• The woman was small, inconspicuous. She wove through the throng of people expertly, spinning away from workers carrying large bundles of materials, sidestepping the occasional drunk, and carefully avoiding the surly guards hanging around the most inconvenient areas. The woman tilted her head and observed the sky. The sun was beginning to dip beneath the horizon of city rooftops and spires, soaking the earth and its people in hues of gold, amber, and cerise. The cold of night was beginning to seep into the cobblestone streets and the woman pulled her cloak tighter around her petite figure.

    Finally as twilight began to give way to somber darkness, the woman ducked into the large entrance of a tavern with a huge, savage ram clothed in a violet pelt painted on the side. The environment was entirely different from the dark quieting street outside. The walls seemed ready to burst with the raucous noise of the crowd within. Warmth and pure yellow light surged from the hearth in the back of the room, casting a dreamy lull on the space. Huge burly men with unkempt beards waved sloshing tankards over squat tables that seemed much too small. Waitresses garbed in every vibrant color spun gracefully through the crowd, refilling mugs and depositing loaves of steaming bread at every table. The woman once again exercised her perfected ability of moving fluidly through a packed crowd and seated herself at a table in the far corner where the happy light only barely reached. She waited patiently, watching the rowdy crowd and politely declining the many offers of food and drink she received from various waitresses. Her sharp green eyes scanned the room with a careful analytic sweep until her interest was peaked by the form of a stranger stumbling through the door. She watched as the individual fought through the crowd, much less gracefully than she had. Finally, the person in the velvet green cloak plopped tiredly in a chair opposite to the woman and flipped back their hood.

    “Gideon.” The woman smiled, watching as the man ran his fingers through his mess of curly hair and down his flushed face. “Everest, a pleasure as usual.” He replied absently, wiping his brow and beginning to fumble within the folds of his cloak. It took a bit, but finally he produced a series of tightly rolled parchment scrolls and a compass. He pushed the materials towards Everest and turned to order from a nearby waitress.

    “Straight to business today? No clever banter or catching up?” Everest mused playfully, unrolling the first scroll to examine its contents. “Not today. Important matters need attending to.” He chortled, accepting an overflowing tankard from a waitress and taking a long draught.

    Everest scanned the parchment, reading over individuals of interest, key locations, and ramblings on political agenda. “Who’s the lucky fella this time?” She asked, taking another scroll and unrolling it.

    “Some commoner down south. Apparently he’s got some pretty wicked arcane capabilities up his sleeve. King Wyra has taken him under his wing and has him learning under his mages. Bad news for us.”

    Everest looked over the contents of the second roll, observing a rough sketch of the person in question. He appeared to have a long sharp jaw, narrow eyes, and very pale hair. It was hard to tell, no sketch Everest had ever been provided with was very accurate.

    “So he’s pretty dangerous?”

    “Hardly. Apparently he’s only recently discovered his capabilities, but I hear he’s already making impressive strides in his learning.” Gideon replied. “He’s got a load of advantage in him that Wyra has obviously taken advantage of. People born with such abilities have track records of being very powerful and dangerous. They put those who’ve had to learn the arts in years of strict principles of discipline look like bumbling magicians. They’re rare though,” Gideon suddenly smirked knowingly. “You of all people would know that.”

    Everest returned the small cunning smile and nodded knowingly. “Takes one to know one.” She tucked the scrolls into the folds of her cloak and tucked back a thick strand of dark onyx hair. “When does King Tyrin want our arcane prodigy taken care of?”

    “As soon as possible. The more he learns, the tougher he’s going to be to take down. Before the winter solstice would be ideal.”

    Everest smiled and scrunched her eyebrows together. “Easy.” She huffed, shrugging her shoulders dramatically. Gideon’s eyes glinted playfully but his lips were drawn in a tight line.

    “You need to be careful. They will not keep such a precious attribute to their military in the dark. He will be weary and on his guard. This will be difficult.”

    Everest nodded sagely and reached out to examine the compass. She smirked and turned it over in her hands. “Does the royal court of Thoren doubt my navigating capabilities?”

    Gideon half-smiled and plucked the compass from her hand. “It’s enchanted.” Everest raised an eyebrow and grinned, suddenly feeling compelled to listen more closely. “They figured it’s going to be a mess once the deed is done, so to make things easier, this can be used to simply transport you back to the capital.”

    “Would’ve been handy during other missions.”

    “Well I think this is a bit bigger than you understand. You can only use it once so you’d better mean it when you do.”

    Everest reached out and took the compass back. Gideon eyed her and pulled on a serious face. “I need you to promise me you won’t do anything stupid. Like really look me in the eye and say it.”

    Everest tucked the compass away and took hold of her companion’s hand. She smiled warmly, conjuring up the most genuine and honest expression into her eyes that she could muster. “Gideon, I promise that I’m going to be exceedingly careful and will get this job done.”

    Gideon breathed a small puff of relief, though the tenseness of his figure didn’t fade. Everest stood, pulling her sleek black coat around her body. She tipped her head and dropped a few coins onto the table.

    “For the food.” She inclined her head towards the crumble peppered plate and nearly empty tankard. Gideon nodded a thanks. Just as Everest was turning to leave she felt a hand wrap around her wrist. She looked back at Gideon.

    “Don’t be reckless.” He reminded, releasing her hand with a charming, worried smile. Everest smirked and tossed her hair.

    “When am I ever?”