OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


25. Montral

afayette, the Chieftain of Montral receives the party as a diplomatic Envoy. The Montral are far more civilized than the Kebekwa.

They explain their mission, though do not mention their intention to scan the Standing Stones. Lafayette is marginally interested until he hears of Hank Woodman. The existence of the manikin fascintaes him, since he has never seen the like. Hank is sent for.

The party is bid to sit and eat. In fact the room is filled with supplicants, courtiers and servants. There is even a diplomatic visit from the chief of the Ottawa, Mint's tribe. Bayard is his name, and after listening to the chiefs debate, they realize he is here to barter for weapons and supplie to use in the campaign against the Huron. Mint warns them not to trust him.

In fact, when Tira performs a psychic scan upon him, she is startled to discover that he is actively thinking about killing someone. She looks around, and performs several other scans, but she cannot discover the target of his plans. His warriors seem unconcerned.

Bayard begins preenting slaves whom he wishes to trade to Lafayette in return for the abovementioned goods. Most of them are tradespeople or simple pleasure slaves. One stands out, however. He is introduced as a "witch", the Kabekki term for adept. Apparently, the Kabekki utilize adepts to help deter reaver attacks. These adepts are rarely slaves, but do not enjoy the priveleges or status accorded to them in Tallon.

When Hank enters the room, he causes enough of a stir that Tira is able to approach the young adept. He introduces himself as Arthur and claims to have been raised on a remote farm where he knew nothing of spirit or adepts. He asks if Gilead's party would be so kind as to purchase him so that he might see the wonders that Tira has told him of Tallon and the Hall of Art. She agrees to try, but has little hope they will be able to meet the price of such a valuable slave.

After things have settled a bit, a courier arrives at the chamber. He says that he has come from the borders where he captured someone he believed to be a spy, but who claimed to have friends at court who could pay a ransom. This person turns out to be Persia, who has arrived at Montral after enduring a gruelling cross-country trek and an adventure of her own. She says that the bird that caught her was the servant of a renegade Master named Manicou, who sought to enthrall her for entertainment purposes. She chose to endure a trial instead and managed to escape after surviving a trip through caverns filled with carnivorous lizards, and an long underground river. She was briefly captured by Bayard's entourage, where she met Arthur. Arthur declined to escape with her, so she picked her locks and set out on her own, through the grasslands with no provisions.

Half-starved, she was found by a Montral scout, who would have killed her had she not spoken of friends in Montral who would pay a ransom. Once this is explained, Gilead and Lafayette set a ransom price of seven gold, one of which is given to the soldier who brought her.

Gilead further barters wth Lafayette over the witch Arthur. To his surprise, the chieftain agrees to sell him in return for lumina crystal from the Columbia, and the services of an adept to train his witches to use it. That night, the party discusses the price with Crockett, who agrees that it is a small price to pay to liberate an adept from bondage. Besides, it will greater seal the usefullness of the Columbia while the party is exploring.

In the morning, the crew is startled to discover that one of their sentries has been knocked ou during the night. A quick head count reveals that Mint is missing. They briefly consider that she might have some rendezvous with a kinsman, but eventually come to the conclusion that she bears a hatred towards the Ottawa chieftain Bayard. They deduce that Mint was the person Bayard wisehd to murder last night. Obviously there is bad blood between the two. They seek an emergency audience with Lafayette. They relate the situation to him, telling him that Mint acts without their approval. It is a diplomatic disaster. If Mint actually manages to hurt or kill Bayard, a Kabekki chieftain, all their lives could be forfeit. Also, Tira reveals that she can read the emotions of others. Lafayette immediately recinds the welcome to adepts from the Columbia, saying the ship may remain, but no adepts may enter the city again. An exception is made for Yosemite, the navigator from the Columbia who will teach the witches of Montral to use lumina, but even he may enter only controlled areas of the city.

In order to show their disavowal of Mint's actions, the rest of the party offers to hunt her down and take her prisoner back to the ship. Lafayette agrees under two conditions. First, they must be accompanied by a Montral military excort. Second, if Mint has acted openly, she must be surrendered to tribal justice. The party agrees, taking the newly-acquired Arthur with them. On the way back, the party's senses are strained to their utmost for any sign of Mint. It is Arthr who points her out, lying in ambush behind a great broken glass dome which admits light from the surface. They give chase, and though they do not catch her, they are able to shout a conversation with her in the tangled ruins of the street level.

Mint confirms that she intends to kill Bayard here, where he is not so well guarded. Whatever her grievance is, it is something she is willing to kill and die for. She makes references to vengeance, asking Gilead for instance, if he would be able to let Bayard live if he had tortured and killed Gilead's father. They are unable to deter her, and she barely manages to escape. The party is escorted back to the Columbia, disheartened, but reasonably confident they have convinced Lafayette that the crew does not condone her actions.

Nevertheless, when they depart for the Wilds two mornings hence, they leave behind a ship in uncertain circumstances.