Chapter 12, Part 4

“Hardly the reason why we were here,” the other man said scornfully. He was medium height, with black skin, close-cropped black hair, and a short beard. “Now the Storm Corps is aware that we know about the Receptor. They’re going to move it somewhere even more secure now.”

“Then we will find it again, Earva,” said the second woman fiercely. She was tall, even taller than Shalor, with olive skin, and long dark hair pulled into a braid that went down to her knees. “Everything hinges on that device.”

“Yes, well, perhaps we should not be talking about such things in present company, Havor,” Shalor said with a meaningful glance at the second woman. He turned back to Alessandra and bowed deeply. “Forgive my rudeness, and allow me to introduce myself. I am Shalor Berevay, sindunar of the Order of Sunaru. These are my companions, Mayla Farigold, Earva Landamor, and Havor Kingresa.”

“Ah, yes,” Alessandra said, trying desperately to hide her nervousness at meeting four members of the Order of Sunaru. “I-it was l-lovely to meet you all, b-but I really m-must be going.”

“Not so fast, my lady,” Shalor said, sweeping one hand out and flashing another winning smile. “You have not even told us your name!”

“O-oh, w-well,” Alessandra stammered, backing up slowly. “M-my name. Of c-course. That w-would b-be…,” and as she trailed off, Mayla scoffed.

“It’s obvious she doesn’t want to tell us her name, Shalor,” she said, tossing her head in a gesture of contempt. “And I can guess why. She’s a thief!”

“Of course she is,” Shalor said, and while his tone was still pleasant, it took on a hint of a dangerous edge as he continued. “Why else would she be here? This place is the most tempting target a slum-dweller could imagine!” He began walking slowly toward Alessandra, and his smile grew even more beautiful as he approached. “There are plenty of riches here, and I would not begrudge any slum-dweller who wished to partake of them. But what I want to know, is why a slum-dweller would be after the Receptor, of all things.”

Alessandra froze. Two deep-seated desires were warring within her. The first was her desire to keep herself and her clan secret from any authority, even the Order of Sunaru. The second was the deeply ingrained feelings of awe and reverence that any slum-dweller had for members of the Order of Sunaru. So part of her wanted to tell them everything, and part of her, somewhat irrationally, believed that bad things would happen if the Order discovered that she had inherited the power of one of their members. So she stared up at Shalor with wide eyes and kept her mouth shut, mostly because she had no idea what to say.

“You do not wish to speak,” Shalor said. “I understand. I suspect you have no idea what the Receptor is, and you do not wish to reveal your ignorance. You probably heard that a fantastically valuable object was being held here, under heavy guard, and your thieving desires got the best of you. Perfectly reasonable. Therefore, allow me to give you some friendly advice.” He paused, and then stepped closer to her and looked her directly in the eyes. “Forget about the Receptor. Forget you ever even heard the name. Go back to stealing from petty merchants, and keep your nose out of Order business. Understood?” For a moment he paused, waiting for Alessandra’s response, and then his eyes widened and he gasped. “Ilimay?” he exclaimed.

There was a moment of confusion as gasps of surprise came out of the mouths of the Shalor’s companions, and before Alessandra had any idea what was going on, Shalor had placed one of his hands on her forehead, and then all was darkness.

***

When she came to, the first thought in Alessandra’s head was that she’d died and gone to paradise. She had never seen a room that was so clean in her whole life. Every surface was perfectly spotless, and every place that the light touched gleamed like the purest braeka she’d ever seen. Every surface was white, brighter and clearer than any white Alessandra had ever seen before.

The second thought was panic. For a moment, she was convinced that she was suspended in mid-air. She flailed around for a bit, and then she immediately calmed down, as she realized that she was laying in a bed. It’s just that it was so much more comfortable than anything else she’d ever laid on, that it was like laying on nothing at all.

“I assure you that you are in no danger,” said a voice suddenly. Alessandra leaped out of the bed into a ready stance, and saw Shalor sitting in a chair across the room, with his legs crossed and a faint smile playing on his lips.

“Funny how when I tell you that you’re in no danger, you act like you’re about to be attacked,” he said.

“Sorry,” Alessandra mumbled, her cheeks growing hot. She slumped back onto the bed and eyed Shalor warily. “Instinct, I guess. In the slums, one learns to be on alert at all times. Those who don’t learn this, don’t last long.”

“I am sorry to hear it,” Shalor said gravely, his smile disappearing. “We have done far too little to help those who live on the outskirts of the city. Hopefully someday that will change.”

“Well, you’re busy,” Alessandra muttered, not quite meeting Shalor’s eyes. “Fighting demons and whatnot.”

“Indeed,” Shalor replied. He was silent for a moment, studying her, and then he said, “I apologize for the way I brought you here. It was rather rude of me to knock you unconscious without any warning, but I couldn’t risk the possibility that you would try to flee. We’ve been looking for you for some time, you see.”

“Oh?” Alessandra said, still not meeting his eyes.

“Yes,” Shalor replied, leaning forward intently. “You are the successor to Ilimay Ladron.”

“I am?” Alessandra asked.

To be continued…

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