"Sit where?" said Lord Adus, taken aback by the presence of his bodyguards. He looked around the room: there was the table at the far wall with the candle on it and his bodyguards flanking it, and hanging on the wall to his left was the Coradine flag. The room itself was paved with stone, and the dance of the candle flame hinted that there might be a hidden door somewhere, but there were no seats.
"On the floor, milord," said a gravelly voice behind him, and a heavy hand pressed on his left shoulder, forcing him to his knees.
Neither Vadide nor Davide moved, and Lord Adus resisted for long enough to make his point, then let the hand force him down. He curled his long legs beneath him and looked around and up. Behind him stood a heavy-set man with a full beard, an enormous shaggy mane of auburn hair, and muscles like a blacksmith. The man met his gaze and held it, daring him to speak.
"I have heard of a man matching your description," said Lord Adus, swallowing hard. "Though I cannot say that I've had the pleasure of your acquaintance thus far."
"Varsilde of Coradine, Ambassador to this poxy little foxhole of a Kingdom, milord," growled the man. Then, as an obvious afterthough, he mocking added, "And at your service, Lord Adus."
"And I at yours," said Lord Adus, struggling to keep a friendly smile on his face. "I regret that your stipend as Ambassador does not permit you to furnish your residence; I am sure that if you were to raise this with the Council we could prevail upon the King to supplement it to a level more suited to your station." The flowery, bureaucratic words of politics flowed easily from his lips, testament to a lifetime of usage.
"Bestill yourself, you and I know full well that you're sitting on the floor here so that I can make a point."
"And your point is made, your Excellency. Might I now stand again?"
"No, I like having you where I can see you."
"I see." Lord Adus's voice remained calm, but his anger, stoked inside like a fire set to burn overnight, flared up at the implication and the insult. Barely consciously he reached again for his gift, channeling it in a similar manner, but this time focusing the energy into a much smaller sphere, one that would explode violently when he released it.
"Lord Adus, you are not stupid, and unlike most of your Council, you are not venal. Davide and Vadide here have been watching you for nearly ten years now, and they have had little but good to report about you."
Lord Adus nodded, and with a single thought released the fireball he had conjured. It exploded around Varsilde, wrapping his body in green flames and radiating enough heat for Lord Adus to feel his eyebrows begin to singe. It burned furiously for five seconds, heating the small room to an uncomfortable temperature and causing steam to rise from Lord Adus's cloak as it flash-dried. Then the fireball went out.
"You are impetuous," said Varsilde as though nothing had happened. He was unburned, and untouched by the fireball. "However, you have caution to temper that; I am sure that you would never have tried that had you known what shields protect me." He lifted a hand, and Lord Adus saw a bracelet dangling from his wrist engraved with vivmantic symbols. "I shall not tell you, however, whose life was forfeit to protect me from that attack."
Davide made the sign of the Coraline Cross across his chest, both hands moving in a complicated gesture, and bowed his head; Vadide looked on impassionately.
"You are here, Lord Adus, because Lord Mannix is dead, and a Crystal he had in safekeeping has been taken. The thief who was hired to steal it failed, and yet still it has vanished. The only possible culprits are members of your Council. Coradine will not stand by and wait for this treachery to play itself out."