Seeing Red

There were several levels of bureaucracy and security that they had to navigate.

Vastar had set Cory and Antheon to play the 'wait by the office' game, while he and the others looked around the common areas of the outer castle. Cory because he was low level, and Antheon because he bore the mark of the Red Duke.

He took up a station in the shade of a tree. There, he broke the group into pairs and sent them out to gather information by observing. They reported back at intervals, bring back bits of information that might and might not have been useful. Vastar made mental and physical notes - his mind was engaged, and he was actually enjoying himself.

It took some time to see someone and just be pushed up the ladder rung. The local offical had tried to dissuade him, but realized that it was probably easier just to pass the buck.

The second rung, he set Keer and Jormy to play the wait game – the tall and the small. He left Keer with the instructions to be friendly and talkative – perhaps about his most interesting childhood or food; as opposed to current events. He left Jormy with the idea to try and keep Keer from getting killed.

It didn't take too long to be bumped up the ladder the second time.

Master Vastar had grown tiered of sitting outside, and moved himself into the Steward's Outer Office to wait. He brought Klor and Stitch with him hoping that if they fell to conversation it would be with each other and not him. His grey eyes took in details. Rich fixtures, different woods and stones, different styles of art and carving. A small flurry of servant types, and maybe an apprentice type or two came in and out of the inner rooms. More than serviceable, a quality display. Enough wear to made them useful, and enough nick-nacks about to make the place live-able. The people seemed well acquainted and worked together. He noted the exits, and weak places in the structure. He looked for defensible places. When he was satisfied – he choose to glare at the secretary while his mind made connections.

Yet, he waited patiently. Other people went in and out of the office. Other appointments were kept. This place, at least on the outside, seemed a nice place – with happy people, and good things.

The secretary tried to not look, grew nervous, and tried to find other tasks to avoid the Master's gaze.

Evening saw the closing of the office. The secretary was explaining very nicely that they should come back tomorrow when Vastar spotted the only man he had not seen all day. Richly dressed, and obviously the Steward.

He lowered the timber of his voice. “I would speak with you.”

The man turned and looked at him with four eyes.

Master Vastar pulled himself upright and crossed his arms high on his chest. His head tilted just slightly.

The Secretary started some intervention, and the Steward gestured him to a stop. They exchanged some words in a Daggerlands tongue, and the Steward went back into his office.

“Stitch, go get the others,” and the Master went inside.

“You are un-marked.” The Steward ventured in an accented common tongue.

“A simple thing to slip the Tower.” the Black haired man slipped over to one of the two chairs that stood in front of a stone desk. He waited for the other man to seat himself and sat down.

“I am Elur, Steward to The Red Duke in the city of Tranla in the Spine of the Daggerlands.” He tapped his chest, or perhaps the silken scarf he wore there. His top two eyes slitted.

“I am Vastar, Master of Enchantment of the current Slice and Steward to the New Cutting Edge.” Vastar echoed the motion by touching his Black Master's Knot.

The top two eyes opened.

Klor came to sit in the other chair. His wings folded soundlessly.

Vastar gestured with careworn hands, “My associate, Klor; Keeper of God's joyful tears and recently returned from your Graveyard of a thousand Gods.”

“Not mine. Not my Duke's.” Four eyes raked over the krish as Klor nodded to take possession of the simple introduction.

“There are others coming.”

“Do we need to wait for them?”


“As I thought.” The Steward took a breath. “It is basic law that members of the latest Slice are not allowed to see the Red Duke.”

“To circumvent useless pleading and railing at circumstances.”

The Steward nodded.

Vastar thought that seemed a good rule. “We, of the Cutting Edge and the Graveyard, seek an audience – new Slice or not.”

The man evened soft hands over his desk – they flattened more than hands with bones would. “What, no subtle threats of violence? I was so looking forward to them.”

“Apologies. If they are necessary or traditional...” Master Vastar made a casual turning over motion with one hand.

“Let's just take them as given.”

Vastar nodded. Other members of his group came back with Stitch. It wasn't all of them, as they held some back in reserve – but it seemed to fill much of the office space. A series of guards also came in with them, arraying themselves around the room. Carefully chosen posts to stop the DarkFawnian's from reaching the Steward – if necessary.

The Steward eyed the new comers. He repeated himself and finished with his eyes on Master Vastar, “The Cutting Edge has been remade before. It is basic law that members of the latest Slice are not allowed to see the Red Duke.”

Vastar nodded, “But.”

A deep inhale. “But, The Duke may call for a meeting with anyone that comes to his attention.”

Rick took a breath, and caught himself before he could say anything aloud. Kimbria moved to stand next to the Master's chair.

Elur continued in a totally different voice. “I might be willing to bring your group to Attention if you would tackle a sensitive matter.”

“Ah. Attention does not guarantee Meeting. Listening to your proposed task does not guarantee our involvement.”

The four-eyed man smiled. He nodded at security and all but one of them left. The last one came to stand behind the Steward. Elur looked at Vastar with an un-spoken question.

“We will all hear what you have to say.”

The different voice of the Steward started, “There is a Myth amongst the Daggerlands. It is a place called the Ocean of Doors. If you find it, somewhere amid the ocean is a door that will lead you back to your home dimension, or the dimension of your species origin, or the place you belong. It is said that a new door is added for every Slice. It is escape.”

Vastar nodded, “It is Hope. You have found it or you suspect you have found it.”

The Steward stood up, crossed the room and looked out a window. “You should go on a trip, and bring back your story and a token that proves your story. If you do this, I would certainly mention it to the Red Duke, and he might want to meet you, and see your proof.”

Vastar considered, stroking his beard. “If the trip was interesting.”

“I will send a guide with your group – a man born here, and happy here – he will wish to return. I will keep you – Master Vastar – here, so your friends will also wish to return.”

“You assume they will not be glad to be rid of me.”

The Steward barked – a kind of laugh. “Even if none return, there is much to be learned there too.”

“Why do you offer us this?”

“Because you think differently, because you are expendable, because if you say 'no' no-one would believe this conversation took place. You would still have to wait to see The Duke – so you might as well have some chance at something. I offer you this because My Duke wants more information.”

“You overlook our earlier noted subtle threats of violence.”

The man made his unusual barking laugh again. “So you will go.”

“We will discuss this as a group. Send your guide to the Inn in two days. There will be an answer then.”

“Good night.” The Steward touched his scarf again and left the room.

Security watched as the group gathered itself and went back to the Inn.