I\'m Duchess Sylla Ekna.
I\'ll represent the interests of the Dawn Court and of its host, Awakened Verhen, during the parlay.
Lieutenant Colonel Kaelan is the emissary from the Night Court, while Lich Inxialot is a neutral spectator on behalf of the Council.
The Banshee gave a graceful curtsy to the Lich first and to Kaelan later.
The vampire was aware of how volatile a Lich\'s behavior was, yet Sylla\'s breach of etiquette still angered him.
So when the Lich kept staring into space without returning the greeting, Kaelan did the same.
It had been one of the ugliest nights in the last few centuries of his existence, and it kept getting worse by the hour.
His newest Vassal had managed to anger the only Awakened one for miles, someone even the Night Court was unaware of his existence.
Kaelan had been forced to protect his investment and albeit his brief clash with Lith ended in a draw, he had suffered a humiliation nonetheless.
The news of Kaelan\'s inability to discipline his own dog had spread like wildfire in the Night Court, making him a laughingstock.
No one cared about Lith being an Awakened, nor a guest of the Dawn Court.
The only thing that mattered to his peers was that Kaelan had left the gala while Lith remained.
Any result but victory was seen as weakness by his Court.
Later, some of his most prized connections with the black market had been slain after turning into monsters.
Being embarrassed in public and losing a good chunk of his influence inside Othre had made Kaelan\'s rank of Lieutenant Colonel inside the Court shaky at best.
When he heard about the young Awakened seeking audience, he had volunteered to regain some of the lost face.
The presence of the Lich threw a monkey wrench in his plans.
The mortal was in a hurry, so Kaelan\'s tactic was supposed to exploit such weakness to force him into accepting an unfavorable deal.
Squeezing mystical treasures from the Dawn Court would have made him regain his honor and forced the mortal to take part in the Courts\' power plays, giving Kaelan the opportunity to achieve his revenge.
Two birds with one stone.
Unluckily, Liches were fickle creatures and one of the few even more impatient than mortals.
Stalling for time was likely to earn Kaelan a quick but excruciating eternal sleep.
\'All is not lost.
I just need to exploit the Lich\'s nature and that mad thing will do the dirty job for me.\' The vampire thought.
What do you want, human Direct approach was another breach of etiquette, but it earned him a nod of approval from Inxialot.
I need to know who is behind the meat puppets that kidnapped Professor Manohar and where I can find him. Even without Solus, Lith\'s survival instinct was screaming at him to leave the room in a rush.
The Lich was the most powerful creature he had ever seen and to make things worse, he was an Awakened one.
\'If he uses Invigoration on me, he might discover my second life force.
I can\'t afford to arouse his curiosity, or I risk spending the rest of my life as a guinea pig.\' Liches were the only greater undead Lith knew a great deal about thanks to Kalla.
He knew that there was nothing they wouldn\'t do to further their quest for knowledge.
Breaking all the laws of the Courts and the Kingdom at once would be a small price to pay to get their hands on an anomaly like Lith was.
You are asking a lot.
How much is worth to you the life of one of the greatest mages… Inxialot\'s head turned on the Night Court\'s representatives.
His gaze made Count Xolver fall to his knees, unable to breathe.
Kaelan remained unfazed only because he was already sitting and his sweat glands were as dead as a doornail.
I mean, the life of one of the greatest mortal mages and the location of one of the Griffon Kingdom\'s greatest enemies Inxialot eyes went blank again.
They amount to nothing to me. Lith said with a wave of his hand.
On the other hand, the Griffon Kingdom is very interested in both matters and would pay you handsomely.
If the information provided is reliable, of course.
This is not a cattle market where you can check the animal before paying its price. Kaelan\'s voice perfectly hid his annoyance.
The human was aware of at least some of the rules of the game.
Then I\'ll settle for Professor Manohar\'s whereabouts. Lith replied.
If the first information proves to be true, the Kingdom will purchase the second one too. Lith pretended to be calm, but he was actually quite nervous.
\'Dammit, I\'m quite a good negotiator, but only as long as I know what we are talking about.
If Kaelan asks for artifacts like the Small World, I have no clue how precious they are to the Kingdom compared to Manohar\'s life.
\'As per my host request, I\'ve left my communicator amulet at the Association.
I can\'t ask further instructions from the Queen, and relying on Sylla can easily backfire if she treats my request as asking for help instead of information.\'
Fine. Kaelan replied.
Our request is for the Sword of Saefel, the Spell Hoarding Cube, and the following ingredients.
Even before reading the list the vampire handed to him, Lith\'s poker face crumbled.
The Sword of Saefel was one of the royal treasures passed down by Valeron Griffon, the first King, while the Cube had to be a state secret, since it wasn\'t mentioned in any Forgemastering book of the White Griffon academy.
The list of ingredients was short, but the items ranged from priceless to does it really exist in Lith\'s mind.
This is daylight robbery if I ever saw one.
Don\'t you agree, dear Duchess Lith hoped that asking for an opinion counted as information.
The lip service was unlikely to be helpful, yet it couldn\'t hurt to try.
Indeed. She nodded without changing her expression.
She wanted the human to get conned, so that by helping him he would become one of their assets.
Not even the Dawn Court could afford such an unreasonable price to leash just one human.
This whole building is worth way less than what you ask for, Kaelan.
Lith crossed out all the ingredients he wasn\'t able to evaluate before returning the piece of paper.
There was still enough to cover a few times the annual budget of the White Griffon\'s light department.
The artifacts aren\'t for sale.
This is what I can offer you. Lith was actually willing to raise the offer, but he wanted to keep enough leeway during the negotiation.
Is this a joke Anger made some color return to the vampire\'s dead cheeks.
No, it\'s me being generous. Lith replied.
The Night Court is indebted to me after your Vassal tried to steal my prey and then attacked me even after I showed him my references. Mana flowed to his right hand, revealing Kalla\'s runes.
As his master, you should take responsibility for his actions.
Accept my offer, tell me what I want to know, and I\'ll consider the matter between us solved amicably. Lith noticed how important were formalities to the Courts.
He hoped his earlier incident with Kaelan might give him an edge.