I'd gone to talk to Cirath over at...well, it doesn't really matter where, does it? And then we moved to someplace else, anyway. Ah, security by mobility, you'd think he was a bard. Except I would have kept moving, but anyway...
He got right to business. Good, good, I wasn't really in the mood for puzzling out riddles.
"What have you heard about the Silver? Does she still live?"
I hadn't heard anything, which is what I told him.
He said, "Well, I suppose if she is dead, then it's your lucky day."
I blinked. "Mine? What would I want with a dead dragon?"
He clarified. "By you, I mean the Alliance."
Which, of course, begged the question. "What would the Alliance want with a dead dragon?"
He ignored me, of course. So many people do. "It means that what I am about to tell you, you get for free."
That didn't sound like him at all.
He continued, "You remember, when the monoliths first began activating, we met with her on the Moonshaes, yes?"
Of course I remembered.
"Then I assume you remember the bargain she made with me."
I did. "Your aid for your choice of her treasure."
Cirath shook his head. "That wasn't the deal. The deal was 'anything within her power'. You should know the value of semantics."
I do, and said so. "I do, and that's not what I remember."
"Well, here is your aid... a means to destroy the host."
He gave me a sheet of paper. I looked at it. It...wasn't much. In fact, if memory served, this was all old information. Information I'd gathered, or Tida had gathered, or Teej had gathered, long ago.
I didn't say that, of course.
Cirath said, "That information was wrung from the smith that created it." He almost sneered. "Something your lot didn't bother to find out from him. Something I was contracted to silence him for."
Well, maybe there was something new on it. I didn't think so, but I don't keep all the details of these things straight. So I just said "It makes no sense to me," and tried to give it back to him. He insisted I keep it.
"Keep it, show it to the geomancer. The rat mentioned him, so he must know something."
I nodded. "I can do that, should I ever see him." I hadn't seen him in quite some time.
"I am giving it to you because you still have some sense in your head, and you will be sure to tell the Silver about this, should she survive, won't you?"
"If I see her." I hadn't seen her in quite some time, either.
Cirath said, ominously, "This is the last time we will be on the same side, bard."
I interrupted. "Oh?' You've joined up with Teflor, Ayra, and Auzorm'tvorl?"
"I didn't say that, I just said you will get no more help from me."
He continued "Your comrades have taken more liberties than I am prepared to allow. I won't be cleaning up their messes anymore. So if you have any love for your allies, tell them to keep their distance from me."
I couldn't resist. I said, "Since I don't see anything in this paper, I'd say so far we haven't gotten ANY help from you."
He did try to help. "Yes, well, I never said the rat was eloquent, and I am not exactly a mage. I have deciphered a bit of it, though. The first layer, the mirrored one, reflects magic. Should be interesting to see."
I said, innocently, "Yes, I think the sage said something about that."
Cirath ignored me, and continued, "And the rest require some sort of magical intervention to destroy, so I suggest you find Zhoanest and see what he knows about the matter."
This was odd. Cirath hadn't heard of the sacrifices? I thought everyone knew about those. And this "magical intervention" thing, we'd settled all that when Nilan got confused. I didn't say that, though. I just scratched my head.
Cirath added, "Llandrien may know where one of the items necessary is, but it isn't clear who the elves are siding with these days, or so I hear."
I ignored the latter, but surely he knew... "Llandrien already gave the piece of the Raven stone to the Queen. My, that was long, long ago. Old news."
Cirath nodded, as if he'd known all along. "So the rat said. The question is whether the queen will let it be used."
I pointed out. "The Queen would have to be the one to use it, is the impression I got."
Cirath said, "Well, you have what I could get. Thak still wants the rat dead to make himself look good. I imagine he is quite irritated that I keep deflecting the subject."
That was something new. So I quickly said, "Eh?"
Cirath raised an eyebrow, "Oh, you didn't know that little tidbit? Thak, the lich, leads a fair portion of the Vile One's forces, from his stronghold in the Southern Forest. My dealings with him are what turned up the information. For some time he desperately wanted the smith dead. Probably still does."
So... "Thak told you about the layers of the host, and how to destroy them?"
"No, he contracted me to kill the smith before he told you."
"Ah." I'd gotten lost in the pronouns there, somewhere.
Cirath smirked. "He was quite pleased no one had bothered to ask about it."
I shrugged. "I asked the sage, instead. Tzxvu is harder to get information out of." Well, each of them has his own difficulties. Although I had talked to Tzxvu, too.
Cirath was done with that topic. "As for other matters..."
"What would those be?"
"I hear there are efforts to see me dead by some of your friends." He was sounding ominous again.
Cirath has a loose definition of "friend". I could only think of two or three friends who wanted him dead. All the others are more like acquaintances or colleagues.
I pointed out, "Oh, but there have always been those who want to see you dead."
"I didn't say a desire, I said efforts. Attempts at contracts on my life, recently."
I asked, "Really? Who would take such a contract?" I don't know of anyone hiring out freelance these days, except for Cirath. The others all have their own business or affairs or gods to fill up their time. Really, there's a fair bit of demand, so where are all the suppliers? Certainly Kang was still in business but his prices!
He said, "No one, yet. I just thought I would let you know, because if it becomes more then talk, you may find yourself short on allies. You may want to still those tongues."
I shrugged. "Not my problem." My friends know how to take care of themselves.
He turned to leave, then stopped. "One other thing. Be sure to thank Artikerus, the next time you see him. He has been useful."
I chuckled, and said "That's a change."
And he was gone.
I went home, and dug through my notes. The paper Cirath had given me said:
lots of high magic/high power to weaken host.
llandrian has left raven stone in elf city, half of the stone on the host
glass part = spores + drake blood
brass part = brass, raven stone, diamond, green stone (emerald)
affect brass = raven stone + magic
stone part = stones here, stones far away + high power
Zho knows what kind of stones needed
mirror part = NO MAGIC + 'hit hard'
After a while, I smiled smugly. I was right, none of this was new. Tida and Artikerus had each talked to Tzxvu, long, long ago, and together they'd gotten all that information and more. I'd talked to Tzxvu myself, and heard some of it. Really, did Cirath and the Tvorlites think we had completely ignored Tzxvu as an information source? We'd visited him half a dozen times, probably more.
Although... If Cirath had been asked to kill him, perhaps we hadn't mined that source for as much information as possible. Certainly there was nothing in this note that was worth killing for.
But the information on this paper, all this had been known for months. Maybe years. I'd certainly pass it on to Tsakchanar, if I saw her. I'm sure she'd want to know exactly what information Cirath was claiming to have discovered.
I also checked my notes about their bargain, too. For someone concerned with semantics, Cirath really should pay closer attention to details. And to a bard's memory, since I clearly remembered better than he did. Ah, well, he's free to ignore me and remember what he wants. I wonder what Tsakchanar will remember?
Yes, at one point she had indeed said "anything within my power". But that wasn't her last statement. No, her last statement, her one specific offer... I couldn't help myself: I laughed extravagently.
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