Chapter 09: Avarriel

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Session Number: 121
Date: Sunday 5 February 2012
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr10 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog11 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Lionel Rgr6/Wiz1/ArcA4 (Ash) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal11 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz11 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

It is early morning. The party's next move: let Ethalyn and the SpiderKillers deal with the matre found in the goblin mine while they return to Avarriel. Feren is at Verithna's, the others are at Abbey. Troll checks on the progress of the equipment he asked to be created. The mundane goods are ready.

Troll Teleports all at Elondel except Rowaine back to Verithna's. Feren is outside, watering one of the vegetable patches. Verithna is not there.

"Where is Verithna?" Troll asks.

"I don't know," Feren says. "She was gone when I woke up. She did leave me this," he says, holding up a scrap of paper. "A list of chores to be getting on with. Wane isn't here either, so I guess they are together."

"I wouldn't mind talking to her before we go. Any idea when she'll be back?"

"This is all I got," Feren says, looking at the note. "Fetch water. Water veges. Cut firewood."

Troll neatly stacks the goods Verithna requested in her sett. Rowaine finds an axe and begins chopping and stacking wood.

A bit before lunch Wane bounds up, followed by Verithna. "You again?" she says grumpily, but the tone is not reflected in her face.

"Don't worry, we're not staying," Troll says. "I wanted to ask your permission to send some people here to investigate the spiders in the mine."

"You think there will be more? That this is not the end of it?"

"I'd like it investigated by someone."

"Could that person be me?" Verithna asks. "I have already set up a watch over the area."

"I suppose it could be. I don't want to step on your toes."

"Since you have the information on these creatures that I do not, I will leave the decision to you. If you feel that I can handle it myself, then that will be the end of it. If you like, I can send word to you. If you feel that this is beyond the capability of any one person, then I would feel it necessary to accept your help."

"I think that it would be safer to send people here," Troll says. "If anything happened to you, Verithna, no one would know. You have seen the spider that was there."

"It's still there."

"If another one turned up, could you handle it? Or if you encountered the people that set this up? What I'd like to do is send some people through to give you advice, train you up on how to deal with these creatures."

"We could supply you with a weapon or two with imithrium in it, which the spiders are vulnerable to," Arrian adds. "They are a lot easier to deal with if you have the right equipment."

"Are they susceptible to magic?" Verithna asks.

"As much as any other construct."

"What about magical weapons?"

"They are resistant to them. We can get you an ironshod staff and some sling bullets."

"If this is alright with you," Troll says, "I will send someone to help you. You can choose to send them away at a time that you think that you know enough about these creatures. Because at the moment, you are just guessing as to whether you can handle them - and so am I."

"I see the wisdom," Verithna says. "I think it would be useful to accept some help, therefore I accept. I would prefer that this not be a long term arrangement. I like the place pretty much as it is."

"You are in the territory that I consider it my job to protect," Troll says. "The planet."

"I dare say I have been on this planet a good deal longer than you, dear boy. I can look after myself."

Troll chooses to ignore the opening, showing considerable and uncharacteristic restraint. "Be that as it may, a bit of background. My family is tasked with destroying these things. It has been for some time. That is why we know about them and have access to special tools."

"Will it be a member of your family that you will be sending here?"

"No. There aren't a lot of us left. But you will be coordinating with my wife."

"You are married?" Verithna says, clearly shocked. She giggles. "I dearly look forward to meeting this woman! May I pass a message to them that will get to you?"


"Very well. Since it is your family that has been tasked with dealing with this problem, then I shall let you know."

"Do you mind if I come back and check up on you?"

"You are always welcome."

The party farewell Verithna, then Troll Teleports everyone back to Elondel. From there, they transport to Trina using the tower network. They remain in the tent figment while Troll asks Trina to fetch Ethalyn.

Troll, Ethalyn and the others discuss sending an investigative party to Verithna's lands. Lionel is sufficiently familiar with the area to identify and direct people to it. The entourage would include an advisor of some kind, to impart knowledge about the arachtria to Verithna. Ethalyn has a person in mind - Korloevinn, a stealthy SpiderKiller with a good head on his shoulders. Troll can take them there tomorrow, or they could make their own way by more mundane means - a trip of four or five days.

"It would be good for me to take another wizard with me," Troll says. "One capable of Teleporting, so they can familiarise themselves with the area and transport people in and out as required. Do you have anyone like that?"

"Not a SpiderKiller per se," Ethalyn says, "but Malek is here - a wizard from Avarriel. I feel confident I can persuade him to make a small detour."

"Did Malek bring any word from Avarriel?" Arrian asks.

"Not specifically. I sent word to Avarriel straight after the conversation with Troll," Ethalyn says. "I haven't heard anything since. I occasionally have Avarriel mages through here, and when I can I use them to carry messages, but it is not a common occurrence."

"I am cautious about returning to Avarriel," Arrian says. "If the intention was to have us turned into puppets, at some point, whoever is responsible will be be wondering where we are. Trina," he says, "how long it might take for the parasites to grow to maturity?"

"I do not know for sure, but I think it is a very short time," she replies. "It could be under a month."

"Could you make one?"

"It is not of this world."

"Could you guess what one would look like, and make one and put it in us? Not a real one, just something that looks like one - a disguise."

"You wish me to infest you with a parasite?"

"Not a real one," Arrian says.

"If it is what I think it is, then it has analogs in this world," Trina says. "I could find something that would be benign. I shall look. I know not what this thing looked like when alive. What I find may not closely resemble what this did. But I shall do it."

Arrian turns to Ethalyn. "Is there any way we could Teleport to the queen in Avarriel without others knowing?"

"You could teleport outside and send a message ahead," she says. "If you were familiar, you might Teleport inside the grounds, but I dare say you wouldn't know where the queen was… You might find yourself at the end of a spear rather quickly."

"What about Teleporting to your quarters?" Troll asks.

The palace is comprised of several separate towers, ranging between fifty and eighty feet tall. The queen's quarters and most of the main functional spaces are in the larger, central tower, surrounded in a circular pattern by the other towers. One of these is Ethalyn's. The interior of her quarters is not normally guarded, but the ground level invariably is. Feren, tutored by queen's spymaster, is reasonably familiar with the grounds but has not been inside the towers.

"We could send the least-known member of the party to your quarters," Troll continues. Ethalyn laughs. "They'd just get slaughtered! If someone unknown to anyone turns up in my quarters…" She shakes her head.

"Are the quarters warded magically?" Arrian asks.

"I don't know."

"If we want to go to palace directly," Troll says, "then Ethalyn's quarters are probably the best choice."

"I still maintain that it is dangerous to go directly into the palace, or its grounds," Ethalyn protests.

"You may have a point," Troll says. "I can see it being risky trying to slip in and see the queen secretly. I think we are going to have to do it in plain sight, and not appear out of thin air. Perhaps it might be better to seek out Elowyn, rather than the queen? Might she be easier to get to?"

Troll plans to take Korloevinn, Malek and Feren to Verithna's. He and Feren will then Teleport to a spot outside Avarriel, where Troll will leave Feren to make contact while he returns to Trina. Troll will then Teleport the others to Avarriel the following day.

Troll spends time researching the arachtria while Ethalyn assembles the remainder of the away team. Troll briefs Malek and Korloevinn about the new arachtria and the trapped matre. He brings Lionel in to pass on geographical informational, then the others to talk about their collective experience of being knocked out.

"Curious," Malek says after listening to the party's accounts. "That is a mighty magical effect. I am not familiar with a spell capable of this. For how long did this happen?"

"We don't think it was the cause of the loss of memory," Arrian says.

"Ah, a separate effect. Perhaps a separate spell? Hmmm… Well, there are various Symbol spells that can affect a group of people, perhaps it was something like that."

It is not a spell that Troll is familiar with either. "It seemed to affect us all at the same time - an area, rather than a line."

"I remember three things," says Lionel. "We got knocked out, we got Teleported, and we got something implanted in us. Separate things."

"What you say makes sense," Malek says. "It would be less costly to cast three spells than to cast one uberspell that did everything. Perhaps you weren't knocked out - perhaps you were tranquilised. What did you eat beforehand? You talked about there being a wound… I wonder whether someone gave you something in your food and they made the wounds on their way out..? I know of no such creature, just a theory…"

"We did all eat together," Arrian says. "At the palace before the meeting. Maybe we were all drugged with some delayed-effect concoction - except it's pretty coincidental that it would then affect us all simultaneously, given all the variables of race, size, weight, sex, dosage… If it were a beast, a creature, a parasite with intelligence and the ability to communicate with its own, then that may account for a coordinated attack…"

"Did we eat a creature that knocked us out, Teleported us away and stole our memories?" Lionel says.

"Again, it seems less likely that all of those things were done by the same creature," Malek says.

"And if so, why didn't it act again afterwards?" Arrian wonders. "Perhaps it coordinated turning us off… But this is all speculation."

Arrian asks Trina whether she can see the puncture wounds on their bodies. Trina inspects the trauma.

"Your minds have been tampered with, that much I can see," she says. "What more it might have done over time, I do not know. I see your wounds, I see damage to your bodies - particularly that woman there," she says, indicating Rowaine and her many scars.

"Any small puncture wounds that are recent?" Arrian asks.

"None apart from the wounds on your necks."

"The wounds," Troll says, "is that an entry wound, or something else?"

"That is where the creature has burrowed in," Trina says.

"Then it was probably placed there, or we were lying down at the time. So it probably wasn't the cause of us being unconscious."

"Is it organic?" Lionel asks. "Or an arachtria?"

"It feeds. It respires. It excretes. It reproduces."

"Does it feed on metals?"

"It is sustained by your blood and the minerals in your body."

The next day, Troll takes Malek, Korloevinn and Feren to Verithna's Ridge. The druid is not there.

"Don't kill her," Troll says to Malek and Korloevinn. "And beware of the badger." He then Teleports himself and Feren to the outskirts of Avarriel.

"Good luck," Troll says, then Teleports to Trina.

Feren heads to the city gate. In reality, it is less of a gate and more of a pair of large trees. Ten guards are stationed there, as opposed to the usual two. He walks up. One of the guards notices his approach and walks out to meet him.

"Greetings my friend," says the guard. "How may I be of assistance?" Feren gets the distinct impression that the well-armed and armoured guard is not really interested in assisting.

"I am looking to enter Avarriel," Feren says. "I notice your numbers seem to have increased. Any reason for that?"

"I am not at liberty to say to someone I do not know…"

"I am Feren Tanil."

"Well met, Feren Tanil. How may I help you?"

"I have a meeting with Elowyn."

"The Princess Royal?" the guard says, somewhat incredulously.

"Yes. Is there a problem - am I allowed to pass?"

"I daresay you will not find it easy to enter the palace."


"You have not been here recently?"

"Not in a few days… Has something happened?"

"We are on alert, sir."


"Orders, sir."

"I will try my luck with the palace."

"So your name is Feren Tanil?" the guard asks, retrieving a small book.


"And your business is … with the palace, specifically Princess Elowyn?" Feren nods. "Excuse me." He talks to another guard, who rushes off into the city. "Stay here."

A few minutes later the guard returns and whispers to the first guard.

"Very well sir," the guard says. "You may enter."

Feren heads to the palace. There is a gate and a wall around this structure, with guards - again, more than normal.

"Hello," Feren says to a guard at the gate that he recognises. The guard appears to recognise him also. "I have an appointment with Elowyn. Can you tell her that Feren has arrived?"

"I will have a message passed to Princess Elowyn," the guard says, summoning a servant.

"May I enter?" Feren asks.

"Yes," the guard says. "May I escort you?" This said in such a way as to suggest insistence. Feren accepts and is escorted to a meeting chamber in the central palace tower. He is given a beverage.

Tequila. With a little worm in it. Elven tea.

After a short time, Princess Elowyn is escorted into the room by two guards. She sees Feren and dismisses her escort.

"Brother!" she says when they are alone. "How are you?"

"It's hard to answer that question," Feren replies. "First, it seems that security has been beefed up around here?"

"It is indeed. Once mother heard word of what happened in the palace, she locked it down. People are allowed to come and go, but movements are carefully monitored. Theodric and Lady Eirass are under house arrest at the palace, and mother has thrown out the company of Larellian soldiers that have been here since the Kanafel invasion. She does not know who to trust right now. Do you bring news - do you wish to speak to mother?"


"I'm sure she will be pleased to see you."

Elowyn summons one of her guards and passes on a message. Ten minutes later Queen Raewyn enters the room.

"Feren!" Her face, always so rigid, breaks into a smile. They embrace.

"How are you, mother?"

"Troubled," she says, her face reacquiring its usual impenetrable demeanour. "What happened after you left? We thought that you had just gone on your way. How have you fared on your mission?"

"What have you heard?"

"A written note from Ethalyn. She had spoken to Troll about your group being abducted and having your memories somehow erased. And this happened under my very nose! Do you have any idea, any suspicion as to who is behind this?"

"No suspicions yet. Troll is trying to find out what happened. Whatever happened to us with our minds was the result of a creature implanted in the back of our necks."

"So the note said."

"We think that happened after us being knocked out, then we were Teleported deep into Larellian lands."

"May I see your neck?" Feren shows his scar. There is a little catch in the queen's breath as she inspects.

"So it is true!"

"Do you recognise it?" Feren asks.

"Oh, not at all, but I had to see it with my own eyes. Well, I send you out on a quest to find out who is targetting my family, and you come back being threatened again! I am livid!"


"Not with you! You say you are well?"

"Yes. My friends are working on the situation. They will be here tomorrow."

"Feren, do you trust them? Look into my eyes. Do you trust them? It seems that ever since you have been with them, things have gone very badly for you. Is it possible that there is an agent within your group that you are unaware of?"

"I know these people relatively well, they have done good things…"

"I do not suspect the Roulae," Queen Raewyn says. "He wears his heart on his sleeve. I know he dislikes me. But we seem to have reached an understanding. I am still suspicious of the paladin."

"Over our adventures, I have come to trust the paladin somewhat."

"Oh, I daresay she protects your back - I have her word on that - and she seems upright. But for whom is she upright? I do not know… my mind is betwixt and between! I am trying not to simply react… but what I want is an enemy, in the clear!"

"I believe that is the wrong way to think," Feren says. "What we have is an investigation to solve, not an enemy to defeat."

The queen looks at her son with appraising eyes. "Are you here for any reason?"

"To let you know what has happened. And the others have questions. They should be here tomorrow, outside Avarriel's gates."

"And you are satisfied that they bear our family no ill will?"


"You hesitate."

"Well, I trust Troll. And the paladin, and the cleric. I'm not yet sure of the Larellian. He has helped us so far…"

"I had the Larellian company that was here sent away. Do I have another brought into my midst that you are unsure of?"

"You can make that judgement when you meet him. He helped us, he could have chosen not to."

"Very well. You herald the way for the rest of your party, you say? They arrive tomorrow?"


"I will have word sent to the palace guard and the city gates."

"Have you investigated events at all?"

"Yes, I have had Riaz looking at nothing else. There is apparently nothing much to find. He has been communicating with the Mages' Guild and they know of no such way to completely knock out a group that large with any degree of certainty. I'm afraid he is currently at a loss. But he is spreading the net wider; this must remain between you and me, but he has agents within the other houses - particularly within House Kanafel. I must say that relations between House Roielle and House Kanafel are at an all-time low, what with me having the heads of the family under house arrest. I am being pressured to have them released. I will not do so until I have answers. But it is a trying time."

"What would motivate the Kanafels to attack us?" Feren wonders. "I cannot see a political angle."

"It was a political move to usurp the Crown."

"Yes, but this was a small group with loose links to the Crown. I could see if it were against Troll, but it might be more personal."

"You were about to embark upon a mission given to you by the Crown when you were taken."

"Has Theodric been inspected for this scar?"

"Yes," the queen confirms. "He bears no scar. In fact, we have been through all the retainers and servants in the palace; none have had the scars."

Feren thinks back to who was present when the mission was given: Eirass Kanafel, K'at, Elathon, and Sovak Larellian. "You had the Larellian sent away?"

"Sovak Larellian left of his own accord the following morning; he bid us all goodbye and went back to his capital city. I thought nothing of it; our business had concluded. It was only when Ethalyn's runner arrive that I had the Larellian troops dismissed, and that was only yesterday. For all I know they are marching home right now."

"I guess it is not so suspicious that Sovak left the next day…"

"I did not think so at the time. Riaz is supposedly following up some leads along those lines."

"Any odd behaviour from the Larellians or the Kanafels around the time?"

"The Larellian soldiers? No. The captain to whom I issued the order accepted it and assembled his men immediately - as I would expect any captain to. The Kanafels - that is tricky. I dare say I am not a particularly popular leader right now. But they are on the back foot anyway, with recent events. But their patience is growing thin."

"If Theodric was under the effect of some kind of curse," Feren says, "then that does not mean that it is the Kanafels themselves behind it… but I am just speculating now. Why don't we wait for the rest of my party to arrive?"

Feren keeps a low profile for the remainder of the day.

Back at Trina, Arrian has some questions. "Could the parasites attach themselves anywhere else other than the neck?"

"They have the apparatus to burrow anywhere," Trina says.

"Could they migrate inside a host to the spine?"

"Yes they could, they can move within flesh. It would be expedient for it to enter at the neck."

"Do they have to be at the neck to do what they do?"

"They need to be near the part of you that thinks."

"When attached to a humanoid host, is there anything visible from the outside? Or maybe by feel?"

"Nothing but the scar. Someone well-versed with anatomy may be able to feel something under the skin that is not supposed to be there…"

"You could tell though?"


"Have you checked everyone here?"

"Yes. Ethalyn has already requested that."

"Did you find any?"


"Do you have any allies that could accompany us that might be able to detect these things?"

"Yes, but it will take some time. It will be a matter of luck as to whether I encounter one."

The next day, Troll prepares transport spells and Arrian investigative spells. Troll Teleports everyone to Ethalyn's tower. Well, not quite. They appear in a hallway, inside. It looks very similar to the entrance at the ground level of the main palace. There is no sound.

"Not good," Troll says. "We bug out. Pardon the phrase." Troll casts a second Teleport spell to take everyone outside the city, just out sight of the gate. They walk towards the city. There are numerous guards at the gate.

"Arrian, a priest of Corellon Larethian," Arrian says. "I believe I may be expected."

"Excuse me," the guard replies. He moves out of view, then returns. "Is there one from Larellian lands by the name of Lionel?"

"That's me," Lionel says.

"A Rowaine Kharag?"

"Yes, sir."

"…And a 'troll'?"


"My man will escort you to the palace," the guard says. An elf snaps to attention. His neck is not in view. He leads the group towards the palace. There are more than the usual number of Roielle guards outside. The heroes unconsciously spread out.

The party's escort has a word to the palace guard and are subsequently let inside. Troll first heads to the area where they all lost consciousness, examining the area with the aid of a Detect Magic spell. He sees nothing, although parts of the palace radiate magic. Troll maintains his spell.

"Rowaine, keep a look out for anything evil," warns Arrian.


The group are taken in to see Feren. Troll checks his brother-in-law for a scar. It is there, and not fresh.

"We have an audience with Her Majesty," Feren says. A servant leads them to a meeting chamber where Queen Raewyn and Princess Elowyn are conversing. They look up.

"Can I have a look at the back of your neck?" Troll says. Queen Raewyn is silent for a time. "Given the circumstances, yes," she says, then stands and turns around. Her hair is tied back; there is no sign of a scar. Rowaine detects no evil.

"How about you, sis?" Troll asks Elowyn. She too acquiesces, with the same result. She appears clear.

"Just being safe," Troll says.

"I have already had my staff and my captains checked," the queen says, "but yes, quite."

"Your Highness," Arrian says, "we have deduced that the creatures may not have to enter at the neck, meaning that there may be little sign. We may have to try a different tack. Are you aware of anyone that has been off sick for a number of days, then returned to service?"

"Not personally. Riaz probably has that under control, but I will have him check. We meet daily. So, what is your plan? You are assembled here… What do you mean to do?"

"Investigate," Arrian says. "Which high-level mages have access to the palace, Your Highness?"

"The upper echelons of the Guild would have access to those sort of powers. I know of no disagreement between the Guild and the Crown. Riaz has said that preliminary talks with those in the Guild have not raised any suspicion."

"Are there any Kanafel present with magical ability?"

"Theodric himself was said to possess magical ability at the end," Queen Raewyn says. "I am unaware of any ability possesed by Lady Eirass. I am pestered by members of the Kanafel house at the moment."

"Might we speak to Riaz?"

"I can make him available to you. We meet at midday."

"Any idea why the five of us were targetted? The puzzle for me is that if they could get to the five of us, they could probably have got to anyone."

"I have had the same thought."

"We were tasked with finding out what happened to Theodric," Feren says.

"It happened very soon after accepting that task… not leaving much time to arrange an attack of that magnitude. Could it have been planned in advance? I am wondering whether someone is wanting access to Elondel or Trina."

"Young Larellian," Raewyn says, "would you be willing to talk to my man at length?"

"Who?" Arrian asks.


"I would be willing," Lionel says.

"My trust is hard-earned at the moment," the queen says.

"I understand."

The queen departs. Shortly after midday, servants summon the party to the midday meeting between the Queen and Riaz. It seems the briefing is largely over; the queen makes to leave.

"Show me the back of your neck," Troll says to Riaz.

"My lady?" Riaz asks. The queen nods almost imperceptibly. Riaz turns around and exposes his neck. Neither Troll nor Rowaine can find anything untoward.

"An unusual introduction," Riaz comments, "but I understand. I have seen no such scars upon anyone but yourselves."

"Has anyone been off sick?" Arrian asks.

"The staff have been operating as they ordinarily do. I have more guards on duty, as per her Highness' decree, but nothing untoward. The only thing I have discovered is that on the morning after the meeting, there was a reported absence in the palace guard that I followed up. One of the guards had apparently been drinking and turned up late for his shift."

"So this guy had been drinking the night before?"


"Was he on duty that day?"

"He was."

"Would you expect to have a problem like this - your guards drinking?"

"It is very uncommon."

"Does this particular guard have a history of drinking?" Arrian asks.

"We have had no problems with him in the past."

"This is the only thing we have to go on," Troll says.

Lionel is taken to a small room by Riaz. They are joined by another who performs several incantations, then indicates for Riaz to continue. Forty minutes of questioning ensues, that Lionel answers truthfully. He is returned to the others.

"I am satisfied that your son-in-law's companion is not to be suspected," Riaz says to the queen. She responds with a nod.

"One of the leads we have is the level of magic involved," Arrian continues. "Of the delegations that were here, who might have the necessary magical ability? Were you aware of the delegations that were here?"

"You are asking who of the people here had huge magical capacity?" Riaz clarifies.

"Yes. More than Troll."

"Well, considering the resources Troll can call upon, I know of no other with that amount of power."

"How about individual magical capacity?"

"I have personally interviewed the people within our own Guild that are capable of such feats. I have no suspicions of them at this point. They have also been checked for… infection, shall we call it? … with nothing found."

"Something you should know is that this parasite may not need to enter the host through the neck," Arrian says, "which is why I asked about people being off sick. If we take ourselves as case studies, then there will be a period of time when the people will have loss of memory… They would need to be isolated."

"We have had no unusual absences."

"Anyone from the delegations? After our absence, or even before?"

"I cannot identify anything particularly unusual. There are some people where it is simply not politic to pay such close attention to. For example, when Lady Eirass was here and free to move around, there were vast periods of time that I cannot account for."

"Is she known to have strong magical ability?"

"She dabbles. I only mention her as an example."

House Rule: a recent wound healed by magic leaves no scar. Magic applied to old wounds that have healed naturally does not remove any scar.

"It seems a little sloppy that the perpetrator leaves the hosts with an easily removed scar to identify them," Arrian says. "If the entry wound could be healed and disguised, why not do it? In any case, it seems our next step is talking to this drunk guard. May we meet him?"

"It can be arranged."

The guard in question is summoned. Arrian recognises him as the guard that was leading them out of the palace - the one that slumped to the ground just before they all lost consciousness."

"Turn around and lift up your hair," Arrian says. His neck is unblemished and Rowaine detects no evil. Arrian casts Zone of Truth. "What is your name?" he asks the guard when the spell is complete.


"Do you remember the night that we were kidnapped?"

"I did not know that you were kidnapped."

"The night that you fell unconscious, when you were leading us to the residence for the night?"

Falael pauses. "I remember some of the night…"

"You remember being tasked to lead us to our residence?"

"Vaguely. Yes. I can't tell you what happened after that."

"What is the next thing that you remember?"

"Waking up in the palace grounds."

"You were supposed to take us to the house?" Troll asks.


"So you took us to the house?"

"I guess so…"

"Do you remember walking out the gate?"

"Not really, sir."

"You remember getting to the house or showing us in?"

Falael again pauses. "I can't say I do, sir."

"He has lost his memory," Troll says to the others.

"What is the next thing that you do remember?"

"I woke up on the grass of the palace grounds."

"I have already heard this story," Riaz comments. "Continue."

"…and there were three empty wine bottles beside me. I woke up with a hangover."

"A hangover, or a headache?"

"It was more than a headache. I felt ill for quite some time. I honestly can't remember how I got there."

"Where did you wake up?" Feren asks. "Was it where you led us out?"

"It was on the other side, but it was within the palace grounds. I was severely reprimanded by my commanding officer in the afternoon when I eventually showed up for my shift.

Troll whispers to Riaz, "I think this guy was rendered unconscious and then given some drink to make it look like he was drunk. But he was not unconscious because he was drunk, he was unconscious because he was spelled. And later placed." He says aloud, "This doesn't sound like a ruelock."

"No," says Arrian. "I cannot see the ruelock caring about covering its tracks. Falael, is there anything of this matter that you don't wish to tell us?"

"There is much of this matter that I do not wish to tell you, but I am under oath."

"Why do you not want to tell us?"

"Because it is my reputation, sir."

"Do you have any insights into this matter that you wish to share at this time?"

"Just that it is uncharacteristic of me, and it will never happen again."

"I think that you were spelled," Troll says. "And then you were drugged and dumped, so that people would then think that you were drunk so it would hide the fact that we had gone missing. And I don't think you should tell anyone about this. For a long time. Because we are investigating it."

"But perhaps Riaz could have some subtle influence on your commander to mitigate the impact on your reputation," Arrian says, looking at the spymaster.

"Afterwards," Troll says. "Falael, you sit tight for now. The truth will out. But for your own peace of mind, I don't think you did anything wrong. And if you do get thrown out of here, I know somebody who is hiring."

"Thank you for your words," Falael says. The interview ends. Riaz and Falael depart.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Troll says. "My money is on Sovak."

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