We’ll get to the good stuff next week, I promise.
“I have a small job for you,” Vriss said, effortlessly signing her last paycheck. Anya and Hidalgo’s ears perked up at the thought of staying away from her step-father’s estate a little bit longer. “It’s nothing overly complicated,” he assured her, “I just need you to deliver a letter.” Hidalgo’s ears immediately went flat with disinterest, turning his attention back to the inside of his stall.
“That sounds…” Anya searched for the right words, “about as exciting as watching paint dry. I should know, I’ve done it once.” Vriss didn’t laugh like Anya had hoped he would. “It was a joke,” she explained, “you were supposed to laugh.”
“Are you taking it, yes or no?” he asked, ignoring her.
“First I would like to know where I would be going.” Anya countered.
“Are you taking it, yes or no?” He repeated, with more force behind his words.
“FINE.” Anya snapped irritably and as loudly as she could without yelling. “I’ll take your god damn job.” A couple of the groomsmen looked curiously up at them from their jobs.
“Very good,” Vriss said coolly. “We must discuss the details in private.” Anya followed behind him, clicking her tongue to summon Hidalgo. In a flurry of black feathers, Hidalgo flew high above them, landing on the top of the main building.
“What’s this job about that you couldn’t tell me outside?” Anya demanded as they sat down in his office, the door safely locked behind them.
“I need you to go to Mexico,” he said plainly, opening a drawer and pulling out three letters sealed in wax, “and deliver these letters to the General in Mexico City.”
Anya stared at him. “The last time I went close to Mexico, I caused a bit of an uproar that can be best described as an international incident.” she pointed out.
“I’m not the one that wanted you to go, believe me.” Vriss countered. “I have far better messengers with more experience, but Colonel Albrecht thinks it’s best if you go.”
“And most of them are quite tactless, I must point out.” Colonel Albrecht suddenly appeared in the seat in the chair beside Anya.
“Isn’t that door locked?” Anya asked nervously, turning to look at the solitary door.
“We’ve had several conversations,” Albrecht continued casually, “haven’t we, General?” Vriss exhaled loudly rather than respond. “About how Anya can slip seamlessly in and out of crowds. And your trained messengers can’t seem to do that without causing some sort of scene.” Vriss snorted loudly again, his teeth grinding together as he kept his mouth shut. Albrecht smiled smugly, reaching inside his coat to hand Anya a medallion the size of her palm.
It was bright gold, with Albrecht’s sigil crafted neatly into it. The various colors shone in the bright sunlight that poured in through the windows.
“You’ll be delivering the letters to General Markoth who resides in Mexico.” The Colonel continued, picking the letters off of Vriss’s desk. “Two of these are fake,” he pulled two of the letters aside, “one is real.” he handed her the remaining letter. The wax that sealed the paper had a seal imprinted inside of it that Anya did not recognize. “Keep all three hidden, but hide this one somewhere on your person. Show this,” he gently tapped the golden medallion, “to the guards at the palace gates to prove your identity.”
“When you reach the boarder,” Vriss broke in, “the Third Kingdom guards will search everything you have in your bags and they will pat you down, but nothing beyond that.”
“So…” Anya tried to comprehend her mission, “I’m just delivering a letter across the border to General Markoth? And no one is going to try and kill me?” Both men nodded.
“You’ll take a train to the boarder, and venture across from there.” Vriss said. “You’ll be on your own for money, but,” he slid her a sheet of paper with various mug shots and names underneath each photo, “this will give you a good excuse for traveling.”
“Does my dad know?” Anya turned to ask Colonel Albrecht, but he was gone, leaving only the two fake letters in his seat.
“Albrecht doesn’t obey the laws of science,” Vriss said with much annoyance in his voice, “or much of anything besides his own will.”
“Well,” Anya said, collecting the letters and placing them in her back pocket, “when does this train for the boarder leave?” Vriss looked at the watch on his wrist.
“They stop boarding in the next forty five minutes.” he said. “Can you pack in the next three minutes?”
Three weeks after she departed from Cloudcroft, Anya arrived at the gates to Mexico City. The city was surrounded by a pristine white wall, decorated with terracotta tiles at the top, while two towering doors marked the entrance to the city. With the coins from her bounty hunts jingling in Hidalgo’s saddle bags, Anya presented her Third Kingdom issued passport to the soldiers at the gate. They eyed her with suspicion, but mercifully let her pass without further harassment.
“Show the medallion to the guards at the gate to prove my identity.” Anya muttered to herself, wandering aimlessly down the streets with Hidalgo in tow, looking for the palace. “Great, where the hell is this place?” Anya looked at her horse. “Do you know where it is?” She asked him. Hidalgo looked down a nearby alleyway; through the crowds of people, Anya could spot the grand gates of the palace. “This why I have you,” Anya said, giving him an affectionate kiss on the head.
Approaching the palace gates, Hidalgo quietly morphed into his dog form and Anya pulled the sigil out of her pocket to show them.
“I’ve come to see the General,” she said pleasantly, “may I be escorted in?” The guards exchanged glances before knocking on the guard house door. Chatting with the guard inside, the gates creaked open just enough to let them in. “Thank you, sirs.” Anya said, tipping her hat politely to them. Walking across the empty courtyard and towards the main archways, a man larger than life stood waiting for the pair in the shadows.
“Anya Kerran, I presume?” He asked, his voice like a quiet rumble of thunder. As her eyes adjusted to the shadows, Anya could see the scars that marked his face.
“I-I am,” she said, straining her neck to see him. He smiled, and a feeling of dread washed over Anya.
“Follow me,” he commanded, starting down a nearby hallway, “the General has been expecting you.”