Alessandra’s routine as a member of the Order of Sunaru settled into a fairly predictable groove over the course of the next few months. The bulk of her time was spent in lessons on magic and history and politics, and a much smaller portion of time was spent with Shalor or one of the other friends she’d made. It was an enjoyable life, completely different than anything Alessandra had ever imagined for herself, and far more pleasant and comfortable as well. Despite the hard work of training, Alessandra was far more comfortable in the Avaroth than she’d ever been in the slums. She enjoyed it, but she couldn’t quite shake the feeling that she didn’t deserve it.
She still had not recovered any of the memories she had supposedly inherited from Ilimay Ladron. Havor and others assured that it could be months, or even years, before she recovered any of those memories, but Alessandra still found it rather frustrating. She was supposed to be a full member of the Order of Sunaru, but she couldn’t help but feel a sense of inferiority compared to those who remembered the full thousand-year history of the time since the barrier was erected. It wasn’t just her imagination, either. The longer she spent around other mages, the more she noticed that she was treated differently than everyone else. It was as if she were being treated like a small child with a brain defect. She wondered if that would change once she recovered her memories.
Nevertheless, things were going well. Even if she wasn’t quite happy, she knew she had no reason to complain. Nobody in their right mind would go back to being Clan Master of a thief clan if they could be part of the Order of Sunaru. And yet, she found herself missing her clan from time to time. Which, made her somewhat concerned that she wasn’t in her right mind after all. But it didn’t matter. It wasn’t as if she had a choice. Shalor had made it completely clear to her that she was a member of the Order of Sunaru and she would be for the rest of her life. Even if she wanted to leave, there was no way. She had asked Shalor what would happen if she simply transferred her memories to someone else and went on her way, and Shalor had explained that the process of transferring memories from host to recipient actually killed the host. For better or for worse, she was a mage until death.
About three months after she joined the Order, Shalor came to her in her quarters. This was not an unusual occurrence in and of itself, but it was clear that Shalor had something on his mind. He was generally very funny and open, but this time it was almost as if he were hiding something. After several minutes of increasingly frustrating conversation, Alessandra finally decided to ask him what was on his mind.
“It’s that obvious, is it?” Shalor said with a rueful smile. “I suppose I’d better tell you. The Sutorlah has a mission for you.”
“The what now?” Alessandra asked, baffled.
“The Sutorlah is the ruling council of the Order of Sunaru,” Shalor replied. “I’m one of its members. A junior member, to be sure, but I have a vote same as anyone else.”
“O…kay?” Alessandra said, still somewhat confused. “So what’s the mission?”
“I want you to know, first of all, that I voted against giving you this mission,” Shalor said with a sigh. “Not that I don’t think you’re capable, of course, but you’ve only had a few months of training, and I simply don’t think you’re ready yet.”
“Um, thanks? I guess?” Alessandra said.
“That’s not meant to be a slight against you,” Shalor said. “I wouldn’t want to give this mission to any mage with only three months of training, no matter how talented she is.”
“So what’s the mission?” Alessandra asked again, getting impatient. Shalor looked at her for a moment, his gaze impassive.
“Do you remember the day we met?” he finally said.
“Not really. It was just a regular day, wasn’t it?”
“No need to be sarcastic,” Shalor said with a grin. “Do you remember how I mentioned something called the Receptor?”
“Of course I do,” Alessandra said impatiently. “That thing was the focus of my life for months. How could I forget it?”
“The Receptor is an experimental weapon that was designed by the Storm Corps,” Shalor said, ignoring Alessandra’s impatience. “It is a weapon that was designed specifically to combat the Order of Sunaru.”
“How could such a thing exist?” Alessandra asked, her impatience giving way to curiosity.
“The Order of Sunaru and the Storm Corps are, on paper, allies,” Shalor said. “We are all technically subservient to the Circle of Elders, which governs this city. Because of this, the Storm Corps has some access to our archives. Using information they gleaned from the archives, they were able to construct a device which takes the form of a ring. This ring, when worn, gives its wearer all of the speed and strength of a fully trained mage.”
“Okay,” Alessandra said, looking skeptical. “I don’t really see what the problem is. Only one person could wear the ring. I’m not sure how that is a threat to us.”
“One Receptor is no threat, of course,” Shalor said. “But if the Corps is able to mass-produce this device, then they will have an entire army of magically enhanced soldiers. Such a force would be able to overwhelm us.”
“But if they made it, why haven’t they been able to mass produce one already?” Alessandra asked.
“Good question,” Shalor replied. “We don’t know the answer yet. Presumably the one they made was too expensive. They must be researching ways to make the process easier and cheaper at the moment. We need to retrieve it before they can do that.”
“So what is my mission then?” Alessandra asked, her impatience returning.
To be continued…