Ryel and Arkmar were hailed before a gnomish judge in a windowless room in the ugly basement of an awesome castle on a spectacular mountainside on an island that was truly a gem set amidst the emerald waves. Ryel’s mind was still full of the azure bay, the ivory cliffs, the steep forests, the soaring towers: after yet more days spent in the gloom of the Great Abyss, with nothing to look at worth looking at aside from Davalon, she found herself starved for beauty, and here she was allowed the merest taste of this feast of an isle and then snatched away to skulk under the ground again.
So she was not in an especially good mood when the eight long-bearded, mail-clad gnomes who had arrested them at spear point brought her in front of another gnome, this one with an even longer beard than the others, dressed in a black gown and with a powdered wig.
“Elf and dwarf,” said the lead officer, using the more commonly known form of the Gnomish tongue, “found on the beach near the cave to Down Below, unable to account for themselves.”
“I can account for myself,” both Ryel and Arkmar said, in the same language, which they both had learned long ago.
“Dwarf first,” said the judge. “Why are you come to the Isle of Quadruun?”
“Well, I am Arkmar, and indeed I am of the Dwarves, and, well,” and he laughed charmingly, “I and my friend here—!”
“Since when were Dwarves friends with the Fey Kindred?” asked the judge.
Arkmar looked at Ryel as if wondering what the answer might be. “We’re on a job,” he said after a moment.
“What sort of job?”
“Well,” he said, “we had to retrieve a book for a person in the Great Abyss, a gent who assists the local ghoul population. We had to steal this book from the Gugs. And we did, but then we had to flee the area, because obviously we were going to be somewhat of a target at that point.”
“And you fled up our basement steps,” said the judge.
“It seemed the most likely way to continue breathing, your honor. We will, of course, depart your island on the first ship. We did not mean to cause disruption or to impose upon the Esteemed Race of the Gnomes.”
“You think us inferior?” shouted one of the guards.
“Brakdik,” the judge admonished, “that is not called for.” The judge looked at Arkmar. “Well, do you think us inferior? For the record.”
“For the record, I do not, and neither do any of my kindred. We are brethren! But,” he added, as several of the guards shifted uncomfortably, “perhaps cousins is better? Some sort of relation. Don’t you think?”
“Dwarf,” said the judge, “Arkmar, please accept the hospitality of this island. It is now the fourth hour of the morning. Let you go forth from this place and return in the third hour of the afternoon, to these chambers, for further interviews. In the meantime, please enjoy the castle of Qalqarish and its environs. There is a decent creperie on the Wall Street, which I would recommend for lunch. They have excellent soups as well. Now, go,” the judge finished, not as a shouted order but as a sort of judicial formality.
“But my friend—!”
“Your friend is the next case. Thank you,” the judge said, definitely dismissing the dwarf. Arkmar looked back ruefully at Ryel, then turned and let himself be led out into the sunlight. Ryel stepped up. “Name?”
“Ryel,” she said, “Ryel of the Silvan Elves of Greenwood.”
“For whom are you spying out our land?”
“Spying? I was working with Arkmar. We retrieved this book, you see—!”
“Now listen,” said the gnomish judge. “I do not for a single minute believe that a good upstanding Dwarvish adventurer such as this Arkmar fellow would willingly accept a partner of the Fey Kindreds. So you must have ingratiated yourself with him, or perhaps you took advantage of a victory in a game of chance—!”
“I never! The job was my job, actually, and he—!”
“And now you would have us believe that it was the Dwarvish adventurer who tagged along with the Fey of Greenwood? What kind of a name is Greenwood anyway? I think you might have made it up.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” said the bailiff, an aged gnome with a beard that touched the floor. The bailiff still looked like someone who could wield a heck of an axe, and there were several in the bailiff’s belt loops.
“I didn’t make up where I was born! Sure, it’s come to be known as Mirkwood, but—!”
“Mirkwood sounds evil,” said another of the guards.
“Well, that’s what I’m saying, the Necromancer—!”
“Ah, a black magician,” said a guard.
“And you admit that you work for a Necromancer?” asked the judge.
“No! No, I—!”
“So you don’t admit it? What are you doing here, on the Isle of Quadruun? I ask you again, who are you spying for?”
“Whom,” said Ryel to herself, using the correct form of the relative pronoun in Gnomish Common.
“What did you say? What did you just say to me?” asked the judge.
“Nothing, look, this is all—!”
“You’re not going to tell us who you’re spying for?”
“Take her from my sight,” said the judge. “Throw her in the detention facility!”
“Not the detention facility!” cried one of the guard. “It’s too horrible!”
“Oh cut it out,” said Ryel. “Throw me wherever. Just let’s don’t talk about it anymore.”
Three minutes of being hustled through the halls later, Ryel found herself thrown into a large cell with a fairly large number of other people. The door clanged to behind her. She looked up.
“Are you a spy too?” a human female of middle age asked wearily.
“I guess so,” said Ryel.
“Well, you’re in good company,” said an elderly human. “We’re all spies here, green girl,” said a female elf of one of the High Kindreds, with the usual condescension. “It’s fine,” said someone off to the left, who turned out to be a crab man. “They feed us regular.”