Chapter 9 - A Little Bit of Vandalism

- Lytha: Who is He? - Day 7: 10:00am

I was still on the floor, beneath the table. The man had left the house, and had said that he would deliver the letter to Nightfall. And he had said that Nightfall had sent him. This did not make any sense. I did not know Nightfall, and most important, I did not know this man. And I did not know anything about his motives to get me here. I had to figure out who he was, what his motives might have been, and if he was indeed a thief, like me. I stumbled to my feet, and tried to ignore the scared, childish voice in my head that cried in its fear.

When I took my first step, I couldn't keep my balance. I tried to brace myself against the table, but I fell on my face. Some of the paper fell down, too. Sitting amongst the papers, I pressed my hands against my forehead. The headache was horrific, and also the loud laughter of the malevolent voices. The two dead monstrous Thalias appeared shortly in my view. "Just go away, damn it!" Another voice in my head -- my own. Great, I was already shouting at myself in my head now. But somehow, it worked. The Thalias still stared at me, but they were silent for now. I closed my eyes, and stumbled to my feet, again. This time I managed it to stay upright, and I moved slowly to the shelves at the wall.

It had many papers on it. One was a letter, addressed to someone called "Ghost." I reached out to get it, but I was already shaking because of the strain. I stumbled, and hit the shelf with my head. More papers went to the floor, and also some books. I sat down, and searched for the letter in the scattered paper sheets. I found it, and read it immediately.

Ghost,

Surely have you already heard of the Star of Alarus. I am certain that it can be found in the Catacombs of this Alarus family. I have also heard that this place is haunted, but you know how fast rumors are spread. And now I am looking for someone who is not easy to scare. And somehow I had immediately thought of you. So, do you want to go and get it? The price for it is high.

Ragbert

It had also a small paper attached to it, where someone had made some notes about the details of the job.

I searched a little more, and found similar job offers. I took some of them, and put them into the remains of my pocket. If they were only a fake, it was a very well done fake. I concluded that the name of the man was "Ghost", and that I should find out more about that. But first of all, I had to get out of here. I got up and moaned because of the pain and the short attack of dizziness. I leaned against the shelf, to wait until the dizziness had gone away. The shelf shook, and more papers fell to the floor. I stumbled towards the door. It was locked.

Locked. Locked! I could feel that I was going to get into a panic. I beat against the door, shook the doorknob. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. It was a very stable door. There was no chance to break it open. Nevertheless, I threw myself against it, ignoring the pain in my body. I hit my hands against the door, and sunk down to the floor, almost crying. My head was in a chaos.

"Run! Run away!"

"Yes, of course. I will run away. But how?"

"I Hope He Will Go and Bring some Hammerites. You Bastard!"

"Run! He will bring the other one! The one with the teeth! Run! The one who -- "

"Or He will bring this Nightfall. And he will smite you with his Magik. Wouldn't Thisss be pleasing?!"

"Just calm down. All of you. Just -- "

"RUN!!!"

I was shaking. Out. Yes, out. Away. Why had he locked the door? Out.

I looked around. The windows were small -- too small to get out. Was there a trapdoor? Every thief would have a trapdoor. I rushed to my feet and hurried as fast as I could to the couch and tried to move it. There was nothing under it. I looked at the table. Some porcelain fell down and broke. There was nothing under the table. I leaned forward into the fireplace -- nothing. I moved the things on the top of the fireplace. More fell and broke Ė still nothing.

When I tried to reach the shelves, I staggered and fell onto some pieces. One of them hurt my mistreated right arm, and it started bleeding again. I fumbled the piece out off the wound, and stared at the blood. It bled on the carpet. I tried to stop the bleeding with a piece of my torn clothes. The wound was not very deep, so I managed to make it stop.

This short break had calmed me down, a little. I had found some evidence, or at least some well-faked letters. Hammerites would never fake something to press confessions out of someone, so they were probably true. I had some of them. As long as he wouldn't force me to empty my pockets, I had something against him in my hands.

I was still shaking. The room was too small to be locked inside of it. Now, when I had calmed down a little, I felt the pain again, in my entire body, in my other wounds, and now in this additional fresh one, with the cold sharp pain. Luckily it had stopped bleeding. I crawled to the corner beneath the fireplace, and squeezed myself into it. I drew my legs to my chest, and embraced them. The headache started again -- so did the ranting voices. I closed my eyes, and tried to ignore them.


- Ghost: All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun - Day 7: 10:00am

I really wasnít thinking about that money anymore, nor was I thinking of Lytha back home. The past few days had been utter hell, and I was looking forward to at least a few hours of pure fun and mischief. Sheam and I strolled a few blocks down to the Rusty Lantern Inn, owned by Lord Zeppher, a merchant and landowner who was decisively fat. It was a simple setup, front of the place faced the road, ally to the right, the next shop to the left. We could not have looked any more innocent as we strolled down the ally, and climbed up the fire escape.

"So what are you planning?" She said, grinning.

"Hm, not sure. I suppose we'll rob the place blind, bash it up a bit, and scare a few dozen guards shitless."

She laughed, and said in a very ditzy voice, "Oh dear, Mr. Thief, and what would a poor defenseless tagalong like me be doing?" She fingered the circlet and winked.

I grinned broadly. "Diversions are good."

I had always worked alone before. Then again, the stakes had never been lower. I knew this guy only hired local riffraff, who would sooner take a bribe than turn us in, even if we were caught. Even then, I trusted my combat skills, and a guard wouldn't dare harm her when they could just stare at her and gawk.

In no time flat, we were in through the window, and looking around in a vacant guest room. I quickly checked around, searching for any goodies. I heard a crash, and I quickly turned around, shocked to see Sheam dumping things out of the window!

After I stopped laughing, I said, "What are you doing?"

"Vandalizing!" she said, gleefully.

I grinned and just looked at her as she emptied the contents of the night stand onto the street below. "So," I said finally, "How did someone like you end up with a secretaryís job; especially for this Nightfall character?"

She shrugged, "Just lucky I guess." The she paused, her mood a bit changed. "Before I worked for him I was a barmaid, or wench as they liked to call me. It was the only job I could get. I tried to get better ones, believe me, but It was either that or be a servant for a rich lord and risk being molested. At least as a barmaid, I was able to fight back and not have to worry about being thrown into jail."

I grunted sympathetically. She went on.

"Well, one day my boss caught me reading on the job. For some reason he thought that it was unsightly for a wench to be doing something intelligent when there were patrons to flirt with, and I was fired. Pretty much then and there I was blacklisted from any bartending or waitress positions."

"Blacklisted from being a barmaid? That's a new one." I remarked.

She gave a little laugh. "Well it was back to the streets for me. I was squatting in an abandoned shack in the slums when he found me. Nightfall, I mean. He saw me in there, book in hand. Honestly, when I saw him in my doorway I was scared stiff. I thought for sure he was a Keeper. When I was young I remember reading tales about them, and was always frightened and fascinated by them. When I saw this shadowy person right in front of me, I was sure that this was one.

"Hum, Keepers, I heard of them once or twice. I donít believe in Ďem."

Her smile returned. "Daneel says they exist."

"Daneel? Whoís that?"

"Huh? Oh, Master Nightfall."

"Ah yes, I remember you called him that before."

She nodded. "Say, what is your real name anyway?"

I shook my head. "Ghost."

"Is that the name your mother gave you?" she said with a laugh.

"Itís the name I gave me," I said with a grin. "You were saying?"

"Hmm?"

"Nightfall, in your home?"

"Oh yes. Well, to my relief, he was very friendly. We chatted for a while, and when he was done he offered me a job in the library at The Circle. After working there for about a week, he upgraded me to secretary and aide. That was pretty much that."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

"Weird guy. So whatís it like workin' there? Is the pay good?"

"Pay is all I could ask for. I live in the lap of luxury, servants provide plenty of food, and have a job that lets me do all the reading and writing I could ever want. Have you seen the library at The Circle? Itís huge!"

"Heh, Iíll bet! So youíre livin' the good life now, eh?"

She nodded.

"How does a guy like that make it so rich? I always thought you had to be a brute and a hardass to make your way to the top. All these lords and barons and what-have-you are all just total jerks!"

"I donít know," she said shrugging. "He came about three months ago, right after that incident downtown. Remember how the old Hammer temple was destroyed by monsters?"

"Yeah."

"Well, he came a little after that. I donít know where his wealth came from, or how it sustains itself. I do know, though, that he doesn't hold very high value on money. I guess the saying about the more you have, the less it's worth, is true. Oh, you know his home in the mountains? It wasn't there before he came. It just seemed to grow up overnight. He doesn't own The Circle, he's renting it, but the repairs and redecoration he has done to it would have put most noblemen into years of debt."

"Must be nice..." Hmm, I was seriously considering working for this guy more often.

"Heís great to work with. Even though he's very distant and private, he's very personal and friendly. He always makes me feel like we're standing on equal ground."

I nodded, "Yeah, I know. So is there anything wrong with this guy? Mr. Perfect eh?"

She laughed, "Well, he can be very detached sometimes -- cold, you know; indifferent. If he sees suffering, he will usually ignore it. If they come to him, though, he will be sure they are satisfied. He likes that in people -- initiative. He says that if someone has too much pride or fear to ask for help, then they do not need it. As much as he does for people, I sometimes get the feeling that he is doing it for some hidden agenda, and not truly to be nice. However I doubt it matters, except in the long run, of course. Also, if he doesnít like you, he wonít exactly hide it." She stopped and smiled, shaking her head. "Poor Jossimer; he never can please the master."

She paused, considering. "Heís dangerous though, to his enemies at least. We donít know much about his past, only that he has been in several wars. He was a general in the last one, I think. But that was many years ago, in a very far away place. Thatís really all I know about it." She took a deep breath, and continued, slowly. "Iíve heard he practices magic, or used to, but Iíve never seen it, or heard him mention it. Iíve seen him angry before, enraged. He was ruthless. It was with good cause too but, my, one doesnít expect things like that from people who do the things that he does."

"Why? What did he do?"

She hesitated. "I donít know details. All I know was that the offender was a type of person he had absolutely no tolerance for. Most cruel men still have shreds of good in them, but there are some that donít. Nightfall will smite, as he calls it, them without hesitation."

"Nice guy," I said, half-sincere, half-sarcastic.

She smiled. "He is." Then she frowned. "Oh now I feel bad. I shouldn't have said all those horrible things about him! He's a dear and an angel and I trust him with my life," she said with a prideful grin. "Forget all that other nasty stuff."

I looked at her like she was insane, but laughed anyway, humoring her. "Oh of course, whatever you say, Sheam."

I checked around the room, to see if we had missed anything. With the exception of the bed and the wardrobe, everything in the room was now on the street. "Alrighty, Sheam, lets get down to business. Iím betting all the guards are in the bar, up front, save one in the back, who is probably bored stiff." "Lets get the guy in the back first," she said with a grin.

We casually walked out the door and down the hall. Once downstairs, we crept carefully around to the back room. We could hear the guards up front laughing and carrying on. I peeked into the back room door, and saw the guard, sitting on a stool, head down. He seemed to be singing to himself.

"Dum de dump de dum de da da, de dat de da de dada, dum dum de dumdidy dum!"

The room was packed full of supplies for the bar and inn. Crates and boxes lined all the walls to the ceiling. I knew a safe had to be in here too. I motioned to Sheam to be very quiet, and watch. I took the circlet from her hand, and clasped it around my neck. I didnít feel a thing, but I checked the skin on my wrist, pulling the glove out of the way. I was good to go.

"Dum de dat de de dada. da de dat de da de da, if I only hada brain! Heh he hehÖ"

I snuck around the perimeter of the room, taking greater care to remain utterly silent then stay in any shadows. There were none to speak of anyway. The guard grunted, and shifted his view across the side of the room opposite from where I stood. I kept moving. Finally I was behind him. I crept up slowly, then tapped his shoulder suddenly.

He turned around with a startled jerk.

"BOO!!"

"AAAHHHHH!!" He screamed and fell out of his chair. He then passed out.

I laughed so hard I nearly threw up. Sheam was rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically. I had to fight to catch my breath.

"Oh man, that worked better than I thought," I said, between fits of laughter. I took off the circlet and looked at it. "Oh damn, I LOVE this thing!!" My eyes darted around. "Anything here to steal?" She pointed to a safe on the wall, and then to the key on the guards belt. "Oh, this is too easy."

So Sheam and I had laughed ourselves silly, and split three hundred gold between the two of us. I was totally content. "My turn!" She suddenly shouted, and grabbed the circlet. "Iím gonna go have fun with the slugs up front."

With no desire to protest, I followed. After a quick stroll through a few halls, we peaked into the main tavern chamber, where three guards were seated, all totally drunk.

"Hic! Hey Larry! Paz me somo dat shit."

Larry passed a large keg, and proceeded to dump the contents on the table. The first guy took a drink of empty air.

"Hic! Well whaddya know Ė hic -- it does taste better da more ya drink!" He took another swig of air.

"Damn man, donít take alla that shit!"

"I ainít takin alla dis shit!"

"Yes you is!"

"Shuddup about shit man!" He belched loudly, and then lowered his voice, leaning forward as if to share some wisdom, "You ever tasted real shit?"

"Shit yeah I tasted shit!" Larry shouted.

"Whad it taste like?"

"It tasted like shit; what else is shit gonna taste like?"

"Umm.. I dunnoÖ "

"Hell, one time I went three weeks without takin a shit!"

"No shit?"

"No shit, no shit!"

"Sheeeiittt!!"

Sheam looked at me. I wasnít sure if she was totally disgusted or about to break into laugher. "Iíve worked at a bar for seven years, and I have never heard that conversation before."

I laughed under my breath. "No shit?" I said jokingly.

She gave me a sharp nudge with her elbow, and grinned. She took the circlet from my hand, winking. "You may want to cover your eyes until Iím out of arms reach," she said with a grin.

I closed one eye, and left the other one open a hair. Unfortunately she turned around right before she put it on, and all I got to see was her hair change from dirty blond to bright gold. She walked out into the bar.

"Hey there boys!" She shouted, as they started hooting and hollering when they saw her. One of them got up and motioned to grab her, and she let fly a kick that sent him staggering away! The other two laughed like mad, which didnít last long, because she took them by the hair, and smacked their heads into the table! The first one got back up, raving like a lunatic, and charged her! She leapt up and whipped her shoe across his cheek, sending him flying in my direction. I caught the guy, turned him to face me, and screamed into his face at the top of my lungs. He screamed back, half because he was startled, half because he was so incredibly drunk! I then threw him back at Sheam, and she finished him off with a sock to the back of his head. But then the other two started to wake up! She grabbed one of them by the scruff of the neck, dragged him over to the bar, flung him OVER the bar, and into the rows of bottles and glasses. She then took the third guy in the same manor, and used his head to break the table clean in half, dropping him to the floor when she was done. She dusted herself off, and removed the circlet. She hadnít even broken into a sweat. All I could do was applaud!

"Thank you, thank you." She grinned, taking a dramatic bow. "You can tell, Iíve wanted to do that so badly all my life. Filthy bar scum!" She stretched her back, legs, and arms, so utterly satisfied.

"Now where did a delicate creature like you learn how to fight like that?"

"Like that? Heh, that was nothing. They were so drunk a child could have done the same."

"You um, you didnít really need that thing, did you." I had thought that she was going to use it to distract them with her looks, but it seems I was wrong."

"No, I just wanted it to get stuck in their heads that they were beat silly by a striking young lass." She grinned. "Theyíll never think of wenches the same way again!"

"That is, if they remember any of this when they wake up!" I said, laughing.

"Oh, drat, true. Ah well, I still enjoyed it." She kicked the one who broke the table.

"So who trained you?"

"Nightfall did, but he told me to never give him credit. Oh, oops."

I shook my head, amazed. "Say, grab a bottle off that shelf. I owe you a drink."

She sat down next to me, and kicked my shin. "You do it, I ainít yer barmaid!" she said with a laugh.

Complying, I fetched a tall bottle of imported wine, and two glasses. "Hey, if itís on the house, may as well cut to the top, eh?"

"But of course!" She sipped her wine.

"So, " I said, "What else did Nightfall teach you?"

"Well, martial arts, of course. I never was very thrilled with sneaking around, it just doesnít sit right with me. I can kick-box, like you saw. Thatís the only unarmed combat I do. Fencing, of course. Quarterstaff was the first thing I learned -- bows as well, though I never really got the hang of it. Someone else is teaching me right now different languages. I've always loved to read, so I've always known a bit more then the average person. Most of the stuff Iíve learned while working for Nightfall has not come from him, per se, but from cataloging the stuff in the Circle, and reading the books there."

Hmm... she was peaking my curiosity. "Not to be nosy, but this Nightfall sounds very, interesting. Is there anything else you can tell me about him?" She cleared her throat. "Not much to tell, really. Heís extremely private and secretive. I have full access to The Circle, but have only seen a fraction of the interior of his tower."

Time to let fly the question I had been pondering. "So, why did Nightfall want Lytha rescued anyway? I mean, sheís never met him! What does he want with her?"

She shook her head. "I canít speak for him. Knowing him, I doubt that he truly wants anything from her. Iíve never known him to really want anything from anyone, in the way you are thinking of. My best guess would be that he heard that she was wrongfully convicted, and saw the need to save her life."

I was truly stunned. "You mean, he risked my life to save someone who wasnít even important?"

"Not at all. He hired you. You didnít have to take the job, but the price was right and you did."

She was right of course. "Hmmm," I said. "I had better be getting back home."

"Yes, and my break was over an hour ago," She said with a grin. "It was a pleasure getting to know you, Mr. Ghost. I know Iíll be seeing you again soon."

"Indeed!"

At that, we left through the front door, and went on our separate ways. No doubt when the owner gets home, the guards will all be flogged for getting drunk, getting into a fight, and then passing out. I wondered which one he would accuse of stealing the cash out of the safe. "I saw a ghost!" the guard in the back room would say, and my wouldnít there be fun then. Ahh, the beauty of a job well done! I went home amused, relaxed, and slightly richer than I had been several hours ago. Hopefully Lytha wouldnít rain on my good day.

Then I remembered the letter! I hadnít given it to Sheam to take to Nightfall! Damn. Oh well, I had gotten a little more information on why he rescued her. Iím sure she would be happy for just that.

I decided that since I had a decent heap of spare cash in my pocket, I should treat Lytha to a good meal. I was sure she hadn't eaten well in quite some time, and I knew there wasn't much food at my place, so I stopped at a corner market and grabbed some goodies for us to munch on. It was getting late. I hadn't meant to leave her alone so long. I was starting to feel guilty about goofing off with Sheam, even though we had a lot of fun doing it.

Returning home, I found a note stuck to the door.

"The Hammerites are having a major meeting at the main Temple in town tomorrow nightÖ Perhaps you should go pay them a visit."
It was signed "The woman in the alley." Oh great, her again. If there is one thing I hate about this business, itís that no one uses names. Well she said that I needed to save Ragbert, and I didnít manage to do that, so I guess this is her idea of a good vengeance for me. The idea wasnít half bad.

Turning the key in the lock of my door, it clicked unlocked. I was ready to invite Lytha to a good meal, but instead what I saw stripped off any good mood I had left.

"What the hell? What did you do to my house?" was all I could say (scream was more like it,) as I dropped the bag of food on the table and slammed the door. It looked like the Hammers had come in looking for me, except that most of the furniture was still unbroken, but moved, and papers and junk were everywhere. My rage died down and turned into sympathy quickly when I spotted her. She was curled up in the corner with her knees brought up to her face, shaking and crying. Yelling at her wasn't helping at this point. She looked nothing short of psychotic, her clothes were in tatters, her red hair was looking pretty wild and her green eyes were red from not sleeping and crying. Hey, more green eyes. If staring could kill someone those green eyes would have killed me. She had had some kind of breakdown and from the looks of it I was probably responsible. I walked over slowly, took her hand and knelt down in front of her.

"You okay?"

She nodded slightly -- a good sign. She was bleeding again, her right arm had opened up, and she looked like hell. Maybe I should have gotten her some health potion after all. Maybe Sheam would give me a flask on the house.

"You need to eat something so you can start to get better. Can you walk to the couch?"

She nodded again and started to try to stand. She was too weak to be really mobile so I helped her to the couch, once I put it back where it was supposed to be.

"It's no wonder you're too weak to move, it must have drained you to destroy my house like this," I grinned, hoping the cheerfulness would get a response out of her, but it only seemed to confuse her. I helped her to the couch and set out the food. It wasn't much, just some chicken and some fresh veggies, but it was more than sheís seen in days. Lytha just looked at it, strangely uninterested. Maybe she was still too mad at me to eat.

"At least eat a little. If you feel like eating a lot you can do that too."

She seemed to smile a little and grabbed a carrot. We ate in relative silence. She put down more than I thought she would, which was good. She broke the silence with something that caught me off guard.

"Ghost..."

- Chapter 8 - A Change of Pace / Chapter 10 - A Coming Together, and a Ripping Apart

Correspondence of Thieves copyright, 2000, Steve Tremblay, Lytha, James Sterrett, Alexandria Thomson, and Daniel Todd.