Timothy wrongly assumed a night meeting under the cover of darkness would be ideal, as secrecy surely was easier to keep with shadows being your identity. But the truth was moonlight rendezvous drew more prying eyes than the crowded streets Cyphorica hosting during business hours. Clutching his well-made but travel worn cloak, Durston side-stepped and made slow progress through the packed people; trying not to be noticed, yet feeling exposed under the morning sky.
As with every city and town, the center hosted a church to guide all citizens in government, religion, and education. Timothy made his way to the towering structure that acted like a compass for those unsure of their surroundings. Meeting on Cleric grounds in broad daylight was risky but Timothy understood the idea of secrets in plain view.
Though perhaps not ran down, Cyphorica’s church was built with none of the pride and grandeur typically found with the Cleric’s infrastructure. It was a simple two story wood framed and bricked wall hall, the windows holding no glass but thin stone, letting only light in. Being an outer city, so it lacked the heavy hand the Clerics wielded, as well as their money, power, and influence. The city’s more independent nature was probably the cause for the Realm’s current predicament and poor status of the Cleric’s Church. Timothy never had a reason to travel so far north, or even to many of the outer cities, and the state of the buildings promised be would never have the desire to do so again.
Cypris Bloom, their inside operative, was younger than Durston had expected. At the age of fifteen, Cypris already discovered the art of politics. Wanting more than a few magic tricks and a warrant for treason, she sold her rebel companions with the expectation of a favor. As far as first impressions went, she held true to his image of a naive, ratty child seeking acceptance from her betters. Grasping a translucent cape in the hopes of concealing her mismatched and thread-worn rags, filth covering her knotted hair and hollow cheeks, she bowed in greeting.
“Master Cleric, I wish to give thanks for the Great Circle that guides and protects our lives.”
Timothy gave a slight cringe at the small grace, never before associating the Great Circle as something that encompassed the destitute. “Ah, yes, and you are Cypris Bloom?”
Not waiting for the brisk node of confirmation, Durston made his way to a private booth for them to talk. Already a sour perfume of filth, sweat and the unknown permeated the stale air. Not that his prayers seemed to be effective, but Timothy sent out a silent one that the heretics be cleaner or his nose give out.
Dropping to her knees, as if in worship, Cypris proceeded to inform Durston of all she knew. The ingenious idea of using an open and public place to meet, even if the grounds themselves were currently empty, followed by the way she hid her face and words in devotion finally dawned on Durston. This was all an act. Cypris Bloom in fact was clever and excelled in deception.
Tim, as Durston now was known since those from the lower classes lacked the formality, patience, and teeth for long names, tailed after Cypris weaving her way through the city and crowds. Being briefed on the background the impoverished girl made up induced mental pain for the highly accomplished and acclaimed Cleric, almost making him dismiss the idea of stealth, the desire to just level the whole city seeming like a simpler solution.
Cast into the role of playing Cypris’s cousin who ran away to join the cause sounded easy at first, until Durston realized exactly what kind of acting he would have to perform: Being mild mannered, submissive to those inferior, forgetting his education, and pulling off street-smarts. The sprint through Cyphorica was enough time for Durston to realize this undercover mission would need to be short, there was just no way he would be able to immerse himself to make it believable.
Before making it to the next location, Cypris ducked into an alley, removing her tattered rags and revealing a clean, plain outfit. Wielding a brush, she made quick work of her transformation from peddler to young woman.
“The building across the road is the business of a small apothecary. It’s through his cellar we will go to meet the Witches’ Coven.”
“Witches’ Coven? Is that what these terrorists call themselves?” Durston gave a pause over the name. In his years of study and being the son of a high ranking lord, he felt sure he’d heard of them.
“Well obviously they aren’t Clerics, and they don’t ever want to be. A Witches’ Coven holds similar beliefs in the power of the circle, but they use herbs, elements, and nature to feed the magic. As a Coven they act similar to the Clerics, drawing upon the magic of many to perform more powerful spells.”
“Spells?” Everything was starting to sounds as if these rebels, these heretics, and uprisers were organized, even trained. To compare the Cleric’s training with this Witches’ Coven was treason, and yet the words sounded familiar. Though not mentioned often in their history, there had been a few encounters with other such groups that referred to themselves as a Witches’ Coven. Their magic was wild often involving noisy rituals, chanting, and even performances. Durston wasn’t sure how much was true, but from what Cyrpis described, they seemed similar.
“Do you know how long ago they were created? Lord Raneer made it seem that this was all new. That only recently you had come to him and joined this Coven in order to serve the Realm. And yet, from the way you speak of them, they sound well established, already having a number of followers. Your own apothecary is in league with these criminals, and it leads me to believe other upstanding citizens may also be corrupted by this plague.”
Cypris dusted her hands, giving him a titled look, dimples forming from a sly and knowing smile. “The Witches’ Coven is older than the Realm, Lord Durston. This…problem…as the Clerics would call it, is one people will always turn to when those in the Capital ignore those below their field-of-view from a castle’s window.”
Shock coursed through Timothy’s body, causing him to straighten his posture in dignity. He was finding it difficult to determine just who’s side this Cypris Bloom was on, and who she truly was. But before he could inquire her words of condemnation of her betters, Durston discovered they were no longer alone. A presence was felt from behind as an arm reached around Timothy, holding his head into a dirty rag, quickly causing him to slip into unconsciousness.