the tension. Dougal left them to their thoughts, for he had his own broodings.
After about fifteen minutes the hylek returned and with a booming “Follow me!” led them back out into the twisting hallways. Dougal figured that the Vigil chapter house must occupy most of the block, with numerous exits and probably access to the sewers as well.
Finally they were led into a large chamber dominated by a great table. Maps of Tyria hung from the walls, and the walls were lined with heavy cabinets. At the end of the room a large figure stood before the fire in full armor, her hands clenched behind her back. When they entered, she turned and regarded them with sharp feline eyes.
She was a charr, and for a brief moment Dougal felt she could sense the hairs rise on the back of his neck, an instinctive reaction he could not suppress.
“Dougal Keane, Killeen born of the Cycle of Night,” said Riona smoothly. “May I present General Almorra Soulkeeper, founder of the Vigil.”
The amazing Dougal Keane. Your reputation precedes you.” General Almorra Soulkeeper thumped a fist over her heart, charr-style, and then extended a paw. Dougal could feel a cold trickle of sweat drip down his back as he gripped the charr’s firm, strong hand, which wrapped around his own, the nubs of her sheathed claws grazing the back of it. The general gestured to the chairs opposite the broad table. The two humans and the sylvari took their seats and the charr lifted a ewer. “Wine ? This is a good vintage from the Almuten estate.”
Killeen said, “Thank you.” Dougal said, “I may need the drink.” Riona said nothing but nodded respectfully. Dougal was amazed by her sudden change in attitude from the violent warrior of an hour before.
Almorra poured the wine into four goblets and offered one to each guest. Then she raised her glass and said, “Death and despair to the dragons and their minions!”
“Death and despair!” repeated Riona. Dougal and Killeen looked at each other, said nothing, but raised their glasses in response. Dougal sipped his wine. The charr was right: it was a good vintage.
“A pity we could not meet in Vigil Keep, north of the city,” said Almorra, seating herself on a wide bench of the type preferred by the charr. “It is a proper and more secure place for such discussions, but when Crusader Riona’s message arrived that she had located you, I thought it best to meet here. Still, the Vigil appreciates your efforts on our behalf.”
“I have made no real effort so far,” said Dougal, shrugging. “And I will make none until I understand what exactly you want. I have agreed to come here and talk, nothing more.”
Almorra looked sharply at Riona, her four ears flattening slightly. “You did not tell him?”
Riona looked almost abashed. “I thought it best if he were briefed once we arrived. It was difficult enough getting him here.”
Almorra let out a noise halfway between a purr and grunt and said, “What do you know of our organization?”
Killeen said abruptly, “The Vigil is a group made up of members from many races, nations, and guilds. They are dedicated to resisting the depredations of the Elder Dragons by force of arms.” Riona scowled at her interruption, but Killeen ignored her.
General Soulkeeper nodded. “We have a number of your people in our organization, including my second-in-command. Your knowledge is always appreciated.”
“You want to fight dragons,” said Dougal.
“But you don’t want
to fight dragons. So I’ve been told.” He motioned to Riona, and Almorra noddedagain.
“You’ve been to Ascalon City,” said the general.
“So people keep reminding me,” said Dougal. “What do you want that’s in Ascalon City?”
“We seek the Claw of the Khan-Ur,” said Almorra simply. She took a long sip of her wine and let the silence in the room draw out.
Finally Dougal said, “You’re completely mad, you know.”
“Others have suggested that,”