“In any case, that’s not very helpful,” Shalor frowned. “We need to come up with some way to communicate with the Mekoval clan that can’t be traced back to us.”
“Surely the Order has agents of some sort in the city, right?” Alessandra asked. “We can arrange for one of them to be a third party between us and the clan.”
“I suppose that will have to do,” Shalor said. “That doesn’t seem quite as secure as I would like, but I suspect that it is the best that we will be able to do. I had thought about providing the clan with a shovaila, but if the Storm Corps found a thief with a shovaila, the first people they’d think of is us.” A shovaila was a small, magic device that allowed people to communicate over a great distance.
“Yeah, I don’t think that would be wise,” Alessandra grimaced. “I think I should be the one to contact an agent.”
“Why is that?” Shalor asked.
“First of all, I’m new enough to the Order that it is unlikely the Storm Corps would know who I am. Second, as a former thief, I know how to disguise myself, so even if they do know who I am, they wouldn’t know that I am me, if you catch my drift.”
“I believe I do,” Shalor nodded. “Very well. I will contact someone who can put you in touch with one of our agents in the city. You will make contact with the agent, give them our instructions for the Mekoval clan, and the agent will then contact the clan. Unless the Storm Corps have spies within the Avaroth itself, there should be no reason why they would suspect any interaction between the Order and any thief clan.”
“Then I guess that settles that,” Alessandra said, taking another tentative sip of her wine. “Ugh,” she grimaced. “Disgusting.”
“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t like it,” Shalor grinned. “Trust me, it won’t hurt my feelings. No more than you constantly gagging on it does, anyway.”
“Sorry,” Alessandra said, looking bashful. “I really do want to like it. I just…don’t.” Shalor laughed.
“It really is okay,” he said reassuringly. “You probably are better off if you don’t like it, to be honest.” He stood up and came over to her, holding out his hand for her wine glass, which she gladly relinquished. “Now, what is your plan for the infiltration of the base itself?”
“Honestly, I think it’s probably best to be hands off in this regard,” Alessandra replied. “I say we give them all of the intelligence on Galais Central that we have, and allow them to formulate their own plan of entry.”
“Weren’t you their leader?” Shalor asked, arching an eyebrow. “Don’t you have the necessary knowledge and skill to come up with a plan for them?”
“I was only Clan Master for about two months,” Alessandra said. “The new Clan Master has already been in her position longer than I was, and she has a strong and experienced group of Clan Leaders backing her up. Plus, turnover is high in a thief clan. Being a thief is dangerous, and thieves die on jobs all the time. Meanwhile, the clans are constantly picking up new recruits from the kids who are too old to stay in the House of Vagrants. So I wouldn’t even know who is on the clan roster anymore. It’s much better if we stay out of their way as much as possible, and let the people we’re hiring do the job that we’re hiring them to do.”
“Very wise,” Shalor said with an approving nod. “I agree. Excellent. So we will send your friend back to his clan tomorrow with instructions for how to make contact with our agent. And hopefully he is able to persuade his leaders that this partnership is a good idea.”
“I really don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all,” Alessandra reassured him. “Like I keep telling you, people in the slums practically worship the Order of Sunaru. We would do anything for the Order.”
“Worshiping a god from afar is one thing,” Shalor said. “It’s quite another when that god shows up in front of you and starts demanding things. I assure you, Alessandra, I am speaking from experience here. There is no guarantee that this clan will agree to do what we are asking.”
“Well, if the plan falls through, it falls through,” Alessandra shrugged. “There are other thief clans. Or maybe we could use a mercenary clan. I think this is the best option, because we’re working with a clan that I know and trust, but it’s not like there aren’t other options.”
“Glad to hear you thinking things through,” Shalor said. As soon as he finished speaking, there was the sound of a chime. “Ah, that means dinner is ready. Excellent timing. I believe we’ve finished all of our business conversations, which means it is time to move on to pleasure.” He gestured for Alessandra to follow him into the next room.
“Sounds good to me,” Alessandra said as she stood up and followed Shalor. The sight in the next room was most impressive. Alessandra was already used to eating much better in the Order than she had in the slums. The mages of the Order were able to use their powers to manipulate the izumal that everyone in the city ate into an astonishing variety of different shapes and flavors, very few of which Alessandra was even remotely equipped to describe. She hadn’t even realized that food could come in different flavors until she’d joined the Order. But as indescribably good as the food in the Avaroth cafeteria was, it paled in comparison to the smorgasbord arrayed on Shalor’s table.
“One of my predecessors was an accomplished chef, and I have taken those memories and dabbled with them over the years,” Shalor said modestly. “It’s so easy to transform izumal into finished dishes. It’s more complicated, but more satisfying, to transform izumal into raw ingredients and use those ingredients to prepare dishes. It is, in fact, an all but lost art these days, so I do what I can to keep it alive.”
To be continued…