Ice Palace Chp 2

Ray pressed the ‘answer’ button on his arm band.

“Hero Raiton, please report to the Headmasters office immediately” a familiar male voice said.

“Noted Mister Snart. I am on my way” Ray answered in a formal tone. Mister Snart, the Headmasters personal assistant was not someone to be trifled with even if he wasn’t a Hero. Despite knowing him for many years – neither Ray nor any of the other Heroes or senior Apprentices would describe their relationship with him as ‘being acquainted with’ him, even less so ‘being friends with’ him so ‘knowing’ him is the term most people use – Ray has never been very comfortable with the man so he always spoke in a formal tone with him. On a few occasions Ray and his friends had tried to tease him by procrastinating or telling him outright that they’ll be there after taking a half hours’ nap. In response to their prank, he called them using the Academy’s loud speaker where everybody heard him commenting rather scathingly about their lack of back bone and some other not very flattering things.

The headmasters office is a glass dome at the top of the Administration Tower. Previous headmasters were not very fond of heights so the room had been unused for some time. After Headmaster Ed took up the post though he was giddy with excitement at the prospect of having a room that could give him full view of the valley and school grounds so the unique room has been the place where people come to meet the Headmaster of Atlantis Academy since headmaster Edwards Longshanks took up the post.

“You wanted to see me headmaster?” Ray greeted headmaster Ed who was bending over a small item on his desk with utmost concentration.

“Ah… hello Ray” headmaster Ed said in his cheery tone, though Ray noticed that it was a bit muffled.

Ray, having been apprenticed under ‘Grandmaster Edward’ for some years before the later became headmaster didn’t fail to notice that his teacher was troubled. However, Ray was never the type to pry into the business of his elders so he did not ask the headmaster about this.

“I believe that you are not on a mission at the moment?” Headmaster Ed asked. It was more of a statement rather than a question because the headmaster is the one who approves missions so he would know if Ray was on a mission.

“No sir”, Ray answered nevertheless.

“Very good… very good”. He walked to and forth in front of his table and occasionally looked out the window. His fingers drummed on the table, a mannerism that Ray recognized as a sign that he is agitated.

Finally, he stopped and looked at Ray. He held his hands behind his back, left hand inside the right to stop the drumming and control his agitation.

“If you are willing… I would like to ask you to do a certain mission. Only if are willing” He stressed the last part.

“Because this is not an official mission”

An unofficial mission. This was so unusual that it took even the usually composed Ray slightly off balance.

“Unofficial mission sir?” Ray asked sounding a bit confused.

Headmaster Ed explained. “I have just received a personal letter from a certain acquaintance of mine informing me of a rather disturbing news”

The headmaster resumed his drumming as he said this, but stopped himself when he became conscious of it.

He took the thing that he had been bending over so intently when Ray entered his room and showed it to him.

“I am sure you know what this is?” he asked Ray.

“An Inscriber. Gene specific I believe” Ray answered sounding intrigued. The item was not alien to him, or to any Hero. An inscriber is like a secret letter. An item in which one person enters a message and encrypts it for the person they want to read the letter. Only that person can access the information inside the Inscriber.

The information is not in the form of written words or a read aloud message that other people may overhear or read. Once the receiver activates the Inscriber, the message goes straight to their brain. So only that particular person can know the contents. It is a common tool for Heroes.

Gene Specific Inscribers take that encryption and secrecy to a whole new level. The writer must have the genetic information of the intended receiver either in the form of their genetic sequence which is very difficult to obtain, or a gene sample. Normal Inscribers differentiate people based on their Aura make up. A Gene Specific Inscriber will take the genetic component into account as well which requires a much more expensive piece of technology.

The Academies once used it during the war three years ago because the Demons had a way to fool the Inscribers’ Aura detection. However, after the war there has not been much use for such items. Considering the price of such an item and the rarity of its production, only a select few can have access to it.

Headmaster Ed did not immediately reveal the identity of the person who had given it to him but proceeded to tell Ray the content of the Inscriber. If it had been a normal Inscriber, the receiver can choose to share the content with others but with a gene specific one, this was not possible.

“Demons have taken over Lyonesse” Headmaster Ed said in a flat tone that made the proclamation all the more dramatic.

Considering the nature of their profession, Ray had been ready to hear even the most unexpected of news. However this piece of news was such a surprise for him that it took some time for him to process it.

“What… that’s impossible” Ray said but he knew that the headmaster was not joking, and neither is it likely that he is mistaken with something as big as this.

Ray rephrased the incredulous thoughts that were racing in his mind and asked a more pertinent question “How come we know nothing about this?”

Headmaster Ed shook his head.

“Princess Elle, the fourth princess of Lyonesse and a small group of Lyonesse’s Golden Wings Knights have managed to escape the capital. They are being chased by Shadow Assassins”

Rays face turned dark at the mention of Shadow Assassins.

“Surprisingly… and thankfully… they have managed to survive until now” Headmaster Ed said in a bright tone that was a bit forced.

“However in order to escape pursuit, they were forced to enter ‘The Labyrinth’” the headmaster said this like he knew that it would mean something to Ray.

“The laby… The Labyrinth of Daedalus?” Ray exclaimed with incredulity.

“Compared to the Shadow Assassins I guess it is the better choice. It would give them cover. Even high level Demons would have trouble with the horrors there and they’d be lost for a long time if they don’t have a method to navigate it” Ray said trying make sense of their choice.

“I assume the princess and her Golden Wings must have a way to navigate the Labyrinth?”

“Actually they don’t” the headmaster said.

“Oh…” Ray didn’t know what to say to that. Getting stuck in the labyrinth didn’t seem like such a good alternative to the Shadow Assassins.

“One of the Golden Wings is my niece and she happens to be in possession of a Magatama Ring” headmaster Ed explained. “That was the reason that they chose to enter it rather than risk the Shadow Assassins.  They are hoping that we can help with the getting out part”

So that’s his mission. Ray also understood why the headmaster chose him for it. He can navigate the Labyrinth of Daedalus.

“Princess Elle is on the way to our Academy to inform us more about the situation in Lyonesse and make a formal request for our aid in fighting against the Demons. Your mission is to find Princess Elle and the Golden Wings and guide them back to the Academy. Of course, as this is not an official mission, you have the right to refuse it should you wish” headmaster Ed added.

“I accept the mission sir” Ray’s answer was instant and without hesitation. For his master to request an unofficial mission which though not illegal, is nevertheless a dangerous practice as it is akin to going behind the back of the Academy, Ray knew that he must be very certain of the truthfulness of the situation that he had mentioned. And Ray also knew the reason that he was going behind the normal channels. The Academy’s High Council would never believe that the Demons are back. They would reject the princess’s appeal for help.

Headmaster Ed nodded and smiled. “Thank you Ray. And one more thing. It may seem like a B class or maybe an A class mission at most but I am classifying this as an S class mission.  Your payment and restrictions are thus set at that level”

Ray nodded. “Understood sir”

“Oh one more thing” the headmaster called out as Ray placed his hand on the door handle.

“I must ask that you keep this mission and the presence of the Lyonesse delegation a secret from everyone”

“Understood sir”

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