Val turned back toward the tavern, picking his shirt off the ground. “That’s good. A simple life. I almost envy you.” With a far away glance that left him seeming almost vulnerable, he drifted back to the White Wing. “Occasionally, I wish my life were that easy.” That said, the cold shell returned and he looked at Daine. “If you’re finished, today we have a lot of work to do. I had Anne leave a large sum in your room and you have some time to prepare yourself fully. Today we infiltrate the Temple. I’ve already sent for a large party of bounty hunters who will attack in a few hours. We must give the Osia the warning and prepare them for battle.”
As he reached the door, his lips lifted in a mischievous grin, “I told you that you needed to play a role. I hope the one of wife won’t be too much to handle. You have the proper temperament for it.”
He left that hanging in the air as he disappeared into the Inn to prepare for the day’s tasks.
Val entered his room with an air that could only be called authoritative. He moved quickly and efficiently, donning the articles of war. First a comfortable, long sleeved silken shirt went over his head, followed by a tight fitting leather tunic. A war harness brought the whole piece together, giving him the look of a warrior mage. An assortment of throwing weapons were pocketed within the harness, adding another deadly element to his already formidable arsenal. His arms were left free, allowing him the movement to cast, with his hands bare as well, negating the risk of spell failure.
His legs sported a loose pair of black trousers of a light material to keep his movement unhindered. The only armor he wore on his lower body consisted of a pair of shin guards, plated with steel. Instead of combat boots, he wore moccasins, light weight and serviceable.
Finally, Val reached for the weapons he preferred to all others. The trench knives he had used since becoming the man he was had served him on all occasions. To him, there were no substitutes. Strapping the sheaths to his waist, he smiled and closed his eyes. It was good to be back in his element.
Reaching the common room, he noticed that Daine hadn’t yet arrived. He had no time to waste, so he left a note with Anne for her to meet with him at the temple, but by pass the hunters. Moving swiftly, he saddled his mount and donned the mask and white cloak that had made him legend. It was but a short trip from the capital to the temple, and he had work to finish.
He reached the bounty hunter camp in under half an hour, pausing for a moment before being identified by those around him. “You attack soon,” he said without preamble. “You have all been paid well for this mission, and any who brings back the head of a mage will receive double what I have already given you.” This brought a murmer of approval from all those in the vicinity.
“You have 1 hour to prepare. Do not fail me.”
That said, Val spurred his horse away from the camp to a secluded area of the woods. He removed his mask and cloak, burying them in the earth and solidifying them in rock. No one would stumble upon his tracks. He left the stallion where it was and sprinted toward the temple, getting caught up in the role of messenger until a part of his mind actually believed he was.
The temple came in to view quickly, and at about the time he figured he would be spotted, he tripped, falling face first into the ground. It was an easy ploy, but often gave the appearance of a rabbit in flight, making it seem as if he were actually running for his life. He scrambled back to his feet and continued on a dead sprint to the main entrance. His eyes had grown wide in fear, and his nostrils flared with mock effort. He stumbled quite a few more times, making his act seem more real to any of those who watched. In all, it was a flawless performance.
He reached the doors of the temple and all but flung himself at the wood, “Open up,” he screamed, viciously holding onto the act of prey. “Please, please open up,” he begged, slamming balled fists against the door.