back Was it the Lunars?

No, not the Lunars

Walking back to Cavos' house allows Egil the opportunity to mull over events and as he does so a rage rises inside of him before he can suppress it, he's not Hu, not yet. Surging ahead of the others he bursts into the house, sword drawn. "You two, sit down, I have a question for you." His voice is almost shouting and he is clearly irritated. Pethonolus and Klerdis take the seats although Klerdis appears unconcerned by the apparent threat Egil poses. He hold his sword aloft.

Graylor, barely two paces behind Egil interposes himself between Egil and the Lunar bureaucrats. "Egil, not here, not now!" He shrugs apologetically at the two Lunars.

"Let's take this somewhere where we don't disturb our guests." Graylor manhandles Egil out of the room into the kitchen. On his way out he signs to Aelf and Yenda. "Mission successful", "Wrong sword" and "Information needed".

Egil's face is flushed red although it is difficult to tell if its from anger or embarrassment. "What? What are we trying to do? I'm trying to get my sword back! I think at least one of them will be intimidated 'cos I'm going to kill the other, I just haven't made up my mind which yet. The whiny one probably knows the most though." The young man is struggling to keep his voice down "Before I leave this building we'll know one way or the other the name of the thief."

"Come on Egil you have seen the old witch. She has the look of one who'd condemn an entire regiment without blinking in order to make sure her records were correct. She might regret the loss of the pretty boys though. However, killing any of them will just blow any chance we have of Vesekor being able to help in this. I want a name before we go any further too! But it does occur to me that even if it does lead us somewhere, it will be to the thief's accomplice and not to the thief herself!"

Graylor starts to pace round the kitchen, a look of intense concentration on his face. "Another nasty thought is that the thief is playing her own game. What if Pyestes thought that he had your real sword and not a fake? We might find that the whole of Pavis is flooded in copies of your sword. We'd better get moving before they have time to make too many!"

Irnar interrupts Graylor's pacing. "G the thief I saw was a woman. I do tend to notice these things!" he said with a grin.

"Her hair was covered, unusual round here unless you want to hide something. So it seems to me that her hair says something she wants hidden. Now if it was say red hair. We have a reason for hiding it and a way that she has got those Desemborth type powers. I say that we should call on the local Vingans before too much longer."

"Quite right Irnar. Why don't we go and pay the Vingans a visit, we'll take Yenda too since she has met at least some of them." Graylor turns to Egil as Irnar leaves to find Yenda.

"I think that it may be quicker to try both leads at once. Egil please you don't need threaten or kill the Lunars in the other room. Get them to find any claims for the cost of hiring thieves."

Egil is still simmering but the news from Irnar at least calms him a little "Ok then, we'll do it your way but if the name we get isn't a Heortling woman's name the ugly bird gets it!" You go ahead and start the quiz I'm going to need a drop of mead in here to quell the fire in me. A little prayer to Hu might help with that too."

Egil finds the candle he carries in his pouch and his tinderbox with the piece of flint in it. He takes relaxation in creating the sparks to ignite some tinder until he eventually has a small flame to light the candle. Setting the candle on the floor he begins to look into the centre of the flame, looking for the tiny spot of blackness between the top of the wick and the brightness of the flame as his mentor and sword master taught him back in the Moon Killers. It takes a while to find it but soon his anger and his passion are sucked into the black void leaving him calm. Then he opens his heart and his mind to Hu, sending his prayers asking his god to help him control his emotions and to be more like Death.

Ten or fifteen minutes later he emerges from the kitchen into the room where Pethonolus and Klerdis are sat, Mauvin is chatting amiably with them discussing the finer points of Pavic court dress. His face is wearing a strangely placid expression. He bows to the pair of them "I apologise for my earlier behaviour, my anger got the better of me but I have now asked Hu's aid to take it away from me."

He walks across the room and picks up a chair before bringing it back and seating himself nearby. "Now if you will permit me we have a need to find out who Pyestes hired this evening."

Mauvin butts in "When he says we he of course means Anerash."

Egil shoots him a glance but lets it pass "Ach! I'm sorry, in my haste to ask you these things I have left my manners behind. Mauvin, would you fetch our friends here a drink of whatever they fancy?"

Mauvin quickly takes their orders before ducking out of the room to fetch the drinks.

Egil's face remains calm and tranquil while he awaits a reply.

"Pyestes? Anerash trying to investigate him, is he?" Kletis is showing her teeth again in that rather unpleasant grin. "My bets are on Pyestes, but it'll be interesting to watch. Yes, he came in earlier this evening. Dunno what he was after, I didn't hear much, but he was in a hurry."

"Any name you may have heard him mention could be important, anyway from your point of view I think Anerash is going to come out of this in a much better position than Pyestes, apparently he failed his attempt at a heroquest tonight."

"I thought you were after disbursements," Pethonolus says petulantly. "All those papers - days of them! for nothing. Obviously Pyestes couldn't draw on official funds at that short notice, and with no proper authorisation. I explained that to him very carefully, and he didn't even thank me, or compensate me for the wasted time. Went off to draw from his own wages, I believe. That doesn't need notice, or authorisation."

"We are looking into several things, Vesekor is dealing with the disbursements and I am looking into Pyestes activities. No doubt we will chase each others tail for most of the night getting the same information."

"Drew his own money, did he? Whatever he was after, he must have wanted it bad. I thought it sounded dodgy, and that's not like Pyestes. He was saying something about "I don't know how he got hold of it, or how he knew we'd be interested, but I'm not going to refuse an opportunity like that." Sounds like some conman was taking him for a ride. Information on those Hairy-balls, maybe."

Egil sucks in his breathe and raises an eyebrow "Could be, from what I know of them some of them are vicious nutters who'll kill you as soon as look at you. Not that that is a problem for me, I'm already dead."

"He's after them, and you say he's messed up a heroquest? That's not good. Not at all." She considers that, seems to come to a decision. "There wasn't a name mentioned, not that I heard. They just refered to "that rat". Or maybe it was "the rat". Something like that, anyway. And they said he was Orlanthi."

Egil snorts "An Orlanthi rat, the kind of limits the options on who we're looking for then, eh? Do you keep records of the phalanx informers and Orlanthi insiders? Maybe a look at that would give a clue as to who the rat is."

She laughs derisively. "You are the innocent one, aren't you? Sure, everyone's got their own list of insiders, but they don't share them. I'm surprised Anerash's being so open about having you, it's not like him. Though maybe this is the group he picked for their looks...? didn't know he went that way, but could be."

Egil just smiles, "Of course no-one shares but you never know what someone may accidentally let slip when chatting after being woken up in the middle of the night and their guard possibly down. I think we were picked because our blades are sharp but you'd have to ask the picker, I'm just in this for the promise of a sword."

Turning to his cousin "Mav, do you know any Heortlings in the local bars? You should probably pop out and ask if any of them have heard of some called rat or ratty or something like that. I'll just stay here and chat with these guys and see if there's anything else they know that might help Anerash."

The blue man shakes his head "'Fraid not, they just think I'm a wierdo and ignore me or start a fight with me and neither of the options are much use to us tonight. I guess we go find the rest and pass on the info you tortured out of these two." He winks at them as he finishes.

"OK. Well in that case you may as well get back to your pits, if Anerash wants anything else I'm sure you'll be the first to know." Egil bows slightly and leads them to the front door, showing them out.

"Right Mav, lets go find Graylor and tell him what we got, he may know who Ratty is."

Watching Vingans
With his followers in tow Graylor sets out for the Vingan temple. "It might be a good idea to lay low and watch the place for a while. It is a little late for demanding entry to a temple." Graylor comments.

Yet others are doing so, from time to time. Well, not demanding, but entering, certainly. The Vingan temple is small, seemingly squashed in between the larger temples of Orlanth and Ernalda, but there are lanterns at the entrance, and guards: rather friendlier looking guards than the obvious Axe Sisters who stand at the doors to the Earth temple.

Temple Court isn't a busy area, not like the alley full of bars they had been in earlier. People passing through are usually about specific business: guards coming off duty or going to it, the occasional group of warriors returning "home" after some serious drinking, once a woman running in, the men who had been following her stopping short in the main Court and turning back when they realised where she was headed.

The doors to Orlanth's temple are simply shut: possibly barred again, on the usual Lunar orders. The frescos on the outer walls have been defaced, repainted, defaced again: it looks shabby compared to the warm brick of the Earth temple.

Maps of the area

As they walk through the temple district several things are obvious. Firstly there is no entrance of the Vingan Temple onto Temple Court and secondly the area is much nicer, no chance to loiter on street corners. However, the healing temple is still open dealing with the fallout of drunken fights. The only door that is open is down the ally beyond the entrance to the Ernalda temple and therefore past the usual Babeester Gorian guards. One look form those guardians and many decide that it would be better to sleep it off and not bother the healers!

"That's the place to be to watch the vingans from." Irnar comments. "Getting in is no problem but staying there may be more difficult. They certainly aren't going to be keen on letting you two walking dead stay!"

"You are right. That leaves you and Santhis. Who wants to be the victim?" Graylor smiles grimly. "One of you has to have something for the healers to heal. I think the most likely story is a fight over a certain red haired girl, so you can see if the healers know anything about them. I guess that means you Irnar! A couple of knife wounds would be sufficient to need the healers but not serious enough to need major healing."

"While you're doing that I'll go and see if the Axe Maidens will talk to me." Yenda suggests and leaves to do exactly that.

Graylor, Irnar and Santhis move out of sight and Graylor provides Irnar with his excuse to visit the healers. A couple of swift cuts to look like defensive wounds from a knife attack. The wounds aren't deep but bleed well. Irnar and Santhis rush off to the healing temple, casting nervous glances at the Babeester Gor guards, not to do so would mark them out as strange. The glance also confirms that one at least has acknowledged Yenda's presence. Disturbingly one of the guards smirks slightly at the blood dripping down Irnar's arms as he passes. Then they are being welcomed into the temple. It is clean and well lit compared to the darkness outside. There is a queue of various drunks and other battered people waiting to see one of the white ladies though the blood dripping down Irnar's arms mark him for more rapid treatment. An older senior healer takes Irnar to the treatment area and rapidly assesses Irnar and decides his wounds aren't all that serious. She roughly bandages his arms and assures him that a novice will be along soon to stitch up the wounds. Throughout she speaks only the bare minimum to Irnar and for his part he sees the disapproval in her eyes and decides not to waste his charm against such hostility.

Some while late a younger and decidedly prettier healer arrives with needles and threads. She introduces herself as Neela and proceeds to gently remove Irnar's bandages. She chatters warmly with Irnar as she stitches up the wounds. She listens to his tail of how he innocently came by his wounds, just because he's a Yinkini. He was standing next to a woman when her man came by and seeing him assumed that he was trying to seduce his girl. Irnar prattles on with the story casually dropping in what descriptions he can of the couple hoping for any sign of recognition from the healer.

Santhis apparently bored with Irnar's conversation wanders over to the window and stares out into the ally hoping to see something useful.

The Babeester Gori look suspicious at first, but since Yenda is obviously Humakti, and thus technically dead, they are at least allowed to talk to her. And her story of "*D men who pinch your weapons whilst pretending to be your friends and then you see them with some red-haired witch" gets her some sympathy, a lot of laughter, and a lecture on the obvious stupidity of ever trusting a man, plus some comments about the general unreliability of Vingans. Sadly, the description Yenda has of the "witch" is so vague that they have no chance of recognising anyone from it.

Meanwhile, Irnar is enjoying himself chatting to a pretty young woman. Neela believes every word he says, and trusts in his innocence: not a sensation he's used to at all! She thoroughly disapproves of any man who could take such a nasty violent attitude to things (and explains at length how common such things are), but again can't recognise anyone from the admittedly vague description that's all Irnar can provide. When they move on to the woman, though, her encouragement and possibly his more detailed observation of the subject helps him remember one fact that had escaped him before. She had a clan tattoo on her left cheek. As far as he recalls, it was roughly in the shape of a black triangle, base-down. That still isn't very precise, but it rings bells with Neela. "That sounds like the Blackrock, to the south of my own clan. There's a lot of Vingans in that clan: the Kheldon are like that."

Santhis, gazing out of the window, sees nothing of any interest to him. Well, no head-scarfed Vingan accompanied by a non-descript man, anyway. Something gives him a vague feeling of unease and semi-recognition for a moment, but it passes without him being able to track it down.

He shakes his head to clear the feeling which sends a shudder down his spine. Irnar sees this and asks what is the matter. "I thought I saw something that wasn't there!"

"Really? That will be her then! Which direction was she going, in or out?"

"How am I supposed to know I didn't see anything?" Santhis replied rather exasperatedly.

"You have to not think directly about her. You have to come at her obliquely, her magic works by missdirection. Think of the wall of the Ernalda temple and she will be clear in your peripheral memory. Now which direction was she going?"

Santhis thought hard, thought it brought back painful memories of his former life. That was only yesterday! Trying to learn the deception magics of Oilamley. The temptation to use these was great in his mind, but his heart overruled his brain. He really wanted to escape that life and have a chance to regain his honour by living with the Legion. Deception magic.... he'd never been much good at it. It ran too contrary to Yelmalio's ways of Truth that he'd lived with all his life, until he met Cavos. For some of the others, it had come naturally, and Cavos had found it easy. Still, even if using it now hadn't been such a wrong thing to do, it wouldn't help. What he needed was to see through deception magic, not to use it himself! And he'd never been very good at that, either... Cavos had fooled him all along, getting him to trust him, and then betraying him. And that vampire, the vampire that had been going to eat his soul in some way he still didn't understand... he was just terrifying. You never knew when he might just appear, next to you, demanding to see the master, \\now\\. He must have got there, somehow, no-one could walk across an empty square without being seen - hang on. That was what this girl they were looking for had just done! And now he came to think of it, the feeling he had half-recognised - it was the same! Far weaker, but the same.

He shakes his head in frustration. "It's no good Irnar, I can't get anywhere. I never was any good when I was supposed to be learning such stuff with Cavos." He pauses to spit out of the window. "Come to think of it the magic felt quite like his magic! I wonder if there are more of my former brothers out there. If so then they may be behind the theft. We must go and tell Graylor."

"That's OK Neela has finished here. Let's go and find Graylor."

Irnar plants a kiss on Neela's cheek as he gets up, she blushes very prettily. "If I get any free time I'm going to find you again and we can have a more private chat!"

The two men move quickly back out of the temple and onto Holy Street.

Graylor waits at the end of the street, not wanting to leave Yenda on her own. Irnar and Santhos will come to no harm in a healing temple of all places, but Yenda... yes, she can look after herself, but his warrior senses register the Babeester Gori as dangerous, far more so than anything else in the vicinity. He knows intellectually that they're antagonistic to men in general, not to him in particular, and that Yenda is safe from them anyway, but the instinct for danger is hard to ignore.

And then something else prods at a different instinct. There's something... it isn't quite Chaos, and yet it is. It's... he concentrates on it - almost like chaotic magic being used near him - at him? Only not quite. And, in some way, it's familiar, something he's met recently, but not here.... It fades, going away.

Without conscious thought Graylor throws out his Jalmari magic piggy-backed onto his Truewind to search out and identify this chaos. He can feel it, moving down the street away from him. That's not just any old chaos. That's something he's felt often enough in the past, and come closer to than he wanted very recently: that's Vivamorti magic! Where exactly...? at the end of the street, she must be quite close to those two Vingans who'd walked past them just now... what? Oh... and suddenly he saw them, or rather, realised that they'd been there all along. Two young women, walking hand-in-hand, talking, about to disappear around the corner.

Revulsion passed through Graylor's mind his instinct is to strike quickly and not let them get away. His magic turns hard and cutting the wind now sharp and vicious, the seeking is now replaced by an impenetrable will to stop them, on the back of this wind is carried the words of annihilation taught by Jalmar that destroy chaos. "Vampire scum!" Graylor didn't realise he had spoken aloud until he heard Yenda's call. As he is reaching to draw his blades Graylor is somewhat stunned to realise that the spell doesn't affect the women in the slightest: the magic may be chaotic, but they are not. Except to make them look round: and seeing the grim Humakti, they start to run.

"Wait! As Vinga hates the predark the you will wait!" Graylor calls after their retreating backs. He gives chase and follows them down Holy Street he is just close enough to see them duck down an alleyway. Knowing that they have enough of a lead to set up something nasty he proceeds with caution. A moment is spent in preparation, mentally he calls to Humakt to show him the location of any ambushes, though he doesn't neglect to use all his senses as well. Grateful that he is wearing his Night Shadow cloak he draws his swords and proceeds with all the stealth that he can muster. Graylor remembers to still the Truewind so that its presence will not warn the vingans of his presence.

He gets as far as where the alley bends. Geo's ahead, alley bends right. There are no sounds of footsteps, though some of revelry within. Looking carefully round the corner, he is painfully aware of the number of entrances behind him now. He is now wishing that he had waited for Yenda or someone to watch his back. His quick look reveals nothing. Cursing himself for being stupid he checks to see if he can detect the use of that vile deception magic he detected earlier. Still nothing. So taking control of himself again he goes round the corner and starts to work his way along the wall.

Just then the door from Geo's opens and a man's head pops out. Sees him, looks alarmed, and goes back in again, shutting the door firmly. Graylor has to spend a moment to calm his heart before going crab like along the next bit of the ally, keeping his back to the wall so that he can see Geo's door as well as the rest of the ally. As he approaches the next corner he can hear footsteps running off. Still against the far wall Graylor moves his way to the next corner and edges out so that he can see round it. No one is visible in the alley, but he can see Loud Lilina's across the street at the other end. The door just swung shut. Graylor doesn't drop his guard as he traverses the final section of ally.

Back outside the healer's temple Irnar and Santhis find Yenda.

Where's the chief? We have something for him."

"I don't know. He yelled something about "Vivamorti Scum" and ran off down the street." Yenda replied.

"He did what?" Irnar explodes. "We'd better get after him to protect his back. Listen out for the sounds of a fight."

The last is said as the three of them speed down Holy Street. Irnar pauses to listen at the entrance of the alley while Santhis and Yenda dash into Satar Court. Both draw blanks and move on. In front of the Ulrea temple they decide to go left and head down Crook St then Blue St. as they reach Sword Street and are wondering which way to turn Irnar spots Graylor coming out of the end of the alley.

"Hey boss, what are you doing?" Irnar calls quietly.

"I was just about to find you." Graylor grins in relief. "I've been chasing a couple of vingans who have been using chaos magic. Some sort of deception magic for hiding themselves. I think one of them is the one Irnar saw earlier."

"Let's have a description then."

"Wait a moment; I'll see what I can recall." Graylor closes his eyes and enters that meditative state that helps him boost his metal abilities. "Right there were two women, one taller than the other. The taller one: had a mass of red hair. There were tatoos on her face, including a black triangular clan mark. She wasn't visibly armed. The shorter one had red hair, brighter at the ends. Possibly her hair is dyed, though much of it was hidden by a fancy embroidered scarf and hood for me to be certain. She had no clan markings on her face. She was armed, a single blade not much more than a long hunting knife."

"Black triangle, with its base down. That would be the Blackrock clan. The friend I made in the healers temple recognised the description." Irnar winks knowingly.

"Brown hood and scarf?" Yenda asks. "What shade of brown?"

"Hm, I guess that it was a brownish grey colour. Why?"

"That sounds like my adopted tribe, the dun-mantles, they don't use clan tattoos they use the scarf and hood to designate their status. I don't wear them as I never had a chance to go back to the clan after I joined Humakt." She sighs rather whistfully. "I still..."

"What about the legs of the tall one?" Irnar accross Yenda.

"Well she certainly had them or I'd have noticed!" laughed Graylor. "I do remember that you rather liked them. Yes they were nice legs, though I am not the expert you are Irnar, I would say that the shorter one had the more remarkable legs."

"That she sounds like both the vingans in the alley. Have they been playing us all along? Did they know we were there?" Irnar muses, "Anyway what do we do now chief?"

"Split up and see if we can catch them to find out." Graylor responds. "I'm sure the inn has a back door. Irnar you circle round to the left with Yenda. Santhis you watch the front door. As for signals, so that we know who is signalling, Irnar: cat, Santhis: Owl and me: fox. They may be using this deception magic again so do what you can to penetrate it. OK? Then let's go."

A couple of minutes later they find themselves outside Gimpy's, with no sign of the vingans.

"We need to go into the inn to see if they are still there." Graylor mused.

"I'll go." Both Irnar and Yenda said simultaneously.

"OK, you can both go. But since they haven't seen Yenda yet she can go in first and Irnar you can go in after a minute or so. Let's see what you can flush out."

Egil, Mauvin and Gerras stroll briskly towards the Vingan temple. There is no great hurry, the others are just going to observe the red heads and then Egil can ask about Rat. The three of them are chatting casually about this and that when Egil sees the sky light up with the all too familiar deathlight thrown from Graylor's twin blades. He pulls his own blade smoothly from its scabbard and breaks into a run calling to the others "Trouble! Follow me, a Humakti has his blade bared, most likely Graylor." He dashes down alleys and streets following the light thrown into the sky. Until he bursts out of Blue Street and onto Salt Street and sees Graylor discussing the plan with Irnar and Yenda. He walks over as quickly and stealthily as he can followed by Mauvin and Gerras. "What's going on? Need any help?" Egil asks.

"Well met Egil. Yes we could use more bodies. We are chasing a couple of vingans, one of whom might be the thief. They have been using some very unsavoury magic to hide themselves. We were about to go into the tavern to see if we can flush them out. Care to join in? I was going to send in Yenda, as I think she is unknown to the vingans, and then Irnar, who is known, was going to do the flushing. I'm at the back door and Santhis is at the front. How do you see you and your lads fitting into that plan or do you have a better?"

Egil mulls this over for a moment "We'll split up and add some numbers I reckon, I'll go round the front with Santhis and these two can hang here with you."

Gerras sucks his teeth "If they get out and into Gimpy's they'll escape through the tunnel for sure, we need to get a message to my brother in the pens quick, then he can seal up the far end and catch 'em coming out."

Egil's eyes roll "Great, how do we get there quickly? Its not as if we can fly is it?"

"Ahem!" The blue man coughs and waves at Egil "You really are as thick as broo dung sometimes cuz. Flying is exactly what I do. Right Gerras, who do I need to see?"

Gerras pulls a length of cord made from zebra tail hair from his pouch and quickly ties a series of knots into it. "When you get there ask to speak to Hawkeye and give him this. It says Trusted friend, Gerras. Tell him I said to gather as many braves as he can and catch the red-headed women if they come through the tunnel."

"Ok friends, see you all later." Mauvin calls as he steps upwards and quickly rises up to the clouds, then he turns and walks away towards the zebra pens.

Egil shrugs his shoulders "Well Graylor, there's been a slight change of plan, only Gerras is staying round the back with you."

"That suits me fine. Good thinking about Gimpy's. I'd forgotten about the tunnel! When you are in position give a hoot and we'll go just after Yenda."

From hearing the hoot Graylor made Gerras and Irnar wait for a full minute before they ventured in through the backdoor.

As Yenda enters, she sees that there are still several people drinking in here, most of them somewhat the worse for wear. She gets a few sharp looks as she comes through the door, but tension relaxes almost immediately.

There's an interesting looking game involving a knife going on at one table, there's a group singing (well, it's probably singing) at another, and whoever's sitting at the back isn't important... hang on. She recognises that feeling. The woman sitting at the back, on her own, has a headscarf hiding her hair again, but what she now knows as a Blackrock clan mark is still visible on her cheek. She's alone, though - no other Vingan, no non-descript man. There is another red-haired woman in the room - she's the one playing with the knife. Yenda tries to match her against the description Graylor and Irnar had given. Shorter - yes. Much shorter. Short sword - yes. Nice legs? It's not something she's used to judging, but probably. There's no hood or scarf here, though, certainly not a dunmantle.

(OOC: it can't possibly be her, as a) we know she vanished from Pavis just after the Cradle, and b) I wouldn't do anything so nasty, would I? Would I?)

Yenda having done this before keeps her expression neutral whilst taking a seat. The one she chooses affords her a reasonable view of the Blackrock vingan, and by swinging her head round to the front door she takes in the knife wielder. She orders a couple of beers and keeps looking to the front door as if she is waiting for someone to arrive.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Gerras and Irnar see the same scene as Yenda: well, almost. Gerras does not see the woman at the back at all, whereas Irnar, knowing who he's looking for, brushes her magic aside with ease.

The reaction from the other patrons however is a little different: much more hostile. Lilina herself raises an eyebrow in the direction of the partially hidden Vingan, who nods slightly.

Yenda is carefully watching and noting who is taking sides with the vingan.

The Vingan Irnar is sitting with, the one whose "I'm-not-here" magic had been confusing them, is younger than Yenda had expected: very early twenties, no more. Yes, what can be seen of her hair under the light scarf is red: a dark red. Yenda remembers her discussion with the Vingans she'd met in the Rubble about dying hair red: she'd guess that this woman's hair is naturally quite dark. She doesn't seem to be exactly tense, or scared, but very controlled, as if she's afraid of giving something away.

Her conversation with Irnar is quiet: the chat amongst the others present is louder, and the singing is louder still. She manages to pick up a little in a gap between songs: an argument over whose turn it is to buy the next round, and some comments about how it's cheaper now there's less of them. A few personal names: the small red-head is called Lucilla, the oldest man there, the one being ribbed for never having money, is Olaf. Nothing to suggest they're anything to do with the people Graylor had sent her here to look for.

"Good evening madam rat!" Irnar speaks softly without menace. "It is good to see you properly at last. You know you are rather pretty it does seem a shame to hide it from us all."

Irnar sits himself by the vingan, being careful to keep his hands in view and moving with careful grace so as not to alarm the hostile natives.

Quite a few people in the bar seem to be watching Irnar, but no action is being taken so far. She keeps a studiously neutral expression, hands clasped around her drink. "As chat-up lines go, that gets a few points for originality, but nothing else. Would you like to explain?"

Irnar studies the woman's face and seeing nothing but true incomprehension. He sighs and apologises.

"I'm sorry; it's a case of mistaken fake identity. From looking at you I can't see you using an ugly name like 'rat', you're far too pretty, more like a pussy cat." He flashes a smile. "Anyway I am Irnar, probably called the Nosey after tonight. What do they call you?"

"Rana." She smiles back - Irnar's smile at a woman is usually infectious.

He continues. "The truth is we are looking for a sword that was stolen from a friend, a Huist and you know how touchy they can be if you mess with their swords. I think that you were hiding in the right place at the wrong time tonight and we thought that you were involved. Don't suppose you have heard anything about the 'rat' or people selling swords, possibly magical?"

Her eyes shift towards Yenda for a moment. "Stole a sword from a Humakti? That sounds like a bad idea."

She takes another sip of her drink, thinking. "I've heard of a thief called the Rat. He's supposed to be very good. But he's been around for a few years, and anyone silly enough to try that sort of trick probably wouldn't have survived that long."

Irnar is slightly taken aback by her knowledge, surely she should have shown some sign from his greeting. She was growing more interesting by the moment. He decides to study her properly, trying to see if this is a mask she is hiding behind. He turns up the charm too, ordering a bottle of the wine that Rana is drinking. She seems natural enough. About as much "hiding" as you'd expect from a young woman being chatted up by a strange man.

"That's true, or he thinks he has enough skill to get away with it!" Irnar pauses " He has to be part of a team though, they have managed to copy the sword and sell it to the Marble Phalanx. We don't want to have to waste time tracking down copies. Do you have any idea how he can be contacted? Or even who could replicate a sword in next to no time?"

"Beats me," she says frankly. "From the little I've heard, you don't contact him, he contacts you. He's supposed to be Orlanthi - maybe try the temple? Replicating swords - no idea there either. There's plenty of people making them, and selling them, but that takes time." She considers it, frowning. "Maybe if he had it made in advance? How good a copy was it, anyway?" There's nothing in her expression but friendly helpfulness.

"Good enough to pass the visual inspection of a Humakti who has used it in battle, but not good enough to pass inspection when held and used."

"What, the magic didn't work? I suppose that would be the hardest bit to fake: well, unless it was one of these fancy things with jewels and so on."

Once Irnar is settled in with Rana Yenda relaxes, she wants to miss nothing so resorts to meditation to enhance her Jalmari senses she wants to know if what Rana is saying is the truth or lie, her Hu training fills those needs. Since Graylor mentioned chaos magic Yenda adds her Jalmari magic to the mix, hoping that she has all the bases covered.

She can detect no chaos magic: but then again, Rana stopped being quite so hard to notice once Irnar sat down next to her and started talking. Concentrating on what's being said... yes, every word is absolutely true. But Yenda gets the impression that it isn't complete, and in some places is misleading, perhaps. There's a slight hesitancy to the words in places, as if she's thinking very carefully before speaking.

"No worst luck the thing was as plain as it could get!" Irnar sighs, then brightens up again. "One final thing. About this Rat guy. I don't suppose you know where one goes to let him know that his services are required?"

"Sorry, no. I wish I did."

And this, too, Yenda registers as being true: puzzlingly so. Why is this Vingan so keen to know how to contact the Rat? It can't be just in order to help a man she's only just met, surely?

"Now I can tell my friends I tried my best in their search. We can enjoy ourselves."

Gerras scans the inn for anyone likely to start a fight, his large dagger is close to hand at his waist should it be needed. Not seeing any likely enemies immediately at hand he turns his attention to the conversation between Irnar and Rana. She seems to know something but he is not skilled at detecting the truth, it needs Egil or Graylor for that. On the other hand they could let her run for the tunnel, the braves at the other end are not constrained by the Humakti rules on foregoing torture. Hot pieces of flint inserted under the skin can even make a broo cry for its mother. He slouches against the wall ready to leap into action should Irnar require an ally if a fight starts.

Irnar engages Rana in more casual chatter in the midst of which he drops in. "Say where did you learn to hide like you do? I don't think that anyone has startled me so much for years. You know, popping out like you did in the ally earlier. Looks like I need some more practise, I'm supposed to be observant!"

She goes still for a moment, then smiles. "I can't say I'm used to being spotted that easily, either. You must be very good." Irnar's used to women smiling at him in a manner designed to flatter: and he can recognise when "designed" is the right word, too.

She glances at Yenda, hesitates. "It's just a trick I picked up. Nothing very special." But she seems tense: more so, perhaps, than the innocent question should warrant.

Irnar notices the direction of her glance. So Yenda's rather flimsy cover was blown, but no real surprise there. What she is saying is being very carefully worded for truthsayers.

"Some trick! If I don't miss my guess, it isn't standard temple teaching then? Rats I was hoping that I could blag my way into being
learning that trick. If you don't mind me asking who did you learn it from 'coz I wouldn't mind paying them a visit to find out more?" Irnar asks eagerly, for in truth he is eager to know the answer.

"Oh, it was a while ago, and I wouldn't know where to find him now." She laughs. "He said he'd stolen it. Maybe that was his idea of a joke, maybe he just didn't want me to know his real secrets."

"I'd bet he wouldn't tell you, 'coz he's done you a real disservice. The stuff he taught you was chaos magic. Remember the Humakti that chased you earlier? He's my friend and he knows a few things about chaos and you apparently reeked of the stuff while you were sneaking about. It was that he was reacting to. It was only when you ran off dropping the magic that he realised that it was the magic and not you that was chaotic."

Irnar looks sympathetically at her shocked face. "I am really sorry to give you such bad news. Yenda here.." He waves his hand in Yenda's direction and beckons her over. "..can confirm the truth of my words if you like."

"I'm afraid that he is right. He hasn't spoken any untruths to you, just as you haven't spoken any to him," Yenda confirms.

"Now we have an issue with the guy who taught you that cantrip. We think that he is part of a group who are likely to have stolen my friends sword. The magic you have used is just like theirs, so any help you can give us will be good," Irnar continues hoping to capitalise on her anger for the deceit.

She looks stunned for the moment rather than angry. "He wouldn't! Could your friend be mistaken? I've heard even Storm Khans can make mistakes from time to time."

"It's possible I suppose," Irnar admits, then adds. "But I've not known him get it wrong before!"

"He can't have known, maybe since he stole it, he didn't know what it was... but he said he couldn't use it himself, I always thought it was just because it's the wrong sort of magic... look, if your friend's stopped trying to solve problems with his sword, let's go and join him outside. I want to show him something and see if it's chaotic. If it is, we'll go and find someone who I think we both want words with."

Irnar raises one eyebrow in surprise, then grins infectiously. "Good, you have even more about you that was apparent from my first assessment. Go on then lead on!"

They stand to leave and Rana moves to leave by the rear door, she glances over her shoulder. "Come on then what are you waiting for; your tail to grow?"

Irnar gives a florid bow. He replies mockingly. "Your wish is my command! But my old bones can't keep up with you youngsters."

"I'll go and get the others. They will want to meet this girl." Yenda says quietly to Irnar as she leaves by the front exit.

Once they are all assembled in the alley and introductions are made to Egil, Graylor and Santhis as warriors of Herewards Legion.

"I've heard of you lot. You aren't half stirring up some trouble with the Lunars here! They can't wait to see you irradiated." Rana says with a slight smile on her face. The three men just grin back while Irinar briefly summarises the discussion that he and Rana have just had.

"Rana, I am sorry that I attacked you in that way. When you walked past you radiated chaos so I attacked. It wasn't until I had chased you off that I realised that it was the magic you were using and not yourself that was the source of the taint."

"That's alright I suppose. I didn't know it was chaotic, I'm still not sure that I quite believe you."

"If you show me the magic then we can quickly get this whole thing sorted out," Graylor requests.

She pulls out a small vial* of some dark fluid. It's carefully sealed with wax. "This is the charm - well, not exactly a charm, but if I concentrate on it, I don't get noticed, and nor does anyone with me. If you say that's chaotic: clear words, no hedging, swear on your sword, or your god: then we've got someone to find together."

* Yes, "vial", not "vile", but I did promise Gavain that pun :)

Graylor clears his mind and allows the calmness of meditation to assist in his study of the vial. Next he activates his Jalmari magic to find the chaos.

"I can detect nothing of chaos about the vial." Graylor finally concedes. Rana grins and has that "I told you so" look about her.

"But I only detected the chaos when you were actually trying to hide before. Perhaps, if you would be so good as to activate the charm," he requests.

Rana holds the vial and stares fixedly at the contents. Despite the vial being perfectly still the contents starts to swirl and bubble in the vial. Rana disappears from view.

"Whoa enough!" Graylor calls out. "At this range there is no doubt that the effect of that vial is definitely chaotic. Though there is something strange here." He muses to himself for a while and asks Rana to fire up the magic again. This time he looks for any clues as to its source and another knowledge he can glean from the magic.

"Well," he begins. "The magic isn't god's magic it's a form of sorcery: it feels most like the magic that our late firiend Parus was using." Graylor notices the quizzical expression on Rana's face. "Parus was a vampire that Egil was able to kill tonight. Though I don't know of what concealment magic vampires use, I'm sure that they do have some. And as far as I know they do have strong ties to the sorcery planes. Looks like you have a vampire's spell bottle there Rana. I hope you know who you got it from 'cos I think we all need to have a word with him!"

Egil's grimace shows he sees the irony of the situation, not many hours ago he was filled with the power of Li Phaquann and would have maybe had an insight into the strange powers of the dubious liquid, now he is Hu and only knows death. He stares hard at Rana, his mouth slightly agape as some unasked question hovers on his lips. He feels he recognises the warrior woman but where from? Mauvin nudges him in the back to help him speak and he blurts out the first thing he can think of. "Have we met before? I'm sure I recognise you, were you in that new play 'Clipety, clipety, clop, clop' about the flying cart?"

It's quite difficult to see a *full* performance of the play in question. Even when the stage used is in the Old City, it keeps getting interrupted by people who object to the idea of a Mastakos daimon defeating a group who take children as slaves, and seem to imagine some parallel with the Lunars is being made. Someone even suggested that since the only place left where chariots are used is in besieged Whitewall, there's some extra implications, but most people are happy just to sing along to the rather catchy tunes.

Graylor and Irnar exchange uncomprehending glances, culture goes way over their heads!

"Anyway," she continues, "yes, I do know who gave it to me, years ago, and who asked me to use it to cover him getting in and out of the Lunar barracks, earlier. That's why I thought we'd probably better do this together. He's known as the Rat. And while I don't know how to contact him, I do know where I took him after we left the barracks: and I'm betting a Yinkini can track better than I can to find out where he went after that."

Irnar raises his eyebrows at this information. She'd played him well giving out enough truth to hide the misdirections. He smiles to himself, he'd have to work harder on reading people better.

"I can give it a go Rana, but even the most skilled tracker will find it nearly impossible to follow someone through a city. Especially one like Pavis that has so much of it's population about at this late hour!" Irnar quips. "However, lead on and I'll do my best."

"Don't worry about the part inside the city, I know where we went there. It's where he went outside that's the problem. I took him through the River Gate without being noticed, then we went along the bank and under the bridge - again, he wanted me to help him get past the guards. I don't know where he went after that. He'll either be hiding his sound or hiding his scent, but not both, and my bets are on sound."

"Excellent, we cat have sensitive noses! I don't suppose that you have something that he has worn or held recently. If I can get a clear scent then it will make it much easier to track him"

Rana shakes her head sadly. "No I have nothing of his."

"That's OK, I'll identify his scent when we get to the bridge. Though how are we going to get there? I for one will not be relying on chaotic magic!"

"Shouldn't we go via Gimpy's tunnel? That way we can pick up Mauvin who is waiting at the end of the tunnel with the zebra guys. We can then track along the wall to the bridge. Is that the best way?" Graylor asks.

The talk of ambushes make Egil grind his teeth in anger, it sounds like Maran Gor rumbling in the mountains. His arm moves of its own accord and he finds his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. "That reminds me of an old saying where I'm from. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I'll chop you in half and feed the remains to raven."

He looks round curiously. "Say when I hased you into this place, didn't you have a friend? Where is she?"

Rana looks straight at Graylor. "I did but she split and before you ask I don't know where she is now."

"Hmm. Just like you were telling Irnar the truth earlier!" Graylor responds suspiciously.

"Well we have only just met and a level of mutual caution is to be expected. But she had better not be setting up a surprise for us. We Humakti don't find ambushes amusing, and the Legion like it less than any others I know. The tends to be a big outbreak of coming over all dead that spreads through the ranks of would be surprisers. So reassure me that there isn't a reception committee waiting for us!"

His face has darkened as he spoke. No longer are his eyes friendly they are black and hard, unyielding as iron. A breeze ruffles his hair and it carries the smell of death and the forlorn sounds of the lost souls in hell can be faintly heard as the wind whispers past Rana's ears.

Her eyes widen slightly, she steps back half a pace and raises her left arm as if to defend herself. And the wind stops dead as it reaches her.

The talk of ambushes make Egil grind his teeth in anger, it sounds like Maran Gor rumbling in the mountains. His arm moves of its own accord and he finds his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. "That reminds me of an old saying where I'm from. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I'll chop you in half and feed the remains to raven."

She ignores Egil for the moment, keeps her eyes on Graylor, clearly rating him as the more dangerous of the two. "If there's a reception committee out there, I didn't set it up and I don't know about it. Neither of us are daft enough to try ambushing Humakti, especially not the Legion, from what's been said about them."

A quick, slightly cocky grin. "If we'd wanted to do that, we'd have done it earlier, when you were on your own and we'd got you bracketed down the alley."

It's Graylor's turn for his eye's to widen in surprise. "Really? I must be more careful in future." He smiles wryly. "I guess that we can trust each other not to want harm to the other then. If we have no surprises then let's get after our mutually annoying friend!"

"Should someone go to fetch Vesekor and Aelf?" Yenda ventures.

Gerras, standing next to his friend, makes a coughing sound. "It seems you've been overlooked."

"Its not always a misfortune being overlooked," said Egil "I was overlooked earlier by...him." he takes on a faraway look before catching himself on. "Enough of that, let's find a trap big enough for this rat. Wolf and raven will dine well on his gizzard before Yelm rises."

Everyone present has been to Gimpys before, and is familiar with the rather unusual layout. The entrance in the wall leads, not directly into the enclosed front courtyard as you might expect, but down a small tunnel and then up again into the main room. At the back of this room are the stairs down to the basement (or up to the sleeping quarters). Down below is the storage for wine and beer, and the entrance to the tunnel under the Wall. A couple of Orlanthi guards sit next to the door, tankards to hand and a barrel open: they wave you through.

The tunnel is Mostali-built: semicircular cross-section, just high enough for a man to stand upright in the middle, and lined with good stonework. It's dark, but dry, and leads out to the south of the zebra pens.

Egil and Geras lead the way, and soon you are at the exit.

As Egil emerges from the tunnel entrance he feels a blast of wind-powered rain sting his face before he hears Mauvin curse and the rain stops. "Bloody hell Egil! Where are these red headed wenches we're supposed to capture?"

"Well Mav, would you believe it if I said we'd become allies?"

"Only because you're a Huist" Mauvin replied flashing a grin.

"Ha, ha, very funny. Anyway the plan's changed a bit. You can come with us. Gerras?"

The zebra rider is quickly stood at Egil's side, "Yes?"

"Can you pick ten or so of these guys who knows how to be quiet?"

Gerras shrugs "Well they can be quiet-ish, probably better if they follow 3 or 4 furlongs behind us though and gallop up if a fight starts."

"Ok. In that case pick the best and quietest riders you have and have them follow, quietly, 3 furlongs behind. Thanks." (About 600 yards, Adrian tells me)

"You're the boss, boss."

Egil turns to Graylor and Rana "Seems we're ready, shall we go and find the rat-tracks?"

The group move back to the great Wall, seeing the lights of the watchpoint above them, then follow along the base to the River. Rana stays in the middle of the group, not leading: her night-vision is nothing out of the ordinary, and she didn't come here by this route. Once you get to the bridge, she can take you to the place where she and the Rat parted company, this side of the Lunar guards and Customs house.

The Zebra riders trail you by 500-600 yards. They're audible, since you know they're there, but are obviously trying to be quiet.

Irnar looks over his shoulder and sighs at the noise the riders are making. "You know if it wasn't for the sense that the zebra have it would be child's play to take anything you want from that lot, and they are supposed to be their best." He whispers quietly to Graylor.

Eventually seeing that they have come to the bridge. "Time for me to earn my pay!"

He steps forward waving the rest back from the area. Irnar normally confident quails a little at the prospect of everyone relying on his scenting abilities. He stiffens his resolve with the thoughts that he doesn't want to let down his new friends and especially not his old comrade Graylor. Calling quietly to Yinkin to enhance his senses he starts to sniff round the area trying to discern the odour trails left in the area. At each new trail he compares it to his memory of the scents in the alley where he first encountered the rat.

He returns back to the group a few minutes later.

"My lady." He holds out his hand to Rana who places her hand in his, much as would be seen in the Dara Hapan court. Irnar bends his head to Rana's hand but instead of kissing it he inhales deeply fixing her scent. Impishly he grins at her and tries again further up her arm until she slaps him off.

"Might I have a look at your boots?" Irnar asks carefully pronouncing the final word, his face the picture of innocence. She looks at him long and hard before carefully raising one foot. He looks at the soul of the boot carefully and smells it carefully. Wrinkling his nose in disgust for the benefit of the rest of the party, making a play of holding her other foot out at arms length and holding his nose.

"Come with me and I'll show you where you walked. But tell me, how were the two of you walking? Hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm or closer?" with each suggestion Irnar holds her as indicated. Hand-in-hand with arms swinging, much like young children. Arm-in-arm as the gentry would walk their spouses to the theatre and finally he holds her tight round her waist pulling her close as young lovers would be. With difficulty Rana disentangles herself from Irnar's hold.

"The magic works better if you are closer, so we were arm-in-arm. There is no way I would let him in any closer!" with a semi-serious scowl Rana adds. "Nor you either!"

"Him on your right or left?"


Irnar leads Rana under the bridge, holding her arm on her right. "Here are your tracks, see." She fits her foot into the indicated marks, a perfect fit!

"And here are where his tracks aren't!" Irnar bends down to sniff the ground first across her clear tracks and then directly in front of where he was standing. There are no marks to indicate the passage of a man. But Irnar's sensitive nose picks up a scent. He follows for a while ensuring that the scent follows Rana's path.

"He is a little bigger than me and you like him less." He smiles. "He is standing further away from you! Come on let's find out where he was going."

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Onward: Was it Chaos?
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