The town of Eryn was dark in the evening. The lamps had been lit, but they yielded little light in the warm fog trickling through the streets. It was a perfect evening for a nighttime tryst…or a dark meeting behind closed doors.
Out of a dark alley on the western edge, a shadowy figure stepped, crossing a cobbled street and approaching a tall, crumbling building; ripe for the demolition crew, as far as the young man was concerned. As he reached to open the heavy front door, the dim light of a street lamp fell on his arm, revealing part of a tattoo hidden beneath the sleeve.
He entered, slightly slanted eyes wandering the area around him, scanning for anything suspicious, though in truth he wasn’t expecting to see anything amiss. But the message he’d received had blabbered on about some hidden danger, so he was just taking precautions.
He wandered through the many empty, echoing halls until he came to the ‘riven door’, as the message had explained. The door was, in fact, whole, but there was a long, impressive slash sliced across it. The man rolled his eyes at the dramatic name, and pushed at the door, which slid open on silent hinges.
He stepped into the room, wherein sat a cloaked figure at a table, a deep dark hood covering the face, so it was impossible to see if it was a man or woman. The table itself was covered with books, scrolls, documents new and ancient, written in dozens of languages and cyphers. Also there was a dish with a big ginger cookie.
“So…you’ve come,” the hooded figure said in a gravelly, mysterious voice.
The tattooed man leaned against the door, gazing at the other boredly. “What are you doing?” he asked wearily.
“I am the answer to all your—” the hooded man broke off as he started coughing.
“You need help,” said the other dryly.
“Shut it, Kahala,” grumbled the hooded man, reverting to his natural voice, which was actually calm and pleasant, but apparently not very interesting. “I am practicing my air of mystique.”
“Well, practice on someone else. I already know what you look like, and sound like.”
The figure huffed and pulled back his hood, revealing a young man with a shaggy head of straw-colored hair and cool blue eyes. “Thank you for being so very encouraging.”
Kahala raised an eyebrow. “Tell me why you made me come to a wannabe secret lair.”
“It’s not a lair!” the wannabe mysterious man said. “It’s…well, all right, it’s a lair.”
“Talk!” said Kahala, sounding quite irritated.
The cloaked man huffed and rifled through his documents. "I found something new. I don’t believe they’re dead."
Kahala immediately straightened. "What?"
"Ha, I suspected that would catch your attention.” The cloaked fellow grabbed a scroll and slid it open in a practiced, graceful movement. “It says here that therein lies a great secret, that all who learn of it uninitiated will be sent away, never to return."
"Dead," said Kahala grimly.
"No.” The cloaked man waggled his finger. “If they meant dead, they would say dead."
"If they meant alive, they'd say alive."
The cloaked man gave him a look. "Pardon me, who's the expert here?"
"I don't want false hope."
"It's not false, you numbskull. It's fact. Here…” He fluttered several different documents around, knocking a few scrolls to the floor. “…here, it says death meets those who enter and destroy. Now, unless they entered and destroyed then they are still alive. There wouldn't be two options written down unless there were in fact two options."
“Are you making this stuff up?"
The blonde man frowned. “What did you learn about that ship?”
“The ship. That they were supposedly on. Are you certain it sank?”
“Of course,” Kahala said impatiently. “We wouldn’t just believe what we’re told. We checked with a reliable informant who saw them board. Everyone but the captain was lost.”
Kahala frowned. “What do you know?”
“I may have heard something from a little bird,” said the blonde man with a smirk. “There was no ship. It was all a lie.”
“And our informant?” Kahala asked skeptically.
He tapped the paper. “These people are powerful. I’m sure they could make anyone say anything if it served their needs.”
“I wish you’d be useful and tell me who these people are so I can go and hit them.” Kahala grumbled.
The blonde fellow chuckled. “That’s beyond even my skill. Now why are you still here? You’re a collector. Go collect them.”
Kahala scowled. “This better not be a wild goose chase.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Geese have nothing to do with it. Stop saying odd things and get to work. It’s not like you’re doing anything else important.”
Kahala considered that for a moment, and then grudgingly nodded. “Fine. But keep searching. If you find anything that will actually help, send word.”
“Uh, I don’t know how to find you,” the cloaked fellow protested.
Kahala smirked. “Use the Kin-Shei postage line. No one opens that unless they want to die. Address it to the Cricket.”
The blonde man’s eyes widened, and a new light of understanding came into his eyes about who this fellow actually was. Also his name suddenly made a lot more sense. “Ah…” he said carefully. “Yes, I will do that.”
Kahala nodded shortly.…then reached over and grabbed the cookie.
“Hey, that’s mine!” protested the blonde man.
Kahala shrugged. “Payback for you calling me a numbskull. Bye.” Taking a big bite, he strode out the door.
The cloaked man frowned after him, then turned back to his scrolls with a huff. “I hate people.”