Aysmar left the hedge with a sense of dread settled deep in her throat. The ends of her fingers tingles with anticipation and she wished she could tell her heart to slow. It was if all the training she had done over the years was for nothing now she was on her way to Vanweer. She felt like nothing alone. Let alone a mole, who was acting as a mole. Would Vanweer see straight through her that she was on the side of Ezria and the others?
She found the tunnel back to the city and made her way slowly and cautiously, looking for any sign of troops or Vanweer’s spies. The tunnel was empty, but Aysmar told herself that was normal: the average Tingion never went topside their entire life so it would be odd to bump into anyone coming the other way. If she were to meet with one of Vanweer’s guards then she had her official seal to wave and be on her way.
The tunnel slowly stopped slowly and she felt herself moving along flat ground - she must be nearby, and then she began to see the stronger light of the city glow lamps at the end of the tunnel up ahead.
Aysmar poked her head out of the tunnel first to get the lay of her surroundings. She had known roughly where she would come out in the City and she looked at the guard box and nodded to the soldier guarding. They barely exchanged a word as she flashed Vanweer’s personal seal to her and moved through unbothered by beaureacracy. The guard seemed oddly lax, Aysmar thought and made a note to mention it to Vanweer, and then another note to not mention it to Vanweer when she remembered which side she was now on. Still, it annoyed her sense of professionalism to have a guard so distracted at dealing with Tingions coming in below ground. No wonder those Topsiders had felt so confident abuot kidnapping them from the Cavern without facing any issues if this is what they were used to facing when they came into the City.
She made her way unchallenged to the building that contained Vanweer’s office deep inside its formal walls. Something was wrong though, she noticed when she got within observing distance of the building. The incredible strictness with which the official guards usually handled themselves was missing and there seemed to be a loud argument going on in the reception foyer between a high up Captain Aysmar recognised and someone she didn’t.
She flashed her seal to the guard on the gate who let her through and then went back to watching the argument whilst pretending not to. Aysmar made her way up the steps and into the foyer.
“It should be me!” Bellowed the Captain that Aysmar didn’t recognise. The other one buffed up his cheeks and laughed heartily.
“You’re being unreasonable!” He screeched back, offering the highest insult in Tingion society. No Tingion should be caught being anything less than 90% reasonable if they could at all help it.
Aysmar politely ignored the argument and turned to the receptionist who wore an exhausted looking face.
“I’m here to see Vanweer.” Said Aysmar quietly, trying not to let the argument throw her off. The receptionist looked confusedly from Aysmar to the seal and back again.
“Haven’t you heard?” They asked, and Aysmar went cold.
“Heard what?” She asked, unable to think of anything else that she could say.
“She’s not here.” Said the receptionist, indicating the raging argument behind Aysmar that had now escalated to the Captain she thought might be Captain Renhide calling the other one “illogical” and receiving a rap with a walking stick for his trouble.
“Where is she?” Aysmar asked, panic creeping in. This couldn’t be good.
“No one knows.” Said a small voice, and Aysmar turned round to see Vanweer’s brow beaten assistant Mavis standing looking petrified in the foyer. “She was here, and then she wasn’t. She left no instructions. No messages. Nothing. It’s been… it’s been very difficult.” Aysmar read between the lines at the scale of this underestimation. “I rather wondered, I rather wondered if you would be the one who knew where she was… but now I see you are back and you don’t know either. Oh dear.” Aysmar thought Mavis might cry.
“What about her p- er, guests?” Aysmar asked, her heart beating wildly in her chest.
“Gone too.” Said Mavis, wringing two of her hands and running the other through her hair desperately.
“And she said nothing? No information at all? Is anything else gone?”
Mavis’ large eyes seemed to be trembling along with the rest of her body, “The first batallion.” She said.
Van Weer breathed in the topside air and sighed. She had missed the sky, and it was beautiful. She pulled herself out of the hole and beckoned to the First Commando to follow her quietly.
Has she had enough?