The officials still looked uncomfortable talking to Maeve, but they made an honest effort trying to get over it. The guards just looked at her silently with big grins on their faces. It did have me slightly worried as they wouldn't pay a lot of attention to anything but Maeve's body. Of course I was hoping they would not be needed at all today. Wouldn't that be nice, if everything were to go like planned.
We moved slightly off the path, no more than a few steps, and sat down on the ground. Maeve had led the way, obviously, but she chose well. There was plenty of light here, not too many bushes which made sneaking towards us harder and the ground pleasantly covered in moss so their cloaks would hardly get dirty.
The guards had to stand, but me and Deirdre were invited down, as 'Ambassadors of the Spirits'.
Maeve could be deviously clever at times.
Valerius spoke first when we had been seated. "We'd like to speak about the disappearances. There have been a few odd ones, but most notably those of Stonesthrow and Alesfort."
Alesfort wasn't exactly a village, more like an old stronghold. It was used as a trading post to the far south of Dawnbridge. There was usually a small garrison stationed there, at least that's what they told me. I had no idea if people lived there now, or how. I also hadn't heard of any disappearances specifically of that area. But I suppose I'd been away for a while and I could imagine what had happened anyway. I wasn't going to ask.
"It's hard to prove this, but the Forest Spirits have no method of making people dissolve like that." Maeve answered with care to her words. "And, as not many animals having been around the village at the time, I have no details on the matter either. No Spirit would do something big like that without me or mine knowing about it."
Francisco frowned. "Surely nymphs, satyrs or others could act without your knowledge?"
A dangerous statement, but Maeve kept her calm rather well. "Small things, yes. The forest is an entity with every Spirit and animal being part of it. And not just the forest, we have contact with the desert, the plains and the mountains as well."
Both of the council members looked impressed but tried very hard to hide it. Both Deirdre and I had to smile a little. Maeve didn't smile unduly, surprising me once more with her diplomacy and tact in this matter.
Francisco spoke again. "But we didn't do it, you didn't do it... So, who did?"
I decided to interject at this point. "The Twilight Cult."
Valerius looked a little annoyed that I spoke, but decided to give me the benefit of the doubt. "What makes you say that?"
I smiled. "Well, from what I've seen, neither Light nor Dark would benefit much from another war. The... eh... bad research that has been done on Spirits wasn't for the purpose of instigating retaliation."
Both of the councilmen blushed guiltily at this.
"Then there is some evidence that the Twilight Cult has been part of setting up hurtful research as well in each of your Castles."
This time, the guilt was more obvious. They looked at each other, realizing both of them had been trying to hide this from the others. They might be wondering how I knew this, but fortunately, this was not in question now.
Of course neither of them wanted to admit this.
Valerius and Francisco looked at each other and both nodded.
Valerius spoke hesitantly. "Yes, I must admit I knew they had a hand in supplying us with scientific details."
Francisco nodded. "I thought it was just us as well."
They looked very uncomfortable, but it was surprising they were so honest. But, fortunately for them and unfortunately for us someone else joined our little get-together. An old but good-looking man with grey hair and a grey robe walked into the little clearing.
"You wouldn't keep me out of the meeting, would you?"
The council-members looked at him, angrily. Francisco whispered a name through his teeth.