can help these people, at least I have done something."
Zedd looked at me and smiled.
We wondered what to do and what would be the signs of the rose that this person wanted us to see.
"Let's think about it Zedd", I started to go again over the text of the message. "The person asks us to follow the signs of the rose to find them. Who are they? What signs we should follow?"
It was pretty much a complete mystery at that point. And honestly I can still feel that same feeling, not knowing at all what would happen, how the whole thing would turn out, if this would be something useful for someone. I wondered if this would be a real, important side story to my quest or just waste of time.
We arrived at the next small town on our way, and attempted to get cautiously some insight into the mysterious signs. There was really nothing, the inhabitants couldn't help us and hadn't heard anything about this notion of signs of the rose. However, we learned that there was a rose garden in the town and decided that there would be nothing to lose if we visited it.
The garden was spacious, partly neglected park at the northern side of the town. We wandered around and admired the blaze of color. Zedd told about the different species and speculated on their origin, while I continued to speculate on the message and the signs.
"Hah, do you think, Zedd, there could be some kind of secret signs here? Signs that would be related to the letter?"
"Aah, haha. It's very difficult to believe. It's very improbable. But let's not kill the idea either."
"Signs, secret signs", I spoke just to myself, glanced over the colorful rose beds and thought about the last sentence of the letter. Me, I should be the only hope. For who?
It would have been easy to drop the whole case and continue according to the original plan. I could have thought that the letter simply cannot belong to this universe. It was too mysterious and improbable. But it was real. I touched the letter again in my pocket. It was there and it had come from somewhere, from a real person. It really appeared to be a cry for help, it sounded like that. Or was it something else? A love letter? Or a fake letter? I couldn't know if the letter was true, written with true intentions, or just with an intention to distract us, lead us dangerously astray, or simply an attempt to make us lose time.
We followed the garden's main path forward. Then Zedd stopped.
"Look. Here is something."
Zedd pointed at a wooden plate, which was half hidden inside one of the colorful rose beds, a half broken plate. On the two sides there were pieces of text that made me shiver. On one side there was the word "hope", but on the other side a half of the word that I couldn't anymore believe to be just a coincidence, namely the remaining letters read "..ker".
"No, no no, this is too strange, cannot be… or can it? Can this be a sign for us? Hope for a Seeker? Zedd, is there something special with this particular rose bed?"
Zedd looked carefully into the different species.
"Hmm, let me see. Hm… this bed is mainly of western roses, but this one, hm … Abyssinica? Is it? I didn't see it often in this region. And the plate was on that part."
"So… okay. And what would that mean? Does it give any hints where to go next?"
"I need to think. Maybe it's again those word plays we met with our Box of Times adventure. Abyssinica, abyss, sinica, what can it be?"
"Ah fine, word plays, okay, Aciniss, Nissica, ..." I searched and played with the letters, "Oh I think I got something… Csinias, I have heard this name. At least it can be formed from the letters."
"The village of Csinias is in this province and not so far from here."
"But Zedd", stream of uncomfortable thoughts came to my mind, "so far everything has been just assumptions. We don't know if we are just making everything up and this is just coincidences. We are interpreting too much."
"That's always possible, even likely", Zedd admitted smiling and I thought that yes, coincidences, interpretations, efforts to parse things up, but this how it seems to be.
I was really confused, but had to think that this was the only clue for now, to go to Csinias and look for the person or find more signs.
"Richard, there is something else. Close to this Abyssinica species, right here, there is another species, which is also not so common. It's Acicularis, the prickly rose, the wild one."
"And what about it?"
"If I remember correctly Richard, this particular rose, it's a very spiky one, is the favorite rose of certain… hm people. I think you can guess. Wild merciless people."
"Spiky wild roses? What, you are not speaking about... Mord-Siths, are you?"
"I'm afraid I am, Richard. It's their favorite flower."
"Oh no," I looked at Zedd with open eyes, "shit not again." Wherever I turned, It seemed I had to deal with these red-clad devilish women. Ok, it was obviously not anymore the case with Cara who served me, but the others.
All this felt unreal and, to be honest, our interpretations highly stretched. Things just went through my mind. If the letter was true, if we are now in a correct track, if this plate is a sign, if and if. And on top of that, we would possibly need to face again some Mord-Siths, now without the help of Cara and Kahlan.
But in any case, things being true or false, real or unreal, our next destination was clear, the village of Csinias.