“I appologize for my tardiness,” the Townsman said, “but business is business, as they say. So I hear you've stirred up some trouble in my absense. A shame, that. Quite a shame. You are here for your own protection, you know.”
“That's funny, I was told I was a prisoner.” Ziedon shrugged. “As for stiring up trouble, all I did was talk to a few of my jailers. And evidentally there are some stories going around about me, by name. No one else cared to share them with me; would you be so kind?”
“Nothing you aren't already aware of, I'm sure. Waylad. Galgewe. Unfortunately, you've given certain people enough information to link you to them, which, I must say, doesn't bode well for your well-being. I can't keep _all_ my guards here indefinately.”
“And what about my goods at the inn? Have they been secured? It has been several days since I was back there, and I don't know how long the room had been paid in advance for.”
“I regret to say that, aside from some clothing and a rather worn bedroll, your posessions have gone missing. I expected nothing less, of course. Enough of Galgewe's men knew where you were staying to remove anything important. That is the way these things work.”
“So, Townsman Silnquost, where do I stand now?”
“You stand in a dangerous place. People are looking for you, and they may soon learn where you are. Your name is becoming known, always a dangerous thing for one of your ilk. Guardsman Waylad is speaking against you – some say to secure his freedom, but others are listening. Your only hope, honestly, is that I will continue to protect you. I indend to, dispite the danger that, with rumors flying that each of us was responsible for Galgewe's murder, you will be linked to me. For now, however, I believe it is time for that demonstration; high time. I must tell you that Journeyman Werald and these other fine men have been given what information I have regarding you. If you need a subject for your persuasive talents, a neutral party will be brought in.”
“It is hard to kill rumors but it can be done. You make it sound like I do not have a future in this town. Do you think that is the case?”
“Oh, this is more than rumor, but my guess is that you will be worth my effort to keep around. I may be the only man in this town who can do anything about a rumor this big.”
Rubbing his hands together, Ziedon said, “Yes, the demonstration… Okay, what would you like to see? My persuasive talents? It is a lot of training but it boils down to focusing your thoughts and talking as persuasively as possible. Me personally, it helps me focus when I move my hands around a bit. There are some ancient techniques of arm movements that help you focus. I'd copied some of them down in my book back in my old quarters, but from what you say it doesn't seem like I will ever see that book again, unless I can retrieve it from whomever removed it. But I should be able to recreate a few of them.” Ziedon moved his hands, forming a spell. “Here's one to help you focus.” Silnquost looked distracted for a moment. He put a hand to his head. “But that is just part of it,” Ziedon continued, “and a small part at that. The important part is the mental conditioning and training that allow you to focus.”
“I see,” Silnquost said slowly. “But in the future, _I_ am not to be considered an appropriate target. Knowing what you can do, and what to look for, it is quite possible I have become immune.” He raised a hand, and the guards, who had been about to grab Ziedon, took a step back. “Watch me for unusual behavior, just in case,” he told them. “Now I would like a proper demonstration. You will warn me beforehand as to what you are about to do, and then you will show me. Further tricks like that one will end the demonstration… and my protection.”
“It isn't an exact science,” Ziedon said, shrugging his shoulders. “Who would be an appropriate subject?” He looked over the journeyman and the guards surrounding his chair.
“Werald, bring in our volunteer. And see whether he's found any of the herbs our guest requested.” Werald left the room, and came back a minute later with a boy, perhaps sixteen years old, with broad shoulders but a soft face and delicate hands. Those delicate hands held a small package. “This is Reva, Werald's apprentice. He has volunteered to be our subject. He's aware that you have some unusual talents, but he does not know specifically what they are. Reva, you can put that down.” The boy placed his package on the desk. “He hasn't taken any of the precautions that Werald or I have, so he should be ideal for your purposes.” The boy was nervous, either because of Ziedon or his guildmaster, but he tried not to let it show. He looked a little past Ziedon, avoiding his direct gaze.
Ziedon's eyes lit up when he saw the package, and he carefully opened it to examine its contents. “Yes,” he said. “These will do nicely.” He immediately began to mix herbs together, frowning as he pushed a few things to the side. He spoke as he worked. “Werald's apprentice, eh? I am sure you are in good hands. You don't need to worry about me; I'm not going to bite you or anything silly like that. I am sure you have heard all sorts of stories, haven't you?”
Reva looked to either side of him, making sure sure that neither the guildmaster nor Werald had any objection, before he answered. “I was told that you're a sorcerer, and a murderer, and a heathen.” It wasn't clear which one he found most distasteful.
Ziedon held a colored powdered herb in his hand and let it sift through his fingers, to fall on the small mixture in front of him. He moved his hands in a familiar dance while spreading the herb onto the mixture. “You do know they are just stories, right?”
“I never really thought they were true. Why would we keep someone like that around?” Ziedon noticed that Werald was rubbing his Morenthian amulet again. Silnquost had a hand in his pocket, and Ziedon guessed that he had something similar. “So what are you going to do with me?” All nervousness had left Reva's voice.
“Do with you? I thought we'd just talk a bit.” Ziedon moved his hands, spilling herbs on his increasingly irrelevant mixture. His fingers worked the herbs together as he continued. “A sorcerer, murderer and heathen? Now those are a pretty three. Are there any specifics to the stories, as to what I have done and to whom?”
“Not really, but I think they wanted me to think you were the one who's caused so much trouble lately.”
Ziedon paused in his work on the herbs to lift a hand and motion for Reva to talk. “Please continue, I would appreciate hearing all the rumors and talk you have heard about me. I am pretty starved for information, locked away here in this guildhouse, for my own protection to be sure.”
“Well there was Waylad – the guard that used to be against Galgewe but now just raves about an Andrithan enchanter named Ziedon. I hear he was pardoned by some priests today, and he's been in the House. A lot of other people are saying they were enchanted too, especially people locked up in Waylad's prison, and there are some guards…” Werald looked on in awestruck facination. Silnquost made a better show of neutrality. “Then there's Galgewe, who was killed by magic. An explosion that took down half his guildhall – I mean, his complex – and then he was pecked to death by a demon disguised as a bird, who was being controlled by a summoner, and people say the sommoner and the enchanter are the same person. There were witnesses.”
Ziedon gave a subtle wink to Werald. “Posh, all a barrel of lies by Galgewe's camp. It is amazing to think that any rational person would believe such stories. But you are a lucky one to have the attention of your guildmaster and a master such as this fine man. We kept each other company for several hours this morning but he is very stoic and wouldn't think to sing his own praises, and so it is was difficult to get his measure. Please, do me the honor of telling me a bit about your master, we are all friends here after all.”
“Oh, he's okay. He's the only journeyman with an apprentice though, so that makes it hard, but some day I'll have a real –” He stopped and looked at Werald. “Oh, sorry. I–”
“That's enough,” Werald said.
Silnquost grinned at Ziedon. “Facinating. And how far does this control extend? Could you make him act directly against my interests? For example, to take a knife to me? Feel free to demonstrate. My guards here will prevent anything untoward.”
Ziedon looked over at Reva. “You wouldn't mind giving us a few minutes alone would you? I'd appreciate it if you would just step outside. I need to talk to the guildmaster.” Once Reva left the room, Ziedon explained. “It isn't a domination of his mind or spirit, nor does it make him any less intelligent. For example, he heard everything that you just said and might wonder why you would ask me such a thing. I could probably get him to attack you, but I would need to present things in such a manner to make him think I was in danger or that it was in my and his best interests.
“For example, if you were to have one of your guards hold my hands behind my back and you start coming at me with a dagger; and then I call Reva into the room with a desperate tone and plea for him to defend me. He would attack. More than likely he would attack you first because you are the immediate threat to me, and then he would attack the guard who was holding me.
“But as to all of us sitting in a room and then me just turning to Reva and asking him to attack you…” Ziedon shrugged his shoulders. “That I cannot do.” He snorted. “This isn't magic after all. But what I can do is talk to him alone and tell him that you are a danger and a bad man. That you apprenticed him to a mere journeyman in an effort to keep him back, and that you have been systematically eliminating or subverting all of your competition to expand your evil holdings on this fair town. That you are behind the attack on Reden Orfort, placing blame on Galgewe, thereby gaining his support. That you were the one behind Raiborder's disappearance. That you hired a man to attack Batarel and had your men rough up Leve Herelg. That you've imprisoned one of the Knights of Peace.” Ziedon acted as if he were in a conversation with Reva. “Silnquost is a very bad man, my dear Reva, wouldn't you want to stop him before he completely destroys this entire town? But how? How could we stop him? Oh? Would you have access to his kitchen? Oh, you do? Well then, it would happen that I have some odorless herbs that would make Silnquost sick. No, no. No permanent damage, that would make us as bad as he is, but it would leave him bed- ridden for a time, allowing the town to be free of his meddling and get things back to normal. You think you could place this concoction into his food? Oh, excellent. Now, you would want to be careful not to let anyone get the idea that you know of Silnquost's evil actions, otherwise think of what he would do to you and your family. A simple swipe of the hand to mix this into his food or drink and all will be well. You are sure to be rewarded and I would greatly appreciate it. There you go, now, off with you.”
Ziedon had continued to work on the herbs in front of him as he spoke. Now he paused to open a few packets of colored powders: red, yellow and blue. He took a pinch of each and pushed them to the side. “Now, that is something I could do,” Ziedon said. “There are a few other tricks that I know as well. Would you care for me to demonstrate?”
The room was silent. Behind him, the guards looked ready to fight. Werald had taken a couple steps back and wore a shocked and frightened look that seemed pasted on. Silnquost tried to hold his stoic expression, but it had been tempered with a contemplative frown. Ziedon half-expected they were both stuck that way before Silnquost finally answered in a low monotone. “Yes. Let's see these other tricks.”
Ziedon gathered up the herbs he was working on into a packet, and using this as a cover, also swept up the pinches of colored powder. Then he stood up. “I need a little more room for this; it is a bit showy, but not dangerous.” Not waiting for permission, he backed up towards the wall while people were still a little shocked and their wits addled. This placed the guards at his front, but they didn't let the distance grow too far.
Ziedon said a few words and waved his hands in motions that no one else in the room had seen before. He dropped the packet of herbs directly in front of himself, and as it floated to the floor, a blast of clashing colors sprung forward, bathing everything in its unbearably bright light. Everyone squinted reflexively, but only Silnquost shot his hands to his eyes and rubbed them furiously. “I can't see!” he shouted. The guards were instantly on Ziedon, and he was pinned to the wall.
Ziedon shrugged free of the guards, his hands quickly moving in the beginning of a spell, as he said in an offended tone, “I told you it was flashy, you don't need to be so grabby!” Before he could finish the spell, however, he was pinned again, this time in a grip he couldn't escape. Fortunately, it didn't seem like anyone had noticed what he had been doing.
Ziedon spoke calmly under the weight of the guards. “Don't worry, the blindness is only temporary.” Once Silnquost recovered, Ziedon said, “Ah… Oops… that mixture was a little stronger than I thought. I am very sorry about that, but as you can see, the effects are only temporary. This concoction,” he said, indicating the mess of herbs on the floor which was conspicuously missing the colored powders, “was a weakened version of the mixture I used against your adversary. In its weakened form, it doesn't do any permanent damage, but still is a useful trick. In its strengthened form, the mixture can do a lot more than just temporary blindness, as my escorts most likely have already told you.”
Townsman Silnquost blinked a few times. “You can let him go,” he said. “I'm fine.” The guards, with obvious reluctance, released Ziedon. It would take some time for the the pain in his back to go away. Silnquost continued with a bit of frustration audible in his voice. “I see… This is interesting; very interesting…. There is one more thing I would like to see. The very first guard you met here, the one planted by Galgewe, complained that you burned his arm, but there was no source of fire.”
Ziedon rubbed the small of his back in an effort to make the pain go away. “Oh, the one who tried to turn me into a human pin cushion? Did you examine his arm for any burn marks?” Ziedon returned to the table and sorted through the remaining herbs.
“No marks; no sign of attack at all. There was an arrest recently who claimed the same thing. One of those Knights of Peace. It certainly can't be coincidence.”
“Well, there is another mixture that can produce those results.” Ziedon looked over the inventory of herbs in front of him and said, “But, I am not sure if I can make it out of these herbs here. One of the missing components is a luminous fungi. It is actually two mixtures. You basically coat your palm with the fungi mixture first; it makes your hand give off a light blue color, due to the luminous nature of the fungi augmented by several other herbs. This fungi mixture is what protects you. Then you put some of the second mixture on the palm of your hand. That the second mixture by itself isn't dangerous but when it combines with the fungi mixture it becomes active. You, yourself, are protected but anyone you touch will feel the mixture's bite. I am not quite sure how it works – there was some passages I couldn't make out, but it appears to give cold burns. I would think that prolonged exposure would bring about frostbite. I imagine you could kill someone with it –” Ziedon shrugged – “but I have never tried. Unfortunately, the mixture is short lived once you combine the two parts together, and the components for it are hard to come by.”
“I see, I see… Well I thank you for your time….” Silnquost took a step back, but then stopped. “Is there any way to… cure Reva?”
Ziedon raised an eyebrow. “Cure him? Maybe it is talked about in this book or in another book.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I haven't really looked into that aspect of things. If you can find me any other tomes like this one, I can research for a 'cure', or even other effects like the ones I already know about and have shown you.”
“Interesting… I will certainly keep an eye out.”
“That also goes for the book that was in my quarters. It has some knowledge in it that I haven't fully exploited yet. I am sure, if you put your mind to it, that you could figure out where it was and get it returned.
“You asked for a demonstration; I think I have provided you one. What happens now? I am starting to chafe at imprisonment.”
“Now you remain under my protection until things clear up. I wouldn't want anything untoward to happen because I let you out too soon.”
“Under your protection doesn't mean that I have to remain locked up here. I am sure there are other accomodations, like one with sunlight, that could be had that still provides proper security, eh?”
“I'm afraid I must insist on this. Taking you from one place to another would be too dangerous.”
Ziedon frowned. “I see.”
“Yes,” said Silnquost. “I think you do. I will be back before long, and I'll have you kept apprised. Wouldn't want you starved for information.” Silnquost turned and left, the others trailing behind. The last guard locked the door.
That poisoning Silnquost bit was great. One of the best pieces of role-playing I've seen in the Zioth campaign.