The sight that awaited Alessandra behind the large, bronze double doors took her breath away. They were near the very top of the Avaroth, and the yet the room she entered was probably the largest room she had ever seen. The ceiling was a massive dome that stretched up so high that Alessandra couldn’t even see the top of it, and it was made of some sort of silver-gold material that glittered in the soft light given off by the magilisess lights hung all around the exterior of the room. Beneath the dome, on the far side of the room, was a large dais with five seats. The middle seat was the largest, and in fact it was more of a throne than a seat. The other four seats were less ornate, but were still far from being ordinary chairs.
Arranged in front of the dais and facing it were several rows of benches with desks in front of them. These benches were occupied, as were the chairs on the dais, and Alessandra estimated that there were about a hundred people in the room. About ten or so were wearing the standard uniform of the Order of Sunaru, but most of the rest were wearing elaborate, purple and black robes. The exceptions were sitting in the throne-like chairs up on the dais. The four people sitting in the less elaborate chairs were wearing white robes trimmed with turquoise and elaborate headdresses that were colored gold and silver.
As for the woman sitting on the largest seat in the middle of the dais, she was wearing something that Alessandra had never seen before. Her robes were similar in shape to the other four, but instead of being black and purple, or white and turquoise, they were black and purple and white and turquoise and a kaleidoscope of other colors as well. It was as if every color imaginable had been splashed onto these robes. They should have been hideous, and yet they were somehow stunningly beautiful. It was almost as if all color in the universe was focused on the robes worn by this person.
The person herself was an older woman, with gray hair done up in braids on the side of her head, and a stern look on her wrinkled face. Despite her age, there was no hint of weakness in her bearing. She sat strong and tall, as if she were the master of all she surveyed, and Alessandra had little doubt in her mind that this was, in fact, true.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Sutorlah,” Shalor said suddenly. He was standing at a podium in the front of the room, on the floor in front of the dais, facing the people sitting in benches. “Honored members of the Inviltorium. My Lady Honesival. I have the honor of presenting to you our newest member, Atavame Alessandra Mekoval.” He gestured toward Alessandra, standing in the back of the room, and Alessandra felt her eyes grow wide and her cheeks grow red as everyone in the room turned to look at her.
“Uh…hi,” she said uncertainly, giving the room a half-hearted little wave. Shalor gestured for her to approach the podium, and so she walked down the aisle between the two sets of benches, feeling as if the eyes of everyone in the whole world were upon her. As she reached the podium, Shalor stepped aside, and gestured for her to take his place. Feeling as terrified as she ever had in her whole life, she did so. In terms of pure numbers, the audience in front of her was not very large, but she was acutely conscious of the fact that these were the most powerful members of the Order of Sunaru, an organization she had spent her entire life worshipping. Maybe there was something in the world that could intimidate her more, but in that moment she couldn’t imagine what it could be.
“I…um…I have a proposal to make…I guess,” she said uncertainly, looking over at Shalor for support. He merely smiled and nodded for her to keep going, so she looked back at the members of the Sutorlah arranged in front of her. “I’m, uh, I’m the person in charge of looking for the Receptor, for some reason, and I, well, I had an idea for how to help with that.” She paused again, trying to think of how best to say what she wanted to say. The sea of faces in front of her betrayed no emotion to give her any hint of whether her words were falling on receptive ears or not. She glanced over at Shalor again, but his face was now just as impassive as the other members of the Sutorlah.
“After looking over the information that you guys gave me, I realized that we probably don’t have enough information to figure out where the Receptor is. That means we need to break into a Storm Corps base to get some more information.” She paused for a moment, conscious of the fact that Shalor had told her that the members of the Sutorlah would probably not look too kindly on this idea. Sure enough, there were some dark looks and ominous muttering among the black-and-purple robed mages arrayed in front of her.
“Unfortunately, Shalor informed me that this was a bad idea. I’m still not entirely sure why, but I have come up with an alternative. See, I used to be a member of a thief clan. And one of my old clanmates showed up here today. And that gave me an idea. If we send a thief clan into one of the Storm Corps bases, they can get the information we need, and if they get caught, we can deny that we had anything to do with it. Simple, huh?”
There was some more muttering at this, and it didn’t seem any more cheerful than what she had heard before. For a moment, once she got on a roll in her speech, she’d forgotten her nervousness, but now that she was done speaking, it returned tenfold. They were going to kick her out of the Order for this. She was going to be a laughingstock, and she was going to have to return to the slums. Maybe the Mekoval clan would take her back, but even that would be terrible, because she wouldn’t be Clan Master anymore, and she wouldn’t want to try to be, because she really didn’t want to have to kill Meela.
To be continued…