It very quickly became clear to Alessandra that her assistants were, in fact, themselves apprentices. She had a moment of embarrassment as she realized how foolish it was for her to assume that the Sutorlah would send two fully trained mages to assist one half-trained mage, but she quickly squelched that feeling and focused on her work. It quickly became apparent to her that her assistants had an impressively firm grasp on the material contained in the archive, and so it fell on Alessandra less to read the material herself and more to figure out connections that the others had missed.
The two apprentices were very friendly and helpful, and actually seemed to be somewhat in awe of Alessandra. Their names were Kieva Ladatros and Bemier Xeron, and they were both female. Kieva was slightly taller than Alessandra, with long, curly brown hair and large, brown eyes. Bemier was considerably shorter than Alessandra, and stocky, with medium-length blond hair and blue eyes that seemed stuck in a perpetual squint. Alessandra couldn’t quite figure out why they were so impressed by her at first, but it gradually came out that they were enamored with the fact that Alessandra had made it into the Order without having to pass all of the training and tests that were required for someone to become an apprentice. Considering how much Alessandra had heard about these tests and trainings, she considered herself extraordinarily lucky to not have to have gone through them.
Alessandra’s first day in the secret archive was very busy, but largely unproductive. She learned a great deal about where the Receptor wasn’t, but gained very little insight into where it might actually be. Unfortunately, the next several days after this followed the same pattern. After about a week of hunting through the secret archive, Alessandra began to suspect that the information the Order of Sunaru had about the Receptor wasn’t actually very helpful. To the point where she began to wonder if maybe there was more information in a different secret archive that she didn’t have access to. She asked her assistants about this theory, but being apprentices, they didn’t know any more about the other secret archives than she did. The only other thing she could think of was to ask Shalor.
“I assure you that, as far as I know, all of the information that the Order possesses about the Receptor is contained in that archive,” Shalor said when she asked him about her theory over lunch one day. “Now, it’s possible that there is information in an archive that even I don’t have access to, but I doubt the Sutorlah would grant you access to any of those archives.”
“Then I need to gather more information,” Alessandra replied, thinking.
“Are you certain that’s necessary?” Shalor asked, looking concerned.
“Not completely certain,” Alessandra admitted. “I haven’t gone through every piece of paper in that archive, but my assistants have been very thorough, and I don’t feel like we’re any closer to a breakthrough than we were a week ago. I need more information.”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
“That’s a good question,” Alessandra said with a sigh. “I have some ideas, but I wanted to run them past you first. Can you come to the archive with me after lunch?”
“I’m afraid I have a prior commitment,” Shalor frowned, “but I should be able to make it tomorrow morning.”
“Good. I’ll see you there.”
As soon as Shalor arrived in the archive the next morning, he dismissed Alessandra’s assistants and sat down at the table across from her. Alessandra had several blueprints laid out in front of her, and a determined look on her face.
“Okay, so we know that the Storm Corps have three main bases scattered around the city,” Alessandra said, gesturing to the blueprints.
“Yes,” Shalor said, with a tone of voice usually used when somebody points out the painfully obvious. Alessandra gave him a look, and then ignored him.
“It seems obvious that the Receptor isn’t being kept in any of these three bases. After all, they originally had it at a secret base that was masquerading as a rich person’s manor. So we’re not likely to find the Receptor itself at any of the known bases. However, it’s likely that we might find information about possible secret bases if we infiltrate one of the known bases.”
“Risky,” Shalor said with a frown. Alessandra looked at him, slightly confused. “Oh, not physically risky, of course, but politically risky. After all, we are technically on the same side. How would it look if we break into a Storm Corps base?”
“I don’t know. How did it look?” Alessandra asked, one eyebrow raised.
“That was different,” Shalor said, shaking his head. “The Storm Corps couldn’t condemn our raid on the Vanmorzen manor without admitting that the Vanmorzen manor was actually a secret base. According to the Grand Charter, the Storm Corps is only allowed to have the three bases we know about. If they admitted that they had a fourth base, then everyone would know they were in violation of the Grand Charter.”
“So?” Alessandra asked with a shrug. Shalor stared at her for a moment, and then shook his head.
“I forget sometimes that you’re an 18-year-old thief from the slums,” he said with a wry smile. “Think about it this way. You were Clan Master for your clan. What would you have done if, say, the Beroval clan raided the Mekoval clanhouse?”
Alessandra looked shocked. “I…I’m not sure. Something like that has never happened before.” She thought for a moment before responding. “I suppose I would have contacted the Masters of the other clans and we would have made a united assault on the Beroval clanhouse and wiped them out.”
“Why?” Shalor asked.
“Because if clans could attack each other with impunity, then the slums would dissolve into chaos. Some things just can’t be allowed to happen.”
“And that is why the Storm Corps cannot admit that they have secret bases. Some things cannot be allowed to happen.”
To be continued…