“But…Meela!?” Alessandra blurted, still baffled by this. “I mean, she’s good. But she’s so young!”
“Youngest Clan Master that Clan Mekoval has ever had,” Mikaelo said with a small grin. “And you’ll never guess who replaced her as Clan Leader.” Alessandra gave him a questioning look, and his grin grew wider. “Halidasa.”
“No!” Alessandra exclaimed, her tone equal parts disbelief and excitement. “You’re kidding me!”
“Nope,” Mikaelo said, his smile radiating joy. “She really has improved immensely since you’ve been. She’s one of the best thieves in the clan now, and one of the most respected as well. It’s like losing Bezzum and you lit a fire under her. She’s determined to be the best now, and she’s well on her way.”
“Well, that’s certainly surprising,” Alessandra said, half to herself. Suddenly she started and looked around with an alarmed look on her face. “Shoot! I need to get you up to the guest quarters. Come on!”
She gestured for Mikaelo to follow her and made her way over to the inival. As they walked, Alessandra told Mikaelo what had happened to her, starting with how she had inherited Ilimay Ladron’s powers, going through what had happened in the Vanmorzen manor, and how she was training to actually be able to use the powers that she had gained. She left out any mention of her her current mission, despite her hope to use the Mekoval clan. Until she got permission from the Sutorlah, Mikaelo was still an outsider with regards to Order business, and she was sure Shalor would not be impressed if she said anything about the Receptor.
The inival was difficult for Mikaelo to wrap his head around, although Alessandra grudgingly admitted that he handled his first trip in the inival better than she had handled hers. Although, as Alessandra told herself to soothe her bruised ego, going up the inival was considerably less terrifying than going down. Aside from the inival, Alessandra was able to guide Mikaelo to his quarters without incident.
“Well, this is where you will be staying while you’re here,” Alessandra said as Mikaelo stared around the room in awe. The guest quarters were not as luxurious as those for the people who actually lived in the Avaroth, but they were still far more impressive than anything in the slums. Mikaelo had his own bathroom, for example, a fact that he couldn’t quite believe when she pointed it out to him. He was even more skeptical when she told him that her rooms were even larger and more magnificent than his.
“I’m not sure I ever want to go back,” Mikaelo said, only half joking.
“I know the feeling,” Alessandra said earnestly. “I mean, I’ve broken into enough mansions to know that people live like this, but to actually experience it for myself has been…hard to believe.”
“So, how did you convince that Shalor guy to let me stay?” Mikaelo asked. Alessandra was silent for a moment, thinking about what to say.
“I need the clan to do a job for me,” she finally said, not looking at Mikaelo. “I can’t tell you what it is yet. I need permission from the bosses here. But, basically I need something stolen, and I’m not sure I’ll be allowed to do it myself.”
“Interesting,” Mikaelo mused. “Doing a job for the Order of Sunaru? I can’t imagine any clan would say no to that.”
“Well I don’t want just any clan,” Alessandra replied. “I want my clan. I need people I can trust.”
“I can’t speak for the clan, you know that,” Mikaelo said, “but I can’t imagine that Meela would turn you down. Especially now.”
“Well, like I said, I need to get permission from the Sutorlah first. That’s the, uh, the Order’s version of the Clan Leaders, I guess,” she quickly said, noting the confusion that crossed Mikaelo’s face at the word Sutorlah. “I have no idea what they’re going to say.”
“Take your time,” Mikaelo said with a grin, gesturing to their magnificent surroundings. “In the meantime, I’ll be living like a king.”
“Yeah I don’t think there’s much chance of that,” Alessandra said with a smirk tinged with sadness. “I’m pretty sure Shalor means for me to go in front of the Sutorlah today.”
“Ah, man,” Mikaelo said with a look of dismay. “I was just starting to get used to this place.”
“Hopefully you’ll be able to at least spend the night,” Alessandra said apologetically. “Anyway I need to get going. I’m sure Shalor is waiting for me.”
“Hold on a second,” Mikaelo said quickly. “I…um…do you remember the night before the Vanmorzen manor job?”
“Yes,” Alessandra said hesitantly.
“Do you…do you still feel the same you did that night?” Mikaelo asked, not quite looking Alessandra in the eye.
“Does it matter?” Alessandra said with a resigned sigh. “Everything has changed. How can we be together now?”
“Yeah,” Mikaelo said after a moment, slumping down onto the couch. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Alessandra stood and looked at him for a moment, and then she sighed again.
“For what it’s worth, yes, I do feel the same way,” Alessandra said, turning to go, “but I don’t know what to do about it.” She left the room, and the door slid shut behind her. For a moment she stood there, as if she were thinking about going back in, but then she shook her head and began looking for Shalor.
Level R3 was the second highest floor of the Avaroth. Up above the central atrium were four levels where even most mages were not allowed to go without permission. Indeed, when Alessandra attempted to exit the inival on level R3, she was stopped by two grim-faced guards and told she was not allowed to enter. Even after she told them that Shalor had told her to go there, she was not immediately granted access. Instead, one of the guards called up Shalor, and only after he confirmed that he had asked Alessandra to join him there was she allowed to enter.
To be continued…