ELSEWHERE: Bidding Phase

1 point bid: Just Union activity in Gulliver

The Just Union has been increasing its membership greatly amongst the dockers and common sailors of Gulliver, known for their toughness. The more iron-fisted Gulliver captains and first mates are starting to get worried about the democratic sentiments being voiced in the dock taverns.

1 point bid: In the mists

Through the gauzy veils which surrounded Zehazel, Something was moving. Amongst the Mist Isles there was a noise, a buzz, a disquieting shiver, almost like ice about to crack and melt, life-giving liquid where there had been only death. Minds reached out, feeling towards Zehazel, surprised by the life and the joyous confusion there. And a focus.

1 point bid: A temple is built in Caliban

The temple is chapel rather than cathedral-sized.

The front boasts large columns of strategically placed white marble, but is mostly made of granite. The doorway is a large norman arch which presently has only a rough wooden door, closed at night. There are no windows on the ground floor.

Ornament on the sides is still almost entirely bare. Doubtless decorations will appear in time. The back is a jumble of wooden buildings that didn't need to be in stone, a kitchen, and what appears to be some kind of smithy.

The inside is made up of three sections.

The main room. This is the largest, taking up most of the ground floor. This is dominated, walls and ceiling, with mirrors - big ones, small ones, etc. Immediately facing the entrance is a large mirror - some eight feet high and five feet wide. It reflects all who come in. Around the entrance arch on this side are a number of mirrors made to the shape of the arch - i.e. they are in twisted curving arcs that distort the reflections of all who pass under them. Where there aren't mirrors there is white stone. Most of the walls are lined with mirrored alcoves. This distorts the real dimensions of the room, although a patient man could work them out. The floor is polished marble. There has been great difficulty in getting it to keep its shine with people walking on it all the time. Despite Kali's strict instructions, the marble of the floor isn't really of an even colour - there are distinct patches and shades. This upsets her quite a lot. A large deep well in the ceiling acts as a skylight, and there are candelabras high up on all four walls.

Exits. Two doors (hinged mirrors) are obvious. The left hand one leads to a short corridor running along the inside of the left hand wall of the building. It ends in a set of stairs going down to the cellars. The right hand one leads to a short corridor running along the inside of the right hand wall of the building. It has stairs going up on the near side, and a small door to the back outbuildings at the end. Less obvious is the small entrance in the far left hand corridor. This door is simply a mirrored alcove where one of the walls swings into a second mirrored alcove. Because both are mirrored, the entrance is not easy to see when looking directly at it. Only a close examination of the alcove will reveal it. Having said that, it isn't that hard to find if you are looking for it, and certainly anyone standing in the alcove will probably notice it. It leads into a tiny room above the stairs going down. This ante-room is entirely black - no mirrors. It contains a few coat hooks, and a door into the sanctum. Due to the hinges, it is not possible to open the door from here to the main room while the door to the sanctum is open, or vice versa.

The sanctum. No-one is generally allowed in here apart from Kali...

1 point bid: Beautification of the Bartholomew Gardens

Val Tannen and Ivory have been further commissioned to beautify the Bartholomew gardens, at the express command of the First Librarian (and leader of the Allegiance), Selmor Farrow.

[Digression - Selmor Farrow. The designated First Librarian of Bartholomew, Farrow is a scholar of remarkable powers - expert in a myriad of academic subjects, including history, economics, sociology, literature, art, music, languages and some science, he has spent his entire life within the confines of academia and has risen to his prominent position as a direct result of his voluminous knowledge. Farrow is by now a very old man, and it is known that he regularly visits the Gethsemane for medicinal treatments - he is close with Sophia, and some suggest that she has advised him on the secrets of longevity. Like Sophia, Farrow is required to attend the Emperor - this is the result of the tradition that the First Librarian served as Chamberlain for the Imperial Council].

1 point bid: Daedalan crystals

'The Daedalus apprentice looked rather doubtful. "Professor Lonergan... I don't mean to sound foolish, but... it looks like Copper Sulphate." Ernest Lonergan smiled conspiratorially and cupped his hand over the little metal spatula... "Glow in the dark Copper Sulphate?" Now, he looked a little disappointed. "I'm sorry, professor... what is it?" Ernest clearly was waiting to be asked... "Magic," he said, trying to sound impressive.'

1 point bid: The sword

Ah yes, the sword.

After lying in a lead and iron casket for weeks, it had lost none of its potent aura of otherness. But it had done nothing untowards, of itself, and continued to look as harmless as a sword can look. It was high time, Salomolas concluded, that she found out what it was and where it came from.

Handling it with all the caution that befitted a gift horse, she lifted the naked blade out of safekeeping and carried it down several twisting stairways to an experiment hall. Around a food-laden table sat a tableau of men and women, sumptuous delicacies suspended from motionless cutlery before their breathless mouths.

She selected a heavy-set and scarred man, took some stone bricks from a pile in the corner, and began to build the foundations of a narrow wall around where he sat.

Holding the sword at the ready, she carefully nudged the final stone in the ring into place. At once, the man's fork began to travel towards his mouth, only to stop again as he suddenly noticed the change in his predicament.

With alarming speed, the man stood and span around, and launched himself at Salomolas. Even though she was expecting this, she could not quite avoid an open palm that slammed into her cheek. She reeled and ducked, half-remembered instincts keeping her only just out of harm's reach. The sword in her hands wavered ineffectively, and her opponent treated it with
wary contempt.

But soon she had positioned herself back where she needed to be. Foot braced against brick, she thrust the sword straight into the man's ribcage, and kicked her stone circle open again.

And as the sword hung poised in the act of slaying, she stood back and watched...

1 point bid: The makeover

"Well I don't know" she twittered. "I mean I thought you'd just do everything by magic. Just sort of wave your hands and ..." she giggled.

"We could" the girl admitted, "but would you really want us to? What's beautiful is not what you wear, or how you dress but you. Why disguise it?" She bent over again to add another layer, wielding her brush with practiced skill.

The matron made a face "Lady Matheus always says I could ruin any fashion."

"Well now she'll have to eat her words. You will be the belle of the ball. There. What do you think?"

"Oh yes.... with the red silk do you think?" She was too focused on her reflection to notice her helper's reaction.

"I... uh ... I think maybe this one? The blue sparkles so .. like your eyes."

"Oh.. well the blue then." Her brow crinkled into a practised frown. "Isn't it a bit .... plain?"

"Oh but we need that. We wouldn't want your dress maker's skill to distract from your own beauty."

"Well I suppose.... but it does sparkle so.."

The end was near, she coud tell she was softening. "Everyone will sparkle." she said fussing with tapes and ribbons. "You must be special. Like a pearl on a sandy beach. All around is gritty sparkle, but you, you must shine!"

"Yes...." the matron replied gazing into her own reflected eyes. "I must shine..."


The girl emerged, wrapping a cloak around her at the unexpected cold. A cloaked figure emerged to greet her, and held out an arm.

"Walk with me?" he said. The voice was a whisper, harsh on the ear. A voice unused to the light of day. The girl was used to it. She nodded. They started off down the street.

"How did it go?"

She managed a tired smile. "Well enough. She has the taste of a magpie. All that glitters..."

"But you managed to help her?"

She sighed. "Up to a point. I couldn't do anything about her jewelry, but when she appears at the party she will _not_ be wrapped in a ghastly pink cocoon with enough frills to sink a battleship." he ran her fingers through her hair. "I'm exhausted. I thought you said this would be easy?"

"No... I said we have to make it look easy. Did she like it?"

A grimace "She said she looked ten years younger."

"That would be forty two." The voice sounded puzzled.

"Hey I did the best I could! You still carrying that brandy?"

The silvered flask was passed with obvious reproach. "It is not seemly for girls to drink spirits."

"Like you care." She resealed the bottle and handed it back. "So what happens now?"

"You go home and get some sleep - or whatever else, your time is your own."

The harsh tone suggested activities of which the speaker was unlikely to approve.

"And the lady?"

"Your subject will make a dramatic impression, wherever she is seen. She will cause comment. She will tell her friends. We will handle the rest."

She stood watching him fade back into the shadows. She could just make him out in the darkness as he strode quickly round the corner and out of sight. Clearly a few sticks short of a bundle. One of these days, she promised herself, she would find a steady source of income that didn't involve people too obviously weird to do their own dirty work. Which would mean leaving the theatre business... She shrugged and headed off downtown. Not too far was the theatre bar. Alcohol might not be the cure for all ills, but she had a hard day in a perfume choked boudoir that she desperately needed to forget.

1 point bid: Bruno the Bogeyman

Tatterdemalion mothers are invoking a new name to keep their children in line: that of Bruno "The Bear" Brown, enforcer for the loanshark Samuel Reynard, whose penchant for excessive brutality has brought a reign of terror to the ranks of the city's poorest and most defenceless citizens.

1 point bid: Condemnation of the Just Union by the Hierophant

The Hierophant of Mordecai has stressed support for the sentiment of succouring the poor of Tatterdemalion, but is disturbed by the misuse of the name 'servants of Grell' within a recent pamphlet. Jerome is concerned that no inhabitant of Elsewhere, however corrupt, deserves this appellation, for it should only be genuinely applied to those branded heretic by the Curia, who are shown to worship the powers of the Void.

2 point bid: The ranks of the Just Union swell

Several prominent Bartholomews have joined the cause of the 'Just Union'. The last pamphlet released by Father Smoth was printed on Bartholomew presses. Notable individuals who seem to have allied include Joreth Becks, who is a noted social historian, well versed in the past development of Elsewhere, and Kerril Utgar, who is a scholar of economics. They have been seen involved in protests on behalf of the union, and are in regular contact with Father Smoth. Second Librarian Lokunin is said to be giving his tacit support to these activities.

2 point bid: Albrecht Fleischer addresses the Council

Lord Fleischer announced to the Council that he would shortly be recruiting and training more men, giving as justification for this the fact that "those rogues in Vermiform" were being lax in their duties, drinking and whoring while crime was rife.

2 point bid: The challenge

Notices have been posted city-wide promising a reward to anyone who can get through the front gates of the Imperial residence and leave a message on one of the mannequins guarding the inner palace - WITHOUT killing anyone. The sum offered is a generous one, but the notices are anonymous and some sceptics have observed that even if someone did breach the Emperor's defences and live to tell the tale he would have no guarantee of receiving his prize...

2 point bid: The wooing of Therese de la Quintesse

The inhabitants of Elsewhere will become uncomfortably aware over the next few weeks of the propensity of Meymian to turn up beneath the balcony of the de la Quintesse household every second night to sing majestic love songs of the ancient days. These include 'The Lay of the Sundering', 'The Ballad of Ilred and Feluree', ' Sweet Rose of the Morning' and so forth. Dionysian seems to be broadly supporting the endeavour (heartily amused by the romance of it all). In some circles, questions are being raised, however, as to whether this behaviour is quite seemly, and Garan Beaujoly, a prominent member of the Sardanapalus Trading Guild, has complained (loudly) to Titus Ruen about it. Whether Therese is at all impressed is open to question...

3 point bid: A great mirror is brought into the City

The box was opened and there it was. A great mirror, some 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide, bound in a black steel frame. The frame is carved with strange sinuous shapes, that seem to writhe around each other, with neither beginning nor end. The reflections in the mirror are bright, almost as though the mirror was reflecting with its own light. Towards the edges the mirror becomes distorted, as though the surface was curved. The mirror is worn and smooth and cold to the touch.

3 point bid: Mordecai condemnation of Antioch-Palatine conflict

[As declared by Hierophant Jerome VI from the Temple of St. Patria at the centre of Mordecai]

'Brothers and Sisters In Turumak, I gather thee together to inform thee of the great displeasure with which the present conflict between our Brethren of  the Sword fills us. Are we not reminded by the Holy St. Abderus that to kill a man is to kill ourselves, but to love him is to pave the way to our own redemption ? I say to thee, condemn these murders, embrace thy fellow man with joy. If blades remain unsheathed, the wrath of the One shall be cast down upon thee, and thou shalt become the Scorned of the City. Realise that the Lord Himself has spoken !'.

Independent observers have interpreted this announcement in various ways: most are agreed that it announces the prelude to excommunication of both allegiances if the violence does not cease. This could be a severe attack upon the livelihoods of both Palatine and Antioch, as it would enforce all believers in the One to boycott relationships of any sort with inhabitants of either allegiance, until the crisis reached resolution.

Melmothian political experts have been hard at work analysing the likely developments - they suspect that the Hierophant may soon send a delegation directly to Sir Guillome of the Palatine to prevail upon his religious sentiments to end the conflict. Davan Mirless has become a minor celebrity within Melmoth for daring to suggest that the Hierophant himself looks to be on his last legs - the announcement remained short, and throughout, Jerome looked likely to collapse. Mirless has noted that ,should the Hierophant die, the whole Allegiance of Mordecai will be thrown into confusion as vested interests vie within the College of Cardinals for the election of the new Hierophant...

3 point bid: Kavan Hypher at the marketplace

On the first day, Kavan sold a jewelled ring for a handful of silver coins in the bazaar. With this money he bought trinkets, which he proceeded to exchange for further goods throughout the market. All the while, smiling, chatting to storekeepers, learning how to sweeten a deal, experimenting and categorising, feeling the shape of the market cautiously but confidently. Haggling and promising and rewarding, honestly but shrewdly, trading one item for another for another.

At the end of the day, he had lost all he had made but for a handful of peppercorns, which he traded for food and gave to a beggar. But on the second day, he sold a jewelled ring for a handful of gold coins.By the end of the week, he could not remember the names of all the merchants he had spoken with, but he was confident that many of them remembered the name Kavan Hypher fondly.

3 point bid: Free Schools in Tatterdemalion

In many quarters of Tatterdemalion changes are noted as 'Free Schools' are set up by the Just Union: their purpose to teach Tatterdemalion children and adults to read, and to think for themselves, rather than rely on the advice of their 'betters'...

3 point bid: The mercury elemental

In the holds of the Symbole Jaune, a great vat is being prepared. Following various complex alchemical processes and spells life is given to the philosophical mercury in the vat. Strange shapes are hesitantly assumed by the new entity that is born... the first mercury golem is created!

Samedi tries to speak to it in elemental languages...

smdragon.gif (3092 bytes)

3 point bid: A guest in Jugurtha

Beyond the first mountains, in his cavernous lair, Aliack swilled his koumiss, and spat.

'This is bad!' He took another mouthful and spat with deadly accuracy at the hapless serving wench, a slavegirl daughter of another allegiance. Her tangled blonde hair flew as she tried to avoid the fragrant mare's milk.

'The most civilised people in the world, with the most beautiful treasures and fearsome warriors, and you bring your leader bad koumiss! Pah!'

His urbane guest, perhaps a leader from another tribe, perhaps - well, Aliack was a little too drunk to think about it quite clearly - stepped up to the golden, bejewelled throne placatingly.

'Chief Aliack, might I suggest this new liqueur? From deep in the mountains, where we breed our mares with the sons of dragons. I'm sure you'll find it more to your liking. And then perhaps we could speak further about you taking these goods of ours further into the City. Carefully. It's quite strong.'

Grumbling, Aliack took a sip from the leather flask which the man offered him, and then paused as the tears started to seep from under his eyelids and the dragonfire bit his throat. If he registered the taste at all, it was not to compare. There was no comparison. His muddy green eyes turned to his guest in simple wonderment, and he smiled as he had not smiled since braiding the betrothal beads into the hair of his first wife, his childhood sweetheart Kourma, long since dead in childbirth.

He sipped again, and carried on smiling as the man who held the dragonfire told him what was required of his tribe...

smdragon2.gif (3100 bytes)

5 point bid: The Eye of Thunn

Captain O'Brien and his trusty first mate, Udo were in whispered conference in a darkened corner of an unnamed inn near the docks.

"I was searching through the guild's library, Cap'n and I found this map!"

"You found a map in a library. You never cease to amaze me."

"But Cap'n!" hissed Udo, "This map claims to show the location of the Eye of Thunn!"

"Again, Udo, you never cease to amaze me. One question - what in blazes is this "Eye of Thunn"?"

"A jewel, Cap'n!"

O'Brien's nose began to twitch. Udo knew he had him hooked. He began to reel him in.

"Aye Cap'n. A jewel! A ruby - as big as your fist!"

"My fist or your fist? I've got delicate hands for a man my size."

"Mine sir! At least!"

O'Brien considered Udo's shovel-like mitts for a moment, before making his pronouncement.

"Make ready. We sail on the dawn tide."

It was a long journey, although uneventful. The winds were fair and The Gentleman Loser cut through the misty seas like a newly whetted knife. The captain piloted the vessel skillfully into a hidden cove indicated on the map. On landfall, he assembled his men on the deck.

"Right lads. From what we can tell of the map, this island's deserted, but for the temple that we'll be visiting. So they won't be expecting any trouble. I think it's best if I take only Mr. Udo with me. The rest of you, gather provisions, and be ready to leave at a moment's notice. If all doesn't go to plan, we'll be making a speedy getaway. If all goes well, we'll make enough to pay the crew's bar tab in every inn in the city."

A murmur of laughter passed over the assembled crew. A king's ransom indeed.

Later that night, O'Brien and Udo stood, gazing down at what lay on an altar, in the centre of an overgrown, half-ruined temple.

"Not exactly a jewel, is it, Udo?"

"Well, no. I wasn't to know. I mean, The Eye of Yys, that was a jewel."

"Whereas this is an eye."

A bloodshot, fleshy orb gazed back up at them, from where it lay on the altar.

"Well, I was right about it being as big as my fist."

"Well, that's a great comfort."

"I think it's looking at me."

"Don't be ridiculous Udo. It's dead. We've come all this way for a piece of offal we could have picked up at any slaughterhouse..."

At this slight, the Eye's pupil dilated, and a baleful red glow arose within.

"Now that's something you don't see every day, Udo. Maybe this actually is the eye of a god!"

Udo saw the captain's nose twitching, and didn't like the looks of it.

"You're not saying we should take it?"

"Well, it's quite a rarity Udo. Might be worth a pretty penny on the collector's market."

"And who collects eyeballs?"

"Fleischer, for one, I shouldn't be surprised. But no, think Udo - a unique magical curio!"

"I feel sick."

"Well we'd better make our decision soon, those priests we knocked out will wake soon..."

Without waiting for a response, O'Brien gingerly swept the eye, into a velvet lined box he had brought for the jewel. With a last look around, the pair fled into the night.

When dawn broke, no sign of the Loser, or its motley crew was to be found on the island. The high priest of the Temple held counsel with his assistant.

"I suppose the two acolytes on duty last night will be punished master?"

"No need, my son. They know the price the world will pay for their failure. They will carry that guilt to the End of Days. I can think of no greater punishment."

"The End of Days? Will that surely follow?"

"Thunn's influence is now abroad in this world, among those who lack the training to resist its wiles. Rack and Ruin must surely follow. We can only hope that it has fallen into the hands of a strong, stern individual, of the most serious intellect. Such might be the world's only hope."

"Stop poking it Udo."

"I don't like the way it's looking at me."

"Shut the box then."

"You really think this will bring us some gold?"

"Mark my words Udo. Zehazel is a varied tapestry. There will be someone with the right combination of riches and weirdness."

6 point bid: A walker in dreams

As the sun sets below the mists, the spires cast long shadows across Zehazel. Slowly, the city falls into its nightly slumber. But this night, something is changed. Many dream strange and unsettling dreams and someone or something walks through those dreams, speaking with the secret thoughts of the people, searching for a clue that will bring vengeance. And if the criminal is not found, the city may sleep a very long night indeed...

6 point bid: An address to the people of Melmoth

"The sun sank beyond the edges of the walls of Zehazel, the shadows of the buildings finally chasing its golden reflection off the whole city but for the tops of the towers, glittering an unearthly blaze seen from the darkness below. The streets of Melmoth, usually tranquil and still, began to fill, as its population gathered in the central square. An atmosphere of charged curiosity gripped them; the Mages for which Melmoth was known, their servants and the others who lived here, scribes and barmen, bakers and a blacksmith, all gathered together. Whispered questions of confusion brushed the air from all except the Magi, who either knew something more or wished to appear that they did.

"As the square filled to capacity, a figure rose to stand on the feet of the old, obsidian statue, dressed in a tattered cloak over worn leather with long dreadlocks draped across the shoulders and flowing down his back. Standing there among the expensive many coloured robes of the assembled wizards he looked as out of place as the obsidian statue did in the territory of light and colour. His voice rolled out across the crowd..."

6 point bid: Night Terrors

She knew she was dying. The midwife had ripped her bloody, crying newborn from her arms and from her sight, and if her husband knew or cared that he had traded his wife for a son, he had not returned to tell her. The life that had begun on her wedding night, sired in sweat and drunken breath by a man whose only love was for himself, had struggled into this brutal world at the cost of her own. And as the last of her strength bled away, she could not find the will to care: she sent the midwifes and the serving girls away, and closed her eyes, and waited for the gift of oblivion.

Into these last moments, something had come.

The night air carried with it the sweet, cloying stench of decay, a black tide of putrescence that filled the tiny room with its overpowering strength. She was surrounded by the dank heat of rotting flesh and the chill of life's adversary, and she gave herself to its black embrace with a willingness born of despair.

And later, in the winding alleys and backstreets, where the rats feast on the scraps cast down by the crowds of human vermin....

Disease has claimed another lover, and amongst a bed of his own filth, choking on his last foul breaths, he stares up into the bleak, pitiless sky and curses every moment that brought him to this lonely grave-

-and finds his gaze met by eyes brimming with sorrow, whites shot with crimson, pupils black windows onto the illimitable gulfs that lie beyond the rim of this shallow universe.

Death comes quickly. And is not the end.

And later still, a body still full of youth and strength chokes out its last, given to the void when the anguish of this solitary existence conquers the last of his illusions. The rope pulls tight around his neck, the tree's limbs creak in a bitter dirge, his breeches splash with urine.

Death finds him, but not in the way he planned. He's cut from the tree and thrown to the ground, and brought through slashing fangs into a world undreamed of: a world where his master sleeps beneath the soft earth, surrounded by the bodies and spirits of the dead, and calls the night his own.

X point bid: Pelegrin Waspis' tourney

The day of Pelegrin Waspis' long-anticipated tourney had finally arrived. Large areas of the vast market square of Sardanapalus had been cleared of their usual stalls and booths and now played host to a number of makeshift arenas, in which all manner of contests of strength and skill would take place from noon till evening. The two main events of the afternoon, preludes to the contest tha would end in the crowning of Elsewhere's finest warrior, were trials of archery and mounted combat. The former contest was taken by a foreigner, Hihoto Kawahara from the World of the Perpetual Warriors, marginally outshooting Saikendo of Mordecai and Hob of Tatterdemalion. The latter suffered from the participation of Lord Albrecht Fleischer of Antioch himself, who slaughtered three men and seven horses, and permanently maimed or traumatised a number of others, with the help of Reeva (his axe and best friend). Fortunately for the organisers of the tourney he was soon called to deal with matters in Antioch-Vermiform "disputed territory", taking his trophy and a number belonging to other events along with him.

The appointed time for the start of the grand contest arrived shortly before twilight. Twelve individuals had met the rigorous selection criteria, and stood in a line for the approbation of the crowds. Baron Gustave Fleischer and Earl Meinhardt Gessner of Antioch, slapping each other on the back and confident that the result was a foregone conclusion; Sir Bernard de St Larell of the Palatine, haughtily aloof; Krum the Jugurtha, a gigantic hulk of a man; the foppish "Lucian" Duquensay, known by some to be a Vervain noblewoman behind the mask; Hihoto Kawahara, still exultant from his victory in the archery; Red Gleaming Fur, an Upright Beast from beyond the mists, half man and half fox; Jacob Stedding, a Vermiform watchman, keeping well out of the way of the Antiochenes; Saikendo of Mordecai, the very model of centred poise; D'Arctagnan the musketeer, a spindly black-clad figure, his face concealed under a floppy hat and swathes of scarves; Flute of the Caliban, looking somewhat incongruous amongst his armed and armoured peers in his light robes of electric blue; and Venn, a sellsword, who as the lots were being drawn for the pairings stepped up to address the crowds, announcing that after his impressive performance of tonight he would be available for hire at highly competitive prices.

X point bid: _SeHT of Meraeanos resolves to deal with the harbour plague

Even as _SeHT wanders the lonely wards of the hospital in the base of his great spire, his mind continues to work. Fed as it is without ceasing with the image of the dead and the dying, he ponders over the image of the "ratman" and what it can mean. Not for the first time does he wish he were come here earlier, that his connections were greater and more sound - and that a certain one were with him, whose presence would have aided Val Tannen a million times more greatly than his.

He walks over to the chief nurse on duty. //I must go out for a while,// he says, and the nurse nods. //I shall not be too long. You know wherethe liquid is kept - but, for the sake of pity, use it but sparingly.// Again the nurse nods, tired past endurance, and _SeHT presses his right hand on the man's left shoulder and gives him some of his energy as his hand glows a gentle blue briefly. Then he claps the man's shoulder twice and heads towards the back of the hall, stopping here and there to offer a word of comfort and support, before disappearing through a set of medium-sized doors set in the back wall at the rear of the dais.

Climbing the stairs rapidly, he begins to disrobe and, by the time he arrives in the antechamber before his living area, he is naked to the waist.Stripping rapidly, he takes a brief bath, the hot water making him draw his breath and bare his teeth in a feral smile of pleasure, before he leaves and dries himself before dressing once more. Not, however, in his finery: now he dresses as one of the low-caste, the Tatterdemalion. If his goal is to be achieved, he must make himself as invisible as possible...

X point bid: A scene from the Arbiter courts

The courtroom was packed. Scholars jostled with barbarians at the top end, whilst an aisle led down past thieves, priests, warriors and mages to the wealthy aristocrats and plutocrats on their plush cushions in the front row. In two boxes above the stage, suspended by an elaborate system of pulleys and levers, hovered the feuding families. In a throne at the fulcrum sat the large figure of Judge Helena Sempertine: stark, plain clothing contrasting with the ceremony around her.

Before everybody's eyes, the two masked advocates began to plead their clients' cases. The green clad advocate slid balletically around the room, entreating and pleading with his audience that the Lascari clan above him were malicious and degenerate monsters who had spun misbegotten half-truths about his noble clients. The scarlet advocate senatorially proclaimed the evil deeds of the Sardanapalus family in long sonorous tones. Six jurors looked on, trying to control their emotions.

"Oh, yes he did!" roared half of the crowd. "Oh, no he didn't!" jeered the rest. The subject of this debate stood in the center of the stage, mirrors focussing light on him, sweating nervously. Rico Luchenzo, in the latest twist of the trial, had been named as the kidnapper of Lippoto Veterian, daughter of the self-styled businessman Madieros Veterian. He vigorously denied it, as did the other Luchenzi.

"I have seven Vermiform witnesses who will attest to your guilt!" shouted Madieros. Rico answered with a chuckle that was only slightly forced: "Why, I was lunching with a captain of the Vermiform at the very time that this alleged crime was supposed to have happened."

"We will resolve this in a civilised fashion," said Helena in a clear voice that filled the chamber. "Rico Luchenzo, will you submit to the sorcery of Salomolas?"

"Of course I will," replied Rico after only a moment's hesitation. "I have nothing to hide."

Muttering filled the auditorium. The jurors conferred with their six comrades who sat in a soundproofed room isolated from the trial. After a minute, all but the rowdiest group of sailors at the back hushed themselves as Salomolas came in.

Like a cloud of boiling white silk surrounding an obsidian pillar, she walked briskly into the room. She nodded briefly to the judge, smoothing her ceremonial robes, before turning to the accused man and handing him a silver disk.

"I prick my thumb on this, don't I?" asked Rico. Without waiting for an answer, he squeezed the disk between thumb and forefinger. Taking it with his other hand, he found a drop of blood in the centre of the disk. He gave this to the sorceress, who tasted the blood and closed her eyes.

"Should I do anything else? Say an oath? Cross your palm with silver? Paint myself blue?" He rattled on, falteringly, while preparing the nonsense rhymes and number patterns in his head that he had been taught to ward off mind tricks. "Are you ready to read my mind?"

"I do not read minds," said Salomolas, speaking for the first time. "I read what is, and what was. I follow the path your body took through your life, and look through your eyes as if they were the glass eyes of a cadaver."

Rico looked up at her shadowy face and saw that her own eyes were wide open, and within them he could see a doll-like reflection of himself, running and climbing and fighting and loving and laughing and eating and crying and talking and ... suddenly the vision went. He looked around, unsure of exactly how much time had passed.

"He did not do it," said Salomolas. As the crowd gasped, Rico came to his senses and hissed, "My lady, have you seen my whole life, everything I have done?"

"It is unimportant," she replied, and began to walk away.

"Wait," said Judge Sempertine. "Who did abduct Lippoto then?"

"Yes, I must know," agreed Madieros, and he started ushering a young girl out of the Veterian cage towards Salomolas.

"I don't want to cut myself," wailed Lippoto. "I don't want to be in a spell."

"Don't be foolish," chided her father. "You know Salomolas needs blood to do her magic. If you don't know what happened to you, then we have to use her spell to find out. Are you sure you need her blood, my lady?"

Suddenly Salomolas darted towards the pair and seized the child from her father, bundling her in her cloak and hastening to the other side of the room before the Veterian family guards had their blades half out of their sheathes, by which time a wall of men-at-arms had formed between them and Salomolas. Maderios' shouting echoed around the room, which erupted into momentary chaos, until Salomolas spoke again.

"The abductor was Dolian Grey, an enchanter of Melmoth." The child was standing by her side now, white faced, with blood welling in a cut in her earlobe, but otherwise unharmed.

"That's it? That's the spell done? Are you alright, my daughter?"

"Yes, reenacting the act of abduction gave me the power to see who committed the original deed."

"But why did he do it? What grudge does he hold against me?"

"Mr Veterian, let me say again that I am not a mind reader. Give me this enchanter's head, and I may be able to tell you what was inside it. Otherwise it is out of my hands."

"Then what did he do to my daughter when he had her?"

"Let us discuss terms outside of the courtroom, not within it. My job here is done."

She bowed once more to the judge, and left.