Winner, with 67%: “Try to reason with the golem.”
“You do not belong in the forest,” said the golem. “You must turn back now, or else you must die.”
Dyriel took a long breath, remembering what her mother the Duchess had always said about negotiation: If you can see yourself through their eyes, you are halfway there. What must she look like, a tired, sweating, seventeen-year-old girl, wearing breeches like a boy, covered in the dust of the road, wandering into someone else’s territory?
She drew herself up to her full height – admittedly, this wasn’t much – and tried for that elegant poise her mother so easily managed.
“I have no wish to violate the pact with the tree peoples, or any other law. I will disturb no one. I am here on business.”
“What business?” Like a mountain crashing down.
She gambled that she could be more persuasive if she didn’t lie. Besides, who knew if golems had the truthsight? “Personal business. I need to find the hermit Amagoso, who lives in the forest. He’s the only one who can help me.”
The golem stiffened – if such a thing was possible for a creature of living stone. Carved eyebrows narrowed over huge round eyes. “What business can be so important that you must disturb the holy seclusion of Mafti Amagoso Lecruscio? You want a philter, I suppose, to make some brawny lad fall in love with you?”
Dyriel ground her teeth in anger. “My brother, Lord Danson, was captured alive at the Battle of Ellsworth, and will be executed this very night if my father doesn’t agree to the Baron’s terms. This he will never do.”
“And what has any of this to do with a simple hermit of the forest?”
Simple? He didn’t sound so simple a second ago when I was disturbing his ‘holy seclusion.’ “Amagoso has deep powers. The tree peoples know this, and I know it, even if most in the castle don’t believe. I believe in my heart that he can save my brother.”
The golem seemed to be considering this when she heard the tramping of hooves and the clatter of weapons. Half a dozen of her father’s mounted soldiers pulled up sharply, and their captain came forward. “Dyriel,” he demanded, “by order of the duke, you will come back with me now.”
“No one from Glenhaven Castle may take arms into the forest,” said the golem, placing himself in front of Dyriel.
If the captain was intimidated by the living stone giant, he didn’t show it. His blue-and-white tabard stirred with a sudden wind. “We’ll be happy to return to the castle, and take our swords with us,” he said evenly, “just as long as this troublesome girl comes with us. And I would not call it wise to stand between the duke’s soldiers and his daughter.”
The captain’s men set their hands on their swords as the golem boomed a reply. The situation was spiraling rapidly. She had to do something quickly – but what?