The rain had poured on the city of Serpinon for three days. The hall of the Hunter’s Moon was dimly lit, but not so dimly that Tormas, standing at the back of the room in shadow, couldn’t make out the beads of sweat forming on the forehead of the man who sat across the table from Tormas’ young apprentice. It was obvious to him from the start that the man, Galabin was his name, was attempting to deceive them, but in this instance, from this man, the lie told would be as informative to him as the truth. One cannot lie to a former war mage of Serpinon without giving away some detail in the falsehood which will be seized upon and examined, and eventually have a motive or implication wrung from it that is true. But then the man did not know with whom he was dealing.
“Or did he?” Tormas thought.
“There have been many heated discussions among the High Order of late,” Galabin was saying, “and…and there is growing dissent among the ranks of mages. At least six are said to be missing. It is possible they abandoned their post. But some are now saying that they are all dead.” The man’s eyes fixed on Valesa for a moment and his vision narrowed, but he could not bear her gaze and quickly returned his eyes to the untouched drink on the table before him. “This is becoming dangerous. Too dangerous, for the price. I have taken many risks, and as the risks increase so does the cost of my information.”
“I will pay your price. As I have done in the past.” Valesa said, reaching inside her cloak and lifting out a purse heavy with gold. Galabin reached for it, and Valesa quickly pulled it back. “If your words continue to prove true.” Galabin shifted uncomfortably where he sat. He was more nervous than he had been in previous meetings, Tormas noted. Valesa continued. “In a week’s time Serpinon will celebrate the lordship of Visigorn. Before the ceremony in Madamor, Visigorn is to commune with the Dark Prophet Diaus Eridom and three of the High Order. I want to know who the three are.”
The sweat beaded faster on Galabin’s forehead. He looked around the nearly empty hall as if expecting an ally to answer Valesa for him. He turned back to her. “If you are able to learn this without my help, than why is it you can’t also learn the names of the three without my help?”Galabin asked.
“That is none of your concern. Can you tell me the names or not?” Valesa replied.
Tormas caught a glint in Galabin’s eyes as he spoke and realized they were being betrayed.
“The three are beyond us both. But you are right. It is no longer my concern.” Galabin stood up from the table and as he did the door to the hall burst open and soldiers of Serpinon poured into the hall of the Hunter’s Moon.
Valesa’s glare followed his eyes as he stood, even as the raucous of heavy boots scraping the floor drew in around her. “You have made a grave mistake.” she said coldly.
Valesa remained sitting, her eyes fixed with hatred on Galabin. Several of the soldiers drew swords and held them at her neck. “Don’t move.” One of the men whispered. “Don’t even breath.”
Tormas had melted into the shadows and wasn’t noticed by any of the entering soldiers. He would have to work quickly and carefully.
The captain of the men made his way through the group to the table where Valesa sat. “Bind her hands and her eyes. If she speaks, remove her tongue.”
Two men moved to comply with the order, doing so slowly as if they were unsure like men cornering a wild animal. They moved in closer and as they did Valesa closed her eyes and pulled her cloak tightly around her. The men paused and looked back at their captain, even more uncertain than before. At that moment, a sharp hiss filled the room and then a blast of thunder and a blinding light exploded just above Valesa’s head, knocking all of the soldiers around her to the ground.
“Get out of here!” Tormas shouted over the groans of dying men. Valesa, still seated, stood and ran through the Hunter’s Moon and out the front door, jumping broken chairs and tables and smashing pieces of broken glass under foot as she went. Tormas followed closely behind, exiting the hall just as the roof of the building collapsed.
“And with that single gesture, we are found out.” Tormas said, looking back at the rubble pile that was the Hunter’s moon.
“The beer there was terrible anyway.” replied Valesa.