"They say he wears a cloak woven from the very essence of midnight. It radiates shadow like a lantern does light. And so he moves in secret, until the moment when his victim cries out their last breath."
-- Legend of the Assassin Kings
A young girl, silver-lipped and tired-eyed, stirred restlessly in a dim room. She was tied to a rack. And as she woke, she remembered her dreams for the first time in a long time.
There was a dream of Waunn coming to save her, wielding an iron shortsword with newfound bravura and bravery. However, he was never the lead. The tanned man beside him wasn't in the lead either. It was a bard, tall and smiling with an identical pair of silver lips.
There was another, though, that was more than a dream. It had continuity. It had depth. It had a profound reality that stirred her heart into a panic, pulling at her bindings.
And recall of that dream was an awakening of her mind that she had never known before. It was far greater than the effect of the strange mountain weeds she'd been dared to chew years ago, one summer in Wahleiss.
After a reckless struggle, Modesty came to a stop. It was over. She knew, now, of the world she'd painted into existence and the lesson - life-making lesson - the bard had given her. Unbelievable power, chained to innocence and nature. Silver Magic.
A dark silhouette moved in front of her. It watched her.
"Lookie what the caravan dropped in! You weren't here this morning."
It was a man's voice, whispering, cold and chiding. He stood in darkness, but she was victim to the light that fell from the skylight circle cut into the tent fabric above her.
"The lipless witch surely did not make you. Without lips, Misheru's kisses do not breed silver magi."
Modesty bit against the leathery strap that gagged her, Close your eyes, relax your body, and focus! You can do it, she thought to herself, C'mon, you can do it, Modesty. Just relax. And her silver lips began to glow.
"Open your eyes when I'm talking to you, girl!" the man raised his voice to just above a whisper, as he slapped her across the face. As he did so, her lips ceased their shimmering.
Modesty turned her head back to face him, for it had been pushed by his blow.
"I will undo your gag, and then your bindings, if you promise to leave this place with me," he said as he brought a rusty dagger down to meet the edge of her gag.
It cut without hurting her.
"Y-you're not supposed to be here, are you?" she asked, keeping her voice down to match his whisper.
"I am Ivlin," he said.
"The Assassin King!? I've heard talk of you in the pub where I come from. You're infamous!"
He leaned into the light, showing off a proud smile.
"May I ask - why are you here?"
"The Order of Seldys hired my men, whom have nearly all died in their service, to kill an old woman. Her name is Reverend Misheru. She is the witch of Arean, and she cannot be allowed to live. For without lips, she exists as a rogue silver magi that the Court of Cebilheiss has turned a blind eye to for many decades. If she dies, a new mage may be made."
A day ago, Modesty would not have understood much of what the Assassin King told her. But now, after having been briefed by the Bard of Silver Lips by night, the conflict of kingdom-wide significance was starting to make more sense to her.
"You are in the company of the Resistance. They are fools, who don't know what they are dealing with. They are like children playing with fire."
"Yes," he paused. "Who kissed you?"
The final binding came undone.
"Who kissed you? Don't play with me, girl, or I'll put that gag back on you and make your body my own."
"Uu-uh... the harpist. He was a harpist. He came to town, I knew him not."
Disgusted, Ivlin spat upon the ground, "You will follow me, breathe calmly, and aid me only if I ask of it. I may need your help in subdoing my foe."
Modesty nodded, following him into the next room, empty, "I've yet to use my powers in the waking world."
"Hmm... can you move plants? There is a vine that grows upon her tent. You cannot play Goddess by sleep-walking your way through conflict. Your powers have their confines and limits - you will learn them only through experience and experimentation."
"I am still learning. I woke up in the middle of my first lesson."
"Who teaches you?"
Modesty pursed her lips. She was already unsettled by his disdain for the bard.
"Never mind, young oneiromancer," said Ivlin. "It is not Misheru, and that is all that matters... for now. Now, I must kill her myself... though all my vassals have failed."