Strategic Meeting

Candles burn low on the aged oak table, casting alternating light and shadow on the faces gathered around it. A solid man with long, graying hair braided in a tight rope down to the small of his back leans over a frayed map spread open on the table. Piles of coins hold down ragged corners which curl tighter than a sea serpent preparing to strike.

The man looks up at the slender, cloaked figure standing across from him. “I take it that all has been set in motion?” he queries.
“Aye,” comes the husky reply. “The bait was set and they couldn’t resist it. Even now, they feed obsessively on the decoy. They were quick to reveal themselves, emboldened as they are.”

The man gives a harsh, humorless chuckle. “Good.” He glances about at the four others gathered here in the abandoned barn, his grim expression mirroring theirs. “We must move swiftly, then. Some must leave tonight, the moment this meeting is concluded.” No muttering complaints meet this announcement. They have all been expecting this over the course of the past few months and are prepared to act.

The man leans over the map again. “One is already established in the lands to the north, here.” A blunt finger indicates the port city near the smoldering volcano. “She will be joined by her scholar-in-training to ensure that her disguise and story are compatible and raise no suspicions.”

Next, he indicates a mountainous area in the northwestern part of the map. “Two others are making their way to the land of the Orcs as we speak. They have lodgings ready at one of the strongholds there and will present themselves as apprentices to the new king when he makes his request a fortnight hence.” He glances at the others again. “They will be our eyes and ears there, as we expect new movement from our foes.”

Looking down at the map again, he continues: “Another will set sail to the south from here.” His finger stabs at a port city on the northern tip of a long island. “We expect a great deal of activity there soon, so a coordinator in that strategic location is of utmost importance.”

He gathers up the coins, allowing the map to furl as he distributes the gold to the others in attendance. The amount is not insignificant, as this meeting had been called in haste. The urgency and seriousness of it had been established by the location and sealed with the amount of coin paid.

He puts the map in its special case and re-seals it, tucking it back in the enchanted coffer it normally resides in. Crossing his arms, he meets the gazes of the others again. “The rest of us will set sail from the port to the south and should arrive within a week. With the eyes of our enemies cast elsewhere, we have a short interval to establish our observation posts where we know they will gather next.” He grins, white teeth flashing in the candlelight.

“Staggering our respective arrivals should go unnoticed, but always remain alert. We cannot afford to be as sloppy, lazy, and careless as they.” His expression turns serious again. “Their numbers have rendered them so,” he says softly. “Still, one slip on our part will make this entire operation a worthless cause.”

He casts a meaningful gaze on each face present. “The spies which haunted our guilds were identified and scattered. That important step made this moment possible. Let’s make the most of it, shall we?”

The candles are extinguished as traveling clothes are donned. The guests depart at varying intervals and in different directions. The merging of the three guilds is complete.

The next leg of the journey begins…

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