• Drake let the wind blow through his sandy hair as he looked out over the rolling hills ahead. Bushes dotted the landscape, nestled amongst the scraggly grass and sandbars. Against his right ran a short line of trees, their branches swaying in the winds. Above the sunset drew Drake's eye as it cast an ember glow over the migrating clouds. The sunset always fascinated Drake, though not as much as the sunrise. He had spent many mornings as a child rising before the first light of the sun simply to catch the vibrant energy it set over the crisp morning air.

    However, he chastised himself, I'm not here to enjoy the scenery. Topping a nearby ridge was the figure of a man, the reason he had traveled out to that remote area of Ungroth. His correspondent hopefully carried an important message, something Drake dearly wanted to get his hands on. He noted the black underbellies of the growing clouds. Rain would fall soon. They would have to be brief.

    Climbing the hill on which Drake overlooked the scene, the man approached in a humble manner. An underling of Drake's, he took the fact that Drake was his teacher and master very seriously. Bowing as he topped the crest, the man began to state the oaths he had taken three years earlier.

    Drake cut him short, pulling him to his feet by his shoulders. "There is no need for that," he said. "Not now."

    The man calmly brushed his knees off. "My apologies, Master Drake. Habit, you know," he replied. "I was under your teaching for so long, it's hard to-"

    "The message, Jared," Drake interrupted. He wasn't able to keep his impatience from touching his voice.

    Jared blinked. "Oh, yes..." he mumbled, and began digging in his coat. Before long his hand emerged with a small, bulging envelope, the King's seal pressed into the melted wax on the back.

    "Excellent. And there were no survivors?" Drake questioned as he turned the envelope over in his hands. There was a small smudge of blood in the top corner, but otherwise the envelope was undamaged.

    "None," Jared answered nervously. "We killed them all, as per your instructions."

    "Excellent," Drake nodded, satisfied. He could not have the royal family alerted of his meddling. With a swift flick of his thumb he broke the envelope's seal and pulled the letter from inside. It was written in a flowing script, the tell-tale calligraphy of the King's own hand. Drake quickly scanned over the letter. It held all the information he needed. A grin attempted to pull at the corners of his lips.

    Pulling his cloak about himself as the first drop of rain struck his nose, he pocketed the letter and gave Jared a cool smile. "You did well. I will send word to you by pigeon if I require your services again."

    A smile lit up Jared's face as Drake turned from the man. He was a fool, simply a pawn in Drake's game, but useful nonetheless. Drake had an inkling that his services would be called upon in the near future. A storm was brewing, one with more consequences than the one that rolled in overhead.