Back/up Back in the Rubble again Pavis overall

Humakt's Hall

A short while later the VII Cohort is assembled near the entrance uncovered by Yaren's ritual. The slab, once lifted, reveals a narrow flight of stairs leading down into blackness, and Siggyr is now briefing the senior legionnaires on the second phase of his plan.

"Alright then, well done everyone. A good job done. It's getting dark now, and we haven't got much in the way of a camp or defences going. The basement of an old Humakt temple may offer us better protection than up here on the surface, but we'll need to examine it first. Depending on what we find, we can either bunker down there for the night or explore further, but what ever we do, there will need to be a guard mounted up top. Unless anyone else wants to volunteer for the job I'd like Dorinda to stay up top on guard with Malan for the moment. I'll head down first, with Hrolf and Jamal prepared to follow us ready to deal with any trouble. Once we know what we have, we can plan further. Dorinda - I assume you have notified Illig of our progress?"

She nods quietly.

"Any comments or questions?"

Jamal nods, "Abyad, Abul, Boltar, Fufuld, ready yourselves. The rest of you stay above ground until we have cleared the area."

Jamal grabs a torch and indicate that the others should do likewise. "We'll light these when we get below. Hrolf, Siggyr and I will lead, be ready to come on our call."

With this he turns to Siggyr. "Let us start this business."

Egil steps forward "Sir, do you want me to come with you? Scouting is a bit of a speciality of mine and I can swing a sword too if I need to."

"Of course you're bloody coming with me," snaps Siggyr. "I need you as a soft weight to make sure the damn place isn't trapped." This is the kind of comment Siggyr makes when he's trying to be sardonically humorous. "Right. Egil, you're on point - I'm right behind you. Ready lads, swords out... all together? Remember, Egil Nine-Wounds with a hangover is scarier than anything down there."

By eerie half-light, black-light of their swords the first ten begin to edge down the stairs.

The steps are narrow, and the roof is low enough that many of the group need to crouch slightly. The stairs curve round, spiralling down. Away from the sun above, it's cool down here - pleasantly so, for many.

Finally the stairs end, and they come out into a much larger room, with plenty of head space. The light of the swords doesn't let you see as well as if you were in daylight, of course, but this room is easily big enough for another ten to come down without being overcrowded. It's wider than it is long. It looks like there's a door, or archway, in the wall facing you. There's equipment against the side walls, and objects hanging from the walls to either side of the far door - swords, perhaps?

The First Ten advance cautiously into the room, every sense, both mundane and magical, alert for the possibility of enemies, ambushes, or traps. Egil, as the scout, leads, but Siggyr is right behind him. A rather subdued Aelfwyrd brings up the rear - perhaps a week or so of Siggyr has had some effect?

Nothing attacks. But there is an intense sense of being watched. Judged. There is no hostility - yet. Yes, everyone present is aware that their Lord is here. But the face - faces? He shows are not those known to them. Not Hereward, of course. Not Hu, nor Efrodar. Only Aelf seems to recognise the touch on his soul, but even he is disconcerted. "My Lord" he whispers, and then "but who is this other?"

The Far Walker had been strangely quiet and introspective of late. What ailed him was unclear, even to those he called sword kin. Yet as he felt the presence of the God he was renewed. Closing his eyes he takes a deep breath and begins to spin the Seven Dragon Blade. Murmuring a prayer, the strange many-bladed weapon moves faster and in complex patterns. There is a subtle ceremonial quality to this display, not often seen outside the cold halls of death. To the casual onlooker this seems nothing more than an elaborate practice routine, to the gathered Humakti it something else all together.

Then suddenly there is silence and the blade is still in his hands. Opening his eyes it is clear that his vigour had returned for the Kargani seemed alert and energized. "Kargan watches over this place. Yet, there is one other."

They spread out, scanning for danger or opportunity. The equipment at the sides of the chamber is stacked neatly, put away as if for long storage. No danger lies there.

There is indeed an archway ahead, but the huge carved stone and the iron grilles blocking it present a problem. Aelf examines it, hefts an axe thoughtfully, then apparently abandons that idea and summons Yrsga forward. She actually seems to be enjoying this. "Just like the catacombs under the Old City at home," she says happily. "Only with higher ceilings and better air."

She ignores any meaning behind the carvings, leaving that for others, but studies the mechanics with the eye of a practised thief. "It'll open easily enough, given the right tools. You need to slot something in that little hole there and use it as a lever, then the whole thing'll twist so the flanges line up. Only how you get at it.. It'll have to be a very long lever. Go in through the grille, the holes are big enough that you'll still have enough angle to pull. Something long, thin, and strong enough to take the force - oh. Something like that, say."

There is a sword hanging on each side of the archway. Most Humakti would perhaps have studied them first, but Yrsga is only newly initiated. On this side hangs a delicate, tapering rapier, even longer and finer than Dori's comparatively workmanlike sword, reminiscent of the duelling blades used in Nochet, where silk, not armour, is all they have to penetrate.

She considers it for a moment. "No. Too fine. I know those things are good, but it'll break if you put that much force on it. We'll have to find something else."

Siggyr regards her wordlessly for a moment, then sighs deeply. Pulling free the rapier, the Tenthane examines the blade for a moment with deep appreciation. "A wonderful sword this. All swords are holy, of course, but some are more holy than others." He frowns for a moment, and there is a sudden glow from the blade, a silver overlying the black Deathlight.

As Siggyr works this magic, Hereward's gift of the Unbreakable Sword, he is aware of the God's Faces in the room, observing and judging. Kargan is impassive in the face of the wyter's power, but the other radiates approval, approval mixed with surprise.

Siggyr suddenly thrusts at the stone wall with enough force to shatter the sword, horrifying Yrsga. She winces, but instead of metal shards raining down around the room there is a solid clash of metal on stone and a slight grunt from Siggyr.

Yrsga reopens her eyes to see the Tenthane holding the sword out to her, hilt first. "You are of the Temple now, Yrsga," he says kindly. "You should remember, under our banner all swords are touched by the Most Holy. That is why we are strongest, unbreakable."

Egil is strangely drawn to the carvings. He ignores the commotion with the sword and goes across to stare at them, they seem somehow familiar, he recalls seeing them before but can't remember where. Was it just now during the ritual when he was stood as Hu of the nine silences at his door? Or maybe it was in Whitewall in that cellar. He tries to recall their significance, the letters mean nothing but runes and pictures are a different matter.

There are signs there of protection. Of preservation. Of... testing? It's often hard to work out what the carver meant by the runes he's used, but that's the impression Egil receives.

There's writing, too, in the centre. A few brief words. Those aren't familiar at all.

There is a clatter behind the group, and a flash of lighted torches as Jamal's Ten enter the room.

Jamal looks round the room, then peers over to Siggyr, the frustrations of the day bubbling slightly below the surface. "Well Siggyr, what's the situation?"

But behind him, there is a pause. As she enters the room, following Jamal, Elnor straightens up and starts to raise her torch - then stops. "Hold on. That's odd." She lowers the torch again. "It burned brighter as I raised it. What's going on?"

As he hears Jamal's voice behind him, Siggyr is aware of a change in the magical surroundings. What before was judgemental, but not hostile, has changed - there is still no hostility as such, but the judgment is no longer favourable. Something has changed - an act has occured which should not have occured, a test has been failed, and the consequences will be - inevitable? Regrettable? It's hard to tell meaning from the implacable face of Death. That part of his senses still linked to the wyter warns of what is not exactly preparation for something that is not exactly an attack.

Egil gives up struggling to get a precise meaning from the carvings and looks round at Elnor. "Wait there. Move the torch about and see where it burns brightest. There must be a breeze up there somewhere. Everyone knows Oakfed is strongest when Orlanth breathes."

Jamal sniffs the air, perhaps a trap for the unwary. "Lights out !!" he barks and immediately the group is plunged back into darkness.

"It looks like the previous occupants have set a little trap for the non-Humakti." Jamal calls into the gloom. "Unless we can 'Illuminate' this 'darkness' a little, I will not be able to progress much further."

With that Jamal calls out to the wyter to cast a little light on the proceedings.

"Good call, Jamal," remarks Siggyr.

As the torches go out, those who had previously sensed a warning of impending doom feel it die down. But as the ritual to Illuminate the
Darkness begins, that second, unknown, face of Humakt reacts - only slightly, and it's hard to tell whether the reaction is positive or negative. But it's there.

Soon the whole chamber is illuminated with that eerie non-light that all the Legion are familiar with, and all, Humakti or not, can see.

Aelfwyrd, still in communion with his god, feels something strange here, now the first ecstacy has subsided. This is not quite the face of his Lord that he is familiar with. Something is different - and yet, strangely familiar. He feels the Illumination rite pass through his being, as he has done before, and welcomes the way it drives back the Darkness he has always fought against - and for once, feels that this path and his Lord's do not run together.

The Kargani makes a sign of the God and whispers into the darkness "We do not journey upon the true path" and frowning "Yet you have changed...but are the same."

A long silence.

"Is this another test my Lord?"

No words. But the knowledge is somehow there - yes, you are being tested. And you have passed the test. Others, however, are still in doubt. And if they fail, you may be the weapon in your Lord's hands to destroy them....

The immediate danger gone, and the lighting improved, Siggyr turns his attention to the carvings on the stone that Egil is so fascincated by. "Hmmmm - these runes. Protection, preservation, and... testing? My guess is that whatever lies behind this gaurdian stone has been set to withstand the ravages of Time, a secret sanctuary. And that we should not expect to enter unchallenged."

The writing in the centre of the stone, though, isn't familiar at all. Siggyr doesn't even recognise the language - not Tarshite, not New Pelorian.

"Vern!"

Vern had been trying to push his way past the last of Jamal's Ten on the steps - hearing Siggyr's order, they now let him through. The scholar takes in the room in a long, appreciative glance, before being dragged over to examine the carved stone.

"Hmm? Oh, Old Pavic. A maker's mark, as it were. "Constructed in the year 1244 by Orphus Kir(*1), Master Mason of Pavis."

"Old Pavic must be a wordy language," remarks Siggyr. "If that were Tarshite, it would take half the space - in New Pelorian, maybe a quarter." He favours Vern with a considered look that the scrawny Knowledge cultist finds disconcerting. "What else does does it say - the rest of the inscription?"

"The rest? What rest?" Vern looks up to see Siggyr's face blackening. "Oh, that last line, very faint, isn't it? And the light in here isn't very good.. hmmm, let me see.... at the request of the cults of... erm... Kargan? And, erm.... no, I can't read that last word."

Siggyr sighs and exchanges glances with the other Herewardi in the room, before turning to one of his new recruits. "Tristram - bring Vindana down here".

Whilst they are waiting for Dorinda's sidekick, Siggyr rocks back and forth on his heels, thinking. "Vern," he says quietly. "Never lie to us. We can read lies as easily as you can read that inscription. And not being able to say is not the same as not being able to read."

It takes only a few moments for Vindana to translate the passage. "Constructed in the year 1244 by Orphus Kir, Master Mason of Pavis," she reads. "At the request of the cults of Kargan and Jalmar." She frowns. "Who's Jalmar?"

"You may go now Vindana, my thanks. Tristram?"

The burly Herewardi almost has to drag the protesting scholar from the chamber.

Vern is looking contrite, but Siggyr waves it aside. "I understand. I think. I have heard the name. But we are going to have an interesting conversation about this. Soon." The Tenthane looks around to see the assembled Legionnaires waiting for his next order. "Yrsga? You may proceed."

Yrsga had been waiting for inspection of the carvings to finish, but now, at Siggyr's permission she inserts the glowing and now Unbreakable rapier through the grille, into the aperture in the great stone, and pulls sideways and down, carefully. The stone, which must weigh a ton or more, turns smoothly and slides outward a foot or so, along with the grille. She removes the rapier, and pushes - channels in the floor let the stone and all move sideways, revealing the entrance to the main chamber beyond.

Looking through, the great hall beyond is lit to Humakti eyes by the Deathlight that shines from the weaponsof the two statues that face them. Yes, two, not one.

On the right stands a cloaked warrior leaning on the pommel of a huge bastard sword. His face is hidden within a deep cowl. And that sword looks very familiar...

On the left, another warrior leans on an equally huge mace. No cloak here, and the armour portrayed seems incredibly archaic. The shape of the helmet is odd - in fact, the shape of the head is odd. And... Are those tusks?

Siggyr takes in the scene with a mixture of dread, awe, excitement and astonishment. What the hell is Jalmar doing holding a copy of Hereward's Sword - Arkat's Sword - the Unbreakable and Indivisible? And why is Kargan wearing tusks? "Aelfwyrd - do you know this representation of Kargan that stands before us? I think heartfelt prayer and thanks to the God would be appropriate at this moment, and I'd like to address Him correctly."

Egil gazes for a moment at the two statues before he turns and walks away muttering loudly, "Why in the 9 silences would a statue of Arkat the bastard troll be allowed to stand here?"

"I don't think that is..." begins Siggyr, trailing off as he sees Jamal struggling to pass into the hall.

As Jamal enters the main hall, he is acutely aware of the statue on the right. The face is hidden in the cowl, but he feels that it is staring at him. Through him. Examining his soul. The outer world fades away, he is conscious only of the questions being forced upon him. The "what if....?" scenarios so intense that they seem real.

What if.... you were free to choose not to obey your cult's code? If geases were something you could ignore, or not, as you saw fit? Because you knew better? You understood the meaning behind them? Blind obedience is for children, but you are a man....

What if... you could harness the power of chaos? Without harm? The Lunars do it. What would you give to have that sort of power at your command? You'd use it responsibly, not like them - wouldn't you?

Jamal staggers back against the wall to his side, his head reeling.

Images spin in his head, the walls, images in the Bad Kings cave spin and leap out at him dancing in irridecent colours. The words, riddles play and play, over and over again in his ears, the words jumbling and tossing into a salad that has no meaning....

Yet has meaning beyond meaning.

The Ravenkaaz board spins in his head, the familar black and white figures spinning and twisting into unfamiliar shapes, flicking from black to white to a uniform grey, to a shade which is all colours, and yet no colour at all.

The image of a board spins and settles in front of Jamal, across from him is the image of the cowled figure, the indestructable sword at his side. The board is laid out in familiar fashion, Jamal has the familiar white pieces, the cowled figure's figures are not the usual black, but rather switch confusingly between colour, black, white, grey..every colour..

Jamal opens in his usual fashion, but as with his games with Vern the game quickly slips into unfamiliar fluid patterns that Jamal has never seen before.

Or perhaps he has .....

"There there is a meaning beyond truth and deceit, you have always known this.." The words echo in Jamals head, as the Hazars of the Cowled figure pivot and swarm forward, threatening to overwhelm the left flank Jamal's defensive position. "These are the words of the vile deciever, that will be beaten back by the truth of Idonvanus."

Jamals Castle move in a traditional defense, that stems the initial flow, but yet somehow seems insufficient...

"Truth and Deceit, these are but both same sides of the same coin, the whole dichotomy is based on a false premise. Surely you realise this by now ?"

The figures Visirs slip ghost like past Jamal's line, and close in threatenly on his Patriarch.

"What you say may be true, that truth and deceit are but phantoms, imaginings. There is only choice. But you cannot make my choice for me, and my choice is the Sword Path."

With that Jamal launches an unconventional counter attack, his pieces' identities switch and morph, Patriarch become the lowest pawn, and the Visirs and Hasars jump and interchange as as they launch a final reckless attack on the heart of the Cowled figure's defense.

Jamal's attack swerves almost uncontrollably, scattering the Cowled figures defences, and bringing the game to a clattering halt. The Cowled figure stands and knocks his Patriarch on its side in submission. With that the vision fades and Jamal is back in the underground temple. Quickly he looks around, only a moment has passed. He glances round the group, Aelf looks like he's stoking himself up for something or other. Nothing new then....

Jamal looks at Siggyr, "Nice statues, a bit rough for my taste though, who do you think they are ?"

Siggyr returns the look, noticing the glaze of perspiration on the other's lip, the slight wildness in the eyes. "As I was about to tell Egil, I think the Uz figure is not Arkat, but some form of Kargan, though we shall have to wait for Aelf to return to us and hear his opinion on that. The other is known as Jalmar. He hunts Chaos. And Illuminates, Jamal. Once the Cohort has passed through these doors, I think I'll need to have a little chat with you, as well. Meanwhile, it looks as though the God has Aelfwyrd performing a duty for him."

The Kargani kneels in silence mouthing a prayer to the Lord, he is motionless but for the gentle rise and fall of his chest.

Tristram was a recent recruit to the VII Cohort, a loud and well traveled young man he was not your typical Herewardi if such a thing existed, although an able warrior by all accounts. The Sartarite had been assigned to Siggyr and he had been watching events unfold in the ancient hall with interest. Drawing close to the guardian statues the new recruit runs a hand over the stonework admiring the craftsmanship. Without warning small beads of sweat appear on his brow, and stepping back Tristram recoils as if burnt.

The Far Walker rises to his feet and taking up the Dragon Blade the prayers that were silent are now spoken aloud and echo about the great hall.

"If I whet my glittering blades, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will bring vengeance upon the corrupt, a retribution upon those that deceive me. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth this vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked."

Aelfwyrd stands before Tristram, the gathered Herewardi watching on. The new recruit is clearly panicked and flailing wildly tries to draw his sword. Too late as the horrific many bladed weapon bites into flesh; a blade takes his left eye, another opens his throat, the next slices his sword arm, the last piercing deep into his gut.

Tristram sways slightly but remains upright, surprise wrought large upon his face. His eye suddenly widen as the fell weapon is torn away, each razor sharp hook rending and slicing his flesh. Blood sprays from his throat as rolls of slippery intestine flop sickeningly to the cold stone floor. Slumping the over the new recruit is deathly still, his blood pooling at the feet of the guardian statues.

Aelfwyrd is impassive for once and turns to Siggyr.

"Retribution will be swift"

Jamal, who had opened his mouth to reply to Siggyr when Aelf went about his butcherous business with the hapless Tristram, looks at Aelf with an expression of profound relief that the insuborbinate Kargani is no longer his responsibility. Returning to Siggyr as if nothing particularly unusual had happen, he remarks sardonically, "Dissention in the ranks Siggyr ?"

"Deception in the ranks, at least," murmurs Siggyr thoughtfully, eyeing Tristram's butchered corpse. "Aelfwyrd has the God-touched look about him, Jamal, do you not think? I for one feel profoundly grateful and honoured that the God has judged me worthy to enter this sanctuary. In time we shall uncover why Tristram failed that judgement."

Jamal shrugs "I sometimes have a little difficulty telling when Aelf is touched by his god, and when he's just killing people."

"No Jamal, nothing - I have no shadow in my heart to hide secrets from the God. I am pleased you passed this test, but at the same time worried there was one. Is there anything you feel I should know?"

"When I entered the room, I felt the cowled figure reach out and test me. Obviously I passed...didn't you feel anthing ?"

Siggyr smiles wryly. "Humakt touches us in different ways, Jamal. Those of us who are close to the God can sense the difference between those filled with blood-lust, and those filled with Humakt's breath. Right now, that Aelfwyrd is touched by the God. Other days...." but he leaves that thought unsaid.

As Aelf disembowels the hapless Tristram, Jakkanna looks on visibly shocked. She is used to the casual barbarity of the Carmanian caste system, even the Glorification of Death that is prevelant in her native Spol.

But never the casual dispatch of an erswhile comrade, and even less the careless reaction amoungst the rest of the cohort.

Recovering herself, she grasps a passing Elnor by the arm asking "Ellnoor, what happened here, why is that man dead, and why is not one restraining that barbarian.." she say nodding at Aelf.

Elnor regards here evenly "That's Aelfwryd," she says, "he's a Far Walker and is touched by our God from time to time"

Seeing Jakkanna's confused expression, she smiles and expands on her point "That's what he does, you get used to it after while. Sir Jamal has had words with him when he goes too far, but mostly we leave him to it..."

With that she gestures to Abyad to help her then moves to pick up the body of Tristram, "Though cleaning up after him isn't the best of jobs" she calls back as they carry the body back up the steps.

After carrying out his scouting duties and making sure the room is safe from earthly threats Egil walks back to join the main party, he watches the execution with a look of mild surprise on his face before appraoching Siggyr, "About Vern, I don't know if it has any bearing on what he just did but earlier on while we were digging, he disappeared off somewhere for a while. I was too busy to think about it at the time but its just come back to me now. I wonder if he's just nipped off like that before?"

Siggyr sighs and presses his knuckles into his temples. "Egil, your attention to detail is praiseworthy, as ever. Let's get the scribbler where we can keep an eye on him, eh? Shrev? Go above with orders. The company is to withdraw below ground, only minimal sentries above. Dorinda is perimeter down to the entry chamber, high alert. Everyone else in here with us, including Vern."

He turns to Aelf. "I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here Aelfwyrd, but know that as you judge those who pass through these doors, I shall be judging you."

"Jamal - what do you think? Could Vern be a spy? Can we trust him?"

Jamal considers for a while. "While he has unusual ways, and I would say that he has never acted against the Legion, and indeed has been helpful at times. But I wouldn't say I entirely trust him"

"Ack. Well, what's done is what's done. The point is, whilst he went off on this unsupervised jaunt of his, who knows what he may have been doing, or who with. Pulling everyone down below and being prepared to withstand anassault seems like the only sensible thing to do. Egil - you were scoutingaround up top. Do you think it likely that, in the time he went missing,Vern could have met up with those scouts of Vur's that you reported on?"

Egil replies "I should say so, we were digging for ages and until the raven pointedu s the way were pretty clueless and distracted. I'd think he'd have hadtime to smoke a pipe of hazia and have a hot brew with Vur's scoutsbefore wandering back to us. Maybe Blackbeak saw something, he was onwatch after all."

Siggyr is silent for a moment at that news. "That Duck is as a walkingreminder to me that attempts to instil discipline and honour amongst the Seventh have not been universally successful. That Blackbeak was on watch,one suspects, is the explanation of how Vern was able to wander off undetected in the first place. He will be corrected. Again."

Siggyr reflects. Never, not once in his entire history of soldiering, has amission ever gone according to plan. There is something about that in Phalangee's Military Codex, he is sure, something to the effect of "soldiering is what happens when battle plans collide with reality." In therange of screw-ups he has experienced in the past, being infiltrated by aspy who has betrayed your position and intent to an unknown enemy barelyregisters as problematic. His mood lightens.

Siggyr reflects. Never, not once in his entire history of soldiering, has amission ever gone according to plan. There is something about that inPhalangee's Military Codex, he is sure, something to the effect of"soldiering is what happens when battle plans collide with reality." In therange of screw-ups he has experienced in the past, being infiltrated by aspy who has betrayed your position and intent to an unknown enemy barelyregisters as problematic. His mood lightens.

"Jamal, it seems probable that Vern has had some dealings with the Jalmari - he knew the name, but couldn't say it. Let me tell you of them - they hunt Illuminates. Right now, we stand in a temple dedicated to Jalmar. That Vern could not say the name implies that either he is one of them, or he is an Illuminate. Two groups of people might be interested in wresting this prize from us - Jalmari, to found their own temple, and Illuminates - to destroy it. If you had to guess, Jamal, which group should we be expecting to knock on our shiny new front door?"

Jamal has been following the conversation with Egil looking somewhat bemused.

"While I am unfamiliar with this Jalmar of which you speak, I do remember some of the lore of the Bright One/Deceiver, as i have met many Lunar followers of the Dismembered One in my homeland. I thought that the only was to ascertain if someone had been touched by the deceiver, was to be so touched yourself. "

Siggyr frowns at this. "I do not know about that. It seems paradoxical - but from the little I know of the subject, that doesn't mean it's not true..."

Jamal shrugs, "It is my experience that when it comes to such people the paradoxical becomes common place, if not, in fact, the norm"

Siggyr nods, seeing the sense of that. "Well, I can only defer to your greater knowledge on that score."

Jamal continues, "This would mean to me that these Jalmari must also be similarly touched ?

"Well, if what you say is true, then I suppose that follows." replies Siggyr

Jamal nods "As to whether Vern is involved in any other faction, he has always had a tale""nt for fading into the background when the mood suits him (ooc or the Ref forgets him), and if he is touched by the Deceiver, then perhaps he seek others of his kind, equally he could be touched by the Bright One and have no ill intent"

Jamal pauses for a second

"Do we think this Vur could be a follower of Jalmer, or would his intent be more sinister?"

"All I know of Vur is that he is Humakti, was leader of the Pavis army, and took exile in the Rubble rather than submit to the Lunars. He could be a Jalmari, he could simply want to occupy a site of Humakti power in the same way that we do, but he could also be an agent of pre-dark for all I know. We have too many questions and not enough information. Until either we or Lord Illig resolve these questions, it seems sensible for us to expect the worst."

"Jamal, I saw you stagger as you entered this chamber. You passed the God's scrutiny. But that does not mean that further trials do not lie ahead. Let me ask you - have you had any encounters with people who have asked you strange questions, or do have you had any experiences that make you suspect you have come to the attention of the Deceiver? Have you taken any steps on the Path into Shadow?"

As Siggyr utters these words, Jamal's visage immediately flushes the deepest purple and hand flies to Bull Spike's pommel, his anger barely suppressed.

"I suggest that you rephrase that question Siggyr" he snarls, "The House of al'Kathoum is pure of Deceit and remains so...."

Siggyr holds up one hand in a display of peace. "If I insulted you, Jamal, then you have my apologies. But you should not feel insulted - I am duty bound to the Temple to ascertain what is going on, just as you are. You have stated your position, and I respect and accept your word of honour. But I am confused. You say that it is necessary to be touched by the Deceiver - by which I think you mean," Siggyr spits, "Gbaji - in order to detect the Deceiver, and thus, if your logic is correct, Jalmari must be touched by the Deceiver. They are honourable, brave and dedicated in their fight against Evil. Yet the imputation that you might be so touched caused you great offence. Why?"

Jamal look somewhat mollified, though still remarkably irritated by Siggyr's hecktoring tone.

"You may be from the Lunar Provinces Siggyr, but you seem to know nothing of the other parts of the empire. I suggest you try asking any other Carmanian that you meet if they have been tempted by the Lie and see what response you get. I suspect you'd be lucky to leave with your head attached to your shoulders. Never besmirch the honour of a House in such as way"

<pomposity warning>
Siggyr regards the angry Carmanian with a cool detachment. He forgets,sometimes, that the usually excellent Legionnaire is no Humakti. Jamal lacks the blessing of the Cleaving Discipline - the ritual meditation by which Humakti divorce themselves of emotion, particularly anger. From his own meditations, Siggyr knows that anger flows from weakness - the mind, consciously or not, responds to a threat by preparing to fight. Why else would be Jamal be offended by Siggyr's questions, but he was indeed tempted by Illumination? Internally, Siggyr discards the question. There is no reason to distrust Jamal, but there are good reasons to watch him carefully.

</pomposity warning>

Rather than share these thoughts, or reprimand the burly Hazar for insubordination, the Ten Thane simply gestures for him to calm down.

Jamal continues

"As to your earlier question, I do not know why I was tested and none of you were, excepting Tristram, perhaps it was because I am I not what the Wytr of this place normally comes across."

Jamal looks thoughtful

"When I staggered I saw a vision of the Cowled figure yonder, " he says indicating the statue, "playing Ravenkaaz with me. I bested him, of course, but the style of play that he used was reminiscent of Vern...." his voice trails off

"Vern, eh?" Siggyr turns back to watch the rest of the cohort. "I think we're going to have a little chat with that ink-stained trickster."

Jamal seems lost in his reverie while Siggyr is speaking, replaying in his mind every encounter that he has had with the mercurial sage. He has never seen any malice in the man, but still..... Was Jamal carrying a vile infestation of the Lie, and was Vern it's agent ?

There were too many questions to answer, and the only source of information is Vern.

Jamal's attention snaps back to Siggyr, "I think I will join you in that conversation, I have more than a few questions for Vern"

Egil stands by silently pondering the problem of Vern coughs slightly before he begins to speak, "What if we can make him take an oath to tell the truth, which he should anyway if he truly follows the path of Lankhor Mhy, and then question him in such a way as to catch him in a lie about who he works for? Then he would have to reveal it or go swiftly to Hu to contemplate his deceit. Aelf may even help him on his way."

Siggyr shakes his head, warily. "I don't know - I have heard that powerful Riddlers can lie under any oath. If he were uncovered, then we would know for sure. But should he pass the test, our doubts would not be assuaged."

The Tenthane is about to say more, but a gentle breeze stirs and carries words to him.



*1 - I've given 1244 and Kir as the surname due to a titbit i found on the web: "The whole [Kir] family disappeared in 1244 and were presumed killed and eaten by the trolls. Much to everyone's surprise, they reappeared in 1550. They don't talk about where they were during the Troll Occupation. Unsurprisingly, they've gotten a reputation as self-centered shirkers who abandoned the city when things were at their worst." From Mike Dawson's Rass Campaign notes



*2 - ie, the die is cast, I just can't see Humakti being big on gambling metaphors
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