SECOND DREAM: PURITY
CHAPTER 6: Move Higher
It was a moonless night.
They stole across the field silently, approaching the Shrine in silence. The shrine was in the middle of a large field, overgrown with weeds. It was easy to sneak through, even though the shrine was on forbidden property. The problem, like most other thievery gambles, was in getting out. In this particular part of the world, the owners tended to rely more on unconventional methods of protecting the treasure within the shrine. This included making it easy for people to get in but not get out. If you knew where to look, the bones of the trespassers before this littered the field. They were mainly hidden though, but there had been many rumours that the dead bodies had been used in an unholy way to keep the treasure safe.
That was one of the reasons for this night’s attempt, minus the treasure. It also served the purpose of evaluating the latest recruits. They could not afford to have anyone who would hesitate, and if they had to, they would leave people behind to complete the mission. Even at the cost of their soul, although that rarely, if ever, happened. The girls from this batch was far more jittery than the ones before, and she sighed as they moved towards the shrine, listening and watching their moves carefully. The youngest was sixteen and the oldest nineteen, all much older than the normal age for their first mission. She wondered just how did they manage to slip by the testers and got this mission. It was rather unusual, in her opinion, for them to be given a chance. Normally they would have been set aside, kept away from the others.
“Where are they?” she asked one of the pretty things sitting at the console. She was about ten years older than her, but she did her job well, and she could smell the young thing’s disapproval of this mission a mile away. In her presence, they were all professionals, though they had always been encouraged to be open whenever they disagreed with anything. Most were still getting used to that notion of being open.
“They’re approaching the target. The Vultures,” she named the group responsible for investigating the traces of the previous trespassers, “Are already setting up. They’ve just completed the circle for the Summoning.”
“Tell them to hold back until the Cypress have sighted the shrine. AND only when they have both sighted the shrine and their exit routes,” she ordered, and the woman dutifully relayed her orders.
“Rikan Alexis…” one of the others called her. There were three monitors in the makeshift command post, and they all referred to her if they had any questions. She trusted their judgments, because they had been working with this group for several months now.
“Yes?” she turned to her.
“The Cypress have sighted the Shrine. It’s odd… there’s an old lady there. She seems to be sweeping the front of the shrine… They’re requesting permission to infiltrate anyway,” the woman reported.
“What do you think, Shian?” she asked instead.
“I’d go anyway, but the way they’re describing her singing, I think it’s got to be a trap. But whether she’s a human or not, there’s no way to tell at this point in time.”
“We’re polite to our elders, aren’t we? Tell Cypress to send one person to talk to her, and ask her nicely for the treasure,” she instructed. The two others giggled, but a look at the Rikan’s face proved she was deadly serious.
“Cypress? Yes, listen closely,” Shian began speaking to the team.
“Lady, there is no unusual activity,” the third girl finally spoke, watching the experiments of the Vultures.
“Keep on it. But tell them not to move anything till Cypress has spoken with the old lady.”
“Miakan Anahita?” someone knocked on her door.
She looked up, her golden hair framing her face. Her blue eyes were hidden by a pair of glasses, lending her a rather intellectual look. In front of her were stacks of papers, most of which she had already gone through. Her face was pale though, and she looked like she had not slept in a few days. In the small black room, she was the only spot of color; her golden hair reflecting the light like a mirror and pale-blue top contrasting sharply against the room. Her face was pale, and lines under her blue eyes spoke of long nights without sleep. Even now, she looked as though she could collapse any minute; not a reassuring sight considering the hecticness of the past few months. It would be unfair to say that she did not try though; the Miakan had kept up pretty well so far.
“Yes, Iris?” the Miakan had made it a point to remember all their names, even though she and her sister sometimes did not remember much more than that. At least Iris knew that the Miakan was not averse to getting her hands dirty, not like some of the other Matriarchs.
“Miakan, the reports as you requested,” she came in and left a stack of papers on the “In” tray, noticing that the Miakan had been set aside a pile with the words, “For distribution,” at her elbow.
“Thank you, Iris. Can you send this to Matriarch Tári? She will know what to do with it,” the Miakan favored Iris with a smile before turning back to her work.
“I will, Miakan Anahita,” Iris picked the documents up as though she was cradling a baby, “On one condition,” the Miakan looked up at her, surprised. “Lunch is about t be served. Will you join me and the other Acolytes?”
The Miakan looked at her work longingly and then at this smiling acolyte. She noted the tanned skin, the deep brown eyes that glowed with honesty, the healthy smile, with curly long locks that practically begged a man to play with it. She stood a great deal taller than her, but her confidence made her seem so much more. There was a refreshing air about her, one of sincerity and eagerness, not to mention innocence. It had been a long time since she had eaten with humans for companions as opposed to reports and the occasional visit from her Lady. This would be a nice change.
“Very well, Iris,” she pushed the chair back and stretched. “Come, let us be off,” she wound her hand through the young acolyte’s and led her out of the room.
He opened his eyes.
The cliffs overlooking the valley offered a splendid view the cliffs, valley, and the sea beyond. It was a majestic view, one that would make a person feel insignificant in the scheme of things. He did not feel that though, only resigned. Raising his hand, he let a butterfly rest upon it. It was an orange and black monarch butterfly, perching on his finger, thinking it was a flower. After a few moments, it took flight and flew off in search of tastier flowers. He watched it fly, glad that the impulse had died within him and then he saw the pretty butterfly catch fire. The beautiful thing dropped like a rock into the sea far below.
He took a deep breath to control his rage, even as he sent his consciousness racing towards the temple. There was a venomous presence behind him, one that was promising pain and vengeance. Its fire burned far more strongly than his own, which is why he took his time getting to his feet from the edge of the cliff. He turned slowly, his hand reaching into the folds of his robe for a hook. What stood in front of him was a large red dragon, one that looked down on him with a rather condescending stare. This was one of those that did not like humans very much, he thought, pulling his consciousness back. There was no real reason to endanger them… Dragons were not their speciality.
“You refuse to call for help? How typical,” the dragon boomed. He wondered why the rest of the cliff and the valley did not hear it. “You’re a Dragon Hunter, aren’t you? The prodigy called Zu,” he used the Summerian name for the dragon symbolizing chaos. The man nodded.
“Very good then. Let’s see if you’re really great as they say,” the dragon tried to aim a blast of hot air at him.
The man moved smoothly to one side, a puzzled look on his face. His face said plainly enough that he did not understand the need for the attack and he had no intention of getting into one. Of course, he kept his back to the trees. No need to let momentum carry him over the cliff; he was not a Divine Being and thus could not fly. His hand let the hook go in his robes. He would not be needing it.
“Why?” his question was simple. The dragon’s grin as he flicked a nail, and more importantly, the spell that came after it, was vicious.
“Because you are here,” it boomed, and the spell hit Zu in the chest, flinging him backwards.
It was a small hut.
Small enough to keep three people in relative obscurity.
Of course, obscurity would only work if they decided to remain obscure. They could not. Obscurity was not what they were meant to do.
So they set up shop. And began selling their wares. And playing with the Elements around them. Hiding in the open was the only option.
Sometimes when Destiny dealt you a bad hand, it’s better to just bluff your way through.