The door opened; the door closed. A murmured spell from the Keeper of the Chamber sealed it shut for the time being while the last of the Legeriators shuffled over to her place at the table and sat.

Civilitat Rivvem Damarrie spent a few moments considering her expression; then, without preamble, he said, “No luck, I gather.”

“None,” the Rassimel sighed. “The Guard’s best mages have done what scrying they could, and it’s enough to suggest Scathie might be telling the truth, but it hasn’t turned up any solid leads for them to investigate.”

Dalvimion Aurie, the Legeriat’s other Rassimel, squirrel-styled, black, and continually fussing with his elaborate and colourful clothing, grumbled. “A fortune spent in cley, and nothing to show for it! Enough of this frittering around – I’ve heard more about this mess than I’ve ever wanted to. Just tell the judge to make the wisest decision she can so we can move on to important things already!”

“Seven in nine of the city’s Cani are clamouring about this already,” Yserre Menard snapped. “If they stir up a revolt over a too-hasty decision, you’ll find out just how important this is, you useless little…”

“Enough,” Damarrie cut in, holding up one webbed hand. He held Menard’s gaze until the black-spotted Cani settled back into her seat, then turned his attention to Aurie. “Yserre is right, though. Hraff Scathie has many sympathizers and just as many enemies – not only among the city’s Cani, but among most of its professional mages. Now more than ever, we need to not only be fair, but look fair.” He turned his attention to another Cani, this one with fox styling. “Reyn, did you have any more luck?”

Reyn Senna Mnorryn leaned back a touch, claws tapping on the lacquered tabletop. “I’m afraid not,” he replied. “In fact, he was rather offended at the notion.”

“Meaning that if not for the question being a provocative one, he’d probably face new charges for threatening a Legeriator,” Menard translated. “Not surprising. Unfortunate, but not surprising. Scathie always was rather rigid where mind-magic was concerned.”

“Seven staring gods.” Shiezma Vlande, the latecomer, curled her tail around one leg of her seat to keep it from lashing about. “We’re not asking to root around in his head and look at his every secret. One quick command, written out in advance so everyone can be sure it’s all proper, and this whole matter could be settled.

“Would you want to be put to such a compulsion?” growled Tolmidior the Foe-Render.

“Of course not,” Vlande replied. Even if Tolmidior weren’t twice her height and several times her weight, nobody in the room would have the poor sense to suggest to a Gormoror that mind-magic was a pleasant thing to be subject to. “I’m certainly not suggesting that we make this a standard measure, anymore than I was last session when we put the idea on the table. But the usual means of investigation just aren’t working.

“Tolmidior,” Damarrie urged, “can you think of anything that might make this approach less objectionable?”

The Gormoror growled softly, then shook his head – not in denial, but resignation. “I’ll talk to him personally,” he sighed. “Assure him that we only do this for lack of other options. Give my word of honour that we’ll only seek the one answer.”

“Thank you,” the Orren said with sincerity. “I know that’s no small concession for you. Hopefully it’s enough.”

“I’m not so sure it would be,” Tolmidior grumbled. “You know what he thinks of my tribesmen.”

“You’re not living with your tribesmen, though,” protested Menard.

“Do you truly think that will matter?” Tolmidior scoffed. “He’ll look at me and see what I am, not who.”

Senna tilted his head. “Hraff Scathie is a man of strong opinions,” he said delicately. “But he’s no fool. He knows how Gormoror feel about mind-magic.”

“In point of fact, I think you may have misunderstood my request,” the Civilitat added. All eyes turned back toward him; while his was not a vote that would be counted here, that very fact made his opinions as a mediator worth noting. “I appreciate that offer on your part, truly. I think Reyn is right – even if Scathie doesn’t like your people, he’s no idiot, he’ll know that you suggesting it means we’re not treating it lightly. But if you were in his position, is there any other restriction you could think of that would make you find the notion of submitting to a compulsion slightly less vile?”

Another low growl; Tolmidior had been on the Legeriat long enough for everyone to know it was the sort of sound he made when he was thinking, not the full-voiced snarl of a threat. “Having the questioner swear by his word of honour would be such a measure,” he admitted, and leaned back slightly. “But Scathie is no Gormoror. Perhaps he’d understand a written contract better – one with penalties for all of us if he’s compelled to any more than that single question.”

“That’s absurd,” Aurie objected. “The entire Legeriat paying penalties to one mage? Who just happens to be the prime suspect in a murder?”

“Oh, shut up, Aurie,” Vlande snapped. “We’re not going to compel him to any more than that, so it won’t come to pass anyway!”

Again Damarrie held up a hand for order. Once he had it, he said, “There’s still a point to be had there. This contract would need to be written very carefully, specifying that it only concerns this single cast – Scathie wouldn’t be voiding his right to refuse any future such spells, and at the same time, we wouldn’t be promising to never use them again. Yserre, would you take this to the solicitors?”

“Of course,” Menard replied instantly.

“Tolmidior, go with her. Stay involved in the process – and make sure the wording satisfies you.” The Gormoror nodded, wordlessly.

“Does anyone have anything more to add?” Damarrie glanced around the table, but nobody spoke up. He nodded. “Very well. We’ll reconvene in… three hours’ time. Send a courier if the solicitors will take longer than that.”

The Legeriators stood, the Keeper of the Chamber dismissed her spell on the door, and the session broke up.