Cibella, a fetching young Saldaean barmaid, weaved her way through the clientele at the Tavern of the Dancing Cow, carrying a full platter of food and mugs of ale. The mood in the tavern was celebratory, and she stepped quickly and nimbly to avoid the dancing revelers. She noted to herself that the tavern was full but not packed; while those present enjoyed Saldaea’s victory, apparently many people in the capital hadn’t even noticed there had been any conflict at all.
As she skillfully hooked open the door to the Tavern’s private room with her heel, the conversation from the common room spilled into the inner dining chamber. From the main room, the voice of Old Donwald rang out over the musicians, “I knew those Taraboner whippersnappers wouldn’t last long! Did you hear they had us under ‘siege?’” Peels of laughter rang out, and were silenced as the barmaid stepped inside and closed the heavy oak door.
Inside, four men sat at a table, their mood much more subdued. They were deep in conversation and did not notice her entrance. Baron Corath E’Real was in mid-sentence. “… good news, to be sure, but I remain concerned that the true cause of this conflict has not yet been discovered. Surely, someone in the Civil Watch must have a motivation we have not yet uncovered.”
Lord Ibzon al’Ron leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and grimacing as he spoke. “I share this concern. The efforts of the Taraboners, while fairly ineffective in their conflict against us, distracted us and others from the all-important conflict with the Shadow. The Shadow, therefore, had the most to gain from this so-called war.”
Lord Braxas al’Karios interrupted. “Yet the Civil Watch fulfilled all the tasks we set before them; no servants of the Shadow would have been willing to slay the dreadlord and the Blodfest encampment, or raze the Dark Fortress to our north.”
Ibzon nodded thoughtfully. “Indeed, their efforts in this regard are sufficient to convince me that the Taraboners as a whole stand opposed to the Dark One. But I believe there is more to this than we have yet discovered; I believe that someone in the Civil Watch, someone highly placed, is likely to be a darkfriend. But I cannot say who.”
Lord Paj Ah’ten looked up and noticed the barmaid for the first time. He motioned for her to set down the platter and passed around the mugs of ale to each of his friends. “Thank you …. Cibella, isn’t it? That’s all we need for now.” Fixing his gaze on her more intently, Paj said, “I am sure you are wise enough to hold anything you might have overheard in the strictest confidence.”
Cibella curtsied deeply, mumbling a simple “my Lord,” and began to make her way back out of the private room. As she left, she overheard Corath speaking again to the assembled Commanders, saying, “We are agreed. Our Queen has approved a cessation of hostilities with Tarabon, though the Civil Watch will still be banished for two additional weeks from Saldaea and Kandor. They still must make peace with our allies in Shienar, as well. We will keep an eye on those who initiated this conflict, for among them may be far more than simple rogues and criminals. Queen Tenobia, Lord Davram and I share your concerns, Lord Ibzon. The names of those we especially suspect are ….”
The door closed softly behind her as Cibella left the private room, the noise of the crowd’s revelry overwhelming the last of Corath’s comments.