"Sister Maxine," a commanding voice echoed from behind the heavy wooden door to the woman's borrowed chambers. "Sister Rebekah has requested your presence." Max rolled onto her back with eyes closed with a groan. Her right arm extended beyond her bed, fishing along the nightstand and nearly knocking over the nearly empty bottle of rum sitting upon it. Eventually she found the ash tray her half-smoked joint throned and popped it between her lips. Another round of knocking assaulted her door from the hallway.
"I heard you the first time," she called back, eyes flashing open and legs reluctantly swinging over the side of her mattress. "Just give me a bit." The mage hunter roused herself to a stand after a trill of lazy turmoil. She meandered over to a wall-mounted candle, leaning over it to light the end of her ambrosia before she began to get herself together. Weapon belt on, feet shoved in boots, and an ashcloak thrown over a dark uniform, Maxine chugged the rest of her vice before pitching it back in the ash tray. The drug, having amply filled her lungs, was already beginning to settle into her bloodstream. Whatever her superior summoned her for, Maxine's mind would be as sharp as her gladius by the time she got wherever it was they were going.
"She got a new mark for me?" the mage hunter inquired the young Mantis sword upon throwing upon the door to meet him face-to-face.
"I wasn't privy," the man answered, beckoning her to follow him down the hallway. Maxine's brow furrowed but she closed her door and relented nonetheless.
When Rebekah first enticed her with membership to the Mantis, they had conducted their business in the open air of a faction stronghold. Everything felt official and widely sanctioned without question from the populace or the crown itself. It was business-like in a way no mercenary contract had ever felt. Ever since Maxine showcased her merit in the torture and interrogation block, however, Rebekah had brought her along to work alongside her at this Mantis black site. This place felt far dirtier than the stronghold. It was darker, its innermost confines more damp and gloomy. The shadiness of the business conducted within its walls was palpable. Having just arrived a trial prior, it seemed that Rebekah was ready to show Maxine just what secrets the Mantis had their hands reddened with.
After a quiet walk the Mantis sword handed her over to the green-eyed, ambitious Mantis superior waiting at the top of an ominous staircase. Rebekah drew the hood of her cloak up over her brunette braid and eyed Maxine with a solemn expression. She reached her arms out toward the Sword she'd recruited, gently brushing the mage hunter's shoulders. Rebekah addressed her calmly, "We have important work to see through tonight, Maxine." She turned and took a torch from the wall and extended down toward the stairs. "Important work that is crucial to our cause. Come." The mysterious woman turned and began to lead the way with her torchlight. Max glanced about before descending behind her.
"Tell me, Maxine. How do we Mantis deal with a mage?" Rebekah continued to talk while they moved at a leisurely pace.
"Burned or beheaded," Maxine answered the question cautiously, as though it were so obvious that she suspected she was being tricked.
"Yes," Rebekah agreed with a nod. "We execute. It is the surest way to rid Rynmere of this spark scourge. It is not the only way though. You'll learn our alternative tonight by providing a helping hand in it." Right before they reached the bottom of the stairs, Rebekah turned so sharply on her heels that Maxine nearly drew a sword on her in surprise. The woman searched the mage hunter's face for a few trills. Then she said, "Maxine, are you with me?"
"I mean, yeah, I'm standing right here."
"You know what I ask. Are you the ashcloak I know you to be?"
"I burned mages. I dragged suspects from their homes and dropped them at your feet. I testified against them like you asked. When your headsman couldn't get you answers, I did." She gave a tug at the grey cloak she donned. "What more must I do?" Rebekah's face turned ice cold. She raised the torch to get a good look at Max's face, studying the sincerity in her eyes.
"Just thing one thing. Then no one will ever question my decision to recruit you than put you on trial ever again."
The mage hunter blinked with a bewildered expression at Rebekah's back after she'd turned and finished their descent. Confusion riddling her mind, Max followed the woman into the dark underground chambers until Rebekah came to a halt. Maxine did the same. It took her a trill of looking around to realize this was no basement, but a dungeon. Rebekah squared herself to a door with a small, caged window built into it. She raised her torch to illuminate the prison cell with her expectant, stoic eyes trained on her protege. Maxine slowly neared the prison cell to peer within. The very trill she did, a flood of fury and dread seized her all at once. Yet, despite the storm of emotions that raged within, there was another hard and dangerous truth to accept.
She was in serious trouble.