There was no point in trying to answer the questions swimming in my head. And only more surfaced as I stood in front of the massive asura gate in the center of Divinity’s Reach. One of the small asura themselves stood by the gate, I assumed to change the destination. I stood around the area, pacing around as I held a slip of paper in my hand. It had very few words written on it, “cube, cinders.” Of course it was code. “Cube” being the city and “cinders” being the specific location in said city. I was lingering for too long, but I was stalling. Mainly because I wanted to tell Daniel, perhaps ask him to come with me, but he was still out on his delivery. He would not return for another day, and I knew this was not something that could wait.
Cease this pointless behavior, Anavari. I thought to myself. I nodded to my inner thoughts and released a sigh. I held the slip of paper in my open palm and began to materialize a ball of green necrotic energies. In seconds the paper vanished as if it were thrown into a flame. I allowed the remaining strands of the destroyed message be scattered in the wind. There was no more waiting around, I had to meet the observer.
I began to walk up to the asura by the gate.
“How can I help you?” She asked with her nasally voice.
“Rata Sum, please.”
With a nod she faced the gate and opened a console by the side. After tapping several buttons the swirling pool of purple that was the gateway began to change. I could see the faint visage of the city through the circular window.
“Thank you,” I said as I tossed a gold coin to the asura. She immediately caught the coin indifferently and placed it inter her pocket. Without any further words, I stood in front of the gate, and walked into the tropical heat of the asura city.
I did not like Rata-Sum. Despite all of its technological wonders and mysteries, it was too cluttered, too noisy, too humid, and at times much too chaotic. I wanted to turn back and go home already, but I was here for a reason. So I began to make my way towards the lower levels, walking in a moderately brisk pace. The location was not difficult to find, “cinders” normally means that one should head towards an area where people live. In a town like Divinity’s Reach it would be a complication, but not so much in Rata Sum. Despite all the cluttered labs, looking for the home districts was relatively easy. After walking through another gate I found the area. It was a wide open area a ways from the actual city, but linked through the magical gates. I could see many labs, which could also be considered homes I suppose, all either digging into the ground or a part of a large mountain.
After a brief observation I found what I was looking for. A particular lab had a trained raven, perched over a wooden post that had been fastened into the ground (not a messenger that belonged to the secros, it was an actual bird). It flapped it’s wings every so often as it watched all the small asura citizens walk by. I started towards the raven, once I was in front of it it simply stared at me with its beady eyes. It simply released a few caws as I observed the entrance it was “guarding”.
Then I heard the subtle footsteps of what I knew to be an asura come up to the entrance. It swung open the door and looked up at me and sighed in frustration.
“Another one?!” He exclaimed as he placed his hand on his braided hair. “I guess it can’t be helped, come in, love. You’ll be safe here.”
I cocked an eyebrow.
“Um… safe?” I asked. “What do you-”
“Don’t linger, darling! You’re starting to attract attention!” Urged the asura as he took a hold of my robe and began to pull me into his home. I was too confused to object and close the door behind me once I was inside. Surprisingly the home was quite spacious, despite its small exterior. The ceiling was high enough so that even a large charr would not grind their horns against the ceiling. And it appeared that the complex reached deeper into the ground for several more levels. In this first level there were several lounging chairs along with book shelves, a few beds scattered about… and an overwhelming number of charr. Charr of all kinds simply walking about minding their own business, some sitting and talking, other being more reserved and simply reading a book.
“What is all of this?” I asked in disbelief.
“It’s a safe house, darling.” Said the asura as he rounded towards me. “May not be your home but it has all the comforts of it. It should suffice until all the attacks on our kind settle down.”
At least I know they’re all secros…
“So this is where all the charr have been going?” I asked, “Here?”
“Well they can’t keep their homes when they can’t leave the city to work now can they? And others didn’t even have a home to begin with, they just wandered around and stayed in inns. So the secros organized a few areas around Tyria where they would be safe. A place where we could keep an eye on them until this mess blew over. Of course that’s why you came here, right? Don’t worry about the trouble, it may be a little cramped in here but we have no problems with feeding another mouth.”
My eyes wandered around the room before answering. The secros had made the necessary arrangements to make sure its own kind would not be exposed to the assassins, or that they would become homeless, or even starve for that matter. Using the spare resources it had to take care of its own.
Like a dysfunctional family. I thought. Then I glanced over to the asura who had greeted me.
“Jix.” Answered the asura.
“Jix, there seems to be a misunderstanding here… I am not here for housing.”
“Oh?” Jix tilted his head. “Then why are you here, love?”
“I was summoned. I am supposed to meet an observer here…” With that the asura’s eyes widened as he scanned me.
“Oh!” So you’re the one Slim was talking about!”
“Wait,” I said. “…the observer that summoned me, was Slim?”
“The one and only,” Jix smiled at me showing off his sharp teeth. “He says that you can help us get through this mess.”
“Yeah! Come, love. I’ll take you to him!” With that Jix reached for my hand and began to pull me towards the lower levels of the safe house. All the while wondering what Slim had been telling everyone here. Slim was one of the more well-known observers. He had quite the reputation as well. Not only was he a gifted mesmer, but he did everything in his abilities to provide as much as he could for the secros. He was truly a kind hearted individual. Not to mention that he was the one who recruited Daniel and me, so it was a well-kept secret that we knew him to an extent.
Jix was taking me down several stairs, passing even more rooms that were arranged to house a multitude of charr. A sleeping quarters, a kitchen, even a sparing area. I chuckled at the last room, it reminded me of the one Garfas had in his house.
“Garfas…” I mused under my breath.
“What’s that darling?”
“U-um, nothing.” I replied quickly. “Just thinking out loud.”
Suddenly Jix stopped in front of a door. I could see that it was made of a thick metal, with various ornate symbols engraved over it.
“Well this is it,” Said Jix as he opened the door for me. “Well go on in, he’s expecting you.”
I lingered by the door frame before stepping into the room. As soon as I entered, I realized that many experiments were being conducted in there. Lo and behold, there were tables of different substances brewing inside glass flasks. The stench of different compounds in the air. I gingerly began to make my way deeper into the room.
“Hello?” I called out rather quietly. “Slim?”
“You don’t have to be so quiet, Anavari.” I heard a deep voice purr from across the room. I shot a glance towards where it came from, and saw a small asura with shaggy white hair sitting on a recliner that was definitely meant for someone at least four times his size. His dark amber eyes stared at me with his young looking face. “It is only me, you know I mean you no harm.”
This was him, Slim the Anonymous.
“So… How’s Daniel?” He smiled at me as he gestured towards the small wooden table before him. I was faced with a cup of tea.
“He’s working right now…” I said as I looked around for a chair. I found one nearby and moved it across from Slim. I took the cup of tea and sat down. “But he is fine. ‘Happy-go-lucky’ as always.”
“That is good to know,” Slim reached the edge of his seat and took his own cup. “I find his cheerfulness endearing.”
I smiled remembering Daniel’s usual shenanigans. “Yes I suppose it is.”
“It’s a shame he could not be here, it has been far too long since we have had a casual chat.”
The last time Daniel and I spoke with the observer was a month after we had been recruited into the secros. It was rare to ever hear from him, and we figured that it was not our place to see someone with such a high rank in a casual manner.
“I trust you had no trouble finding this location?” Continued Slim.
“Uh… no, no trouble at all.”
“Wonderful. Jix is so kind to allow so many to stay in his place. Quite the maternal figure is he not?”
“I suppose…” I mused. “Certainly generous of him none the less.”
Slim stared at me for a brief moment before setting his cup back on the table. With a sigh his face became serious, shedding away the casual tone in the air.
“I guess there’s no more avoiding it is there?” He asked. “We both know why I called you here. And it’s obvious why you’re on edge. I can imagine that recent events have you on edge.”
“…amongst other things,” I said. “But that is a bit personal.”
“Understandable. Let’s get to it then. I need as much information as you can give me of your most recent encounter.”
Of course I knew this was coming. I was one of the survivors of the attacks, perhaps I was the one with the most interaction with the assassins as well.
“…I believe I gave as much information as I could to the ravens.” I said. “I do not know what else could be important…”
“I have a feeling that there was something you may have overlooked,” Slim crossed his legs over the chair as he scooted towards the back. “Anything that may seem irrelevant maybe? Something he said?”
“Well…” I began to rub my chin as I remembered the leader of the last squad that attacked us. “He was quite old from the sound of his voice, he was still considerably fast however…”
“Hm… so they’re trained so that age won’t slow them down,” Slim began to scratch his scalp. “That’s not a lot to go on. Anything else?”
“I remembered that his voice was quite annoying,” I said. “Very arrogant, and he even mentioned that it was a shame that I was not a part of their ranks. There was one more thing too…”
Slim appeared to show some signs of interest. Before, we had the same opinion over everything that I just said. It was trivial and unimportant. But there was something about the assassin’s words that brought forth some curiosity, and I had a feeling that Slim and I would have a mutual understanding over it.
“What is it?” He asked.
“We are beings that exist in the fringe of shadow and deception…”
Slim cocked an eyebrow.
“It sounds strange, I know.” I said. “But-”
“Not just strange…” Mused Slim. “But familiar.” He hopped out of his recliner and moved over to a book case by the corner of the room. After scanning the spines of the books he took out an especially thick one and brought it back to the coffee table. Once he opened the musty tome he blew away some dust that had accumulated in the past years. This book was unusual however, instead of just pages with script on them they had different scraps of paper with odd runes, some were of magical nature, and some unknown to me. There were letters in it as well, they were ancient it seemed. However I could tell that some of the seals were in old ascalonian. After sifting through a few of the letters and sheets, Slim stopped to examine a particular one.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A hunch,” Answered Slim. “You see the secros were not the only organization to have existed way before the searing… there were others. But the problem is that they were just as good at hiding themselves as we were. And if my suspicions are correct, then we could be in a very serious problem.”
“More serious than our current situation?” I asked. “What could be worse than our entire group being targeted?”
My eyes widened and I tensed up. Suddenly I started seeing everything in a much greater scale. I had heard about the quarrels between secret organizations such as our own. Even records in our archives of us spectating a few. I knew very well that such events were catastrophic on both ends. Deaths around every corner and all of it masked as simple brawls between miscellaneous groups, at least that what it was to the seraphs. Now I began to see that the secros were at the precipice of it, and once that would happen, no one would be safe. I jumped back to reality once I heard Slim close the book.
“Well there’s not much to go on… we need more information.” Slim then gleamed at me with a wide smirk. “Then again, that’s another one of the reasons why I called you over.”
“You have a plan?” I blinked. “And you’re involving me in it?”
“Well, you and Daniel.” Shrugged the asura. “I wasn’t sure about it at first, but since you survived two attack I was convinced. Besides, I know you. You won’t pass this opportunity up.”
We’ve only met for two instances… can he really know me that well? As much as I wanted to deny it. He was right.
“What is the plan?” I asked, becoming more serious.
“And that,” said slim. “Is why I recruited you.”
Hours later I returned back home. It was well into the night and half the town was probably asleep at this point. Slim had informed me of the plan and I was still mulling over it in my head. I still had to tell Daniel about it too.
I strode inside my house and locked the door behind me. I felt like shouting out “I’m home!” but I knew no one would answer back. Force of habit made it hard however. With a sigh I traveled up the stairs into my room. There was the cage that I had picked out of earlier. The room was still dark however, so I found a few candles and lit them so that I could actually see.
I moved over to my nightstand and found the picks Daniel had given me. There was also one more padlock as well, this one was different however. Daniel had warned me not to use this one, that it would be much too difficult for my skill level, and that I should only try it when he was around.
“It is not like I have anything else to do,” I said to myself as I took both items and climbed back into the iron cage. I was too agitated to sleep anyway; I just wanted something to get my mind off things. So once I secured the lock and got to work, I allowed the activity to take up most of mind. For a moment I could forget about how my life and the lives of many others were in danger, and I could focus more on how this stupid lock was too damn difficult.
Well it was quite evident that I would not be able to open it any time soon, I gave up once I began to see the sun shining over the distant houses of the city. For a while I just sat there, with nothing more to occupy me my head was once again overwhelmed with the current state of affairs.
I sighed and leaned my head against the metal bars, not knowing what to do. Would I go with Slim’s plan? Or maybe go in hiding? At this point anything could work, so long as I was with Daniel I could keep going. So long as neither of us were in danger… I could live comfortably.
“Garfas would know what to do…” I said with a sigh… Suddenly, I began to hear a scratching noise coming from my bedroom window. I had left it open simply because I welcomed the breeze, but now I could see that someone was trying to break in.
Blast it all… I thought, noticing how vulnerable I was. I immediately sat in the center of the cage as I began to focus my magic. Two bright orbs of green magic materialized on my palms, I was ready to hurl them at the intruder. Then, I saw a large clawed hand reach over the edge and pull itself over.
I was ready to reach my hand past the bars and shoot out the ball of necrotic energies… but I stopped. The figure was large, massive in fact. I could see white fur as well. For a brief moment I thought that it was a bear, but it was all clear to me once I saw the massive charr peering into the window. I could recognize that ridiculous pointy hat anywhere…
“Hey cub!” Said the white charr waving at me.
Edited by Jalinar