Runequest Thursday #94 - Fiction - To Tweak the Nose of the Red Goddess!

Clint Staples

So last weekend, we finally got to play Runequest and try out some of the material that I had been writing for the past several weeks for the Clanking Ruin. I had been looking forward to doing so quite a bit, so even though we had to play one player down, I decided to go for it. The session went pretty well, and I decided to write it up in story form to post here.

Because one of the players could not attend, I needed to come up with a way to remove that character from the mix for that session. So I wrote the intro for a mini-scenario, which the player can fill in for us at the start of next session, as his "off-camera adventure". We have done this once in a while before, and we like it as a way to deepen the world, expanding on what the characters can access. It also allows players to do things that a group setting might not.

For example, if you have a group that involves a rogue-y type, but the rest of the group is not interested in second story work or thievery, letting the player of the rogue write or describe a solo narrative when the player can't attend allows him to take part anyway. And you as a GM can always tap into the narrative to bring the character's solo thing into the group. In my game, and in this story, i provide the opening "bit" for Ughari, but I have not had a chance to show it to the player yet. So we will have to see what action he comes up with for the character.

For the map of the Clanking Ruin, I have used the terrific map of Cassadega by the Master RPG Cartographer Jonathan Roberts, which is included in Sunken Empires for Pathfinder. I have included a larger image of the map that you can open for reference, but please go and buy Mr. Robert's maps and Sunken Empires! They are among the best gaming stuff out there.

Any way, without further preamble, here is:

 

To Tweak the Nose of the Red Goddess

On the morning after the Brightwaters’ rescue of the merchant Thrain, who they named henceforth “The Lucky” for his escaping the sea-troll’s grip, all were seated at what was fast becoming their customary table near the smoky hearth of the Wheelhouse. A grateful Thrain insisted on buying his rescuers breakfast and sea-beer. The former consisted of rashers of smoked giant eel and voolo eggs served on a wedge of edible seaweed. The latter is apparently brewed from the same seaweed that made up the platter of the meal. Ughari pronounced the smoked eel “more tender than sable” and Zoe commented favorably on the salty green-gold beverage.

On finishing their repast, Thrain and his partner Koli bid the Brightwaters good day, begging them come visit their stall in the Wet Market as they exited the Wheelhouse.

It was then that an odd fellow approached Ughari, who might, himself, be called by some an odd fellow. But this stranger was of another sort entirely from the lean shaman of the wasteland – hunched where Ughari was straight, bulging strangely in his sackcloth where Ughari was straight-backed and limber, if perhaps a trifle too thin to be called well made. The fellow’s ragged hood was back, revealing a homely face, indeterminate in gender, undoubtedly human, but of unknown race, and unfortunate parentage. One mismatched eye was clouded with cataract, the other a green so dark as to make the iris appear as a massive black spot in the milky orb.

Yet something about this fellow, who loomed over the seated shaman from a height made more impressive when one considered his hunched stature, appealed to Ughari, such that the shaman asked him how he did. The odd fellow nodded, as if considering his reply, and jabbed his crooked walking stick into the top of Ughari’s foot, eliciting a yelp, some amount of irritation, and a great deal of hopping about.

Of course, while Ughari was performing his rather loud and spirited rendition of the Praxian Rain Prayer, his companions had risen to their feet, willing to answer the wounds to honour and foot. But the odd fellow bowed, and his first words were spoken in a voice of refinement much at odds with his demeanor and façade, “My humblest apologies – and a gift to make up for my gaff. My arm sometimes appears to obey the will of another. A curse, which I have suffered my entire life.”

With this, the odd fellow proffered a pouch with his other hand, beaded in the nomad style, handsomely worked, and gestured with his crooked staff toward a nearby table, as empty as most of the others on that early morning. Ughari, intrigued as ever by oddities and gifts, placated his friends and said he would sit a while with the stranger. Before long, the pair were smoking the contents of the pouch through the pipe end of Oddfellow’s walking stick, smiling as if reminiscing over old times. Used to the shaman’s strange ways, his companions returned to their breakfasts before their voolo eggs congealed beyond edibility.

Perhaps in acquiescence to the coming heat of the day, Zoe, called Brightblade for the archaic bronze greatsword that leaned against the wall in easy reach, wore her aketon sleeveless and without her lamellar, displaying well-muscled arms covered in the tattoos she had acquired in her days among the Black Horse Company. As she sopped up the last of the too pale yolk with bits broken from the platter, she spoke around her current mouthful, “I am thinking about going over to Anchor Home to see what the Lunars are up to.”

The Grazelander, Sayyid leaned forward, eager to hear more of any plan that would advance her Goddess’s intention to oppose the growing power of the Empire. Considering, as was his wont, the sorcerer Wyrmhere gestured with the fork in his good hand as he mused, “You hope to tweak the Lunars, even as you take their coin?”

Zoe smiled around the last bite of breakfast, nodding and casting her wolf-blue gaze over the shaman and his tablemate as she chewed. Swallowing, she returned to the sorcerer, and said, “I have enough Pelorian to hold a conversation; that and my tattoos should get us an interview. No one knows us as Brightwaters here. We can see what they are doing, and maybe mess some of it up.”

Sayyid deposited her fork in her mug and handed it to a passing servant, “I would like to know what the Reds intend with those wyverns we saw circling the area yesterday. From here, they could be diving on Brightwater in a day.”

Wyrmhere nodded in agreement, unaware that the gloved fingers of his demon hand tapped out an alien rhythm on the board, “And I would like to see more of Anchor Home.”

Agreed, and done eating, the three stood, intending to catch Ughari up with their plan, such as it was. But the shaman was deep in conversation with Oddfellow, wafting the inky fumes of the pipe-staff to his lips as he whispered strange words that hung in the air with the smoke. His other hand gestured vaguely in dismissal of the Brightwaters. Variously miffed, they took their leave, agreeing to meet up again at nightfall. 

Upon returning to their suite to collect the balance of their gear, they were thwarted in this endeavour by a man lounging by their door. At their approach he straightened, arms tattooed to a greater extent even than Zoe, right hand near the hilt of a heavy bladed tulwar riding his hip. He introduced himself as Andronikos, lieutenant to the master of the Rotunda, the island on which the Brightwaters currently found themselves, in the bay that offered access to the Clanking Ruin.

“Going into the Ruin?” The stranger’s Sartarite had an accent that none of the Brightwaters could place. Neither did any of them feel particularly compelled to answer.

Wyrmhere thought on what the presence of the fellow might portend. It appeared that the Brightwaters were not so anonymous as Zoe had proclaimed. The rescue of Thrain had drawn the attention of the few who had been on the quay at that late hour.  Word must have spread with the rising of the sun. It was likely that the details were, as they are in such cases, rather mutable and imprecise. Yet this agent had found them easily, and early in the day.

Andronikos showed no offense at their refusal to speak, only smiling as he said, “There is something you should know before you do, is all.”

If he was expecting a reply to this quip, he showed no sign of disappointment when it was not forthcoming, adding, “His Nibs has certain guidelines that he wishes all who venture inland from the Rotunda to be made aware of. Hence my visit to you now.”

Demon arm quivering, Wyrmhere reconsidered his earlier estimate concerning the notoriety of their nocturnal activities. Sayyid, however, wondered aloud at the nature of “His Nibs”.

The aforementioned Master of the Rotunda’s servant seized on these words to continue what he yet hoped might yet become a conversation. Spreading wide his hands to take in their surroundings, he said, “Ah. His Nibs is the one who allows us to stay here. Allows the Lunars their place on Anchor Home too, though they would contest that point – as they do everything else.”

With this he looked pointedly at Zoe, his gaze lighting on the tattooed profile of an armored equine head, like a black pauldron, inked into the tanned skin of the ex-mercenary’s shoulder. Zoe shifted, as though hiding the symbol would accomplish anything, before saying flatly, “His Nibs have a real name?”

“He answers to Avorax, but you probably don’t want him to answer at all. He likes to work through others, and that is where I – and my friends – come in.” Zoe scoffed, sure that an attempt at extortion was in the offing. She stood straighter, looming over the man with her newly-won stature, one hand moving to enable an easy draw of the greatsword she carried with the other, utterly uninterested in being coerced into parting with coin they had better use for.

For his part, Andronikos placed his hand on the hilt of his tulwar, but did not otherwise betray unease at being outnumbered and alone. Wyrmhere, having stayed up late last night drinking with a table of local sailors in the Wheelhouse, had some inkling as to the nature of the Master of the Rotunda. With his good hand he stayed Zoe’s arm, and said, “We should hear him out. This is no simple press.”

To the stranger, Zoe said, “Speak.”

Another grin accompanied Andronikos letting go his sword, as he recited, “My Master wishes and requires that any and all artifacts, items or information related to Dragonewts be turned over to him. If such is done, he will offer suitable recompense and his highest esteem. If it is not done, he will find the ones who hope to keep such things from him, and take what he would have happily bought.”

This time it was Wyrmhere who smiled, as pieces of last night’s puzzle fell into place. Vague mentions of a winged monster, possibly a wyrm, a demon, or a dragon, rarely glimpsed, had produced no greater detail when he inquired, even after cups were refilled more than once. The sorcerer had resolved to investigate further, but now the information had found him.

Sayyid, who had retired immediately after the troll fight, knew nothing of this, but she knew an opportunity when she heard it, “So we sell you any Dragonewt pieces first? For a fair price, and your Master’s good will.”

Zoe nodded agreement. So far as she knew, they weren’t here for Dragonewt stuff. Wyrmhere had devised some sorcery to rid himself of his demon arm and thought the Clanking Ruin was the place to find a replacement. And Ughari had a bound spirit that needed to come here to “move on” or some such nonsense. The Clanking Ruin was said to contain all manner of machines, and magic, including, she had heard, that of the ancient Orlanthi who had brought down the Machine City. As far as she was concerned, if any of it could help keep Brightwater safe and send the Lunar Empire packing, she wanted it. If they found Dragonewt things, trading them for something she could use in the fight was just as good.

“So what do Dragonewt artifacts look like,” Sayyid asked?

Andronikos returned the Grazelander’s smile, “Well then, follow me.” He brushed past them, went outside, led them up the rickety gangways and scaffolding that hung from the sheer sides of the Rotunda like an unkempt beard of sea-stalk and verdegris-covered bronze. They climbed three levels from their accommodations over the Wheelhouse. With each step Sayyid was convinced the structure would give way, depositing them in the apparently troll-infested waters of the Bay some fifty feet below. They passed an obvious checkpoint and a bored but heavily armed guard that Wyrmhere thought would not have been out of place among the Wolf Pirates, and followed Andronikos through an open doorway into a scriptorium with half a dozen scribes copying under the gimlet gaze of a decrepit Lhankor Mhy priest with a straggle of grey beard.

Onward, to the back of the scriptorium, through another door and down a short hall, until their guide stopped at a door identical to the rest in its nondescript appearance. He produced a strange disk that proved to be some sort of key, and set it upon a plate on the door. A series of clicks later, the door opened slowly of its own accord and the room beyond lit up.

Andronikos waived them forward, where they found shelf and table filled with strange-seeming pieces that were never crafted by man, dwarf, troll or elf. Sayyid immediately thought of Always Answers, the strange dragonewt warrior that she had rescued from slavery and death, and the equally bizarre weapon he called a Klanth. There were weapons here, similar in style, composed of a haft of close-grained, heavily ornamented and carved wood, or even jade – some of them maces, others with very finely chipped obsidian triangular blades fitted along a striking surface. Generally they looked more like axes or bladed clubs than swords, but their artistry, and lethal capacity was obvious.

There were other items there too. Some were certainly apparel, even armor. Other might have been personal adornment. The remainder were so outlandish or too large to have been any of these. Yet they all maintained a similarity of style, such that the companions each felt sure they would recognize their like again.

When Wyrmhere, who had examined the items most closely, indicated that he was done, Andronikos led them back the way they had come, saw them through the guard post, and wished them well.

As they passed, Andronikos added, “Just one more thing. If you do work for the Lunars, even just to ‘see what they are up to’, be sure to check in here first on your way out of the ruin. My Master’s trust only runs so deep.”

A level below, still descending the shaking scaffold, they passed more doors, many now occluded with clothes hanging from the quaking network of posts and rails. Wyrmhere, brushing aside a wet cloak that swayed toward him in the welcome breeze, asked, “Was he in the Wheelhouse?”

Sayyid grunted from her position on the ladder just above the sorcerer. Zoe stated, “It doesn’t matter. There is no love lost between this ‘Master of the Rotunda’ and the Lunars, that’s sure. He just found out that we are prospective allies of his Master.”

The Grazelander hmmed before agreeing, “True. It’s not like we actually intend to aid the Reds in any real way, and this could help us. Unless the Lunars are stronger here than this Avorax.”

The tall mercenary snorted as she gained the base of the water level, where she strode the quay to where their vessel bobbed against the bumper. “If they were”, she said, “they would have attacked already.”

Remembering the twitching from his demon arm, and the crawl of potence over his skin as he had examined the Dragonewt items, Wyrmhere agreed, “There was certainly enough magic in that room to warrant the risk.”

Zoe set about readying River Maiden as Wyrmhere and Sayyid returned to the Wheelhouse. When the pair looked in on the main room, they saw no sign of Ughari. Neither was he in the suite they shared, and so they set about gathering their gear and Zoe’s. Wyrmhere approached the mercenary’s gyrfalcon where it perched, hooded and calm, on a wooden chairback. He caressed the right talon as he had seen Zoe do, and offered his demon arm to the bird. It stepped tentatively, but clasped the limb, claws pincing the alien flesh through the leather cuff. The sorcerer smiled slightly at the thought of causing the demon pain, lifted his satchel and one of Zoe’s bundles. Together, He and Sayyid returned to the boat to find the mercenary conversing with a tanned young man wearing only a pair of faded trousers. They deposited their burdens in time to see Zoe toss a clack to the boy, who trotted to the shed of the Harbormaster no great distance away.

Zoe turned. “Thanks,” she said as saw Skryek, as well as her crossbow, and the oilskin bags for armor and helm. She transferred the bird to her own shoulder, reclaimed her armor, and her weapon, from the quay and walked away from River Maiden. At the queries from her companions, she tossed over her shoulder, “The Harbormaster’s boy saved us some money. If we depart we have to pay again to dock, and we’ll need to dock, and pay, over at Anchor Home. Down by the Wet Market we can get a local boat to ferry us over.”

The trio trouped around the landward side of the Rotunda, which gave a better view of the ruin of the Machine City than the newcomers had yet had. In the light of day, it held little appearance of menace. They could see banners and boards proclaiming habitation, even businesses, in the waterside buildings, which seemed less ruined than the buildings further uphill and away from the Bay. There, sharp-eyed Zoe could make out tiny figures crawling through the hollow-eyed hulks with a gait that was more reminiscent of Skryek’s ground movement that that of a man.

Shrugging, she marched the three of them past folk about their own business, most of which seemed to be mercantile in nature. A child of no more than a few years, swathed in a rag, wordlessly sold Sayyid a bright white water blossom for half a guilder – a ruinous price, but the Grazelander counted the smile worth the exchange. The sound of activity rose as they continued on, and she wove the flower into her braid as she walked, at ease on the shaky scaffolding that she decided was not so different from being on horseback.

The trio stepped from the scaffold to another quay, this one truncated and much wider than that of the Wheelhouse. In the mid-morning glare that promised oppressive heat for the afternoon, many people were moving up and down the quay, or along the stone decking that continued from it away around the Rotunda to landward. There were stalls and hawkers yelling of their wares, bearers toting cloth-wrapped bundles, fishmongers selling or carrying the fruits of their morning work. The smell of so many was strong, but not unpleasant for those who had been in cities as much as Wyrmhere or Zoe. Sayyid breathed through her mouth – wishing for the comparatively clean scent of horse piss. Most of those they saw appeared to be from Sartar or the Holy Country, to judge by their coloring and attire, but the darker skin of Palmaltela was not uncommon, and many wore the short trousers and sandals of the Sea Isles like Kos as well.

From each side of the quay, stone stairs descended to the water – and beneath it. They could see merfolk offering items for sale from the water, some in the wawter, others on the submerged platforms holding nets and amphorae. Sayyid saw one mer-girl dip her slender sea-grey arm into one clay jar and draw forth a large crab, its pincers bound. She passed it to a heavy woman in a bright blue kaftan and head-dress, received some payment with the other. The woman hiked her garment high with one hand, turned and retreated through calf-high water, holding the crab at arms length, a broad smile on her face.

Wyrmhere waved to Koli, who had an awning near the juncture of the Wet Market  quay and the Walkway, whose eye was caught by the blot of black among the colorful throng. Koli smiled, beckoning the Brightwaters, but Wyrmhere waved again and followed Zoe toward the waterside and the boats.

At the end of the broad quay, the Brightwaters looked about for a boat to ferry them to Anchor Home, which they could see no great way away, another cylinder of stone hoarded about with scaffold, not so great as the fat tower that was the Rotunda, but impressive enough, and in deeper water, such that it welcomed much of the larger deep-sea traffic. As Zoe shaded her eyes and gazed at the Lunar base, she heard a slow crack . . . crack from above – sounding so much like a wooden blade striking a pell that her heart stuttered with the vision of Cato, Bolt-Sharp and Rings in her mind’s eye, sweating alongside her in the practice yard in their blood-red arming coats.

Shaking their loss from her head, she looked for the source of the sound, watching as a wyvern flew from the direction of a tall spire in the outer harbour, dropping to the flat top of Anchor Home with a figure astride, lance-point burning in the sunlight, red moon pennon flapping. Turning back to her companions, she found the sorcerer debating the price of passage with a lithe young man, skin a dark brown, every part of himself bare, with no sign of shame whatever as his legs bestrode the thwarts of his slender bay-boat. The sorcerer bent forward to be heard over the splash and clamour of the Wet Market, gloved arm hidden in the broad sleeve of his black robe. He must be baking in this heat, Zoe thought. Her faded aketon was nearly red again with sweat just from walking around, sleeved or no. She felt the heat from the falcon’s body, as its lethal beak rubbed the ridge of her ear with something like affection.

Wyrmhere and the boat man arrived at a price and the fellow gestured to the shallow belly of his slim craft, paying particular attention to helping the female passengers. When they were settled, he set his oar on its thole at the stern and standing in the stern, sculled them across the double bowshot of water into Lunar territory.

Zoe watched the man ply his craft, never having considered this method for propelling a boat before. She admired the confident stance, the supple movement of lithe limbs as the man drove the boat forward at a good pace.

“Your name,” she asked?

“Dalan,” the other smiled down at her, face in the shadow of a halo of black curls, speaking Sartarite with an accent not unlike that of Andronikos. By his skin tone, Zoe thought he must be from the Southern Lands, wondered how he had come from Pamaltela or wherever else across the Wide Sea.

“We will likely want to come back before too long. Will you wait?”

Dalan’s grin shone white in his shadowed face, “I can’t. But I can return just before noon. If that suits you?”

“It will.” The boat-builder of Brightwater looked forward to studying the little boat and is propulsion system further.

***

 

The waiting room was cool compared to the sun-bleached wharf outside, but the damp off the water was ever present. They sat at the end of a bench, with a half dozen ruffians, most wearing whatever armor and weapons they had  - no doubt intending to show well for their interview. Zoe sat at the end, so as to keep Skryek from getting too close to strangers. A trickle of sweat made its way down her neck as Sayyid glanced as she took note of the man next to her in line, and then the bundle of armor at her feet. Would they have been better to wear it?

Her benchmate’s thick arms were wrapped in bronze and silver coils, none of them polished. Old grime in the skin between the rings showed that the arm had not even a passing acquaintance with water. The smell of old sweat that the man gave off was actually comforting, reminding her of a horse after a good run. Her attempts at conversation had elicited little more than grunts and a casual peering at the curve of her figure under her shirt, so she had given up.

She had begun to doze when the tread of shoes on the boards brought her fully awake. Fearing that the owner of the footsteps would choose one or more of the thugs that had been here when the Brightwaters had arrived, she was surprised when Zoe was addressed in Pelorian. Sayyid was starting to get an ear for the sounds, if not the meaning. A brief exchange with an obviously disinterested minor official, wearing the same crimson tunic as many within the Lunar sanctuary, this one with copper rank bars at wrist and shoulder. An instant and Zoe was standing to follow the official as he led her through a maze of low ceilinged stone rooms into the depths of Anchor Home. The Lunar has not appeared to notice Sayyid or Wyrmhere at all, but Zoe beckoned for them to come too.

The Lunar’s attitude was cool for the rest of the interview. He spoke only to Zoe, except when pressed by the matter at hand. Then his Tradetalk was condescending in the extreme. Though her command of the language was adequate, many of the man’s turns of phrase were beyond her. She had begun to tune out his annoying tone when he actually snapped his fingers for their attention, then addressed Wyrmhere and her directly.

“Understand that ignorance will not excuse you.” He looked at Zoe as though she were their minder, “You may sign. They can make whatever marks represent them, but the contract is Binding nonetheless.”

Wyrmhere’s scowl at the emphasis on that word deepened as the official handed a scroll to Zoe. The sorcerer’s natural suspicion noted the similarity between his friend and the Lunar – the dark hair, high cheekbones, nose prominent in profile. Zoe had told them that her father was a senior officer serving in the Lunar occupation army in Sartar. Wyrmhere had not considered the fact significant then, but she certainly appeared more Lunar than Sartarite at the moment. Her Pelorian was stilted compared to the other’s, but even Wyrmhere could tell that the functionary accepted her in a way he never would them. Wyrmhere also knew that the mercenary, despite her mixed parentage, could not read a word of the scroll that had just been handed to her.  

Of course, neither could he.

Zoe made a show of reading the script but her mind was cursing her for a fool. What had she done, thinking that she could walk in to the Lunar stronghold here, spy out their secrets, even take their coin, and get away with none the wiser? The characters on the page were not even familiar. And there was a lot of text there. Her fingers tightened on the bone of the scroll tube as she stared at the proffered pen.

Then she thought back to the massive bundles the trio had seen on the pier outside the office, with more being unloaded from a large ship. She recalled the square-hewn limbs of the thing, carefully wrought pin-holes thicker about than her arm; the long throwing beam, thicker at its base than the belly of a warhorse, two wagon lengths long, with more pin holes for reinforcing timbers, and the sling mounts. She recalled the bundles of massive cordage – worth carrying all this way, because it was probably heavier and more reliable than any local rope.

She shivered as another, more distant, memory filled her mind – of what such an engine could do. She was astride Big Boy, her crossbow spanned across her saddlebow, sabre loose in its scabbard, sweat itching its way down her neck, unable to be scratched away because of the camail of her Black Horse bascinet. Thrilling again as the dip of the banner sent her unit leaping forward for the sally. Charging,  weapon in one hand, Big Boy’s reins in the other, she kept the bay hunter in rough accord with Rings to her left and Cato to her right.

They came in on the flank of an enemy already fighting to their front. They were creatures out of nightmare. A troll no smaller than Big Boy turned as they closed, tiny black eyes widening.  Her crossbow bucked and a bolt punched through the monster’s bull neck. She couldn’t remember having aimed, or shot. A heavy gray arm released its grip on a maul to clutch at the fletches, but she was cutting with her sabre, saw thick fingers fly away from its edge.

And she was past, facing another troll. The mounted crossbows were doing their part – disrupting the trolls attempt to break through the peltasts to the machines. Why weren’t the engineers doing theirs?

What she was waiting for finally came.

On horseback, in the middle of a melee, a hundred yards away, Zoe was sure that she felt the engine’s release shake the earth. Dusk fled as the flaming missile soared upward. She couldn’t help but watch. Cato saved her then, forcing his grey between Big Boy and a squat trollkin with a spear. An instant and the spear was struck aside, Cato standing in the saddle as he drove his longsword downward two-handed like a spike into the creature’s face. Zoe saw the trail of fire swallow the stars, then begin to fall, returning to the battle as Cato swatted the leather of her coat of plates with the flat of his blade.

“Eyes ON!” he roared, as his horse shouldered another trollkin under its hooves.

Zoe heeled Big Boy forward, but the trolls were broken. Not by the charge. Their camp was a fiery ruin. She couldn’t see it. But she heard of the results of the engines’ work afterward. Troll Mistresses that measured their lives in centuries ran screaming as the fire elementals bound to the missile consumed them.  Massive war-beetles were punctured through, their carapace no defense against stones that outweighed a dark troll dropping like meteors from the sky. The battle ended with the engines’ reports, her charge one of the few melees required to send the Sazdorfs scuttling back to their caves.

She shook her head, forcing this memory away, to lurk with all the others, realizing as she did that the Brightwaters had already accomplished something of import just by coming to Anchor Home. An engine like the one they had seen on the pier, backed, as always, by Lunar magic, could rain fiery hell upon the Rotunda, even the mainland – changing the balance of power that seemed to hold in the Bay.

Did she need to sign this scroll at all? They had what they had come for. Returning to the Rotunda, selling the information to Andronikos, was the smart play. They would be paid, and win the gratitude of Avorax, who seemed to be as much opposed to the growth of Lunar power as she was. She should hand the tube to the supercilious shit before her, walk out, and wait in the midday heat for Dalan’s return.

Instead, she grinned, signed the contract, then passed it, and the pen, to Wyrmhere.

 

End of Part One.

Go to Part 2.