Well, I can afford to be more lazy in some areas because I am so non-lazy in others.Cerulean_Wings said:Come to think of it, your first name doesn't suit you; you're anything but "lazy"
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“I don’t know what the hells we’re wasting time here debating,” Corath Dar said, slapping the table with his hand to emphasize his point. “We know who was behind it, we know where they are going, and we know what they want.”
“I respect your passion, general, but thus far there has been no hard evidence that they were anything but very resourceful thieves,” Sukat Koth said.
Dar’s expression was a thunderhead. “They were there for that dagger. You may not know what that means, councilor, but Allera and I were there, and we do.”
The big Emorite leaned forward in his seat. “I defer to your knowledge, general, lady healer, but other things were taken as well. A cache of scrolls, a fortune in emeralds...”
“Among sixty lockboxes left unmolested...”
“For which we are grateful to you, general. Had you not interrupted the thieves in the midst of their heist, they might have cleaned out the vault entirely.”
Dar fumed at the reminder. While it was almost certain that the intruders had been in the vault just minutes before Dar and the others had arrived—Allera had been able to determine that from the condition of the dead guards—there had been no trace of them once they had entered the interior of the vault. They found a small pile of scrolls—old records of the church, of great historical value, but not magical—burning in one corner of the innermost chamber of the vault, but that hadn’t been any real threat to the place, and they stamped out the flames without difficulty. The clerics had scanned for invisible or otherwise hidden traces of the thieves, but they had found nothing, nothing at all.
Allera placed a hand on his, and Dar turned back to the others. “Even if I’m wrong, we cannot take the chance. We need to get to Rappan Athuk, and without freaking delay.”
“I do not disagree with your reasoning, general,” Sukat Koth said. “I want to see these bastards brought to justice as much as you do. But unless you have learned to fly, we can do nothing until the morning.”
Dar turned toward a woman in a gray robe seated to his left across the table. “And you are telling me that there is no one in that freaking Guild of yours who can transport us to Rappan Athuk?”
Jalla Calestin swallowed; for a senior member of the Guild of Sorcery, she seemed rather uncomfortable to be present at this gathering. Barely past thirty, she certainly did not have the presence to stand up to an angry Corath Dar. “That... that is correct, general.”
Dar opened his mouth to speak further, but Koth interrupted him with a raised hand. “We require more information before we act rashly. Jaduran will be here soon, and he can tell us what he has learned.”
Allera moved her hand from Dar’s hand to his shoulder, but instead of sitting down, he turned and walked across the room. The council chamber had no proper windows, only long slits protected with heavy slabs of leaded glass. They didn’t really offer much in the way of a view, but Dar could see the lights of the city faintly through the nearest.
The sun had only set a little over an hour past, and it already looked like it was going to be a long night.
The conversation went on behind him. Kiron Tonneth was saying something about the readiness of the Dragon Knights, but the words buzzed together in Dar’s tired mind. He rubbed his head, but the headache that had been building there refused to yield. Allera would be able to help him later, he knew, but he also knew that his wife was under her own personal strain.
Allera had left Rappan Athuk scarred deeply. She was strong, stronger than anyone he had ever known, stronger than him, certainly, inside where it counted. But while they had been happy in the lives they had built in the aftermath, he could still see the shadow that she carried with her. She had poured her life into rebuilding the corps of healers so needed in the difficult years that had followed their victory over Orcus; it had given her meaning and purpose in life. But while she still commanded an awesome power, he had never seen her draw as deeply upon the healing energies of the world as she had on those final days within the bowels of the Dungeon of Graves.
The fighter turned as the doors opened. Commander Octavius and General Cossus Velius of the First Legion entered first, both men looking very tired. Behind them came the Patriarch, supported on the arm of his young assistant. The cleric was talking quietly to Setarcos, the two aged men walking with heads leaning close together for privacy. The old monk’s younger companion brought up the rear, along with a guard who closed the doors once they were all inside.
The existing conversation evaporated as all eyes focused upon Decius Jaduran. The Patriarch made even Setarcos seem youthful by comparison, and he nodded in thanks to Maricela as she pulled out his chair at the head of the table, and helped him settle into it. The old cleric sighed as he adjusted his robe.
“Well?” Dar finally said, impatient.
Jaduran shifted his head to look at Dar, then turned back to the rest of those gathered at the table. “Commander Octavius.”
The head of Camar’s city watch addressed them. “Word of the theft has been kept quiet. We’ve spoken to everyone who was present at the vault, and the rest of the temple staff that knows about the alarm. As far as the public knows, the memorial ceremony was cut short due to the Patriarch’s weariness.”
“That will not last,” Sukat Koth interjected. “Too many people were there. At best, you are only delaying the inevitable.”
“What about the thieves?” Kiron asked.
Jaduran made a small gesture to Maricela, and the priestess spoke up, saying, “We... ah, I was able to use a speak with the dead spell to ask Naela... questions, about the men who did this. There were two of them, both men, posing as priests. They knew... they knew enough about the temple and its procedures to fool her.”
“What about the guards?” Dar asked. “I would have thought your men would have been more alert.”
Again Jaduran deferred to his assistant. “These men possessed considerable magic,” the priestess said. “The vault has two layers of defense, one magical, and one physical. Both were bypassed by the invaders.”
“Were either of them undead?” Dar asked suddenly. The question raised a stir around the table, but Maricela replied even before Jaduran could prompt her.
“That is... impossible, general. No undead creature could get within fifty yards of the cathedral without triggering multiple alarms and wards, let alone the vaults. No, that cannot be.”
Jaduran nodded in confirmation. “I have contacted the Father, using both divination and commune spells. Talen Karedes and his followers were not involved with this attack.”
“What about Zafir Navev?”
Jaduran shook his head. “Even if the warlock could have transported himself through the wards into the cathedral, the alarms that Maricela mentioned would have discharged the moment he materialized within its walls.”
“So what have you learned, Patriarch?” Sukat Koth asked.
The priest paused a moment, as if gathering strength to speak. “I have confirmed Setarcos’s story. The leader of the cult that his order defeated in Drusia was... involved in the theft.”
Dar weighed him with a hard look. “You know more, priest.”
Jaduran nodded. “You were right, general. The theft of the dagger-key was not incidental. The objective of the cult is Rappan Athuk, and more specifically, the lost well where the Ravager is imprisoned.”
There was a moment of silence. “The ravager? What is that?” Kiron asked.
“You don’t want to know, kid,” Dar said, his jaw clenched.