:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - Audience with Empress Eriadna, Part Three ::

Audience with Eriadna - Part Three

Seated at the crescent table as the Karameikans approached were two females - the first was Galatia, whereas the maiden accompanying her was unfamiliar. The trio guessed that this second female - a beautiful, blonde-haired maiden clad in a fine gown cut in a distinctly Thyatian style - could only be Princess Asteriella, daughter of Thincol Torion. Lana was delighted when she was escorted to sit beside the Princess. The two introduced themselves, and were pleased to make one another's acquaintance.

A fanfare sounded and Eriadna emerged from a doorway at the front of the hall, flanked by Uzylia and a second individual - the blue-robed griffon rider from the courtyard that morning. An unseen voice boomed throughout the hall proclaiming the arrival of the Empress and her son, Prince Zandor.

The guardswoman Uzylia hovered by Eriadna’s shoulder (and would remain there throughout the meal), remaining alert at all times and partaking of neither food nor conversation. Lana surmised that the woman must be the Empress' personal bodyguard, notwithstanding Eriadna's formidable mastery of the Arts and ability to defend herself.

Eriadna seated herself elegantly, taking a moment to arrange her silken robes before gesturing for the other diners to take their seats. The only individual present who had disregarded the show of manners was Zandor. The Prince had already slouched into his chair and was toying with a fork. Unable to sit still, he failed to acknowledge any of the other diners.

Two seats remained unoccupied. Eriadna apologised for the lateness of her remaining guests, one of whom she said she had summoned to attend on short notice. As she finished speaking there was a distortion in the air by the Empress' side and a figure appeared in the chair beside her. A belated fanfare struck up, announcing the former Emperor of Alphatia and father of Eriadna - Tylion. Unnervingly, the man passed for no more than 40 years of age, just a few years older than his daughter.

Haldemar

This left only the end chair beside Karnus empty, however that would not remain so A final fanfare sounded as a lean and handsome man strode purposefully through the hall. Dressed in fine garments, his hair was long and dark, pulled back in a ponytail, while his pale skin coloration showed him to be of 'pure' Alphatian descent. Much of the announcement in Alphatian was lost on Karnus and Lana however they caught the newcomer's name - Admiral Haldemar, Prince of Haaken, Captain of the ever-victorious Princess Ark and famed explorer. Karnus bristled with interest as the Admiral seated himself and, very affably, shook hands with Karnus and Teldon either side of him. To Karnus’ surprise, Haldemar then indicated in low tones that he was prepared to converse in the Thyatian tongue.

Karnus accepted the compliment with a nod, as he responded equally quietly. "Few in the Empire have deigned to converse in our native tongue. You honour us, your Highness."

Haldemar shrugged as he held his empty goblet toward the silver sculpture. One of its branches extended to fill the vessel with wine. "Few in the Empire have seen as much of our World as I have. When you gain the opportunity to compare your own culture to so many others, one's mindset tends to broaden."

Karnus nodded, keen to hear what else the Admiral would say.

"We viewed one of your exploration logs, my Lord," Karnus remarked as the first course was served - a silver dish was placed before each diner, containing a steaming broth of some description. He sniffed the soup suspiciously. "In the Airship Museum we visited earlier today."

"Ah, yes," Haldemar responded. "One of my earliest scrolls, if I recall correctly. One of the Empress' aides suggested I should gift it to the Museum, there was some event it was meant to commemorate."

"Do you still travel as extensively as you once did?"

The Admiral shook his head, blowing on his soup. "I’m afraid not, though I might return to that lifestyle once my current duties to the Empress are discharged."

"What do your duties require of you?" Karnus tried his soup, which tasted like nothing he had ever sampled before.

"I am commissioned with rebuilding the Navy," Haldemar responded. "Our finest shipyards perished with the destruction of Aasla, and a great many sky-ships have been despatched to the Isle of Dawn, leaving few aerial defences to protect the homeland."

"A demanding task," Karnus commented.

"Indeed. How are you finding the fare?"

"Delicious. What exactly is it, though?"

"Dragon turtle soup," Haldemar replied.

Karnus was mildly bemused. "I thought dragon turtles were mythical, immense magical creatures?"

Haldemar grinned. "Indeed they are."

The soup bowls were cleared away to be replaced by small dishes bearing slices of melon and scoops of sorbet to cleanse the diners’ palates in readiness for the next course.

Lana meanwhile had been chatting with Asteriella and exchanging memories of Thyatis.

"So how are you finding life in Sundsvall? Galatia seems to have adapted well."

"I am lucky to have her as a companion," Asteriella said. "In truth, there is little I miss about Thyatis. The Empress is kind to me, and makes me welcome even though I am a captive. Master Terari is patient with my magical training. I enjoy my life here, which wasn‘t always the case at my father‘s court."

Lana nodded. "I was granted an audience with your father around a year ago. I found him an imposing figure to say the least." She paused to take a mouthful of soup. "Forgive my ignorance but do you have any siblings?"

"Yes," Asteriella replied, "my elder sister Stefania."

"Is she still in Thyatis?"

"I cannot say for sure, though I would imagine not. Her relationship with my father soured somewhat when she stabbed her husband to death on their wedding night."

Lana nearly dropped her soup spoon. "Truly?"

Asteriella nodded. "It was a forced arrangement on my father's part. I daresay had I remained in Thyatis I would have suffered the same fate. Stefania decided to take matters into her own hands."

"Goodness." Lana wasn't sure what to say. "She sounds... high-spirited."

"You could say that," Asteriella smiled. "Tell me, how did you travel here?"

Lana smiled with pride. "By ship mainly but also on a flying device of my own creation, a carpet."

Zandor

"You crafted the device, you say?" asked a polite voice beside Lana. To her surprise she found Zandor was addressing her. Asteriella had been about to say something but found herself cut off. The Prince's irritated and restless demeanour had transformed to something completely different - he seemed calm and his face bore a curious smile which spread from ear to ear. Most surprisingly, he was speaking Lana's own 'barbarian' tongue.

"Indeed, your Highness," Lana replied, mildly unsettled.

"Tell me about the techniques you employed in the enchantment process," the Prince crooned.

"Well..." Lana began, "I have no weaving ability myself so I worked with an assistant. The principal component aside from the physical materials was magical cloud taken from the home of two cloud giantesses whom I went to great lengths to -"

"Magical cloud," Zandor echoed, hanging on her every word. "How did you locate such a substance?"

"With assistance, I admit. In the Ylari desert I sought a Makistani sorcerer with help from a gold dragon who was known to have friends among the people of the Air," - Zandor's eyes widened - "and that kind individual arranged for me to travel on one of his pet rocs to the home of the djinn," Zandor's eyes widened further, "a floating city built by those magical people, one of whom was able to inform me where I might make the acquaintance of the cloud-dwelling giantesses I mentioned..." Lana's voice trailed off as she realised Zandor seemed ready to explode with excitement. To her horror she realised she had spoken too much and too freely.

"Fascinating," the Prince murmured. One eyebrow twitched as he fought to maintain a composed expression. "You say this flying city is located above Ylaruam?"

Lana attempted to undo some of the damage she had done. "It was at that time, your Highness. But the cloud settlement was borne by the breezes, given how many months have passed I imagine it could be anywhere by now! It might not even be over land any more." She laughed, hoping that her ploy sounded convincing. In the back of her mind she recalled how the City of the Desert Breeze occupied a fixed position.

The Prince detached himself from the discussion to settle back in his chair. Clearly he had been given much to think about. Lana kicked herself for having provided information which could spell disaster for the djinn if Zandor were to seek them out. She resolved that she would send them some sort of warning. The Prince meanwhile toyed with his cutlery, a purposeful grin on his cruel features.

Lana was relieved when the next course arrived to distract from the awkward silence which had descended. Four muscled servants carried forward a giant sea bass, ten feet in length, which they began carving before the diners' eyes.

"Forgive me, Admiral," Karnus asked of Haldemar, "but I am unsure of the proper rules of etiquette. How should one address the former Emperor Tylion? There is a particular matter I would speak with him about."

Haldemar smiled. "The matter is academic, my friend. The former Emperor does not speak Thyatian. In any event, it would be impolite to expect him to converse in any tongue other than Alphatian."

Karnus accepted this with disappointment.

Lana meanwhile was re-attempting conversation with Zandor. The Prince was making no further effort to speak with her, therefore she had decided to take the initiative. "That was a fine steed we saw you astride this morning, Your Highness."

Zandor picked at the food on his plate. "It serves its purpose."

With the topic of conversation at an end, Lana decided to try another.

"What of your brother, King Ericall? Do you see much of him?"

"We are brothers by different fathers," Zandor said coldly. "His father was the magically-inept Torenal meaning that he has no rightful place here in Sundsvall. Quite rightly, my mother granted Ericall dominion over Norwold where he has been struggling to control his subjects since he assumed his role."

"Yes," Lana commented, "I hear there is considerable unrest in Norwold, is that true?"

"Correct." Zandor steepled his fingers. "It seems a fair indication of my brother’s incompetence as a ruler."

"What of you, your Highness?" Lana asked. "Which region will you rule in due course?"

Zandor stared at the foreigner as if he was being asked to state the obvious. "Naturally, my place is here in Vertiloch. I will rule the entirety of our Empire, assuming my good mother -" his tone conveyed an unmissable sneer "- ever abdicates."

A lull had arisen at the table, meaning this statement carried to those seated nearby. Tylion rose to his feet, slammed his fist upon the dining table and barked something furious in Alphatian which Lana and Karnus were unable to make sense of. They could not mistake Zandor's reaction however. The Prince shrank into his seat, instantly silenced. One of his eyebrows twitched. Still fuming, the former Emperor resumed his own seat but said nothing more. Beside him, Eriadna carried on her conversation with Teldon as though nothing had occurred.

The dessert was brought forward by servants - a massive pie topped with spun sugar which had been styled to resemble... Lana rose to her feet clapping as she recognised the Duke’s Stronghold in Specularum! Teldon and Karnus did likewise to convey their appreciation. A servant stepped forward with a silver cutter, inviting Teldon to cut the first slice of the culinary masterpiece. As Teldon sank the utensil into the pie, an array of multi-coloured bubbles burst forth, filling the hall to the delight of the onlooking diners. The chef who had created the dessert was called from the kitchens to enjoy rapturous applause.

Not long after, the Karameikans were invited to rise from their chairs and follow Eriadna to a private chamber. The niceties of the evening were finished, and the more serious business of negotiations would begin.

Negotiations proper

In the private chamber Eriadna faced the three Karameikans. Uzylia stood by the room's door while Haldemar lounged in an armchair to the Empress' side.

"I have read the report prepared by the seneschal of Queen Kryndylya, which details your encounters in Aasla. I understand you helped limit the expansion of a cult of Alphaks, for which you have my thanks. I am keen however to hear your own account of what you experienced. Perhaps you would indulge me?"

"By all means, your Majesty," Karnus replied. "May I suggest however that it might interest you more to hear of the opposition we faced before reaching the shores of your Empire?"

"Very well."

"We were pursued across the Sea of Dawn by longships manned by the Undead, controlled by a priest of some dark Immortal. Also, upon arriving in Helskir an attempt was made to frame us for a murder we did not commit. We believe we can attribute both those events to followers of the Immortal called Hel."

"Hel, you say?" Eriadna did not appear to have heard the name before.

"Indeed, Majesty. It required extensive research for us to learn her name. She is an ancient being and one of the Entropic Immortals. Her domain is that of Death and Rebirth, and she is worshipped mainly in the Northern Reaches. It seems Hel has attempted to prevent Karameikos forming the pact we seek with your Empire. She has even masqueraded as another Immortal named 'Drrynden', supposedly a former hero from Helskir."

Eriadna seemed unsettled on hearing this. "Why do you consider that might be?"

"I do not know," Karnus admitted. "Though I have researched the Northern Pantheon to which Hel belongs along with other Immortals such as Loki the master of trickery and deception. It seems she and those with whom she is aligned might be seeking to bring about 'Ragnarok' - a great cataclysm of violence and destruction. Perhaps she sees the harm and suffering caused by this War as worth perpetuating. The chaos might offer the Northern Pantheon an opportunity to seize power and augment its own position. Loki could be behind all the planted memories which seem to have been commonplace through our travels."

"We also suspect," added Lana, "though we have no proof, that Hel might be behind the civil war which we hear is rife in Norwold, as an attempt to destabilise the region in the same manner as the Glantrian wizards who are terrorising Sundsvall and Dovir."

"In addition," Karnus continued, "it is likely that Alphaks may have allied with other evil Immortals to achieve his goal of destroying Alphatia and spreading chaos."

"These are plausible theories," Eriadna commented. "I should tell you that word has reached my court of other 'fake' Immortals such as this Drrynden you mention. A legendary hero from Darokin by the name Balthac is said to have risen to Immortality, but his misguided supporters have ended up causing disaster on an unthinkable scale." The Empress looked visibly disturbed by whatever events she had in mind. "It seems the acts of the Immortals are, as ever, inextricably linked to the fates of mortals, but with more deliberate interference than ever before."

Karnus spoke up once the Empress finished speaking. "We find it strange that Alphatia herself has adopted such a hostile stance. We had heard little of the Lady before coming here, but thought her to be a pacifist. Now we find her advocating all-out aggression against the Empire’s enemies."

"Not without good reason," Eriadna said darkly.

"When did she undergo this change of persona?" Karnus asked.

"Around the time of the millennium celebrations," the Empress replied. “Her followers reminded us that the the Glantrians' ancestors were responsible for the destruction of our home world."

"Have you received portents from the Lady, or from any other Immortals?"

If she had, Eriadna seemed reluctant to divulge such information. "I will admit that I am privy to some of the Immortals' thoughts regarding the threats facing the Empire and the direction we should take to ensure our safety. Both Alphatia and Razud have made their intents clear to me, I will say that much."

"What specifically have they told you?"

"Enough to make clear that the Glantrians harbour a danger which threatens the wellbeing of all people, and the stability of this Empire above all else.” She reflected for a moment. "I do not presume to label myself a mouthpiece of any Immortal but I consider it imperative that we combat what is happening in Glantri, for the safety of the very planet. This is why we have gone to war."

"Is there no prospect of further negotiations?" Lana asked.

Eriadna's eyebrows rose. "We did attempt to improve relations with Glantri. My cousin Volospin had been our best hope for negotiations but the Wizard-Princes opted for seclusion and would not co-operate with us. The last Glantrian negotiators at my court ended up slaying General Torenal, and Aasla burned soon after. I will not continue pursuing a remedy which is unobtainable."

"Have you deduced which Immortal's hand was behind the burning of Aasla?" Teldon enquired.

Fire gleamed in the Empress' brown eyes. "The commonly held view is that Rathanos caused the blaze to consume as much as it did. The Lady Alphatia supports that view and has called for the Glantrians to pay for their actions."

Lana spoke next. "Majesty, your Proclamation accused the Glantrians of practising forbidden magic, a claim which Wizard-Prince Etienne refuted. Pardon my curiosity but can you tell us what magics the Glantrians are suspected of practising?"

"No," the Empress responded flatly. "Such information is sensitive and may only be revealed to my immediate advisors. Suffice to say Etienne D'Ambreville is a reckless and arrogant fool whose actions endanger the wellbeing of all who call this planet home, and all who practise the magical Arts." Eriadna's eyes narrowed, indicating that she clearly had the conviction of what she said.

"What of the Thyatians?" Karnus asked. "Did you attempt negotiations with them, before commencing aggressions on the Isle of Dawn?"

Eriadna shook her head. "Not to any useful extent. The hostility our emissaries encountered only served to underline the Thyatians' barbaric nature. Thincol is headstrong and has resented our nation since stealing his throne when the Spike Assault failed. He has chosen to ally with our enemies and that is unfortunate, for him, but it was his own decision to make. And one he will regret."

"What of your other enemies?" Lana asked. "We have heard the Heldannic Knights mentioned on numerous occasions..."

Hearing this, Eriadna and Haldemar exchanged dark glances. "The Knights," Eriadna said, "as Admiral Haldemar knows from first-hand encounters have been extremely active of late."

The Admiral nodded grimly to signal his agreement. "We have reason to consider that they pose a threat equal to the combined forces of Glantri and Thyatis."

"Truly?" Karnus found that impossible to believe. "How so?"

"We had thought them confined to out-of-the-way regions however that has not turned out to be the case. Their influence has spread further than we thought possible, giving them control of powerful resources including magical might." Haldemar sipped from his goblet. "There is also the enemy in the West to consider - the Master of Desert Nomads."

Lana nodded. "I travelled to Darokin City two months ago and viewed the Master’s troops. Even at that early stage of besiegement the forces he commanded were considerable - thousands of goblins and orcs, not to mention trolls and giants. Given the time which has passed since then I imagine he must occupy most of the Streel Plain by now."

Haldemar appeared to agree. "The reinforcements he can summon from Hule and from the conquered nation of Sind are vast. That much I can say for sure."

"What of the man personally?" Lana asked. "What is known of him?"

"Precious little, unfortunately," Haldemar replied. "We have attempted to gain information but it has been a trying process. Even by Alphatian standards he has been around for a long time, literally centuries. Whether he has some means of extending his life, or whether multiple successors have assumed his identity we do not know. Two things are certain however. One, he is a dangerous foe who should not be underestimated. Two, he will try to expand his influence across your entire continent if he is permitted to take Darokin."

Eriadna scowled. "The Master has long been a thorn in my side, one which I cannot apply myself to removing while I combat Glantri and its allies. If I am to crush my principal foes, I do not wish his armies to stand in my way."

She regarded the foreign wizards. "Which leads me to consider your Duke’s request. What with Glantri, Thyatis and the Heldanners opposing me, my resources are stretched. The Master is my least immediate concern however I have no wish to face his forces in due course. I will speak openly and say that your Duke’s request strikes me as an opportunity for each of our nations to provide a benefit to the other.

"If I may set out my understanding of your Duke's position," she continued, "based on what limited contact he and I have had to this point. Stefan Karameikos has for many years allowed other nations to view his land as a Thyatian protectorate. He now seizes the opportunity to sever the association. He worries that the Alphatian military will not view Thyatis and Karameikos as separate entities, and that this could spell disaster for his people. Is this summary accurate?"

"Empress," Teldon spoke up, "there is more to the Duke's request. For years he has wished to improve his subjects' mastery of the magical arts. I have done what I can to assist with this endeavour. I single-handedly formed the Magicians' Guild of Specularum thirty years ago, however my own resources have reached their limit and cannot bolster magical learning within Karameikos as greatly as the Duke wishes. I wish my legacy to be taken forward and be expanded by those who are most able. We therefore request your assistance in establishing a proper school of magic in addition to any other assistance you can give us."

Eriadna smiled. "A reasonable request, yet were I to pledge assistance I could not honour the undertaking immediately. Once the War is over I will be able to consider what resources I can expend, however I give you my word that I will offer what I can."

Teldon bowed.

"My proposal," the Empress went on, "is that Karameikos shall become an Alphatian protectorate. Your Duke will reign as monarch of an Alphatian kingdom. Karameikos will immediately assist Darokin in combatting the Master. At some point after that, when I call upon it to do so, Karameikos will launch an attack on Thyatis."

Hearing this, the Karameikans were taken aback. Karnus was first to respond.

"Majesty, our remit in these discussions is clear. The Duke has not empowered us to join Karameikos with your Empire. Even if Duke Stefan were agreeable to your proposal, which I feel he would not be, it would exceed our authority as his representatives to give consent."

"I must agree with Karnus," Lana said. "The Duke has desired autonomy for thirty years. He does not wish to remain subservient to any higher power, even one such as you. In his view, he fairly purchased the lands of Traladara from Thincol and deserves to have his sovereignty acknowledged on the global scale."

"Furthermore Empress," Karnus went on, "we all have family and friends in Thyatis. To ask us to take direct action against our cousins is unacceptable - not just from a moral perspective, but from a logistical perspective also. Karameikos' resources are already stretched in acting against the Master as you wish us to, and in defending its settlements against Thincol when he hears that these discussions have taken place."

Eriadna seemed to accept the reality of what Karnus was saying. "Can any of you provide me with an assessment of Karameikos’ military capability?"

"I can, Empress," Teldon answered. "We have six military divisions at present across our land and sea troops. Each comprises a thousand men. There would be scope to raise perhaps an additional four. We have little magical might besides the Duke's Elvenguard and certainly we have no troops capable of taking to the air such as your sky-ships or the Retebius Air Fleet."

"Very well," the Empress said, sounding distinctly unimpressed. "Let the terms of our treaty be these. Alphatia will recognise Karameikos' neutrality in the War with Glantri and Thyatis. When my forces move to the Known World, as invariably they will, they will not enter Karameikos unless your Duke gives his permission. Alphatia will send engineers and experts to improve the harbour defences of your capital city and your eastern border with Thyatis. Knowledge of the Form spells will be passed by the Alphatians to representatives of Karameikan wizardry."

"In return, Karameikos will assist in combating the Master. In the event that Karameikos should achieve success of a degree which I consider satisfactory, then I will consider what resources I can expend to help Karameikos to further Master Teldon's legacy." She looked questioningly at Haldemar when she finished speaking. The Admiral who had been listening nodded to show his approval.

"And under no circumstances," he added, "will Karameikos assist Thyatis in any endeavour which goes against Alphatian interests."

All three Karameikan wizards considered these proposals, before exchanging nods.

"Imperial Majesty," Teldon said, "your terms are acceptable."

The fate of the Staff

"Good. Now there is another matter we must discuss." Eriadna's eyes passed to Lana. "That staff you bear. Lucinius is the greatest traitor this Empire has known, and under our laws all his goods are forfeited in favour of the State."

Again, Lana felt a lump form in her throat. So much for the Empress forgetting about the staff. "Majesty," she said, "I mean no disrespect but I would ask for the opportunity to present arguments as to why you should not take the Staff."

The Empress did not appear taken aback. "Very well. Say what you will on the matter."

"I freely admit, Empress, the Staff is within your grasp. But I ask you to consider what might happen if you do.

"I understand all mortal attempts to return the General to life have failed, for unknown reasons. You deserve to have the General returned to you, and Tarastia can fulfil that wish."

"If I have accrued goodwill in Tarastia’s eyes," Eriadna mused, "then it could be considered that the Staff appearing at my court is her doing."

"That would make me but a messenger, Empress," Lana responded. "And I will say that the Staff was loaned to me as I too have been robbed of someone close to me, who was taken from me by a powerful enemy. I too am on a quest for vengeance, and I wish to retain the tool which was granted to me for that purpose. We each have our own paths to walk, and I wish to retain the Staff to assist with mine, as is Tarastia's will. I beg of you Empress to preserve Tarastia's good will and not deprive yourself of that resolution, and your righteous vengeance on those who have wronged you."

Lana's voice petered out. The Empress had heard her out, yet Lana realised her argument was not terribly compelling.

"Empress," Haldemar interjected, "I would voice my own thoughts on the matter of this Staff. The Thyatian wizards on the Island of Sclaras have thus far refrained from entering the War, preferring to pursue personal projects. As a result the resistance which our troops have met on the Isle of Dawn has been relatively low. However," his eyes passed to Lana, “if news were to break that Lucinius' Staff had passed into Alphatian hands, I expect many of those wizards might enter the War. Some would do so out of principle, however many might hope to acquire the Staff to enhance their own prestige in the eyes of their peers."

Eriadna nodded, taking mental note of this. She was silent for a while as she considered what decision to make. She then looked to Lana.

"I do not need to retain the Staff indefinitely. The initial impact of my troops seeing it is all that I require. I propose a solution. I will take the staff and arrange for an imitation to be created and returned to the Thyatians, while I or one of my favoured commanders displays the true Staff before my troops on the Isle of Dawn. Therefter, the Staff could be returned to you."

Eriadna's tone indicated that she considered this a plausible solution, however Lana felt differently.

"I would be loathe to approve such a plan, Empress," she replied. "Whilst I appreciate the inventiveness of your tactics, neither Duke Stefan nor I could condone the underlying deception. The revelation of the Staff as a fake would stoke the wrath of Thincol and others such as the wizards of Sclaras, and inevitably Karameikos would suffer as a result. I could not have that guilt on my conscience."

"Very well," Eriadna said. "In that case I have no option but to retain the Staff. The Immortals' will is clearly at play, the opportunity of such an item arriving at my court is one I cannot pass over. Having said that..." Her tone softened slightly. "It is fitting for one such as I to reward those who perform tasks well in my name. In combating the Master at Darokin City, the forces of Karameikos will be performing a task for the benefit of Alphatia. You should bear this in mind."

Lana nodded, accepting the sad reality that the Staff of Lucinius was to be taken from her, and that she was in no position to offer any resistance.

With the negotiations concluded, scribes were called in and the treaty was written up. It was prepared in duplicate and was signed by Eriadna then countersigned by Teldon on behalf of Stefan Karameikos. Lana was given the honour of acting as witness to Teldon's signature. Karnus declined the opportunity to record his involvement in the negotiations and did not put quill to parchment.

Eriadna offered all three wizards lodgings in the Palace for as long as they required, then took her leave. Both Lana and Karnus were excited at the prospect of spending time in Sundsvall however Teldon reminded them that someone needed to deliver news of the treaty to Duke Stefan back in Specularum. In Teldon's view Lana was best placed to carry out that task, given her knowledge of the Teleport spell. Crestfallen at having to leave so soon, Lana agreed to report back. Teldon assured her that he wasn't planning to leave Sundsvall for some time. Karnus remained undecided as to his own plans; certainly he would return to Glantri, but indicated that he too wished to see more of the astounding city of Sundsvall.

Return to the Blue Ruby

The Karameikans spent the remainder of the evening unwinding in the surroundings of the Imperial Palace, then returned to the Blue Ruby in the dead of night. To their surprise the front door was unlocked and slightly ajar. Entering the taproom, it was eerily still - several of the Inn's patrons were slumbering in comfortable chairs. The door to the private room where the wizards had breakfasted was open, and a light was shining within.

"Please come in," Stefanius called. "I have made sure we won't be disturbed."

The Karameikans did as they were bid. Stefanius was seated at the table, running one hand across his dark beard. His companion sat silently in shadows in the corner of the room.

"Your endeavour is concluded?" the man asked.

"Yes indeed," Teldon responded. "We managed to agree mutually acceptable terms."

"Those being…?" Stefanius asked. "My curiosity will kill me if you don’t tell me."

"Eriadna will respect our Duke's autonomy so long as we combat the Master and refrain from assisting Thyatis in the War," Teldon answered.

"She wished us to take action against Thyatis,” Lana added. “We told her that was impossible."

"So a success." Stefanius stared at Lana. "Yet you return empty-handed, Lady Budanter."

"Yes," Lana said flatly. "She took the Staff from me."

"As predicted," Stefanius said with disappointment in his voice. "Yet I suppose I share the blame, as I allowed it to happen. We’ll take what steps we can to mitigate the damage which will follow."

He addressed Teldon. "The Foreign Minister has been silenced, for now at least. I will do what I can to delay the news of your treaty reaching Thincol's ears but inevitably he will find out sooner than your Duke would wish him to. In the meantime," his gaze passed between all three of the wizards, "I suggest you do what you can to bolster your nation’s defences and prepare for the worst."

His companion rose and stepped close, as Stefanius gave a bow. "We will take our leave of you for now. Good luck to you all." Without further ado Stefanius murmured a word of magic, and the two men disappeared.

The next morning, Teldon gave Lana the scroll containing the Thyatian language version of the treaty along with a smaller parchment which was folded and sealed with wax. This letter, he explained, was meant for Lady Halia Antonic who had agreed to oversee the running of the Magicians' Guild during Teldon's absence. Lana's mouth fell open and she looked to Karnus whose own expression registered concern. Was Teldon not planning to return home? The old mage refused to be drawn on the subject, simply repeating his request that Lana deliver his letter.

Teldon took a moment to express thanks to Karnus and Lana at their having accompanied him and faced considerable danger on what had been, quite possibly, the greatest experience of his life. In recognition of their efforts, Teldon announced that he wished to teach them each a magical spell of the Sixth Level in due course. Overjoyed, both Karnus and Lana accepted the offer.

Lana and Karnus indulged in a short farewell, then Lana cast her spell and vanished.


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