'Please, keep in mind,' a short man dressed in blue robe, according to the order's regulations, abruptly stopped in front of me to look at my face. It wasn't easy, because he was merely five feet tall, 'that you're not allowed to the two lowest floors of the tower. I also ask you to regard hours of prayers: I remind you, that you are on the territory of the order and I would be grateful if you don't forget about it. You are here only because of the personal request of Friend Coltus who assured me that you won't break any of the regulations.' Father Jacow wasn't pleased about my presence in Angelwatch, quite new building erected by the Mechanists and a manifestation of still rising authority of the order. If he could, he would excommunicate me only for my presence in the tower and his discontent that he was the one in charge to present me the rules of moving in there, just radiated from him. I gave him a reassuring smile.
'I'll do my best to behave according to the regulations.'
Father Jacow looked at me from beneath his bushy eyebrows with no trust at all, as if he thought I made fun of him.
'Good.' He finally turned around to get to the lift allocated in the corner of the lobby and lead me to the rooms for guests.
Lobby was huge, almost three floors high, with double row of banks in front of some-thing that in ordinary chapels would be an altar. However, the lobby didn't have any religious emblems and the only thing that could be considered part of the doctrine was a big portrait of Karras hanging on a wall opposite the entrance. The lobby must have served as a place of secular meetings, rather than of religious services. The chapel was supposedly somewhere else.
The man closed safety-rails behind me and hit the button of the lift with an air of a man aware of his mission. The lift swiftly begun to move up but halfway to the second floor I heard some noise, raised voices and somebody's hurried footsteps. A commotion upstairs wasn't a normal thing: there was a man lying on the floor of a long corridor, with a puddle of blood growing under him. The second person in a robe stained with blood was just lifted by two Mechanists, while a man in a long violet tunic was bending over a strange machinery on the left side of the corridor. Suddenly father Jacow stopped the lift.
'Please, stay here,' he gave me brief look, quickly opened the rails and went closer to the few Mechanists who gathered around the person in the violet robe.
'What happened here?'
'A watcher took brother Dominic for an intruder and attacked him,' one of the breth-ren who was holding the injured man looked hatefully at the Violet Robe. 'Before brother Mason managed to switch it off, brother Dominic had died and brother Mason had been badly hurt too.'
'Get him to the ambulatory.' Brother Mason was hanging like a rag doll in the arms of brethren holding him. 'Quickly!'
Disregarding the instructions father Jacow gave me, I left the lift and came closer, making way for the two brethren who were carrying the injured man. The thing responsible for the mess, which Violet Robe was leaning over, was a strangely looking machine in the shape of a human head but twice as big. It was located on a pedestal resembling a tripod. There was another face hanging over it, fixed to the ceiling. Instead of one eye it had a light-blue lens that was gleaming slightly and there was a little lamp embedded in the machine's 'neck'.
'I said they weren't ready yet!' the Violet Robe abruptly turned to father Jacow and I felt an unpleasant squeeze in my stomach when I saw his face: it was Friend Coltus. 'I don't understand why you insisted on installing them. I warned that they had to be tested.'
'There is no need to raise your voice, friend,' father Jacow raised his hand. 'Everybody knows it wasn't your fault.'
'I will not tolerate slip-ups. More people could've died there!' He pointed at the Mechanists who were standing around him. Then he met my gaze. Recognition flashed in his eyes. 'What is she doing here?'
I instantly moved my hand, seemingly to comb back my hair, and at the same time I put my fingers to a gesture. A faint smell of Tatiana's flowers spread in the air. Damn, if he sensed my intentions...
'Your words hurt me, friend. Do you not remember our last conversation and your assurance that you would support my request that I be permitted in the Angelwatch?'
The man's head drooped and his gaze became dull.
'Right. Now I remember,' he answered unnaturally slowly. The spell could not fully affect him, since Friend Coltus was not an ordinary guard and his strong will was strengthened by religious service, although he did not have enough strength to resist it entirely. I was only afraid that someone could just now...
'Then you also remember why she is in here,' father Jacow looked at me, as if he wanted to find a confirmation or denial written on my face but obviously he found nothing. He turned to Coltus. 'I hope that you will show miss Ryen the workshops, as she is interested in modern mechanics.'
The man didn't answer, his gaze focused on one point, as if he was deep in thoughts. Finally he moved along the corridor and spoke, vaguely pointing the machines with his hand.
'I'll send someone to dismantle it.'
'Friend Coltus!' Jacow cried but the man didn't respond, still walking down the corridor and vanishing around the corner.
For a long moment Father was watching the place where Coltus had disappeared. His face wore a blank expression, as if the sudden change in behaviour of the chief inventor did not surprise him a bit. After a while he nodded to the Mechanists to clean up the mess. Only then he gave me a brief look and turned to the lift.
'Follow me, please. Your room is on the fourth floor.'
Day 11th. I found Cedric. He must be happy because he was allocated in one of the rooms prepared for the most important guests on the 5th floor and he's been given free-of-charge living. So far he has been waiting for Karras to return, who was so anxious to meet him, that he had sent his people to the tavern to fetch Cedric. Cedric didn't have a reason to turn him down, especially when he smelled a nice profit in it.
I'm not sure if he still has the logbook with him. But the Mechanists are treating him well but also keep a constant eye on him. My possibilities to check up on him are limited: he surely remembers me from the tavern and I don't want to push my luck. The signs are clear that my thief-of-genius will join me but they don't specify when - there isn't much time left.
So far all seems quiet and my camouflage works. Even Friend Coltus doesn't remember our first meeting but I still don't know what Father Jacow thinks about it. I must act quickly - rumour has it Karras is to return in a day or two. I shouldn't be there when he comes back.
'LAYOUT OF FLOORS: ALL ALMOST IDENTICAL EXCEPT GROUND FLOOR WITH LOBBY AND FIRST FLOOR WHERE THE CHAPEL AND THE STOREROOMS SHOULD BE LOCATED
PRESENT INHABITANTS: SOME ARISTOCRATS FROM BOHN WHO ARE TO MAKE SOME BUSINESS WITH THE MECHANISTS, A FEW CLERKS FROM THE CITY
GUARDS: PATROL ALL CORRIDORS, THREE PER FLOOR ON AVERAGE, TWO STATIONARY GUARDS IN FRONT OF KARRAS' STUDY (5TH FLOOR)
CEDRIC'S ESCORT: TWO NOVICES, THEY CHANGE EVERY DAY
ARMAMENT: LIKE ALL MECHANISTS
BUILDER'S CHILDREN: ONE IN FRONT OF KARRAS' STUDY, ONE - NOT DISMANTLED YET - ON THE 2ND FLOOR; THERE MAY BE MORE THAN THAT. KEEP EXTREME CAUTION!
OBSERVATIONS: KEY GUARDIAN IS FRIEND VILNIA. SHE IS DANGEROUS AND KNOWS THE BASICS OF ELEMENTAL MAGIC;
SO FAR I HAVEN'T FOUND ANY OTHER ENTRANCES THAN THE FRONTAL ONE BUT THERE MUST BE AN ENGINEER'S LADDER SOMEWHERE NEAR THE LIFT
While I was busy making notes, I suddenly heard violent hammering at the door, but the uninvited guests did not wait for my answer. The door opened and two Mechanists burst into the room. From behind their backs emerged Father Jacow. 'By the order of High Council you are arrested.'
Getting in wasn't hard - it was enough to find the manhole on the east side of the building that led to the engine room. The man smiled under his breath - it seemed that the Mechanists were so sure about their fame as unmatched constructors that they weren't worried about burglars and didn't take pains to secure the 'back entrance' properly. There was a rumour in the City, that the lower levels of the Anglewatch were teeming with strange mechanical beasts, but the thief doubted this was true. And even if it was, they couldn't be more intelligent than rat-beasts, who he encountered six months ago in the dominion of the Woodsie Lord. The only thing he should be afraid of were humans.
The man wasn't safistied: he didn't succeed in getting any useful information about the number of Mechanists in the tower, nor did he manage to obtain an adequate map. The only thing he found out were scattered information he got from workers who erected the tower about what he might encounter inside and his own experience with the Order of the Hammer - the Mechanists couldn't be better than them.
The manhole opened with a silent creak and from beneath it white steam rose. Even if somebody was watching that entrance, he could not hear man's steps because of the noise the generators were making. But the room underneath was empty and low corridor led to the little storeroom.
The location of the study of Karras was the only thing the thief was certain of. High priest of the Mechanists himself came back to the City a moment before the thief's entrance to the tower. By the time Garrett got there, Karras should know the content of the logbook and maybe would hide it in a 'secure place' to which the thief could get. One way or another, he didn't have much choice but to head to the fifth floor.
The door was open but almost immediately he came across a guard, who was patrolling the lower corridor. From the opposite room, where the Mechanist went, he heard a monotonous sound, as if metal hitting against stone. Near the door to the left there was an elevator shaft, but Garrett did not consider it the safest way to get upstairs. There had to be another entrance apart from the stairs on the opposite side of the building. It would be ideal, if... After a while he spotted exactly what he was looking for - an engineer's ladder in a small niche just behind the elevator shaft. He managed to slip in there before the guard on patrol came back to the lower corridor.
'Builder shall reward thee', Karras looked exactly like on one of the portraits hanging in various parts of the tower. The only thing that the pictures did not show was his habit, as the elderly high priest dressed in adorned attire and golden helmet walked from one wall of the chapel to the other. 'Our Lord is gracious to those, who—'
'I'd prefer he rewarded me now', Scar cut short. It wasn't that he didn't trust the Mechanists, he just wanted to hold the reward in his hands. And he knew that it shouldn't be small. He figured it out when, back in the tavern, some woman offered him 30 gold pieces for the log of captain Markham. Knowing about it, he hoped to get a better bargain.
'Of course', the high priest eventually stopped pacing. An unclosed clasp that bound the covers of the book Karras was holding creaked slightly. 'But let me ask you something, my friend: has anyone been interested in this log?'
The Scar's face lit up with joy: the high priest of the most influential order in the City addressed him by the highest title a layman could hope for.
'Many people. Especially when they found out about its previous owner.'
'You told them?!' High priest made a sudden move and the man, startled, backed off cautiously.
'I couldn't avoid it. I was looking for a dealer and I had to encourage him in some way. But fortunately', the man smiled significantly, 'I met your Excellency.'
'I fail to see one thing, however', Karras resumed his pacing but now he did it much slower, carefully planning each step, as if he was deeply in thought. 'Please, tell me, why did you want to sell the logbook? Did Markham's treasure was not enough for you?'
Scar smiled under his breath; the conversation was heading exactly how he had planned. Of course, he couldn't assume that the high priest, who had his men in all parts of the City, wouldn't find out about the captain's log and the treasure. Now the only thing he needed to do was convince Karras that he knew much more than he really did.
'As you certainly know, venerable one, the log tells not only about the treasure, but about other things as well. Precious things. I couldn't take them only for myself.'
'Indeed, you are right,' the high priest shook his head, lost in thoughts. 'But was there someone, apart from those who would be typically interested in such things, who wanted to buy it from you?'
Scar hesitated. What was he up to? Why did he crave for this information so much? He did not expect for the conversation to go that way.
'Yes,' he admitted reluctantly. 'A red-haired woman.'
'What did she tell you?'
He didn't care about it before, but as he recalled their meeting, the woman seemed to him a little weird. She could have found out everything she wished to know from the workers, but he told about the log to the only person he trusted. He didn't believe that the news would spread so quickly. Besides, she knew too much. Even for a representative of a rich collector, who she said she was.
'Nothing in particular,' he shrugged. 'Her employer wanted to buy it. The treasure would have been mine.'
'Did she tell you anything about the Lost City?'
A city buried by an unknown cataclysm ages ago. Legend had it, it was ruled by the divine Precursors in possession of advanced technology and science and was a paradise on earth. And being the predecessor of present city, was buried deep underneath it. Personally Scar doubted that there was something more beneath the streets than sewage system, but those who journeyed to seize the legendary treasures of the Lost City were never heard of again. Rumour had it, however, that there was someone who did return. But the woman didn't even mention it, as if she wasn't interested in it.
'Reconsider it well,' high priest steepled his fingers and his voice seemed to be squeakier that a moment ago. 'I wouldn't recommend you to protect an unfaithful mage who only waits to bring a disaster upon us!'
That was a warning - it wasn't the kind of knowledge he wanted to possess. He didn't plan on getting entangled into religious games and accusations of heresy.
'Why don't you ask her yourself? She must know something.'
'Well, we asked,' Karras nodded with approbation, 'but you see, she didn't want to tell us anything.'
Only then did Scar understand the meaning of the words he had just heard: the woman was there and definitely against her will. If the Mechanists had the power to detain a rich person, what would happen to him, if he didn't give a satisfactory answer to the high priest? He definitely didn't like the way the conversation was going.
'She didn't say anything, venerable. But if it would interest your Excellency, I heard that there is someone who could share information. His name is—'
'I know,' Karras stopped dead as if hit by this sudden thought. 'But enough of this.' Eventually he smiled and came closer to the man. 'The mage shall be righteously punished and you will tell me, how much did she offer you?'
Scar sighed with relief: even if he wouldn't get much, he was still happy that the disturbing conversation was almost over. He knew he shouldn't, but he decided to take the risk.
'Not as much as your Excellency.'
High priest looked at him attentively as if he saw him for the first time.
'Indeed. But first let me show you something, friend.' Karras indicated a room next to the chapel and headed there, gesturing at Scar to follow him. 'My latest work. The Builder himself would be proud of it.'
The room must've been a vestry. Further inside the room he heard a noise as if stone grinding on metal. The sound was growing louder, as if - whatever it was - was getting closer. After a moment the source of the sound appeared and Scar backed off involuntarily. So it was the truth! Metal beasts, that allegedly wandered the lower levels of the Angelwatch, were real. Terrified, the man watched as something that resembled a metal human being stopped and its barrel-like chest with arms and artificial face turned to him.
'Do not be afraid,' the high priest approached the monster from the back, opened a hatch and pushed a small lever. 'Builder's Children are standing on guard of peace and justice, and they know well what must be done to maintain it. They were designed that way.'
Suddenly Scar felt uncomfortable. He thought he knew what kind of peace and justice Karras was talking about and how he wanted to maintain it. In one moment he turned around and started to run, just to get as far from the beast as possible, but he was too slow. From the corner of his eye he spotted the blue lens lighting up and one of its arms ending with a pipe of some sort, aiming at him. Then he heard a bang, something hit him in the back pushing the air out of his lungs and an enormous power pushed him on the floor. But he did not feel that.
The room seemed empty, with only a few crates piled near one of the walls, but when his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the thief spotted a cowering silhouette in a corner. She sat with her knees drawn up to her chest. Streaks of hair were strewn about her knees, where she was resting her head.
The man approached and was about to touch her arm but the woman must have heard his steps. She raised her head and shielded it with her arms. The thief saw fear in her eyes - an emotion he never thought he'd see on this particular woman. Only then did he notice that her hands were tied.
'It's me,' he whispered.
She did not look surprised to see him, as if she was expecting him. He also noted there was dried blood in the corner of her mouth and that some of her fingers were twisted in strange angles. He involuntarily clenched his hands.
'Cut the rope,' she held out her arms to him, but the man didn't move.
'What do you know that is so important that Karras wants to kill you?'
The woman looked at him surprised, but she almost immediately got impatient. She shook her head.
'There's no time for—'
'They'll be here any minute. I want to know what is going on.'
Only then did she really became afraid. He didn't know how much time they got, but he would not be used, regardless of the situation. So he waited, nobody suspected him to be here anyway. The woman turned her head.
'There is a note in the logbook detailing the way to Karath-din. If Karras gets there, we will not survive.'
The man paced a few steps.
'If he had wanted to kill you, he would have used the entrance in the City. Unless—'
'How—?' the mage raised her head, visibly astonished. But it didn't last long. 'It was you,' her eyes narrowed. 'You were in the Lost City.'
Man's lips screwed in a smile. What an irony. If it hadn't been for him, the mages still would have sat in their Towers, waiting for the supplies of the elemental crystals from nearby Cyric. Thanks to him they found a gold vein and lost— He stopped, hit by a sudden thought.
'Why did you wish to hire me specifically?' He stopped in front of her, trying to look her in the eyes. His boot with a dagger behind the bootleg was within her reach. It was a mistake.
The woman suddenly jumped to her feet and managed to pull the dagger out before the man could react. Her broken fingers could not hold the blade and the mage's face screwed with anger, when the man effortlessly stepped over the dagger. He slid the blade into its place and squatted in front of the woman. He should have known the mages would not forgive him the theft of the Talisman that they guarded, especially in a place as secure as the Mage Towers.
'So, is it a revenge then?'
The woman abruptly raised her head, cold fury flickered in her eyes.
'Don't flatter yourself!' she hissed. 'Besides, you got what you bargained for.'
Garrett closed his eyes only to see a switch, sharp as a lancet, speeding towards him. He almost felt the sharp pain in his right eye socket flashing up again. He shook his head to shake off the memories. The mage continued somewhat more calmly.
'I need you. I can't get the log back by myself. Besides,' she shrugged, 'soon Karras will kill everybody who knows about Karath-din. It's only a matter of time before he finds out about you. Why should we not join our efforts?'
Steps reverberated in the corridor and the thief hesitated only for a moment.
'We're square,' he looked her in the eyes, cutting the rope. 'But don't count on my help. I don't intend to save rescue whoever's world.'
He instantly slipped into the shadow near the door. From the corner of his eye he saw that the woman tried to get to her feet and he heard her voice:
'Leave them to me.'
A moment later a torch flame danced on the wall near the entrance and two Mechanists came in, with a bright sphere of light around them. The thief miscalculated: the brethren would definitely be passing too close to the him. It was too late to move back now, though.
The Mechanist closer to the wall did not even notice a figure suddenly materializing in front of him, the torch went off and he saw the floor rushing to meet him. The second guard thrust the torch onto the stone floor and swung his mace on the thief. The weapon did not reach its aim, however, and the thief felt a sudden rush of air that shove the Mechanist a few steps back. He staggered and dropped his weapon. It all happened in a split second and then the thief heard a muffled curse coming from where he left the mage. In the low light of a dying torch he saw the woman grasping at her hand. But before the Mechanist came around, the woman made a complicated gesture and the guard clutched his throat.
It was evident that he was choking. The thief noticed that the Mechanist's feet dangled a few inches over the floor. The air seemed to wave as in a proximity of a red-hot furnace, but it was cold and it was giving the thief a shiver. He could almost see the energy gathered in the room. He watched, fascinated, as the Mechanist desperately tried to loosen something that was crushing his windpipe. The thief concluded that he wouldn't last a minute should he ever stand in the woman's way.
She did not do it to defend herself - he shook his head disappointed, when he saw her vengeful gaze. But there was no time for revenge: the Mechanists could show up at any moment, alarmed by the absence of their brethren.
The mage did not respond, concentrating entirely on the blue flame that surrounded the Mechanist's throat. Damn her! He will not be discovered and he will certainly not die because of a stupid revenge. Besides, he didn't like to leave a mess.
He approached her and seized her arm, breaking the spell. The Mechanist tumbled down like a sack of potatoes, desperately gasping for breath.
'Leave him,' he said bitterly. 'He's only a tool.'
The woman glanced at him with hatred, not quite understanding why someone would disturb her in the execution.
'There's no time,' he headed for the exit and turned back, irritated, when he saw that the woman wasn't following him. 'Are you going or not?'
The mage shaped her fingers in a strange way and the Mechanist's head jerked and turned around on its own. His neck snapped audibly and the brother collapsed like a rag doll. The thief watched this with disgust.
'Where's Karras?' The woman finally moved, indifferently stepping over the motionless body on the floor. The thief frowned but he answered. He did not really know why he did this.
'On his way to Markham's Isle. To Cetus Amicus.'
Even in the darkness he could clearly see how the mage suddenly went pale.
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