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Elric greeted many others, some in elaborate outfits, some in simple robes, some with staffs or wands or talismans, some with heads bare, some with apprentices of varying ages. The night filled with color and activity, energy and fire.

At the height of activity, an outsider, a Human of compact build and dark hair, inserted himself between mages. "I'm sorry to bother you at such a busy time. Are you Elric?" At Elric's nod, he gave a short bow, his hands folded in front of him. "I bring you greetings from His Exaltedness, the Rook of Tain. He has asked me to convey his great pleasure that your esteemed group has chosen his home for your gathering."

"Yes, yes," Elric said, watching as one of the spinning Grimlis barely missed an attendant carrying a basket piled high with pastries. He had little patience for the Rook.

"He has asked me to officially welcome you all, and to say that the hospitality of the Rook is extended to you. He sends you the fifty finest pects of Tain." The man handed Elric a sealed letter and gestured toward a group of Soom with crates on their shoulders. They were wandering in amongst the mages, generally increasing the chaos.

To Elric's annoyance, one dropped his crate and pects spilled out, squawking and running in circles. "Take those to the tents," he yelled in their language. "Get out of the way here."

"If there is anything that His Exaltedness can do to improve your gathering, I am directed to do it." His voice was smooth, with uncommon control for a nonmage.

Elric's gaze focused for a moment on the man. He wore a dark, well-tailored suit, and a dark stone hung on a chain around his neck. His manner was meant to be deferential, but something about it was disturbing. More than that, Elric knew well what went on in Tain, and the
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