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Ruyn: The Winds of Fate

Setting

In the middle of the Imperial City, the Council Hall has a vast library, temple, tax office and central hall for meetings.
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Imperial Council Hall

The Council Hall.

Minimap

Imperial Council Hall is a part of Imperial City.

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Scribe Uthis [7] A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.

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#, as written by Sylwyn
Once a castle, the Imperial "Palace," surrounding the monumental Crystal Temple, had been abandoned and repurposed when Beraud Cylas, Osiric's father, had a newer, much bigger castle built south of the Imperial City, as such, the castle only ever had one entrance, with the exception of a couple of passages leading out of the Council Hall. Climbing rose trellis, weaving around wrought iron latticework bolted into the outer walls of the council Hall, led all the way up the stone to stained glass arched bay windows, most of them shut. The rooms overlooking the city went as far as the lobby and ended where the courtyard, encircled by high stone walls led to the immense library and entrance to the temple.

The main entrance leads directly into the tax office, connecting to both the central hall and the library, which leads out into a courtyard with the main doors to the temple at the south end. In the tax office, a short, stout man seated on a chair behind a sturdy wooden desk flips through papers, peering over the rims of his spectacles and lifting and lowering pages several times as he compares records. To the left of the desk, two huge doors locked with a heavy bar block the entryway into the Council Hall, and to the right, stands the door to the library.

The library, upon first glance seems daunting, with shelves of books so high there are long ladders extending toward the vaulted ceiling in several aisles. Further back, the exit to a circular courtyard is visible behind rows of shorter shelves. A few people reading silently sit on chairs at the wide tables in the center of the library. In the right wing, a tall, pale-skinned man with long robes and white hair leans toward a shelf on the highest rung of a ladder, his fingers clasping a book. He appears to be deeply engrossed in what he is reading. No one lingers in the courtyard. Some people walk around the courtyard toward the library or temple entrance.

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Character Portrait: Scribe Uthis Character Portrait: Treasurer Ferdirand
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#, as written by Sylwyn
Ferdirand penned his signature at the bottom of the parchment:

Signed, Ferdirand Greenleaf
This day 7 Gysse Aril, 3485., C.E.


"I'm getting too old for this," he muttered, and replaced the cap on his inkwell.

After nearly two hours of skimming tax records and jotting notes in a black journal with the worn-out tip of a quill, he stood stiffly from the leather chair, gripping his back with both hands, and arched, his spine popping and crackling as his vertebrae shifted. Extending his arms into the air, he stretched and curled his fingers before reaching down and picking up the journal and tax records, now a six-inch stack of papyrus bound in a brown leather folder. So much to do, and so little time. He swiped his keys off the desk and unlocked the middle drawer to secure the folder inside.

"I'll take care of those delinquents later. Azavar smite me if those Imperial Pigs can't wait until tomorrow morning to rob hard-working citizens of their income." With that, he headed into the library and wandered up and down the aisles of the right wing until he found Uthis, standing on a ladder. Lifting an eyebrow, Ferdirand crossed his arms and frowned. "Still reading that bloody book are ye, Old Man?"

When the wizard did not answer or look up from his page, Ferdirand rapped the side of the ladder with his knuckles, at last getting his attention. The wizard turned his head and looks down at the Halfing, both eyebrows raised in mild surprise, maybe amusement.

"I swear yer getting hard-of-hearing, elf," Ferdirand scolded. "I'm headed down to the Gooseneck for a few drinks. If ye kin spare a few blinks from yer book, ye might consider joining me."

"Perhaps, another time," Uthis replied, and with a curt nod, went back to reading his book.

Ferdirand rolled his eyes. "Fine. That's what ye always say, wizard, but I'll let it go, this once, jes like I did last week." The Halfling turned and left the library.

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#, as written by Sylwyn
Uthis turns only briefly to watch Ferdirand go, his attention almost immediately returning to the book. He paused for a second or two, contemplating what the Halfling had said. Hard of hearing? Hardly. Have I simply grown stodgy in my middle age as he says? Shaking his head, he looks down at the book he was reading. Zamil: History of the Empire. He had been through every last page of every book on cults, deities, factions, guilds and still found nothing substantial on the Tyrnea Drenn. They were such a vital part of the empire, but not even a scrap of information seemed to exist, except for hearsay, and the occasional mention in history and some cult books. Even the majority of people had differing opinions on the assassins, and know one was really sure who the guild served anymore.

From what he had studied over the past century and a half, he learned the first known assassin to serve an emperor nearly two thousand years ago formed an elite group of covert fighters called the "Tyrnea Drenn," or "Children of the Light," to do the emperor's bidding. Following the creation of the guild, a few key members of the Imperial Council dropped out of history books. Though executions and assassinations throughout history had allegedly been carried out by the guild, no one seemed to know where they came from, or why they targeted specific people.

Uthis closes the tome with one hand and reaches up to put it back on the shelf when the sound of hurried heels clicking on the marble flooring jerks him from his thoughts.

"Uthis!" the academy headmaster's breathless voice pierces his ears in the narrow aisle.

The wizard glances down at the man in the gray cloak whose head, balding and surrounded by a crown of ashy hair, glistens with beads of sweat.

"Headmaster," Uthis commands when the man stops to catch his breath, one hand resting against the ladder. "What's the matter?"

The headmaster takes a deep breath before speaking. "It's about the old fire, Professor. The one that hit the west wing library back in '78."

"Yes, yes," Uthis gestures with his free hand, and slides the book back onto the shelf. "Go on, spit it out!"

"Well," the other man wipes his forehead and sucks in a gulp of precious oxygen before continuing. "The guards up at the watch tower were destroying outdated evidence this morning when they found a silver token with an etching on it."

"What about it?" The old wizard shifted a bit and took a step down on the ladder, the new information having piqued his interest.

"They found a dagger with the body of some no-name convict who escaped from the prison to Old Forest Road today with the same etching... the Tyrnea Drenn insignia."

"Are you saying the one who started the fire was a convicted assassin?" Uthis asked, incredulous. No Drenn assassin, as far as he knew, had ever seen the walls of a prison.

The headmaster shook his head. "No, not at all... The prisoner's cause of death was a stab wound to the chest. The Watch is still up in the air about making a formal statement, but we think the old fire was the result of arson... The Tyrnea Drenn may have started it."

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Character Portrait: Chancellor Calihal Character Portrait: Eight
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#, as written by Sylwyn
Chancellor Calihal reaches the Imperial City when two of the three moons are at their zenith in the sky, one a thin crescent, the other more than half full. He walks down the dark, deserted streets to ascend the grand, arcing stone staircase up to the Council Hall, the hilt of his sheathed longsword bobbing as he climbs.

The night watch, two moderately armed guards, look uneasy, shifting from foot to foot or rubbing the back of a neck. One guard, however, stands to attention, addressing him, "Chancellor," while the second guard unbars the doors.

"Good eve," Calihal responds, giving them both a curt nod. He may as well have told them to sod off.

They swung the massive arched doors out to allow him into the main lobby, and he heard the iron bar scrape against the wood as they lower it into place, shutting him in. Hmm, wonder what has their skivvies in a twist tonight? The lobby, a long corridor illuminated with small chandeliers between high arches on the ceiling and torches to either side, had skylights, that during the day allowed more light to come through, but he needed little more than candlelight to see by as he walked the hall toward the tax office, passing small rooms on the lower level, and wooden doors on both sides to stairwells leading up to the rooms on the second floor. Most of the rooms were empty, lightly furnished to accommodate travelers, mainly figureheads from overseas, but none of them, at present, were supposed to be occupied. He bypassed every one of them, stopping in front of the tax office door to dig for his keys before slipping the long one into the keyhole and giving it a twist. He pushed the door inward and stepped into the dark, vacant room.

At the big desk, he wiggled out another key, unlocked the drawer with the tax records and pulled out Ferdirand's black journal. He flipped through the pages, memorized a few names that seem to be of some importance to him, and replaced the book where he found it. As he heads over to a candle holder near the far bookshelf and glanced around once before pulling it down. A stone wall slid down into the floor with a grating sound. He stepped into a hidden passageway, and turned around, preparing to use the holder on the other side to seal off the tunnel, when he saw a hunched, cloaked figure looming in the darkness before him.

"Going somewhere, Chancellor?" a raspy, crone's voice answers from beneath the hood.

"Who's there?" Calihal demanded to know. "Show yourself!"

The figure stepped forward, and with the wave of a hand, cast a spectral green light which permeated the air around them, revealing under the cloak a wrinkled, sallow face.

The old woman gives the Chancellor a toothy grin. "Poor memory for the man owing a great debt to the woman who put you where you are, Chancellor, a poor memory indeed."

--

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The next morning, the so-called plan that the mercenary duo had prepared was about to be set in motion. Alexandria hid in the shadows of one of the buildings outside the walls of the Imperial Council Hall, and watched as Felix walked over to the gates. For his sake, she hoped he knew what he was doing.

Felix attempted to simply walk past the guard, only to achieve getting pushed back into the streets. A second try yielded a similar result, accompanied with the guard saying "Are you soft in the 'ead? You aren't allowed in 'ere, so bugger off!" The pyromancer's only response was to stare at the guard for a while, as if in thought...

...followed by a swift kick to the groin and subsequently running as if a pack of specifically terrifying hellhounds had been sent after him. Within the space of a few minutes, Felix was already in one of the courtyards and merrily blasting away at any guard foolish enough to try and stop him. Owing to the delicate nature of the situation, the pyromancer was using non-lethal projectiles for once; simple flares that exploded and knocked their target out like a light, so to speak.

With a fairly noticeable absence of guards watching over the front gate, Alexandria went straight inside, ever alert for any stray guards as she crept through the hallways. Should the Elf encounter such a threat, there was always the option of propelling the poor sod straight into a wall. The sounds of the conflict could even be heard from here, and she could easily guess that an impromptu change had been made in the plan. At least searching for the evidence would be over and done with much quicker than anticipated.

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It was strangely funny how you could be fleeing from highway robbers, madmen, or even beasts of the wild with wicked claws and fangs who would love nothing more than to gut, tear you open and feast upon your entrails, and there was nary a guard in sight. Yet, if you so much as blinked the wrong way at anyone, heavily armed watchmen suddenly appeared out of nowhere in growing numbers to apprehend you for your heinous crime.

The phrase "authorized lethal force," could have been used very loosely here, for after shouts of "Halt right there, criminal!" and something to the effect "lay down your weapons," the guards were coming in swords swinging, others bringing up their heavy iron shields to deflect or absorb his "attacks" as they wised up to his tricks. While he was busy trying to aim for the guards before him, two well-muscled men flanked from behind, and another two seized an arm apiece. Before he knew it, they had hoisted him off the ground with little more effort than they would have used had he been a child half his size.

Before he could protest or attempt to cast another annoying spell, they clamped irons around his wrists. He immediately felt the manna-sapping effects of the kerradium alloy bracers as they hauled him past a few dazed watchmen whose armor had been thick enough to keep them from getting knocked completely out. They push through a throng of about seven or eight smug-looking Imperial Guards and a handful of wary street urchins who had gathered to see the commotion, and headed down the street, through the south gate, away from the Council Hall.

Meanwhile, no one outside noticed as the doors slammed and clicked shut behind Alexandria, the noise resounding in the long corridor. She met no resistance, and passed unseen through the lobby. The tax office door was ajar, and she could hear the tapping of a quill being dipped to the bottom of an an inkwell, and the dull scratching of its tip across parchment. Nearly all of the rooms she passed were shut, most of them probably locked, but further down, she found a study, with its door wide open, furnished with a four-by-four bookshelf separating the back of the room. She could see through some of the gaps in books, the room was unoccupied, with one window and a desk with a huge swivel armchair sitting behind the shelf. From the tax office at the far end from which she came, her elven ears were keen enough to pick up the sounds of someone stirring in a crinkly leather chair and pushing papers across a desk.

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The sounds of battle had been silenced so abruptly. Had Felix been caught so soon? Fear crept into Alexandria's heart as she walked along the various hallways of the building, as if guided by an unseen force. The place looked abandoned, yet the scratching of a single quill seemed to be omnipresent, which did nothing to calm her nerves despite being so accustomed to the sound. After what seemed like an eternity of corridors, the Elf finally came across a door that wasn't locked. Whoever was using the quill was definitely in this room. Alexandria attempted to sneak up on the person in the chair, but from the looks of it they were expecting her to come in. Keeping her eyes on the chair, she braced herself for a fight.


Meanwhile, Felix was quite impressed. The guards had started to use their brains a little quicker than he had predicted, and now here he was, in magic-proof chains. Amazing. One of the guards walked up to him. By an astonishing coincidence, it was the very same one who was at the gate earlier. The one who had taken a kick to the-

"Well? Anything you'd like to say? Gotta admit, you've got some nerve makin' a scene like that. I reckon you're entitled to a few words before we work out what to do with you." Felix looked around at the armed men surrounding him with an expression of mild interest. In spite of the situation, the pyromancer was still relatively calm, as if this was all part of the plan. He'd even been given the rare opportunity of a last request, of sorts. His words?

"Take me to your leader," he said. Then, as an afterthought, he added the following:

"I always wanted to say that."

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Character Portrait: Scribe Uthis
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#, as written by Sylwyn
As Alexandria entered the room, she heard the slightest swish of fabric brushing against the chair. The scratching sound of the quill abruptly ceased, and a second or two of absolute silence passed before an arm clothed in indigo replaced the quill in its holder, and the swivel chair rotated slowly away from the back of the desk that enclosed it, bringing to bear a pair of azure eyes set in fine wrinkles beneath a mane of shoulder-length white. The council’s warden scribe clasped his hands, folding them onto the wood as he eyed her with an almost unreadable expression.

“Ah,” he finally murmured. “You must be the healer the Blades headmaster has told me so much about.” He raised an eyebrow. “Not quite what I expected, but rumor travels fast by mouth… swifter by blade. Especially when so few of our kin venture from, as the humans say, 'the comforts of home'? Do sit,” he motioned to a small chair beside the bookshelf. “I apologize, but your name eludes me… What brings you here, Miss…?”


One of the guards restraining Felix snickered. "You hear that? 'Take me to your leader'. What are you, some sort of comedian?" He glanced down at the 'Mancer and then looked back over at the other guard on Felix's right. "Oho!" he burst into laughter, and said, between breaths, "That's rich, he thinks he's going to get an audience with the Watch Captain."

The guard from the gate had not sustained more than a rather visible dent in his armor. Walking around like that, let alone in public... Well...

He just folded his arms and stood, legs apart, facing Felix. "You're in luck, kid. The General's out today fighting Orcs with the Blades, so the Captain's got Prison Duty. "Here's the thing. we had a break-out yesterday afternoon, and we just took an old geezer out of solitary, making our only open cell on your block off-limits. You look like a decent sort. I'd sooner slap you on the wrist, fine you and let you get on your way, but the Drenn are pending investigation over the Academy fire from back in '78, and we're under strict orders not to release any suspects without permission from the Captain.

"We can take you down to the Tower, the Captain'll ask you a few questions, if you come up clean, we'll take the shackles off and you'll be free to go, or, if you get cocky, these two men here," he nodded to each of the guards holding him, "will haul you down to solitary to spend the night while we free up a cozy bunk for you right next to Ol' Barnaby.” He shrugs. “Then, again, maybe Barney's more your type. Big, strong. Gentle..."

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Felix listened to the guard's speech, and his expression seemed to change to a more serious one when the Academy fire was mentioned. Hadn't they already denied his claims and kicked him out back then? Or maybe someone actually got up off their lazy arse and decided to do something. In any case, there was the slightest possibility that someone was looking out for him in the Council. Maybe. But if that was true, was the Emperor himself responsible for this mess? The pyromancer took his sweet time, thinking over what he should say, along with some impromptu redactions for "the plan".

"Right," he muttered, just loud enough for the guards to hear. "Let's head for that tower, then." Were it not for the chains that bound him, Felix would have taken the lead, most likely getting hopelessly lost within the corridors. Good thing there were a few people in close proximity who knew the way.


Alexandria did indeed introduce herself to the Elven scribe, but chose to remain standing; there was no telling whether this man was either friend or foe, at least for the moment. Her eyes scanned the room for anything that might pose a threat, maybe assassins. Admittedly, there wasn't much cover in the room for someone with a cloak and dagger to hide behind, but being around an unpredictable pyromancer on a daily basis had taught her to be alert. The scholar decide to voice her opinions, but secretly hoped this conversation wouldn't last too long.

"Why exactly would the master of the Guild tell you about us? I thought that the Crimson Blades worked independently from the Imperials." She wasn't expecting an honest answer, but any answer at all would have been welcome.

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Character Portrait: Scribe Uthis
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#, as written by Sylwyn
The guards wasted no time hauling him off from the South Gate, past the Academy, through the Purlieu to the south east end and into the Imperial Prison. They brought him through the first block, passing a big man with short, jet black hair who eyed Felix with a mean, hungry look as they walked by, to an office in the back. Inside, there was a large desk with locked drawers and cabinets, wooden chairs for seating, and a unmarked door beyond the desk. One guard released him, and the other dumped him into the chair furthest from the door.

The guard he'd kicked loomed over him with his arms crossed. "Wait here. The captain will be here soon... There'll be guards waiting right outside the front door, so don't try anything funny." With that, the three men who'd 'escorted' him left, none too quietly as they slammed the door behind them.

...

"My dear," the wizard said, leaning forward. "The Blades do not answer directly to the emperor, but they are a part of the empire much the same. For instance, your shoe is not an extension of you, but you wear it. When the leather is dirty, you polish it, when it breaks you repair or replace it. Likewise, there are missions for which the Blades are better suited. In simpler words, the Imperial Army would stir up quite a fuss if they intervened in every situation, you understand? That, however, is not why you have come." Uthis stood up, and opened the little wooden gate to his desk. At full height, he stood taller than Alexandria- their kind were known on average to be taller than their woodland and drow kin- but she could see he hunched slightly, as if his back troubled him.

"I can see the question in your eyes, young one," he observed, stepping between her and the desk to the bookcase that divided the room. He pushed a few books aside as he searched for a specific title in the collection. Like anyone who is not a mindless slave to the madness and doctrines of a slowly ailing government, you wonder just how deep its corruption runs. You are wise not to trust the first person you meet, but in all honesty, the Council could use your help. You see, we have long suspected their may be a traitor among us with motives darker than mortal greed. While a few of us have our doubts as to the loyalty of certain people, most of us have been on the Council for many, many years, and a fresh face is less likely..." he selected a book and gently slid it off the shelf. "...to stir up commotion. Of course one could not be expected to work without proper payment, but I will throw in a little bonus for your trouble."

He tilted the book so she could see the title: Eyllisathem: Journey of Cleary the Wise, as written by Solbrar, with excerpts from the Diary of Clery the Wise. The book, one of a hundred copies in Zamil, had seen more than a few years. The diary of the ancient scholar believed to have traveled to the mythical world of the Ka'ua, had been copied a few dozen times when a museum curator had brought the original from Daemus on the famous ship, the Dionysius, as a present to the emperor of the time. Uthis had translated and transcribed the text himself. The original returned with the High Elves to the World History Museum of Daeoth.

"With all due respect, this is not a task assignable to just anyone, and your presence here is more than likely to cause disharmony among the guards. Should you accept, I ask only that you first pay a visit to our treasurer, as I'm sure he would appreciate a little help regarding a small matter."

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'So the Imperials aren't above enlisting the help of the Blades,' Alexandria thought as she listened to the wizard. But neither her or Felix were no longer part of the Blades. Once the Elf laid eyes on the title of the book he held, her eyes widened in amazement. She'd certainly heard quite a lot about the diary, but never really expected to see the real thing for herself, let alone read it! Shaking her head to remove such tantalising thoughts, Alexandria's mind moved back to the matter at hand. Did this man wish to hire Felix and her to find a traitor within the Council? Well, looking back on their exemplary mercenary work in the past, it seemed pretty damn likely. "I'll consider it, but only on two conditions. First, you'll have to let Felix go; you either have both of us or neither. Secondly... can I borrow that book sometime? Please?" The book's temptation had got to her a little, but if at least the first counter-offer was accepted she'd still be happy. The Imperial Council wasn't exactly a library. That's what the Academy was for.


Felix kept an unusually straight face as he was led to the tower. Passing the Academy, he couldn't help but wonder if he'd make a "grand comeback" and how the senior members of the faculty would react. He'd heard that a couple of the poor sods had died in the fire, but he'd never been told who it was. All he knew was that they were important and that was it. After the fire, sent out of the Academy and left to do what he did best: wandering. And throwing fire, but that was beside the point.

Passing through the cell block, the pyromancer got a good look at one of the inmates, who was glaring at him with some sort of purpose. He made a mental note of the man in case he was someone he either fought in the past or owed him money. When Felix was shown to what could be called a waiting room, the guards were kind enough to remove his shackles. He started pacing the room, feeling his returning power as a warm, comforting glow in these surroundings of ambiguous hostility. When the guards came back for him he was still pacing the room, yet giggling a little in such a manner that could make people question his sanity. It was mostly an act to unsettle any other potential glarers, but part of it was because he'd just remembered a rather amusing joke from a few days ago.

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Character Portrait: Scribe Uthis
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#, as written by Sylwyn
There was a twinkle in the old man's eye, but the corner of his mouth barely moved. He ran a wrinkled hand over the hand-stitched, brown leather-bound cover before setting it on his desk. "Miss Lanneth. you are more than welcome to bring your friend to assist you. Should you succeed, you may have the book. From one scholar to another."

Reaching into a pocket deep within his robe, heb extracted a violet coin purse. He dumped out a handful of coins and some paper notes, equaling in total to at least two hundred gold, and held it out to her. "As I said, one cannot be expected to work without compensation. This should be enough for the two of you. Once you identify the traitor and bring me evidence, I will see that you are each rewarded with a lump sum and your book, but do pay Ferdirand a visit. He will have a little extra work for you that may be of some importance. His office is midway between here and the entrance, to your right, on the way out." Alexandria might recognize the door that was ajar when she walked into the hall. "You may tell him I sent you."

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Character Portrait: Treasurer Ferdirand
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Ferdirand looked up from writing on a thick stack of parchment, both eyebrows raised above a pair of small, square-rimmed glasses. For a Halfling, he'd a broad look, kind of like a middle aged pirate with a deep jaw and a pointed gray goatee. His tan, leathered skin said he had worked for years under the sun.

"What's this? I dinna recall any job bein'... ah," he nodded, understanding. He studied the elf a moment over the bridge of his glasses. Pointy ears, slender face, small eyes and nose... yep. No doubt Uthis had sent her. "Ye must be the help the old wizard promised. Weel, don't stand there poking yer head in like a parrot." He waved her in as he opened the drawer in the center of his desk with his other hand and sifted through some paperwork. "I've a matter concerning a munitions shipment to Koroth that left today. There's been talk of an attempt on the life of the High Elf Ambassador," he narrowed one eye, watching her reaction carefully. "An' well, people from all over are to be meeting at a conference a couple of days from now. Some of the weapons and items on this list are... questionable."

He pulled out a document and smoothed the creased page, lifting it to the light shining from the window behind him, then scrawled something else on a piece of blank parchment, dipped his ring in an ink pad and stamped the bottom before holding both documents out to her.

"Koroth's not much further from Arn, where the conference is taking place, so I'd like for ye to go down to the shipping warehouse in the Marketplace with this record and see what ye canna find. When you're done, see the guardsman down at the warehouse, and give him the note I'm sending ye with. He'll pay ye fifty gold for your trouble."

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#, as written by Sylwyn

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The Halfling stared at her, unblinking for an instant. 'We', as far as he knew, had not been part of the job, but he wasn't about to tell the girl no. He'd never had children of his own, but Alexandria reminded him of an elf girl he used to sail with in his younger days whom he'd honorarily adopted as a daughter. So reserved, yet with the spark of adventure that would make her drop everything on a moment's notice to go on some quest. And, a thirst for knowledge that made him want to show her something new and exciting just to see the childlike awe and wonder so rarely seen in the scholarly race with their holier-than-thou attitudes.

After handing her the documents, Ferdirand closed the tax records and stood up, taking a separate piece of parchment on which a list was scrawled, and pushed his chair in.

"Well," he scratched his nose, and pushed up his rims as he came out from behind the desk. He didn't smile, but she could see a brightness in his eyes when he met hers, nodding toward the door. "I've a couple quick stops to make in the Purlieu, I suppose ye can tag along."

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By the time the guard paid them and the duo left fifty gold richer, the guards outside the Council Hall had changed shifts, and recognized neither of them. Ferdirand, toting a thick envelope, arrived outside the building shortly after, and waved the guards away before they could ask what was going on.

"They're with me," he told them gruffly.

As the guards stepped aside, opening the doors, the Halfling motioned for Alexandria and Felix to come in.

"So, did ye find anything?" he asked once they were inside, heading toward the tax office.

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The sight of both mages nodding enthusiastically told Ferdirand that they had indeed found something of importance. However, they kept quiet until they reached his office, to be on the safe side. After all, when it came to doing tasks for political figures one couldn't be too careful. Careless talk costs lives, as they say.

"Oh, we found something," Felix began. "And I dunno about my colleague, but I certainly know what it is. Care to explain what it was doing in the warehouse? Damn thing was causing a terrible smell." The pyromancer nodded to Alexandria, who brought out the magical air pocket that contained the bottle and gently placed it on the desk, as if the slightest knock would burst the bubble. The elf also looked quite eager to rush out of the door upon remembering her other reward.

"Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to discuss about my reinstatement into the Academy." The duo had upheld their side of the bargain, and now it was time to see if the Imperials would stay true to their word...

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Character Portrait: Scribe Uthis Character Portrait: Treasurer Ferdirand
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#, as written by Sylwyn
The Treasurer sat down, peering first over the rims of his glasses, scrunching his bushy gray brows at the bottle encased in the elf's bubble, and then leaned forward to get a closer look. Uneducated in the written language, he nonetheless recognized the jutting lines of a Dark Elf inscription on the bottle. Without touching the air pocket, he ascertained by Felix's comment alone what had been in that tiny vial.

"Here, let me see that shipping record again," Ferdirand said, taking it from Alexandria. The Halfling pushed up the bridge of his spectacles and studied the parchment at length before finally standing with the document in hand. "If ye'll excuse me jest a minute," he told Felix, and stepped into the hall, cupping his palm as he called out, "Uthis! I think ye'd better take a look at this."

The muted squeak of leather sandals along the floor echoed in the corridor as the wizard met Ferdirand outside the office. The treasurer left the door open a crack, and the two ex-Blades picked up most of what was being said.

"I don't believe it," the Scribe murmured from the other side. "Sylwyn is our most trusted council member, why would she..."

"I dunno, Uthis. I find it hard to believe, but she signed the document herself. She had to have known what she was doing, unless someone else switched-"

"Preposterous. The only ones with access to the warehouse after hours are you, myself..."

The wizard trailed off, and there was a brief exchange of silence before Ferdirand spoke again. "If we turn this in to Evidence, they'll send a courier directly to Arn and have her arrested by the port authorities. They'll deport her before she can stand trial."

"What do you presume to do?" asked Uthis. "Hide an illegal substance within Council walls?"

"Well, what else are we s'posed ta do with it, tell those kids in there to take it back? As far as they're concerned, their job is done. They took care of my inventory and caught our traitor, according to the document."

The Halfling's right hand rested on the outer knob, pushing the door in slightly.

"The eye only sees the outward truth, Ferdirand. Humans have a saying... 'Koar is in the details'? It is also possible the assassin switched the restorative with the poison either to thwart an attempt on the ambassador's life, or kill the ambassador himself. As we do not currently know who's side he is on, one can only entertain all notions with the understanding he is still officially outside our jurisdiction. Either way, this leaves assassin untouched, the criminal, loose, likely at the embassy with two high-profile targets, and our Secretary with no legal case."

"What about those two? Why don't we-"

"Out of the question," Uthis cut him off. "They've done more than enough.We pay them- a little more than what we agreed upon- and send them on their way."

The door swung open, and the two councilmen stepped into the office.

"Miss Lanneth," Uthis held out the book he'd promised Alexandria, along with a handful of paper currency, and reached into his coin purse, turning to Felix. "Mr. Rook, when the Academy opens tomorrow morning, I will speak with the headmaster about reinstating you on probation until the Watch sorts out the mess with regards to the fire."

The Halfling opened a desk drawer and sat down, withdrawing a thin cheque book. Wordlessly, he removed his quill from the inkwell and began to fill out the lines on the top page.

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Character Portrait: Scribe Uthis Character Portrait: Treasurer Ferdirand
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#, as written by Sylwyn
"Yes, and you have our humble thanks," Uthis said pointedly, deep azures glancing reprovingly at the Halfling.

"What?" Ferdirand drew back, raising his hands defensively. "I didn't even say anything."

"No, but I know what you are thinking, and it is still out of the question."

"Yer not going to budge on keepin' the bottle, so why not send the kids ahead to-"

"Absolutely not!" The next caravan for Arn doesn't leave until tomorrow afternoon. "

"But, if we jes-"

"Even if they left today ," he talked over Ferdirand, counting out the last gold pieces and handing them to Felix, "They will never make it ahead of the courier, and it will look a trifle suspicious sending two unknowns to the conference with a letter bearing the Royal Seal when only one of us is authorized to be there. And," Uthis' added, his stare darkening, "Unless I am mistaken, she is already on her way there."

The Halfling looked from Felix to Alexandria with his eyebrows raised, as if to say Can you believe this guy?

"Blasted elf! Who do ye expect to clean up this fine mess? We go, or, send anyone else they know... we'll all be guilty jes by associatin'. The lot of good that'll do us when ye said yerself we need a fresh face. We'll, there's two right in this room."

Uthis pressed his thumb and two fingers against the bridge of his nose, shutting his eyes for a moment or two before fixing them on the bottle sitting on the desk, still encased in Alexandria's bubble.

Sensing his opening, Ferdirand continued, hoping to drive his point home. "I know a Forger in Gooseneck who'll be more than happy to write up a letter with a seal from the Duke of Gaelle," he said, referring to the Daemus colonial city in southeast Zamil. "For the right price."

Uthis merely shook his head. "I shan't ask how you so happen to 'know' a forger-"

"To be honest, yer prolly better off left in the dark on that one..."

"There yet remains the problem of arriving ahead of the courier, let alone in time to catch the assassin, or the traitor, for that matter."

"There is a way."

The Scribe raised a bushy white brow.

"Don't get coy with me, elf. You know what I'm talking about..."

"And, no. There are too many variables."

"I s'pose ye have a better way?"

At last, the wizard gave an exasperated sigh and regarded the duo with an unreadable expression before putting away his coin purse. "All right," he conceded, turning to the door. "I will draft the letter."

...

"Let's go over this again, in case that brain of yers needs refreshing," Ferdirand said, looking over at Felix, who'd nearly gotten himself arrested only hours ago, and glancing over the letter Uthis had written. "Ye'll take the document to the forger before the night is out and pick up the letter before ye head back here tomorrow evenin'."

Uthis handed the drafted letter over to Alexandria. "It will take some time to reserve the power to transport each of you. Mind you, the spell is not entirely accurate, and once your matter is dispersed, you will be at nature's mercy until you reach the zone within your intended destination. Once you are there, however, your immediate objective will be to establish yourselves, gain access to the embassy as visiting officials from the colonial city, and begin your mission by locating and warning the Secretary."

"Ye might want bring something a little more suitable to change into," the Halfling said casting a glance over Alexandria. "Syl's about your size, maybe a little more, ahem, endowed-"

"You two may check the closets in the farthest suites upstairs," Uthis quickly put in, shooting another reproachful look at Ferdirand, who just shrugged.

"What? Hey, don't look at me, I'm jes sayin'- fine." Ferdirand rolled his eyes. "Anywho, once ye get to the embassy, Sylwyn shouldn't be too hard to find," the Halfling noted offhandedly. "Jes' look for the guard with the jet black hair... she's sure to be somewhere nearby. As much time as she spends with the man, ye'd think they were separated at birth."

"In other matters," Uthis said, snatching up the document, much to Ferdirand's surprise, and handing it to Alexandria. "that leaves us but one loose end." With a wave of his hand, the air bubble holding the bottle floated off the desk and drifted to his open hand, hovering there as he muttered an incantation. Fiery characters began to glow around the sphere's equator. The bubble then solidified into a hard, transparent case over which he closed his fingers one at a time and placed into a pocket inside his robe. "I will personally see this vial directly to Evidence."