Ziedon shook his head and said, “Its nothing,” but he stayed outside for a moment in the sunlight, letting it warm his face. He looked around for any animal life before finally entering the tavern.
Ziedon ate a quiet meal, relaxing and regaining his strength. Before leaving for Velirra's house, he stopped by his room to get his hooded cloak, which he would put on soon to keep anyone from recognizing him, as Jerrakken had suggested. During the short walk, the three of them were joined by Menathal, who looked a bit nervous but said nothing.
As usual, the three guards watched from a distance while Ziedon approached the house. There was a man in guardsman's uniform at the door, waiting for him.
Velirra's house was not large, but as a decorator, she had expensive taste. The entranceway led into a single large room that took up most of the first floor. At the far side of the room, above the fireplace so that no one could possibly miss it, was a portrait of a handsome, solid-featured man who could have been her dead husband. That painting was one of several mounted along the walls, alternating with heavy- curtained glass windows. The furniture was covered in brightly-colored cushions laid two layers thick, so that one was bound to sink a few inches when sitting down. Ziedon walked further into the room, stopping directly in front of the man's portrait, and looked at it.
Ziedon was announced, and Velirra arrived, dressed in an efficient gown whose simplicity clashed with the gaudy colors of the room. She was tall enough that, with her shoes, she saw eye to eye with Ziedon, and her shoulder-length hair enveloped a round, healthy and surprisingly young face. She could not have been older than twenty- five. That youthful face currently wore a look of disappointment. “So Jerrakken says you want to speak with me.”
Ziedon heard her enter the room, and began a soft chant at her first word. Turning slowly, he said the last words of the spell, and completed it when he was facing her fully. He replied in a louder voice to carry the distance. “Yes, I was hoping you would be able to help me.”
Velirra smiled. “Have a seat then, and we'll talk about it.” She snapped her fingers and the guard re-entered the room. “Fix – what was your name again?”
“Ziedon. What an interesting name. Fix Ziedon a drink.”
The guard was taken aback, but recovered his poise quickly and obeyed the order. Ziedon waited silently while the guard left, returned with two glasses of sweet wine and left the room again. Then he began. He sipped his drink as he related how he was brought to town and blackmailed into helping Galgewe, then how Silnquost had found him and changed his allegiance. and how he was now working with Silnquost to supplant Galgewe and install himself in his place, thereby bringing peace and stability to Maelbourg. “You were one of the people that Galgewe wanted me to talk with, and while I am working to destroy his support, I don't want him to become suspicious. I know this is a lot of information to hit you with all at once, and I know that you are very busy, so I apologize for taking up your time. Do you think you would be willing to help me in my endeavors?”
“Don't worry about my time,” Velirra said, leaning back and sinking an inch deeper into her chair. “Of course I'll help. You want to restore peace, bring business back to how it used to be and get rid of Galgewe at the same time. What more could I ask for?”
Ziedon smiled. “You are indeed as generous as you are beautiful. Thank you.”
The guardsman came inside at that moment. “A message has come… for _you_.” He said, looking at Ziedon.
“Don't just stand there,” Velirra said. “Bring it in.”
The guard gave Ziedon the message and left. It was from Michol. It said that eight people had been found who are willing to help in the prison break. It also said that Forgolon wasn't playing anywhere they could find tonight, but should be at Grabble's tomorrow night.
Ziedon looked up from the message. “Is there someone waiting for a reply?”
“No. He left as soon as he'd handed me the message.”
“Thank you,” Ziedon replied, and after the guard left, he said to Velirra, “This is a note from some of Ulan's old retainers. Some of them are willing to go against Galgewe.” Ziedon waved the note. “For some reason they think that Ulan is locked up in the prison.”
“Many people think many foolish things, but neither Ulan nor his retainers have much say now.”
“Do you know who had Fillien, Per and Vumeshel imprisoned? I thought if I could get them released and talk with them, that they would support me as well.”
Velirra laughed. “It would take a lot of money to get them released, unless you can convince Gal or Reden to let them out.”
“Hmm, I'll ask him about it. The more support we receive the better, eh? Who else do you think I should talk with, in Galgewe's and Gal's camps, to get their support for this power change?”
“For your own rise to power? Your biggest challenge will be getting the more religious Morenthians – Jakol, Leve, Age, Reden – on your side. They're not going to want another Andrithan townsman. Jakol's stayed out of it so far, and Reden's solidly for Gal since he was attacked. The others are with Galgewe, and they're not going to want to see me. I might be able to set you up with Reden, but he's usually busy.”
“Would you be willing to talk with some of your colleagues to get them to support me? It would place me in your debt.”
Velirra smiled. “I'll talk to a few people and let you know in a couple days. No promises.”
“Thank you. I'll talk with the people you mentioned and try to get them to see things my way. I really do want what is best for Maelbourg. I hate to think what would happen if Galgewe succeeded and turned over his power to Balban.” Ziedon looked mildly surprised at Velirra's confusion. “You don't know about Balban? He is an Andrithan townsman who wants to unite several of the towns in the hopes of creating his own pseudo-barony. Galgewe is just his stalking horse; once Galgewe gains enough support to control Maelbourg, he will turn it over to Balban. This is something I want to prevent.”
“Oh, I knew about Balban, but it's a little surprising that Galgewe's working for him. I wonder if he'll really turn over his power.”
“If you think that this information might help sway some of your colleagues or Galgewe's supporters, please feel free to pass the information on. Just, please, do not include my name. I don't want Galgewe's maneuvers to taint my good name.”
“It may be useful. I'll just have to tell it to the right people, and I think I know who those are… In any case, your visit was very informative, and it's been a pleasure, but a woman like myself can't give too much time to any one task.” She snapped her fingers and the guard returned. “Escort Ziedon outside, and fetch him a bottle from my stores. We wouldn't want a friend to leave empty handed.”
Ziedon stood and gave a shallow bow. “Thank you very much for your time and your assistance in this matter. I am sure with your help that Galgewe will be deposed and my humble services can be offered in his place.”
As soon as Ziedon was out the door, he instinctively ducked, but there was nothing there. The guard gave Ziedon a funny look before returning to his duties. Tilluri, Gelefer and Menathal showed no signs of concern as they escorted Ziedon back towards the inn. It was dark out, the thin fog illuminated only by the trickle of light that escaped shuttered windows. The guards walked silently; Tilluri and Gelefer couldn't speak about Ziedon's next tasks in front of Menathal, and Menathal was used to keeping quiet in the presence of his superior.
“Squaaaak!” With an ear-splitting sound, a small bird flew out of the air, a great horned owl at its tail. The bird grasped at Ziedon's hood, clutching with its talons as if for protection. When the owl kept coming, the bird clumsily took flight, painfully yanking out some of Ziedon's hair through the material. Ziedon ducked in time to avoid being hit by the swooping owl, as it once again took off after the bird. A foreign sense of fear washed over Ziedon as the owl rose higher in the air.
Ziedon drew a dagger and envisioned himself as a large tree with a small hole that only a small bird could fly into for safety against predators. With effort, Ziedon tried to project these feelings outward as he looked at the owl and bird. “Kill the owl if you can,” Ziedon said to his escort, “but on your life do _not_ harm the small bird.”
“It's just a bird,” Gelefer said. Then he was silent, along with Menathal and Tilluri. All three were mesmerized by the intent look on Ziedon's face as he stared out into the darkness. Nobody moved for over a minute, except for two men walking past them on their own business. Finally, Tilluri said, “Let's go,” and turned to leave. Just then, another squawk startled everyone. Ziedon turned sharply to his right, squinting to see through the darkness. After a few moments, he heard the mad flapping of wings and saw the outline of the bird again, right before it slammed beak-first into Ziedon's midsection. Despite the pain which irritated his still unhealed sword-wound, Ziedon wrapped his cloak around the bird, and waited for the owl to appear. The bird flapped madly about in the cloak – this was not the type of protection it had expected – and when the owl did show up, the motion made Ziedon's dagger miss it wildly. Tilluri took two steps toward it and slammed down with the broad side of his sword, knocking it to the ground. “Crazy owls,” he said as it stumbled a few steps and took flight in the opposite direction. “Some people think they brought the skin-rotting disease that killed one in ten a century ago. You don't see them around here much anymore.”
The bird finally got loose and rolled through the air away from Ziedon. Then it landed in the street a few yards ahead and faced him, still obscured by darkness.
Ziedon remained silent but looked at the bird. He tried to send feelings of comfort, food, warmth, and partnership to the bird. Ziedon gradually lifted his hand, offering a perch as he tried to establish a bond. This was the result of the morning's spell. It had worked.
The bird took one step forward, stopped, and then took a few more steps. It stopped a yard away, dug its talons into a little pile of damp leaves and stared at Ziedon as he crouched down. A cloud of misty light illuminated the bird from a nearby shutter. Its feathers were black like a raven's, except that the tail and wings were tipped with red blending into white. The tail was narrow and as long as the body, and it shined in the light with an oily gloss. The eyes were its most unusual feature. Larger than those of other birds its size, they were bloodshot and patchy, flecked with red, black and white. With the feathered brows curving inquisitively above, and the short, harshly pointed beak raised slightly below, these eyes were expressive, like a person's. Suddenly, the bird took flight again, and vanished into the darkness. Had it worked after all?
“That was strange,” Gelefer said.
“A bad omen,” added Menathal.
Ziedon shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn't be surprised if that bird comes back at some point.” Looking over at the three guards, he said, “It is not to be harmed.” Ziedon abruptly began walking again, and acted as if nothing had happened. “So, were you able to secure any more meetings this evening? If possible, I would like to see Duddan.”
“I've secured a meeting with him at noon tomorrow,” Menathal said.
“Tomorrow I would like to meet with Calen Finterher and Gerrit Argol; additionally, I might receive some messages concerning other meetings during the day. For lunch I will be returning to the same tavern I did today.”
As they walked, Ziedon turned to Menathal and said, “Oh, yes. I will be needing my book in the morning as well, bring it with my breakfast and daily pay please.”
“Of – of course.” Menathal avoided Ziedon's gaze. “Uh… we should hurry. The healer will be arriving soon to look at your wound.”
“Yes, I wouldn't want to keep him waiting. What about Forgolon? Does anyone know where he will be playing tonight? I would like to see him this evening.”
“I don't know,” said Tilluri. “Perhaps tomorrow.”
The healer arrived shortly after Ziedon. Ziedon cast another spell on him to reinforce the previous one, and then chatted with him about herbs and healing. Before going to bed, Ziedon tried to enchant Menathal, but saw no sign that the spell had worked.
Ziedon gained a level! +3HP, Silent Spell feat, Skulltrap and Animate Dead Animals spells.