Interlude: Incoming Message
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Alfred stood alone in his personal room, his eyes focusing on the city of Lumen. The city was one of the biggest in the world, its size enough to rival ancient kingdoms. It was a peaceful place as well, with the lowest crime rate and highest magic user per capita. The wizard grew up here, studied here, and taught here. It was his home, one that protected and cared for him.


Alfred sighed as he sat back in his chair, his hand swiping at the air. The illusion shimmered and shifted, fading away to reveal the stone wall of his room. The old man rubbed at his eyes tiredly. It had been over two months since he sent Gwenyth and her group off to Valenfrost. They hadn’t sent one message, not through crystal nor letter. He wondered if they had found the source of the fractures or even had a lead on it. While he hoped they got their job done soon, he worried about Arthur.


The outlander had a tendency to strain relations with his teammates. While it usually evened out at the end, Alfred was worried that Gwenyth might fight back against it. The elf hated being kept in the dark. She was avidly against omitted details, especially when it came to life-threatening missions.


“Maybe I should have told her the truth,” Alfred muttered to himself. He thought back to the day of the bloom solstice, back when she left for Norum. Gwenyth hadn’t changed from her old self, her attitude and personality still there. She was like a statue, her beauty and elegance frozen in time. Alfred remembered the days of his youth, back when he was still learning to be a spellcaster. He looked down at his scarred palm. Such a long time ago.


Just as he reminisced about the days of old, a knock came across his door. The wizard stood and moved to the wooden entrance, his frail hands nudging the lock open.


“Yes?” He asked as he peeked out the door. It was one of the scribes, the young lad’s face flustered and exerted.


“Master Alfred!” He exclaimed. “We have contact with the Valenfrost group!”


“Contact?” Alfred questioned.


“Arthur had set up communications through the totem, Master,” the scribe quickly explained. “He has only an hour before the transmission is eroded. We must hurry!”


With that, the wizard followed the young scribe to the observatory room. They rushed through the halls of the castle, passing by maids and fellow scribes. After crossing through complicated passageways and winding staircases, the two made it to the observatory, where the large illusory map lay. Instead of showcasing Valenfrost or Azurvale, the illusory display showed a set of runes, ones that Alfred quickly recognized.


“Dark magic,” he realized aloud.


“Alfred? Are you there?” Arthur’s voice came out in a hum from the display, causing the runes to shimmer and the torch lights to dim.


“I am here,” the wizard answered. “Quite some set up you have there. You know using dark magic to communicate with me is fundamentally suicide?” Alfred’s comment seemed to evoke another voice to answer, this one a female.


“I told you, you fucking idiot!”


“Who’s that with you?” Alfred asked.


“A contact. She’s been assisting us on our mission,” Arthur admitted. “We found the source.”


“You have?” Alfred leaned into the table. “Where is it? Can you seal it?” There was an air of silence. Finally, Arthur’s voice came back, quieter this time.


“It’s going to be harder than we thought.”


“Is this why you’ve called me?” The wizard asked.


“The entire city. Vindis. The perpetrator has spread his influence around. We might be looking at a resistance.”


Alfred cursed. “Dammit! How far does it go?”


“We need to keep investigating, but it looks as if it spreads to the underground markets of the city. There’s also word that his clan is dealing with arenian merchants.”


“His clan?” Alfred asked in disbelief. “You need to put a stop to this, Arthur. Soon. The fracture is already enough of a problem, but if that outlander becomes a martyr—”


“I know. I can take care of it, but it won’t be simple.” His words gave the wizard a sinking realization. One that the wizard knew was necessary.


“You will have your reinforcements. You’ll have them when the time comes. Just tell me when.”


“I’ll contact you,” Arthur simply said. With that, the transmission fizzled, and the display went quiet. Alfred stared at the illusionary chart, his hands gripping onto the table’s edge.


“Scribe George. Contact Alistair and Commander Michaels. Arrange for a meeting as soon as possible.” The scribe nearby nodded quickly, his hand rushing for a piece of parchment.


Alfred sighed to himself. “It looks like Michaels is going to get what he wants after all…”