Murad and Rod go to the emergency meeting of the Stars’ Children, with Murad hiding in Rod’s pocket. Lords Ortlander and Weedon are engaged in a heated discussion of the previous day’s meeting. With little fanfare, Duke Attham, Jelnorm, then the Queen arrive. After the Queen takes her seat, the speaker announces that the only agenda item is what is to be done with the rebel lords and their armies, who are currently marching north from the city. The Queen then dismisses her speaker and all other servants.
The discussion begins with Lords Ortlander and Weedon speaking in favour of letting the rebels leave, so that the remainder of the Queen’s Army can march south to engage the Brindish. Duke Attham thinks this is folly. They cannot leave more than 2500 potentially hostile troops alone. He advocates taking the bulk of the Queen’s remaining forces to pursue them. Rod suggests cutting the snakes head off – offer to allow Duke Cahorn and the others to return to the Kingdom, or let them hang themselves. Rod insinuates that he can have the Duke killed.
The Queen bristles at the thought of assassination. Duke Attham requests that Rod be allowed to treat with the rebel lords to at least give their armies time to catch up. Rod says that, if the Duke refuses, he can challenge him to a duel on the charge of treason. Duke Attham calls for a vote to allow Rod to offer terms to the rebels (amnesty from charges and a modest penalty in land if their armies are immediately returned to the capitol) and for 1000 of the Queen’s men to pursue the rebel forces. Lord Ortlander votes against the motion; Lord Weedon abstains; Lord DeloSiren and Duke Attham vote in favour. The motion carries. The Queen consents on the condition that she accompany the queen’s army as it marches north. Duke Attham and Jelnorm advise against this, but the Queen is adamant. She grants Rod the services of two Queen’s Guard for the duration of his mission. The meeting is adjourned.
After the meeting, Jelnorm suggests that they bring Quintin with them to monitor any activity of the Children of Zepha.
Back at his estate, Rod leaves 5000 Gold Swans with Kent to take care of the house. He gives instructions that if things get bad in the city, he should flee with the other staff. Rod also sends 10,000 Swans to his sister in-law.
The three companions head to the north gate and meet up with the two Queen’s Guard. Outside of the city, Murad changes form to a Juvenile Roc. He picks up the guards’ horses and has the 3 people ride on his back.
Within less than an hour, the company sees the encamped rebel armies. They land and approach on foot, flying the banner of House DeloSiren. On the road, the group is met by some riders from Duke Cahorn’s camp. Rod announces himself and is taken to a large tent with the flag of House Cahorn flying overhead. The guards and other members are asked to stay outside. Rod is led inside where the Duke Cahorn, Lord Byton, and a young man are in a discussion over a map. Rod identifies the latter as the Duke’s eldest son, Rorick.
Rod presents the Queen’s terms to the Duke and Lord Byton. The Duke rejects the terms on all the Lords’ behalf. He offers a counter proposal, giving himself more land and powers over the realm and demanding that the Queen marry his son, Rorick. Rod agrees to present the counter-proposal to the Queen.
The party returns to a small cluster of trees and sends a message to Jelnorm, asking him to pass on the Duke’s terms to the Queen. About one hour later, he responds that the Queen wishes him to refuse the Duke’s terms but to delay communicating that until her armies can catch up. She does not expressly forbid any other action.
The party debates how Rod should issue a personal challenge to the Duke and how to deal with the Duke’s reaction and his army. Murad, as a small bird, scouts the army camps with the help of other birds. He identifies the cook and provision tents. Quintin concocts a mild poison to make the armies sick. Later, Rod sneaks into the camp and proceeds to poison the three camps’ water supply. He sneaks back out and returns to their own camp The group waits until after the soldiers have eaten before issuing the challenge. They make preparations, then leave to meet Duke Cahorn. Murad is acting as Rod’s horse.
As they approach the Duke’s command tent, Rod issues the challenge so many can hear. He charges Duke Cahorn with high treason and demands that he accept the charges or fight him to the death. The Duke comes out of his tent and accepts the duel, to the protest of his son. As the duel commences, a pigeon flies out of the tent and hovers above the two combatants. Rod makes two lightning-fast strikes to cut down the Duke and throws a poisoned dagger at the bird. The bird drops to the ground. Murad dispels the birds’ polymorph spell, causing it to transform back into a cloaked man. As that happens, a servant of the Duke steps forward. He casts Dominate Person on Rod, commanding him to protect Rorick. Quintin strips the rings off the fallen caster and binds him. Murad turns the other caster into a toad, then crushes him.
Rorick, the new Duke of Cahorn, weeps over his father’s dead body for a short time. He then dismisses his guards and agrees to speak with Rod inside the tent. He laments his father’s decisions and agrees to the Queen’s terms. Rod then visits Lords Rand and Byton at their respective camps. They agree, Rand more easily than Byton, to the Queens’ terms. They promise that their armies will return to the capitol within no more than two days.
Rod makes camp with the Queen’s Guard and awaits further instruction. Murad and Quintin fly their captives back to the Tower of Stars. At the tower, High Archmage Gralius Kurn accepts the traitorous members. Murad and Quintin tell him how they were captured and update him on the political situation. Kurn says that he will speak with the Queen and confirm that things are in hand and that their presence in the capitol is no longer be required.
Kurn identifies the magical items found on the spellcasters.
- Amulet of Natural Armour +2
- Bracers of Armour +4
- Serpent Belt
- Bracers of Armour +5
- Headband of Alluring Charisma +6
- Potion Bear’s Endurance
- Potion of Cure Serious Wounds (2)
- Potion of Haste
- Potion of Protection from Cold
- Potion Tongues
- Ring Protection +3
- Wand of True Form (12 charges)
Murad returns to the north with Quintin to fetch Rod. The three of them then fly to catch up with The Walrus and the other ships. On the ship, Murad flirts with Maddy, bragging about how they dealt with the Duke and the spellcasters. Rod and Quintin get some sleep.
The next morning, Murad leaves Maddy’s bed and finds Yulando to give him some druidic instruction. Rod asks where the priestess, Arah is, wanting to make sure that “she is alright”. Murad changes into a gull and scouts the Bay of the Protector. Later, Murad has a discussion with Bertom of Cuford about his penance and the upcoming mission to the abbey.