The scribbling sound of an ink-stained feather-pen sliding rapidly over paper filled the small room. It was occasionally interrupted by a plop, as the writing instrument was quickly and methodically dunked in an ink vial. That swiftly moving pen was being gripped by the hand of a bald man with a long white beard. He was in turn seated at a grand wooden desk, which was covered in stacks of paper. The old man was wearing ornate red robes and there was a grim but dedicated look on his face as he worked.
It was getting late and very little light was coming in through the windows, so the small room was lit by two delicate looking lamps. One was hanging from a wall and the other was sitting on the desk. Both of them were made from delicate twisted metal and powered by a mana crystal. The pure white light that shone out of them revealed an impressive looking chamber. Red tapestries emblazoned with a stylistic eye hung on the walls.
The man continued his work for several minutes until he was interrupted by the sound of the room’s single door opening. He looked up and scowled as a pair of younger men stepped into the room. Both of them stood stiffly and were dressed in red militaristic uniforms, but one was taller and took the lead.
“You asked to see us, master,” he said as he and his companion gave the man behind the desk a quick bow.
The bearded man stared at them silently for several seconds. When he replied, he didn’t sound happy and he got right to the point. “Captain, we have recently received several concerning reports from various merchant houses we are in contact with. They all hint at the presence of a rogue mage in the North with access to far more thaumaturgical knowledge than he should have. This is unacceptable. You are to take a guild task force north and deal with the situation yourself.”
The mage guard captain nodded deferentially as he stood at attention. “How reliable is the information? The sources seems suspect to me. The merchant houses have never been our strongest supporters. They would sell anything given the chance.”
The man behind the desk huffed disdainfully, but he didn’t seem annoyed by the question. “True, the fact that several different sources have collaborated the information could be seen as verification of its authenticity, but it is also more than slightly suspicious. It seems likely that our ever-so-helpful informants are working together to feed this information to us. Regardless, investigating this situation is in our interest. The merchants are too powerful to ignore and catching rogues is our greatest priority. Something must be happening here and we need to know what.”
“Why would the merchants want to work together to feed us information? The coin grabbers all compete with each other,” the second mage guard asked in confusion.
This earned him a glare from the guild master. “Unnecessary information. Regardless, it wouldn’t be all of them. There is a certain group of merchants that work together to further their interests. The guild has been watching them, but that doesn’t concern you. Simply do as you have been instructed.”
“Yes, master!” the lead mage guard quickly responded. “Do you have recommendations or instructions that won’t be in the official briefing?”
“Why else would I have called you here?” the guild master said as he held out a handful of papers. The lead man took them and quickly looked them over.
“Daggerpoint? That’s way up in the lawless lands! Unless we bring a full war party or join a large caravan even getting there will be difficult.”
“Exactly, and we might not be the only guild that this information has reached. What we have heard suggests that this rogue may have stolen some rather advanced techniques. Our guild is very interested in knowing exactly how true this is.”
“Ah, and you want us to make sure that our guild… learns exactly what techniques this rogue has acquired.”
“Yes, and since the North is an uncivilized place with no current rulers and few witnesses, it is also your job to make sure that none of the other guilds prevent this from happening,” the guild master explained as he gave his subordinate a meaningful look.
The mage guard captain nodded again. “I understand. We will leave in the morning.”
“Good, it seems that you do understand. It goes without saying that you will be rewarded greatly if you return bearing useful knowledge.”
“Yes, master. We will not fail you or this guild. Magic is power and magic is truth!”
“See that you don’t. I am authorizing you to requisition whatever you think you need. Take as many soldiers, equipment, and battles mages as you think suitable. The North can be quite dangerous and this rogue may not go down without a fight. Plan for extended magical combat but don’t be too obvious about it. This is an operation that requires subtlety and perhaps some deniability as well.”
“As you wish. I will bring a full squad of guild wardens and my own pick of experienced battle mages. We will travel north incognito and find this rogue mage.”
“Good. Now, also missing from the official briefing are some of our local contacts,” the guild master replied as he held out another piece of paper. “Even in Daggerpoint we maintain some sources of information, unsavory as they may be. When you get to the city put pressure on them and they should be able to point you in the right direction.”
“Is that everything, master?” the mage guard captain asked as he took the paper.
“Yes, you are dismissed,” the guild master replied as he waved his subordinates away. He then looked down and pulled his pen out of the inkwell it had been resting in.
“For the glory of the Fiery Eye!” the two mage guards said as they saluted and turned to leave.
The guild master didn’t look up or reply as they exited the room. He scowled deeply as he began writing again. When the door had swung shut and he was alone, the magically lit room was once again filled with the sound of scribbling and rustling papers.