:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - A Sorcerous Soiree ::

A Sorcerous Soiree

“Canapé, sir?”

Karnus favoured the waiter with a curious glance. “I’d have thought you’d call them something else, given the company.”

The waiter followed the wizard’s gaze into the hall full of dignitaries and mages. Prominent amongst the crowd were a number of men and women wearing kiharas, only some of whom were genuine Alphatians. Still there were enough of the pale and copper skinned aliens amongst the crowd to give an accurate indication of the terms they would favour, and those they would not…

“Right you are, sir,” said the waiter, a cheeky look on his face, “nibble?”

Karnus gave a wry half smile of his own and took one of the proffered snacks. Retrieving a flute of sparkling wine (it certainly wouldn’t be called champagne) from a nearby table, he stepped through the gaping double doors and into the throng.

From a balcony overlooking the crowd a small orchestra were playing a tune in a style Karnus struggled to recognise, sounding like a strange fusion of Traladaran and Alphatian musical styles, hurriedly composed. The wizard listened to the vaguely discordant sounds for a second, marvelling at how alien the badly played Alphatian instruments sounded against the rustic native zithers and flutes.

Shaking his head at the wonders of cultural propaganda, Karnus turned his attention back to the milling crowd. Here and there some of the Alphatian mages were holding court, rapt groups of locals hanging off there every word. Karnus spotted Halia Antonic laughing gently at a presumably humorous remark made by one of the Alphatians. The wizard also noticed several faces he recognised throughout the assembly; old acquaintances from the Guild, now thrust into the centre of society and loving every minute.

It was surprising how many non wizards were present in the room. When Karnus had heard about this little soiree he had assumed that that Alphatian’s prejudices would have precluded the invitation of mundaners, but then, he supposed if that was the case it wouldn’t have been much of a party.

The wizard immersed himself in the atmosphere of the gathering, making small talk with the guests and reacquainting himself with his erstwhile colleagues in the Guild. Many of his old acquaintances were surprised to see Karnus, but most were glad meet one of the three mages who had made the coming of the Alpatians possible. Karnus was surprised at the number of Darokinian accents he heard – it appeared the many Darokinian mages had relocated to Karameikos, no doubt a side effect of the Karameikan liberation of Darokin City. The wizard marvelled at how the Alphatian visitors had become a nucleus for other mages to come to the city, and found himself simultaneously enthusiastic for and dreading the outcome.

As Karnus worked the room he listened in on the ambient chatter and tried to gauge the mood of the party. An unusual number of the noblemen and courtiers in the gathering seemed particularly enamoured with their Alphatian guests, some going so far as to don kiharas in emulation of the eastern visitors. Karnus was taken back at how readily the Karameikan upper class had accepted the coming of the Alphatians. Perhaps they didn’t yet recognise the threat which they represented to the social order of the country. Karnus imagined they wouldn’t be so enthusiastic once the Alphatian societal norms became imposed on Karameikos, though he supposed the vast array of clerical barons would be happy with the arrangement.

The natural flow of the gathering had swept Karnus into a corner of the room, where a wiry man stood surveying the room, dressed in militarily styled clothing with a dark green bandolier bearing his rank insignia and the coat of arms of the Karamaikan Militia. The man was looking thoroughly bored, so Karnus sidled up to him and struck up a conversation

“Good evening… General, is it?” Karnus peered at the man’s medals, trying to decipher the array of metal. The soldier straightened up immediately and nodded at the wizard. “Yes sir, General Alverian, at your disposal.” The man extended a hand, which Karnus shook.

“Karnus Perdissium, pleased to make your acquaintance. Are you having a nice time.”

“I suppose so, sir – the Alphatians are a wondrous bunch, but I must confess a party full of wizards is hardly to my taste… present company accepted of course.”

Karnus wondered what the General would think of some of the parties he had attended, where the number of wizards would have outnumbered the total number of guests several times over.

“Mages.”

The solder turned his head inquisitively. “I beg your pardon?”

“The correct term of address is ‘mage’ – there’s only person I know of in the room who meets the prerequisite to be called a wizard…”

The soldier furrowed his brow. “I meant no offence, master mage. I have little knowledge of the politics of the wizarding world…”

Karnus waved away the apology. “No, the apology is mine to make. I’m being pedantic. But tell me, what brings you here, if you’re not an admirer of the ways of the magi?”

“I’ve been working with some of the Alphatian engineers, helping them upgrade our defences. They truly are mighty wiz… err, mages. The marvels I’ve seen in the past few months. That treaty was the best thing to happen to Karameikos since the King arrived.”

Karnus lifted an eyebrow. “Really? I’d have thought a military man like yourself would have been wary of the threat it creates from our erstwhile ally Thyatis….”

“Well,” the soldier looked a tad confused at this, “I know it’s a bit of a pickle, but I have complete confidence in our Alphatian friends – they’re so amazing, you see! Not only will their new defences hold back any threat from Thyatis, but they’re such loyal friends that should we face any real trouble, they’ll come to our aid.” The soldier smiled and raised his glass to his lips. “Wonderful people.”

“I see,” said Karnus, favouring the soldier with a sidelong glance,”and have you always been so supportive of the Alphatians mission?”

“Well, I’ll admit there was a time when I was a bit dubious, but then I met some of them, and I have to say they’re really nice people. Barthyndelon in particular – he and I have become fast friends.”

“Barthyndelon? Which one is he?”

“That’s him over there, beside Lady Antonic.”

Karnus turned to follow the General’s nod and saw a tall slim man with extremely pale skin, dressed in long black robes, standing next to Halia, halfway across the room. As Karnus watched the man, the Alphatian’s eyes momentarily scanned the crowd. For the briefest instant the two men stared directly at one another, Karnus noticing the intense purple of the invader’s eyes. Then the moment passed, and Barthyndelon’ gaze moved on.

Karnus let his own gaze pass across the room, scrutinising the guests with renewed interest. Everywhere he looked he saw people laughing, smiling and toasting the Alphatian visitors. The wizard smirked to himself. “Just like I would have done it,” he mumbled.

“I beg your pardon?” General Alverian was looking curiously at the wizard.

Karnus turned back to face the soldier. “Just making an observation. General, it’s been a pleasure. I hope we have a chance to talk again.”

The General returned Karnus’ farewell, and the wizard once again immersed himself in the party. After a few more conversations with old colleagues and ignorant mundaner nobles, Karnus found himself carried to the centre of the room and into the company of Lady Halia Antonic.

“Karnus!” exclaimed Halia upon seeing the wizard. “I wasn’t aware you were coming tonight? How have you been?”

“Busy, Halia. Very busy. But then you’ve not exactly been slacking yourself – looks like the Guild is the very centre of the social world these days.”

Halia nodded and led Karnus off through the crowd. “That’s true – once the Alphatians arrived the people and nobles embraced them. It’s a marvellous thing you’ve helped to accomplish.”

“They certainly seem popular, that’s for sure.”

“Yes – half the court is here tonight! I never thought they’d turn up for a party to celebrate some magical construction, but here you are.”

Karnus glanced around. “Is Lana here?”

“No – I invited her of course, but I think she’s undertaking some spell research right now. She works so hard, but it’s good having her nearby.”

Halia led Karnus out of the hall and into one of the side rooms. She closed the door, then rounded on the wizard. “Where have you been? You were supposed to be overseeing this whole operation! Do you have any idea how difficult it’s been for me taking over from Teldon and managing this lot?”

Karnus held his hands up to defend himself from the verbal onslaught. “Now just a minute, milady – I haven’t exactly been sitting around in a comfortable office for the last few months!” The wizard took a step forward towards the noblewoman. “I’ve been through hell and back, and the last thing I need is judgement from you. And anyway, since when have you taken over from Teldon?”

“He sent a letter back with Lana – he’ll be staying in Alphatia for the foreseeable and wants to me tend to the running of the guild.”

“Great – he owes me a spell too,” grumbled Karnus.

Halia sighed and slumped down onto a nearby couch. “He wrote that you would be around to oversee the Alphatian installations, but you never showed up.”

Karnus echoed Halia’s sigh. “Truthfully, I would have loved to have been here, but fate had a different role for me to play. Have things been going well?”

Halia regarded the wizard for a second, giving Karnus the impression that she knew a lot more about where he’d been than he would have preferred, but if she did, she said nothing. “The physical fortifications along the border have been completed, of course – that’s what we’re celebrating tonight. The next phase, the fortification of the city and the harbour, is about to start.”

“That’s good to hear – I fear that Thyatis will not long tolerate the Duke’s…”

“King’s,” interrupted Halia.

“…whatever,” continued Karnus, “I doubt Thincol will forgive his betrayal. I just hope these walls are enough.”

“Well, at least we have the men to man them – after the Darokin campaign we were left with hundreds of newly battle hardened soldiers. One of the newest generals is here tonight in fact”

“Alverian? I met him. He seemed… charming.”

The door opened without warning, to reveal the tall Alphatian that Halia had been talking to earlier. The Guildmistress stood as the Alphatian strode in the door. “Ah, Barthyndelon,” she gestured towards Karnus, “this is Master Perdissium, who was to be your original liaison before being… distracted by other events.”

“Master Perdissium,” Barthyndelon spoke in a soft, heavily accented form of Thyatian, “I was told to seek you out when I arrived. I was disappointed to have gone without the pleasure of your company. The Empress was most… enthusiastic that I make your acquaintance.”

Karnus and Halia both raised their eyebrows. “Well,” replied Karnus, clearing his throat, “I was detained elsewhere, I’m afraid. As you can imagine, things in Darokin haven’t been especially easy in the past few months.”

“Darokin?” replied the Alphatian mage, moving into the room. “So far North… You have interests there?”

“I have interests all over the Known World,” replied Karnus. “I regret that they have distracted me from overseeing your mission.”

Barthyndelon raised an eyebrow of his own at the implication that he required oversight, but said nothing on the matter. “Well, I’m sure we’ll be working together now that you’ve returned to Specularum.”

“Actually, I’m only in town until the morning – just checking on the family in these troubled times.”

Halia looked at Karnus with an accusatory glare. Barthyndelon moved to stand in front of Karnus and said “such a pity. We will have to put up with the… ‘oversight’ of Master Kentarion for a while longer…”

“Igor Kentarion?” Karnus looked at Halia. “You gave Igor my job?” The wizardess rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. “Someone needed to do it, Karnus.”

Barthyndelon smirked at this. “Yes, of course. Who knows how badly we’d have done our jobs for want of ‘oversight’.”

Karnus cleared his throat to break the momentary uncomfortable silence. “Well, since I’m here why don’t you show me what you have planned for the harbour?”

Barthyndelon held Karnus’ gaze for a moment, as if surveying into his soul, then nodded and mumbled a spell to himself, causing a gust of air to surge for the gap under the door. Once his enchantment was done, he turned to Halia. “Your husband arrived a few moments ago, and I wish to speak with him. Shall we go find him?”

Halia nodded as the door opened and another Alphatian entered, this one wearing a subtly coloured kihara. “You summoned me, Barthyndelon?” asked the newcomer.

“This is Master Perdissium. He wishes to see the plans for the harbour installations. Show them to him.”

“Of course. General Alverian has been asking to consult the plans as well – shall I bring him too?”

“Very well.” The tall Alphatian turned to Karnus. “I leave you in the hands of my assistant, Tedrynthalas. I hope that we have a chance to talk again before you retire for the evening.”

Karnus nodded subtly, and held the man’s indecipherable gaze for a few seconds before the Alphatian turned with a swoop of his robes and followed Halia out of the room.

The trio of men ascended the spiralling staircase of Teldon’s tower. As he ascended the familiar steps Karnus’ mind wandered back to thousands of days spent in the Guild. He couldn’t begin to count the number of times he had dashed up these very stairs, eager to get to his lessons, or running down them to get home for dinner. As his fingers lingered over the still familiar contours of the banister, Tedrynthalas’ attempt at small talk barely registered in the wizard’s mind.

“We’re nearly ready to start construction on the harbour defences,” the middle aged engineer explained as they ascended, “that’s the most difficult part – no mere walls of stone to throw up, though we’ll be doing plenty of those as well.”

“Ah, these are your floating defence orbs,” replied the General, snapping Karnus out of his reverie.

“That’s right. Mark Nine Strategic Defence Emplacements. Beautiful design, if I do say so myself – this continent will never have seen anything like them! You’ll be able to obliterate entire fleets of ships, and you don’t want to see what they can do to infantry. I dare say they’ll make Specularum one of the most defensible cities outside of Alphatia.”

“Really,” mused Karnus, “they’re that effective? How are they constructed?”

Tedrynthalas turned to Karnus with a smile, “now, Master Perdissium, I can’t divulge that sort of information. Suffice to say, they’ll be crafted to the highest specifications.”

Karnus returned the smile. “Of course. I’m very eager to see them in operation, you see – having been the one to suggest to the Empress that she might see fit to grace Karameikos with these remarkable artefacts.”

General Alverian looked over his shoulder at Karnus. “That’s where I know the name – you were one of our envoys!”

Karnus nodded acknowledgement. Tedrynthalas stared eagerly at the wizard. “Then you must have met the Empress? Oh, how jealous I am! Was she as beautiful in person as they say?”

“She was… a most impressive woman.”

“You must tell me all about it – Barthyndelon just won’t be persuaded to share anything about the Empress, even though he’s met her hundreds of…. That’s strange, this door should be locked…”

The Alphatian had interrupted himself at the trio’s arrival at the fifth floor laboratories, finding the door wide open. Karnus was momentarily taken aback at the fact that the Alphatians had been located in the very laboratory where he had taken his first faltering steps in the arcane world, but Tedrynthalas panic quickly snapped him out of his reverie. The Alphatian engineer stepped into the room, checking amongst the books and folios.

“Is something wrong, Tedrynthalas?” asked the General.

“They’re gone. The blueprints are gone.” The befuddled engineer stared pathetically at Karnus, who thought the man was about to burst into tears.

“I’ll summon the guard,” said the soldier, making to head back down the stairs, but pausing for a second on the edge of the staircase.

“What is it,” asked Karnus, sidling up to the General.

“I thought I heard something… over there.” The man pointed to a shadowy corner. Karnus reached into a pocket and drew forth his Everglowing Beam, casting light on… nothing. The alcove was empty.

Suddenly from behind the pair came the sound of glass shattering. Karnus and the General whipped around just in time to see someone vanish through a now shattered window. The two ran to the window, joined by Tedrynthalas who rushed out of the lab. The trio stared down the side of the building as the thief rappelled his way to the ground, and set off at breakneck speed into the alleyways.

Tedrynthalas fairly shrieked in alarm and ran towards the stairs, crying for the guards. General Alverian solemnly watched the retreating thief, then made for the stairs himself. When he noticed Karnus wasn’t following he turned and asked why.

“You go on,” responded the wizard. “I’ll see if I can catch the scoundrel.” Solemnly pronouncing a few words of magic, the wizard transformed with an implosion of his cape, leaving an owl sat upon the floor. The bird hopped onto the window ledge, spread its wings, and flew into the night.

Karnus swooped over the twisting alleyways, barely managing to keep track of the thief as he wound his way through the backstreets of Specularum. Eventually as the man reached the docks area he slowed to a gentler pace, continuing on for another few minutes before he came to a door in the side of a huge warehouse. He looked around, then opened the door and slipped inside.

Karnus waited a few seconds then alighted next to the door and resumed human form. He gently tried the handle, but found the door had been locked. He mumbled the words to a spell that would unlock the door, and cautiously pushed it open. The room inside was completely dark, and there was no sign of movement. The wizard fumbled in his pocket for his everglowing beam, and stepped inside the building.

The beam of light played around the warehouse, revealing rows and rows of crates and barrels. Karnus cautiously moved deeper into the storehouse, past stacks of crates that dwarfed him many times over. The only sounds were his footfalls, his breathing, and the ominous creaking of the ropes that held some of the larger stacks together.

Karnus turned suddenly at a sound from behind him, but found nothing there. He swept his beam around the aisle but saw nothing “So much for the fearless wizard,” he mumbled to himself as he resumed his search. He was beginning to fear that the thief had doubled back and left by the very door they had entered, when suddenly a wave of dizziness overcame the wizard. He staggered, stretching out a hand to steady himself as a stream of images and sensations assaulted his mind. One image stuck with him - Karnus himself with a dagger in his… back!

The wizard span round, just in time to deflect the dagger’s path. As Karnus gripped his staff with both hands, the everglowing beam dropped to the ground, casting a chaotic pattern of light as it went, briefly illuminating the attacker as the man reeled from Karnus’ defence and regrouped for another attack.

Those mere seconds of sight were enough for the wizard, though. Karnus stretched out a hand, growled three words of magic, and sent two bolts of sapphire energy arcing through the intervening distance to strike the thief. As they went the bolts’ flare of energy illuminated the dark warehouse, and Karnus watched in satisfaction as his attacker bore the brunt of the stunbolt’s assault.

The stunned thief lunged awkwardly at the wizard, who deftly side stepped the attack and again levelled a hand at the man. This time, five bolts of magical energy shot forth, again bathing the crates and barrels of the warehouse in cool blue radiance. This time the thief cried in pain as the magic missiles hit home, and dropped to one knee.

“Yield,” Karnus demanded of the man. “I have the upper hand.”

“I think not,” came a voice from the shadows above Karnus. Startled, the wizard glanced upwards, just barely able to make out several shadowy forms in the dim reflected light of his discarded everglowing beam. Several glints of metal betrayed the presence of many bows and crossbows levelled at Karnus.

“I don’t know who you are,” said the voice from above, “and frankly I don’t care. Time to die.”

Before Karnus could react, the thief he had been fighting shouted “No!” The man’s orders evidently carried some weight, because Karnus was somewhat relieved to find himself not riddled with a dozen arrows.

“Karnus? Is that you? The man’s strangely familiar voice brought the wizard’s attention back to his original opponent, who picked himself off the floor and advanced towards the wizard. As he came, Karnus stooped to retrieve his beam, straightening up as the man threw back his hood and stepped into its light.

Karnus stared in shock at a younger version of himself. It took a few seconds before his surprise passed and he realised what was going on. He and his sister were non identical twins, but people had always said that the two members of the family with the closest resemblance were Karnus and his youngest brother, Vintrus.

Karnus hadn’t seen his brother in years. Anytime he’d been in town, his youngest sibling had kept a low profile, being as he was engaged in the… shadier side of Specularum life. Now Karnus found himself staring into a face that could have been his own, ten years ago.

Vintrus was obviously thinking the same. “So, that’s what I’ll look like in ten years time, is it? I must say, Karny, you’ve aged horribly.” The younger Perdissium grinned wildly.

“Vinny?”

Vintrus smiled and glanced upwards. “Okay, people, check the perimeter I don’t think we’re going to have any more trouble with this one.” The thieves above melted silently into the shadow, apparently leaving the two brothers alone.

“Quite the punch you’re packing there,” said Vintrus, rubbing his pained back with one hand while he steadied himself with the other. “Why does my head feel like I’ve gone six rounds with Otto the Bear?”

Karnus continued to stare at his brother. “Stunbolt. Alphatian magic. It’ll fade in a minute or two.”

“Effective, that one – you’ll have to put it on a scroll for me sometime.” The thief lowered himself down onto a crate. “And you’re fast, too - you got those spells off much quicker than I expected…”

“That’s just skill, little brother,” replied Karnus, finally overcoming his shock and stepping forward to look at his younger sibling. “Vinny, I can’t believe it’s you. It’s been so many years.”

“Yeah, sorry I never came to see you when you were home – I’ve been travelling about myself too.”

“And now you’re stealing from the Alphatians?”

Vintrus looked his brother in the eye and grinned. “I didn’t think you’d have a problem with that, oh Wizard of Glantri…”

Karnus raised an eyebrow. “You’re remarkably well informed – mum and dad don’t even know about that.”

“I make it my business to stay informed, Karnus. You’d be surprised at all the things I hear about.”

“Well you’re evidently doing well for yourself – those men seemed to be taking orders from you.”

Again, the lob sided grin. “What can I say? A man of my talents can go far. You’re not doing badly yourself if that little display of magic is anything to go by.”

Karnus favoured his younger brother with a grin of his own. “Trust me, Vinny, that was a merest fraction of my power. Be glad I restrained myself.”

Vintrus held his brother’s gaze for a second, before clearing his throat. “Well, anyway, between us two, Kelsin and Vorla, the Perdissium siblings are doing alright for themselves. And Helena’s making a killing – she’s bought out two other businesses in the last year.”

Something about what his brother had said irked at the wizard, but before he could think too much about it, Vintrus stood up and stretched. “I think your spell has worn off, Karny. I feel much better.”

“Don’t call me Karny,” muttered the wizard, a reflex from his childhood days, eliciting a grin from his brother. “So why did you steal those plans from the Alphatians?”

“A job’s a job, brother – got to make a living.”

“Thyatis?”

His brother smiled again. “Honestly, I don’t know, but I know it wasn’t your lot, so I suppose it would have to be. Frankly, I’d have done this one for free – it’ll be nice to see our ‘friends’ taken down a peg or two.”

“No love for the visitors then?”

“Don’t get me wrong, Karny, I’m always in favour of new opportunities presenting themselves, but this lot… They’re a bad bunch. Oh sure the ones who do all the work seem fine. Normal and boring as you expect in any engineer. But the others? The ones who claim to be engineers but are rarely on any construction site? The ones who’ve just shown up out of the blue and claimed that they were adventuring around the Known World and just happened to drop by?” Vintrus snorted and shook his head, “those are the ones to watch. Slippery devils, enchanting the high and mighty whenever they can get away with it.”

“I thought as much,” mused Karnus, “that party was full of people who seemed a bit too enthusiastic about our visitors.”

“I tell you, Karny, it’s an invasion. And you asked them to walk right in and take over.”

Karnus met his brother’s gaze. “Trust me, Vinny, I strongly argued against it.”

“Argued?” Vintrus chuckled. “Way to lose the debate, Karnus – now the whole country’s gone to the dogs…” he threw his hands in the air and snorted again.

“Well,” replied Karnus, “at least it allowed us to defeat the Master. I assure you, from what I know of him he wouldn’t have been any easier to get along with.”

Vintrus leaned his head to one side and grinned again, “you’re only too right about that one Karny, take it from one who knows.”

Before Karnus could follow up on that cryptic remark his brother clapped his hands together and said “well, it was lovely catching up, but I’ve got a schedule to keep to, and the boys will be getting jittery, so…”

“One thing, Vinny.” Karnus stood up and reached out a hand. “The folio, please?”

Vintrus looked his brother straight in the eye, his face devoid of the normal grin, “I beg your pardon, brother? For a moment it sounded like you wanted to rob me of a night’s earnings…”

“You said you’d do this job for free, Vinny. I can guarantee you that my people can make much better use of those than the Thyatians can.”

Vintrus’ gaze dropped to the bag still slung around his shoulder. “I’m not doubting your skill, Karnus, but I don’t consider it good business to renege on a deal.”

“I’m afraid I must insist, brother. Those plans could be instrumental to winning the war, and the best place for them is in Glantri. You want to wipe the smile off some Alphatian faces? I want that too. Let me help.”

Vintrus regarded his brother with narrowed eyes.

“Just tell your clients that you were waylaid by a powerful wizard who forced you to hand over the documents.” Karnus smiled at his brother, but it was a grin devoid of all emotion. “It’s not too late for that to be the truth.”

A second of tension passed between the brothers. Karnus could see Vintrus was weighing up his elder sibling’s threat against the rewards for his night’s work and his own desires. “You’re quite cocky for a man who’s outnumbered eight to one,” the thief observed wryly.

“Confidence is an easy thing to have when you can slay twenty men with a word,” Karnus replied, equally dry in his tone.

Vintrus glanced again at the bag by his side, then looked at his brother, his grin once again on his face. “Sure, Karny.” The tension broken, he retrieved the weighty tome from his satchel and set it on the crate he had been sitting on. “I think this will be of more use to you than it will be to me. And frankly, I’ll be glad to have it out of my hands. Halav alone knows what sort of monstrous magics will be sent to retrieve it.”

“That’s a good point, actually,” said Karnus, picking up the folio. “I imagine there are invisible stalkers after you already…”

“Oh, we’ve got a special little surprise waiting for them, don’t you worry. But I take your point – better be off, then.”

The younger Perdissium skipped effortlessly up a nearby stack of crates, pausing half way up. “It really was good seeing you, Karny. Do look me up next time you’re in town. After all, you owe me one, now.”

Karnus waved to his brother. “Will do, Vinny.” The thief resumed his climb. “Oh, Vinny?” Karnus called after him.

“Yes?” Vintrus reached the top of the crates, and peered back down to his brother.

“Why do you think we’ve done so well? What is it about us that makes us so good at our jobs?”

“In my case it’s simple Karnus.” Vintrus’ grin was just about visible to the wizard. “I can see the future.” With that, his brother disappeared into the shadows, leaving a startled Karnus staring into darkness.

Karnus strode into the main hall of the Wizard’s Guild. It appeared that the party was over, as the guests had vanished, leaving only a knot of Alphatian and Karameikan mages tensely arguing in the middle of the room.

As Karnus descended the steps down from the door, Tedrynthalas turned to him and asked, “did you find it?”

Karnus shook his head. “I’m afraid not. The thief was too fast. Even in owl form I was unable to track him, and I lacked the magic today to send a stalker after him.”

“That has been taken care of,” Barthyndelon said, “and other means have been deployed as well.”

“How did the thief gain access?” asked Karnus, “I assume you had the documents magically secured?”

One of the Guild mages held up a scroll. “We found this by the safe. It appears the thief was well prepared.”

Barthyndelon scoffed at this. “His preparations will be for nought when I find him.”

Karnus closed the distance to stand with the other magic users. “Well, I’m sorry I couldn’t be of any help.”

One of the Alphatians, a dangerous looking woman that Karnus had noticed earlier, had been watching the wizard since he entered the room. She turned now to Barthyndelon and said in Alphatian “his mind is shielded.” Barthyndelon nodded acknowledgement. If either of them knew that Karnus understood them, they said nothing.

“Well,” Karnus said once again, “I’m a little exhausted at flying around, so I’ll take my leave. I’ll call in again in the morning to see if you’ve had any luck. Good night to you all.”

Barthyndelon watched the wizard as he walked all the way to the door. Karnus could feel the Alphatian’s gaze on his back as he stepped through the portal and into the courtyard beyond.

Grateful to be away from those staring purple eyes, Karnus nearly bumped into General Alverian and several soldiers. “Master Perdissium,” cried the General, “were you able to track down the thief?”

“I’m afraid not General,” said Karnus, in no mood to talk to the man.

“Damn!” The man looked crestfallen. Karnus sighed, and stopped walking, turning back to the soldier.

“General Alverian, may we speak for a moment?” The warrior nodded and followed Karnus away from earshot of his men.

“What can I do for you, Master Perdissium.”

“It’s more what I can do for you.” Karnus reached out a hand and spoke a few words of magic. When he was done, a confused look came over the General.

“What… what was that?” asked the soldier.

“How do you feel about our Alphatian guests, General?”

“More than a little suspicious, frankly – some of them seem to be inordinately popular…”

“Then I’ve lifted the enchantment you were under. I suggest you act as if it’s still in place if you wish to avoid another charm.”

“Enchantment? I…” the confused General seemed to be having trouble reconciling his current attitude towards the Alphatians with the one he’d shown mere moments before.

“Don’t dwell on it too much, General, it’ll give you a headache, trust me.” Karnus turned to leave, then said over his shoulder, “watch your back around them.”

The General looked at Karnus and nodded. The wizard turned and walked out of the gate, into the dark of night.

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