Pavis back

The trial

Godsday, Movement week, Fire season

Dori and her team follow down a short while after Graylor: at some point in the last few weeks her followers have arranged themselves into the standard roles one might expect a hundred-thane, or any senior warrior, to have around them, and on this occasion, all four seem to have decided it's time to make a point. Kristen, Oddus, Elendala and Vindana are all clustered around her, though Vindana is apparently divided between trying to get as good a view as possible and hiding behind the rest.

It takes a little time to get everyone into the temple and arranged satisfactorily, Graylor makes use of this slight confusion to make his way through to Caspian Vur and mutters in his ear. "What do you think? I've never sensed anything like it have you?"

"Maybe we should talk with Yodi about it. When everything calms down again." Vur responds quietly, Graylor nods in response and returns his attention to the meeting in hand. He is as much interested in the reactions and attitudes of his companions as he is in the relaxed, confident Kallyr. Though how anyone could possibly be relaxed in the oppressive atmosphere induced by the death aura radiating from Godkiller.

The atmosphere is certainly oppressive: for one thing, it's dark down here. There's enough light in the centre of the temple for everyone, even non-Humakti, to see clearly, but the area around the walls is dark, the great statues at the far end are barely visible, looming, shrouded in darkness: and a Darkness that is not merely the absence of light. Walking down, down into the Darkness of Humakt's realm is a reason for tension even for those for whom this is their home.

Anticipating Dori's request, Abul comments: "Let me try something more, Raven..." He tells with his bass voice charged with a thick Carmanian accent. "Since I'm initiated, Lie makes me sick when I perceive it... probably something to do with a past tongue's bite..."
At this, Abul calls his Truewind and requests it to bring back everything it could get from the pleading heroine: smells from her breast, sweat from her brow, sputters from her lips, dust from her hair, in fact any particle in contact with the barbarian queen. As Abul concentrates more on his poor abilities more than on discretion, the manoeuvre must be quite obvious to all.

Swallowing Kallyr without any subtlety, a sensual but icy draft of True Air turns around her making her shiver and comes back to the young Carmanian, but he doesn't just listen to the returning wind but in fact also tastes it like a delicate fruit or a precious wine. This sense being still new to him and the risk of error enormous, he takes a long time to give his answer, probing his sample and observing his target... trying not to disappoint the Legion with his beginning talents of Carmanian Herw'Ardi Truth Seer.

The gloom and oppression seem somehow fitting to Egil and he positions himself where he can get the best view of proceedings. He draws Barzaad's Tooth, but its deathlight seems dimmed compared to that of Ashar. Then he waits, hardly daring to breathe, and wonders how best to counter a betrayal by the betrayer and still come out of the other side with himself in one piece.

"Are you sure you know what you are going to do with that thing?" Graylor teases Egil. "I don't want you to get into trouble with it like last time!"

Graylor looks round and communes with Ashar. "Egil do you realise that apart from Illig and Vur you are the only man with a drawn sword. Put it away before he notices and has to take action against you. I don't think that he would be lenient for a second mistake in this temple."

Egil's mood has become surly in the gloom of the temple. He rams his blade back into its scabbard. Then he whispers "I want to be ready to take action on his behalf should she trick or trap him in some way. Surely being resheathed requires approval from both sides not deception from one."

"Are you sure? Sure that she is deceiving us all? She is being tested by thirty versions of the Truewind, and other truth magics. But she would have known that that would be the case. So everything she says will be true, as far as it goes. She believes that between what she is holding and what she says will redeem her in the eyes and hearts of the whole Legion. She has to or she wouldn't be here. There is no panic, so that means we have played according to what she has planned."

Graylor looks hard at Egil, "You are right about being ready, keep your sword loose though I can't imagine that she can escape Godcleaver. All the stories say that she always does something unexpected. If we are to be a help to the warlord then we must understand her game, so keep your wits looser than your sword. There is something bugging me about the fact that she has wind magic around her. Dori says she has little of her own, so either she is using some other person's magic or they are using her to get their magic into a place they wouldn't be able to go. You can't cast magic of one god in another god's temple, but can you carry it in with you? Ahh, I wish I could think about this clearly."

"I just don't trust her, and if she was long in the planning of this will have worked out how to circumvent the truth magics enough to get what she wants. We have played as she expects because, I guess, we stick by Hu and Hereward faithfully and so are somewhat predicatable. But as they say, 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, I'll dice you up into tiny pieces and feed you to the ravens.' This can only lead to bad things, she is either going to try and destroy the Legion now or get us on her side and send us into an unwinnable battle to be destroyed there, either way she would be rid of us." Egil's sour expression turns into a grimace as he speaks.

"Only if you assume her objective is to destroy the Legion," Dori points out quietly. "I can't see why it would be, and if it is, she's going a very odd way about it."

There has been no great formality in deciding who goes where. Some people had already been in the temple before Kallyr arrived, and they will be along the sides at the end nearest the statues. Vur, the presiding priest of one of the two faces of Humakt here, stands in front of the statue of Jalmar, his sword drawn. Kallyr is in front of him, her back to him and the statues. Illig faces her. Everyone else is along the sides or near the entrance. Latecomers will be nearest the entrance unless they make an effort to be elsewhere. Dori has done this: she and her "team" are along one side, level with Illig and Kallyr. This is probably the best place to see both of their faces, and Egil and Graylor have joined them there.

With everyone who intends to attend being present, the doors are closed: not the huge stone that would seal the inner chamber from all attack, but the smaller doors fitted since their arrival that are enough to stop all but the most determined wind from above.

Kallyr has been watching everyone enter, and listening to the speculation, with a faintly amused expression. Despite being held at sword-point from front and rear, she still manages to look more like a queen holding audience than a prisoner. As the doors close, Illig steps back, releasing her. He does not, however, look any more friendly, or even any more human. "Well?"

Now she can move without losing anything vital, she looks round more openly, and admiringly. "Nice place you've got here."

The mask remains impassive. "Yes. You came here to say that?"

"No." The casual amusement is dropped. "I came to your halls to apologise, and to make amends. Illig - all of you - I'm sorry. I should never have misused the Legion like that, never imagined for one moment that what I did was anywhere near justified for what in hindsight was a trivial victory over a small and unimportant group of Lunars. It was stupid of me, I was concentrating too much on that one thing, not seeing the bigger picture. So, I screwed up. I made a mistake. I do that, ask anyone. What I don't do is make the same mistake twice, and I promise you, I will not be making that one again."

She's not teasing anyone now, she's serious, and very obviously sincere.

"Mistakes are made, and fixed. Fixing this one, making proper amends, won't be easy, because I doubt if you'd appreciate it if I brought back the warriors I got killed. What I can do to make amends is the next best thing. A different group of lost warriors. I brought you this."

She unfolds the cloth bundle she'd been carrying - slowly, carefully, making it clear that there is no threat in any movement - and holds it up, A square of cloth, embroidered, a little faded, but still quite recognisable as it flutters slightly in the breeze around her. It's the standard of the Third Cohort - the standard that was last seen being washed down into Hell, with what was left of that Cohort, and what was left of the Shargashi that had emerged from that Hell to attack Whitewall.

Illig's voice cuts through the breathless silence before anyone else can speak. "Just the standard? Not the regalia as well?"

"No." She's still very serious, her eyes on him and no-one else. "They said they would only give up the regalia to a fellow member of the Third."

Even if Abul finds Kallyr's apology too short and her contrition too quick, he can't help but try to remember who from the third cohort is still alive within the Legion... A comical idea makes its way to his mind: "Did I really heard somewhere that Egil joined the Legion before Whitewall by joining the Third Cohort?" Looking at the belligerent young swordsman still eager to unleash his sword against the barbarian Heroine-Queen, Abuls doubts.

Egil grumbles to Graylor. "I guess I'd better start packing then. How I'm supposed to get in and out of Hell with the regalia is something I'm not entirely sure of. Maybe I'll just throw it over the fence for someone outside to bring back and then wait for Her there."

He may have thought he was being quiet, but Kallyr answers him directly. "You'll get the same leader I did, from the same starting point as I did, and the same role in the same quest as I did, assuming you can cope with being one of Vinga's warband. The starting point is Whitewall, so it rather depends on the Legion coming back there."

On these words, Abul, already amused, quietly feels quite hilarious until he realizes what the meaning of "a trip to Hell" could be. Seriousness erases then any possible beginning of a smile on his face as he closely watches Egil and Illig's faces alternately.

Illig is absolutely impassive, showing no emotional reaction even to the news that the Third Cohort still exists, listening to the reactions of his troops without responding as yet.

"Don't worry you won't be on your own." Graylor clasps Egil's shoulder in friendship. Then he turns to Kallyr.

"You say the quest involves being Vinga's companions. Will it be a problem to have males in her warband or will we all have to wear skirts to appease her?"

Not giving Kallyr a chance to answer Graylor continues. "Even under those conditions I would go with you and I think that many here would also go. Anything to regain the honour of the Legion and the Third Cohort. However, I have two real questions. Who is the 'they' that you talk of that would give up the regalia and what do you gain from this? Apart from the fact that you don't have the Legion on your tail and the Legion is suddenly back in the defense of Whitewall?"

She answers the technical question first. "I checked that with Natalina, since she's the expert and it's her quest. Vinga did have men in her warband, but not, as far as we know, Humakti. You might prefer to go as Vinga's sword, perhaps, or some other weapon or piece of equipment. As you say, though, that's details. What we met was a group of people who claimed to be the Third Cohort, had the standard and regalia of the Third Cohort, and looked like what I remembered of the Third Cohort in so far as I could tell. I didn't see any reason to doubt their claim, though what they were doing at that point in that quest is beyond me. They refused to leave their station, but gave me that as a token to be passed on.

"As for what I get out of it - need you ask? Having the Legion back at Whitewall would be good, but the important thing is that I made a mistake, so I make amends as required."

Abul gets closer to Yenda and takes great care to mutter discreetly at her hear, his words are suspicious: "I'm not very familiar with heroquesting. If she is here to speak with us, does it means that she is back on the mundane plane or still heroquesting like the wind around her might suggest? Anyway, could she go back on the Heroplane with some of us? and then really to pay her mistakes or just to get some easy enthusiastic resources to finish her own quest where she has left it? I think we should know more about this quest and the reason why she was or is doing it... this seems unclear to me. What do you think Yenda?"

"She is here in the mundane world. If she were heroquesting she would have an aura about her and you would see it in her eyes. She obviously had to abandon the quest. But you are right that knowing a bit about the quest she was on would be good, especially as we're expected to follow it." Yenda replies quietly, keeping her eyes on Kallyr the whole time.

"Hmmm, such decisions are beyond me and I go where the Warlord orders but I would like to know one thing. Which Vingan quest was Natalina on? It's useful information to have, forewarned is forearmed as they say." Egil shakes his head, as if confused or irritated. "Why is it so damned windy in here? Shouldn't it be still as death?"

"Natalina was getting experimental, I'm afraid. She does that. The theory she was working on was that every combat deity around has a myth where they go and find a god who can teach them to fight, get beaten up by them, and eventually learn from them and possibly take their place, so Vinga must have one too."

"She just happened to stumble into the part of hell where the Shargashi and the third were. An interesting place for Vinga to go looking for a teacher," Graylor muses whilst addressing Kallyr.
"But you aren't on that quest are you? You are looking to defend Whitewall. So you need friends. You're sheathed in winds that aren't really your own."

He also augments his magical scrutiny of the woman with Hereward's Vision, the ability to see through the clouding of the heroplane. Used to see the person behind the persona and to see the consequences of actions taken in heroquests.

Things click in place in Graylor's mind. He starts out confidently. "If you are Vinga then you are only because she was Orlanth's shield maiden and as such should go where he goes. The winds aren't yours they are Orlanth's and you are on a Lightbringers Quest."
His voice fades, he no longer seems sure of what he is saying. "If we are the help then you HAVE to make amends. Orlanth did so with Yelm, they made compromises with each other so that they could live together without war. Do you really seek to bind us in this way? The results of this quest have been questionable since Orlanth succeeded, Arkat was worse than the problem he was brought back to deal with."

"That's very clever thinking, but wrong. No, I'm not on a Lightbringer Quest, and I'm not trying to bind you to anything. Just to apologise, and to make amends. That's quite difficult enough to be going on with, a Lightbringer Quest would be far harder than anything I'd want to try."

"Fair enough. But which quest are you on? And why do you need the Third to grant you access to the place that they are protecting?" Again it is difficult to know if Graylor is talking to himself or to Kallyr, though he is concentrating fully on the lone figure in the center of the temple.

"I've got no idea what you mean by that. The Third turned up in what I think was a station where we were to get directions from a chance encounter, and that's what they did."

"What a wonderful opportunity." Seledd has always been good at sarcasm. "So we get a half-hearted apology and the chance to get beaten up in a badly planned quest where the leader has no idea what she's doing - and this is expected to be recompense for the honour of the Legion? Somehow, despite the enthusiasm of our most junior members, I think acceptance may not be a foregone conclusion."

"It is not. Nor is refusal." Illig had remained motionless and silent for so long that his voice comes almost as a shock, but a hush falls immediately.
"Did anyone here sense anything but Truth in anything said so far?"

"I wonder if my spell of Refreshing Honesty is somehow participating to these strange and unwary answers. " Abul says softly to Dori. " Is it really the Great Queen Kallyr or rather her trickster speaking?"

"Maybe," she says softly. "But she always seems most honest and open when she's being deceitful, so think about what the Warlord asked. Did you sense any Untruth?"

There is quiet as everyone searches their memories of whatever detection of Untruth they may have been using: and, with the discussion fresh in their minds, and Illig and Kallyr at the centre of their attention, a few other things become apparent to a few. There is tension in the air - or rather, at some level more fundamental than air. A link between these two opposites, a sense of some choice to be made that is more important than it seems on the surface. This is a temple of Humakt, and thus part of Humakt's realm, his halls, and the darkness and tension makes this feel more obvious than is comfortable. Illig... Illig always seems too much like his god for comfort, and more so now than ever: anything human about him is hidden, silenced. For Graylor and Egil (ooc: the two who got minor victories!) it's vaguely reminiscent of their first meeting with Krogar Wolfhelm. Like Krogar had been then, there is a hint that Kallyr is more than just what they can see in the mundane, that there is more than one path this encounter may go down. Some aspects of her appearance fade into background, others stay clear on both mundane and... whatever else it is that they're seeing. Torc, armour, cloak flapping slightly in the constant wind. Illig, however, stays constant in both modes. As Dori had said earlier, remembering that he is Humakt is easy: remembering that he is human is hard.

Dori is the first to answer Illig, after exchanging glances with Yenda. "We found that nothing she said was Untrue - as we would expect. Some omissions, some interesting phrasing, but nothing untrue. Others, however, have more flexible and unusual abilities, and may have learnt more. Abul? Graylor? Kristen? Do any of you have anything to tell us?"

Egil still suspects that Kallyr is up to something though he is unsure what it may be: he is dimly aware that just about everyone of the Legion is pouring their Know Truth magic onto her and she is twisting through it. He decides to lend his magic to Graylor so he can use it with his 'funny' Jalmar truth magic.

Graylor has been using his new-found ability to cut through self-deception all along. Detecting Untruth is usually a comparison between what is said, and what the speaker believes to be true. Now, he can cut aside any outer layer of self-delusion, and compare what is said with their true beliefs: not what they wish to believe, or their surface thoughts, but what they truly feel. But he cannot find any indication that Kallyr does not truly believe everything she says and does, though the almost unbelievable self-confidence seems to some extent to be a bluff: naturally, no warrior is ever likely to admit to fear if they can help it. Either there is no self-deception there, or her armour is too strong for him to find an opening.

Curious, he spreads his awareness to others in the audience, and is relieved to find that he has not entirely lost his ability to see beyond the obvious. Almost everyone is trying to convince themselves of something, whether that they are impartial when they are anything but, that they feel no awe of an almost legendary figure who they had not previously met, that they are not being influenced by an attractive woman... the levels of perception are almost dizzying, and he reaches out for some stable point, someone who he knows for certain will be so deep in Truth that his words and thoughts will match exactly. Illig.

But the prop he reaches for crumbles beneath his grasp. The first touch of his perception goes straight through what he had expected to be impregnable, and he is instantly aware that he could never have cut through it at all if it had not already been almost torn apart from within. Illig's inner thoughts are only just covered by his desire to be as emotionless and impartial as his god. Within, there is a maelstrom of warring emotions: protectiveness for his Legion, longing for revenge, love for... something? someone? pain and anger at betrayal, and what almost seems to be a father's wish to protect a child.

Graylor responds next. "I have nothing to add. Kallyr not only speaks the truth but has a belief in that truth as well. However, her mind is very strong and I may not have been able to read it correctly. Warleader I would however, like to add one more thing. In this decision of justice we shouldn't ignore our emotions. Humakt tried to sever all emotions only to find that there were no longer any reasons to act. He found a way to assign emotions their proper weighting and used them to temper his judgements, much as water tempers the blade in its forging."

Abul has now had his tongue rolling against his palate for quite a long time. Since his recent initiation he has found it more and more compulsive to use his weird magical ability brought back from the Godplane and more or less unconsciously he has already tasted some of his words polluted by his own hypocrisy in his mouth: obedient words in front of Jakkanna tasting boredom, confidence in front of Daine revealing fake and worse, friendship words to Yenda becoming something he couldn't recognize. In all of these sensations, one taste was particularly familiar to him, a taste he had just recently experienced again in front of Dissolution Khan the foreign expert swordsman when they exercised, but a taste he already knew since forever: Fear!

Fear is the constant factor in what he tastes here. That apparent relaxation and confidence is as much a bluff as the one he himself puts up in front of Daine or Khan, Kallyr just happens to be better at bluffing than he is. Naturally, anyone would be afraid with a crowd of hostile Humakti surrounded them while they are unarmed, and Illig's Sword pointed at them - but there's something not quite right. Abul knows many sorts of fear, he could almost have dozens of names for them, the way Sartarites have twenty different words for rain, and this isn't, for the most part, simple fear of being killed.

What is it? How does it vary from one moment to the next, and why? She had relaxed slightly as Illig moved away - again, not surprising. She tensed every time she mentioned apologising, and making amends: when she had said that was the important thing to her, she had meant it. But there was fear involved there, too... and yes, he did recognise it, from having felt it himself, at the very moment he gained the ability to taste the Lie, and in the hours leading up to it. The fear of being faced with a challenge far beyond his abilities, with responsibilities that went well beyond something as trivial as his own survival. That hadn't just been fear, it had been a sick panic at the knowledge of his own probable incompetence and the terrible consequences to others of any failure on his part. That, for some reason, is what she associates with apology and making amends. She tenses, too, every time the idea of her being on a heroquest at the moment is mentioned, as if the mere fact of discusssion it may cause failure, though discussion of the Vingan quest brings no particular reaction, almost as if she had no particular interest in it. He doubts his senses for a moment - Kallyr Starbrow, heroine of a thousand stories, as unsure of herself as he had been? And then Graylor mentions the Lightbringer Quest, and Abul is no longer in any doubt. To the eyes and ears, she showed no particular reaction, but her scent and muscle tension gave it away - absolute terror at the idea, as if it was not just an abstract theory, but one with particular and personal meaning, a challenge that she knows she has no hope of either succeeding at or avoiding, with unthinkable consequences for failure. As, to a lesser extent, is the current situation.

Abul is quite shocked by his discoveries. His own interpretations are quite astounding and it takes a while before he can formalize them correctly. Still afraid to spell out some wrongness, he makes a secret sign to Dori to get her ear and to mutter a short report only to her.
"She is frightened to death, Raven! Such powerful runequester... she is afraid!" (and it sounds clearly in Abul's mouth, that for him it is a brutal lesson: there is no escape from fear in power-mongering...). "She is quite impressed by her current situation, which is understandable, but more than that she is terrified by her next steps, like if she was preparing for the travel to the Great Twillight and there is something about Illig too, as if she was afraid to disappoint him because he is special to her... It seems unbelievable and please forgive my awkward boldness, but... were Kallyr and Illig in love affairs before? To me, it sounds exactly as if she was requesting to be put to death by her own past lover.. "

In Abul's mind, confusion reigns. Old echoes of tragic love stories strike him as waves of a long forgotten ocean. True Love kills!

"It's more complicated than that," Dori says equally quietly. "I'll fill you in later, but for now - well done."
At a more public volume, she asks "Nothing to indicate any Lie, then?" At Abul's nod, she goes on. "Kristen, what do you have for us?"

Kristen has "dressed" carefully for the occasion, body paint renewed, and with a few new markings added that no-one's quite had the nerve to ask about. "There's some bits I'm not sure I believe, let me take a closer look." She walks forward, sniffing the air as she does so.

Kallyr watches, an eyebrow rising. "The last I heard, Babeester Gori hunted rapists. I can assure you, that's one thing I'm not guilty of."

"They hunt rapists, yes," Dori agrees. "Did it ever occur to you find out how they do that, and how else those skills can be used?"

Kristen has completed her inspection, and looks back to the Raven. "Lots of fear - about right for the circumstances. Not much anger, not much hatred. Absolutely no guilt at all."

"No guilt," Graylor echoes Kristen, somewhat in shock as are many around him. "Hang on. Does that mean that you were not responsible for the Legion's being involved in THAT ambush?"

"Hardly - that was what I came here to apologise for, remember? No, that just means your Babeester Gor friend would be better off keeping to the more normal uses of her talents."

As before, the various Truth-sensers in the hall nod, if somewhat reluctantly. She is speaking the truth as she knows it. Abul however, still tasting the air from around her. notices that her scent alters at Kristen's words: fear, certainly, but with a new note to it now, similar to his own when he's been trying to pass Daine's tests by bluffing, and has just been caught out.

Abul is young and somehow not well trained for plotting, manipulating other people and faking, but he knows what is to be frightened and to hide it so deeply inside him that he can pretend not to be afraid. He knows how this can be unbearable and he feels now more pity than any other emotion for Kallyr.

Without thinking too much about the possible consequences, he takes a step toward Kallyr and recites under his breath the Pelandan prayer against Fear: words invented long ago against the Dara Happan Yoke, confirmed under the Spolite Tyranny and still used under the ruthless Carmanian Rule. He hopes Idovanus will hear his prayer, even on behalf of a barbarian.
"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."
He hopes to help Kallyr to overcome her fears and to speak up with a cleared mind... whatever may come out, even at the cost of a better controlled lie.

He'd hoped to be quiet, but that step forward brings eyes and ears towards him. Dori's hand on his shoulder pulls him back into place. "No need to fear her, not now," she says reassuringly, at the same volume he had used. Then, much more quietly: "I know, you didn't. Compassion is good, but at the moment, showing it would get you into trouble."

Graylor continues the discussion with Kallyr, again probing her defenses both verbally and magically. The insight about her not feeling guilt makes him sure that she is harboring some internal deception. He inquires of Ashar if his magic would help illuminate the darkness of Kallyr's mind.

The answer is not exactly in words, but ironic amusement can be conveyed without them. If there had been words, they might have been "Don't you have enough problems without her being Illuminated?"

"I disagree, those talents have highlighted your problem. You want us to believe you are sorry and want to make amends for what you did. For most people that process starts with feeling guilty for what they have done and this guilt drives the need for atonement. Not apparently for you. So what is really driving your need for this meeting? Whitewall? King Broyan? Someone something else?"

"I already answered that. If you refuse to believe your Babeester Gori friend can make a mistake, that's up to you."

Kristen looks indignant, then confused. "And now she starts feeling guilty! Not very, but a bit."

He pauses briefly before changing tack slightly hoping to catch her slightly off guard. "You do realise that at some point you are going to have to stop evading the painful questions and truly answer them. If you expect to leave this room you will have to demonstrate that you will abide by the strictures of all the legions leaders. That they tell the truth, which you are doing, and they don't lie by omission, something you are doing a lot of today."

"Omission? Of course I'm omitting things!" She sounds slightly exasperated now. "I omitted the name of the horse I rode in on, what I had for breakfast this morning, and all sorts of other irrelevancies."

"The whole damn thing is irrelevant," Seledd snaps. "There's no question of her guilt in having betrayed the honour of the Legion. The only question is whether an apology, half-hearted or not, a token, and the chance to join in a badly organised quest that might get us something more is adequate amends and restitution for the Legion's honour. I say not. Nothing repays loss of honour."

Egil rattles his sword in it scabbard to applaud Seledd. "A head on a silver platter pays back all lost honour. If she or her pet Vingan can find the third then so can we, just watch out for her tricks in Whitewall."

Curious, Graylor turns his magical perception on Seledd to see if she really believes that nothing can repay a loss in honour. It's immediately clear that yes, she most certainly does, at least where the honour of the Legion is concerned.

Siggyr seems as if he's just about to speak when a gruff voice behind says "Hush now, little poppet, don't say owt daft. We don't want to hafta give you a slap do we." Then pushing through to the front the wrecked figure of Egil Nine-wounds appears. "You're a friggin' daft cow ain't yer? Wolf? More like a mad dog. How'd you get a say on whether the Third gets its stuff back? Been long in the Legion? No, I was here while you was still suckin' on your mam's tit. Was it your cohort? No, it bloody wasn't. Was it you who abandoned us to our fate? Oh yeah, that right it was. All this about honour is a load of bull, if you had any you'd be in Humakt's Hall right now for what you did. Seems to me letting a cohort be turned to toast, for whatever good reason, deserves some bloody recompense of its own." Then turning his focus on Illig he continues: "The Third for the Third I say. Those of us 'ats left will probably go to hell to get our stuff back, you never know we might find your addled wolf's honour while we're there."

Graylor raises an eyebrow at this. He has never been told the whole story about the lost Third Cohort. Nobody had been willing to tell the whole tale, so the news that Seledd abandoned the Third is somewhat of a shock. He brings his attention back to the rest of the room to see how the main players and others take to the quartermaster's speech.

Abul keeps quiet, observing the crowd for the first time as an adult among other adults... and suddenly the Legion appears to him like an ocean: below a disciplined surface, a struggle of old secret emotions with Kallyr as a catalytic element. "Understanding these flows of passion must be the key for leadership and sovereignty," he quotes to himself.

Illig's compressed lips at this tirade imply that a reprimand may soon be on the way. Kallyr has listened with apparent slight amusement (and Abul may notice a lessing of tension as at least one ally is revealed). "That's a little unfair," she says mildly. "Admittedly my information on the subject is second-hand, but refusing to throw away the Second in a useless attempt to save the Third was the right tactical decision, and not an easy one." Her look of sympathy and respect for Seledd is apparently absolutely genuine, but unfortunately so is the mischievous grin that follows. "Of course, if you feel my gift repays her debt as well as my own, I'm certainly not going to argue."

"It does not, since I have no debt to pay, and yours is immeasurably greater than the worth of this trifle." Seledd's feelings on being first crudely insulted and then condescended to by a hated enemy can be easily guessed, but she remains icily polite. "This does not appear to be a question that can be resolved by debate, even if those expressing their views were capable of doing so in a civilised manner, so we turn to a holier method of resolving differences of opinion". Another Humakti might have placed a hand on a sword-hilt at that point: Seledd Brightspear moves the weapon that gives her her name closer to the ready.

Egil Nine-Wounds, undeterred, waves his stick at her with his one arm, and nearly falls over in the process. "You're on, girly!"

Seledd glances at him with disdain. "Don't be ridiculous. I'm not challenging a cripple." She turns to Illig, with absolute respect. "My Lord, I believe you said that we were to treat our - guest - with all the courtesy due to an honoured warrior. This is unusual, I agree, but that courtesy and respect allows for her to be as open to challenge as any of us."

There is a short pause before Ilig answers, with the same remote, unemotional courtesy. "That is a logical consequence, yes."

A slight note of satisfaction has perhaps slipped into the courtesy now. "Then I submit that the proffered apology and gift do not consititute proper amends for the damage done to the honour of the Legion, and the original sentence of execution still stands, with no further reason for delay. Since this cannot be settled by debate, it must be settled by duel."

Illig nods. "To the first blood only."

"First blood only, to decide a matter that will result in death? Still, it hardly matters."

Kallyr's glance has been going from one to the other, and what Abul feels now, is not, perhaps surprisingly, fear, but more like relief: or at least, a change from fear of the unknown to the more familiar pre-battle tension. "I'm not familiar with all the details of Humakti duelling law - do I get choice of weapons, and would weapons be provided?"

Seledd nods impatiently. "Yes, and yes."

"Fine." Kallyr smiles almost happily. "In that case, you're on. Javelins at a mile."

"That's not..." Seledd almost looks taken aback, then recovers smoothly. "But I should not be the one pronouncing the law, in a duel when I am one of the participants." There's definitely satisfaction, and a touch of cruelty, in her smile now. "Dorinda, I believe you are our expert on the law of the duel. How would you rule here?"

Dori has gone back to the still watchfulness that's her lesser imitation of Illig's impassivity. "You have choice of weapons, but not of location. The duel will take place here. Given the range available, javelins would perhaps not be a wise choice."

"No, perhaps not," Kallyr agrees. "Any other limitations on weapon?"

"No. Sometimes the duel is limited to swords, but under the circumstances and in a temple dedicated to Kargan, there would be no limit here. You both get to choose whatever weapon you like, but I think we all know what Lady Seledd Brightspear will choose."

"Right. Spear would be the obvious choice, then." She eyes Seledd's glowing, rune-covered spear thoughtfully. "Dori, you used to not only know duelling law, but bet on duels, and bet well. What odds would you put on this one, if you were running the book?"

Dori stays apparently detached, as if the topic was of academic interest only. "I wouldn't be using odds, as such. I'd have a side bet on whether that first blood would be fatal, probably at about three to one, and the main betting would be on timings: how long it would take her to win. I'd open the book at.... I think thirty seconds, and probably go up to five minutes at the outside."

She hesitates, glances at Illig, then adds: "There's one other point of law that's relevant here. A non-Humakti challenged to a Humakti duel is entitled to request a Humakti champion."

Graylor muses as Dori is making her deliberations. Finally he speaks. “There is something wrong here. We are all being manipulated. When Kallyr entered the camp she was in the position that she was unarmed and had to persuade or fight the whole legion that’s odds of 90 to 1, by taking her into the temple we shortened the odds to 40 to 1 but she was still unarmed. Now by provoking a fight she has now got the odds to evens and now we have to give her weapons, and what is more our Honour will enable her to go unharmed from that contest when she wins. ”

He ignores the murderous looks and spluttering from Seledd.

“Make no bones about it Kallyr has planned this meticulously. She will win this fight." Graylor pauses to allow his words to sink in and to assess how they are being taken.

"But how can she do this? Because she knows the leadership of the Legion very well from when you were working together. She knows that Illig is the epitome of ‘measure twice and cut once’. That Seledd has a short fuse. That Yodi and Egil are out of action. That the Third would do anything to get the regalia back. I'm sure that the planning goes deeper than that though."

"Then she has a bit of luck someone stumbles across the Third. Now that she has the potential to negotiate with the regalia she strikes, knowing that the mere possibility of their recovery would cause strife in the legion. The remainder of the Third and Seledd fighting with each other. From there it is easy for Kallyr to manipulate the fight with the right condescending words to push Seledd over the top into forming a challenge.”

Over in the corner, what had almost become a wrestling match between Siggyr and Egil Nine-wounds stops suddenly.

Continuing to address the room but primarily Illig and Kallyr “What would you do in those circumstances warleader? You know you are good at manipulation so you prepare for the challenge. There are plenty of Orlanthi heroes and Thunder Brothers that would grant Kallyr duel winning magics, especially as Vinga is one of the Thunder Brothers. A lightning bolt from Yavor or blinding speed from Mastakos would work well, though I’m sure that there are others. The magic is brought into the temple so it works and any personal magic allowed in the duel. Who in their right mind would challenge Seledd to a match with spears unless they have a really good trick up their sleeves?”

"Unless she is planning to get killed by an Humakti..." mutters Abul confused loud enough to be heard by the group nearby, "then all her fears will get an explanation, but why should anyone want to be killed on Humakti sacred ground while empowered by wind magic?"

In fact, the only wind visible around her now is from their own North Wind: as Abul gets more used to using the Truewind, he can recognise it as a friend.

Kallyr has been listening with increasing interest and fascination, and actually applauds Graylor's final conclusion. "Wonderful! And people say I've got a convoluted mind. That's a brilliant plan, I wish I'd thought of it myself. It works perfectly, right up to the point where the duel is in a Humakti temple so I don't get any magic, and Seledd kills me. Sneaking magic in, somehow - that's cunning. But how in the world would you get anything that could be used as a weapon past the weapon detection and weapon destruction available to a Kargani temple, of all places?" She sighs. "I know, you won't tell me that one, but I wish I'd known it was possible. Still, too late now."

Graylor's eyes a moment ago were full of fire, but now it dies. A mask covers his face hiding the emotion that was there a second before. He silently curses himself for a fool and vows not to speak out again in front of his betters again. A vow that his own heightened sense of self deception knows that he will not keep.

Yenda has been quiet keeping close to Dori and watching the proceedings with fascination. She has been impressed with the way that Graylor has been outspoken in the present company. She also recognises his expression for what it is, withdrawal and self depreciation. She desperately wants to tell him that he has done well, but dare not move from her current position.

Getting the expected lack of answer to her question, Kallyr turns back to Dori. "You said a champion is an option. I can't say I like the idea, but I don't feel like suicide today, either. If I get offers from more than one champion, who choses which one fights?"

"What!" Yenda explodes, then looking slightly abashed. "You are in a room of hostiles and you dare to hope that more than one will volunteer to be your champion. You have betrayed, dishonoured and abused the Legion, could you seriously think that anyone would stand in your stead?"

Abul puts a hand on Yenda,'s shoulder and says slowly to her ear in a low tone. "Well... Me for example." He continues in a breath "I would if I was a better swordsman... After all, Kallyr is still fighting the Red Moon and there must be a more effective way for all to make her repair her mischief than to fight and kill a Queen and a Hero... all I see here is the another development of the Lie: everybody seems to follow his own virtue but at the end, everybody will have suffered and lost something good. That's the way of Ganesatarus."

"You have to be right Abul." She lays her hand on his. "But I see now that Kallyr will get her champion and she at least will be spared Seledd's wrath. The problem is that there are very few who could stand in combat against Seledd." Yenda goes through the list in her head. Yorsar and Illig definitely Siggyr, possibly. Who of those who would support Kally? Siggyr if only to annoy Seledd but what of the other two, she has no idea. Both are too scary, in their own ways, to approach casually.

She looks across at Siggyr and sees him still in heated if quiet discussion with Egil Nine-Wounds.

Egil makes a flamboyant bow to Kallyr, "I would have offered myself as your champion but in all good conscience I cannot. I want you to lose and though I would never throw the fight, I know Lady Seledd would beat me easily. With this knowledge I could not enter such a fight and still keep my honour."

She smiles. "Your honesty is appreciated, at least."

Dori answers Yenda, still with that clinical detachment. "There's a possible argument that anyone with a geas to accept all challenges has just received an implied challenge. That would include more than one person. And..." turning to Kallyr, "the answer is that under those circumstances, you would choose."

"I see." She hasn't responded visibly to Yenda's outburst. "How many people would that drop in it - you?"

"Among others, yes. I'm not sure how many have the geas, or how many of those would be quite so over-sensitive about honour as to treat it as a requirement."

"And what would the odds be, if you did that?"

"Drop the side bet on lethality, and add another thirty seconds to the timing."

"So it makes no practical difference at all?"

"You get executed later, probably at sunset, rather than killed in the duel. Purely a delay. I'd get a very slight scratch - Lady Seledd is more than good enough to do a clean first blood with minimal damage, if that's what she wants."

Abul has a long thoughtful time before answering Yenda. "Surely one of them will do... yes, certainly... but in the case none presents... then should I let my honour to command me to go?"

He seems then to justify for himself. "For the sake of the Legion's honour to present a champion as required, for my own sense of duty and over all that to help the situation to develop in a more constructive way. Seledd will have no interest to kill me just to show off her ability and get her rights honoured. I have no doubt she can draw some blood from me without any effort... unless... unless... perhaps with the right choice of weapon? I wonder how good is Seledd with unarmed pelandan wrestling? At least there is less chance to lose a head this way..."

Realizing Yenda's unbelieving glance on him, he then tries to comfort her: "Don't worry, one real champion will surely raise an hand soon..."

There is a long silence... a disturbing moment for anyone not used to the infinite silence of the tomb, but no one among the humakti makes a step forward for the defence of Queen Kallyr's Honour. She can now fully measure the severe and permanent impact of her past deeds on the Legion.

Suddenly this silence is broken by a single disappointed muttering on the Raven's side. Yenda, Dorinda and those around can just understand Abul saying a few words before he walks straight to the centre of the assembly. " Beaten yesterday by Daine, beaten this morning by Dissolution Khan, I wonder if Seledd can do worse..."

As the young initiate walks under the watchful eyes of his elders, the feeling of being committed to do something silly overwhelms him. "Is Idovanius pushing me to act and Ganesatarus blowing me to stay hidden or is it just the opposite?" he wonders, troubled. But his face is a livid mask as he uses his Speak Truth Feat with his unearthly bass voice wrapped in a thick Carmanian accent, first to convince the assembly then Illig himself: "I fear that my own uncompromising honour will not let me endure what will happen if no one steps forward. I feel that any weaponless guest should deserve protection if requiring it from us. I think that even if it may have been by pure mischief, Queen Kallyr showed great courage to come here alone and thus deserves some respect from me. I hope that if Lady Seledd succeeds to draw some blood from me or if surprisingly she doesn't, her honour will be restored somehow and that a still living Queen Kallyr will be more able to help the Legion to recover the Third's Regalia than one first-blooded but dead anyway. I speculate that my own life is not more valuable than that of any leader in a position to actively fight the Red Moon, especially now at Whitewall. As a junior but full member of the Legion of Herw'Ard, I present myself as possible Champion for Queen Kallyr..."

He has a supportive glance for Egil Nine-Wounds as he declares to Seledd: "and I'm not crippled, Lady."

He finishes his short speech facing Kallyr. "At least, now you have a choice and I bet you will understand your best interest there..."

Seledd has been looking more and more angry as his praise for Kallyr goes on, and breaks in before she has a chance to answer. "No, you're not crippled, boy - yet. But nor are you Humakti, and a Humakti duel is none of your damn business."

"Not Humakti? That would explain why he's using Orlanthi honour, then." For the first time since she got here, Kallyr is starting to look angry. "Abul, it seems I won't be able to accept your offer, but thank you for making it. You're a good man - and while you may not ever be Humakti, you've got the makings of a very fine Wind Lord." She grins suddenly. "Just don't make too many rash mistakes now that you'll regret later. Speaking of which... Illig, I'm sorry, but I'm out of options here. Dori can give me a few hours delay, but that's not enough. You know what I'm going to say, don't you?"

Illig proves he isn't a statue after all by stirring slightly. "I do. And you know what my answer must be, or you would not be mentioning it."

"I was hoping it wouldn't come to this, but.... Illig, many years ago you promised me that if I ever needed a champion, you'd be there for me. I'm asking."

Abul wonders if he should rejoice or be disappointed, but not choosing he bows courteously to Kallyr and get back to his place as honourably as he can without a glance at Seledd. "Poor old cow bloated with hate, she must have a very sad life," he thinks to himself while vanishing again in the anonymity of the crowd.

Being back with Yenda, he just comments trying to look as blasé as he can "If Kallyr thinks she is flattering me by wishing me among the ranks of the Sun-Murderer, she is wrong..."

"Give her a break. She is probably more concerned with staying alive than to identify you as being Camanian. In one way she is right, Hereward is the Truewind, and a master could be described as a windlord, though not in the Orlanth sense." Yenda's reply is a mild rebuke to Abul, but here eyes burn with pride for his noble actions.

Graylor isn't as surprised as many in the room, he had already seen Illig's inner turmoil. Yenda is shocked as she whispers to Abul. "Wow, would you have ever believed that the Warleader would have had a relationship. It makes him seem almost human. Not sure I'd fancy having That Sword looking on while I was trying to be all romantic!"

"Finally we learn that he isn't a Bare Blade... " Abul answers Yenda in quite an admiring tone as he feels his awe for Illig grow. Not only the Sword was able to kill Gods but also to lay... Queens.

Egil Nine-wounds lets go of Siggyr, grimaces, hawks and spits. "Well milord, you've certainly buggered up there ain't ya? Not very much in the image of Hu is it really? Promising yerself to queeny here, in return for what? Did she polish yer helmet for yer or just promise that she would? Cause if you have had payment for the goods you don't have to give the goods to her. How about if you challenge her? Yer can't fight yerself, that'd work."

Egil sucks in his breath. "Damn! Someone's screwed now, probably all of us. She can just say 'Fight to the death' and point him and The Sword at whoever she wants dead," he mutters to Graylor.

"No, Illig won't do that. He wouldn't use the Sword on the Legion, for a mere duel," comes the quiet reply. "She may have Illig but not the Legion, yet, and The Sword IS the Legion."

They aren't the only ones muttering, and in shock: some approving, some disapproving, some simply bewildered. In particular, Seledd's expression of loathing and disgust could curdle milk: but then, that's roughly how she was looking at Kallyr before.

What takes slightly longer to register is how Illig and Kallyr are reacting to the comments, which isn't what anyone present might expect. Kallyr's slightly easier to read: puzzlement, growing to at least as much bewilderment as anyone else, followed by incredulous disgust. She also recovers slightly faster than Illig.

"That's some very interesting assumptions being made there. Sorry to disappoint you, but when Illig made that promise, I was six years old, and even if I hadn't been...." The amazement isn't even hidden now."You know Illig - do you seriously imagine he could ever have been as stupid as you're implying?"

She looks at her supposed lover, slightly amused. "I don't think I made any promises in return, did I, beyond the ones about what I'd do to my proposed opponent if you'd only let me go? You wanted me to make one about not starting fights, but it didn't happen."

Egil Nine-wounds bows stiffly to Illig, "My apologies milord for slurring your character, but it still leaves with a situation where we're suddenly going to find ourselves short of a senior officer in one post or other very soon. All to help out a treacherous woman who hates us."

"No, it won't." Seledd at least is back to cold control, and has clearly worked her way through the same logic: first touch from the Sword, never mind about blood, means death. "The needs of the Legion come first. Challenge withdrawn."

Graylor breaths a sigh of relief. Exciting though thought of Illig fighting Seledd would have been, the situation would have been intolerable. "Where does that leave us?" He asks. Completely forgetting his vow. "Do we accept the reparations? Do we trust Kallyr not to be leading us into further trouble as we look for the regalia of the Third, or do we walk away and trust to our own abilities to find the regalia? Can we afford to pass up this chance?"


"We do not accept anything." Uljar Breaknose, Standardbearer of the Legion, has remained silent up till now, and his deep voice is grave. "We do not need a duel to decide whether the reparation offered is acceptable. There is precedent established recently to say that it is not. There was one who betrayed the Legion. You said, my Lord, and many here witnessed it, that for betrayal of the Legion, no restitution is possible, and no forgiveness is possible. You then executed the offender. That is the precedent that must be followed here."

"That was a former member of the Legion." Illig's voice is equally grave. "We do not hold outsiders to the same standard."

"Do we relax our standards so much as to forgive, and to accept restitution, where there is no remorse? Even Fedarkor might have been forgiven, if he had shown any remorse for his deeds. But this? I think not."

The silence that follows seems long, but it can only have been a fraction of a second before Illig speaks again., "I agree."

"You WHAT?? But, Illig..." All Kallyr's calm control is gone now, and so is lllig's imperturbability, the deep anger underneath all too visible.

"No buts, not from you. No more twisted words. But me no buts, honour me no honours(*) - as if that word in your mouth meant anything! You come here, trying to buy your way into forgiveness, every word a lie hidden in truth. Does honour mean anything to you besides a way to twist others to do your bidding?"

That sense of dual worlds is back to some extent: but perhaps only because of the feeling that over in that other world, the tension has crept up to breaking point, that a decision point has been reached, and that irrevocable change is about to happen. There is a path, and there is a fall into the darkness of the unknown, and all of you, but Illig and Kallyr in particular, teeter on the brink.

He is still glaring at her, furious, and steps closer, seizing the forlorn banner she still holds. "This we will take, in memory of our friends. As for your attempt at terms, I reject them utterly. The honour of the Legion is not for sale!"

"But....."

"I said no buts!" The Sword swings up, ready to come down.

Abul is crushed by this clash of titans. His eyes see, his ears listen but he can't find any escape to the situation. Later perhaps when time and experience will deliver some clues, but for now, he keeps silent and stays within the crowd trying to grasp ineffectively some deep meaning to the scene.

Egil maintains a grim demeanour but is smiling inside, now she knows what it is to fear Ashar. The though echoing loudly around inside his head fed on his hatred of the woman in front of Illig, "and now you die, bitch!"

Graylor is astonished, and inside there is a turmoil to match that of Illig. He finds himself speaking despite the inner voice that bids his silence. "Stop!" he cries and seeing the blade pause and Illig turn his eyes on Graylor he continues despite the burning gaze.

"Warleader you are making a mistake. You are thinking too short term and are too emotional to make this decision clearly. The pain she has caused you personally is too deep. The one who betrayed the Legion had gone much further than that and was a poison polluting the land, so his execution had to be immediate. Kallyr is not in the same league as him. Yes she betrayed the Legion and for that the penalty is death. However, for the sake of the good she does in Sartar, wouldn't a stay of execution be possible? Kallyr may yet be useful to the Legion and earn its forgiveness."

Graylor is aware of the muttering rising from the assembly. "There will be those who say if we let her go then there won't be another opportunity. To them I say that we bind her with an oath on your sword that she should return to the wielder of the sword when summoned. That way she will no be able to escape the justice of the Legion. Honouring an oath with all of us backing it will not be negotiable."

Egil half coughs and half-chokes. "The good she does in Sartar? What good would that be? That she left the defenders of Whitewall rent with divisions and caused so much acrimony that the King exiled her from Whitewall. In fact is this not just some ruse to try and use us once again and gain a re-entry to the city she is barred from? And what of the tales of her collaboration with the Red Moon, that would do no good to Sartar if true." Egil's face has flushed crimson and it is only by great effort that his meditation techniques bring him back to a semblence of calm.

"Yes I know that she also causes much disruption. But when the rallying call comes to liberate Sartar, who will the masses follow? Us? Nobody has heard of us. King Broyan? Too far away from Satar. Prince Termatain? Nobody in Sartar would follow him through a door. Or Kallyr? Whose name is on everybody's lips for good or ill? Yes she makes mistakes and typical for Kallyr the mistakes are blasted great big howlers of mistakes. But she is needed by Sartar as a symbol of hope and spirit against the oppression of the Lunars."

"But as you said there are additional charges that would negate all that. Rumours of your consorting with chaos leading to your expulsion from Whitewall. Collaborating with the Lunar invaders. What does Kallyr have to say about these things?" Graylor asks.

"... not speaking of the Legion's reputation in Sartar and all the Orlanthi lands around after such execution! The Legion's survival as a respected organization will get tougher after that," Abul expresses to the people near him.

In a more lower tone, Abul comments to Yenda and secondarily to Dori: "But Graylor is calling upon external and political conditions to convince the Humakti present. It seems to me that it is an useless effort: your god Humakt is without bond. He decides only from his own set of self-defined regulations not because of external constrains. His servants will logically refuse to take the rightful points of Graylor into consideration, some may even take the situation as a pride challenge... I was told that in Carmania, the Hum'Akt's servants have to obey the Viziers inspired by Idovanius... but here in the South? We need to find some Humakti rules to convince the present legionnaires... if we wish to let Kallyr go alive and not make our lives miserable."

Taking a breath, Abul suggests: "I'm not in a position to be listened to, but what about an Humakti oath... plus support at the level of the quality of her poor request? I mean, she absolutely owns us an important compensation. The Third Regalia would probably be a good start whatever people like Seledd might say, but they are right at least on one point: we don't have to help Kallyr because she has to help us! We are the offended ones after all... Then... Give her a group of competent but expendable members of the Legion and the irrepressible oath to support them at all costs to get the Third Regalia back to the Legion and then to come back here again for her final judgment... In case of failure, the loss will be minimal for the Legion and Kallyr will be dead or condemned to a certain death, in case of success, the gain will be obvious for us and Kallyr in a position to hope a better deal for her cause. That why, in addition to save her head right now, she might accept such a harsh proposal... Would it not be more productive for all than this execution that no one outside the Legion will understand and accept?"

He shakes his head. "Lady Jakkanna taught me that one mark of the Enemy was to invoke positive values like Honour and Truth to cause irremediable losses of good things... while the Good God would use even evil things like Pride, Deceit and Selfishness to create concrete improvements... I think now that she was right."

"She was, and so are you, and so is Graylor," Dori says quietly, "but they're not going to accept it, not now. Let me handle it - we need a delay that they will accept, to start with."

"This is all irrelevant." Uljar's voice is still grave and sober. "She could be the last hope to stop the world ending, and it would not matter. Our actions could cause the inevitable loss of all our lives, and it would not matter. As my Lord Illig has said, the honour of the Legion is not for sale, no matter what the price."

Dori steps slightly forward. "You are right, of course, but Graylor's point has some merit. Kallyr may still be of some slight use to the Legion. My Lord," she nods deferentially towards Illig, "execution should rightly take place at some auspicious time, and with due ceremony - sunset, perhaps? In the remaining time, and assuming my standard orders are still valid, even the earliest, I would like permission to interrogate the prisoner. She almost certainly has useful intelligence on the Lunars that could be added to our own."

Illig checks slightly in his turn towards her at the words "even the earliest" - it's barely noticable except to the most eagle-eyed watchers.

"That assumption is correct, Raven," he says, his normal composure apparently returned.

"Useful? From her? It'll only be lies." Seledd's cynicism has a certain amount of support, from the mutterings that can be heard around the hall.

"It may still be useful," Dori says calmly. "We had useful, if inaccurate, information from a vampire in our last investigation, she can hardly be much more unreliable than that. If she doesn't want to answer a particular question, she can say so, and we move on to another topic. I take it you'd be willing to do that?"

Kallyr nods, from the position behind and to one side of Vur where her rapid dodge away from an incoming Sword had taken her. "Not a problem, and a good idea, as long as we stay - how did you put it? 'polite'? "

"Of course. I'm not wasting my time trying to force answers, I know nothing I'd be prepared to do would have any effect at all in the time we've got. It's just boring routine, that's all."

Seledd's expression remains decidedly negative (and perhaps a little disappointed), and Dori goes on, with a touch of exasperation. "Look, here's a nice simple example. Kallyr, we're trying to identify a Lunar sorceress. We met her once at Tourney Altar, and then later further north when she was commanding and supporting an ambush on us, associated with a man called Anthippus. Bald, red robes, interesting decorations on them." She goes on to give a fairly detailed description of the sorceress and her troops, adding: "and on the second meeting, she had some very nasty scars on her face. Any idea who she is?"

Kallyr has listened intently, apparently determined to prove her usefulness if it keeps her alive a little longer. "Those scars - diagonal, right eye and cheek?"

"Yes. You know her?"

"I gave her the scars. Her name is Harthdaran Thunderhunter, she's a specialist hunter-killer, and if she's targetting the Legion, then quite apart from her being a dangerous enemy, it seems likely that you've got a very serious intelligence leak that you'll want to discuss somewhere a lot more private than this."

"All right. Let's keep this down to the minimum, then, we can always let others know whatever it is later. I expect people will want to get the main temple ready for the execution later, so let's get out of their way - my office, Egil to provide silence for us, my Raven's Eyes, and Graylor, please."

"And us." Kristen is looking protective again, and that usually means trouble. "I keep telling you, you do not get to do dangerous things without us going with you. That," pointing at Kallyr, "is a dangerous thing."

Kallyr doesn't quite laugh. "Dangerous? That's nice to know. Dori, word of advice - give up now. You're not going to win. Been there, done that, wasted the time."

Dori sighs. "I could use Vindana anyway, to take notes. All right, all four of you as well."

Egil draws Barzaad's Tooth and holds it, rock steady, about an inch from Kallyr's back. "Let's go then, and would it be inappropriate to beg at this point? As in 'Please try and escape so I can gut you before you've gone half a step.'"

"Sorry, I'll have to disappoint you there. Hostages, remember?" In fact she's very obviously careful not to make any moves that might look the slightest bit like a threat, and Abul may notice that if anything, she's more worried about Egil's sword than she had been when it was Illig holding her in the same position.

Dori's "office" is still inside the underground temple, but back in the main entrance hall, in one of the side areas. There's various stools, and a desk covered in piles of paper, mostly in Vindana's handwriting. Kallyr is sat on one of the stools. Vindana sits behind the desk, trying to find some clean paper and a working pen, and Dori perches on it, having cleared some space. "Egil, Silence, please, and test it. I don't want anything said in here being heard outside."

(*) Yes, it sounds like Shakespeare, but isn't quite. Richard II, and the phrase you want starts "Grace me no grace"

A private meeting
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