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Part 2: The Trial of Survival


        Lugh and Chad found themselves attached to a small squad of mercenaries hired by Roy. They stood next to a pegasus knight on a hill, near the edge of the woods that surrounded the castle. The group was to watch over the battle taking place below and if they saw the enemy trying to flank Roy's army the pegasus knight would fly high over the flanking party and once Roy's troops had turned on them there, Lugh, Chad and the mercenaries were to hit the flankers from the other side, surrounding the enemy instead. Suddenly a group of large, hairy, filthy and smelly brigands broke out of the forest. Lugh and Chad noted such details because these impressionable fighters appeared within fifty yards from where they were standing. The trained mercenaries immediately responded to this sudden ambush and began their defensive strategy specifically designed for this type of situation. Unfortunately the mercenaries weren’t able to keep all of the brigands in one spot; some broke through their lines and charged the boys who seemed to be much easier targets.

            Chad and Lugh were unprepared for battle and too horrified at the sight of real war to even try to defend themselves. Thankfully, a young but skilled archer by the name of Will was able to quickly fire a small volley of arrows into the backs of the front two aggressors. The site of the two men falling in front of them was enough to jolt Lugh and Chad into action. Lugh quickly prepared himself and launched a fire ball striking the leg of the closest enemy sending him sprawling to the ground.

            “Good shot!” exclaimed Chad as he got in front of Lugh. “I'll guard you, Lugh. You just keep firing at those guys.”

            “All right, I'll try--” started Lugh.

            “Don't try,” interrupted Chad. “Do! I'm good enough with my knives that I can probably fight one or two at a time, but no more.”

            “Right.” said Lugh. Then to himself he said, “I guess I shouldn't tell him that I was aiming for that last guys head.”

            Lugh wasn't able to think long because the other brigands had almost reached them. “Lugh, it's now or never!” shouted Chad.

            “I know,” exclaimed Lugh. Then he shouted, “Haaaaa!”

            This time the fire ball struck right in the center of the man's chest. His clothes, made from sheep and goat furs, burst into flames. The other attackers hesitated in their charge trying to figure out what had happened. This was all the opportunity Lugh needed. He quickly struck one guy in the shoulder; then, when they started to charge again, he struck the ground in front of another causing him to, in an attempt to dodge it, crash awkwardly to the ground. Lugh, of course, had been aiming for his chest.

            Then Chad saw one of the brigands grab a hand axe from his belt. The man raised his arm up beside his head hoping to throw the axe at the young mage and create a swift end to their embarrassment. “Lugh! Get down!” shouted Chad.

            Lugh either hadn't understood what Chad said or by instinct wanted to find the danger before he reacted to it. Either way, he was about to die during his very first taste of battle. Chad, seeing Lugh's confusion, knew he had to act fast. He readied himself then tackled Lugh to the ground, the hilt of the hand axe striking Chad in the shoulder. Unfortunately, this action

sent both boys toppling down the side of the hill. Before the brigands could charge down after the boys the mercenaries were able to engage them in combat and soundly defeat them.

            “Whoa! That was close,” said Lugh in between breaths. “Thanks.”

            “No problem,” panted Chad. “I watch your back you watch mine.” Then after he caught his breath he said, “C’mon Lugh, let’s cut through those woods there and circle around the back of the castle; that way once Roy and his men storm the castle we can break in and help ourselves to the locked chests. After all, we'll need some money for room and food if we're gonna chase after Ray and that Canas guy.

            “Ok,” agreed Lugh, content to follow. “Lead the way.”

            “Man,” a voice exclaimed to itself. “These kids are going to have me running after them all day.”

 

            Later, after Slater had been defeated and the castle recaptured, Roy informed everyone that Lord Hector, having been brutally tortured and beaten by Bern, had passed away; but not with out making known his final will. Roy and his father Lord Eliwood of Pherae were to take control of Hector's kingdom via the capital, Ostia, and resolve any rebellions that might grow in an attempt to usurp the kingdom and succeed to Bern. After searching with painstaking thoroughness Chad submitted to the idea that Bern must have swept the castle of anything valuable as soon as they had captured it. Roy, upon assembling them, requested that Lugh, Chad, and the hired mercenaries join him to help reestablish Lycian authority in the capital. This worked for Chad because it meant a larger opportunity to make a profit, and for Lugh because it would get him closer to his brother and it would be safer traveling with an army than alone. They all agree, for a price of course.

            On the way to Ostia Roy and his company pass through the territory of Laus and discover that Duke Eric of Laus has already begun an uprising. Lord Eric, upon hearing of Roy's arrival, immediately deployed troops to fight and destroy the younger lord and his company. Roy’s scouts were able to give him plenty of time to prepare the troops for battle. “This is a good day for battle and this field a prime battleground,” exclaimed Roy’s strategist. “The only thing that gives the enemy an advantage is the villages. If the battle spreads to far from the fields and the villages aren’t sealed shut Duke Eric might not be so careful to ensure the peasant’s safety. If you catch my meaning.”

“So we’ll have to send out some of the scouts to warn them,” inferred Roy.

“The scouts will all be to tired, they need rest,” replied the strategist.

Roy thought for a couple seconds then came to a decision, “I’ll send the two boys, Lugh and Chad, to warn the southern village. They can travel down along the seashore, far away from the actual battle.” He paused for a second, deciding something then continued, “I’ll send a the mercenary group to the northern village; their Pegasus knight can warn the villagers and the rest can join the battle from behind by crossing unseen between the hills and the mountain side.”

“The statagist was in awe of Roy’s quick mind and jokingly inquired, “Why do you even need me!”  Roy, knowing that Lugh and Chad were not yet ready to join in the center of the battle field, sends the two boys along the shoreline to a group of villagers to warn them of the battle and advise them to seal their gates. Roy instructs them to stay inside the village until the battle is over.

            Chad and Lugh had set a fairly fast pace and were quickly traveling down the shoreline. After they had ran for about 10 minutes they had to stop and take a break. The sounds and sights of battle in the distance were gruesome ones and they boys knew they couldn't rest long. Just when they were about to run again Lugh pointed toward the sea and exclaimed, “Chad, look!”

            “What? I don't see anything.”

            “A pirate ship! Just over there!”

            “I see the ship but I don't think it's-- wait! I think you might be right! They're dropping rowboats! Whoever they are they're coming ashore! C'mon Lugh! We gotta warn those villagers.”

            The two boys began to run as fast as they could. It wasn't long before the first of the rowboats landed and its two pirates started after them. Chad and Lugh had a good head start on the pirates and if they kept their pace they would be able to reach the village before the pirates did. But Chad knew that the villagers, upon seeing the pursuing pirates rapidly gaining ground, would most likely seal their gates before the two boys could gain solace behind their walls. Chad also knew that if that happened then the pirates would easily catch and kill them. Their only hope was to turn and fight; then use Lugh's fire keep other rowboats from landing.

            “Lugh!” started Chad.

            “Yeah?” grunted Lugh.

            “Is your fire tome ready? We're gonna have to turn and fight.”

            “Don'cha think we can make it?” questioned Lugh.

            “Sure, but when the villagers see them they'll probly close the gates before we get in,” Chad pointed out. “So, are you ready?”

            “Yeah,” he replied resolutely. “Let's do this!”

 

            Chad and Lugh suddenly turned and held their ground with defiant looks on their faces. The first pirate was only about fifty yards away but the second was almost two hundred yards away, posing much less of a threat. The closer pirate thought he had them but when he saw their faces he began to halter, that's when they struck. Lugh launched a fireball directly in front of the would-be pillager causing him to lose his balance. Chad then charged toward the misfortunate marauder. Unfortunately, this sea wolf was used to riding the tumultuous waves of the seven seas; he quickly regained his balance and hurled his large sea axe toward Chad with devastating accuracy. Chad, thanks to years of dodging rocks thrown by his childhood tormenters, was able to deftly and gracefully evade the oncoming projectile without even slowing his advance. Chad leaped into the air, then, midair, he twisted away from the pirates desperate swing. As soon as Chad's feet hit the ground they left it, putting his entire weight into the hilt strike that hit home in the main nerve man's neck leaving him alive but uselessly (perhaps permanently) unconscious.

            Lugh, although, wasn't able to congratulate or praise Chad's efforts because the second pirate had almost reached them, another rowboat had just landed less than thirty yards from them and one more rowboat was on its way. Lugh and Chad then engaged in their first, heated, close combat battle. Lugh launched his fireballs at the pirates and aimed specifically for the ones with hand axes; while Chad ducked, dodged, rolled and distracted the others giving Lugh the openings he needed. Finally, after the boys had defeated the invading sea dogs, they were able to make their way to the village. When they were only about a mile from the village gate, Thany, the mercenary pegasus knight from the previous battle landed just a few yards from them and shouted for them to climb on with her. Lord Eric had been defeated and Roy was securing the castle! The battle was won at last.

            As the three companions set off aboard the pegasus a man stood watching and said with a hint of a grin, “They never even noticed when the archer behind that boulder became a corpse. They're going to have to learn to be more observant if they're ever going to become members of the Assassin's Guild.”

            Then another voice spoke with authority, “Astore, You're needed.”

            “Oh,” Astore replied.

            “There has been an assassination,” continued the man. “but it wasn't one of our men who did it.”

            “Really?” Astore replied with some surprise. Then with a hint of anticipation he replied, “Just tell me where to go.”

            “Good, because you're needed in Ostia immediately. Here's a horse, on the other side of that forest a pegasus is waiting for you.  You have one day to travel an almost four day journey I'd suggest you leave now.”

            That was all the information Astore needed, and with that he was off.

 

            A couple days later Lugh, Chad and the rest of Roy's company found themselves on a seldom traveled path that runs through a very mountainous region and passes between two small mountainside villages. Once they got through this mountain it would be a two day journey to reach Ostia. Unfortunately, one of the critical passes that ran alongside one of the villages was blocked by a one-way gate being controlled by a massive group of bandits and brigands that used fear to dominate and reign over the two defenseless villages. If the bandits refused to open the gate Roy and his men would have to take a long route that ran alongside the second village and then opened right in the middle of the bandits’ territory. Chad, realizing the situation and wanting to help, volunteered to search the village for someone who could aid them. Roy considered his proposal then, realizing that Chad was one of the only ones who would be able to successfully blend in and being convinced that the mission would be simple and hazardless. Chad successfully located a man who wanted the bandits to be defeated and who claimed be able to get the gate opened for Roy and his troops. After speaking with the villager and overseeing battle preparations, Roy led his men in a grand surprise attack on the brigands. A capable force of lightly armored units quickly ran around to attack from behind the bandits' camp while Roy and the remainder of his troops charged through the now opened gate and devastated the bandits’ main stronghold. Lugh and Chad were sent with the hind attack group where less fighting would take place, but they were very relieved that they were now allowed to fight along side the actual army instead of being sheltered and kept away from battle. Chad assumed this was in part because they had still managed to end up in heated situations when they were kept away from the battlefield. He supposed that Roy figured it would be easier to protect and support them if they were directly alongside the other troops. The battle was long and fierce and casualties stacked up on both sides. Unfortunately for the bandits, Roy's men fought longer and fiercer and more organized than theirs. Finally the last of the brigands had been routed and the villages secured; and Roy once again set off for Ostia.

 

            Before they could reach Ostia, Roy decided that they should spend the night at Thria, the land of Lord Orun, Hector's half-brother. However when they get there Lord Orun's adviser, Wagner, informs Roy that lord Orun is very ill and can receive no visitors. Roy and his troops began to unpack and Roy was discussing the curiosity of Lord Orun's illness, when someone interrupted his conversation.

            “Pardon me My lord, my name is Saul. I'm a priest of St. Elimine Church. I and my bodyguard, Dorathy, who's also an expert archer, come on order of Father Yodel to join your Lycia Alliance Army and aid in squelching Bern's aggressive behavior.”

            “Welcome then,” replied Roy. “You couldn't have joined at a better time.” Tomorrow we will finish our journey to Ostia then combined with the Ostian army we'll begin to retake all of the land Bern has stolen and afterwards we'll start to push back and put King Zephiel in check.”

            Roy didn't get to resume his previous conversation because one of his men then entered and informed Roy that a suspiciously large number of Thria's armed guards were patrolling the hallways. Before Roy could reply a young female's voice interrupted.

            “Wow! You actually noticed. I'm impressed that your men are so observant.”

            “Who are you!” demanded Roy. “Show yourself!” The girl, Cath, claimed to be an informant and came bearing horrible news for Roy and his men. Lord Orun was not ill; he was dead. Then she explained that Wagner was not an advisor but rather a powerful, dark shaman and Lord Orun's assassin and that he planed to ambush them in the middle of the night, killing them in order to gain favor with Roy. When Roy questioned her source of information she claimed that she had overheard Wagner talking about it. Roy knew something had to be done immediately. He had word silently dispersed among his troops to surreptitiously (look it up ;) )* prepare for possible battle. Roy then had some of his men go with him, pretending to be leaving Thria. Wagner run up to them and shouted, “Wait! Where are you going?”

            “He would want to know, wouldn't he?” muttered one of Roy's men.

            “A matter of utmost importance has arisen and we must attend to it as soon as possible.” Roy partially fibbed.

            “Please,” pleaded Wagner. “Lord Orun would have my head if he thought I had offended you or forbid you to stay. Please spend just one night with us. I'm sure your men could use a good nights rest.”

            “More like eternal rest,” Roy's soldier suggested under his breath.

            “Worry not, Wagner,” assured Roy. “I'll personally tell him that you had nothing to do with our departure. I need to go pay my respects to him anyway.”

            “I'm afraid that's just not possible. I told you, he can receive no visitors do to his current condition.”

            “Yeah,” quietly muttered the same soldier. “Dead.”

            “If we cannot see Lord Orun,” Roy concluded. “Then I am afraid there is no reason for us to stay here any longer.”

            “So,” replied Wagner. “You're leaving. No matter what, eh? Then he turned and ran back behind his soldiers shouting, “Then We'll have to kill you all here and now! Guards! Attack!”

            “Drat! She was right,” Roy exclaimed. “C'mon men, they have us completely surrounded. We're gonna have to take the castle.”

            Roy and his troops immediately drew their already equipped weapons and were able to catch the first of the would-be ambushers by surprise easily dispatching them. The ambushing party quickly realized they had lost the element of surprise and began to fight a more defensive battle. Unfortunately for them, Roy's men were more seasoned soldiers and were able to overpower and outmaneuver their opponents.

            Chad was assigned to use his lock picking skills to open the locked doors for the soldiers, saving the time and energy that would have been wasted breaking them down. When Saul found out Lugh and Chad were in Roy's army he and Dorathy immediately asked to be stationed with them. Lugh and Dorathy provided cover-fire for Chad as he unlocked the doors and Saul acted as the medic for the advancing party, using his staff to heal the minor wounds of any injured soldiers.

            After the last of the locked doors was opened, Saul and Dorathy went ahead providing support for the advancing party while Lugh and Chad stayed behind.

            “Hey Lugh,” said Chad.

            “Yeah,” Lugh responded.

            “Follow me,” said Chad before he started around the corner. “I've got an idea.”

            Chad led Lugh to a small room embellished with gilded walls that had ancient but ornate weapons mounted on it.

            As soon as Lugh entered the room he exclaimed, “Oh, no! You're about to steal something aren't you.” He was more declaring that last part than asking it.

            “I don't know, maybe I won't,” explained Chad. “It all depends on what's in those two chests.”

            “C'mon Chad,” pleaded Lugh. “What'll happen if we get caught?”

            “Don't worry, I won't get caught,” Chad explained as the first chest's lock opened with a satisfying clink. “The only thing I'll take is a little gold. They probly have so much they won't even notice anything's missing.”

            Chad opened both of the chest's in that room but locked them back without taking anything from them, at least, not that Lugh saw. “These chest's just have weapons and armor and stuff. Expensive, very valuable weapons and armor-- and stuff, but nothing easy to carry or that they wouldn't miss.” Then taking action once again he said, “Let's go around to the other side; there's another treasure room over their.”

            “Do you think it'll be any different?” begged Lugh.

            “Yeah,” Chad responded. “This was war treasures; But that will be real treasures!”

            Chad leading the way to the next treasure room but then he suddenly stopped holding Lugh back with one arm and signaling for him to be quiet with the other. Then he calmly walked around the corner and Lugh followed his lead. Lugh still couldn't figure out why Chad had stalled, thankfully Chad explained.

            “Remember that Cass girl, or whatever her name was, who told Roy about the ambush?” asked Chad

            “Yeah, so what?” questioned Lugh.

            “I saw her going into the treasure room. I think she's actually a thief.”

            “How could you accuse her like that when you were going to do the same thing?” Lugh exclaimed in a whisper.

            “I was only going to take a little gold. We almost have too little to survive and they have too much to, um-- never mind.” Chad excused. Then, with a sly grin appearing on his face he said, “I know, we'll wait for her to come out then accuse her of stealing and force her to split what she took between the three of us. Then we can honestly say we didn't steal anything; she did and she gave it to us.”

            Lugh, still being uneasy about the whole idea, said, “I'm still uneasy about the whole idea (I told you so). Plus, what's to stop her from saying the same thing?”

            “Who do you think Roy would believe more: the informant he met earlier today, or the two loyal boys who've been fighting in his army since he recaptured Araphen?” slyly responded Chad. Then he held a finger to his lip and whispered, “Shh, I think she just finished.”

            Suddenly the boys saw he dash out of the room running in the opposite direction.

            “Hey! Stop!” shouted Chad as he sprinted after her.

            “Wait for me!” exclaimed Lugh pleadingly as he started after his childhood friend.

            Finally, Lugh caught up to Chad in a short dead end furnished with only a vase of flowers on a rectangle table against a small wall with a window.

            “I saw her turn here,” said Chad aghast. “I know I did! But the window's closed and even if she did go out, we're up so high. It's impossible to survive that drop.”

            I guess you big plan was a big flop,” said Lugh barely holding back his laughter at the sight of his confused and dumbfounded friend.

            “I just don't believe it,” Chad, ignoring his friends teasing, exclaimed out of awe.

            “Chad! Lugh!” The speaker was one of Roy's soldiers who had apparently been looking for them. “C'mon, they've been looking for you. We've secured the castle. They're taking count of how many prisoners we've captured and seeing how many casualties we have. We're also tallying our supplies and adding the confiscated enemy supplies.”

            “Ha!” exclaimed Lugh. “It looks like we probly would have been caught.”

            “Nah,” Chad denied. “We could've hidden well enough.”

            “Not as well as that girl,” jested Lugh.

            Chad chuckled, playfully punched Lugh in the shoulder then said, “That proves she's a real thief. I'm just a lock-pick.”

            Not very far away someone who had been listening to them smiled, shook her head, and sighed, “Boys.”

            Later, after Merlinus, Roy's advisor and supplies manager, finished recording their gains and losses, everyone was dismissed to do what they wished for the remainder of the day, as long as they were ready to leave bright and early in the morning, of course.

            Lugh and Chad decided to go back to the dead end where the girl supposedly disappeared in order to figure out what happened. As they walked back they were talking about different 'possibilities' such as: “Maybe she was a ghost and walked through the wall!”

            They stopped talking when they passed a group of soldiers who were betting on dice.

            “Hey! Guys,” harshly whispered a voice. “Umm, Lugh and Chad! Get over here!”

            Chad looked around, confused because he couldn't see anyone but Lugh. “Who--,”

            His inquiry was interrupted by a small but firm hand suddenly clasped over his mouth,                  “Hush!” the voice commanded. “We can't let them know I here”

            Chad pulled away from the hand and turned around. “Who are you?” he said a little quieter than before. Then seeing her face he exclaimed “Hey! You're that thief! Cass.”

            “Ugh! Look who's talking! I saw you pilfer the chest in that side room. And my name's not Cass, it's Cath.”

            “I thought you said to be quiet,” mocked Chad as he attempted to hide a grin.

            “Hey,” interrupted Lugh. “Can you two stop flirting so we can find out what was so important that Cath had to say?”

            “We weren't--” Chad started to exclaim until Cath interrupted him.

            “Whatever,” She said, suddenly getting serious. “Look, Astore sent me. He's about to explain to that 'Roy' guy that General Leygance, one of Lord Hector's advisors, teamed up with Lieutenant Devias to lead a huge rebellion, capturing Castle Ostia and holding Lilian, Lord Hector's daughter, hostage. They plan to sell Ostia to Bern and--,”

            “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute,” interrupted Chad. “Start over. I don't know who any of those people are except Lord Hector, but even him I only know a little about. First of all-- who'dja say sent you?”

            “You've got to be kidding me,” exclaimed Cath. “Astore's only been your mentor since you two first joined this ragtag group of soldiers. Now get serious! We don't have a lot of time!”

            “I am being serious,” Chad exclaimed out of frustration. “and I seriously don't know what you're talking about.”

            Seeing that this argument was getting nowhere fast and knowing that Cath obviously knew something that they didn't and must have assumed it to be common knowledge, Lugh intervened, “Ok, Stop for a minute. First of all we've probably been loud enough to wake the dead. We need to go somewhere more private if we're gonna continue this. and sec--”

            “We don't have time for--” Cath started to interrupt.

            “And secondly,” restated Lugh louder and with more authority. “We're apparently clueless. You are going to have to explain everything to us because we don't know the significance of whoever sent you and the only 'mentor' we've had is Roy.”

            After taking a deep breathe Cath decidedly said, “Ok, you two follow me. But we have to move quickly and I guess I will try to explain everything on the way. Agreed?”

            “Agreed,” Lugh responded before Chad could make an objection.

            “Then let's go” recommended Cath.

 

            As they began to make their way through the castle Cath asked, “So, what do you know?”

            “Please be a little more specific,” kindly suggested Lugh. “About what?”

            Cath thought for a second then replied, “About espion-- about--,” She stopped herself. then starting over she inquired, “Have you ever even heard of Legault, the 'Hurricane'?”

            Lugh gasped, and then Chad tested, “You mean, the Assassin's Guild?”

            “Finally we're getting somewhere.” Cath said with a sigh of relief. “Have you two ever had contact with this group? Otherwise, how do you know of them?”

            “Well, I attempted to pickpocket Legault.” stated Chad.

            “You what!?” exclaimed Cath. “Do you have a death wish or something!? I what would posses to try something that stupid?”

            “I thought he was just an old man and that he wouldn't even notice it until he reached for his money again,” explained Chad. We needed money to help the Reverend feed the orphans and--”

            “Yeah, yeah, yeah, hold off on the sob story for now, ok,” interrupted Cath somewhat politely. “What happened next with Legault? I mean you're obviously not dead.”

            Chad and Lugh then related the entire story to Cath and afterward she considered what they had told her, “Wow, so Legault found you all on accident when you somehow managed to impress him.” Then she continued, “Legault is apparently more interested in you guys than I thought. You see, I know the other side of the story. Well--, actually I'm not supposed to not know it. I just sorta, overheard some of them talking about it.” She mumbled that last part then continued, “Apparently, well actually-- I'm sorry, but I don't think I can-- I mean, I guess you're not supposed to find out, at least, not yet. What have I gotten my self into?”

            “Look,” Lugh started, sympathizing with her for the difficult decision she apparently had to make. “if you not allowed to tell us something it's ok. Just explain why we're needed or where exactly you're leading us.” They had been hiking through a forest near the castle for about twenty minutes.

            “I don't know what exactly you're needed for but we're heading to one of the Guild's rendezvous points.” explained Cath. “Actually, we are only about five minutes away. I think, once we get there, a lot of our questions will be answered.”

             Everyone was quiet for a while then Lugh asked, “Hey Cath?”

            “Yeah,” she responded.

            “Are you an assassin?” he asked sheepishly.

            “What!?” she scoffed. “Me? No way! Assassination is just a very small part of the Guild's expertise. Actually, to be truthful, I'm pretty useless on a battlefield. You see, I flinch at the sight of blood and I don't think I could even kill someone if my life depended on it.”

            “Never tell someone you weaknesses,” advised a voice.

            The three of them frantically tried to find the speaker.

            “Who said that?”

            “Where are you?”

            “Show yourself!”

            “Did you guy's try looking up here, in the trees?” suggested the man.

            “There he is!” shouted Cath.

            “Where? I don't see him,” said Lugh.

            He's right th--,” started Cath “Hey! Where'd he go?”

            “Right behind you of course,” answered the man.

            The three kids startled with a jolt. Chad, trying to turn around too fast tripped on his own feet and landed face first in a pile of leaves, and pine cones. Then Cath exclaimed with glee, “Matthew! I don't believe it. We actually get to meet you!?”

            Matthew offered to help Chad get up, he refused help of course, then said, “I'm here to brief you all because I'm one of the few who personally worked with Jaffar, but before I explain that, there is a important matter to attend to,” He then looked Chad in the eye and said, “your inauguration.” then before the three could say anything in response he explained, “As Cath started to explain to you earlier, Astore, who was one of my brightest students and now helps lead the espionage division, was assigned to observe you two and decide if you were ready to join the Guild. When he was called for a new mission he had another Guild member observe you two in the mountains and then, since she was the only Guild member still here after Orun's assassination, he assigned Cath to bring you here. Of course, since the issue at hand is a high-rank topic and Cath is a low ranked member, she wasn't given any details about the mission.”

            “So that would explain why she thought we were Guild members,” concluded Lugh.

            “But what can we do about Lord Hector's daughter being kidnapped,” asked Chad.

            “Wha-- Who told you about that,” Matthew responded with some disbelief. “Why would you ask something like that?”

            “Well, Cath said tha--” Lugh started to explain.

            “Catherine,” Matthew said warningly as he turned and gave her 'the look' that all kids attempt to avoid. “You better have a good explanation for this.”

            “Well, I-- um--uh, I kinda overhe...,” Cath replied mumbling the last part to the point where you couldn't understand it. Then, having thought up a better excuse added, “I was practicing my unseen movement and eavesdropping techniques. My mentor said I excelled at those and I wanted to see if they actually worked against other Guild-- I mean, uh, other civilians.”

            “No civilians in this area would have heard about that yet. Lilian's capture was kept quiet, only our spies and Bern's leaders have been told. Which means,” Matthew's voice then rose in volume and conviction. “you've been snooping where you don't belong and worse, you've been lying to me. Lucky for you, we're in a critical position right now and the three of you are irreplaceable. But that means I'll have more time to think of a suitable punishment for you.”

            “Sorry,” Cath mumbled suddenly finding her feet an object of great interest.

            “Lugh, Chad, I'm sorry you had to watch that. That had nothing to do with you two. We really don't have time to waste. The three of you are needed for an important operation, but first things first: Chad? You have proven yourself to be an accurate informant, stealthy lock-pick, and a skilled knife fighter. We, the Assassin's Guild, would be honored to add you to our ranks. Will you, Chad, accept this Guild-issue lock-pick set and this hand-crafted throwing knife in acknowledgment of your new and committed membership in said organization?”

            Chad was taken aback for a second but then, realizing that this was probably his one chance to do something important and make a real difference, decided, “Yes, I will.”

            “Then repeat after me...,” Matthew then led Chad through a short oath and said, “Congratulations Chad. And welcome to the Assassin's Guild.”

            “Thank-you,” replied Chad. “But what about Lugh?”

            “Lugh and his brother, and yes, we do know about Ray and we're observing him as well, are an entirely different matter and I'm not authorized to explain at this time. Not to mention their real skills are in magic although, that's not to say that they won't ever be able to join the Guild, They do know about us after all. But Lugh's assistance is required for this mission. The three of you are the youngest member's that we have, well, technically you're not a member, Lugh, but you three are being sent on a crucial info-gathering operation. You will be deep under cover and since you all are children, or at least small enough to avoid suspicion, you will blend right in with the busy crowds. All three of you have at some point had to strive to survive a heated situation. That is what's known in the Guild as the Trial of Survival. But now you must work together to weather the unseen challenges ahead, the Trial of Peerage. Then you'll have to blend in and disappear while still keeping an open ear. This, we call the Trial of Incognitos

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