In the next few months Taulfan extended his authority over the area, with Zou Kov and his band as his enforcers. Taulfan established his base in a fortified house built for the leader of the expelled colonists and with the aid of Brother Athelstan and Teragram began to set up a system for collecting tithes and judging claims to land ownership. Taulfan himself was the sole arbiter and his audience chamber the court. Over the course of a few months relations between Taulfan and Zou Kov's band became strained, Taulfan was making larger and larger exactions from the peasants, which the barbarians were uneasy about enforcing, and his decisions became increasingly capricious and self-centred.
Early one winter morning Zou Kov, Athelstan and Teragram were in discussion in the audience chamber with Taulfan, who was in a foul humour after a late drinking session, when Zou Kov held up a hand for silence. He had noticed a lack of sound from the guard-room just inside the main door. There were usually a handful of picked men there to guard the door and admit visitors.
Q3+ C3 Leader, Heavy armour, Short Move
Q4+ C3 Heavy armour, Short Move
23 points x 9
Q3+ C2 Assassin
Q2+ C3 Leader
Magic sword +1
Q5+ C2 Coward
Q3+ C2 Cleric
Q3+ C2 Stealth, Traps, Heavy Armour (magic mail)
Q3+ C4 Shooter to Medium, Stealth
Then came a remarkable turn of events. The band of Knights of the Dust, under their disgraced sergeant Maggard, had been reinforced by two experts hired at considerable expense. One was Erluk the assassin, and the other was Calbardius, a magician and swordsman. Calbardius was well-known for his skill and cunning, but also notorious for never undertaking a mission without having an ulterior motive and for his lack of patience.
As the attack by the Knights stalled - despite having the advantage of surprise and numbers they were being held in the corridor out of the guard-room, at one end being held off single-handedly by Aushog and at the other being unable to batter down the door held by Zou Kov and Athelstan - Calbardius became increasingly exasperated. He elbowed his way through the crowd to where Aushog had killed one soldier and was easily fending off two more and cast a transfix spell on Aushog. Aushog shook off the lethargy he felt creeping over him and fought on. A second attempt had even less effect. Calbardius was jostled by a mass of Knights, irritated by their blundering attempts to smash down the door, and enraged by the ease with which the half-naked Aushog was dealing with his heavily-armed foes. When their leader Maggard emerged from the guard room and began to bellow contradictory orders and abuse Calbardius's patience ran out. He turned and cast a transfix on Maggard, and as the astonished soldiers looked on called through the door to Zou Kov for a truce. The knights had no idea what was happening and meekly obeyed Calbardius's order to lay down their weapons. Through the door Zou Kov and Calbardius negotiated, and then met in person in the great hall.
Taulfan was still in the audience chamber, guarded by Athelstan and Teragram. Teragram carried messages between the two as the negotiations progressed. Calbardius initially demanded a hundred gold coins to lead the Knights away from the mansion; Zou Kov was eager to pay but Taulfan baulked at the amount and despite the seriousness of the situation would only part with fifty. Calbardius accepted with a poor grace, pocketing the money himself and as an afterthought insisting the that knights should be allowed to retire unmolested. As he left the house he split the money with Erluk who then administered an antidote to J'neb, patting the fallen barbarian and telling him he would be fine in a week or so.
Zou Kov's reaction to the episode was relief; the knights' attack could have been much more successful if Aushog had not become suspicious and then held the intruders off so ferociously. Taulfan's reaction was however rage, that he had been betrayed by his guards and servants, and had then had to part with a large sum of money. Zou Kov later discovered that half of the guards had indeed been bribed and abandoned their posts; the other three had however died defending the outer door. The servants, who lived in huts surrounding the mansion, had been advised not to go to work that morning. The whole episode fuelled Taulfan's suspicions and his behaviour became more erratic. It soon became clear to Zou Kov that Taulfan somehow suspected them of being involved in the plot and relations between Zou Kov and Taulfan deteriorated further. The arrival of a group of merchants, who Taulfan then retained as advisors in place of Zou Kov, Teragram and Athelstan, made Zou Kov's band feel more than ever that they were unwelcome outsiders.