Almost completely bare, this room is paneled with ceramic tiles on floor and walls, with the ceiling being alternating strips of some porous-seeming material and some kind of clear plastic which cast a harsh white light that eliminates all shadows. A round table sits at the center, at which a single chair has been provided. One wall boasts a wide, thin mirror. The sole exit from the room is a door to the north which has a narrow slit to permit a guard to look in on the occupants.
The door thumps shut behind Envoy. Like the others, when the Zelak guard raised the alarms, she was apprehended and brought into the custody of the Temple… For her, a custom that she has already experienced once or twice before. Mercifully, there was enough time for Chiri to finish her work on Envoy's hand, which is throbbing painfully and feels quite warm.
"Wait in here" is all that the guard, a Jupani lieutenant, told Envoy before bringing her inside this room. Now as bolts snap shut within the locking mechanism, she can only wonder what that means. Her reflection stares back at her from the mirror on the far end of the room.
Envoy looks around, and immediately heads for the chair. The painkiller Chiri gave her is starting to wear off, and is giving her a rather fuzzy feeling.
The room is full of echoing silence, the sound of her settling into the wooden chair bouncing back from the corners.
Envoy looks at her reflection for a few moments, then turns a bit to face the door, where she assumes someone will enter through to talk to her.
The door has been painted a featureless white, providing no clue about whether there is anyone standing outside, looking in, or even anyone coming at all.
Envoy begins to drowse. The demands of her healing hand aren't light on her physical resources.
The lights flicker, and then go dark with a fitful snap.
Envoy closes her eyes, and drowses further. Before long, her world is reduced to the throbbing sensations of her hand, and an urge to lick chalk.
The lights slowly bring themselves back up. The silence stays the same, a quiet that lets the mind envision all sorts of little noises of a Temple that never sleeps. Perhaps some of the sounds are real.
Envoy reopens her eyes, and sighs. Another night, another disastrous mistake of judgment.
There are no shadows here, only a merciless play of an even white light everywhere from the light-strips upon the ceiling.
Envoy looks back into the mirror for awhile, then gets up and walks closer to it so she can examine her teeth for any cracks the Kavi's kick might have caused.
An unkempt winged unicorn looks back at Envoy. Her teeth seem unbroken, and the swelling in the lips and the bruise upon her nose are already going down.
The white light does not flatter Envoy, or the simple paper gown that she wears, issued to replace her clothes after her search.
Returning to the chair, the Exile wonders if she'll get her amber amulet back. Odd to feel sentimental over something like that. Odd for her to feel sentimental over anything.
More silence. Perhaps they've forgotten about Envoy. Or perhaps this is where they've decided to leave her… Forever.
Envoy tears off a small strip of paper from her gown, and sucks on it. Maybe that will ease her mineral cravings for awhile. She also tries to understand what she did to make the Kavi so angry, or why his friends were so willing to help him hurt her.
It's… paper. A coarse sort of cloth made from matted fibers, and as such, not especially satisfying.
More minutes pass. The reflection shows a sullen Exile worrying at a little scrap of something off-white, and the door behind her, still shut, indeed, virtually disappearing into the mirrored wall. It's almost like looking at another copy of the same room, but one in which there is no exit.
Closing her eyes again, Envoy begins to drowse with the strip of paper hanging from her lips. She wonders if she should ask them to turn off the lights until they're ready to do something with her. No need to wear them out with nothing happening and nothing for her to look at.
Envoy leaves her eyes closed, but begins to wonder at the original purpose of the room. Maybe it was a large wardrobe… why else would it have such a big mirror?
The light flickers once or twice, but remains unrelentingly ever-present, even through closed eyelids.
Opening her eyes, Envoy looks at the mirror again… or rather at its edges.
The edges of the mirror have been set into the wall. It must be part of the original fixture, rather than something added later.
Envoy mutters, "Why build a mirror into a wall? So nobody would take it out? Maybe it's not really a mirror."
It serves the purpose of a mirror: an Aeolun stares back at Envoy suspiciously as if categorizing every flaw.
The Exile gets up and examines the surface of the mirror more closely, hoping to see if there is anything embedded in it that might turn it into a viewing screen, like the ones in her 'dream' inside the computer.
Large gold-irised eyes look back at Envoy.
Envoy tries tapping on the surface with a claw.
"Are you a window?" the Aeolun asks the mirror. "Why would a window be inside like this though?"
The mirror remains mute, the Aeolun's mouth moving in silent questioning back at herself.
Envoy hmms, determined to figure out the anomaly.
Looking towards the door, Envoy moves around the room to see if there is any spot that can't be seen through its slit.
At first glance, it would seem that someone standing right next to the door but out of the angle of vision of the slit would be unseen by a guard looking in casually…
Envoy hmms, and turns back towards the mirror. "I think you are a window afterall, but I'm on the wrong side." How to test the theory though?
Envoy goes over to the table, and checks to see if it is attached to the floor.
The table's legs are tightly sealed to the floor, though it's not apparent just how. The chair seems to be the only thing that's capable of being moved.
Envoy bends down to look under the table, but almost loses her balance in a moment of dizziness. Side effects from the painkiller probably. She kneels down instead to look under the table.
The underside of the table is flat unvarnished wood, somewhat dusty with the passage of time.
Envoy has to use the chair and her unhurt hand to pull herself upright again. She then goes over to the door and tries to look out through its slit.
A flat ceramic piece stops Envoy from seeing anything through the slit.
Finding nothing interesting there, Envoy goes back to the mirrored wall and tries to stick the wet end of the paper she was sucking on onto its surface.
*splot!* It sticks, leaving Envoy staring at her reflection with a bit of paper stuck on the nose.
Envoy says, "I don't have enough paper to block off a large enough area to test my theory. I suppose I'll just have to ask someone later."
Nothing interesting happens.
The Exile pulls the bit of paper off of the mirror, then turns and leans back against it, sliding down until she's sitting on the floor. If someone is watching, they can watch her wings.
Still nothing, for long minutes…
Envoy stares at the door for awhile, then begins to sing a lullaby.
After singing for awhile, Envoy rests her immobilized hand into her lap and closes her eyes again, deciding to get some sleep.
Exactly at the moment that Envoy is just about to drop off to sleep…
The door clacks open. A figure from Envoy's nightmare steps in.
Envoy blinks three times and stares at the figure. Is she hallucinating from the painkiller?
Inquisitor Zeffel peers down at the huddled Aeolun, the Saluki's long muzzled face disdainful. "Would not the chair be more comfortable?" he wonders. The Gallee draws his cloak about his shoulders and snaps his fingers to an aide, a Gallah border collie. "Bring me another chair," he commands.
Envoy blinks again. "I didn't realize I was supposed to be comfortable. Sorry… "
The Aeolun starts to struggle back to her feet.
"You were instructed to wait here," Inquisitor Zeffel says peremptorily. He gestures for Envoy to sit, and remains standing himself upon the other side of the table.
Envoy goes over and sits down in the chair again.
Envoy asks, "May I have a piece of chalk? Is that mirror a window? Have we met before?"
A moment later finds the aide bringing in a much nicer looking chair, in which Zeffel seats himself. He takes out a folder and begins leafing through it. "I must say, I am disappointed to see you here again, Envoy of Lothrhyn. Or is it Scout Envoy of Shkarkin Hive?" He raises an eyebrow, blatantly ignoring her questions.
Envoy says, "Both are accurate."
"We at the Rephidim Temple find it a wise precaution to avoid meddling in the affairs of Zelak hives," Zeffel says. "You would do well to do likewise. They do not hesitate to kill when they find it necessary." He clears his throat and leafs through the papers.
Envoy just nods.
Inquisitor Zeffel takes some papers out of the folders as he goes. "Inquisitor Vassoy would ordinarily have handled your case, as he is already dealing with the others a disreputable sort of Shiga foremost, I believe but I exercised my prerogative to handle your questioning because of your past… meddling. While Vassoy is to all appearances a most qualified individual, I'm not certain he's ready to handle matters in this particular sphere." He looks less interested than annoyed at Envoy having forced him to take yet more time out of his already busy schedule.
Envoy asks, "Why am I being held?"
More pages get removed. The Saluki continues, "You are here because you were apprehended in the company of a fugitive who has been searched for since Fool's Day Six: a little over two months ago. Naturally, the guards brought all those found with him in for questioning… " He pauses for breath. "In case they might be able to provide additional information as to whether he has perpetrated any crimes in which the Temple might be interested."
Envoy nods again.
The Inquisitor raises an eyebrow. "Tell me, Envoy. What do you know about the Shiga with which you were apprehended?"
Envoy says, "He had a disagreement with a drunken Rhian earlier. He complains a lot. He can do tricks with his hands."
Envoy adds, "He may also have saved my life. I'm not sure on that."
Setting aside the folder for a moment, Inquisitor Zeffel takes this down. "Where did he do all this? And when? I remind you, I expect full details. I do not care to hunt and poke after every morsel of information you choose to give me."
Envoy says, "It was at the Missing Shekel, in Darkside. The Rhian mistook him for someone that owed them money, and the Shiga used several pieces of furniture to dissuade him of this. Then he came over later and convinced the Khatta and Skreek that were holding me down while their friend broke my hand that it would be more profitable for them to let the Shiga take me out of there and sell me to his uncle. This seemed to involve some personal risk, as he hinted that he had no intention of selling me to anyone as he brought me to Chiri the healer's tent. He said he had to produce at least a silver now for the two or he would get into trouble of some kind."
"The Missing Shekel, eh?" The black-cloaked Saluki taps his pencil against his chin. "Do you frequent this establishment? Do you believe that this individual does so? And what precisely is his name?"
Envoy says, "His Savanite aide caught up to us at the healer's tent, and he sent it out to fetch a Zelak. I think he had seen me before in the company of the Shkarkin Zelak that is my bodyguard, and meant for the Savanite to find that one instead of the guard that appeared. I've only been to the Missing Shekel once, and it was not pleasant. The Shiga had something there called a 'tab' though. The barkeep called him Scotch."
The Inquisitor nods, taking this down. "'Scotch… Frequent patron of the Missing Shekel.'" He pauses and then continues, "Owing to your nature as an Exile, perhaps you are not aware that the Missing Shekel is one of the worst dens of iniquity in Darkside. You may account yourself lucky that you survived the experience with only a broken hand, Envoy. I do not recommend that you repeat the attempt. Now then. This Scotch, was he involved in the commission of any crime that you know of? And to whom did he intend to sell you? His uncle… ?"
Envoy says, "He knocked out the Rhian… is that a crime? He said he would sell me to his uncle and split the money with the two holding me down. But afterwards, he unbound me and did not seem intent on selling me at all."
Envoy clarifies, "I don't think that he would have sent for a Zelak if he intended to sell me."
Inquisitor Zeffel frowns. "Assault and battery with blunt weapon," he writes. "Now then, did you get any names of those involved in this incident? Perhaps the name of the slaver to whom this 'Scotch' claimed that he would sell you?"
Envoy frowns, "It might have been 'Sleazy'. I'm afraid the pain-killing drug and shock of the beating have impaired my recall at the moment."
Inquisitor Zeffel looks up at Envoy, staring into her eyes. "Search your memory, Envoy," he says very quietly. "If I learn that there was more you could have said, but that you chose to withhold this information from the Temple, it may go hard for you."
"Now then, is there anything you wish to add or change in your summary of these events?" The Saluki taps his pencil on his pad, looking slightly impatient.
Envoy tries to separate out the impressions of the room around her from those of having her hand stomped on, which only seems to make her notice the pain more. "I don't know why he helped me," is all she can add.
Noticing the look on Envoy's face, Zeffel adds, "If the painkillers are obscuring your memory, we can always keep you here until they wear off." He waits patiently to hear if there is anything else.
Envoy shakes her head. "Nothing much made sense to me then, I'm afraid. I may be able to recall events with more clarity after my hand has finished healing in a few days."
"I see," the Saluki says. He clears his throat. "So then. The individual you call Scotch, a frequenter of the Missing Shekel, a notorious den of iniquity, assaulted a drunk Rhian rather than pay a debt, then bought you from two individuals, a Skreek and a Khatta, with the promise of selling you to a slaver, his 'uncle'. You may not be aware of this, Envoy, but it is a custom of slavers to deceive their charges with promises that they will be let free at the end of a trip… Only to deprive them of this last, solitary hope when they have reached their destination. Very well then, unless there are any corrections you'd like to make, let's move on."
Envoy blinks a few times, but can't find anything to comment on even though the statement sounds wrong somehow. "I can't think of anything else."
"There is then the matter of the prior case for which you were confined to Temple precincts," Inquisitor Zeffel says. "Which is to say, the murder of the Mind-Mage Isstan. Do you have anything further to add to your statements of the time?"
Envoy blinks three times. "Then it was real? I was told that I had been in a coma the entire time."
The Saluki sighs. "Envoy of Lothrhyn, a well respected Naga, an accredited Mage of the Sphere of Magic and a citizen of the Nagai Empire, has been dead for well over half a year now. That is real. What I wish to know is, do you continue to maintain that you are innocent of all complicity in his death?"
The Inquisitor thumbs through the remaining papers in the folder and takes out another page.
Envoy blinks again. "I can't trust my memory of events after Isstan began his spell. There are events which I know to be hallucinatory, such as my own execution. I awoke in my room at the Bard's Guild with Mage Latania and my friend Chiaroscuro assuring me that I had been unconscious and undergoing treatment by the Life Mage since something went wrong with Isstan's ritual."
Inquisitor Zeffel frowns and looks hard at Envoy.
"Tell me everything you remember from the time that you entered Temple confinement subsequent to the death of Mage Isstan," the Saluki commands. "To the time that you awoke in your room."
Envoy opens her mouth, then closes it again.
Envoy says, "I don't think I can do that, Inquisitor. If some of it really happened, then it would implicate Temple officials in a conspiracy. Does your paper say why I was released?"
Inquisitor Zeffel says, "It does. However, Envoy, I am more interested in what you saw and heard that might have bearing on the death of Mage Isstan… Or on this 'conspiracy'." He drums his fingers on the table. "I reiterate. If you are withholding information or lying to me, I will prosecute you to the fullest extent of Temple law."
Envoy pauses, then asks, "If they were your secrets I was telling to another Inquisitor, what would you do to me?"
"Leave such considerations to me," the Gallee Inquisitor replies, eyes fierce. "It is my duty to search and discover the truth, wherever it is, and if I have to resort to more forceful means to retrieve that information, Envoy, I assure you that I will. Do we understand each other?"
Envoy frowns and looks down at her broken hand. "It has been made to clear to me that my carelessness in the past has caused misfortune to others. If I tell you everything, then it will cause trouble for me and for others. If I remain silent, it will only cause trouble for me, correct?"
The saluki leans forward, an eyebrow raised at Envoy's defiance. "Not necessarily. Suppose that a conspiracy exists: it necessarily does so to perform illegal tasks, that could not be performed in the open. If you keep whatever information you possess secret, then such a conspiracy will take that much longer to be brought to light, if it is ever, or else will be able to continue its illegal activities in secrecy." He pauses. "The choice to tell is yours. The choice as to your disposition within the Temple is mine."
Envoy furrows her brow, trying to figure all of the probable outcomes. "I don't know how to decide. If you try to force me to give the information, then I will probably be rendered incapable of providing it if it is truly incriminating. However, such action would prove that there was incriminating information to begin with. If you are prevented from investigating, then that would also constitute proof of incriminating information. If I tell you, then you may be considered a threat and removed. Either way, I will likely be neutralized in some way."
Inquisitor Zeffel taps his fingers on the table. "Your reasoning is suspect in several places, Envoy. Perhaps the painkillers are affecting your thinking as well as your memory."
Envoy says, "I don't think the difference would be noticeable. Nobody seems to understand that I think differently than the Exiles you've dealt with before. What flaws do you see?"
"You assume that such a conspiracy is perfect and able to stop any attempt to investigate it," Inquisitor Zeffel points out coldly. "As an investigator for the Temple, it is my job to daily break what people consider unbreakable. Secrets. Crimes. Spirits."
The Saluki stands, taking the folder and the loose sheaf of papers, black cloak swirling around his feet.
Envoy says, "Either way, I get broken though, don't I? Would you let me go if I told you everything?"
Inquisitor Zeffel says, "That would depend on whether you were really guilty of Isstan's murder, wouldn't it, Envoy?" He smiles thinly.
Envoy says, "I don't think you'd believe my testimony if I gave it willingly."
"If you prefer that it be unwilling, that can be arranged," the Saluki says as he walks to the door and opens it. "Your time to be forthcoming has passed. Perhaps in a few days, you will find that your thinking process and your memories have clarified, Envoy."
The Inquisitor in black walks through the door, which slams shut behind him.
The room is once again silent, with nothing but a reproachful mirror behind Envoy.
Envoy turns and stares at her reflection, but doesn't find any inspiration there.