“I still don’t quite get why the two things are similar,” Alessandra said with a frown.
“It doesn’t matter,” Shalor said with a dismissive gesture. “The point is, we cannot raid an official Storm Corps base. Or at least, we cannot do so and get caught. If you’re going to propose such a things, you had better have an airtight plan before you present it to the Sutorlah.”
“Present it to the Sutorlah?” Alessandra asked, looking alarmed.
“Well, of course,” Shalor replied, a slightly puzzled expression on his face. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“I…um…well…,” Alessandra stammered and trailed off.
“Did you not have a governing body in your thief clan?” Shalor asked. “Or were you allowed to do your thieving whenever and wherever you chose?”
“No, we did get our jobs from the Clan Leaders,” Alessandra admitted. “But once we got a job, we were allowed to do it however we wanted.”
“Well, I’m afraid things work differently in the Avaroth,” Shalor said, smiling slightly. “Your mission is to find the Receptor, but that does not mean you have free license to do whatever it takes to complete your mission. If you want to raid a Storm Corps base in order to ascertain the location of the Receptor, you are going to have to get the Sutorlah’s permission. And I will warn you, you almost certainly will not get it, so you should probably start thinking of a backup plan.”
Alessandra opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by a musical tone. Someone was trying to contact Shalor. He gave Alessandra an apologetic look, and then turned away from her, made a gesture with his hand and said, “Yes?” There was a pause, and then he said, “I see.” Another pause. “Uh huh.” A third pause, and then he said, “Very well, I will be right there.” He turned back to Alessandra and said, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to cut this strategy session short. There is a matter I need to attend to.” He paused for a moment, and then said, “Actually, you’re going to want to come with me, I think.”
“Why?” Alessandra asked.
“It concerns you,” Shalor replied, and then he got up and walked out of the room. Alessandra stared after him for a moment, and then she followed.
“Aren’t you going to tell me any more?” she said as soon as she caught up to him.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Shalor said with a tone that made it clear he wasn’t going to answer any more questions. That didn’t stop Alessandra, however, who was burning with curiosity about what was going on. As she expected, though, he refused to say another word as they made their way down to the lower levels.
They stopped on the ground level, and Shalor led Alessandra across the vast lobby area of the Avaroth, toward a desk near the side of the building. Despite her confusion and her desire to understand what was going on, Alessandra took the time to look around with interest. She’d actually never been on the ground floor before, at least not when she was conscious. She hadn’t left the Avaroth since she’d joined the Order, and although she assumed that Shalor and the others had brought her into the main entrance when she entered the building, she had no memory of the time between getting knocked out in the Vanmorzen manor and waking up inside the Avaroth.
The most dominant feature of the Avaroth’s ground floor was the same as the dominant feature of nearly every floor, the giant statue of a person that stretched halfway up the height of the building. This statue, as Alessandra had learned soon after joining the Order, depicted Halavar Modoren, perhaps the greatest mage in the history of the Order. Alessandra still was fuzzy on the details of exactly why he was so great, but everyone who mentioned him made it clear that he was, in fact, the greatest. Maybe he was the founder of the Order of Sunaru, or perhaps he was the one who erected the barrier? It was all very unclear to Alessandra. History was not her strong suit. In the slums, nothing had changed for a thousand years, so people who lived there didn’t develop a very strong sense of history.
Aside from the impossibly huge statue, the rest of the ground floor was largely open. There was a large information desk near the entrance of the building, staffed by numerous apprentices, and then a smaller desk off to the side, which was where Shalor was leading Alessandra. There were quite a few people milling around, but the area was so massive that it seemed like it was mostly empty. From the ground floor, it was really very obvious just how enormous the Avaroth was. Looking straight up, Alessandra could barely see the top of the building high above her. The feeling of lightness and openness that was felt throughout the Avaroth was almost overwhelmed by the sheer size of the building when looking at it from this angle. Despite having lived there for three months and almost getting used to it, seeing it this way impressed and amazed Alessandra all over again.
A young woman sitting behind the desk stood up as Shalor and Alessandra approached. “Ah, Sindunar. Forgive me for interrupting you like this, but I thought you would want to deal with this issue personally.”
“No apologies necessary, apprentice,” Shalor replied. “Tell me more about this person.”
“I would have sent him away,” the young woman said, “but he was carrying an ilvusa, and a quick test verified as one that had belonged to Ilimay Ladron.”
“Ilimay Ladron?” Alessandra asked, feeling suspicious.
“Yes, Atavame,” the apprentice said, bowing her head slightly. “In fact, he is here because he claims to know you.” She gestured to her left, and as Alessandra looked in the direction she was indicating, her eyes locked on a familiar face, and a peculiar feeling that was part dread, part elation settled onto her.
“Hey, Alessa,” said Mikaelo Mekoval with a sheepish grin.
To be continued…