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Meanwhile, back at the camp...

Freezeday, Illusion week, Fire season - mid morning


When you're done with your other duties, I'd like you to spend some time finding out what the Jalmari here, and the library, know about demons and magic for dealing with them. It looks as if that's going to be of more immediate relevance than we might have hoped. Borrow Vindana if you need to."

"As you wish, I was hoping to get some time to do that anyway. But having Vindana's help will be great.. I hope!"


But in fact Graylor's other duties keep him occupied for the rest of the morning. His Ten are supposed to have been on watch since dawn, and what with all the favours he had to set up to get the mapping team replaced while they worked, his watch ends up rather longer than he might have preferred.

At least today, unlike most days, there's something to watch, though inside the camp rather than outside. Graylor finds Kallyr's preparations fascinating. It is nice to genuinely watch the woman work, without the subtle compulsion to watch her that she was using before. The legionaries started off, unsurprisingly, very wary of Kallyr. However, she ignores this and press gangs a number of people for the heavy labour. Amusingly most of them were from Vur’s men who seemed a little slow in finding something better to do. The flare of light when Kallyr summons the first daimon comes as a surprise to many, but by the time the fourth one is in place a few hours later, it's become almost routine.

It's shortly after that that three riders are seem approaching. Two are known, and the outer perimeter signals report them as Offir and Elendala - the third is a small woman in green healer's robes. Graylor vaguely recognizes her but can’t put a name to the face until Irnar asks.

“What is Ernaldestra doing here?”

“Thanks, I’ve been trying to remember her name. Trust you to remember the name of every woman you have ever met!” Graylor jokes.

“When someone tells you that she is the only person to keep Kallyr under control you try and remember her. Anyway, all those warrior types around Kallyr aren’t interesting to me. She is much more appealing. No not in that way. But I would hazard a guess that she could be more powerful than all the warriors combined.”

“You could be right there Irnar. But enough gassing we should welcome our guests.”

With that the two walk out to meet the trio of visitors.

“Our humble camp is most honoured by your presence.” Graylor offers once the traditional, but shortened, Orlanthi greetings have been made.

“Last time I looked Kallyr was on the other side of the camp. Though she could be anywhere, that woman moves fast when she wants. Would you like me to escort you to her?”

Elendala and Ernaldesta exchange glances. "I'll deal with the horses," Elendala offers as they all dismount.
"Thank you," Ernaldesta says quietly. She doesn't look dangerous, or forceful, and shows no tendency to control anyone: if anything, you feel more comfortable and safe around her than around most other people.

Graylor and Irnar lead the other two across the camp to where the sounds of stone-cutting, and then the light-show, had last come from. All of that is over now, but a few enquiries show that the visitors have found one of the rare spots of pre-noon shade behind a wall, and are making the most of it. Insterid is still standing, poised and alert for trouble even though it must be obvious by now that nothing is going to happen, but Kristen is sitting on top of a shaded block of stone, though still between Kallyr and the edge of the camp, and Kallyr herself is right down at ground level, leaning back against the coolness of the wall, and apparently so unconcerned by any danger that her eyes are shut. Even so, she's the first to react, as soon as Ernaldesta comes into view.

"Ern? You shouldn't be here, it's too dangerous."

Ernaldesta seems unperturbed by this. "Oh, is it?" she replies, looking down affectionately. "You think Humakti are more likely to attack a healer who's never harmed them than a warrior who's gone out of her way to annoy them, then?"

Graylor successfully suppresses the mirth he is feeling and responds with a straight face, but a twinkle in his eye. "No sane warrior would ever harm a healer. We need them too often to be anything other than respectful. Ernaldesta is more likely to be pestered for minor cures. You know the sorts of things we can ignore and wouldn’t bother bringing to the attention of our legion healers. Somehow if a guy is on his own with a different healer he will ask."

Kallyr laughs. "Hangover cures, for instance? She's good at those."

Ernaldesta pulls out of her pouch what might have been a delicate, intricately made necklace, if it hadn't been made of iron rather than gold or silver, and passes it to Kallyr.

"When Offir told me what you'd asked him to bring, I thought you might like some help with that side of things. There are things a human can do that an inanimate object can't, and this isn't ideal anyway, these people aren't Sartarite."

As soon as the chain is brought out Irnar’s whiskers start to twitch and he cautiously extends his magical and mundane senses to learn what he can of the object. The chain is highly magical and now that he is focusing on it he is sure that he has seen it before. Though on a man not a woman. At a distance. In a parade. Yes, that was it, on Prince Terasarin. Then it clicks, this is part of the regalia of Sartar!

He’d never thought that he would ever get within touching distance of any of those artefacts. The Chain of Sartar no less! He could even feel it influencing his thoughts, promoting comradeship with those round him. No, that isn’t right. It is highlighting the bonds that he has, and those similarities that can be forged into bonds, of all the people round him. This was obviously the artifact that aided Sartar in binding the disparate tribes and peoples of Sartar together.

"Nor were the original targets it was made for, if you remember, almost by definition. You're right, though, the more help the better with that side of things. Which reminds me, if you came back with Offir, you'll have met...?"

"Yes." Ernaldesta puts a hand on her shoulder, reassuringly. "Don't worry about it. That little matter's in hand."

Graylor puzzles over that phrase. He has heard careful wording before, and has used it often enough, to convey extra meaning without revealing it to other onlookers. He happens to notice Kallyr’s glance to the stables and remembers that Ernaldesta came in with Elendala. Dori’s follower. Oh yes. Kallyr’s little altercation with Elendala. Looks like the Ernaldan was looking to help heal that relationship.

"Ah. That's all right, then." There's no apparent tension there to relax from, but Ernaldesta's hand stays in place a fraction longer than might have seemed necessary.

Now that Irnar is tuned into his surroundings he becomes aware of a new, floral scent. He looks about for what might be causing this, and notices that the ground Kallyr's sitting on, the wall she's leaning against, and particularly the area near where Ernaldesta's hand is on her shoulder, are quietly growing flowers - growing fast enough that he can see them move. He watches in fascination as the stems seem to writhe and twist and blooms pop open. And this is just the side effects, what must Kallyr be feeling? Another realisation hits his brain: perhaps more importantly, how drained must Kallyr be after doing a season’s worth of magic in a morning? He recognises the subtlety of the application of the magic and wonders briefly at the reason behind it. Naturally Kallyr has a reputation and her followers would do anything to enhance that reputation. He remembers stories of Kallyr’s extraordinary tenacity, perhaps they weren’t actually exaggerated but maybe she had a helping hand? The thought brings a smile to his face.

A further tug to his magical senses is the absorption of them from Kallyr’s armour, raw iron always seems to do that to him, it causes the strangest distortions. Personally, Irnar can’t understand why anyone would want to wear so much raw iron. It takes a little while to register that Kallyr arrived wearing it and now it is neatly stacked on the ground. It really does seem that Kallyr is pushing herself hard to make these defences. She really is wanting to make amends in a big way.

Graylor looks down at Kallyr, for all the world looking like she is on a picnic. He ventures to ask.

"Is that all the heavy, grunt work completed? We all saw the daemons being put in place which would suggest that the reconstruction is done and the magical power source is in place. What’s left to do?”

"That's all the heavy work done, yes, in both the magical and the mundane. Now we get on to the fun part: fitting it all together."|

She sits up, no longer leaning back against the wall, and Ernaldesta moves away.

"The basis is simple enough: it's the same Starwatch I'm sure you've seen often enough. We - well, I - tie that to the four new power sources, Caspian links the two temple defenders as two of the other points, and he and Yodi make up the final two."
The apparent pretence of laziness has gone, she's back to the alert, passionate interest she had shown earlier that morning, exploring the remains of the temple.

"So, that's just like the standard evening ritual, only with fewer humans involved than usual. The real change is that we need it to be permanent, not just for one night. One night, one watch - in the original, Rigsdal's watch was the length of the Great Darkness. So we just redefine "night" slightly, or easier yet, "watch". I'll probably use Vinga's definition: "until there is peace", that should last a good long time."

"Next, we bring in all the extra magic people are supplying. That needs to be enchanted into the matrices, and then linked, and we're merging a lot of different sources here, hence the extra tools for smoothing that." She runs the Chain through her hands. "Seven strands, seven people - we won't be using the full thing today, but it should still help. Once that's done, we test it out, and I hand control over to Siggyr - again, just like the usual nightly ritual. We'll aim to do the final activation at sunset, getting the time right will add to the power. And that's it. Simple enough in principle, it's the details are going to be interesting."

Mauvin has been observing from a shaded spot, but eventually he stands up and saunters across to where Graylor is standing. His woad is faded and streaked from sweat but he looks to be in his usual high spirits.
"Well that was certainly interesting. Better hope Egil and them young 'uns are back before this becomes active. I wouldn't like to see my cuz become the first victim of all this power."

"Aye." Graylor agrees. "A good thing that the warband leader also decided that the concntration of effort is to be on detection and warning. He deemed that the legion should be sufficient defence providing that they knew what they were facing."

After lunch (Ernaldesta insists on the delay, citing unfairness to other participants if they were rushed in their own part of the work), the next phase begins. It may be, by Kallyr's standards, "simple enough", but it's also detailed and thorough.

Every matrix involved is tested to be sure that the magic it's required to hold will "fit", and corrections are made where needed to be sure that every aspect is as perfect as it can be. Some of the men sweating to shift a ton of stone by a millimeter may be inclined to accept "good enough" as an answer, but none of the principals involved are apt to compromise.

Then comes the stage of making sure all the separate parts will work together and the magics will merge, and this is where difficulties start to arise. What's actually happening isn't visible, except as shimmering in the air and a few gusts of an icy wind, but discussion is becoming more and more heated, to put it politely, and even Ernaldesta, who's been trying to keep things going smoothly, is starting to look strained. Just as it looks as if people may be about to come to blows, Kallyr steps back. "All right, let's take a break. This isn't anyone's fault, and there's no point in thinking about it like that, but we're going to have to approach it a different way."

The fact that they all go off in different directions speaks volumes in itself.

Graylor is above-ground at the time, taking a break from the scrolls about demons in the library, and Kallyr changes direction towards him. "Is Dori around, do you know? - ah, yes, she is."

True enough, Dori is just emerging from her new quarters: Elendala, who had been trailing her, turns back when she sees who's here. Kallyr watches her go with a wry smile. "A common opinion, it seems. You were listening?"

"With half an ear," Dori admits. "Problems?"

"Just a few, yes." Ernaldesta passes her a waterskin, and she takes a quick gulp before continuing. "I knew they were all going to have problems working with me, but I didn't realise they can't even work with each other with any ease. The Chain's not helping at all, and while Ern's doing what she can, that only means they're willing to keep trying without actually hitting anyone. Yet. Merging magics means trust, and those have got to be three most paranoid people I've ever met. Caspian was fine when we were just dealing with the mundane, but now he's looking at me as if he thinks I'm about to grow an extra head, when he isn't playing power games with Siggyr. How in the world do they work together normally?"

"Well we Jalmari have been raised to be suspicious of everyone and Siggyr has been loyal to the legion for so long that I suspect that he feels that sharing anything with others outside the legion would seem like an insult." Graylor looks at Dori. "Would it help if Dori and I assisted? After all, it was us two that were given the messages, from our respective gods, to get together and start cooperating. Neither of us were very senior but perhaps our minds are more open than others. Would it mess things up if more people are involved?"

"The numbers wouldn't be a problem, I've handled much bigger groups than this, it's figuring out who can work with who. Would adding either of you improve things, or make it worse?"

"I doubt if Vur would work with me," Dori says regretfully. "Siggyr has in the past, and would probably be more willing to do so now, Yodi... there I'm not sure. Some of the things he was saying yesterday..... there's been so much change, so fast, no-one's quite sure where they are any more, and he seems to have some idea I've been manipulating people. Yodi used to work well with Siggyr, but that was when Siggyr was his second, not his commander. Vur hasn't been second to anyone for years, and now he's got to defer to Illig, and to Siggyr, and he never got on with Siggyr from the moment they met. Graylor's right about Siggyr not liking outsiders, and Yodi's worse if anything, he won't trust anyone who hasn't been in the Legion ten years - well, unless they're a duck. Though I wonder - he's been spending a lot of time with the Jalmari. He might work with Vur, now?"

She sighs. "I don't know - I can't think of a way round this. I don't think adding me to the mix would help, anyway. And we still need to find a way of getting at least one of them to work with you."

"Caspian has a reputation of being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. You have heard of the Humakti phrase 'Measure twice and cut once.'? Well he is more of a measure thrice, at least, type of guy. I suspect that your approach may well be scaring him, a lot. He likes logic and distrusts intuition, if you can give him some logic for your intuitive steps it will make him more accepting. I know that you don’t have much time, but it would be worth the effort to explain your reasons for each step."

Graylor pauses a moment. "Dori’s right it’s a matter of trust. I wonder if the Jalmari can offer a solution? I know that I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but we have a greeting ceremony that allows us to communicate mentally and see the truth of what is said. If this could be arranged for all of you so that you can all see that there is nothing hidden or false about any of you then it might facilitate the nurturing of trust."

"If that was supposed to be secret, I hope Yodi had his Silence spell working." She looks around, but the duck isn't obviously in sight.

"That sounds as if it would help Caspian work with me, but the rest - asking Humakti to do something to prove they're telling the truth is generally seen as an insult. Would Siggyr even accept it as meaning anything, do you think? If he isn't getting on with Caspian, he may not trust his magic, either. Let's give it a try, by all means, but I think we're going to need something more."
She grins. "I've got an idea for Yodi, anyway, from what Dori said. 'In the Legion ten years, or a duck' - one of those isn't quite as impossible as you might think.

"Here's another idea, though - you get on with all these people, don't you? And you're not seen by any of them as a threat. Do you suppose you could join in, not supplying any magic yourself, but just acting as an interface? I'd arrange it so you didn't have to handle too many things at once, or very much power, but if you could link Siggyr at least to the rest of the group, that would help a lot."

"You're hiding a duck in your pack?" Graylor grins. "But seriously of course I will help. I just hope that it will be enough. To be honest I have been hoping for an opportunity to find out what you have been doing."

"Fine - you make that curiosity nice and public, and I'll explain everything to you as we go along. Explaining it to Caspian directly might seem like condescending, seeing as he's supposed to be quite good at this himself.

"Let's find Yodi, and you tell him about this special magic of yours for proving I'm trustworthy."

"Sure I’m happy to ask lots of questions. Let’s get everyone and hash this out in the temple. I have an idea but need to see if Caspian thinks it will work."

Graylor asks Irnar to request the presence of General Vur, Yodi and Siggyr in the temple and leads Kallyr down the steps. He acknowledges the guardians of the temple. He touches the dagger that Risteed resides in. As usual he feels the spirit testing his adhesion to the truth. An idea springs to mind and he asks for the guardian's help.

"Kallyr, if I am right you will need to integrate the temple guardians as well as the people into these defences. Would it be possible to start with that part, or at least for one of the guardians?"

"We could, yes, but that's up to Caspian and Siggyr to link them in. It's their temple, especially Caspian's."

"Mine too. Do you know, I was the first Jalmari to enter the temple since it was closed. The point here is that Risteed could prove useful. I think you should meet him."

Kallyr looks back at the steps down, where the senior officers of the temple have not yet appeared. "Is that wise, without Caspian here?" she asks. "Humakti temple guardians can be a little touchy, in my experience of them."

"Don't worry he's not your normal Humakti Guardian. In fact I am sure you are already aware of him. He has certainly checked you out each time you have entered the temple. Here!" Graylor picks up the dagger from the altar and tosses it to Kallyr who catches it neatly and examines the sheath and hilt with wary interest.

"That's a very old design," she remarks. Her eyes unfocus slightly - or focus on something beyond the dagger. "As is he.... " Her expression changes, and Graylor remembers the first time he communicated with the ancient hero therein, after Vur had found him and allied him. It hadn't been easy. Easier than the Cloak, since Risteed had once been human, but his words were so archaic and his thoughts so fuzzy - except for when they weren't. When they weren't, they were as sharp as a dagger. And that, presumably, was what was happening to Kallyr now, with the rather important difference that Graylor had known what to expect.

"What's he doing?" she breaths.

"He's sensing the deciever. Now normally that would mean looking for the darker side of illumination but in our case he can also sense the intent to deceive so if he is in the process he can monitor everyone and will let all the others know if there is any intent to deceive. It isn't quite trust, but it will make sure that everyone is less concerned that they will be tricked out of some benefit or have their abilities usurped. What do you think?"


"I think...." She pulls back to the mundane, hands the dagger back to him. "I think that's a character witness they really won't argue with. And if he's linked to the other three Guardians, and can help link the new magic to that of the Temple, me being able to communicate with him directly will help no end. In fact... yes, that makes a completely different approach possible."

She glances back at the steps again. "That sounds like them coming now."

Graylor takes a deep breath to steady himself. Fortunately Vur arrives first.

"General," Graylor acknowledges. "I think that I am going to have to reveal at least one of our secrets. Do you think that it is possible to include non-Jalmari in our full greeting ritual?"

"It's never been done before," starts Vur. "Why do you want to do it now?"

"Because Kallyr needs the Legion's leaders to cooperate now so that the defences can be erected. Lord Illig has given you three a difficult task. If everyone can see in the way you and I were able to see each other then I think the task will be much easier," replies Graylor.

"Yodi will not be a problem, in fact I believe that he may well have to face a decision between Jalmar and Hu remarkably soon. Siggyr and you, Kallyr, I just don't know."

He thinks for a while, even Graylor can hear others approaching.

"We could do it in the same way we teach prospective knights," Vur eventually and reluctantly admits. "A sort of mental piggyback," he explains to Kallyr.

He is interrupted from further explanation by the entrance of Siggyr and Yodi. There is a little hesitation at the entrance as neither is quite sure who should give way to who. Siggyr brusquely gestures for Yodi to precede him. Yodi grunts in satisfaction.

"Too kind you are to let humble duck first to proceed."

A dark expression flashes over Siggyr's face. Before anything can be said Graylor speaks.

"Thank you for coming gentlemen. I know what you have been trying to do has been very difficult. It seems that Lord Illig doesn't give easy orders, nor allow for normal human frailties." Small chuckles and nods of agreement greet this introduction.

"Kallyr has asked for help, what she is setting up for us requires that you all cooperate and blend differing magics together. You are finding it difficult to trust each other enough to let this happen. I know it is hard, but Illig has tasked you to do this. He trusts you all to do this in the inhumanly short time that he has given you. It all comes down to trust. If you fully trusted everyone here then it wouldn't be a problem. But none of you have had time to really develop that trust or circumstances have changed and you are no longer sure of your relationships any more. Kallyr was an enemy and now is a friend. Siggyr was a subordinate now is second only to Illig. General Vur is a complete stranger."

"I can't give you trust but I think I can deliver an absence of suspicion. Would that be a good start gentlemen?"

"Can't hurt," is Siggyr's rough reply. "We're all Humakti except for her and so can't lie, but I've seen enough of Dori's ability to speak the truth and make it appear as something else. How are you going to get round that?"

"With a greeting and the help of a mutual friend," Graylor answers somewhat cryptically. He holds up a hand forestalling the questions written large on every face.

"Firstly the greeting. I don't know if you are aware that the Jalmari have an elaborate greeting. It goes further than just the mundane parts you can see there is magic behind it too. The magic allows us to test each other. Because a Knight is expected to search out and be exposed to the most insidious forms of chaos it is imperative that we are able to ascertain that the honour of a Knight is pure at all times. I wish to share this exclusive greeting with all of you so that you can see the nobility of everyone."

"The final piece is the mutual friend. We now all know Risteed and his ability to sense the deceiver. He will join with us so and will tell us if there is any deception at any time. You know you can trust him to be especially careful about protecting his temple. He won't allow any hidden backdoors, or weakening shortcuts to be incorporated."

The two men and a duck look at each other thoughtfully before nodding agreement with Graylor's words. Yodi voices their opinions. "Wisdom he speaks. Risteed by all is trusted. Strong his power and no tolerance of the dark side has he."

"Now since there are three Jalmari and three non-Jalmari perhaps we should pair up. Yodi since you are used to working with General Vur perhaps we should keep that partnership. Siggyr if you would work with me, and Kallyr can be instructed by Risteed."

Siggyr frowns. "So who's testing Risteed? She can't, and we wouldn't trust her if she did."

Kallyr sighs. "If you can't trust your own temple guardian, we may as well give up now - except that this is a job for Illig, and I'm not giving up. Yodi's already vouched for Risteed, and you trust his judgement, I hope. Look, if you want to do a complete set of everyone testing everyone else, go right ahead. We've got time. But we all know that isn't the real problem anyway - it's that none of you really trust me. Oh, intellectually, yes, maybe, but it's the gut trust that counts, and that hasn't had time to recover, where it ever existed at all. So if you all want to use whatever tests will make you happy, I won't object, but we do need to find something, or work the whole thing through intermediaries who can be trusted by both sides."

"Risteed trusted is," Yodi repeats. "By all with sense, trusted is." He looks round the rest of the group, snorting disparagingly when he comes to Siggyr, then stops. "Graylor trusted is. And trusts - too much trusts, but trusts. He as intermediary would work?"

Kallyr nods. "He would, yes. I'd need to bring him up to date on what we're trying to do, but since I was about to completely restructure the whole thing anyway, that doesn't matter. If everyone else agrees?"

There are nods from all. Graylor offers a silent prayer to Jalmar to give him strength before speaking.

"I will be happy to be the intermediary. And to answer your question Siggyr. We would all be present in the greeting and we can all take part in the testing. You will be there through me, Yodi through General Vur and Kallyr through Risteed. The questioning is mutual and there are no evasions possible. Risteed's own magic uses similar methods but is only one way and doesn't need the elaborate ceremony as you witnessed when you opened the temple."

"That sounds good," Kallyr agrees. "Siggyr, I'm sorry, but this really is the best we can do, and if it isn't good enough for you, then..." She smiles at Yodi. "As Grandmother Duck might say, 'Jinkm$z ęis ssstj ćiboq oc ic ąż$k!'" (Translation here)

That last phrase is more of a hissing quack than anything human, and Yodi drops his cigar in shock, automatically starting to stand to attention before he recovers himself.

"You know that how???"

She's still smiling. "There's only one way to know that, though what's behind it won't work in here. Does it help?"

"It, it...." Yodi picks up his cigar, dusts it off, blows it back to life. Then he turns back to the rest. "So. Trusted, she is. We this greeting do, then again we try."

"Right then. Knights, I suggest that we each form our own swords, and use our real weapons to help the others in their initial visualisation of what is going on." Graylor suggests, man and spirit acquiesce. "Then let us begin. Normally Risteed as host would start, however, given that everyone here can't hear him I will start in his place."

The five persons stand facing each other, Siggyr has his hand on Graylor's arm and Yodi likewise holds onto Vur, Kallyr holds Risteed's sheathed dagger. The ritual is much like the standard Orlanthi greeting, where everyone is properly named and hospitality is promised for non-violence and respect. Next Graylor asks: "I am holding the tri-banded glove and my honour has been tested in the Flame of Truth. Will you accept the flame in welcome?"

"I too wear the tri-banded glove and gladly accept the flame's welcome," Vur replies.

Simultaneously Graylor and General Vur draw their swords: as usual, their blades shine with the deathlight. Kallyr draws Risteed's dagger which doesn't shine. Never the less all three burst into white flames simultaneously.

A startled "What the..?" is drawn from Siggyr.

Kallyr holds forth Risteed's dagger, the flames extend from the tip forming the shape of a longer blade. Yodi and Siggyr change their grips as instructed and now all five have their hands on the hilts of flaming swords. The sword points are lowered until the three touch in the middle. The flames strengthen, seemingly fusing the three swords together, flames traverse up the arms of the participants until they too are wreathed in fire.

"Now use your soul vision," Graylor instructs.

As their view switches to the mythical the room fades into obscurity and the swords clearly are now a large, flaming truth rune. At the end of each arm a pair of figures are holding the rune off the floor. The humans appear little changed, though they are somewhat translucent as if lit from within. Yodi is larger and more imposing here, and Risteed has a human form, though it is indistinct like looking at a reflection in a badly polished mirror.

The three knights have experienced this before and allow the novices some time to adjust.

"Now you can see truth," Graylor says.. "The flames come from the Flame of Truth that burns endlessly outside Lhankor Mhy's great library. It lights you from within and shows deceit as a shadow."

He looks down and points out a dartk patch on his arm. "See here. This is deception. I said that I wanted to help Kallyr for the good of the temple. It's not exactly true. My main reason is that I want to be involved. So that I can say 'I did that!', 'I was there when it happened!'. Not pretty but true!" Graylor shrugs off this piece of self analysis. Incidentally the others see the patch of darkness fades as Graylor makes his admission.

"So now lady and gentlemen you can see how it works. Here in front of a truth rune powered by the Flame of Truth you can determine if there is any cause for doubt in your companions."

He looks round to see a group of reluctant faces, like children asked to clean up after supper each avoiding their parent's eye. It is difficult not to laugh.

"Do not worry, this does not expose the hidden parts of your self, except those that are deceitful. We should talk about the plans for the defences of the temple. An active subject brings the thoughts and feelings to the surface where they are more easily seen."

"Focus," Kallyr agrees. "It usually helps with most things. Suppose we carry on as you did, stating why we're doing this, and why we want it to succeed?"

Siggyr snorts. "We know why you're doing this - Illig forced you into it. You're doing a rushed, messy job, get it over with as fast as possible, and be a long way away when it comes apart."

She pauses for a moment before answering. "Half-right. I'm doing this because Illig asked me to, yes - told me to, if you prefer, but in practice there's no difference. It's something Illig wants me to do for him, and I owe him. So this is going to be the best set of defences I've ever put up, because it's for Illig. He wants it done in a matter of days, not weeks - that's what he gets. Yes, in theory that's impossible, and doing it well in that time's doubly impossible, but it's for Illig, so it's going to happen."

As she speaks Kallyr's face darkens, not as dark as the patch that Graylor pointed out on himself.

"There is more to it than that," Graylor states. "But let's have everyone speaking first then we can come back to it."

Yodi speaks next. "Simple my reason is. Without Illig, vulnerable we are. Strong defences this temple needs." He nods his head emphasising his point. Unfortunately his beak darkens, which since it is in his field of vision causes him to squawk in alarm. "More there is. Raven I am and information gather I. These proposed defences add to that information they will." Now his beak clears up and Yodi looks much happier as he puffs on his cigar.

Siggyr coughs and all eyes turn to him. "Humph. The only thing that matters to me is the protection of the temple." But his face too darkens.

Caspian speaks out next. "Lord Illig asked me to be part of the Legion while he is away so that the integrity of the Legion's structure may be maintained. In return for this he offered access to the temple. I have been looking for this temple for most of my time in Pavis so I leaped at the chance. Now I am here I want nothing to take it away from me again."

Finally Risteed offers his view. "Verily I did give up mine life in defence of this noble building. In death I bound my very soul to its defence. The upper portion was laid waste but mine own efforts and diverse others didst manage to keep hidden this portion that thou all standst in. Heartily, it is mine own wish to see the glory restored to this mine own home. These thaumaturgical efforts that thou wilt perform are but the first step in this arduous process."

Yodi nods, "On this agree do we all. So, go back to lesser issues do we? Or onward to plans for temple defending?"

"I'm not bothered either way," Kallyr responds. "It should be the Warlord's decision, though." She's watching Siggyr with a new interest.

Siggyr's face is a mask of discomfort and uncertainty, even though he stands a little taller at Kallyr's mention of him being the warlord. Eventually he comes to a decision.

"It's best for this if everyone comes clean, otherwise we are no further forward." He scans round the group looking for their reactions. He finds support from Graylor and Risteed, if he interpreted the faded look correctly. Kallyr has an encouraging look on her face too, strange to have support from that direction after all his hostility. Vur looks pained and Yodi has a quizzical look as if he isn't quite sure about Siggyr.

"Well I'd better kick off," he starts. "I'm afraid that this will fail and my first act in my new position.." He can't quite bring himself to acknowledge his new title. ".. will be a failure. Even if it is a success then it wasn't my idea, nor my execution. So what will I have achieved of merit? Nothing, and that is just as bad. How can I hope to measure up to Illig with that as a start?" He lapses into a sullen silence, but the darkness of his expression and mood is no longer matched by the dark shadow that had obscured his face.

"We'd better make sure it doesn't fail, then," Kallyr says cheerfully. "If it does, it isn't your fault anyway, it's mine for messing it up, or Illig's for agreeing to anything so daft in the first place." She pauses, watching him thoughtfully. "Siggyr, you don't compete with Illig at the things he's good at, there's no point. Compete at the things he's bad at - in particular, the ones he's so bad at he doesn't even try. We can talk about that later, but I don't think you'll have any trouble being a better Warlord-in-Pavis than Illig, and nor does he, or he wouldn't have given you the job."

"Huh. " Siggyr appears to be somewhat mollified. "So, what's your little secret, or would that take all week to tell us?"

"If I told you all my secrets, we'd be here all year, but I can only think of one that this magic might be finding relevant. So if I think about that one..." The shadow darkens, and she nods. "Yes, that's it, and quite similar to your problem in a way. I said I wanted to do this as well as possible, because I owe Illig. That's not quite true. I'd do it as well as possible even if I didn't owe him anything, because... well, because I want to impress him. Impressing useful allies is always good." The shadow lightens a little, but does not disappear completely. "Ah. All right, because... because it's always been me asking him for help, before. Yes, technically I was hiring him, but the rates he was charging, and always picking my offer, not someone else's... no, I'd ask him for help and he'd give it, always that way round. This is the first time he's asked me to do something for him, and it isn't something he's useless at, either, it's something he's pretty good at: only this time, he seems to think I'm better. That's quite a compliment, and a responsibility to live up to. So I'm going to do that." She sounds absolutely certain and confident about that last statement, and the shadow vanishes.

"Well that isn't quite true, Kallyr." Graylor comments. "Though you may have forgotten it in all the excitement of yesterday. He did delegate to you an administrative role that he was unwilling to perform."

Kallyr looks at Graylor, one eyebrow raised quizzically as she sorted her thoughts. Then she laughs.

"Oh that minor administrative role!" She switches persona, acting and sounding like a pompous scribe "Freezeday agenda: morning organise rebellion, Lunch: with King Broyan, Afternoon: rule Kheldon!"

Reverting back to her normal voice she continues. "Yes, you're right, he refused to take over that job. Still doesn't think it's important enough to spend his time on, still thinks doing it would compromise his honour in some way, who knows? It certainly isn't anything to do with me doing a better job of it than he would."

"Anyway, that's all my motivation in the clear. Caspian? What can you tell us that isn't so secret that we have to be killed before we learn it?"

There is a short pause, and General Vur frowns at her. "The keeping of oaths is not a matter for levity."
He turns, and points at the statues looming over the group. "Do you know which aspects of Humakt those represent?"

Kallyr glances around, checking who's in earshot before answering. "One, I've been told is Jalmar. The other, I was told was Kargan, though that doesn't look a lot like it to me."

"Correct. Neither of them are Hereward. So, who should control the magic of this temple?"

The question is phrased as a rhetorical one, but there is a deadly seriousness behind it, and his eyes are on Siggyr.

Graylor, who is stood next and who's hand is being gripped by Siggyr, as they hold their end of the rune, can feel Siggyr's grip tightening.

"If you would permit me sir." He says and continues without pausing for Siggyr's confirmation. "That is a difficult question to answer, and well you know it General. They discovered it first, despite us having looked for the temple for seventy years. Possession gives them the right and we don't have enough manpower to oust them. But without us they can't access the magic. So they have a temple that they can't fully use without us. So by openly cooperating we both win. I think it was for this reason that Jalmar visited me, in dreams, over the last few seasons saying the 'Jalmar and Hereward should become sword brothers again.' I know that Dorinda has had similar visitations from Hereward. Why us? I don't know. Maybe it is because as Master Yodi says we are too trusting. Certainly Dori and I trust that our gods would not lead us astray. Lord Illig has granted us access to the temple and now makes you a guardian of it. Is that not enough?"

"Compromise," Vur says with distaste. "Not the way. Matters should be clear-cut, black or white."

"Really General?" Graylor questions. "You of all people should be used to dealing with many shades of gray!"

"It isn't normally Illig's way, either," Kallyr points out. "Dead or not dead is his usual negotiation style. Who came up with this arrangement?"

Siggyr stirs. "That would be me, on Lord Illig's behalf. He seems pleased enough with the results."

Kallyr nods. "And so he should be, he'd never have managed that himself. Still, you want a clear chain of command - from what I remember Dori telling me once, that's ten-thane, hundred-thane, warlord, God." She smiles wryly. "Making it very clear that I did not feature in that chain at any point... but in this case, you seem to have a direct order from your god. Clear enough for you?"

"Aye. Unless... no, Graylor wouldn't lie."

"That's probably about as much mutual trust as we're going to get," Kallyr concludes. "Let's go over the new structure I want to try, before we go back outside. Think of this as being something like a stead-raising. The analogy isn't ideal, but it's close enough. You put the main posts in, build the walls, add the lintels, then add roof beams, the guard posts, thatch, and so on. Bottom up. We've been doing that, and then finding that the parts of the roof won't fit together, and it'd hard to adjust them when you're balanced on top of a wall that isn't even stable yet.

"This time, we're going to work top-down. Put the roof together - that's all your separate add-on magics, the Silence, the wind, the various detections. Then hold it up and put the walls underneath. Finally we anchor it to the main posts - that's the temple defences. Under normal circumstances this would be a harder way of doing it, but the circumstances aren't normal, and this makes the most of our strengths. We're adding Graylor to the team, and he's going to be concentrating purely on getting all that lot together, and keeping it together, without having to cast any magic of his own."

She looks round at the faces of the rest of the group, who mainly look stunned, disbelieving, or both.

"If we wanted to stretch the analogy a little further, if this was a stead, he'd be using a lot of rope. Next best thing: have a Chain." She pulls the delicate interwoven iron chain he had seen before out of a pouch, tosses it to him. "Any questions, or shall we go and get started?"

Reflexively Graylor catches the chain with his free hand and is just about to reprimand Kallyr about throwing such things about when he sees Risteed next to Kallyr and remembers the stunt he pulled on her. He shuts his mouth with a snap and acknowledges Kallyr's half smile with one of his own.

"Warleader shall we end this ceremony then? It will be easier to carry on the discussions outside its influence. If we take Risteed's dagger with us we can continue the verification, if needed." Graylor asks.

With Siggyr's consent the three knights withdraw power from their blades. The rune splits into three parts and each part resolves into a single flaming blade and the flames die back. The temple comes back into focus and soul vision reveals nothing that isn't visible to normal vision.

"I like the roof analogy." Graylor comments. "I have seen it done. Our clan sage had the mad idea that a stead could be built this way. He thought that a completed roof would keep the builders dry and would mean fewer accidents whilst building too. He built four great a-frames and harnessed thunder beasts to ropes to lift the roof using the frames. While the beasts held it aloft the corner posts were planted and the roof lowered onto them. A neat job."

"OK, back to important stuff. So I using the chain will provide a frame for the others to lay their magics into. Who will be doing the lifting and wall building?" he asks.

"The four daemons we put in place earlier will be doing the wall-building, so the analogy falls apart a little there. The existing temple guardians and defences are effectively the main supporting posts. Risteed guides us onto those main posts, since he is one. I'll be doing the lifting."

She smiles at him. "I'm afraid when I said earlier that all the heavy work was over, I was wrong."

"Plans change and the work changes with them." Graylor comments philosophically. "Shall we go back outside again before other suspicious members of the Legion start thinking about conspiracies?"

A general affirmative mumble greets this suggestion. Graylor gently takes Risteed from Kallyr and silently passes him to Vur. The general looks startled but quickly recovers and bows his head respectfully to Graylor. Siggyr too looks surprised but grips Graylor's shoulder, in affirmation, as he passes.

"Kallyr, how do I work this thing?" Graylor asks quietly. He holds out the Chain of Sartar and looks slightly sheepish. "That wasn't graciously said. How do I assist this artifact to do its job of keeping these disparate peoples' magics together?"

"You don't. It assists you, not the other way round. It's very important with magical artifacts that you're clear about who's in charge, or you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. Not that this one would do much harm, but it's not a good habit to get into."

She takes it from him, runs the strands through her fingers. "When this was mine, I used to wear it most of the time, unless I was doing something specific. Then, I'd hold it, probably get whoever I was trying to work with to hold it as well, assuming they were willing participants. You'd visualise each person as being one strand in the chain, then concentrate on how they interweave and link, and how the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts. Dernu's the current holder, he's just letting me borrow it for the day, and he prefers it worn, all the time. But then, he's an alnyx, so it's different for him. How any previous holders used it, or how the Founder intended it to be used, who knows? There's no-one left alive to tell us.

"Just worn, I found it made it easier to see similarities rather than differences, things people have in common, ways of matching them so they worked together. I was usually using it to make alliances rather than merge magic, but the same should apply. Dernu says he uses it to coordinate attacks, when he's got several teams working together on a raid. I know herding alynxes is proverbialy hard, but you should see what happens when an alynx is herding humans."

She hands it back. "Try just wearing it to start with, see what it does to your perceptions. It may work slightly differently for you."

He puts it on and is disappointed that there is no immediate effect. He summons the Truewind and studies it with soul vision: now there is a difference. He sees new potentials, previously he had only seen the winds potentials for separation, now he can see ways that it can be binding and bringing things together. Now he looks at the Jalmari magic: bringing the two together, he can see the ways the two are compatible. An idea begins to form in his mind.

"It's like piecing together armour," he exclaims. "Use linen as an under layer and leather on top and on top of that, pieces of bronze, all bound together with laces that pass through all layers and hold them against each other making them stronger."

"What, a Humakti metaphor that doesn't have swords in it?" She watches as the last of his Truewind dies down. "If that way of thinking about it works for you, and it shows you new things about your own magic, then you don't need me to tell you how to use the Chain. Just don't get it, or yourself, too linked in to this, disentangling could be difficult, and you probably don't want to be stuck here."

She gestures ahead of them to the centre of the camp, where the rest of the team have gathered. "Want them to show you the magics they're going to be using? I know you're already familiar with most of it, but you may well see new things there, and new connections. The order we put this together in will be important. I was thinking of starting with Caspian, then Siggyr, then Yodi, and putting my parts from the daemons in last, but see what you make of it."

Graylor asks the others to cast the magics that they are contributing to the defenses. He considers each in turn with the perception granted by the chain. Each has a different texture. The Jalmari magic is smooth and giving like sheepskin, whilst the Truewind is more like suede, smooth in one direction but rough in the other. Hu's magic is hard and unforgiving.

There are differences, too, in how the magics move and change. The Truewind circles the camp, ever-moving, but following a predictable path. Vur's detection magics are more complex, for he is using several at once, and they ebb and flow to match whatever they observe, reacting, clinging to their surroundings as if using other boundaries as camouflage for their own. Yodi's Circle is rigid, a fixed boundary imposing itself on all else. Then Kallyr brings up the magic of the Rigsdali daemons that the rest will have to link to, and this is different again - as still as that of Hu, but a watchful stillness, absolutely stable, but poised for action.

"I think that General Vur should be in the middle. His magic feels like it will sit well between the other two," Graylor tells Kallyr. "It is more like the padding between layers of armour and should prevent the other two from conflicting too much."

"And it's the one you're most familiar with, so the one you'll find easiest to fit to the others. All right. Yodi first, or Siggyr?"

"Yodi," comes the immediate reply. "His magic will define a more rigid boundary than the others. But give me a moment to create a scaffold to support everything until it is all joined properly."

Graylor calms his breathing and enters the meditative state that will help his concentration. First he imagines a frame that stands outside the four pillars. It has more than a passing resemblance to the frames tanners use to stretch and cure hides upon. Next the Chain of Sartar loosens from his neck and wraps itself, snakelike round the frame. Once he is happy that the construct is stable he calls to Yodi.

"If you can make your magic again please. If you can arrange it so that it fits inside my frame and then I can anchor it temporarily while the rest of the layers are added."

"Be it so," Yodi nods, and places the markers for the Circle where they will be needed. His silence starts as a circle at ground level but quickly expands until it is a hemi-sphere enclosing them, a foot or so inside Graylor's frame. Graylor uses tendrils of his Truewind to tether the edge of the silence to the links of the chain: until Kallyr spots what he is doing.

"Don't link the chain directly into the defences or you will never be able to release it at the end," she warns him.

"Oh, right." He releases his tethers and binds them to the frame. "Like that?"

"Better, but make sure that you aren't connecting yourself directly too or you will be bound to this place."

"I'm not. The wind tethers are separate from me and I can cleave them at the end once the structure is solid," comes his reply.

She sighes. "Humakt and cleaving - you couldn't just drop the magic like any normal person, could you? That sounds cleaner, though, as long as you don't hurt yourself doing it."

Next comes the General's contribution, layering multiple detection spells on top of Yodi's silence. The Jalmari magic did not like being pinned into the open, though it was obvious to all that where Graylor used the Truewind the two magics blend together well, showing a natural compatibility. The final Truewind layer from Siggyr helpes stabalise the Jalmari layer. To Graylor's enhanced senses, wherever Hereward's Truewind blew, in the heart of the gust was Jalmar observing and cataloguing. The three men and a duck all have intense looks of concentration and sweat is beginning to appear as they each keep their magics holding together.

"Now it is up to you Kallyr," Graylor grunts. "What's next?"

"Now we link the daemons and their magic to the rest, and that means moving what you've got to them, not them to it. I expect that means I do the lifting, and you keep things together and steer, unless you feel up to it?"

Moving an enchantment that's already in place isn't something Graylor's tried before, and moving a complex structure such as this is something he would have thought impossible until today, but somehow "impossible" isn't an easy concept to remember with Kallyr looking at him encouragingly. He puts his mental muscles under the "frame", and lifts, or tries to. The frame wobbles on one corner, but the other three stay put, while the markers for Yodi's Silence try to tear free. He'd never considered magic having weight before, either, but it does. Then the load lightens, and he realises Ernaldesta is at his side, a hand on his waist, and strength flowing from it.

The "frame" lifts, and the associated magics with it. Only just, and with many wobbles, but it lifts.

"Great! See, you can do most things if you try. How long can you hold that steady, and keep it all together as well?"

Graylor grunts under the strain. "If I'm lucky another 10 seconds, if my life depended on it a further 20 but no more. I hope that you can do better!"

"I'd better, we need it up for at least an hour, maybe more. Still, I'm not limited to using my own power. You keep that Circle from breaking up as I lift, and we'll see."

Ernaldesta links her arm through his, giving him some much-needed support. "Perhaps if I persuade the base of that dome to stay linked to the Earth as the frame lifts? The rest should slide over each other, if the lift is smooth and steady, with no jerks."

Yodi grunts, his cigar neglected. "Intended to stay still, this is, and to prevent movement, not to move. Say you we magic active hold an hour? An hour longer than already been has?"

"Yes, only an hour. It's been about half an hour so far, and we'll finally put everything in place just before sunset, as the Starwatch ritual ends. We might even get it done sooner, and then pause before activating, but don't worry, it won't be more than a couple of hours at the most."

Since most magic lasts no longer than fifteen minutes, and that with only one feat at a time and no cooperation needed, the word "only" does not seem particularly appropriate to anyone else present.

"Right, let me take over before you drop it." Graylor feels Kallyr's magic come in alongside his, and the non-weight that had been crushing him eases, then vanishes. "Got it. Let's just smooth things out a bit... there." The whole structure steadies, and now Graylor can pay some attention to the mundane world, rather than having his entire concentration on not dropping anything, he can see that her star gem is starting to glow. The "lift" is, as requested, smooth, slow, and steady, without the slightest wobble, and with Ernaldesta helping - persuading, as she says, rather than binding - the combined magics slide smoothly over each other into their new configuration.

"Now we bring the next layer of detections in, as supplied by our allies, and yes, they'll be happy to keep this going for years. We're merging Rigsdali and Truewind - Siggyr, I expect you've done that most evenings, so shouldn't be a problem."

While this is true, everyone is uneasily aware that the Rigsdali magic in question is normally provided by Seledd, and that her feelings on having her role usurped in this manner, and by this person, probably aren't happy. A glowing circle appears, passing through each of the four obelisks they had erected earlier, and gradually brightens and becomes more layered and complex. There's at least five spells there, and it's clear from the feel of the magic that they're from the daemons - a cold, hard feel, totally inhuman. No chance of any personality clash here, not with the basic spells, but it's Kallyr who's coordinating them and holding them together, for now, weaving five? six? more? spells from four sources into a whole, and that's what they'll have to link the existing structure to. By now the team are starting to tire, and Ernaldesta shifts her attention from the framework to the participants. Graylor feels a flood of renewed energy and alertness, before she goes on to render the same service to Siggyr and Yodi, then returns to his side.

"Ready to steer?" she asks. "I'll make the merge as smooth as I can."

This is almost the magical equivalent of those last adjustments on the obelisks, trying to shift a huge weight by a nail's breadth or the angle a shadow moves in a minute, and Graylor is very glad that he is not the one doing the "pushing". With the added sensitivity the Chain grants him, he can see which way things need to be "moved" to link Siggyr's Truewind into the ring of light and fire, and Ernaldesta adds the equivalent of oil in the joints, allowing for that little bit less precision needed than might have otherwise been the case: a nail's breadth is good enough, no need to get down to the thickness of a hair. The flexibility from not yet having any of the magic in use anchored to its matrices means that the linking goes smoothly, though holding it all together as it moves is still not easy, especially as Vur's combined magics are starting to waver, shift, and separate. Ernaldesta pauses, a slight frown marring her usual calm and gentle expression, and she lifts an eyebrow to Kallyr, whose star gem is glowing brightly now, almost too bright to look at. A slight shake of the head, the only movement in the absolute stillness of concentration, answers her, and she purses her lips as she moves across to Vur. What she's doing isn't clear to Graylor, but the strands of magic that had been splitting apart come back together, and their bonds with the surrounding Hu and Hereward layers smooth.

Graylor wonders what is happening with Vur, but the precision and concentration required for the job in hand doesn't leave much room for idle speculation. He is not surprised that Vur hadn't needed the help of Ernaldestra. He has spent years in the Rubble and must have spent many nervous nights holding magic in place so that his men wouldn't be ambushed. It adds another layer to his need for the temple. When these defences are finished it will probably be the first place in years that he hasn't had to manage the defences. But, what had she helped him with? Ernaldans are good with relationships, perhaps Ernaldestra is able to heal the relationships between Vur's magics. Who knows, they seem to be capable of a lot more that they let any man know! Maybe he would ask later, in private, but not in front of everyone else.

The stabilised web of magic slides smoothly into place on top of the ring supplied by the daemons, and the whole thing feels more complete, and more stable. This is still "active" magic, though, needing continual concentration: it's "stable" in the same way as a tent with slack guy-ropes. They can all relax a little, if only a little, and notice a little more of what's going on around them, including the remarkable distance Yelm has sunk while they were working.

Kallyr is looking round the structure on both the magical and mundane levels, and nods in satisfaction. "Nice work. Right, on to add the Starwatch. We should be done just about on time."

Siggyr is also looking round, but perhaps reaches a different conclusion. "Not going to anchor what we've got first? Linking your Rigsdali magic to the daemons' Rigsdali magic shouldn't need all that extra flexibilty, should it?"

"If that's all we were doing, no, but it's the link to the primaries in the ritual, and from them to the temple guardians, that concerns me. Once it's anchored, it's anchored, and of we find too late that we did need that flexibility, it'll be too late. It's only another half hour or so, and with Ern helping, you should be able to cope that long, right?"

Siggyr looks thoughtfully at Vur, who is still looking exhausted and strained, barely noticing what's being said. "Aye. I can, with the lady's help."

"Good! No problem, then. Don't worry, it'll all be anchored and stable before I hand it over to your control." There's perhaps a trifle more emphasis on the final pronoun than the obvious meaning of that sentence would have required, and Siggyr nods, after a slight pause.

"That's all right, then. So what do we do next?"

"Mostly, you just keep things going while I set up the eight points. You're also one of the primaries, though, so be ready to take that link - north, for you."

The Starwatch ritual is familiar to all of them as the means of setting up the camp defences every night, as it is in most temples. Usually Seledd presides, with a precise formality and several ritual props. Kallyr isn't bothering with props, or carefully marked boundaries and angles, She's barely bothering with gestures, though that may just be that when she's also controlling the magic from the daemons, and supporting the rest, gestures made for one purpose would affect the other two. The whole thing has an air of casual competence that's either reassuring or unnerving, depending on your viewpoint.

It slides abruptly towards the "unnerving" end of the scale as she starts to link it to the four daemons as secondaries, and the complex weave of magic from them loosens, while the rest of the framework wobbles slightly. Graylor, trying to hold them together, is very glad to feel Ernaldesta instantly at his side, bringing the relationships that had started to tear apart back into alignment. Kallyr pauses, and the framework steadies again.

"Ern." There's the start of strain in her voice now.

"Yes?" Ernaldesta's voice is sweet and gentle, but not quite hiding a steely edge, as she glances pointedly towards Vur, who has been helped to a seat on a nearby wall by the other two. "Were you going to ask me to do something?"

Kallyr's lips tighten slightly as she looks the same way. "No. Nothing. Carry on."

The rest of the Starwatch is set up carefully, deliberately, with no more wobbles or loss of control. There's a slight change from the original planned order: Risteed is brought in as the first of the primaries, and immediately connects to the main temple guardians, a job that he was originally going to share with Vur. Yodi and Siggyr are next, and Kallyr pauses after each, making sure that they're comfortable holding that link while also controlling their own magics, before continuing to add Vur as the final link. This takes a couple of tries before he can connect: despite Ernadesta's help, his personal magic is wavering so much by now that it's hard for anything to link to it.

"And we're there!" Kallyr ignores Vur's struggles with the additional burden, checks the entire structure again in satisfaction. "Time to drop the whole thing into the matrices."

Fitting that many combined magics into their "holders" at once should have been a task of near-impossible complexity, but in fact the physical receptacles match their intended contents so well that it's almost as if they're being drawn there. Graylor may no longer be attempting to support the framework himself, but he can feel the easing of tension as the burden is taken over by the solidity of living stone. The fiery mesh of the daemons' magic becomes a smooth wall, the sound of Siggyr's Truewind dies to an even hum, the muting of other sounds caused by Yodi's hemi-spherical defence evens out, and finally the fluctuations in all their perceptions caused by Vur's rapidly-fraying detection magics die down. The tension stops. Vur slides sideways off the wall, half-caught by Yodi, and ignored by everyone else except Graylor who looks concernedly at the General but doesn't leave his station until relieved by Kallyr.

"Let me just check that's as good as it looks." Kallyr's eyes half-close as she picks up the perceptions of the complete combined defences. "Sight... hearing.... enemies.... chaos... yes, it's all working." She opens her eyes again. "You've got at least a dozen different ways of telling what's going on around you there - if the combination doesn't detect it, it's not there to detect."

Everyone else is back in the mundane now, and rather startled to notice that the final activation had, indeed, coincided precisely with sunset.

"Warlord? Ready to take over?"

With those few minutes to recover, Siggyr is very much back in control of himself. "Aye. Whenever you're ready."

Kallyr's smiling again, confident, happy. "You can let go now, Graylor, all done. It won't come apart now. Unlink." As he starts to do that, she adds: "This is one part we have to be careful of, handing over control. It's too easy for some third party to intervene and grab control for themselves - they'd only have to overpower Siggyr for a moment, before he had a proper grasp on it. Fortunately there's no-one around with the motive and ability to do that."

Graylor severs the first of the bindings and sensing no shift in the magics continues to rapidly sever all links from the framework to the warding. Next he recalls the Chain of Sartar and it unwinds from the frame and returns to the physical chain. Finally he dissolves the framework leaving the defences standing proudly alone. While he is doing this something penetrates about what Kallyr has been saying, there is something amiss about the the phrasing that doesn't strike true.

This time she does use gestures to back up the magical changes, her hands meeting Siggyr's as she presses what appears to be a half-visible ball of light into them. His hands tighten around it and into it, and it vanishes as she steps back. His single eye widens slightly as he takes in the extent of his new senses.

Enaldesta steps back from the group, and turns to Kallyr. "Satisfied now?" Kallyr nods, watching Siggyr. "Yes. Go ahead." Ernaldesta moves to Vur's side, hissing under her breath at the bruises from the fall.

It is only because Graylor is holding the Chain that he notices that the expected harmony between Kallyr and Ernaldestra is not there instead there is only prickles, like two brushes being rubbed against each other. He wonders what has set them apart. All the same he goes with Ernaldestra to check on Vur and see if he can offer any help.

Siggyr turns in place, apparently looking at something the others present can't see or hear. "Nice, very nice. Hard work, but a job well done."

Kallyr nods without speaking, leaning back against a wall. Her eyes are also closed: presumably she's watching what Siggyr's doing on the magical planes. Now the magic's over, non-participants and supporters are approaching: Insterid has moved in from where she'd been positioned between Kallyr and the outside of the camp, and passes her a water skin and what looks like bread, or cake. Kallyr takes it without opening her eyes, and Insterid's quick, assessing glance hardens slightly. "Ern - over here."

"I'm busy." Ernaldesta doesn't even turn round.

Graylor finishes his examination of Vur and comments to Ernaldestra. "He's just exhausted. Why's that? The rest of us are tired, but not like this, thanks to your help."

"You just answered your own question." She's concentrating on the unconscious man in front of her, pouring energy in, but gently, slowly, rather than the urgent push back to full alertness that Graylor had experienced himself earlier. "You had my help - thanks to the orders I'd been given, he didn't. 'Enough strength to do his job, and absolutely no more' is what I was told, but taking it this close is not a good idea. She's getting far too good at judging that."

The magic slows and stops. "There. I'll let him sleep that off, better for him in the long run than forcing it by magic." She looks up at Graylor. "You're a healer yourself, of sorts? A compassionate man, at least. You remember that. Magic is good, but there's no substitute for real rest, and real time to heal."

"Yes, I started out as a healer until Humakt claimed me. From one extreme to the other." He replies, then starts wondering, half out loud. "But why would she do that. There was no need to single Vur out... Except that he professed a desire to take control of the temple. So, he had motive and therefore she made sure that he couldn't have the capability... That's why that phrase sounded wrong, it wasn't a lie in total but nor was it entirely honest."

Graylor turns to the exhausted Kallyr. "Why did you do it, after all the efforts to engender trust in the participants, you betray it by unilaterally deciding that General Vur could not be trusted. Despite the testing we did. Despite the promise he made to Illig to get this done. Do you think so little of a Humakti's promise?"

"He never promised," she says wearily. "Never promised a thing. If he had... but he didn't."

She pauses, takes another swig of water, and Insterid catches the skin as it slips from her fingers.

"Trusted him to make the defences strong as he could. If he thought that meant him in control..."

She pauses again, and the detached, clinical part of Graylor's mind that had just been analysing Vur's symptoms compares with what he's seeing here, and wonders how she's managing to stay on her feet.

"He could have. Might have. No promises against it. Best for the temple, in his opinion. But Illig wants Siggyr..."

She opens her eyes, looks across at where Siggyr's still standing still, swaying slightly and starting to look a little green.

"Ern, this is important. Got more work to do yet. He needs help."

While Kallyr has been speaking Graylor has been assessing her state as well as her answers. She is in no better state than Vur, however, somehow she is still on her feet, sort of.

"Why don't you sit before you fall," Graylor commands Kallyr gently. "I'll help Ernaldestra with Siggyr. I can at least help minimise the disorientation that is due to the Jalmari magic. Hopefully by then Yodi will be able to help with the Hu side."

"Now that's sense," Ernaldesta agrees. "You've done quite enough already today, and we don't need you for this."

"But..."

"Yes, I know, there's more to it than that, I've heard you give the lecture often enough. I may not be able to demonstrate it myself, but I can tell him what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. There's some things I'm sure he's got more sense than to need telling, like not to try to control that many inputs at once when you've already worked to the point of collapse twice in one day."

It's perhaps a measure of just how tired Kallyr is that for once, she's the one having trouble getting a word in.

"But if you'd....."

"No." Exasperation wars with affection in her tone now. "Had it occurred to you that I might be getting tired, too?"

"Oh." She stops, sags back against the wall. "Sorry. Wasn't thinking."

"That's because you're tired. Rest. Right now, and no more buts."

Kallyr nods, and allows Insterid to help her slide down to a sitting position - but then her eyes open again. "Vur?"

"Asleep, and will be for at least an hour. Don't worry, by the time he's back with us, your Siggyr will have everything in hand."

She turns to Graylor. "So, let's go and make sure of that."


Onward to ChronP56Defences


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