Tuakiin is troubled. He has remained in Theria while the others went to track down Clausis, and in sober hindsight his deal with the Grand Vizier feels more and more ambiguous. He resolves to visit the Vizier first thing in the morning to seek clarification.
The guard at the palace gate (who is evidently played by whichever of Michael Palin, Eric Idle or John Cleese has the most pressing bill to settle with HMRC this year) is evidently inclined to obstructiveness by nature (which may explain his assignment to this post), but as Tuakiin’s name is on the right list he eventually lets him in. The two much less talkative and more heavily armed guards at the inner entrance then take him to see the Vizier, who eventually admits Tuakiin to his chamber rather earlier in the morning than he would normally like to be awake.
Despite his unwelcome wakefulness, the Vizier is happy to clarify that he will give Javier Asturo to Tuakiin as soon as Venomfang engages in battle with the enemy forces. This will specifically entail arranging for Javier to find himself alone in a room with Tuakiin – what happens after that is none of the Vizier’s concern.
At around this time, the rest the party are awaking in the glade they sheltered in following the battle with Clausis. They attend to their various morning rituals – Sal performing her martial arts moves, Illyria sacrificing an unfortunate vole, Mortimer going off some way so that his prayer to The Undead Gods (although in this case a rather one sided banter with Asmodeus) is not overheard – before doing their best to enjoy the unappetising gruel that No Name calls breakfast. After this, it is time to return to the city, and Mortimer is able to teleport them directly into the Craven Raven, although his habit of stacking the landing leads to at least one of the party appearing half in a wall momentarily… purely by accident, of course.
The bar is shut at this time, of course, with only a solitary member of staff pushing a mop around the floor – until Sal kindly relieves him of this duty. A large bag of Illyria’s coins persuades them to open early, and soon a more satisfying second breakfast of cocktails is under way. No Name sends a mouse off to find Jonathan and tell him that they are in the pub.
Mortimer is keen to report to the Vizier on the success of their mission, and goes out of the bar only to bump into Tuakiin coming back from the same man. After some discussion, he prevails upon Tuakiin to get him to the Vizier. On the way he sends a message to Venomfang, politely asking about her progress. The response is not especially illuminating. Tuakiin’s name is still good at the palace, and he is able to take Mortimer to the Vizier. On hearing of Clausis’s death, the Vizier simply crosses an entry off a list, and seems impatient with Mortimer. Eventually Mortimer gets to the real meat of his issue – he wants to know about the city’s magical defences, so that he can help to bolster them. The Vizier is not inclined to reveal the city’s secrets, but does make it clear that there is no structure of magical colleges or any such thing in this kingdom. The Grand Vizier is the Royal Wizard, and all other wizards do as he says. He suggests a council of war tomorrow, where decisions about how best to defend the city can be taken.
Having completed their tour of the cocktail menu, the rest of the party decide to explore the city a little more. Sal is keen to see the giant owls again, and heads for the dovecot, with Illyria and No Name coming along out of interest. No Name sends another mouse-borne message to Jonathan, informing him of the change of plan, and they set out.
Lubash goes the other way. Having established from the maitre d’ that there is a corner of the main square where people regularly speak out on issues of the day, he goes there to spread his socialist message. The young boy selling soapboxes for speakers jacks up his prices from a copper each to a silver each as soon as he sees the magnificently-garbed ogre coming, and Lubash’s generosity in upping this again to a gold piece encourages him to dash off with his new-found riches.
The box is just strong enough to hold Lubash’s immense weight, and he begins his oratory to the passing crowd. Unfortunately his pan-species solidarity does not go down well with many of the locals, what with them being quite racist.
At the dovecot, Sal and No Name are able to converse with an owl, who takes haughty umbrage at No Name’s suggestion that he works for the elves – they have a partnership agreement between equals. Illyria’s musical exploration of the dovecot founders on its incredibly poor acoustics, but Sal persuade the owl to take her on a scouting mission and Illyria decides to come along for the ride.
And what a ride it is, what with Illyria’s backing music and the owl’s willingness to do dramatic high-speed dives. They fly out north, and see no enemy forces, only a long column of thousands of refugees stretching all the way back from the city gates. Sal promises to teach Illyria to fly owls unaccompanied.
No Name, meanwhile, has gone to Jonathan’s lodgings, where she finds him slumped dejected on the floor. He got her first message, but the second one failed to arrive until just now, leading to him going to the pub and being violently thrown out, causing him to question his very manhood. No Name gives him such comfort as she can, given that she’s not generally very good at this sort of thing.
Their business done for the day, the party take lodgings in the finest establishment available, and spend a night in peace before the next day’s council of war. In the morning, they attend again to their usual rituals. Illyria performs her blood sacrifice, indifferent to the guy still in her bed, and Enderis – for it is he – quietly leaves. Sal takes the opportunity for an early-morning owl ride out to the south, just to make sure there are no unpleasant surprises coming from that direction. There isn’t time for her to get very far, but all seems peaceful enough.
At first, the council of war seems to go well. The king is still coughing away, and given his royal presence the room is lined with men-at-arms (and women-at-arms, as this is an equal-opportunity kingdom). A company of Elves arrives on Owl back to render assistance. Illyria illustrates their victory over Clausis by plonking her severed head on the table, and the conversation focuses on how best a small number of powerful adventurers can help in the defence. There is a proposal that they should be a mobile strike force, roving the battlefield to fill holes in the defences, and some discussion of whether they should attempt to identify and target the enemy leadership, but it is yet to come to a definite conclusion when Javier Asturo enters the chamber.
This is when it all goes ever so slightly to complete shit.
Tuakiin Manages to restrain himself at first, even when Javier tells him he reminds him of his son Elakiin, but when he boasts of creating harrowblades through exposing dragon eggs to magical energy, and even of creating a dragonlord called Azarr Kul, Tuakiin blurts out an accusation that Javier killed his mother.
Javier is unrepentant. He remembers the incident, but mainly his regret that he did not have enough time to stuff and mount Tuakiin’s mother.
The red mist comes down over Tuakiin’s eyes. He lays into Javier with his glass staff, striking him to the ground, and before anyone can stop him he slits Javier’s throat and misty steps out of the nearby window. It is an upper story window, but Tuakiin’s feather fall means he drifts gently to the ground. He just has time before he passes out of sight to see Sal pleading for calm, Illyria surrounding herself with her armour of Agathys – and Mortimer leaping to Javier with a healing spell, saving him from the brink of death.
And only this morning they were getting along so well.