With the recent demise of the Mechanists, and the City Watch being under the conservative leadership of Sheriff Mosley, I have decided it’s safe to be seen on the streets again. Traveling in the shadows may be necessary when stealing precious jewels, but hardly tolerable when simply going out for a drink. Speaking of which, I’ll be having a drink with an old contact from Hightowne tonight. Jonas Thyrnebeck is an art dealer who has had his share of financial ups and downs. During the rough patches he is often contracted by wealthy clientele to obtain hard to get works of art. When conventional means are exhausted and the deadline is approaching, Jonas comes knocking on my door. He has a wife and two kids to support; I can’t help but feel sorry for him sometimes. All the more reason to never get attached, poor taffer will never learn.
When I walked in the Crippled Burrick Pub, the smell of tipple filled my nostrils. It’s been far too long since I’ve had the opportunity to have a drink, what with my expulsion into Shalebridge by the City Watch. Memories of drunken ballads and the occasional bar fight trickled through my mind as a familiar face caught my eye. I zoomed in to see Jonas having what seemed to be much-needed ale thanks to the dark circles under his eyes. Evidence of the definite lack of sleep caused by the recent dilemma he has been thrown in.
Looking upon Jonas’ stein again, I was made aware of my parched mouth. To appease my thirst I glanced over the menu:
Mead (available in bowls)
I ordered a goblet of lager and slipped into the chair opposite Jonas.
After clearing my throat abruptly, Jonas shook his head from the depression he sunk himself into and looked at me. A slight crevice broke free from his lips. “Hello, old friend, thank you for coming on such short notice. So, how’s life been treating you?”
“You look like hell. What’s been on your mind, Jonas?” I was never one for small talk.
“Yes, yes. Straight to business.”
Jonas seemed disappointed with the gruff introduction; I guess that makes sense since we haven’t seen each other in awhile. Oh well, as they say, let sleeping dogs lie.
“A stiff-necked nobleman came into my office three weeks ago, his profession escapes me at the moment, they’re all arrogant taffers in any case. He spoke profoundly of Durant and practically fell into tears because he failed to see his latest painting in my gallery. I reminded him that ‘A Summer’s Love Forever Gone’ has only been released for public viewing in Durant’s private gallery. He pretended to know of this privileged information already. Which, of course, makes no sense for him to come to me if he knew only Durant’s gallery held the painting. The rich make me so nauseated sometimes.”
Thyrnebeck took a stiff swig of his ale and slammed it hard on the table. My eyes traveled over the Pub, hoping the noise didn’t catch any unwanted attention. Everyone seemed to be too deep in their own thoughts to notice a disgruntled art dealer.
“Where was I?” The question caught me off guard as I looked back in Jonas’ direction.
“The Durant painting.”
“Oh yes, that’s right. So, anyways, this bloody taffer rambled on about it being his duty to own Durant’s latest installation and how a simple art dealer such as myself won’t taint his family’s honour. Unfortunately for me, their honour is powerful enough to shut down my business. As I recall, now that it comes back to me, he is a landowner. Of course, thanks to my lousy luck he has to own the land my office resides on. To further my luck, he has threatened to shut down my art dealership if I don’t get my hands on this painting by the end of the week.” He pounded his forefinger into the table three times to emphasize the urgency of the situation.
All the pertinent information was filtered through my mind as I calculated the overall difficulty, necessary supplies like keys and floor plans, security measures I’d be dealing with, and potential contacts. Figures and numbers tumbled about until a rough estimate was agreed upon.
“With a hit this secure, and the limited time given, it’s gonna have to be worth it. How much is coming my way?”
“How does twenty five percent of thirty-two thousand sound?”
Eight thousand gold. Much higher than I anticipated. Exhilaration pulsed through my body as I remembered what it felt like to be a thief again. For the first time in a good while I wasn’t being hired to take down a fanatic cult or blackmail ranking officials. Finally, back to the basics of what a thief is all about…stealing from the rich and giving to myself.
“I’ll do it.” Jonas’ face lit up with delight as he slumped back into his chair, thanks to the weight just lifted off his shoulders.
“I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am. Thank you.” Thyrnebeck shook his head in joyous disbelief plastered with a peaceful grimace.
Although I was glad to see Jonas at peace, my wandering mind couldn’t help but think about the next order of business, the delivery. A package this valuable has to be handed off in a discrete location. Delivery by mail leaves too many paper trails. Especially with something this massive, assuming Durant’s latest work is as large as his earlier pieces. Of course, how I plan on taking the blasted thing out of the mansion unnoticed is beyond me, but I’ll deal with that when I have a layout of the mansion. For now I needed to arrange a meeting place for the delivery.
“How big is the painting?”
Jonas’ eyes searched the air for the measurements. “Five feet high and eight feet wide.”
Trying hard not to drop my jaw in disbelief, I imagined myself carrying something that substantial. I’ll have to remove the picture from its frame and roll the canvas onto a pole, collapsible, of course. That way it won’t be folded when I carry it around, thus preventing any wrinkling that could damage the paint. Ropes can be fashioned to the ends of the pole to act as a shoulder strap so carrying it won’t be so troublesome. However, dodging the bluecoats while totting around an object twice my size is another story all together. Tromping through the sewers would keep me hidden from wary glances, but the moisture could damage the painting. Falling onto the art of disguise, the canvas could be cleverly covered in a supply wagon making its regular deliveries. However, when the City Watch is informed of the robbery they may be a mite suspicious to see a massive canvas being delivered to an art dealer’s shop. My mind ached with the endless options until the length of the painting came to light again. A canvas that size being rolled up would look very much like a tapestry. Better yet, why not roll a tapestry around the canvas. Delivering it to a tapestry shop shouldn’t peak any curiosity. There is a shop in Newmarket where a tapiser makes and sells tapestries, some of which he purchases from other sources. It is a stone’s throw away from Jonas so, before the robbery, he could visit the shop and peruse the woven wonders. After requesting a sold out tapestry to be ordered, he would inquire who purchased the last one. I could then snatch this tapestry from the unsuspecting owner and send it with the canvas to the tapiser’s workshop. When Jonas picks up his order he can reattach the canvas to a new frame, putting both his business in the clear and money into my pocket.
Informing Thyrnebeck of my intentions caused his once drab face to explode with sheer bliss. “What a capital idea! Hauxleye would be most pleased to see me again; I haven’t bought one of his wall hangings since the opening of my gallery. First thing tomorrow, I’ll pay the lad a visit. My courier will notify you as to any tapestries that were sold out and the names of the buyers. Your share will be handed over when suitable means come to light.”
When Jonas is my acting fence, the payoff is typically immense as demanded by the loot being sought after. Therefore, discretion must be ensured when transfer of funds occurs. Carrying around bulging bags overflowing with gold coins might strike a wrong note with the bulldogs. And slogging through the damp sewers from Hightowne to Shalebridge with a heavy load is even less appealing. So, we are forced to take thoroughfares. Typically, Jonas reveals these middle passages shortly after the item is sold. It basically comes down to faith and patience. The latter of which my profession demands, but the former has been a working progress. Circumstances I’ve been thrown into recently have certainly required much faith in others, mostly the Keepers.
Speaking of which, I was allowed to see a Keeper library, under close supervision of course. The Keepers, apparently unsure of my loyalties, only allowed me to read the lesser prophecies. Staring at the pages riddled with glyphs brought back memories of my acolyte years and the all-familiar headaches, so I was only able to read a chapter or two. Putting down the book, I was frustrated with the lack of content and meaning in the prophecies I read. And having countless Keepers watching me closely from their shadowy comfort made me regret ever coming.
“This was a mistake.” I knew someone was listening, but I didn’t care. On my way out, Keeper Nate stopped me.
“You must have patience, Garrett.”
“I didn’t come here to learn patience. I came here to learn the truth. Now get out of my way.”
Nate came closer and whispered in my ear, “There’s a book we’ve been translating for quite some time. It speaks of Karras and his destruction briefly, but for the most part it speaks of events yet to come. And Garrett, your name is mentioned, which is why I brought you here. Sadly, there are those in the Keeper Council that don’t share my sentiment. To put it simply, they don’t trust you.”
Typical. It’s just like them to second-guess their fated saviour, simply because of a difference in opinion.
“Fine, if they want to second guess my abilities, that’s their problem. But just remind them that I already saved the City twice, without their damn help, so maybe it’s not such a bad idea to trust ‘the betrayer’. I’ll show myself to the door.”
Startled out of my thoughts, I apologized, “Sounds like a plan, but just promise me one thing, Jonas.”
He looked at me with anticipation. “Sure, anything.”
“Get some sleep.”
Scattered stars began to light up the night sky as I made my way down the deserted alley. I looked at every doorway carefully until I found what I wanted. Since no others had one, seeing a lock on this backdoor acknowledged it was the right place. Unsheathing my lock picks I made quick work of the second-rate lock. Easing the door forward I surveyed the area for any movement. A flash of blue and silver caught my attention. I was relieved to find it was just a bluecoat passing by one of the front windows. Then, I realized that going through the back door was safest. I don’t have time to avoid Watch patrols; Gloria will be hitting the streets within the hour. Remembering the warmth of her lips and spell casting eyes, it’s no wonder this underground brothel hired her.
Although Truart came down hard on prostitution, he never declared it illegal. Surprisingly, his successor, a woman who is more devoted to the law than he, has continued the tradition. But instead of filling Cragscleft with hookers, Mosley has ordered the City Watch Vice to keep tabs on bawdyhouses that may be using prostitutes to acquire information from their prosperous clientele. Last year a Wayside trollop, Madame Volari, was giving a dock master some serious attention. When a merchant reported a case of vintage wine as stolen, Vice shut down Volari’s employer. Hitherto, streetwalkers have taken desperate precautions to throw the bulldogs off their scent. Gloria, for instance, has familiarized herself with the City’s sewer system. Although this usually forces her to visit a bathhouse before she meets with her patrons, it allows her to safely travel all over the City.
When casing the First City Bank and Trust I overheard some beggars romanticizing about a beautiful woman walking out of the sewers. At the time, I dismissed the notion as misguided, but since Durant lives in North Quarter I gave it some serious thought upon leaving the Crippled Burrick Pub last night. So, early this morning I set out for North Quarter to ascertain whether this “sewer goddess” was going to see Durant. During my search for clues a beggar asked me for spare change. After palming him a halfpenny I queried about the woman that has been seen leaving the sewers at nights. Although he knew nothing about it he did mention a friend that claims to have seen such a person. The friend, who called himself Alexander, informed me that he watched this mysterious female exiting the sewers three nights before he started to follow her. She led him to a gate door behind which was Durant’s mansion. Placing two pence into Alexander’s beggar’s bowl I questioned what the woman looked like. His description, without a doubt, belonged to Gloria.
When last I saw Gloria she was working at this harem, the whore keep of which was the notorious Robert Northrop. A book resting on a nearby table broke my incessant daydreaming. The cover was inscribed in gold print, “Northrop’s Boarding House – Room Assignments”. Fumbling through the pages I landed on one listing room number six being Gloria’s. Traversing the winding staircase, muffled preparation for the night’s house calls echoed throughout the hallway. Behind the door marked with a black six, entrancing whistling danced gently amongst the commotion. Turning the knob slowly, I tossed my scouting orb into the room. A blurry flash filtered into my mechanical eye. The scene transmitted to me displayed a woman sitting at her vanity. Combing her brunette hair intently, there seemed to be no immediate threat of unwanted screaming. Disconnecting my eye from the orb I eased into the room, gently closing the door behind me. Crouching to the ground, I crawled up to my orb and reached out to pick it up.
“Hello, Garrett.” Her comment sent chills up my spine.
She quickly turned around to look at me slumped on the ground. “What do you want? If you wanna screw, you’re going to have to make an appointment.”
Trying to maintain what little dignity I had left, I got up off the floor. “Uhm…I’m here to find out what you know about Durant’s place. I hear he has great taste when it comes to his mistresses.”
“How did you know- -?” A puzzled look fell upon her face only to be washed away by a seductive glare. “Garrett, you sweet thing, are you stalking me?”
“Don’t flatter yourself; you’re a reliable contact. You were, after all, able to map out Truart’s estate for me.”
“You mean, ‘Norman Druart’!? I still can’t believe he was the Sheriff.” Reminiscing for a moment, Gloria’s eyes suddenly became enraged. “That heartless bastard dropped me for that gutter snipe Volari! Giving you the layout was a personal favor! I’m glad the taffer’s dead. And poor Volari is out of a job, thanks to Sheriff Mosley.”
Gloria chuckled under her breath. “But this Durant fella…he’s good business. It’ll cost ya this time.”
Rummaging through my shoulder pocket, I grabbed a pouch of gold and tossed it on her bed. “Fifty gold.” A night with Gloria was only worth a copper bar, she’d be delirious to turn down the offer.
Gloria’s hand lunged at the pouch and tore it open, her eyes glistened at the sight of the gold.
“Deal.” Gloria’s eyes reluctantly looked back up at me. “What do you want to know?”
Darkness withdrew from the table as I lit my gas lamp. Staring down at the floor plans Gloria drew up, I pondered over entry points and the security contingents.
There are two balconies at opposite ends of the gallery floor. After rolling the canvas onto the pole, I can exit through one of those balconies. Since the gallery is on the second floor a swig of slow-fall potion should keep me from limping home. There’s a secret passage that Gloria uses that will make for a silent retreat.
Since Durant lives in North Quarter, which is on the east side of the river, it won’t be safe to walk back home carrying the oversized canvas for all to see. Fortunately, one of my trusted fences, Sebastian Eisendrath, lives in the area. Sebastian is in the shipping industry and every day he brings processed goods down to Wayside Dock, Dayport, and Newmarket. Once we dock at Newmarket, Eisendrath’s shipment, including the tapestry hiding the canvas, can be unloaded onto an available supply wagon. Since Newmarket is a port of call for all riverside districts, finding a supply wagon shouldn’t be a problem.
Looking back at the crude map I searched for a way to get into the mansion.
When I had back in her room, Gloria had pointed out a side door being the best entrance due to the lack of guard activity.
“It’ll most likely be locked,” She commented. “But that shouldn’t be a problem for a master thief. However, the door to the main gallery is unpickable and locked at all times. Durant bragged about it when he showed me his works. Oh, and Durant is the only one with a key, he’s pretty damn paranoid.”
Alerted to the situation, my eyes passed from the plans to her. “Can you make a wax impression of the gallery key while he’s sleeping?”
“Hrmmf. I don’t know, that’s gonna be tricky. I’ll do it if you steal something for me.”
Rolling my eyes in disgust I eventually conceded, “What?”
“He adores this jade statue he got from his wife. I hate how he talks about her all the time when that dumb things around. I want it out of that room, I can’t take it anymore. It should fetch a tidy price...”
“Fine. Do we have a deal?”
“Yes. When do you want me to give you the copy?”
“Has he made an appointment to see you anytime this week?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. Two days from now.”
Sighing in relief, I calculated the future drop-off. It’s not safe yet for any visitors at my new apartment, I have yet to familiarize myself with the neighborhood. Showing up in Gloria’s room was a spur of the moment thing due to the limited time I’ve been given. I don’t want to make a habit of taking house calls. She’ll have to leave it in a pouch and leave it somewhere for me to pick up later, but where?
“The sewers!” The outburst startled Gloria almost as much as it did me. Shaking off the embarrassment, I continued.
“You know the sewers very well. After you copy the key put it in a pouch and hang it in the sewers near Durant’s place.” During my preparation for the heist at the bank, I made sure I knew all of the underground tunnels. Many of which ran directly under Durant’s mansion, so I should have no problem finding the key and not get lost.
Gloria chewed on the notion for a while. “There’s another client in North Quarter that I’m gonna be meeting with the day after I see Durant. When I’m in the sewers going to that guy’s place I’ll try and remember to put the copy on one of the pipes running along the walls. You sure you’ll be able to find it?”
“Just try and remember to hang it on the pipes. I’ll take care of my end.” Having abruptly concluded our business, I rolled up the makeshift map and made my way to her door.
“Garrett.” I stopped in mid stride, hoping she hadn’t changed her mind due to my obvious rudeness. “Don’t be a stranger.”
I wasn’t surprised to feel a smirk creep across my face; she’s an exceptionally good kisser.
Scattered clumps of City Watch day patrols were wandering about aimlessly as I arrived at my destination. The weathered sign over the door read, “Antiquities and Relics”, but it was only a front for a Pagan smuggling outpost. Since Karras’ creations were responsible for their late leader’s death and his demise was a result of my actions, the Pagans saw me as their avenger. With this newborn relationship at my call I felt it necessary to acquaint myself with their various outposts within the City. This one, which I only found out about last week, happened to be on my way to New Quarter.
A door chime christened the still night air upon my entrance. As I perused the contents of the many glass-walled display cases I could feel the storeowner’s eyes piercing into my shrouded hood.
“Relax, if I wanted to rob you, I wouldn’t have walked through the front door.” My words certainly halted the owner’s prodding stare.
“Me thoughtsie it was thee, sneaksie fellow. What cansie I getsie for thee?”
“What kind of a selection do you have for crystals and potions?”
“Me thinksie we have selection wondrous, follow.” After manipulating a statue of Viktoria, a secret door was revealed. The narrow hallway we proceeded through opened up to a hidden room filled with smuggled supplies. In each corner there was a facemask, representing one of the four elemental spirits, hanging on the wall. Under the masks were transparent columns filled with various substances. Beneath the Water elemental the pillar was filled with water. Earth column with soil, Fire with lava, and Air contained a white mist.
Glancing at a pillar in the center of the room, an oddity captured my sights. It appeared to be some sort of a cocoon. Noticing my intense gaze, the Pagan offered an explanation.
“New creation this is. Egg bringsies forth spiders many. Whatsie with all man fools buying demon metal eyes. Spiders spinsies webs over themsies eyes and seesies no more! Even in the Woodsie Lord’s silence, his wisdom blessies us.”
My host smiled with great pride as he gently stroked the cocoon.
I thought about what Gloria said about the painting being well lit and heavily guarded – three guards and a mechanical face. Taking care of the guards should be easy enough. But, if what she said about Durant’s paranoia is true, he probably won’t have a shut-off switch for the face, let alone the lights.
“This only onesie we have. Six hundred goodsies; no gold.” Pointing to an inked sign on the wall it read, “Sings we a dances of wolfs, who smells fear and slays the coward. Sings we a dances of mans, who smells gold and slays his brother.”
I’ve been to two other Pagan smuggling outposts since the incident at Soulforge and they all post the same saying. Anticipating this obstacle in advance I “borrowed” some spice from the Supervisor at Rampone Dockside Shipping. For some time now, J. Osterlind has been carrying out a spice smuggling operation with Captain Davidson, a well-known pirate. I stumbled upon it when the Mechanists were beginning to take over Building-B. The Mechanist presence delivered a hard blow to the smuggling, unfortunately. After the death of Karras, however, Building-B was quickly deserted, so I dropped by to see if the spice was flowing again. As expected, the Supervisor’s office was flooded with spice deliveries, most probably making up for lost time. Building-B was so crowded with spice I was doing Osterlind a favor by opening up some storage space.
At one point in time, spice was grown in the City, but when the Mechanists and their industries arrived, all flora including spice was choked out. Thus, spice smuggling was born. Even though the Mechanist-generated pollution has decreased since the sabotage, spice still has difficulty reestablishing itself.
In any case, thanks to Osterlind I was carrying two thousand goods in spice. Which made my aching back pleased to hear the cocoon would relieve me of six hundred. Handing over the appropriate amount, I picked up the cocoon and placed it in my pack.
Grazing over the columns I became confused, “Where are your crystals?”
“What be your wish creepsie fellow?”
Figuring the Pagan wasn’t wasting my time with his forward question, “Umm… one Air, four Water, and two Earth Crystals.” A well-placed gas arrow should take out two of the three guards watching the painting. Depending on the final guard’s position I’ll either use my blackjack or a broadhead. Not many Water and Earth Crystals were needed since there is a surplus in my closet. Although light stepping can be more cost effective than buying Earth Crystals, Gloria did inform me of Durant’s obsession with marble.
Opening a vine-infested crate, the Pagan carried seven crystalline items over to the water column. Tossing four into the top of the column, a short prayer was muttered under his breath. Within moments, four Water Crystals emerged from the base. The process was repeated for the Air and Earth Crystals at their respective columns.
Handing the Crystals over, he displayed his decaying teeth in a gruesome grin, “This be nine hundred and fifty goodsies. Buysies anything else?”
Shaking off the utter surprise from the Pagan’s crystal creation, I palmed him the money. “Yes…uhh…a slow-fall potion.”
Placing the short-necked flask filled with blue liquid into my sack, I thought about the brown and green colored potions. I only had three hundred in spice remaining and they were either close to or above my limit. Fortunately, being the master thief that I am, my healing and invisibility potions rarely get used up. There is one of each in my closet and they’ve never been drunk since purchasing them three months ago. I’ve always wondered if potions lose their power after being ignored for such a long time.
Gingerly tossing my now heavy pack onto my back, I gave my regards to the Pagan and staggered out the front door.
Conveniently located next to my favorite pub, Vladimir Brodhof’s weapon depot has made thievery a very motivated endeavor. Having downed a shot of whiskey to keep me awake, I briskly walked down the stairs and headed for the door overshadowed by a sign displaying helm and breastplate armour.
“Hasasf!” Vladimir greeted me with open arms as I slid into his store. “It’s been too long, you silly taffer!”
“Business has been slow.” To protect him and myself from City Watch investigators, Brodhof only knows me as Hasasf Dafoe, a big game hunter and archaeologist.
“Yeah, those damn gear-heads sure did a number on the bandersnatch population. If it hadn’t been for the explosion at Soulforge, I would’ve personally demolished that taffing cathedral. But, enough with the past. What brings you this way? Certainly not just paying a visit, eh?” Being quite a hefty man, his playful nudge to my shoulder practically knocked me to the ground.
“Actually, fate has showed me favor. Hightowne Museum has contracted me to retrieve some artifacts from Karath-Din.” It wasn’t a complete lie since Jonas was from Hightowne.
Vladimir whistled in a high-strung manner. “Well, looks like I have an upper crust bedfellow in my midst. What can my modest establishment do to meet your needs, my lord?” He bowed facetiously.
His laughter filled the room as I silently rolled my eyes. Trying to return to the reason I came here, I pulled out my list of needed supplies and handed it to Brodhof.
It read, “Two flash bombs, a flash mine, six broadhead arrows, and twenty arrow shafts.”
After glancing over the papyrus, he looked over at a crate, “Actually, I just received a shipment of broadhead arrows and arrow shafts.”
The wooden crate, not yet opened, had a shipping label on the top. Imprinted into the metal plate was the following:
Ship from: Kilgor Weapon Smithing
Ship to: Vladimir’s Arms and Armour
Venik Kilgor, his cousin, is Vladimir’s primary supplier of armour, swords, and arrows. Forcing the cover off with a crowbar, Brodhof rummaged through the packaging material until he let out an exclamation.
“Found them!” Placing the two boxes – one labeled “broadheads” and the other “shafts” – onto a table he opened them to reveal three-dozen or so arrows. “Pick out the ones you like. I’m going to go find the flash bombs and mine.”
After I selected the sturdiest shafts and broadheads, Vladimir returned with the bombs and mine. With a confused look on his face, he placed the items on the counter.
“That’ll be one thousand even.” Handing over the cash, Brodhof locked the gold in a vault behind him. “If you don’t mind me asking, what are the flash weapons for?”
Thinking quickly I came up with a suitable explanation, “An informant has warned me of there being pirates seeking for treasure in the Lost City. So, if I run into them, these bombs should provide enough of a distraction for me to escape.”
“Smart lad. But if I hear you’ve gone missing down there, those bastards will have to answer to me.” Puffing himself up, he pounded on his chest.
“Thanks, Vladimir. I’ll be sure to watch my back.”
Picking me up in a firm embrace, he wished me well and I stumbled out into the streets.
Relieving my back from the stress of the massive supply pack, I shut my apartment door behind me. I headed straight for my bed. Its feathery softness collapsed under my exhausted weight. Trying to clear my mind of the endless walking on hard cobblestone, a grim reminder crept into my head. Jonas’ courier had been scheduled to drop by sometime today. Since I wasn’t here, he probably just slid the note under my door. Forcing my limp body out of the comfort of my bed I could see the long strip of parchment lying on the floor. At my desk, I lit a lamp and squinted as the brightness tore at my tired eye. The paper was riddled with jumbled letters so I pulled out my skytale - it’s twin owned by Jonas – and entwined the paper around the rod. With my mechanical eye fully alert I tried to focus it on the now coherent scribblings before me:
My distinguished colleague,Not only will I get to steal a one-of-a-kind from a renowned artist, but be blessed with the opportunity to rob the president of the City’s wealthiest bank; all within the next two days. Grimacing as I made my way back to the comfort of my bed I thought to myself, it’s about time ‘life after Karras’ threw me some bones I could sharpen my teeth with.
The next morning I went down to Geerardt’s market to get some breakfast in me before heading off for North Quarter. I’m just glad Flemion’s manor is in the same quarter as Durant’s, the last thing I want to do is carry a stolen rug half way across the City. After eating a loaf of bread and two apples I went back to my room to pack all my supplies. Reaching into my closet I pulled out my cloak and laid it on my bed. Gathering all my supplies I pondered over which to put in the folds of my cloak, to use at Flemion’s, and which to store away in my backpack, for Durant’s. I glanced over the items sprawled on the ground: one Air Crystal, fourteen Water Crystals, nine Earth Crystals, twenty-four arrow shafts, two rope arrows, one noisemaker arrow, eighteen broadhead arrows, one invisibility potion, one slow-fall potion, one healing potion, four flash bombs, one flash mine, and the spider egg. Splitting the Water Crystals and flash bombs in half may be wise, so I’ll only bring seven crystals and two bombs to Flemion’s manor. Three Earth Crystals should be enough, leaving six for Durant’s which should be paved with marble. Obviously, all the arrows and shafts will be taken to both mansions, so I sheathed them in my quiver. The shafts were rigged so that the crystals could be quickly slotted and fastened. My instincts tell me to be concerned about Durant’s supposed paranoia and save the important items for that night. So, I placed the three potions, flash mine, and the spider egg, and strapped down the Air Crystal, in my backpack. Choosing to bring a few luxuries I tossed in a bedroll
After dressing in appropriate garb I put on my back scabbard. But before sheathing my sword, I grabbed my pack and bow and mounted them on my back. For concealment purposes, I strapped the loaded quiver around the side of my right leg. Finally, I donned my now heavy cloak and slid an opening on the back through the handle of my sword. I pulled my tunic down from over my head and draped it over the handle to disguise it. Checking in the mirror for any loose utilities I was relieved to find none. Running through a mental inventory in my head I decided I had everything and left my apartment.
Once I arrive in North Quarter I’ll have to rent a rowboat. Flemion was kind enough to purchase some canal-side property. The rowboat will allow me a quick getaway once I swipe the tapestry. Unfortunately, Durant’s manor is landlocked, but I can always retreat to the sewers if I run into any surprises. Hopefully I can still remember the layout of the sewers from when I cased the bank. I’ll know for sure when I go to look for the key Gloria left for me.
North Quarter’s street markets were booming by the time I showed up in the late afternoon. Haggles and hassles bellowed all around me as I searched for the local boathouse. Two oars criss-crossed on a sign notified me of my destination. There was a dilapidated booth owned by a weathered old coot dutifully tarnishing a pair of oars nearing their retirement. Taking care not to disrupt his workings I approached his booth in silence.
“Well, whut the hell d’you want?”
“Um…I was wondering how much it’d cost to rent a rowboat for a couple of days.”
“Couple uh days, eh?” His skeptical eyes scanned my questionably dark outfit. “Whut you plannin’ on usin’t fo’?”
Damn, the little sod’s starting to get on my nerves. “I work for the bank and I was asked to negotiate a deal with an unusually difficult client in Shalebridge.”
“Whut’s wit’ da cloak n’ dagger get up?”
“The client isn’t aware of the negotiations…yet.”
“Heh heh. I like how you wurk, lad. But seein’ you wurk fer da bank I’m sure you’re pay’ds well…so, one hund’ed gold shouldn’t be uh probl’m.”
If it weren’t for all the witnesses I’d make him lower his price with my dagger. But, being left with the money in my pocket I realized I couldn’t possibly afford it. So, I was forced to sink to the level of a pickpocket to pay the taffer.
“Sadly, I get my paycheck after the negotiations, so I’m gonna have to get some more money. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”
“You gots ten.”
Measuring my pace with that of my victim’s I kept within reaching range and slowed my breathing to a whisper. Stretching out my left arm I lightly lifted the pouch, its weight satisfying my greedy desire. Playing a silent game in my head I wagered how much was hidden within. Rounding up, I estimated thirty. Unsheathing my blackened dagger, I aimed for the dangling strings before me. With a swift backward slash of my dagger the purse relieved itself from its previous owner and leapt into my waiting palm. To avoid notice from the late purse bearer of the sudden loss in weight I jolted forward and rubbed up against his side. While doing so, I quickly slipped the prize into my front pocket and flipped my weapon out of view. Turning as I veered off to the right I uttered my apologies. Smiling politely the now poorer gentleman waved me on in forgiving gestures. A grin of pride painted my face as I walked into a nearby alley. Reaching for the moneybag, I peered about me to see that all was clear. Finding nothing of concern I opened my present. Counting the coins before me I plateaud at twenty-four. Off by six. Damn, I’m just that good.
Searching the crowded street for more prey, my metal eye fell upon a chunky fellow. His purse, ready to burst, mimicked the condition of his houppelande. Thanks to his obesity I won’t have to bump into him after swiping his cash. After all, what are a few ounces to a man with such…influence. Leaving the comfort of the shaded alley behind me I set my sights on the bulging purse. As I grew closer, the difficulty of the situation began to sink in. His body rolls were blocking my view of the goal. If I slash at what may be the strings I run the risk of missing and have a very upset, very large problem to deal with. Matching my speed with his I decided to try untying the pouch. Reaching into the shadows of the nobleman’s fatness the cloth treasure rubbed up against my skin. Sighing with relief, I began manipulating the leather straps. If anyone were paying attention to the position I was in it would look very obvious, not to mention embarrassing. Fortunately, the bands seemed to be giving way under my movements. A sudden mass fell into my palm and I cheered silently. Turning aside, my stride picked up to escape the peculiar dilemma I almost landed myself into. So my dipping in and out of the crowd wouldn’t look too suspicious, this time I entered a sidewalk shop. By the weight of the purse I guessed at its worth in cash…a little over seventy. Having sauntered into a bakery I pretended to ponder over some honey-covered rolls. Dipping into the fat man’s purse I gave the appearance of someone waging the wise ness of buying the rolls. Tugging on the purse strings its gleaming contents shined brightly. Seventy-two in gold and five in gems. Disguising my ecstasy with disappointment, I moped my way back out into the streets. Once doing so, the silenced bliss displayed itself proudly. If it weren’t for the game, playing the cutpurse would be a tiresome endeavor. With less than a minute to spare, I made my way back to the boathouse.
By late afternoon, I rowed up to my destination. Gauging from the position of the sun, I have a few hours before nightfall. So, I won’t have time to get a layout of the place. And finding a particular tapestry in a manor is like finding a needle in a haystack of needles. But, thinking back to the night at Soulforge this certainly wouldn’t be the fist time I’d be flying blind. In any case, I need a drink to clear my mind and see if I can find some leads before jumping headfirst.
I had a hearty dinner thanks to the leftovers of my midday pickpocketing. Limiting myself to only a few pints of ale, I decided to remain sober, after all it is a work night. When I picked up my last one I tipped the waitress and asked if anyone from Flemion’s comes in here. Shifting her eyes to her left she silently gestured to a man hunched over the bar.
“That’s his gardener. He’s a regular, but that’s typical for Flemion’s employees.”
As the waitress went back to work, I scoped out the gardener. His clothing certainly bore the scars of his profession, as did his mottled face. Hailing down a passing waitress I pointed out the gardener.
“The gentleman at the bar will have a porter, on me.”
After tossing a copper bar on her tray she walked back to the bar and whispered my request to the bartender. Moments later, he handed the drink to my lead, but he nudged it away in disgust and hobbled outside.
“Sonuvabitch just made me lose a copper.”
Getting up in frustration I stormed out of the bar and searched for the taffer. A faint hiccup directed my attention to a figure turning the corner. Striding onto the streets I began following him. Going around the corner I saw the drunken bastard staggering through the streets. Sighing to myself I unfurled my blackjack; this does seem like a waste. Thwacking him upside his skull, he sleepily slumped to my feet. Looking up I saw that the building to my left was high enough. Lifting the limp, and usually heavy, body I pushed him over my shoulder. Well, I’m certainly glad I’m not wasting my time with a weak lead.
Five flights of stairs later, my back moaned beneath the weight of the taffhead. Fortunately, I had reached the roof and quickly dropped him to the ground. Catching my breath and stretching out my fatigued muscles I unraveled my rope and took out three hooks from my pack. Two of the hooks had hollow metal tubes welded to their base. Lining up these two, I grabbed the final one, which contained a rod running parallel to it, which I ran through the two tubes. The tip of the rod was notched like a screw head. Fitting a cap with a large hoop resting on its roof I twisted it onto the rod. Lacing the rope through the hoop I tightly tied it and fastened the now completed grappling hook around a chimney. Pulling on the rope I brought it to the gardener’s feet and tied them up. Checking the knots for breaks I dragged my victim to the ledge and pushed him over. The rope whipped into tightness with his hefty weight, but held beautifully. Relieved, I peered over and waited for the rushing blood to wake him up.
After what seem to be forever the taffer’s drunken whines could be heard.
I peered back over the edge. “Ah, you’re up.”
The dangling drunk strained his head to find the voice, but to no avail. “Nooo…I’m hanging upside-down…”
His desperate pleas bordered on comedy, making the whole ordeal almost worth while.
“You work for Flemion.”
“W-What? Yeah, yeah, I’m his gardener…but why am I upside-down? Oh…are you gonna drop me?”
The frightening thought brought tears to his voice. I’d hate for him to wet himself under the stress and have to be drenched from hip to head with his urine. Although the thought is pretty amusing when you think about it. Nonetheless, I decided not to scare him any further.
“Not if you answer my questions.”
“Oh…okay…just don’t drop me. I don’t wanna die.”
“What’s the safest way onto your master’s land?”
“S-safest? I…I guess…uh…I guess that’d be through the sewers…there’s a ladder leading to a secret passage that goes to my shack.”
“And getting into the manor?”
“Um…I…I dunno. M-maybe you can try one of the servant’s rooms they live on the ground floor and leave their windows open…it gets so cool late at night…ohhhh…what am I saying all that for? I’m gonna die…”
Chuckling softly I reached over the ledge and pulled him back up.
“Please don’t kill me! I’m sorry if I’m no help! Ohhhh…oh. Thank you so much. For a second there I thought you were gonna- -”
A thud later, my comedic contact fumbled into my grasp. Dragging him over to the chimney I loosened the grapple, put everything away, and departed for the alley. Depositing the useful gardener alongside the pile of regular drunks I retreated the scene for Flemion’s manor.
“Shit!” The well-hidden rat scurried out from under my foot and into the safety of a hole. Well, I’m certainly glad I found out about this shortcut. Fortunately, I’m only a few meters from where the sewer system empties out into the canal. So, the smell was, for the most part, being siphoned that way.
Up ahead I could see the ladder. Ah, good, just when my clothes were starting to rank. Nothing like getting caught by a guard on account of your sewer stank. Climbing up, I pushed on the hatch and tossed up my scouting orb to be on the safe side. Although it was very dark, there didn’t seem to be any movement. Climbing out of the sewers, I grabbed my orb and gently closed the secret door. Looking out a nearby window I could see the manor in the back-drop and a magnificently large garden right before my eyes.
With no patrolling guards in the yard, I exited the shack and strolled through the gardener’s playground. The sound of flowing water caught my attention as I turned to witness an engineering feat of astounding proportion. Rotating majestically through the adjacent canal was a noria water wheel. Carefully collected water pooled out of its tubes and into a series of descending troughs. An aqueduct system, in a way, was created as one trough abruptly ended only to be met by another one beneath it. The water traveled smoothly down the descending wooden highway as it gradually made its way down to the garden. There it was met by an extensive network of stone trenches which stretched throughout every raised bed. Upon closer inspection, there were lips evenly placed at the top of the trenches where the water could overflow into the thirsty soil. Even the soil had been shoveled appropriately to allow a steady flow to every plant. Indeed, Flemion’s garden is one of neurotic perfection.
Shifting my sights from the unexpected eye candy to the goal ahead, I made my way to the left wall where a hefty amount of shade will disguise my approach. Setting out, I eventually heard the grumblings of guards that were roaming about the inner courtyard. Coming alongside the manor there was a long stretch of windows that, as mentioned by the gardener, should be owned by the servants. Several windows down there was one slightly ajar and I approached it with caution. Very carefully, I threw my scouting orb into the room. Focusing on the room’s layout I closed my mind and ears to the outside world except for what was in that room. Probing the room, silence was the only answer.
Opening up the windows all the way I climbed in and rummaged for my orb. The room’s patron was quietly slumbering as I went to the door. Pressing my ear against the wood I scanned the hallway for noises. In the distance, there were footsteps approaching, but they didn’t seem to be coming from the hallway. The steps stopped suddenly and an even closer creak made it dawn on me. A secret entrance! Hiding deep in the shadows, I saw a silhouette emerge from an entrance created by the false shelf there. Closing the shelf behind them, they went up to the bed and nudged its occupant awake.
“W-what?” The servant muttered to his rude awakening.
“Hey. You came. I thought you were tired?”
“A little. But I had to see you. Flemion’s been such a dick lately. I need to relieve some stress.” The female’s voice was harsh, but yearned for attention.
“Well, then. It is relief you shall receive.”
“Let me just…oh yeah.”
You have got to be kidding me.
Twenty minutes and about four orgasms later, Flemion’s adulterous wife left so I could start stealing from her husband.
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