"Confliction" by CrazieBernie
Sunlight glistened off the morning dew. Insects buzzed around freshly blooming flowers. Constant chatter from birds and squirrels filtered into the clearing. In the small nearby lake a fish leapt out of the water, catching an early breakfast. The cottage in the middle of the forest was a painting-perfect scene of serenity.
Lilith wiped the sweat from her brow with a forearm, sighing as she realized the mistake. Her arms were covered with soil up to the elbows from digging up tubers. There was a plentiful harvest this year, and likely she would have plenty extra to sell to the grocers in Bordertown and Blackwater. Gathering up the last of the vegetables, she placed them into her basket and entered her home.
The basket was put onto the table, and then she headed back out and pumped some water into a bucket. The faucet pulled its water from the same spring that fed the lake. The water in the bucket was dumped into a washbasin on the side of the cottage. Lilith washed her arms and face before returning inside.
She sat down at a table and began to sort through the tubers, saving the best looking ones for the grocers. From the leftover misfits she set aside a few and put the rest in a sack on the kitchen shelf. Grabbing a sharp knife, she began to peel the remaining tubers for a stew that would be her dinner. It was in the middle of peeling that she sensed something amiss. She did not stop the task at hand, but began to concentrate on her surroundings, trying to detect the problem.
The birds and squirrels had stopped their chatter.
In mid-peel with one smooth motion, she flung the knife. It hit a support beam by the doorway leading into her bedroom, sinking deep into the hard wood. The air around the knife began to shimmer, revealing a lone figure. He was of medium height, and slight but lithe build. Crystal blue eyes shone underneath a spiked mass of golden hair. A mischievous grin adorned his face of perfectly smooth skin. He plucked the knife out of his cloak with a small amount of effort and began to toss it in the air, end over end.
"Well they told me to expect your skills to be as sharp as ever." He threw the knife back and it landed on the table, a hair's breadth from her arm. Noting that she didn't even flinch, he remarked, "I must say though, I'm still quite impressed."
"What are you doing here? And since when does an agent of the Order prance around unmasked?" Lilith allowed a hint of anger in her tone, while remaining expressionless.
The intruder chuckled and spread his hands to either side, "Consider it a peace offering, to show that we mean no harm. Plus, we have a business proposition for you that you may find most intriguing." He pulled a pouch off his belt and tossed it onto the table. The sound it made belied the large amount of coin within. "And here's a small down payment. Use it to purchase whatever supplies you might need."
"I've done my time with the Order, and I no longer work for them. It should be well known that I will have nothing further to do with your lot." She extracted the knife from the table and resumed peeling. "Take your money and leave."
"Ah, but it's not quite that simple. You see, a certain... adventurer was seen to be wandering into this forest and the next thing we knew, he was in the Repository. He ended up killing one of our prized pawns, and we know you had something to do with his success."
"I fail to see how a simple coincidence allows you to pin me as some sort of accomplice in dealings that I know nothing about."
"The Order has eyes and ears everywhere; playing the fool will get you nowhere. You of all people should know that. As we see it, you owe us one for that slip-up." His grin became even more mischievous. "Besides, part of your payment includes some information that we feel you won't wish to pass up."
Lilith's eyes narrowed. "What information could you possibly have that would be of any interest to me?"
"The location of your son... I believe his name was Alden?"
She stopped peeling, and put the tuber down slowly. Then, she leveled a gaze at the agent that for an almost imperceptible moment caused his smile to falter. "My son is dead."
He waved a hand nonchalantly. "You'll find that reports of your son's death were greatly... exaggerated. The Order discovered that he is alive and well... as well as one can be for being imprisoned in a dungeon."
The chair she was sitting in was thrown back violently. "What dungeon is this? Tell me NOW!" Her voice boomed as she thrust out a hand, above which a ball of fire began to materialize. Her eyes began to glow in sync with the flaming sphere.
The agent merely threw up his hands. "Now now, you know as well as anyone that an agent is not privy to such information. Harm me and you might as well forget about your son."
Forcing herself to calm down, she extinguished the flame. "Just how can I trust that the information claimed by the Order is even the truthful?"
Again the widening grin. "Can you really afford not to take that chance?"
Glaring at him irritatingly, she retrieved her chair. "Fine, what are the Terms?"
"Much better. We'll need you to perform two tasks, actually. First, I'll need you to recover a certain document from Darkford..."
The following morning found Lilith in a vault of the Repository, standing in front of a large, mithril-bound chest. Something is not right with this job... these Terms. That fellow was not like any agent that the Order usually employs. There was something far more... Sinister about him. She reached into her shirt and pulled out an octagon shaped amulet. The amulet fit perfectly into the octagonal socket on the chest. I'd better be careful, more careful than ever. A brief glow emanated from within the amulet, and then the chest slowly opened under its own power. Inside the chest lay a dark hooded cloak, a matching mask, and several bladed weapons. As she picked up the cloak and at her touch, it began to shimmer and blend with its surroundings. Standard issue from the Order. Donning the cloak, she then concealed all of the blades on her person except one - a single longsword in a gem encrusted scabbard. A great power flowed from the blade, the magic scabbard barely containing the energy. On one side of the scabbard was engraved a single name. I must discover where he is being held, if he truly is alive. I cannot allow the Order to discover his true heritage. Placing the longsword back into the chest, she picked up the mask, which also began to shimmer. She placed the mask upon her face, a mask that would not get removed until the completion of the Terms.
A mask, that was to be worn at all times, save in front of one who would soon be dead.