“You are going to the kingdom of Avendan, our neighbouring country.” the Grandmaster said suddenly, his voice even and emotionless. It travelled down the short flight of stairs before them with ease, containing a strength that was at odds with his aged appearance.
Raine wanted to look up, to meet Kyushu’s calm face and see what thoughts were held in his piercing eyes, but she kept her head down. She couldn’t prevent the sudden shiver that travelled over her body, however, and she immediately scolded herself for such an obvious display of weakness. Despite the morning sun being well on its way up the sky outside, the Briefing Room was as dark and as cold as ever, illuminated solely by burning sconces. There were no windows and nor could there be- they were underground. Her clothes did little to retain any warmth, for their single purpose was to blend her into the environment, specifically the shadows. They wrapped around her small, thin frame loosely, expertly concealing multiple throwing knives and daggers. Her feet, clad in black socks and sandals, were numb.
“As you well know,” Kyushu continued, “The tension between Treston and Avendan has been growing as the need to control the Severin River and its resources rises. We once never needed to rely upon the Severin so heavily but now that Talor Lake has dried up, we are out of options. The lake was our only private freshwater source and Water Magi cannot be relied upon to fill it endlessly.”
Raine could only agree silently as she contemplated the enormity of such a task, seeing as she was a Water Mage herself.
“Avendan is blessed with numerous waterways.” Kyushu said, drawing her attention once more. “If Treston is to maintain its stability, then more of the river will need to be taken from Avendan hands, for they do not give it willingly. King Desmond wants the Severin, but he is not so foolish to start a war without sufficient information. Thomas may be a young ruler, but he has gained high respect from his people.”
“So despite the truth of the situation, his army is growing, eagerly.” Damien muttered as Kyushu swallowed, his tone wry and unamused. He was crouching beside her, his body poised and muscles tense, ready for flight or attack.
“Precisely, and this is obviously a concern for King Desmond.” he continued. “Once there, you are to infiltrate Avendan’s militia and remain there as spies, collecting as much information as you possibly can that may be of use to us. One of our people will act as a messenger between us and you, and we will inform you if we need any specific details.”
“Our positions, Grandmaster?” Damien asked.
Kyushu nodded. “Yes. Evernest.”
Raine looked up from her crouching position at the man at the top of the stairs. Grandmaster Kyushu was still sitting behind his low desk on a pile of cushions, his hand wrapped around a quill. As usual, his body seemed to linger in the darkness, making his face impossible to see, the finer details of his garments lost in the shadows. A long black curtain flowed down behind him.
“Since you have had mage training, you will be placed into the Magic Battalion, where you will gain the respect and trust of your colleagues and officers and rise through the ranks as quickly as possible. Once that happens, you should be privy to useful information; you know what kind we require. You may have only recently completed your basic Shadow training, but your Water Magic allows you to access areas of the Avendan military that others cannot. There are few Shadows that are also magi, and that is why we are sending you along with your master.”
“Yes, Grandmaster.” she said, pushing back the anxiety and doubt that automatically raced to the front of her brain.
“Shadowmaster Reynolds, we were able to place you with Thomas’ personal guard. Prove yourself worthy and you will learn a great deal from that position.” Kyushu said. Damien looked up and whilst his face remained impassive, there was a hungry look in his eyes.
“Yes, Grandmaster.” he said. “Does that mean that we are not working together then?”
“You will be travelling together but once in Avendan, you will be completing your missions independent of one another.” the Grandmaster replied evenly, totally unaware of the effect his words had on Raine. A new wave of icy trepidation swept over her.
My first solo mission, she thought. Though it’s only because I’m a Water Mage that I’m even going at all; he clearly doesn’t have any confidence in my Shadow abilities. Though, I cannot blame him…
“How long are we to remain in Avendan, Grandmaster?” Damien said. She could hear the excitement in his voice, barely hidden.
“For as long as we see fit.” Kyushu replied. “You may gain information that could cause action between the two countries or you may not; it may be useful to us in some other way. You will be summoned home once we have discovered all that we wish to. Most likely you will remain there until the conflict that King Desmond desires begins.”
“Very well,” Damien said. “When are we to leave?”
“As soon as you are ready.” he replied. “Any other questions?”
“No, Grandmaster.” they both said in unison. Damien’s voice was confident and eager; Raine had to hold back the tremble that was rising in her throat.
“Then may your skills bring you success.” he said.