"Erynn?" Priam asked softly, standing outside a decently sized tent.
The cool morning air nipped at his fingertips and nose, and he bounced from foot to foot to try to keep warm. The snow-capped mountains that ringed the valley stood clear in the crisp air, and the sun just above them in the east, a ball balanced percariously above the sharp peaks. Gaily colored tents stood pitched all over the open ground, and competed for space with cooking fires and smaller firepits.
Courtesy and decorum dictated that he knock once before entering, for she might not be decent, but the canvas tent offered no solid place to knock. Swallowing hard, he cautiously pulled the flap aside and peered in.
Erynn sat, completely dressed, to his relief, cross-legged on the floor, her gaze focused squarely on the mirror resting on her lap.
She started, finally sensing his presence, and guiltily slipped the mirror into a fold in her robe.
"Reminds me of home," she said, blushing a little.
Caeryn had given her the mirror during her last visit, a secret message between the two for her to watch out over her shoulder. Priam knew she cherished the mirror, both for the link to home, and for another reason.
It was a medium for her to scry into. Within its frame, she could look into distance places, using her limited mastery of Air. Conner, sharing her limited talent, could do the same when circumstances dictated.
He knew she spent every unoccupied moment scrying, however, watching Lysander from afar. Priam knew Lysander had to be unaware that she was watching him whenever she could, and Priam didn't quite know what to think of her odd behavior.
"He's alright, you know," Priam tried, smiling warmly.
Erynn's face darkened, her cheeks reddening.
"I'm worried about him, Priam," she admitted, "he's obsessing with it. It's all he does. Travel and fight."
"You know it was something Lysander had to do."
"I knew he had to confront his father. He never said anything of this, this massacre."
Though Priam knew the facts, it still surprised him to hear Erynn admit it. It was a massacre. Lysander's one-man war was brutally effective.
"Come, We've been summoned by Volker," he offered his hand to help her up. Her fingers were cold.
"After the meeting, we'll ask for his advice on the matter, hmm?"
Erynn smiled at the older man, "Thank you, Priam. You've always done all you could to help me."
"Ahh, I see she finally woke up," Volker teased as Erynn and Priam entered the massive meeting tent. It though similarly colored and decorated; it could easily hold every other tent that was pitched outside.
The assassins were meeting at their traditional meeting-ground, a valley in the Dhertan Ridges known only to the assassins. Snowed in for most of the year, the valley was only thawed in the spring. It was actually an ancient battlefield, the site of a great victory over a legion of assassins, the details of which have been lost to time. The aftermath was still visible, though, as the exposed rocks in the still smoldered and were hot to touch from the intense heat of the battle. The area was aptly known to the assassins as the Valley of the Burning Rocks.
"Sorry, sir," she apologized.
"No 'sir', Erynn, we're all equals here."
"Only he gets to tell us what to do," Conner smirked, accepting a friendly hug from Erynn.
"Well," Volker admitted with a smile, "with age comes privilege."
A low chuckle filled the tent, and Priam guided Erynn to her seat. There were about thirty other people already occupying the chairs around the great table.
"Well, now that everyone is here who could make it," Volker began, speaking over the murmuring group, "we can begin."
With a flourish of his hand, a detailed map of the world appeared on the table in front of them. Though not an assassin of Smoke, Volker could still use a little, and projected the illusion of a map on the table for all to see.
"Rannel, if you would?"
The tanned man halfway across from her stood. A broad brimmed hat covered his bleached straw hair, and his clothes spoke of sailing and the open sea. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small cloth pouch.
"Trouble," he said simply, and tossed it into the middle of the map. It landed with a thud, the contents tugging on the cloth and carrying it along, until it finally stopped, the lace holding the top closed coming undone.
"Pig iron?" one of the closer assassins guessed, confused.
The assassin tugged the lace the rest of the way open, and poured the contents out. Aside from the pig iron were uncut diamonds, rubies and a single scrap of worn parchment.
"I recovered this during a raid on vessel that had been committing acts of piracy against my nation and government. The ship lingered too long in our waters, and I was able to close and board her. During the battle, we witnessed a man toss the pouch overboard, the pig iron meant to send it quickly to the bottom. Luckily, one of my men was able to dive and retrieve it before it got out of reach."
"And what is it?" someone asked.
"My friends, these are orders, accompanied by either a bribe or a payment due, to the region of Gammach from Madleh the Lesser."
Assassins around the table cursed the name.
"Damn him and damn his father," Conner heard Priam swear beside him.
Conner remained silent. His fury towards the man wouldn't be quenched by mere words.
Rannel shook his head, "The bastard captain should have sank that pouch the moment he saw my sails, but to our fortune, he did not."
"What does the note say?" Conner asked.
"It informs whoever is to receive it that they must begin preparations and march to the east in no more than two months."
"What's stopping us from raising an army and catching them while they're off guard?" an assassin Conner didn't recognize asked from his right.
"Well, first, we don't know who they are, remember? Second, we haven't determined if this is a message on its own, or one of many communiqués. The former, we might be able to do something about, but when the message doesn't arrive as part of the latter, we could have trouble." Volker spoke softly.
"So what do we do?" Erynn asked when no one else spoke up.
"Well, my dear, we do what we always end up doing. We observe."