“Thank you for the meal,” Sylvie said. “You really are a splendid cook.”
“Oh, not at all,” Illyana said.
“Don’t be so modest,” Luc said. “You are very good.” She turned to Sylvie. “So, how long are you girls going to stay in Wicadia?”
“We were just going to pass through,” Sylvie answered. “But Inés was asked to help with some kind of problem. She and Serena are going to listen to the situation and see if it’s something we should involve ourselves with.”
“If you do stay longer, you’ll have to tell me,” Illyana said. “That way we can talk some more!”
“Sylvie may be too busy with the situation,” Luc said, gently.
“Oh, that’s right,” Illyana stated, sounding dejected. “I didn’t think of that.”
“I’ll definitely find time to speak with you some more if we decide to stay,” Sylvie promised.
“Really?” Illyana asked. “Lucky me!”
“I’ve heard that you’re on the way to Drahaven,” Luc said. “It’s an interesting coincidence. I’ve been teaching Illyana about the draconians lately.”
“Oh, you didn’t mention that,” Sylvie said.
“It’s really not a big deal,” Illyana said. “I was just a little curious about them.”
“I have a splendid idea,” Luc said. “Perhaps Sylvie can return here after her journey and tell you everything she sees at Drahaven.”
“Well… if you wouldn’t mind… could you please?” Illyana asked.
“Absolutely!” Sylvie declared. “The truth is… I had something I wanted to tell you after I complete this journey.”
“Something to tell me?” Illyana asked. “Now you’ve made me curious. I wonder what it could be?” She laughed. “I guess I’ll just have to look forward to that too.”
Luc rose from her seat. “It’s getting a bit late for me. I’ll leave you two alone and retire for the night.”
“Night, Mama,” Illyana said. “Have pleasant dreams.”
“Good night, Headmistress,” Sylvie said.
“Good night,” Luc stated. “Don’t stay up too late.”
Inés led Serena to the big cavern. It had multiple torches placed, a table, some chairs and various items lined around. Serena noticed a deck of cards and a couple books.
Max was waiting for them. “Hey there,” he greeted. He looked over at Serena. “I thought you said that you had two partners?”
“I do,” Inés stated. “But Sylvie didn’t want to come. She said she’d break a tie if the two of us don’t agree.” She sat down and beckoned for Serena to take the seat next to hers. “So, what is this mission that you could use my help with?”
“What do you know of the Monotheists?” Max asked.
“Nothing whatsoever,” Inés immediately answered.
“I’m a bit surprised,” Max said. “They’ve been a big topic lately. They claim to serve the true God.”
“Oh, them!” Inés exclaimed. “Enya mentioned them but even she didn’t seem clear what they’re about.”
“Not surprising,” Max stated. “She doesn’t leave the academy much, except to come here and they’ve been good at keeping their actual beliefs strategically vague. They’ve been gaining quite the following lately.”
“Why would anyone follow people who don’t even explain the core of their beliefs?” Serena asked.
“That’s what my job is about,” Max explained. “They claim that they can grant all kinds of miracles and prevent disasters. They mainly spend their time around the affluent area, offering to help people in exchange for them joining their church and making a sizeable donation. Gold only.”
“They sound like a couple of con-men to me,” Inés stated. “And that doesn’t answer her question.”
“I’m getting to that,” Max said. “When they approach someone, they claim to have had a vision of disaster for them and those visions seem to keep coming true. We suspect that the higher ups in their church are responsible.”
“I get the picture,” Inés said. “But isn’t it kind of transparent? Does anyone seriously believe that these guys are honestly preventing anything?”
“Some do,” Max said. “Others suspect them but, as of this moment, there’s no proof against them. Even with city guards being present during several of the incidents. They asked the Academy for help, suspecting that magic was being used.”
“And you want help catching them?” Inés asked.
“Wouldn’t another mage be more helpful?” Serena added.
“That is a point,” Inés agreed. “The three of us aren’t exactly experts at detecting magic. I can do offensive water spells and Sylvie can use lightning magic. We’re warrior priestesses, not mages.”
“That’s just it,” Max said. “I need someone they won’t recognise to help me bait them.”
“I don’t think we can pose as wealthy socialites,” Inés said. “It would take a lot of gold and time.”
“You don’t have to,” Max said. “A lot of their operation depends on appearances. The more people think that they’re actually foretelling events, the more join them. And the more people they have join them, the more donations they pull in. So, if a priestess were to decry them enough…”
“They’d have to respond,” Serena interrupted.
“Or risk weakening their position,” Max said. He turned to Inés. “In other words, I’m asking you to pick a fight with them.”
“I do love picking fights with terrible people,” Inés said, smirking. “I vote that we do it. What do you think, Serena?”
“I do think that they have to be stopped,” Serena said. “But I’m worried that if we act they’ll take it out on the Kane family.”
Inés put her hand to her head. “That’s right! We’re staying with them!” She paced for a bit before walking over to Serena. “But these monotheists don’t know that. So, if I relocate to some cheap inn before I antagonise them, it should be all right, yeah?”
“That’s… I suppose that’s true,” Serena said. She nodded. “Then I’ll also vote yes.”