“There will be order in this chamber,” said a soft voice behind Alessandra. She didn’t even have to look to know that it was the stern-faced woman sitting on the throne who had spoken. Her voice had the same aura of authority that her bearing had. Even though she’d spoken softly, her words cut through the chatter and instantly silenced it. “Are there any questions for Atavame Mekoval?” the stern-faced woman said, once there was silence.
“How do you know that these thieves will be willing to hear out this proposal?” asked a gray-haired man sitting near the front of the chamber.
“You don’t have any idea how the Order is viewed in the slums if you have to ask that question,” Alessandra replied. “No thief clan would ever turn down a request from the Order of Sunaru.”
“Say we agree to this proposal,” said a green-eyed woman with red hair streaked with silver. “What happens if the thieves are caught and tell the Storm Corps that we hired them to infiltrate their base?”
“That would never happen!” Alessandra snapped angrily, but before she could say anything else, Shalor cut her off.
“In the event that the thieves are apprehended, we will deny that we had anything to do with them, and then we will launch a raid on the thief clan’s headquarters to emphasize our denial, as well as discourage any other clans from attempting to carry out such a heinous deception.” Alessandra stared at Shalor in horror, but before she could say anything, another member of the Sutorlah asked a question.
“How do you expect a bunch of thieves to be able to find sensitive information in a secure military facility?” said a middle-aged man with brown hair and piercing blue eyes. Alessandra was still staring at Shalor in shock, so he gestured for her to answer the question. After a moment, she blinked, and then shook her head and turned to the Sutorlah.
“I, um, well, we were able to find the Receptor before you did once,” she said with a shrug. “We’re very good at getting into places we’re not supposed to be.” There was a bit of muttering at this, but it seemed as if no one else had any questions.
“Are there any other questions?” asked the stern woman on the throne. After a moment, she said to Alessandra, “You may be seated, Atavame.” Alessandra bowed and then made her way to the seat on the side of the chamber that the stern woman gestured to. “This proposal is now open for discussion,” she said as soon as Alessandra sat down.
“This is ridiculous,” said the man sitting to the stern-faced woman’s left. His face was almost as stern as hers, but there was a meanness to his facial expression that hers lacked. He glanced over at Alessandra as he spoke, and there was pure contempt in his eyes as he looked at her. “Are we going to believe that a bunch of street rats can do better than our own agents? It is ludicrous to think that some thieves can succeed where the best of the Order has failed.”
“These…street rats, as you call them, already found the Receptor once, before we did, Olorin,” Shalor said smoothly. “They have proven themselves quite capable.”
“We are well aware of the capabilities of thieves, Sindunar,” said the woman seated at the stern-faced woman’s right. She was younger than the stern-faced woman, but still quite a bit older than Alessandra. There was a serenity to her that spoke of almost complete unflappability. Alessandra found herself wondering if there was anything she could to startle the woman. She’d always liked a challenge. “The question before us is whether they can be trusted.”
“We already voted to put a thief in charge of the investigation, solely on the basis of her occupation as a thief,” pointed out a man in the main body. “I say we use these thieves for all they’re worth.”
“Atavame Mekoval is a former thief,” said the woman on the throne in her silky steel voice. “She is now one of us, and has been from the moment she received her powers from Faterai Ladron. There will be no questioning of that fact, either implicit or explicit.” As she said that last sentence, her gaze bore down on the man who had spoken, and he bowed his head somewhat shamefully.
“In any case, I argued against appointing Atavame Mekoval to this investigation in the first place,” said the mean looking man. “Clearly, that this nonsense is being presented to the Sutorlah is proof that I was right.”
“It has yet to be determined whether this proposal is nonsense,” responded the serene woman.
“Come on, Evila!” the mean faced man exclaimed. “You can’t possibly think this is a good idea!”
“Olorin Habrival, this is now the second time I have had to remind you of the rules of decorum within this chamber,” the stern woman said. “If I am forced to intervene one more time, you will be removed from this chamber.” Habrival turned white and looked as if he’d been struck.
“I…yes, of course, Honesival,” Habrival said, bowing deeply. “I forgot myself. Please forgive me.” The stern woman nodded, and when she did so, Habrival sat back up, and as he did so, he shot Alessandra a look so venomous that she nearly recoiled.
“The issue before us is whether there is a more appealing alternative available,” the serene woman, Evila, said, speaking as if nothing had happened. “It seems to me that this plan is relatively low risk. If the thieves are caught, or otherwise fail in their mission, it costs us nothing. Even if they do claim that they were working for the Order, we can simply deny it. What proof would they have to back up their claim? Who would believe a group of thieves over the Order of Sunaru? On the other hand, if they succeed, then we will finally be able to reclaim our stolen property.”
To be continued…