The chipmunks that Bella escaped from [did I leave that part out? She had to be healed by plant-mages instead of the normal doctors, and some of them wanted to make modifications] didn't give up quite as easy as that, and she was soon stalked by animated bushes with a single hand. "Please, shake my hand, great one!" She tried it once, and managed not to be mind-controlled or physically dragged away, but only just. There were more of them closing in, though, so she found a chipmunk on the street and had him take her to his guild, to report the incident.
Of course, the guild full of plant-mages was instantly fascinated with her, and she had to teleport away again before they started taking liberties (again), but the zombie-bushes didn't trouble her after that.
Den was still supposed to get some bed rest to recover from his injuries, but he was able to leave, and so when Bella and Zedd retreated to the hospital for safety he got out of bed, and the three of them went to get the local news. Hypnotic crow-people linked them to the psychic newscast, which was sensationalist but had some useful information. Eventually, Den's constant questions and interjections on the subject of the Carnival got him an interview, in which he displayed (an edited, sensationalized version of) his memories of their adventure to everyone who was watching.
And THAT got them invited to the next round of negotiations between the Emerald City and the Web. The Web had finally gotten around to sending an actual negotiator this time, and it was someone Den recognized and sort of feared -- the sloth, again.
The party was allowed to level their accusations of kidnapping and such against the Web, and she didn't deny them, as such -- she did insist that everyone they took was willing, although of COURSE they needed to drug them first with hallucinogens, to overcome the natural conservatism and properly convey the wonder of technology...
And besides, they only did it because they were forced, by their war against certain animals, in particular the rabbits. If the Emerald City would open up trade (through a gate) and either allow the Web to hire individuals or have their own people converted, they'd have no need to continue recruitment.
Den, during this, was able to read the mind of the priestess negotiating on behalf of the city, and sensed that she was, in fact, in league with some of the forces opposing the Web, and thus had no intention of ever giving them what they wanted. Even if she didn't see anything morally wrong with the Web's kidnapping tactics -- the priestesses were responsible for the genetic makeup of their entire city, and used that to control them, after all.
There was a compromise she was willing to make, though -- the gate the party had come through was already a threat, and she wanted it found, repaired (since being broken only kept people from leaving, not from arriving, and being able to send people away was a good thing), and put under guard.
The Carnival was willing to agree to that, and the party was okay with it, although they thought it'd be safer if the thing was destroyed. But aside from stranding anyone that tried to travel to it (it was foolish to travel to an inactive gate, since you couldn't ping it to see if it still existed, but people did it sometimes), the priestess claimed to have other reasons for wanting it operational, although she didn't go into details. The party suggested moving it and shoving it in pieces through the tiny gate the Carnival already had, but the sloth wasn't going to agree to THAT, of course. Moving it was a good idea -- the priestess suggested moving it to a specially built dome on the bottom of the sea, still easily accessible to the city's otters and hunters, but difficult for an invading army or any foreign spies to exploit.
Before leaving, Den pulled the preistess aside for a private word about the Oracle. During the talks, she'd mentioned that a small expedition had been sent out on the Oracle's orders to meet the party, although of course they'd arrived a week late and missed them. Den wanted to ask the oracle more questions, but the preistess explained that they were more a source of information for the oracle than anything else, and had neither the ability to ask him questions (technically, they could probably ask, but he wouldn't answer) or a physical gate to his location. The nearest gate they knew of was the one the party had used.
But certainly, once the gate was operational, if they managed to find the coordinates for Spokane, an expedition to talk to the oracle might be in order, and they'd have no reason to keep the party from going along if they wanted. The only thing they *really* wanted from the party was for them to leave, since they'd already apparently stirred up violence with their enemies from the Web.
A few days later Den, Zedd, and Bella (Alex was sure it was a trap, and Jenna was undergoing modifications to become a Guardian and join the city -- she wanted the extra power, they were sure they could fix her mental problems, Alex was sure they were both making a mistake) met up with a pair of guardians and an otter from the Emerald city, picked up the Web's technicians with their equipment and guards (two soldiers, as agreed, but also a large dog and an eagle providing air cover that hadn't been mentioned), and started heading upriver towards the old campsite, from which they could probably find the gate.
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