“It is essential that the Storm Corps be as unaware as possible of any communication between the Order and a thief clan,” Shalor said. “If the Corps discovers such communication, and then a thief clan breaks into one of their bases and is discovered, the Corps will absolutely link that break-in to the Order. Which would defeat the whole purpose of using a thief clan to commit the act.”
“I still don’t understand why it’s such a big deal,” Alessandra said. “They’re our enemies! They know full well that we raided their base in the Vanmorzen manor! Why does it matter if they know we raided Galais Center?”
“Still stuck on this, I see,” Shalor said with a sigh. “It comes down to this. For now, the Order of Sunaru defends the city, but the Circle of Elders rules the city, and the Storm Corps is the elite military unit of the Elder Guard. For now, almost all of our energy is devoted to maintaining the barrier. Someday, perhaps someday soon, that will no longer be the case. At which point, we will no longer need the Circle or its subordinates. But until then, we simply cannot expend the energy necessary to maintain the barrier and rule the city. As corrupt as they are, we need the Circle for now. A day will come when they are no longer necessary, and then we can openly move against them. But that day has not come yet.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Alessandra sighed. She frowned at the drink in her hand, and then decided to take a sip of it. “Blegh!” she spat almost immediately. “This is nasty! You really like this stuff?”
“It is an acquired taste,” Shalor said, chuckling softly. “I’ve been drinking it for a thousand years, more or less, so I am well acquainted with it. I forgot that you haven’t recovered your memories yet.”
“Yeah, must be nice,” Alessandra muttered.
“Excuse me?” Shalor said.
“I said it must be nice to forget that I haven’t recovered my memories,” Alessandra said in a much louder voice. Shalor looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, tapping his lips lightly as he did so.
“You needn’t be bitter, Alessandra,” Shalor said, setting down his wine glass. “I assure you, no one looks down on you because you have yet to regain your memories.”
“Are you sure about that?” Alessandra shot back. “Like, really really sure? Because I’m not, and I’m the one who has to live with that fact.”
“Alessandra, I know it’s difficult,” Shalor sighed. “I’ve been in your shoes before. I remember what it’s like to not have my predecessor’s memories. I know it’s hard, but it is something that you are going to have to live with for the time being. Like it or not, believe it or not, you are a full member of the Order of Sunaru, with all of the privileges and responsibilities which that entails. I do not wish to downplay the struggle you are going through right now, but I would remind you that sulking and whining do not befit a mage of our illustrious order. Especially when such sulking and whining are not grounded in reality.”
“I’m sorry,” Alessandra said sullenly. “I’m just frustrated. It’s been three months, and I feel like I haven’t made any progress at all! Not just with the memories. With anything! I don’t understand the politics, I don’t get the history, and I have no idea how magic works. Yeah, I can do stuff, but I don’t understand how any of it works!”
“Alessandra, you are expecting to master in months topics that most people must spend several years studying,” Shalor said in a soothing voice. “Most apprentices must learn these things painstakingly, one tiny baby step at a time. The fact that you intuitively know how to do many things already gives you a huge advantage, even if you don’t yet understand how it all works. And, I’ll be honest, your training is really just a formality. Once you recover your memories, and you will recover your memories, you will already know all the things we’ve been attempting to teach you. You just need to be patient.”
“But what if I don’t recover my memories!” Alessandra snapped. “What if I’m the first? It’s not like there have been a huge number of people who’ve been in my situation. How do you know for sure that everyone who goes through what I went through will definitely recover their memories?”
“Nothing is ever certain,” Shalor shrugged, but then he looked Alessandra straight in her eyes and said, “But I assure you that if your memories do not return to you naturally in a few years, we will take steps to recover them. I told you before, those memories are invaluable. We will not allow them to be lost to us. We will do whatever it takes.”
“I…guess I’m going to have to live with that,” Alessandra said, slightly unnerved by the intense look in Shalor’s eyes.
“Yes, you will,” Shalor said, picking up his wine glass again and taking a sip. “Now back to more important matters. We need to set up a way of communicating with your thief clan so that it is not traced back to us.”
“Any ideas?” Alessandra asked.
“Why are you asking me?” Shalor replied, his eyes widening slightly. “Communicating with thief clans it not something the Order has ever done before.”
“Yeah, well, communicating with other clans is not something that thief clans generally do either,” Alessandra shrugged.
“Surely you have ways of communicating with your members out in the field,” Shalor said.
“Not really,” Alessandra shrugged again. “Usually when a team is sent out, they are off the grid until the return. Or, we never hear from them again.”
“Sounds pretty harsh,” Shalor grimaced.
“That’s just how it is,” Alessandra replied, shrugging once again. “The slums are full of dangers. We can’t do anything about it, so we live with it.”
To be continued…