Inside, the Castle was as full of life as normal. Squires, students and servants all walking around or being generally busy. Here and there were small groups of students practicing their art and, sometimes, visually succeeding. For some of the better students there was even a hint of prankery in the air, with puddings being turned almost rock-hard, using Light. It was, of course, frowned upon by the Masters but even though it wasn't proper usage of Magic, using and practicing at all was usually a good thing.
I had to go all the way up to the Masters Chamber on the third floor, moving past many people who hardly knew me and ignored me. I was, maybe, greeted by three people with a simple nod on the way. When I neared the Chamber, one of the nicer teachers was on his way out. He looked at me and smiled knowingly. I liked him because he was a simple man. Not stupid, far from it in fact, but not complicated either. He taught people fighting with several types of weapons in a, generally, relaxed way. Not that he was someone who you'd want to cross on purpose. He kept an air of strength around him and there were still rumors of the last student that defied him.
"Good evening Taran." For some reason he rarely forgot the name of any student. "I heard you've been travelling?"
I nodded politely. "Yes, Sir Brandt. My first mission." No one was sure if he even was a knight or a master, but no one dared to ask.
He grinned and winked. "I hope Bleakfield has improved a little, and its cider with it." His expression and voice became more serious again. "I think Master Gadrim isn't expecting you back so soon, you made good time."
I was slightly surprised he knew of the mission. "Thank you, sir."
He nodded. "Taran, you don't have to answer this, but; you never aspired to become a master yourself, did you?"
I shook my head. "No, sir."
"Come see me after the Master is done with you in the Armory, I might have something for your next mission. It won't take long."
I smiled thankfully. It wasn't often he was this kind with someone. "I will, sir."
He took his leave and left me standing in front of the door that had greeted me many a time and for various reasons. I wasn't the best or the worst student, but somehow my skills had been the matter of some debate among the Masters. There had been times when I had to prove my skills or my lack of such to the Masters in this room. It was usually three of them, looking down on you. So unfair. Of course when I got my mission, it was only Master Gadrim and he had been a lot nicer to me. I knocked.
I entered politely and bowed after I closed the door behind me. The room hadn't changed. Tall windows on the far wall, bookcases on both the left and the right wall and some paraphernalia in front of them. lecterns with maps, quills and ink. The wide desk, able to seat three, was only occupied by Master Gadrim. He sat in the middle with lots of scrolls in front of him. Light in here was like the air, slightly stuffy. The smell in here wasn't too bad though, there was a sweet scent in the air of hot rum, complimented by the thick smell of wax of candles and seals.
"I return with letters from Bleakfield, Master."
Master Gadrim looked somewhat surprised and amused with his own surprise. "Ah, already? Well done then and no trouble on the way?"
I nodded. "Nothing noteworthy, sir. The Master sends his regards." I moved towards the desk, pulling the two letters from my bag. I made no indication of any hesitation. I knew that it was important to just be like normal and slightly businesslike. Master Gadrim wasn't too bad to deal with, but if there was one thing he couldn't stand it was dawdling.
He took the letters, noting everything was in order. "Very well. If you so desire, we might have more use for you almost immediately."
This was unusual. Especially right after the first mission. I had no idea how to respond. "Master?"
"There has been some trouble in the town of Rockwall." The town name rang a loud bell, but I couldn't quite place it. "I want to send a letter to the Master of Light there, but this could get rather... sensitive. There's talk of a strong rivalry between Dark and Light there. As you know it's one of the furthest large towns towards the mountains, it would take a good five days travel, through a lot of forest with only two or three villages on the way, none of which have a House. They are rather disconnected from the rest of the kingdom, it appears."
I didn't like to cast doubt upon the words of a Master, but... "Why me?"
He raised an eyebrow, again surprised, then amused by it. "Ah yes, I remember. You were always the questioning one." He sighed. "Well, the fact is that one of our messengers returned to us rather harmed by bandits. He was lucky to escape but he won't be riding a horse any time soon. Perhaps you knew him, Lance?"
I nodded. "Yes, Master. I knew him." I took a moment to think. Part of me was glad for this, but I wondered what Deirdre thought of this. "I'd like to sleep on it, Master."
He smiled knowingly. "Be here at first light, the horse should be well rested by then." He paused for a moment. "It would be good to travel with a servant, preferably one that can defend himself. The journey is long and, trust me, the company will keep you sane. I'll make the arrangements for an extra horse but you will have to ask for someone to join you." He added, with a smile. "I wouldn't force anyone together on a mission like this. Choose someone you trust."
This wasn't really that surprising. For longer journeys we were encouraged to travel together. It made it easier to keep watch or protect each other. Or, of course, in the worst case, take care of wounds that were beyond the wounded. Five days... That meant almost two weeks away from the castle almost immediately after I returned. A blessing or a curse? I couldn't quite decide.
"Thank you, Master."
He waved with his hand, motioning for me to go. I bowed and moved to the door, a little confused about all of this. What was I supposed to do? I decided to talk to Deirdre about this and we'd see. Deirdre! Rockwall! I suddenly remembered. She'd only mentioned it in passing, but that was where she had been kept. I hoped she would forgive me for wanting to go there even more now. But, if she didn't want to go, she could stay here safely, officially as my servant. It wasn't that unheard of for simple servants to be here for weeks, even months at a time while their masters were away on errands or quests.
I sighed, walking the cold corridors, back towards the square.