Day 47: Neth 8, 4707
Seven days. That was how long you'd waited for Lord-Mayor Grobaras to send for you. Seven days of worried head-scratching, as you'd gazed in frustration down at thick tomes or stalked the cobblestone streets of the famed City of Monuments, wondering about what was really going on in Fort Rannick. Or who on earth Xanesha's mysterious correspondent had been. Or if you'd ever find a way to turn Sirus back to flesh from stone.
Seven days was far too long to wait when there was someone out there out to murder folks and steal their souls. Someone powerful enough to draw upon the dregs of what little remaining Sin Magic remained in the world. Someone whose poisonous reach had snaked all the way into the justice courts and the sewers of Magnimar, summoning the powerful and the lowly alike in a clandestine mass assassination scheme that had very nearly claimed even the life the man you were now to meet. A scheme that was but one of many.
Whoever it was, this being would have to be stopped. And be made to pay. With interest, if possible.
(The more courteous of you might have perhaps also wondered if seven more days was overstaying your welcome at Verala's abode. But if the sagely elf scholar has thought so, she certainly hasn't made her displeasure obvious enough to notice. Your morning coffee still tastes as fine as ever, at any rate.)
The letter had been a formal invitation for all five of you to dine at the Lord-Mayor's own estate, Defiant's Garden, nestled in the lavish Naos district. The paper had been gilt-edged, with dried rose petals pressed into the fibre and a pleasant floral smell. The words penned in a flowing, almost dainty cursive of black ink. It'd put you immediately in mind of perfume and puffery, of gems and jewels, of expensive and gaudy clothing. There was no question of the expected fashion in which you should arrive.
Nevertheless, even those of you who did deign to spruce up your travel-worn clothing find yourselves feeling slightly awkward and out of place as you step through the curved arches of the gate to Defiant's Garden, torches flickering from the alabaster walls on either side and the Lord-Mayor's herald bellowing out your names from somewhere behind you. For Defiant's Garden is a veritable palace, all gleaming glass and marble, with vistas of silk-draped tapestries and room after room adorned with plush furniture, costly Tien vases and gold filigreed artwork. The place has clearly been built to impress. Yet there is little time to gape as you are solemnly ushered down the corridor, the lustre of hundreds of candles reflecting off the polished oaken floors beneath your feet, the foliage of exotic plants in some conservatory just visible through the windows...
Lord-Mayor Haldmeer Gorbaras is easily the fattest man any of you have ever seen, nearly as wide as he is tall and with three chins jiggling beneath his bristly mutton-chop sideburns. The reason for this is readily apparent, for the meal that awaits you more than makes up for the indignity (if not the urgency) of having waited so long. The flavour and decadence of his table is unquestionable - cold capons with orange relish, hams studded with cloves and drenched in honey, cider-splashed roasted vegetables, goat roasted with fire-peppers and garlic, cheese and onion pies, creamy soup with wild mushrooms and buttered snails, mead-marinated venison steaks wrapped in boar fatback - never mind the lemon cakes, raisin pudding, and stewed plums that the Lord-Mayor primly tucks into for dessert with no sign of indigestion nor slowing down.
Dinner is served in the Galtic style with each guest helping themselves to as much as they please. The Lord-Mayor appears to be in no hurry to begin, leaning back in his chair as he helps himself to yet another slice of soft cheese with his bare hands, chewing slowly with his mouth partway open as he casually observes the five of you from the other end of the table with his piggy little eyes.