“Well,” Shalor began, and then cleared his throat. “This is a little embarrassing to admit, but despite three months of searching, we still have no idea where the Storm Corps is hiding the Receptor now. The Sutorlah believes that, given your…background…you might be able to succeed where others have failed.”
“You mean, because I was a thief, they think I’ll be able to find this thing?” Alessandra asked in disbelief. “What do they think thieves do?”
“Well, it’s not just that,” Shalor said with an apologetic gesture. “After all, you were able to find the Receptor once before.”
“Okay, first of all, I had no idea what was in that box until you just explained it to me,” Alessandra said, feeling strangely defensive. “Second, as much as it pains me to admit this, I wasn’t the one who found the thing. I was assigned to steal it by the previous Clan Master, who was setting me up to fail, because he knew the manor was being guarded by the Storm Corps, and neglected to tell me. The only reason I went back to try and steal it again after I got my powers was because I felt like I had unfinished business there.”
“Yes, I suspected something like that might be the case,” Shalor sighed. “I attempted to argue as such, but the other members of the Sutorlah did not find my arguments persuasive.” He shrugged, and then said, “Be that as it may, the Sutorlah has made its decision. Your mission is to discover where the Storm Corps has hidden the Receptor.”
“Okay,” Alessandra said, and then paused. “Okay,” she said again, her voice stronger. “Yeah, if they think a thief has what it takes to find the Receptor, then I’ll show them what a thief can do.”
“Well, I’m pleased about our confidence, if nothing else,” Shalor said. “Ready to get started?”
“Oh, I, uh, I have a lesson with Havor coming up in an hour,” Alessandra said, somewhat sheepishly.
“Don’t worry about that,” Shalor said, making a dismissive hand gesture. “All of your previously scheduled commitments have been postponed indefinitely. Until the Receptor is found, this is your sole task.”
“In that case, let’s do it!” Alessandra exclaimed, jumping out of her seat.
Shalor led Alessandra to an area of the Avaroth she had never been in before. It was near the top of the tower, on a higher level than Alessandra had ever been to. There was less activity up here than on the lower floors, and almost all of the people walking around wore black and purple robes, and the few that didn’t wore white robes trimmed with turquoise. The only person Alessandra had seen with similar robes was the one she’d seen on her first day in the Avaroth, now she’d seen three more. Alessandra still didn’t know what the robes meant, but she suspected it had something to do with the Order’s hierarchy, and she felt very self-conscious in her black-and-gold uniform.
Shalor took Alessandra to a room that, from the outside, looked the same as nearly every other room in the Avaroth. Inside, however, was a different story. The walls of the room were lined from floor to ceiling with filing cabinets, and in the middle of the room were four large tables, each covered with large stacks of paper.
“This is one of the hidden archives,” Shalor said, gesturing as they entered the room. “These archives are off-limits to everyone except the Sutorlah and those whom they grant access to. This particular archive contains everything we know about the Receptor and where it might be located.”
“You have to be kidding me,” Alessandra said, her heart sinking. “All this? I’m supposed to go through all of this?”
“Well, not alone of course,” Shalor said with a shrug. “The Sutorlah has assigned helpers to you, people who’ve been gathering and analyzing this material.”
“If they’ve already been going over this stuff, what am I supposed to do then?” Alessandra cried.
“Your job is to look for patterns and clues that others have missed,” Shalor replied calmly. “You know how to find things that other people want hidden. That’s the talent you have that you will be bringing to this operation.”
Alessandra stared at the mountains of paperwork, dismayed etched across her face, and then she sighed deeply. “Well,” she said, “if this is my mission, then I guess I’d better get started.”
“Excellent,” replied Shalor. “I will let your assistants know, and send them up to you. Good luck.” He turned and left the room, leaving Alessandra alone with her daunting task.
For a few minutes, it was all Alessandra could do to not to just slump to the floor and start weeping. All of the vague feelings of not quite belonging that she’d felt over the past few months were bubbling to the surface now. She had no idea what she was doing. She’d spent her entire life aiming to be the Clan Master of a thief clan, and now she was involved in something so much bigger than she’d ever imagined. It was almost too much. She was just a thief from the slums, and now here she was, trying to learn magic and history and politics, and also find a hidden super weapon that could drastically change the power balance of the whole city, if not the world, in the wrong hands. For a moment, she teetered on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Then, as if backing away from the edge, she took a deep breath, sat down at a table, grabbed the nearest stack of papers, and began reading.
By the time her assistants arrived, she was fully in control of herself again. She could do this. She knew how to be a leader, and she knew how to find things that were hidden. She didn’t need to be afraid of the Storm Corps. She had the whole might of the Order of Sunaru backing her now. All she needed to do was focus and work hard. So as soon as her assistants entered the room, she forgot about the fact that they were fully trained mages and she was still something like an apprentice. She told them what she wanted them to do, and she made it clear that she expected them to do it, or else.
To be continued…