Chapter 14: Discovered?

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Session Number: 126
Date: Sunday 18 March 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

Arrian makes his way back into the tree of Corellon Larethian. Feren and Lionel head for the tavern. Troll and Rowaine will wait for the others to return before Teleporting to Trina.

The service is over. Arrian looks for one of the two underpriests. One is talking to the head priest, the other is in conversation with several worshippers. Arrian joins the conversation and they politely make room for him. The talk revolves around mundane topics: illnesses, family and the like.

"Hello," the underpriest says. "Pleased to meet you, sir..?"

"I was wondering if I might have a word in private," Arrian says, ignoring the implied invitation to introduce himself.

"Umm, yes by all means. Eroc, Tieb, Lufeilo, very nice to catch up. We'll see you all next week?"

The conversation is brought to a polite end. The underpriest turns his attention to the newcomer. "Taishekel is my name."

"Is there somewhere we could go, Taishekel?"

"Yes… should I be concerned?"

"I am concerned. There is a matter of great import and I would like to talk to you about it in private."

"Come with me." Taishekel leads Arrian to the side where a spiral staircase winds upwards. They climb over a hundred feet before reaching the next level, where Arrian is taken to small room. Taishekel bids Arrian sit down in one of the two chairs, then shuts the door.

"My name is Arrian."

"Well met, Arrian."

"I know that this is an unusual request, but this is a matter of huge importance. What I want to ask involves you trusting me quite deeply. I am concerned about something, and for my own safety in this situation I would like to cast some spells."

"What sort of spells?"

"Dispel Magic."

"You had better start explaining yourself a little bit more, friend Arrian."

Arrian presents his holy symbol. "I am a priest of Corellon Larethian and I have come into some information that you need to hear, but before I can tell it to you I need some sureity that you are free to hear it. If you would like to cast any spells upon me that is completely welcome, but I need to do this before I talk to you about the heart of this matter."

"Hmmmm… Our symbols are not too difficult to gain, would you be able to prove your allegiance to Corellon Larethian in some way?"

Arrian casts a Light spell. Taishekel casts a spell and tests the aura. He is satisfied. "You are at least aligned to who you say you are aligned to."

"The first spell I wish to cast is Dispel Magic, so you may wish to remove any items..?

"That won't be necessary."

Arrian casts Dispel Magic. It fails.

"I would also like to cast Zone of Truth," Arrian says.

"Do you concede to be within the bounds of the spell as well?"

"Of course."

"Cast your spell." Arrian does so. Once it is complete, Taishekel addresses him.

"Can I ask why you approached myself, and not the high priest? It sounds like you may have approached the wrong person. Or have you?"

"One last spell," Arrian says, casting Discern Lies. "Now we have got that out of the way, my name is Arrian, cleric of Corellon Larethian."

"This much I can be sure of. Can you answer my question?"

"The reason I am not speaking to the high priest is that during the service I was using the spell Detect Thoughts. Are you familiar with the spell?"

"I am."

"I made sure that I did not read anyone's surface thoughts, but I had reason to be checking Sir Imothell for more than one mind."

"Sir Imothell? Our noble lord?"

"That's right. And Sir Imothell had two minds in his body. That is not my main concern, nor is it my reason for talking to you. The reason I am talking to you is that your high priest also had two minds. Are you able to cast the spell Detect Thoughts?"

"Yes, I am."

"The reason I was scanning is that two weeks ago I was knocked unconscious and infected with a parasite that burrowed into the back of my neck and removed all my memories. Our research says that it would have eventually been able to influence my actions and my thoughts. My theory is that these parasites ride in the body of the host and occasionally influence them. That is why I could not approach your high priest, because I believe he is in danger from the parasite."

"Hmmmmm. This is troubling news!"

"You weren't aware of this?"

"No, of course not!"

Not simply trusting his spells, Arrian has been carefully weighing Taishekel's reactions and responses. He seems genuine. "The reason for the spells is that the only reason you might have been going on with this if you knew is if you had been charmed. I am here on a political mission but I am more concerned…" Arrian's sentence is interrupted by a knock on the door. Before anyone can react, the door opens. It is the high priest.

"Hello, everybody OK in here?"

"Hello," Arrian says.

"High priest Asredor, Asredor Viell. Nice to meet you."

"Naroth," Arrian replies, successfully fighting off his own spell.

"Ah. Very good. Naroth, were you in our service?"


"Very good. Oh, I see you have the symbol of Corellon Larethian on you."

"It was a gift from a very wise person," Arrian says. It is not a lie.

"I hope Taishekel is helping you out in any way that he can..?"

"I am very grateful."

"Hmmm. Whereabouts do you regularly worship?"

"All over recently, but I trained in Balenon."

"Very good."

"I must say that it was a beautiful service."

"Well, we do what we can. I thank you for saying that; we very irregularly get feedback so I do appreciate your words. Is there anything we can do for you while you are here - are you here for long?"

"I am not sure how long I will be in Isendor. It depends on how long it takes to do my business."

Asredor notes Arrian's uniform. "You are one of the guards from Avarriel, by the looks of it."

Arrian's sphincter clenches. "Yes, I am here as part of the detail for Faavulel."

"Ah yes I heard he was paying a visit. We haven't seen him in quite a few months. How is his good lady? You are probably not at liberty to say," he says, smiling.

"It is more that I don't know," Arrian replies. "I am just part of his detail. My job is to guard his door."

"OK, well it is lovely to have you here. Do feel free to ask for anything you need, and if it is in our capacity to give, then we most certainly will."

"I appreciate your welcome."

Asredor turns his gaze to Taishekel and smiles. The expression does not quite reach his eyes. "Well, I will leave you to it." He closes the door on his way out. Beads of sweat start to form on Taishekel's brow.

"I assume your fellow priest is clear," Arrian says, "but I don't know if they are charmed."

"Well I daresay Haavolesh is alright."

"Are you and Haavolesh the next-ranked priests here?"

"No, there is one above us, Maishéoll."

"It would seem that he might be the next person to contact and check. All I can ask is that you exercise the utmost secrecy and discernment in this. My life is in your hands. I believe that your high priest and Imothell will be in league via their parasites. If he discovers that I am here, my life is lost, as are all of my companions."

"This is very worrying news. What do you suggest I do?"

"Check your next-ranking priest."

"I cannot do that today, I don't have the spells prepared," Taishekel says. "If you like, I could pay a visit with you - if you are in a position to do that now?"

Arrian thinks about it. "I would appreciate an introduction."

"He does not live far from here. It is less than five minutes away."

"Lead on."

Taishekel takes Arrian back down the spiral staircase. The space below is fairly empty; lay priests move about tidying up. Haavolesh is no longer there. The pair leave, Taishekel leading Arrian towards Maishéoll's residence.

"Warn me when we are near," Arrian asks. "I want to cast a spell before we meet."

"We are approaching it now," Taishekel says." Arrian steps off the main thoroughfare, casts Detect Thoughts and True Seeing, then the two continue on.

"This is it," Taishekel says, pointing to a fairly large endotaa.

"What will we say is the reason for our visit?" Arrian asks.

"Dressed as you are, what can you think of?"

Arrian ponders. "I think I am considering the priesthood."

"Ordinarily, that sort of thing would be handled by the likes of myself or Haavolesh. That is not really a reason to see him, particularly not at this time of night."

Lionel and Feren head to the Whittled Walnut, the most well-known tavern in the city. They have both frequented it before. It is well-patroned, as usual. The interior is magically lit. The bar encircles a tree growing inside. The bartender sees them enter, finishes with his current customer then works his way around.

"How can I help you? What will it be? Wine?"

"Yes," Feren says.

"Riesling? Cabernet Sauvignon?"


The bartender takes in the pair's garb. "You are visiting? Have you been here before?"

"Yes," Feren replies.

The bartender gets a couple of glasses of pinot gris. "Six silvers." He looks around for other customers. There is a young elf sitting to their left. He has an ale and looks like he is enjoying it, his eyes wide with wonder. Other people here seem to be more interested in who they are with. This guy seems to be more interested in what he is drinking.

"You look like you are enjoying that ale there," Feren says.

The boy jumps. "Hmmm? Yep, it's fine…" He sips the beverage. He seems to be embarrassed and hiding something - Feren is unsure what it is. "You are guards?"

"Yes, from Avarriel. We are off duty."

"Boy, I bet you get drunk! I bet you get completely rat-faced!"

"All the time."

"Are you going to get rat-faced tonight?"

"I dunno yet. How about you?"

"Mum doesn't let me, most of the time. She is quite possessive. I'm an only child. Can I hang out with you? I mean, if you're gonna make a night of it, can there be another person?"

"Um, you can stay for…"

"What are you drinking?"


"Bartender, two white wines for my friends!" He gets out a bulging money pouch and hands over the money. The bartender gives him a lingering stare, then rolls his eyes and gets the drinks. Lionel does not know him but knows his type: a rich brat noble trying to look and be bigger than he actually is.

"Right, what are we drinking to? Ohhhhh, I bet you've seen some action, I bet you've put some .. What have you got there, long swords? Yeah, long sw… I bet you've thrust those through some guts in your time! Aye?"


"No wonder you drink! It must be awful! Gooooh."

"What's your name?" Feren asks.



"VALus, not Malice… Geez, how many have you had already? Valus!"

"What do you do Valus?"

"Not very much," he smirks. "A bit here and a bit there. Oh, mostly just learning all this stuff, if you must know. The things they shove down your throats these days… I can't wait to get out, to be honest."

"Yeah? What are you going to do once you get out?"

"Me? Oh, I want to run the world. I want to learn, not stuff from books, stuff from sages and all that, I want to get out there and learn by myself! Talking to people and drinking with them!"

"Then do it," Feren says.

"I'm not allowed to. I'm not of age. I suppose they just tell you where to go, don't they? And you just have to do it."

"Yeah, basically."

"Hmmm. That's not for me. so… To the open road!" Valus drinks his wine far too quickly. "So where are you from?"

Feren looks down at his uniform. "Avarriel."

"Avarriel! Oh, I've always wanted to go there. That's where her majesty lives. You haven't met her have you? Do you guard her?"

"No. Not me personally."

"If you like, we could blow this joint. It's a bit stiff really… I know this other bar, it's a bit seedy. Probably more up your alley actually!"

Feren finds it hard to shake loose from his new hanger-on, but eventually manages it. Valus looks disappointed. Feren puts some money on the bar for Valus' next two rounds.

"Oh well, the night's not a complete waste then," Valus says. "Will you be here tomorrow? Probably not, if you're going out all night tonight, eh? Hahahah… Alright… OK. Valus was the name. Valus Ebsolel." Lionel recognises the name as being that of a fairly well-to-do family.

Feren leaves, Lionel stays and finishes his drink. Valus makes to start a conversation with Lionel, sees the look on his face, and returns to his wine.

Feren goes to the Acorn - a seedy bar, in all likelihood the one that Valus was referring to. It is a wooden structure built next to an oak tree. The interior is damp and unpleasant. Feren talks to bartender.

"Ilmiriel? never heard of him. Who wants to know? An Avarriel guard? Why is somebody from Avarriel interested in some Ilmiriel guy?"

"I'm not here in a guard capacity…" Feren begins.

"Yes, you are! You're here in your Avarriel armour and you've got your flippin' Avarriel sword… Ah, but you are drinking. Not on official business if you're drinking, are you? Alright… Well I don't know of any Ilmiriels. What did you say he was? A priest?"

"Something like that, I'm not too sure."

Either the bartender knows nothing, or he is playing his cards close to his chest. Feren leaves and visits the one other bar in Isendor that he knows about. No one there talks about an Ilmiriel either.

Back at the Whittled Walnut, Lionel takes pity on the young elf next to him. "Sorry about my friend," he says. "His work is his life, he doesn't know how to turn off. If we return tomorrow, we'll look out for you." Valus brightens noticeably.

Lionel goes back to Faavulel's redwood. Lovar, the true Avarriel guard outside, sees and acknowledges his approach. "We are being watched," he whispers as Lionel passes him in the doorway. Feren returns shortly after and is told the same. "Don't look now," the guard adds. "Go inside and look out one of the windows. See the willow over there? There is somebody in there. They have been there longer than I would expect to be normal."

Feren enters the redwood and tells Rowaine and Troll that they are being watched.

"Only to be expected," Troll says nonchalantly. "If we weren't being watched, I'd be a bit worried. What are we doing here, as far as the authorities are concerned? Checking security. In fact, if they weren't watching us, that's slack security, isn't it? They probably want to be seen watching us."

Feren tells the others about Arrian detecting two minds in Sir Imothell and the head priest at the service.

Back outside Maishéoll's endotaa, Arrian talks to Taishekel. "What might people talk to Maishéoll about at this hour?"

"It would have to be something fairly important," Taishekel says. "Something outside my remit. Maybe a matter of security? A spell that he has prepared that we do not?"

Arrian shakes his head. "I don't think I can make this meeting work. I think this is what you need to do. Go about your day as you otherwise would, but prepare a Detect Thoughts spell each morning, and the next time you know that you are going to be in the presence of Maishéoll, use it. I am guarding Ambassador Faavulel. My life is in your hands. Please be careful. What about your peers?"

"Haavolesh? He is junior to me."

"Do you know where he stays?"

"In the tree, as I do."

"Can we go back without drawing the high priest's interest?"

"I did not expect to be interrupted. I wonder how much interest we have already attracted."

"I am concerned about that too," Arrian says. "How common is it for the priest to check in on you like he did, when you are talking with people privately?"

"I have not heard of it happening before. I can show you to Haavolesh's quarters."

"No. I think you should come with me. I'm not sure you would be safe."

"My absence would be noticed," Taishekel says.

"Asredor has seen you closeted with a guard from Avarriel. I'm not confident that my lies went unnoticed. I think that there is a good chance that if you went back to the tree, you would be taken."

"I don't blame you in this, sir. How can I help?"

"Come back with me. I will send you to the temple at Avarriel."

"For the last two years I have been pleading with my Lord to show me what I can do for the church. Perhaps this is it?"

"You can be our witness," Arrian says. "We need someone to take the report of what has happened here to the capital, and cast Detect Thoughts on any of the priesthood there. I can give you an introduction to the queen if you find you are not safe."

"So I am to go to Avarriel?"

"I think that is best."

"Is Haavolesh in danger?"

"He hasn't had any contact with me. He knows nothing of this."

"Have you spoken to any of the other priests?"

"No. To be frank, they are all in danger. Everyone in this city is in danger from these parasites - possibly everyone in the elven kingdom."

"Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?" Taishekel offers. "I can leave tonight if you think it wise."

"I think you need to leave now. I think you need to come straight back to the residence with me and we will get you out of here."

"My sister and brother in law, I may have to visit them. All of my belongings are in the tree. I am not exactly equipped for a crosscountry journey."

"Don't. I think the less they know, the better. Come with me, we will see that you are OK."

Arrian takes Taishekel back to the redwood. As they enter, the Avarriel guard outside repeats his message that the residence is being watched.

"Guys," says Arrian, "I think I've blown our cover. This is Taishekel, a priest of Corellon Larethian. He knows who I am and why I'm here. The high priest of Corellon Larethian here has two minds. This gentleman does not. I approached him with some intent to see what I could do about the high priest here, but in the course of the meeting the high priest came in and saw me in my guard's livery. I told him my name was Naroth, but I cannot know for sure if he believed that. What he knows is that a guard from Avarriel was meeting with one of his priests privately."

"So why did you bring him here?" Troll asks.

"He is in danger."

"He is now!"

"I don't see any other option," Arrian says. "I couldn't leave him."

"But you told him stuff," Troll says. "So if they take him, they will know everything that you know."

"Which is another reason to protect him!"

"Well, why did you tell him everything?" Troll sighs.

"I could not stand by and see my fellow priests taken in."

"So now we have to leave, right?"

Feren joins the conversation. "How about we stop discussing what was done wrong, and think about what we are going to do now. Is our cover blown?"

"I think there is explainable reason for the guards to be nosing around," Arrian says, "but in the temple?"

"I think we're fine," Lionel says. "I think our cover isn't blown."

"Troll is possibly correct in that our cover may not have been blown until I brought Taishekel back here," Arrian admits. "Blast!"

"The priest has to leave here," Troll says, "and be seen to leave here. That might go some way to preserving our story."

"We seem to be only watched by one," Rowaine says. "If Taishekel is to leave tonight, then that guy is going to have to make a decision. Follow him, or continue watching the tree? To date, other people have come and gone, and he seems to have stayed put. Taishekel could potentially get away."

"We could take out the watcher," Arrian suggests.

"That just makes it all the more suspicious," Troll says.

"Detect Thoughts on the watcher?" Feren says.

"It doesn't matter if he is infected or not," Troll says. "The orders come from the same place."

"The other thing I am concerned about is whether the parasites have a means of communication," Arrian says.

"They could," Troll says. "My guess is probably not, but we could go with the assumption that they do, because that is the safer assumption."

"I would think that a priest possessed by an evil entity would not be able to function as a priest," Arrian asserts. "They would lose the ability to channel the divinity of their deity."

"Send this priest away," Troll says. "I can follow him invisibly, and when he has been seen leaving, I will Teleport him away to my place.

The maelstrom Taishekel now finds himself in is taking a toll on his nerves, he looks visibly distraught. Arrian explains the plan to him in basic terms - leave and go somewhere quiet.

"I will take you to my place," Troll says, "where my wife is and you can hole up there for a bit. Sound OK?"

"Yes," Taishekel says. "And that is in Avarriel, is it? I am going to the temple there?"

"No. I live outside Avarriel, but not far."

"You will go first and Troll is going to…" Arrian says.

Troll just about has a heart attack at the sound of his name.

"…follow you. At some point, you will feel a hand on your shoulder…"

"We will scoot off," Troll says. "I will drink a magic potion and we will go."

"Now?" asks Taishekel.


"So we're not going to go through the woods?"


"So I won't have to visit my sister, then. Right."

"Just head for a dark spot."

"I'll make like I'm heading back towards the tree."

Taishekel heads off, paying a little too much attention to the willow across the way. Two minutes later he branches off into an area with low-hanging branches. Troll takes a swig from his hip flask, puts his hand on Taishekel's shoulder and says "Come with me if you want to live." They Teleport to Trina, arriving in the tent. Troll summons Abbey.

"Hello, dearie!"

"Tea?" Troll asks Taishekel. "Coffee? No," he says, turning to Abbey. "Make that something really strong for my guest."

Abbey looks at Taishekel. "What have you done to him? He looks petrified! You poor dear. Here, let me fix you something warm and … medicinal!" Troll steps outside and summons Trina. She appears.

"There's a guy in there," Troll says. "Tell me if he has a thing in his neck."

Trina falls in upon herself for a few seconds. "He is one."

"OK. Can you get Ethalyn?"

"She is in her quarters. I will get her."

Ethalyn arrives. Troll tells her the story about Taishekel, then hands over to his wife. He asks her in passing if Shalélu has returned; she has not.

"Has anyone been going there and checking up on her?"

"A mage has been despatched there twice in the five days she has been gone," Ethalyn says, looking a little hurt. "Shalélu was not there."

"Can we get a message to her?"

"A mage is expected to arrive from Avarriel tomorrow."

"I think I'll go, now."

Troll teleports to Verithna's ridge. It is night.

"Hello? anybody home?" Growl, stomp, stomp. Five hundred pounds of dire badger lumbers over, sniffs Troll, then wanders back into its hole.

"Verithna, are you there?"

Verithna comes out, wrapped in a long blanket. "Hello."

"Everything alright?"

"Should it be? Why are you here?"

"I was wondering if my retainer has returned yet, Shalélu."

"Not yet," Verithna replies.

"When you see her, can you get her a message from me? The wording is very important. Or if you see this guy, if you can talk to him, ask him where he is from. And no matter what he says, the reply is: 'Avarriel, Ferlar, Isendor, it's all the same to me'. Tell Shalélu to do the same thing."

"You are a strange one, sun elf. Very well, I will pass on your message. Are you staying?"

"Would you like the company? I could easily stay or leave."

"No, I'm good." Troll thanks Verithna. "There is evil afoot, and we are hunting to stop it. Unnatural evil. Those things you found in our necks? There are more of them."

"Do you wish me to remove them in the same way I did for you?"

"These ones may be more mature, and their hosts less cooperative. Otherwise, yes."

Troll Teleports to the redwood in Isendor. The guards reach for their weapons, then stand down once they recognise him. Troll says in code that Taishekel is safe, then heads out to the Whittled Walnut with Rowaine.

Arrian stands outside. He can just make out a silhouette under the weeping willow, some fifteen to twenty yards away. He occasionally loses the figure, reaquiring it elsewhere beneath the tree's drooping canopy.

Arrian goes inside from guarding the door, casts Detect Thoughts and returns outside, scanning the tree. The figure has only one mind. Arrian tries to detect surface thoughts but gets none. He scans for any other stationary minds in the area that he is not seeing. He finds none.

Troll starts making connections at the Whittled Walnut. There is no talk of any strange goings-on. Rowaine drinks watered wine and keeps to herself. They return after about an hour.

Arrian sees Troll and Rowaine approach. He sees the person under the willow retreat to the far side of the tree, out of view. Troll and Rowaine enter. After five minutes the observer returns to the near side of the willow trunk. Everyone settles down for the night. A watch is kept.

Two or three hours after midnight, towards the end of Arrian's watch, he hears booted footsteps approaching: a contingent of eleven armed Isendor soldiers. The person hiding in the willow moves out of sight. Arrian raps on the door, alerting Ershathov inside. He rouses everyone.

The soldiers close with and encircle the redwood. The dwelling has glass-paned windows large enough to climb through, with open wooden shutters. The leader stands before the door, looks Arrian up and down, pulls out a vellum document and reads:

"You and the master and all within are requested to attend a meeting. Can you rouse the master, sir elf?"

"I will pass on that message," Arrian says. "One moment." Arrian raps on the door and asks for Ershathov. The Avarriel guard opens the door and Arrian whispers the message to him.

Ershathov closes the door. "We have trouble. They want us all at a meeting. If it is on vellum, it is probably official city business of some description."

Faavulel stumbles down the stairs, in night clothes. "Not in thirty years of service have I ever been roused at this hour."

"I will talk to them," Troll says. "Try to stall them for an hour."

"I don't think they will accept a delay of that long," Faavulel states.

"I haven't replenished my spells," Troll says. "Do you think we can delay them for four hours?"

"If they would accept a delay of four hours," Faavulel says, "they wouldn't have sent guards at three in the morning."

"Quickly now!" - words from outside. Troll exits, assuming the persona of Faavulel's servant. The captain removes his hand from his sword hilt. "Yes?"

"My master is interested in knowing who calls the meeting," Troll says.

"The city calls the meeting."

"The city?"

"The Council."

"The Council?"

The soldier fixes Troll with a stern stare. "About a potentially criminal matter."

"At three in the morning? I'll see if my master has the time."

"Oh, your master will have the time."

"So Sir Imothell knows about this?"

"In the official sense, yes he does."

"And personally?"

"Are you going to speak to your master now, or not?"

"Of course I am going to, I'm just going to see if he has the time. My master is a very busy man. I'll be right back."

"Go and get him," the soldier says. I do not wish this to get … public."

Troll returns inside. "He is implying that he will come in here and take us by arms if necessary," he says. "My guess is it might be something to do with the parasites, possibly railroading of some kind. The priest was seen leaving."

"What do you want me to do?" Faavulel asks. "Get dressed? Start yelling?"

"No," Troll says. "I would expect that we would have to go with them. Unless… Do we have diplomatic immunity here?"

"I would certainly protest, and if this were normal circumstances the queen would be told of this treatment - and she would probably have some ire about it. But at the end of the day, it is the men with the swords that make the rules."

"So can you protest?"


"But do you have the right to deny them?"

"This is not done. We are in uncharted territory here. Yes I can protest, and I will, but I don't want this to lead to bloodshed and I don't know how far they will push this."

"They sound like they will push it a long way. We could find out… But then it becomes a very different scenario. I recommend that we initially refuse to leave, but keep the option open to give in to avoid bloodshed. What do you think?"

"This is their city," Faavulel says. "They are within their rights to do things like this, especially if this is indeed a criminal matter."

"Can I say we will be there in the morning?"

"It's up to you."

Troll opens the door and steps outside. "I bear a message from my master: 'I appreciate this gracious invitation and the escort, but it would suit me much better to attend this meeting at 8:30 in the morning and we look forward to seeing you there.'"

The soldier remains firm. "The city respectfully requests the queen's diplomat and his retinue *now*."

"My master has responded," Troll says. "He most definitely will come and see you. At 8:30. Would you like to leave some guards here?"

"My orders are quite clear, manservant. Faavulel and his retinue will be returning with us."

"Do you mean to break down the queen's servant's door and drag him through the streets?"

"I follow the orders as they are given to me."

"I am sorry, I am just a manservant."

"Then do your job and make sure that Faavulel knows that he is to come … NOW!" The last word is yelled so everyone in the tree can hear. "Go on!"

"Thank you, sir." Troll goes back inside. "We are going to have to stand our ground and push them into doing something." He goes back out. "My master appreciates your gracious invitation however we do not recognise the authority of your Council to make demands of the queen's representative. Do you have a message?"

"I did not wish it to end this way," the soldier says, drawing his sword. Every other soldier follows suit. Arrian draws his weapon. Lights appear in the nearby trees.

"I do not wish this to end in bloodshed," the soldier says, "but my orders are clear. And I am to use all required force to fulfil my task. You have two minutes."

Troll returns inside, as does Arrian who closes the door and starts casting spells. Rowaine picks up her shield and axe. "Do you think we are going to need Harley?" Arrian casts Magic Vestment on Rowaine's shield.

Troll goes back outside, his expression feigning fright. "My master respectfully declines your invitation and is more than happy to come at a more reasonable hour. He requests that guards remain around the perimeter of his dwelling to ensure his safety."

"Minute and a half," the soldier says, sword still in hand. He looks to his left and right and the soldiers pull out what looks to be large smooth rocks from pouches. Arrian Detects Magic: they all seem to be holding some sort of magical rock. "You might like to look at these, Troll," Arrian says. "What are they?"

"They look like stinkpots," Troll says. "They contain a magical substance that makes you sick."

The figure under the willow is nowhere in sight. Thirty seconds before time is up…

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