Book 2- Prologue
Night has fallen over the sky, covering the landscape in a vast darkness. Cutting through the bleak sky was the luminescent moon which shined light onto the barren land below. The winds were calm, a scattering breeze in the night.
Amongst the forested land stood a mundane little cabin built of wood. Seemingly old and decrepit, one had to wonder why such a building was built out in the middle of nowhere.
The inside of the building matched the outside; a worn out single room home. Broken furniture littered the ground with cobwebs everywhere. The only notifiable feature of the room would be the worn out book shelves. Filled to the brim with either burnt books or their covers. A simple inspection would yield no results and anyone entering would simply just leave.
However, a full and closer inspection would reveal a different answer. The books were arranged that if an observant watcher were to lay eyes on the book shelf they would notice it. If one were to arrange the books in a correct manner than a clicking sound could be heard, before opening up to reveal a secret passageway.
One might think that all a person would have to do was get lucky, but they would be wrong. The book shelf was special in that one couldn’t simply solve the puzzle unless they specially knew what they were trying to do.
A flight of stairs led downwards to a door and into a long hallway. The hallway was narrow with doors sided on both sides of the hallway. Looking through the narrow gaps, any spectator would be surprised by the vast space presented underground. Each door held behind it a different room.
One room consisted of a storage room while the next could consisted of weapons. And at the end of the hallway was a door that led to a simple room. And inside that room was none other than the Lord Commander of the station, me.
The entire underground had no natural light and relied on the candles for illumination. The lack of sunlight would be deterrent and nauseating for normal people. Those born in the light will never truly understand what it means to be blanketed in darkness. For us however the darkness was anything but discomforting.
For assassins, the night is greatest weapon. A being that shrouds us in the night, making us invisible. We adapted the darkness to our needs. However, where simple assassins merely adapted to the darkness and harness its power. I was born in the darkness and that is what makes me strong.
The final door leads into my office, a room devoid of light, except for the faint glow from the candle stands next to the door. Even then, the light it provides was minimal at best.
I was doing my usual duties, reading the reports of my subordinates. The first thing one would question was how I was able to see anything within the impenetrable darkness, let alone read. To me I could see clearly no matter how dark it was.
As I was continuing my duty, I hear a knock on my door.
“You may enter.”
A second after my reply the door opened letting the light from the hallway into the dark room. It wasn’t enough to illuminate the entire room, simply a few centimeter from the door. Standing at the entrance way was an assassin, one of my subordinates.
It was typical for them to make their reports from such a distance; they were about as blind as a bat within my dark space.
“Sir! I finally received a report regarding the operation.”
My reply confused the assassin until I elaborated. We were a multinational underground organization with our Assassination Branch being the most active. We accept many different contracts, so long as they can afford us. So my response back was reasonable.
“Sir, regarding Kioas group and the kidnapping of the princess.”
Ahhh, that one. By far one of the biggest contracts that the organization has ever accepted. In the course of the organization’s history, assassinations of powerful political figures weren’t uncommon. But the kidnapping of a princess, now that was certainly something new. Whoever our client was, they would certainly have to be powerful in order to orchestrate such a feat.
“I see. Then it was a success then? Leave the report here and send word back to Kioas group to deliver the princess t–“
“Actually…sir……We believe Kioas to be dead.”
Speaking up, there was fear inside his voice. With my enhanced vision I could see him shaking and sweating.
Although I wasn’t going for it, my voice came out low and threatening. Something that terrified the troops under my command. Added to the fact that most don’t even know what I look like, it inspired fear and respect amongst them.
“Yes! It has been a week and several days since they have left. When he stopped sending in his daily reports we sent a team to investigate the town in which the operation would be held. After some investigation we learned that the populace were moved outside; most likely due to their plan. According to eyewitnesses, a colored light flew into the air before exploding. Which meant only one thing…”
Finishing his report I had a better grasp on the situation. Kioas was among some of the Assassination Branch’s greatest assassins. He was handpicked for the operation along with others to accompany him. Whatever happened, it was enough for him to fire the emergency warning.
As assassins, we swore an oath of secrecy. It was a mandate that if a situation was hopeless then the leader would fire the warning signal and everyone within the vicinity would commit suicide. Protecting the organization and their objective.
For a man like him to do something like that…whatever happened, it must have been something great to push him into such a corner.
Leaving the report at the door I dismissed him and read the full report. Going so far as to double and triple check to make sure everything was right. If the report was true then the operation took a bigger detour than expected. The next question was…what to do next?
After contemplating the matter for several minutes, I made my decision. Leaving the confines of my room I walked through the hallway until I reached another door. Like my previous room it was completely dark. The room was as such due to my personal preference, because I would be the only one allowed to use it.
The darkroom was completely bare and barren, only a stone room. The only thing in the room was small circular table with a large round object on it. Walking up to it, I place my hand on the spherical object, and it glowed to life.
The light emitting from the orb shifted between all the colours of the spectrum before a silhouette could be made out from within the orb.
The orb wasn’t just any regular item but rather a [Communication Orb]. Through the use of magic, the item has the ability to communicate with another. The item was extremely rare and valuable. In fact, not even some nations have access to such an item. It once again goes to show the power and resources of the organization.
“Diosas? Why have you contacted me?”
A feminine voice came from the orb, addressing me. If it were anyone else they would have immediately questioned who it was. A female within the organization? Just the mere thought of a woman in charge was blasphemous. Yet it was no illusion, the Assassination Branch leader was a woman who went by the name of Catherine.
“I have a report in regards to the contract on kidnapping of the princess…It was a failure.”
No response came from the orb, nor the person in question.
“I see. What do we know then?” Finally speaking up, she responded in her usual tone. Uncaring.
“Yes. Due to how they went about the operation, we could only collect information and data based on what we heard and observe. All of the operatives have died while the guards have been taken into custody. The report is based on what the guards observed at the time.
The populace were moved to the outskirts of the town. Giving room for them to capture the princess. The town’s guard commander grew greedy and wanted to rape the princess. However before anything could happen five strange individuals appeared out of nowhere. They quickly reversed the situation and the princess escaped.”
Hearing the rest of the report, Catherine remained silent, but only a few seconds. “What can you tell me of these individuals?” Finally the voice spoke up.
“The report states that the five individuals were of various races. The first and most prominent one was a demi-human. He was a scaled, reptilian demi-human who fought with a sword and fire magic. Speculation and hearsay from the guards claimed that he was a draconian.”
The voice that came from the other side was one of disbelief. Typically she spoke in a mute tone, it was beyond rare to hear actual emotion in her voice. I too had a similar response when reading the report. The nature of it was absolutely absurd, but there was no hard evidence to deny it nor confirm it.
“Next was a female human. From the description she was beautiful and remained behind to protect the princess. Then there were two individuals that the guards only had a brief time to look at. From the description of the report it’s safe to assume that they were assassins as well. Their attire and behavior matches the criteria It’s believed that they were the ones that dealt with the reinforcement, whom were lying in wait outside the town.
Finally there was a mage. Different sources claim that he was a human, while others claimed him to be some form of elf due to his long ears. The sources conflicted on his nature, but was undeniable fact that he was strong. The spells he used were powerful, taking out many opponents with ease. Also there was this one piece of information but its…very skeptical. According to some report one assassin managed to land a strike. A blade through his throat. However he continued fighting as if it was nothing. In truth I believe this to be a mere exaggeration. He also seemed to be the leader of the group, from how he tried to negotiate with our group.”
The silence between us was much longer after giving Catherine the full report.
“……Who is stronger? The mage or the warrior?”
A strange question to ask, but I wasn’t in a position to simply ignore it.
“There are little details on just how strong they were aside from their feats. From the report, in my opinion, I believe the mage to be the strongest.”
An ‘hmm’ noise was the only response as I waited. I couldn’t help but furrow my brows at such an odd question.
“Have you reported back to the client yet?”
“No. I was planning to, but I believe informing you should take precedent. What should we do now?”
“We’ll continue the contract as before. We have never failed a contract before, we’ll not start now.”
“Yes! However, how should we proceed? We don’t know how much the enemy knows about us, but we can assume that they know we exist.”
We knew nothing of the enemy, but the same couldn’t be said about them. They knew about the operation to kidnap the princess and intervened. We had no idea of the power or intelligence of our opposition.
“Our first order of business is to recover the princess.”
“I agree, however what if they ally themselves with one another?”
Whoever they were, they had the resources to not only interrupt us, but interfere. There was also the possibility that they allied themselves with the princess. If so the job just went up in difficulty by a couple of notches. We must assume that they are working in union now. If so then we’ll just be sending our troops to the slaughter.
“If we just send troops out without any precaution then we’ll be wasting our troop’s lives.”
“Diosas, if you were in this situation. How would you handle it?”
“I’m sorry?” Unexpectedly, Catherine asked another off tangent question. Not waiting on me, she continued on.
“If you had saved a princess and a shadowy organization were after you. What would you do?”
Placing my hand to my chin I pondered on her exact meaning. If she was asking me how I would have handled the situation…well there would be multiple ways on handling such an issue. Taking a minute to go through my opinons, I finally decided on one.
“I would first perhaps strike a deal to bring the interlopers on board and use them as an insurance for protection. But, at the same time having a second group conduct research on who might our enemy be. One keeping the enemy pre-occupied, while the other striking at the heart.”
“…It would seem that we’re of the same mindset Diosas. If it were me I would assign the warrior to the role of bodyguard while I investigate.”
“But…That’s merely speculation. We can’t simply send our assassins out to every nation in hopes that they might discover them.”
The biggest issue regarding both parties was that we didn’t know who the client was. Whoever they were contacted us in secret. By the time the report gets back to them, who knows how far they might have gone into their investigation.
“Diosas. This isn’t up for debate. Spread the word and divide troops. I’m assigning you to the princess. Recapture her at all costs.”
“…Yes Ma’am.” I begrudgingly replied back. It was an order and as a commander I followed orders.
“What of the mage? He could be anywhere within the Central Continent. Then there’s the issue of identifying the mage. There are many factors we still need to consider!”
“You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll personally see to that. All I need you to do is follow my orders.”
And with that final message, our call ended. Rarely do I let my emotion get the better of me, but this was one of those exceptions. I quickly calmed down as there was nothing I could do. Despite the predicament we were in, there was a ping of relief.
Catherine wasn’t the head of the Assassination branch for nothing. Rarely does she join into the branch’s operations, but when she does, it’s 100% guaranteed that she would succeeded. There was nothing left for me to do but rally the troops.
— Beginning of Book 2- Mage of the Empire