The Sacred City was prosperous, but like every other city, it had its own slums. Located at the northwestern part of the city was a group of squalid wooden houses, and near where the wall was were straw huts.
In one of the huts, a man sat in silence, staring at a candle. He was around fifty and had on a pure-white wizard's robe. There were no windows in there, and since he could not pull aside the piece of fabric used as a door, the candle was necessary for him to see what was around him.
A carriage came toward the slum. It was slow and appeared old, a fitting appearance for the slum. If it was lavishly decorated, the residents would all be gathered around the street, trying to catch a glimpse of the carriage.
The curtain of the carriage was pulled aside and someone observed the slum from the inside. Then he jumped out of the carriage and hurried into the hut.
"My Lord!" he called. "Trouble, my lord! Trouble!" He was clearly a high level swordsman, which made his action of kneeling on the floor seem strange and borderline ridiculous.
"You failed?" The old man asked.
"And you were not followed?"
"My lord, I came according to our first plan. They could not have followed me," the swordsman explained.
"Mhm," the old man said, nodding.
They were both a part of the secret organization called Magic Fog. It had existed for hundreds of years and much of its way of operating had become systematic. Many things, such as escape routes, had four different types: blooming, falling leaves, scurry, and puppet. The leader of the operation usually decided which plan to use.
"Blooming" meant that there would be a temporary safe house near the target. When a member of the organization entered the safe house, the house would dispatch several carriages that would go in several different directions. When the carriage arrived at a designated location, more carriages would appear, heading in more directions. This greatly lowered the chance of any members getting caught.
In comparison, "falling leaves" was much more dangerous. The leader of the mission would place the strongest member at an ideal point for ambushes, or he would be involved in the plan himself. In case the mission was unsuccessful, the leader would lead the target to the ambush, sacrificing his life to ensure the mission was successful.
"Scurry" meant that the members would use the city's sewage system or premade tunnels to escape. "Puppet" involved the use of several decoys to confuse the pursuers. Of course, specific missions had their own specific plans.
"Did Anfey use any combat power?"
"No, my lord."
"Then how did he defeat you?"
"I saw him throw a paper bag, my lord, and light it on fire. There was some dust flying out of the bag, and I heard Gina and Peter's screams. I was frightened, my lord…"
"You said Anfey defeated them with a bag of dirt?"
"Then you came back by yourself?"
"My lord, I couldn't stay there. Anfey had a junior magister with him, I couldn't risk staying there any longer," the swordsman loudly begged.
"Be quiet. You know this is only a probe. I won't punish you, even though this result is unsatisfying…" Before he could finish, however, he suddenly summoned a shield of water and his body stooped downward.
The flash of a sword swept across the hut, cutting the shield into droplets, grazing the head of the old man, and hacking the back wall of the hut in half. Two people appeared in the hut that now seemed more like fence.
The swordsman recognized Anfey and Ernest, becoming pale. "Impossible!"
Anfey didn't say anything. He played with a white candle and stared at the old man. He had many questions, but with Ernest there, he didn't want to ask anything. Did he make a series of mistakes he wasn't aware of that required him to lie even more? More lies in order to explain to Ernest his unexplainable past?
Although many didn't realize it, lying was a very strenuous and difficult thing to do. Lying was easy, but keeping up with the lie was extremely difficult. One lie required a hundred more to cover it up. Like a snowball, it would only keep rolling and growing.
"Swordmaster Ernest?" The old man smiled bitterly. "I'm curious. How did you find me?" He couldn't think of any weak links in his plan.
Ernest pressed his lips together and tightened his grip on his sword, which was now shining even brighter than before. He wasn't the kind to make jabs once he had the advantage. Winning was winning, and Ernest didn't want to bother speaking.
Anfey didn't want to say anything either. It hadn't been hard to find them. The dirt had Anfey's custom spice, and unless they hid in a sealed room or a car, like a modern man, they could not outrun him.
"It is my deepest honor to spar with you," the old man said politely, holding out his wand, waving it at Ernest. "The Great—"
Before the old man could finish his spell, the white candle flew out of Anfey's hand. The old man had focused all of his attention on Ernest; although he didn't know the extent of Anfey's abilities and had come to the city to probe them, his enemy at the moment was Ernest. He didn't pay any heed to Anfey, and the candle flew right into his open mouth. He screamed, falling backwards and stumbling to the ground.
"Anfey, respect your opponents," Ernest said, smiling.
Ernest was used to his own way of sparring, but Anfey was someone who wanted to take advantage of as much of the situation as he could. The two men had two completely different personalities. Them becoming as close as they were could only be chalked up to fate.
"They only know how to ambush, never showing themselves. They deserve no respect," Anfey said righteously. Who knew if he was talking about himself or the man in front of him.
"You," the old man pushed himself off of the ground, looking at Anfey with eyes filled with hatred.
"Do not celebrate just yet." Before he could finish, he began coughing and spitting out blood.
The candle had ruined his mouth, knocking out several teeth, making it hard to say anything at all.
"You do realize that he is issuing a challenge, right?" Ernest said weakly.
"Uncle Ernest, he is not qualified to challenge you! It's a disgrace!" Anfey said. He was never easily persuaded, and in fact was often persuading others.
"The Magic Fog will not…"
"Just go to sleep already," Anfey snorted, raising his hand. He couldn't hear what the old man was saying, and even if he did he wouldn't understand. He had decided to kill the old man to prevent him from spilling his secrets.
"Wait!" Ernest said, stopping Anfey. "You're the Magic Fog?!"
"Ha," the old man said, slumping on the ground, laughing, "ha, ha." Then his face began bloating, turning an unnatural black. A puff of black clouds emerged from his mouth, covering his entire body.
The swordsman by the door screamed. Like the old man, he was surrounded by the black cloud, but while the old man appeared happy, he was clearly in pain.
"What is that?" Anfey asked, alert.
"Damn it," Ernest said, return his sword to its sheath. "It's the death mages again."
"Death mages?" Anfey frowned. He knew very little about those people, only that they could turn the living into the dead and use bodies as puppets.
After a few moments, the clouds dissipated, and only two skeletons remained. The bones were gleaming; it was as if the two men had died years ago, rather than just now in front of Anfey and Ernest.
"They were both death mages?" Anfey asked, curious. One of the men was obviously a swordsman, and he had never heard of anyone that could train as both a mage and a swordsman.
"No, but a terrible one is controlling them," Ernest sighed. "Anfey, they will likely come back for you."
"It's alright," Anfey said. "If you're here to protect me, I have nothing to fear."
"Never mind, let's go home," Ernest said. Anfey was brave, but for Ernest it was a difficult and delicate situation.
Outside of the hut was a group of peasants trying to catch a glimpse of what had happened. The screams were so loud that everyone except for the deaf had heard the commotion. They wanted to know what happened, but seeing the two strangers leaving the hut, they automatically made way, watching the strangers fearfully.
Ernest had wanted to say something, but was interrupted by a wave of slow, solemn bells. The peasants turned, staring blankly at Mount Saint Brunswick.