:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - Sundsvall, The City Built By Magic ::

Arrival in Sundsvall

The City Built By Magic

At last! More than two months after leaving Glantri, the walls of a huge city came into view. Dozens of visible towers became hundreds as the carpet drew closer. Thousands of colourful buildings of all shapes and sizes could be seen. Twenty or more flying ships drifted lazily over the city, their sails fluttering slightly in the warm summer breeze. Teldon asked Lana to take the carpet higher to get a better view as they drew to within a few hundred yards of the walls. The southern half of the city was bustling - tens of thousands of people were going about their daily business. The buildings were packed tightly together and hundreds of narrow, meandering alleyways wound their way haphazardly through the city like drunken revellers stumbling their way through a crowd without any clear idea of where they are going. As the carpet rose higher its passengers saw to the north - stretching on and on - huge walled estates filled with towers and keeps, villas and manors, parks and gardens; even small castles and palaces. The city stretched over three miles northwards to the south banks of a mighty river. Its sprawl from west to east was greater still. There could be no mistaking that this was the capital of the largest empire in the world.

Astounded by the sheer scale of the spectacle before their eyes, the wizards realised they had no idea where they were going, and decided a talk with some guards was in order. Lana brought the carpet down to ground level and they drifted up to the gates, where Teldon spoke with the guards (of which there were surprisingly few). The conversation did not last long.

"We can go in and there are no laws restricting our use of the carpet but it is 'at our own risk.' The Imperial Palace is in the centre of the city - straight ahead."

Teldon asked Lana to take the carpet up high again. From hundreds of feet up eight great streets could be seen running from the north, south, east and west and the northwest, southwest, northeast and southeast to the centre of the city like the spokes of a giant wheel or the strands of the world's largest spider web. At the point where the streets converged, encompassed by a huge curtain wall was a massive palace complex and at its centre a grand building with high towers which glimmered with faint golden light.

A man shouted as Lana nearly flew the carpet into his own flying device - a long chair upon which he reclined, sipping a drink from a chalice in his hand then refilling it from a small dragon ornament perched on the back of the seat, before zipping off to become just one among what must be three hundred or more other small flying craft and beasts that drifted, dove, swooped, soared or hovered over the city.

Somewhere below a loud musical chiming began - a short, high, airy melody that concluded with two, lower, sonorous 'bongs'.

It seemed a regular afternoon in Sundsvall, the City Built By Magic.

Teldon wished to gather his thoughts before proceeding to the Imperial Palace to seek audience with Eriadna. Karnus and Lana concurred that this would be wise. As most of the day remained, the wizards decided to indulge their curiosity and explore the city a little.

The carpet landed and the trio made their way several hundred yards through a crowded street bazaar to a major four-way junction. Teldon asked a few people if they knew where he could get hold of a map of the city. Reactions varied from apologetic (generally those people who were barefoot and dressed in tunics with old rope for belts) to curt dismissal (those who were well dressed). The foreigners were getting plenty of curious looks from the crowds. By now, the Karameikans had grown used to sticking out with their strange looks and garb however people here seemed to be more wary of outsiders than elsewhere (in addition to being curious or disdainful). There may not have been many guards at the gate but there were plenty on patrol in the streets and the trio were stopped and questioned twice. The guards seemed happy with whatever response Teldon provided, therefore they were not detained for long.

At the crossroads was a farmer's market which appeared to be closing for the day. There were also street entertainers and a variety of other stalls. Next to a livestock pen was another pen full of human chattel in varying states of health. A large, bearded man seemed to be conducting an auction. So far the most helpful responses Teldon has gained regarding the purchase of a map were "Try a library," and "There must be a mapmaker around here somewhere but I couldn't tell you where."

Undaunted he kept trying and approached an elderly couple in silk robes who appeared to have bought themselves a strong-looking pale-skinned youth. They seemed quite friendly and the conversation carried on for a few minutes.

When they went on their way, their new slave trailing obediently in their wake, Teldon said, "well, they didn't know where we could get a map either but they said there was enough of interest in Sundsvall to last a wizard a lifetime. They said that there is bound to be a cartographer somewhere in the area as this is the main mercantile district and all manner of businesses are to be found here. They said however that a map detailing all the streets of the city would be too big to carry and we would probably get lost anyway - they've lived here all their lives and still get lost. As for the sights of Sundsvall, there's the Imperial Palace obviously and the estates of numerous Grand Council members, the Aerodome where the navy build the skyships, the University, public gardens, museums, theatres, duelling venues, public libraries, art galleries, monuments, and Artisans' Square. They said we should ask our innkeeper about hiring a guide to keep us out of the dangerous 'Commoner' areas."

Karnus was in favour of seeking out the Aerodrome and a few duelling venues, perhaps the University as well if time permitted. Lana too was curious about the Aerodrome and wished to take in some artistic culture such as the opera or a theatrical performance. Teldon was also interested in the Aerodrome and the University and agreed with Lana that sampling some Alphatian high culture might be useful. He also thought the party should find an inn before it grew too late - it would be to deposit their possessions and ask for directions. Standing at the junction, with hundreds of people milling about, Teldon looked one way then another. The streets stretched on and on.

Karnus also regarded the teeming streets, declaring that in his view the Aerodrome seemed as good a starting point as any, in view of its imposing and central location - right behind the Imperial Palace.

The wizards ambled north along the continuation of the road which had led from the gate through which they had entered the city. The street was broad enough for four carriages to roll along side by side. The elevated pavements on either side were marbled and remarkably clean. Tall poles lined the street, topped by ornamental metal spheres. The buildings on either side had grand facades and were three or four stories tall. Armoured guards and ominous looking statues stood by the entrances and individuals in expensive looking robes went in and out followed by bearers carrying chests. Teldon read the inscriptions over the entrances to these buildings and informed his companions that these were banks, moneylenders and trading halls.

Teldon was walking slowly and appeared tired. After a while he shook his head and suggested they get back on the carpet to make better progress through the teeming crowds.

And so the carpet rose to about two hundred feet and flew north, easily staying clear of rooftops although from the incredible skyline it could be seen that in other areas, the buildings, towers and turrets still loomed far over the wizards' heads. The broad road the carpet followed had occasional statues, fountains and other monuments down its centre. These became progressively larger and more ornate toward the centre of the city. A wide stream flowed along the right hand side of the road. It looked clean and clear - nothing like the open sewers of Specularum. Short bridges crossed the stream every so often, connecting the main road to the shops and businesses on the other side.

The carpet passed another great junction where a large fountain spewed waters that glittered silver and gold several dozen feet into the air. These jets twisted and writhed like giant serpents in physically impossible fashions, turning back on themselves and coiling around one another.

To the left was a huge open-air structure which Lana and Teldon judged to be about the size of the Thyatian Coliseum and indeed it seemed to be an arena of some sort. The floor of the interior was a rectangular grid consisting of a multitude of squares with frameworks at either end, supporting nets. Dipping low to get a better look the wizards observed one set of people in red leather armour and another in blue. They were wrestling and slamming one another while a small sphere was chucked around - very strange. The rows and rows of seats around the edge of the arena would have seemed to be for spectators but they were currently vacant.

The Aerodrome

Directly ahead were the grounds of the Imperial Palace with their sixty foot high curtain wall. The stream to the right hand side flowed into a moat which encircled the walls but this seemed more ornamental than obstacle in its purpose. The palace itself appeared almost ludicrous in its grandeur - a dazzling structure of coloured stone, marble, gold and crystal. Teldon suggested it would be unwise to fly the carpet over the palace but the wizards' immediate destination was already visible on the other side and slightly to the right. It was an open area of a similar size to the palace grounds where ships appeared to be under construction. Flying vessels took off and landed, while three large ships circled overhead.

There appeared to be a lot of men and women in military uniform in the area and the surrounding streets were heavily patrolled. As the carpet drew closer one of the three ships began to descend until it was directly in the wizards' path. Clustered along one side were a dozen figures in gold uniforms. Each held a wand in their hand.

A voice was heard. It was not a shout but rather sounded as if it was spoken in normal tones by someone sitting next to the wizards on their carpet. After a moment of surprise, Teldon translated:-

"You are in controlled airspace. No unauthorised flying within 200 yards of the Aerodrome. Land immediately or turn back."

The carpet descended to land in the street outside the walls of the Aerodrome. There were two arched entrances set far apart with engravings over them. Teldon said these read 'Authorised access only' and 'Public Entrance'. Men and women in thigh-length gold tunics and matching trousers with dark brown sword belts and knee-high boots came and went freely through the restricted entrance. The Karameikans opted for the other one, walking through a short tunnel and emerging into what resembled a harbour without water. Jetties extended out from a railed walkway which hugged the inside of the wall but there was no water under these - only space. The 'floor' was a giant bowl to accommodate the hulls of the ships which hovered in place at the ends of jetties. At each jetty was a booth with a board displaying information - Teldon said these indicated the dates and times ships were expected to arrive or depart, where they were coming from and where they were going and the cost of booking passage. On the other side of the Aerodrome were military vessels inside vast shelters where hundreds of labourers were hard at work, clambering over the skeletal beginnings of ships under construction, overseen by robed individuals bearing arcane looking staves.

Teldon walked slowly along reading the destination boards and shaking his head. "Amazing. It is good to know there are still things in this world to astound me." He proceeded to read out the list of destinations: "Eagret, Bluenose, Archport, Errolyn, Rardish, Citadel, Draco, Trollhattan, Shiell, Greenwood, Skyreach, Starpoint, Dunadale, Edairo, Alinquin, Skyfyr, Aaslin, 'Coming Soon! - Dovir', Saddor, Ashar, Sasdil, Verboton. And Alpha." He paused to clear his throat, before continuing. "Charter anywhere in a 250 mile radius (expensive) and the VERY EXPENSIVE charter anywhere in the kingdoms of Vertiloch, Haven, Arogansa, Theranderol or Bettellyn."

All three wizards gaped in wonderment as they strolled the length of the docks. The ships were as varied in shape and size as those to be found in a harbour such as Mirror Bay, back in Specularum. At the far end of the dock huge quantities of cargo were being handled - loaded off carts and onto ships or vice versa. In addition to the ships hovering in the bowl were huge flat landing fields where some vessels had come fully to ground.

Eventually after watching a ship cast off and take to the air Teldon decided it was time to move on and headed for the exit. At the exit was a sign which apparently said 'Welcome to Sundsvall - the City built by Magic'. There was a large map of the city with areas and individual locations marked on it - the Aerodrome, the Imperial Palace, the University, University City, the Estates, the Hard Ball Arena, Fire City, Artisans' Square, The Jangles, The River Docks, the Sky-Ship Museum, Bankers' Row and a bewildering array of theatres, galleries, libraries, museums and markets.

Deciding they would indulge in some luxury as reward for having reached their destination, the wizards decided to secure tower rooms at the Blue Ruby Inn, an up-market establishment on the periphery of the banking district. Payment of one hundred Crowns a head was required up front so Teldon exhausted the remainder of the mission funds (which had been replenished by the haul of electrum taken from Hakrukar, the Patriarch of Alphaks but was nevertheless now totally depleted). The inn was lavishly decorated, mostly in blue hues, but the wizards decided not to stick around, deciding there would be time later to settle in. By now it was late in the afternoon and Karnus wished to get hold of some local currency so the wizards headed back towards the financial area, which they reckoned was only a short distance away. Rather than take the carpet, the three decided to walk, welcoming the chance to stretch their legs for a change.

Heading through the bustling streets, the shops were found to be doing a roaring trade despite the lateness of the afternoon. Many seemed to sell mostly expensive luxury goods - exotic spices, colourful silks, perfumes, ornaments and furnishings. The temperature was a little more comfortable than earlier. People stood around chatting and laughing (or shouting and arguing). There was buying. There was selling. There was working. There was playing. A young boy chasing a small glowing, multi-coloured flying sphere bumped into Teldon and stared up at him in transfixed awe before Teldon smiled and waved him away. As Karnus watched the child run away he got a strange feeling as if he was watching a ghost or faded memory play. A street vendor was attempting to sell Lana a drink of some sort. A man with red hair and a neat little beard passed by. He cast a curious look in the party's direction but did not break stride. The street vendor was still trying to sell his drink but to Karnus the world seemed to have slowed to a crawl. All sounds faded as he instinctively spun around and threw himself to the ground. The Staff of Lucinius flared into life, causing Lana to stop in her tracks. There were people. They were alive. They breathed. An explosion ripped through the front of a shop just yards in front. There were corpses and worse. An old man stared in shock at the stumps where his arms now ended. A young woman howled and clutched at the bloody ruin that was once a face. A small thing, burned almost beyond recognition clutched a glowing sphere as its light faded.

Afternoon chaos

Karnus picked himself off the ground and surveyed the carnage with horror. Instinctively he started towards the nearest wounded person but stopped short. As he regarded the victim his expression changed from horror to resolute anger. He spun around and scanned the street for the bearded individual with the red hair.

Lana sat up, having been knocked off her feet by the force of the explosion. The red haired man had stopped about ten yards up the street and was watching the carnage impassively … although one corner of his mouth could be seen curving in a slight smile. Teldon groaned as he attempted to get to his feet. "Delayed Blast..." he mumbled.

Shaking off memories of the Flying Ferret inn having been destroyed by similar means, Lana stood and levelled the Staff of Lucinius accusingly at the red-haired stranger. "You caused this," she called openly in Thyatian. As several more explosions went off in neighbouring streets, the man turned his back and walked away. Lana scoffed, calling a loud rebuke yet the man ignored her and kept walking. Fighting to keep her anger from overwhelming her, Lana looked around and took in the extent of the devastation, realising many nearby were in need of healing.

Teldon too had managed to stand, appearing shaken but uninjured. Thirty or more people were dead and a dozen others looked badly injured - some were trapped under debris. Flames were taking hold of what remained of the building. There was panic everywhere. Wizards were casting spells. Some flew or teleported away. One woman cast an Ice Storm at the flames. Some of the bodies were picking themselves off the ground - definitely not survivors. Down the road at the site of another explosion, flames had risen rapidly and were gathering into a living column of fire, sixteen feet in height, which attacked those unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity.

As the crowd of shuffling forms approached, Karnus stepped in front of his companions and spread his hands wide. A field of shimmering magic engulfed the zombies yet they continued their lurching movements and spread out in all directions. The blue-robed mage stared at the palms of his hands in disbelief, having failed for the first time ever to disrupt an animating enchantment.

Then seeing the front of a nearby building about to collapse, Karnus stepped forward to erect a Wall of Stone but wavered as he noticed Teldon's face which bore a curious expression. The ageing wizard was looking around, strangely distant. Concerned, Karnus drew close to his former instructor to check whether he was perhaps concentrating on a spell. It seemed he was not.

Lana meanwhile had cast a protective charm and was picking her way through the devastation toward the fiery column, making a mental record of people whose injuries she might be able to tend. A couple of zombies lurched in her direction but were repelled by her spell effect. Seeing an opening Lana targeted the upper half of the fire elemental and unleashed a searing blast of cold which tore through the being and almost managed to snuff it out, but wasn't quite enough to do so.

Karnus had managed to snap Teldon out of his trance. "Sorry, just remembering..." he said, with a haunted expression on his face.

A man and woman in pale blue and white robes appeared out of nowhere and busied themselves erecting walls of ice near the worst of the fires. They looked tired and perhaps a little bored.

"Remembering what?" Seeing the fire elemental advancing angrily on Lana, Karnus snapped his fingers and sent a trio of sapphire missiles racing toward the creature. Only two were needed to reduce the roaring inferno to nothing more than a wisp of smoke drifting on the breeze.

There came a sound somewhere between a screech and a roar. Four owlbears came lumbering out of a nearby alleyway.

"The last Alphatian spike assault on Thyatis," Teldon said quietly. Karnus held his gaze for a moment then nodded and looked away, deciding he would investigate the statement once the present danger had passed.

More individuals in blue and white robes were appearing or flying in and tackling fires with Ice Storms and Walls which had the effect of extinguishing flames as they melted. A small boat came flying in from the east and the crew began chucking water and sand over the edge.

Lana froze the air around the group of owlbears with phantasmal cold, causing three to drop. Karnus then felled the survivor with illusory lightning.

The area was rapidly filling with blue and white robed individuals. A young, athletic looking man put his hand to the wall of a nearby building and water began to gush from it. An older man gestured and a large wooden tub appeared into which the water flowed. The younger man then turned his attention to the zombies, producing a symbol from beneath his robes and steadily reducing them all to ash.

With a whoosh a white dragon flew overhead, amid rapidly gathering black clouds which marked a stark contrast to the brilliant summer blue over every other part of the capital. The city guard and military were also arriving in substantial numbers.

Having regained his composure, and while Lana set about bandaging those who were in need, Teldon spoke with some guards and one of the blue and white robed wizards then reported back. This was without doubt a Glantrian attack - at least one (sometimes more) was happening somewhere in the city every two or three days. This one was fairly typical - quite serious but not the worst. The authorities considered the attacks a real nuisance. They would need to track down the owner of the block (if he or she was currently in Sundsvall or even on the same plane of existence) and have them arrange to have the damaged buildings repaired. They would also need to identify the dead to see if there were any important personages who had made prior arrangements to be raised.

Lana noted with disapproval that none of the clerics present were making any attempt to heal those who had suffered injury. Her displeasure deepened when she realised the red-haired individual (no doubt a Glantrian) had been allowed to escape.

Having lent what assistance they could, the three decided a drink was in order but realised they had inadequate coinage and so decided to return to the banks while they remained open. The financial district was only a short way off, therefore a few minutes later the wizards found themselves ascending the thirty or so marble steps of The First Imperial Bank of Alphatia. Lana marveled covetously at the massive Sphinx made of amber which lay on a plinth just beyond the main entrance. The golem watched the wizards pass, opening its mouth in an imitation of a yawn as they did so.

While the bankers were happy to convert the party's gemstones into Alphatian currency, they were reticent to trade Thyatian coinage at face value, for its value had been steadily dropping for weeks. Furthermore, the portrait of King Lucinius emblazoned on every gold coin no doubt caused significant offence to the general populace. The exchange rate between currencies was a laughable four Mirrors (Alphatian silver pieces) per single Lucin (Thyatian gold piece). In the Alphatians' view - which was as one-sided as ever - it was the currency of a soon to be conquered civilization, at which point it would be of interest only to economic historians. In the meantime the bank was prepared to accept the coins (at nominal value) on the basis that they could be melted down and re-minted.

Teldon remembers

Their dealings concluded, the wizards located the nearest respectable tavern and attempted to relax over refreshments. Sipping on a goblet of wine, Teldon spoke of how the afternoon's events had reminded him of the absolute devastation those with power can wreak in a short space of time. What Karnus and Lana had witnessed was nothing compared to what the Alphatians inflicted on Thyatis in their short-lived conquest before Thincol and Demetrion managed to undo Emperor Tylion's gains. Once on mainland Thyatian soil, the Alphatians had rolled over all opposition to arrive at the gates of Thyatis, which were literally blown open. The flying ships then rained fire and lightning upon Thyatis for the mere hours it took the Alphatian troops and the hordes of monsters at their command to hack, blast and disintegrate their way into the palace and kill Emperor Gabrionus.

This tale raised questions in Karnus' mind, and he addressed Lana in an effort to improve the perspective of the current mission:-

"You seek this treaty to protect you from the Alphatians. Tell me then - if you get what you wish, who will protect Karameikos from the Glantrians?"

"I hope we won't need protecting from anyone. After all, we're not trying to boost Alphatian superiority or make a hostile stance against Glantri or Thyatis. I mean, we helped both Komughan and Gedaryl on our way here, didn't we… We might need protecting against the Master but I hope Glantri will realise Karameikos isn't its enemy. I'd hate to see the terrors we witnessed today unleashed on Specularum."

Staring into her drink, Lana couldn't help but sound as though she lacked the complete conviction of what she said. "What are your own thoughts on the matter? Have you considered whether we should inform the Empress of your connection with Glantri?"

Karnus appeared thoughtful. "Let's talk about that this evening - I want to mull over what's best, but I would value your counsel later. As to our mission - I am concerned that by now the Thyatian and Glantrian authorities will have learned of our task, and will probably have jumped to the worst conclusion. I would feel better were envoys being despatched to those nations to reassure them of our neutrality, but I fear that our mission, taken out of context could have damning consequences. When you see the havoc that a small number of magicians can inflict upon mighty Sundsvall, I shudder to think what they could do, unchecked, in Specularum."

Teldon said, "It would be extremely foolish for the Glantrians to attack Karameikos. Who will protect us? Well, I rather think the Order of the Griffon, though small in number, would relish the challenge of taking on the 'sinners' of Glantri. The Guard Phorsis should not be underestimated and the Duke's Guard can also be counted on. If necessary, I imagine the Elvenguard could be brought into Specularum and I don't believe the Duke could have made a better choice for his Minister of War than Lucius Hyraskos. So we are not as helpless as you might suppose. Of course, none of these factors would have made the slightest bit of difference but a few years ago. Before the war, had Glantri decided to launch an unprovoked attack (which, fortunately, has never been its way) Specularum would not have stood any chance whatsoever of surviving. Now, things are obviously very different. The Wizard-Princes would be unwise to divert resources to petty revenge against a nation that is no threat. We are not declaring for Alphatia. We will not be taking military action or supporting such action against Glantri. In fact, by taking action against the Master, we will be keeping another threat from their door. Glantri has seemingly not given Darokin the support it needs against the Master because it needs all its strength to contend with Alphatia. How do you imagine the Republic will feel towards the Wizard-Princes if it transpires they can find the means to attack Karameikos? If we have been successful in driving back the Master, we will have Darokin on our side. If not, then the Glantrians should be much more worried about him than us. If Glantri does attack the Duke may well declare war on the Principalities. Karameikos has been much better at making friends in the last two decades than Glantri has in the last two centuries. We would probably have the sympathies of Ierendi and Minrothad and possible military support from the Shires, Rockhome and Ylaruam. I cannot discount the possibility of a few rash, outraged young Glantrians taking it into their heads to 'punish' Karameikos but if the Wizard-Princes have any sense, they will try to prevent such action."

Teldon paused to finish his drink.

"No, I'm much more worried about Thyatis."

Dinner and a museum visit

After the day's traumatic events, Teldon voted that the group should distract itself from questions of such import (which had no immediate answers) by treating themselves to a lavish dinner then enjoying entertainment of some description. Lana expressed a wish to attend the theatre but accepted that a large building and crowd might make an ideal target for further aggression by the Glantrians. Karnus suggested visiting a museum, and recalled having noticed a sign near the Aerodrome referring to the nearby the sky-ship museum. This met with the approval of all three.

Appropriately enough, the sky-ship museum was located adjacent to the Aerodrome. Entry was priced at a reasonable four Crowns. The building comprised three floors plus a hundred foot tall observation tower that overlooked the Aerodrome. There were parts from old ships and lots of miniature models of sky-ships to look at in the museum - many of which flew around inside their glass cases.

Everything was written in Alphatian however Teldon, as ever, was prepared to translate. There was information on the history of sky-ship building in Alphatia, the basic enchantments required, popular designs (ranging from personal yachts to the Navy's mighty Man-o'-War model), sailing techniques, notable battles, famous and celebrated vessels and so forth.

The star exhibit appeared to be a simple scroll taken from the log of an Admiral Haldemar who was apparently an Alphatian war hero and explorer of some repute. Teldon inspected the date of the log and said it was forty years old but, despite the fact a notice claimed this was part of the original log and not a copy, the scroll showed no signs of age.

Click HERE to read the journal extract. (There will be a link to return you to this page)

After the trip to the museum all three were left feeling tired. It had been a long day. The return to the Blue Ruby proved to be without incident, and Teldon announced that he would retire early for the night. Finding the inn's barroom largely deserted, Karnus and Lana decided to seat themselves by the hearth and enjoy a drink together. It being the middle of summer, there was no real fire in the fireplace - there were however phantasmal blue flames that danced and formed mesmerising shapes. Evening refreshments were included in the cost of lodgings and floated over to the pair on a silver tray.

"Well," said Lana, settling back in her chair and sampling her drink. She regarded Karnus quizzically. "How will we approach the issue of your connection with You-Know-Where? The Empress will probably be least hostile if we're honest and frank with her. I imagine she already knows quite a bit about each of us individually, don't you think?"

"Hmm... I agree that the Empress' network of spies has probably furnished her with all manner of detail regarding Teldon, yourself and I, but I find myself wondering how much they could have uncovered about our adventures in the Known World. Perhaps word has only reached her of our deeds since Helskir, and Her Imperial Majesty may not even know that any of us have been to the Principalities. In fact, given that Teldon has probably spent more time in Glantri than I have, I would be of the opinion that we should downplay my connection with the Principalities. Rather, I would prefer it if we kept in mind the fact that I am a tutor, ambassador and representative of the Magician's Guild of Specularum, at least as far as our hosts are concerned. Whilst I would admit to the Empress that we have both recently spent some time in Glantri, I don't think we need dwell on how long I spent there, and I would definitely ask that you refrain from mentioning my connection to the Great School of Magic. To be honest, when I'm sitting here my time spent in Glantri seems like a distant dream, on the verge of fading into oblivion..."

Lana nodded slowly. "Perhaps we should not underestimate Eriadna's information network but I hope you're right and that she doesn't know our full backgrounds. Can we at least agree that if she hints at knowing of your connection with Glantri, that we will not attempt to convince her otherwise? My worry is that if we lie or attempt to twist the truth, our mission will fail as a result." Lana regarded her companion earnestly. "I will say this much - I not willfully divulge your association with the Great School. I am prepared to…" she pauses to choose appropriate phrasing, "present facts in a selective manner. You've never formally surrendered your position as tutor of the Wizards' Guild, have you? If she asks where you are based for the time being, we could truthfully respond that you are a traveling wizard whose studies and duties to the Guild take him to various locations from time to time. If pressed, we can mention that one of those locations has included Glantri. Hopefully that won't cause us to be disintegrated on the spot or be cast into the imperial dungeons."

Then, savouring the cosy, fireside moment:-

"On a personal note Karnus, in case I haven't already made my feelings clear... I am glad we are participating in this mission together. Irrespective of your loyalty to Glantri to which I know you will return, there is no other Karameikan I would be here with in Alphatia, and I pray this is not the last time our paths will cross for any substantial length of time."

Karnus smiled as he reflected on the events of recent weeks. "It has been fun, hasn't it? Beholders, evil immortals, longships full of undead... quite the adventure we've had together. No matter what happens tomorrow, I want you to know that for all our differences I consider you a dear and trusted friend. I'm sure this isn't the last adventure we'll share..."

The two wizards regarded one another fondly, then retired to their separate chambers not long after. Their beds were exceedingly comfortable and they soon fell asleep. During the night both Karnus and Lana awoke from strange dreams (unbeknownst to them this happened roughly around the same time). They soon fell back to deep sleep from which they awoke feeling greatly relaxed. Whatever nightmares they had experienced faded to vague impressions and in the bright light of morning were soon forgotten.

Strangers make an appearance

Upon descending to the bar room for breakfast, Teldon was found standing with one of the Inn's serving staff.

"Good morning," Teldon said brightly. "Apparently we have visitors awaiting the pleasure of our company for breakfast in a private room. They didn't give their names. Shall we join them?"

Intrigued, Lana and Karnus both agreed to the meeting. Waiting for them in a private room with a selection of breakfast platters already laid out were two men. One appeared to be Alphatian - he was young, dressed in a red, yellow and blue kihara, had long golden hair and eyes of a similar colour. The other was in his mid-thirties, had black hair and a beard, and was dressed in a very simple Thyatian-style dark brown tunic. He wore a couple of simple finger rings and had brilliant green eyes.

It was the latter gentleman who addressed the wizards, in open Thyatian no less. "Good morning Lady Budanter. Master Teldon. Master Karnus. Please take a seat. My name is Stefanius."

Karnus nodded, "Well met, Master Stefanius."

Lana seated herself after bowing to both strangers. "You have us at a disadvantage gentlemen, you know our names yet I do not believe we know anything of you."

The man who called himself Stefanius smiled (not unkindly) and said, "well Lana, we don't really matter. What matters is you, your mission and your staff."

The first two points were directed at the group but Stefanius gazed directly at Lana when he said, 'your staff.'

"Oh bugger," Karnus whispered, inaudible to all except Lana. "The Thyatians have found us."

Read the next instalment - Sundsvall, Part Two

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