"Let me blunt," said the towering Jotun standing in the skiff. "These negotiations have continued for hours--we have pushed these boats back and forth five times, to 'consider terms' and we have come no closer to an answer. You say you will make no arrangement until we depart from Joyeuse--we say we will not depart from Joyeuse until we have an arrangement." Dmitri Moraz leaned forward. "I suspect you find this as tiring as I do."
Grizzel stared at the Ogre standing in his skiff, perfectly comfortable to all appearances. "I personally suspect more so," muttered the Goblin.
"Excellent," said Dmitri. "That will make you more agreeable for what I am about to suggest."
"I wouldn't bet on that," muttered Grizzel. "I'm Cthonique Guard. I serve the Cthoniques. My own discomfort it not a consideration here."
"Yes, yes," said Dmitri with a casual wave. "I mispoke. My apologies. What I mean is--you will see this bargain for what it is." He coughed. "Now--we will extend our present truce until the next round of talks... held between Emperor Ilarion and the Dark Lord Mansemat themselves in Precieuse."
Grizzel raised an eyebrow. "And that is a bargain... how?"
Dmitri smiled. "Come now, Serjeant, surely you realize that there are issues of precedence here. The Holy Emperor giving into a mere threat from a Dark Lord?" The Jotun shook his head. "Unseemly. Factions will whisper, 'Does Ilarion Skarvsky have the Seven behind him, or not? But... a face to face meeting, where both sides sit and discuss, where something is given, and something is taken--that is another matter. That makes my lord look grand. That, he can allow."
There was silence over the water again. "We will go back, and consider these terms. However, the wait will prove longer, I should warn, for these we will send to the Dark Lord himself."
"Most excellent," said Dmitri, with a grand bow. "We will wait here, with bated breath to here his reply." The Ogre watched the other skiff turn, and row back towards the shore.
"Do you think they'll take the bait?" asked Tasha, quietly.
"They are at an impasse here," said Dmitri. "And they know it. So, yes, I think they will."
The Erl seated behind Dmitri cleared his throat. "Of course, this would probably dissolve our present agreement with Amfortas..."
"Ilarion's first rule, Vasily," said Dmitri. "It's best to keep to the winning side, if they'll have you. Or, if they won't, then you look for a good angle to put the knife in."