The young woman had come out from behind the bushes he had just walked by just before he passed under the arch of vegetation. He didn’t see the smile spread on her face as she pressed the dagger against his throat. He had come, just as she had thought, that meant the incident of the previous day wasn’t a simple coincidence. Was he simply a robber who had found a worthy victim in the princess? No, he couldn’t be just a simple thief, he had tried using emporium against the princess the day before, she was sure of it. Was he here to assassinate her for one of the many possible enemies of the crown? Whatever his intentions may be she would soon make them clear.
“Do not move if you want to stay alive.” She told him as he was about to react.
His reaction was that of most people in his situation: he froze. Good, she thought, at least he understood things quickly, or better he is afraid… She took a step forward, getting closer to him, and checked if he was hiding anything under his cape, he tried to stop her but she pressed the blade harder against his skin, discouraging him to pursue this option.
“I told you not to move, I won’t hesitate to use this if you don’t listen!” She explained in a calm but cold voice as she slightly moved the blade of her dagger under his neck.
She hoped not to have to resort to such methods but she had been tasked with the protection of the princess and she would fulfill her mission whatever the cost was. The young man slowly turned his head towards her, surely trying to gauge how convinced she was and seemed to give in, he slowly extended his arms in front of him to let her search him. She turned around him to come face to face, her dagger still pointed at his throat, and used her free hand to look for any concealed weapon.
“I’m not armed you know…” He said after a few seconds, a bit of mockery in his voice.
“Don’t speak.” She simply replied as she finished searching him.
She then noticed a small chain around his neck and was about to pull on it to reveal what it held, it could’ve been a small concealed weapon. But as her fingers got closer he tensed.
“Don’t touch that!” He exclaimed in a warning tone.
She looked at him, locking eyes, who was he to give her orders? She wasn’t about to let an intruder tell her what to do! Plus this thing looked more and more suspicious by the second and she still had her dagger pointed at him. She motioned towards the ornament when he suddenly pushed her arm away and was forced to jump back when he threw his right elbow at her. How had he managed to attack her without her noticing it? A soon as the question had formed in her head she was already back in her usual stance and had pulled out her second dagger. She was about to replicate but was suddenly forced to duck and step back once more as he threw a roundhouse kick directly aimed at her face before stepping back, putting enough distance between them to give himself time to react to an eventual attack. How had he managed to surprise her twice in such a short time? He was definitely not a simple thief!
She decided to also take a step back and get ready to act as soon as he showed any sign of weakness. Unfortunately for her she found herself blocked by a wall behind her. Damn it! Again?! Who was he?! She decided to end this game of cat and mouse and prepared to jump for another attack. The young woman placed her two daggers close to her ribs to conceal her next movements until the last moment. This diversion should give her enough time to throw her spell and take him down for good.
Then everything happened in an instant. She jumped high in the air, passing over her opponent, and felt a wave of air pass near the spot where her face had been a moment earlier. She landed behind him and took a step back, extending her arm before her, her right hand glowing slightly with a purple halo only visible to trained eyes. She looked up and her eyes locked with her opponent’s, the young man who gave her a tough time, his gaze was serious and focused but it lacked the anger and rage she had often seen in the eyes of fanatics like him. His eyes were locked to hers, sure and unwavering, completely lacking a murderous glint. Maybe she was mistaken, maybe he wasn’t an enemy? No! She couldn’t take that risk just based on her analysis of the gaze of a stranger! She pulled herself together at the last instant and noticed her opponent was now wide-eyed, he took a step back as a cold smile spread on her face. He would feel it, that much was sure, plus if she was lucky he probably wouldn’t die… Her eyes took on the violet glint that was until now covering only her hand and she let her mana free.
Thrista froze as he felt the cold blade slide on his skin under his chin. He tried to understand what was going on, the person behind him must have been hiding behind the wall of vegetation on his right. She ordered him not to move, order which he preferred to follow without resisting. Wait a minute… He thought as she walked around him and he recognized her familiar dark hair. It was the same girl as the day before, the one that had prevented him from stopping the blonde woman he had later recognized to be the princess. Her?! So she was indeed linked with Silena, as he had presumed, it wasn’t a coincidence that she had been running after her. But did that mean she had been waiting for him to come since their previous meeting or was she in the gardens for a completely different reason? His train of thoughts was interrupted by the one that held him prisoner, she was looking for concealed weapons. He tried to stop her and to explain why he was here but she ordered him to shut up and not to move. As she was about to take a look at his pendant he tried to stop her but she didn’t listen and reiterated her threat, warning him to stay as he was if he didn’t want to die before proceeding with her examination.
He had used that moment to surprise her with an elbow hit to her face, his cape was partially hiding his movement which gave him a certain advantage. He noticed the surprise on her face for a brief moment. Perfect. He thought before sending a high roundhouse kick to make her step back. She took out a second dagger but did not have time to use it as she was forced to back up to the wall behind her. Thrista was about to get his sword, taking advantage of the fact she was partially trapped by the wall which gave him the advantage, but as he focused his mana he saw her retracting her daggers. Then she suddenly jumped and landed behind him before he could even react, he only had time to try to push her back with a well placed punch but barely missed her head as she disappeared over his head. She then took a step back and as he spun around he saw her extending her arm directly at him.
Thrista got into a defensive position, preparing himself for the upcoming attack. As he looked at the young woman and locked eyes with her he thought he could see a slight gleam of doubt in her green eyes before her gaze emptied itself of any emotion and became as hard as stone. A pale purple aura surrounded her hand and, for a moment, the young man could’ve sworn they had turned violet. A smile spread on her face, cold and without any emotion, as she prepared to let go the energy she had been storing up.
The young man understood what was happening a moment too late and only managed to evade her attack partially and at the price of an inhuman effort. His cape was swiped up in the explosion though and he was left with a still burning half of what it had been as he rolled on the ground to regain his footing. The blast of energy flew past him and exploded in myriad of bolts of electricity behind him, it coursed throughout the hedge for a few tenths of seconds before disappearing, leaving a burnt smell in the air. He stood back up as quickly as he could and put up a defensive stance again, facing the young woman who already was in position, ready to attack. If she was surprised by his quick reaction she didn’t show any sign of it, only a calm mask of steel determination covered her face. They circled around each other, each trying to analyze the other’s weaknesses before attacking again. Thrista got closer to the fountain and as he was about to reach it and just before the young woman could launch her next assault a voice came from their right.
“Stop, both of you!” It commanded.
Thrista turned his head towards the place where he had heard the voice come from and the mana he had started to focus to launch a spell dissipated. A young woman with long blonde hair and dark skin was standing on the other side of the fountain beside a young man with short blonde hair and fair skin who was looking at them intently. He relaxed and allowed himself to smile as he recognized the princess of Tebor. She spoke before he could even open his mouth.
“Take off your cape and show her you’re not armed or she won’t stop.” Announced blonde young woman as she motioned towards the dark-haired one.
Thrista turned towards his opponent and noticed she hadn’t stood down, her daggers were still pointed at him. This made his smile fade away for a brief instant, if she had decided to attack he wouldn’t have been able to react in time. He cursed himself inwardly for letting his guard down so easily. He looked into the purple eyes before him, trying to guess what the young woman who had attacked him was thinking, but to no avail. She was unreadable. Realizing she wouldn’t stand down until he did what the princess asked him to do he decided to follow her advice.
“I’m really thrilled to see you too, Silena.” He simply replied in a mocking voice as he slowly took off his cape.
He noticed the brunette tensed ever so slightly as he did so, ready to act. Or was it because he was directly speaking to the princess? The other man didn’t seem fazed at all from what Thrista could see in the corner of his eyes. He folded his cape without even a glance towards his opponent and put it down on the border of the fountain before turning around to show the dark-haired girl he wasn’t concealing any weapons.
“I didn’t immediately recognize you yesterday, you’ve changed a lot you know! It took me a few seconds to realize it was you!” He added with a wide smile towards the princess.
“Thank you Thrista.” Replied Silena as he displayed his lack of weapons. “Are you satisfied now Hannah? He isn’t here to hurt me.” She then added before turning towards the young woman with dark hair.
So her name is Hannah, interesting… Thought Thrista whose smile had come back as he had seen the surprise on the brunette girl’s face for an instant. As she was putting away her daggers she looked at the princess and then at Thrista and frowned as she tried to understand what was going on.
“You know each other?” She simply asked in a voice she tried to keep as neutral as possible but in which Thrista detected a hint of surprise.
“Why would they talk like old friends if they didn’t?” Asked the blonde man with an amused smile on his face.
Thrista looked at him more attentively and almost immediately deduced he was close to the dark-haired woman, they were good friends at least from what he could see. No simple colleague would make fun of someone like this in front of the princess if they didn’t know each other well enough or if they were of friendly terms with her. Whoever he was he must’ve been quite skilled in social interactions to have been able to get the blonde woman to trust him, even if Silena didn’t care much about conventions and protocols. This piqued the teenager’s curiosity but he wasn’t able to pursue the matter much as the one named Hannah reacted to his remark, seemingly more annoyed than anything else.
“You knew?” She asked with daggers in her voice.
“Well yes, I was aware of his visit. The princess told me about it a bit before noon. She also instructed me not to tell you as you would’ve done as you wished anyway. Plus it was interesting to see how you would try to apprehend him. Of course we stayed close in case things got… messy.” The blonde explained with a calm and detached expression.
The brunette, looking intently at the two blondes in front of her, opened her mouth to speak before closing it, as if she hesitated. Then she angrily glared at both of them, but mostly the young man, and turned around before storming away and stopping only when she was almost out of sight. She only turned around once to shoot another threatening glare at the blonde man before looking away. He seemed to take this with great amusement and smiled even brighter when their eyes met.
“Please excuse her.” He said after a moment of silence, speaking both to the princess and Thrista. “But she can be very moody at times and she hates to be made fun of…”
“Don’t worry Todd, it’s fine. And I’m sure Thrista doesn’t mind.” Replied the princess with a small smile. “Now, allow me to introduce you both. Thrista, these are Todd and Hannah, the two bodyguards my father has hired to watch over me during my wedding. Todd, this is Thrista, a very old friend of mine.” She announced as she pointed to each of them in turn.
“I am very pleased to meet you.” Said Thrista as he bowed slightly.
“Same here.” Replied Todd as he nodded back.
“Come, we will be much more comfortable on the terrace I believe.” Then said the princess before turning around and walking towards the stairs behind her.
The blonde man followed her after having signaled the dark-haired young woman where they were going. She replied with another dark glare before turning around again and offering them a view of her back. He looked at Thrista and shrugged before starting to walk.
“Well, what’s one more glare anyway…” He stated with a small scoff as he followed Silena.
What a strange duo these two, thought Thrista, trying to fight back a smile as he followed the two blondes.
The night was dark and one could only see the distant shining of the stars in the sky. It had fallen soon after he had left, which had pleased him as it gave him cover, making his task much easier. He had been going around the harbor for almost two months now, trying to map out every corner and every street, to remember every building’s location and shape, all this without being noticed, to be ready when the moment would come. And it had come. As soon as the three large ships of the Galaedian navy had entered Eneleïa he had been ready to act, after all his preparations had been over since a week before. He had refrained himself from giving in to his curiosity and his haste, waiting as far away from the harbor as possible until the right moment in order to not raise any suspicion until it was over. Tonight everything was ready for him to act. If he found what he had been sent for then he would finally be able to return to the general’s side, but he had to find it first and it would surely require some searching. If ever he was caught however, well, it was better not to think about it…
The man walked down the dark street and climbed from the pavement to the roof of one of the nearby house with ease, he could see the harbor not too far away from that vantage point and it would be much easier to be discreet on top of the roofs than on the street. Anyone who would have the idea to look up to the sky would only have been able to see the stars shining in so many shades and colors that it was impossible to count them all, perhaps a swift and almost unnoticeable movement if one were careful but nothing else. Only a person who knew how to dispel high level illusions could have noticed, in the middle of this shroud of darkness, a thin silhouette clad in dark blue and running at fast speeds from roof to roof.
The man who was now proceeding towards the harbor had a precise mission and if he had been chosen for it, it was only because he had the perfect set of skills needed for this kind of environment. He could not only disappear from view almost instantly but also hide himself from any of the other four senses of any living being, and this almost as easily as he breathed. He knew he couldn’t fail for it would mean that he would become a grain of sand in the perfectly oiled machine that Ascendi had carefully started to make work. Never would he forgive himself for making the prince’s plans fail. As he neared the warehouse where the Trinity’s cargo rested he stopped a moment to focus on his objective and study his environment.
He was on the border of the roof of a large hangar, at about a hundred a fifty feet of his objective. Guards were circling the buildings all around. His only way to enter was, as he had predicted, by jumping from one roof to another. But he had to make it on the first try for he wouldn’t have a second chance. He waited for the closest patrol to pass by before starting to move again. Running silently on the inclined surface of the roof he accelerated until he reached the end of the building then, without stopping, he gathered speed and jumped in the air to cross the distance that separated him from the warehouse he had to reach. If anyone had seen him they might have thought it was a large bird flying over as he remained in the air for much longer than any normal person should have. Finally he reached the other roof and with an agile roll he landed silently and immediately crouched, hiding masterfully in the dark shades of the night, waiting for an alarm to denounce his presence on forbidden grounds. The two guards posted on the watchtowers in the opposite corners did not seem to notice his presence and after they both turned around a few seconds later he took his chance and rapidly cleared the distance that separated him from the other end of the building before climbing down into a minuscule alley.
It wasn’t more than a step large, exactly what he needed. He ran along the wall, silently watching as the next patrol passed by him without noticing his presence. Not being seen, whatever the cost. That was the only order that the prince had given him : “Do as you know so well, make sure nobody notices your presence, be it while you are there or even after you are gone.” Not being seen wasn’t a problem but leaving no trace of his passage was more of a challenge, but he didn’t care, he loved challenges. And he knew he would do anything in his power to serve the prince as best as he could. If he was spotted he could always run away but then they would know somebody tried to break in and it would be over, he could not even leave a single trace of his passage, however insignificant it seemed. Because knowing that someone was spying on them would be a real problem at that point in time, a problem the prince could very well do without. It was too early for them to know, much too early. He ran across a few similar alleys, leaving a thin golden dust cloud behind him for a few seconds before it vanished completely. Finally he reached the building he was looking for.
It wasn’t his goal but it would help him getting in more easily, even if it was a bit longer that way it considerably lowered the chances of him being discovered. Plus it allowed direct access to the room he was looking for in the next building. He passed by a sleeping soldier and almost woke him up by hitting a metal cup the man had forgotten on the small table to his side. He cursed inwardly as he caught it just before it hit the ground and silently placed it back on the table where it was. He continued to follow the corridor until he reached a double door. Without making a sound he opened it and stepped in, closing the door leafs behind him, before slowly making his way to the nearest corner and observing what was around him.
There was no movement in the huge space filled with wooden crates, still the man looked around to make sure he was indeed alone. Once he was satisfied he had the room to himself he climbed on the nearest crate to get a better view and try to locate his objective. He looked at the writings on each of the large boxes he passed by to make sure it wasn’t what he was looking for. He passed more than a dozen when suddenly he heard a noise, someone was coming. He noticed almost immediately the guard on the other side of the hangar, it was the one he had passed by a few minutes before while he was sleeping. Apparently he hadn’t noticed anything and was proceeding with a routine check, he saw the man yawn before writing down something on a piece of paper and turn around to get back to his post. The man in blue allowed himself to breathe again once the door was shut behind the guard and straightened himself back up from his crouching position before getting back to his search. Finally after a few long minutes of looking at every symbol in detail he found what he was looking for, or at least what was supposed to contain what he was looking for.
A large metal crate with a single sign drawn on its side in red paint: a semi-circle opened towards the bottom and a vertical line almost running across it. He slowly got closer, checking for traps or alarm systems and making sure no spell had been cast around it to ensure its protection. Luckily if it was protected it wasn’t designed to prevent him from doing what he had been tasked with. He took out something that resembled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it three times, obtaining a surface three times as big, before holding it straight and getting it closer to the metal surface of the crate. Once the strange sheet touched the metal it immediately stuck to it as if attracted by it, it started to buzz lightly before emitting a faint glow for half a second. When the glow faded away so had the paper, it seemed as if it had melded with the metal. An opening in the metal was now visible where the sheet had been a few seconds before and he could see the inside of the crate.
The man passed a hand through the opening first, making sure the spell worked correctly, then he entered the crate, his whole body passing easily through the large enough hole. He moved around what seemed to be the pieces of a large mechanical puzzle, a complex machine he still couldn’t completely wrap his mind around, paying very little attention to them. Finally he found what he was looking for: a small metal box containing sheets and plans detailing the functions of the machine and explaining how it worked. He allowed himself to smile, he had found what he had been looking for, his mission was almost over. Slowly he took out a small purple gem from his pouch and carefully hovered it over each sheet, making sure to pass it over the entirety of the paper. He did not know how much time it took him to do all this but after what seemed to be an eternity he finally finished passing it over the last paper, he put back the stone in his pouch, making sure it was well secured there, and placed the papers in their original place in the metal box. He couldn’t let anyone know he had been there, it was vital.
Finally he climbed out of the crate, not paying any attention to the large metal shape hidden under the white, light blue and gold cloth and placed his hand over the newly formed opening. He muttered a word and immediately the hole reacted to it, shimmering and buzzing once more before disappearing in a subtle glow and transforming back into the white sheet it had been before crumbling into ashes and disappearing completely. The metal wall of the crate was once more full and solid, as if the hole had never been there. The man turned around and as swiftly as he had come in he exited the building, following the same path, and after a few minutes of careful movements he found himself on the roof once more without having been noticed. He kept his focus in check though, it wasn’t the moment to be careless and to ruin everything after having succeeded in obtaining his objective, he had to be extra careful. He decided to patiently wait for the sentries on each of the tower to be exactly where he needed them to be, which was in the middle of shifting their position, before moving again. Fortunately everything went smoothly and he easily found his way back to the dark alleys of the harbor. Only when he finally walked out of the south districts did he allow himself to breathe and relax again. He had succeeded. It was a total success. The general and the prince would be greatly pleased. He had to go back as fast as he could now, the longer they waited the longer the operations were delayed. He started to run, slowly at first but picking up more speed as he went. He exited the city a few minutes later, travelling towards the west as fast as he could under the starry night sky.