Third Chronicle of the Criminal Masterminds
The idea of being a thief has been stressed from person to person over generations. Families of criminals have been often said to be powerful crime leaders of the Cities. But the Ravenclaw Order was not family run, but simply a coalition of criminals trying to make their way in the world. Natalie liked her new job as much as the last man did. The snow was gently falling as she stood on the balcony celebrating Christmas with Johnothan Quinn and Laurence Tiber. Tiber was the Director of Security for the Ravenclaw, and they joked merrily in fine black clothing, celebrating the time of sharing. It was sometimes ironic that thieves would celebrate Christmas like these did. Ravenclaw was big on having one large party before the day in which this was to occur. Natalie smiled and sipped hot cordial from a fine brass cup.
“And so, I made the decision to rob the bastard of his entire in-heritance. The man completely deserved it, even more then fat Lord Chauncey” said Tiber as he sipped a glass of whisky. Natalie was staring out into the City. She saw in the distance, the steeple of a nearby Mechanist Cathedral.
“You do understand that this was the best course of action for someone like me, I mean, I am retiring in a few weeks after the New Year, and it has to be seen that I need a replacement” said Tiber. The middle-aged Security Director had just stolen an impressive amount of money by Conning a certain Lord. The lord went completely broke and was jailed by the City Watch. Natalie chuckled.
“Do you want to take my place, Natalie?” asked Tiber as he looked at her, while smiling in the middle of his drink.
“No thanks, Tiber. I’m happy right now where I am. I don’t want more work like the kind I get now. Why, just yesterday I had to destroy three ties with the Skullers, a small con operation service before the City Watch stormed one of they’re guilds. I was lucky to have taken out their records before anything happened” said Natalie.
“It was for the best, politics in the City has not improved over the past few months. Mayor Koreas is cracking down on crime with Mosley. Making trouble for us” said Quinn.
“Well it is her job, Governor” said Natalie.
“Yes, well I guess that is true. But now, I am going to go have dinner with a friend, as is Natalie. Come along, milady” said Tilber. Natalie smiled and walked into the warmth of the Central Headquarters of Ravenclaw. It was a cheery room in the balcony, filled with people, talking with black hoods, but was lit brightly. Servants walked around with drinks on platters, and a cheery sense of loyalty and honor was around the place.
“I have to stop by my office first, Tiber. I’ll meet you down in the Main Entrance” said Natalie. She opened the door to a long hallway, which was very similar to that of the City Watch Headquarters in Shalebridge and walked down the hall. A guard passed her and a mechanical eye moved at every corner. She was even thinking that not even Garrett could make it through here without being detected, except when it was dark out.
She walked down the Hall and opened the door into the External Affairs Department. She passed through the large room which was lined with books and a few desks and passed into her room. The plaque next to the door read:
Head: Bureau of External Affairs
She smiled to herself, and entered the room. It was Neo-Classical, with plants, bookshelves, fireplace and a large desk. Her Raven, Ansa was seated on her pedestal next to a painting of the Baron. She smiled, and picked up a few documents and her sword. She didn’t like leaving without her sword. Ansa jumped to her shoulder, and nibbled at her ear affectingly.
“You ready for Christmas?” asked Natalie to her bird as she locked her door and left the Department. She walked down the narrow stairs of the back-stairwell and entered a small kitchen and down the hall. She saw Tiber waiting for her at in the large entrance hall made out of pure marble. Mechanical eyes moved and guards were posted.
“Is my carriage out there, its bloody freezing out” asked Natalie. Ansa squawked at her shoulder.
“Yes. It just arrived. It will take you to Eastport Park” said Tiber. He smiled at her. And she gave her friend a hug.
“Merry Christmas, Tiber. Be safe” she said. She got in the carriage and then with the clicking of the coach men’s tongue, the horse began a gentle trot down the cobblestone. Then just as she put Ansa in her cage, there was a horrible noise. An explosion that hurt her ears. The carriage rocked and slammed into a nearby wall. The coachmen gave a yell as a ball of flame erupted from somewhere.
Natalie climbed out of the coach. And to her horror, saw a section of building in total flames. Ravenclaw Rescue Workers were yelling. And there were a few screams. Tiber though was not there. She ran for the entrance, which was in complete disarray. Flames licked her as she moved through the fallen boards, and embers. Then she saw a foot, then a hand.
“Tiber” she called. She moved through the rubble. A few guards followed her and removed several planks and boards, including stone from the hallway. The Great Hall was in a total mess.
“Tiber, Are you alright?” she asked. Tiber coughed and blood seeped from his mouth on to her glove.
“The Jackal” mumbled Tiber. He coughed again, and more blood seeped from his mouth. He wasn’t going to last much longer.
“Hold on Tiber, we’re going to get you to the Infirmary” said Natalie as she held his face. He coughed again, and his head sagged. His eyes half closed, and he was gone. Natalie starred at the man that was her mentor for so long. She gave out a choked sob, and fell back against the boards.
“Natalie!” came a voice from across the Hall. Quinn emerged with Medical officers. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Tiber is dead” she said. She wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. Quinn looked down at Tiber. The man was only a little way until retirement and was a good service to the Order.
“Go home. We’ll take care of things. Be in tomorrow morning at seven bells. We’ll discuss our next course of action” he said. A crash was heard as a section of the building gave way. “We have to look for survivors and get this area clear before more of the building comes down.”
“Wait, Governor. Before he died, he said something….I believe it was ‘The Jackal’ Any idea of what that may be?” asked Natalie.
Quinn looked away for a moment then said:
“Go home. Be here tomorrow.” Natalie nodded and walked back to the carriage. The coachmen had pushed the carriage back up to its normal position with the help of two Ravenclaw guards. She sighed, looked at the destruction behind her and got in. She hit the roof to let the driver know that he could drive now, and the carriage broke into a heavy canter away from the Headquarters.
Up on a nearby rooftop, with which it could see the destruction ensuring, someone dressed in black chuckled. And moved swiftly on to the ‘Thieves Highway.’
Garrett moved swiftly through the halls of the Museum. He had de-activated the security systems in Merryweather Museum of Fine Art earlier that day when he dressed up as a guard. This was indeed a challenge. The Merryweather Museum was one of the most expensive and highly placed establishments in the City. What it had on display was something so valuable, that it would go nicely for a young woman he had in mind. On display was a fine Jewelry collection that was traveling through the different cities of the around his. Blackbrook was home to it, but he was going to steal it no matter what happened. He came to the door. It was locked, naturally so he shoved a lock-pick in, moved it around until her heard the satisfying click of the lock releasing. He entered quickly and shut the door behind him. He pulled his black cloak around him tightly. Garrett moved with a flare to a nearby pedestal to inspect the objects on display. He moved from pedestal to pedestal until finally coming to it. It was a diamond necklace.. fe. He applied the putty to a section of the safe, then the device. It was very small but must be used to ignite the putty. He pushed it into the putty and got behind the desk. He watched as the putty blew off the front of the safe. It was not as noisy as he would have thought, but it was alright. The safe’s door was blown apart. Garrett smiled and looked into the safe. A bag of diamonds, some bank notes, checks, credits and finally what he was looking for; a black case not much bigger then from his elbow to his hand. Garrett put it in his pocket, along with everything else in the safe. The skylight above would be his way out. He was about to shoot a rope arrow into the wooden beam when he heard a click. The sound of a crossbow being armed.
“If you value your life, Master Thief, then you will not move” came a low voice of someone behind him. Garrett turned slightly, and saw someone else, dressed in black like him, holding a crossbow. Garrett knew that the other thief would shoot him cleanly, if he didn’t come up with a plan.
“You follow me in here, you amateur” said Garrett.
“Of course, I did! The Master Thief blazing a trail for good old me, is a perfect way to get to what I want. Now hand over all those things you just got from the safe, or I’ll kill you” said the thief.
“Killing is the mark of a novice and amateur” said Garrett. He loved to antagonize the novices who didn’t know a lot of experience.
“I am very well trained” he said.
“Like hell you are” said Garrett. And with a swift motion that the thief could not see, he took his blackjack from his belt and threw it at the un-suspecting competitor. It impacted at his temple, exactly where Garrett wanted it. He groaned and fell over. His crossbow fell to the floor. Garrett smirked. He hated competition, and he walked over to the body of the man. He was older then he was, in his 40’s, and looked to him to be a complete idiot. He remembered this face, it was Ergo Lurker; an armature criminal. He mostly was a grave robber and didn’t have a lot of skill. Garrett had done a job with him a few years back, and Garrett remembered how he left him for dead in a Hammerite chapel in the woods outside the City. It was payback. Garrett was only 26 but he knew how old this guy was. He searched him and relieved him of some of his things. A bag of coins was attached to his belt, he untied it and poured the coins on the ground, and he then retreated to out to the main halThe spikes of light from the rising run could be seen. Garrett made his way for his home in North Shalebridge. He moved to an old and quite part of North Shalebridge a few weeks ago, to throw the bulls of his scent. He also was closer to Natalie, which was a major factor. It was the first time that he had, had such a long term relationship like this one.
He jumped from building to building until finally jumping down into a small deck. He then jumped over a gap and into his home near a small canal, just as light hit. He landed in his living room.
“Home Sweet Home” he muttered. He quickly dumped his loot on his desk. He looked outside to see the snow gently falling. It was going to be a nice day out. Natalie had made him a small reef to put on his room door. It was only a three room apartment similar his other one at Shalebridge Center, but he liked it. A sofa and two chairs surrounded a small table and fireplace in the corner. Then another two couches with a table separating him in the corner. Another door led to the bed that had not been slept in that night. He went over to a nearby cabinet and got some bread and cheese out of the cabinet along with coffee. He boiled the pot over the fire he had made, and sat down and ate. Once he had finished he looked over his loot. He deposited the bank notes and diamonds into a secret compartment next to the fireplace. The compartment was a small room that was lined with supplies and loot. Maps and a couple books. The room belonged to a former fence before he was killed by the Hammers when he
Sitting in his small yet comfortable dining room, Lucas Wells, also known as Reginald Bellows ate eggs and sausage for breakfast. The morning paper was carried in by Giles, his butler, and Mrs. Mimes, the Housekeeper carried in a platter of fruit and hot buttered toast for her master. Lucas picked up the newspaper that was neatly folded on a silver tray. The headlines were the latest. He had been on a job at the House of Ramirez. He had stolen a valuable pair of ruby earrings that Ramirez was going to give to his lady friend. That was in the paper, and also how a thief was caught at the Merryweather Museum of Fine Art. Lucas smiled, he knew that Garrett was involved but it also detailed how the thief was in his forties, knocked out and very angry when they found him. He would receive a three year sentence up at Cragscleft. A Hammerite High Security Penitentiary in the mountains. Poor fellow, he thought. Then he noticed the largest headline.
WEALTHY NOBLE CLUB BOMBED
According to City Watch officials and the nobles of the Noble Club, there was an explosive device placed in the office near the Nobles prize-winning library that held several amounts of important information. This is but one of several attacks made against prestigious establishments around town. Last week, First City’s Banks and Trust was under a terrorist attack, and its vault completely cleaned out. Several Hammerite and Mechanist chapels, temples and the primary Cathedrals of Old Quarter Cathedral of the Hammerites and Soulforge Cathedral of the Mechanist were terrorized a month ago. Connections from Sheriff Mosley suggest an uprising of the Order of the Vine, a secretive order of magic and nature. Authorities at City Watch Headquarters believe this is the reason for attacks, most likely to spread the Vine’s beliefs more freely, through terror.
Lucas put the newspaper down, and stared at the food in front of him. He rolled it over in his mind a couple times. The Noble Club in Dayport was where Ravenclaw Central Command was located. It was the center of a web that spanned the entire City. He was meeting with Natalie and Garrett that night. The first time in a few months. He had done a job with Garrett a few weeks ago, but it was the first time that they were going to be all together. He finished his breakfast and went into his study to think..
He entered his study, which adjoined to a small library. He glanced through, and looked for information on the Order of the Vine. He knew that the Vine could not be the ones responsible for the attacks. It was not their style. He had contacts within the Order, who gave him information on jobs ahead of time. The Vine left a marker of some kind, one that would resemble their leader. He knew that the Trickster was killed, and the Lady of the Tree’s was also dead. Garrett though, apparently did take a seed from Soulforge Cathedral. And delivered it back to the Vine before he cut ties with them again. It was un-likely that Viktoria was responsible for the attacks. She preferred to stay in the shadows, and work behind the others. That was, if she was still dead or alive. Then make a move that would aid the City in re-growing its natural figures. The City was growing naturally, trees were being planted, and the air was becoming cleaner and with the Mechanist’s power severally diminished there
Natalie lay on the couch. Snow gently fell outside her apartment window on the ground floor. Her nicely furnished home was given to her by Ravenclaw. Her dog, Pingree lay on a pillow in the corner. Her Raven was sleeping on its perch. She let out a deep sigh. Some Christmas. It was clearly the worse of them all.
“I’m going to get the bastard that killed you” she said out to her friend. She got up and left the room, going up a small flight of stairs to her chambers where she undressed, bathed and then came out, wearing a dark blue velvet dress. Her hair was done up, fashionably and she placed a dagger in her brazier. She always carried around something. Just to be careful. Lucas and Garrett were paying for the meal that night, and they were planning on meeting at a lounge in Dayport. Truart’s was the establishment where former Sheriff Gorman Truart spent his time on weekends. It was a very wealthy establishment, where they could have a few drinks and cocktails then head to supper at the Nobleman’s Treasure.
Pingree greeted her in the hallway. She checked her hair in an antique mirror and grabbed a fur coat from the closet. She put it on, smiled at her dog and left the apartment. The chilly evening air hit her as she left the warmth of her apartment. She locked the door and went down the stone steps. A park was across the street and cabs moved by. She called for a cab, and it stopped.
“Where to ma’am?” asked the old man driving it.
“Truart’s” she said. She pulled the protection boards over her legs and pulled a blanket across her lap.
“Right, ma’am” he said. He slapped the reigns and the horse began a gentle trot through the semi-crowded streets of Eastport. She reminisced the idea of someone trying to destroy Central Command. There had been numerous terrorist attacks against foundations all over the City. The watch blamed it on the Order of the Vine, and so did the papers. She sighed. She would spend the night with Garrett tonight, and hopefully move on. But she was going to investigate the situation. Her meeting with her Order tomorrow morning was a special occasion, something had to be up.
The cab came around a tight corner and entered an ally and came out in Northport, a wealthy part of Town. The cab stopped in front of a small yet comfortable building, over-looking a river. She got out, and gave the cabby a few silver coins. He tapped his cap and was off into the darkness. Natalie looked at the stone building and entered the building. Warmth greeted her and she entered. She spotted Lucas and walked over next to a roaring fire. He was sipping some fine sherry, and sibling on some cheese.
“How is it going?” asked Lucas as he hugged her and offered her a seat. A waiter came over and took her coat, and got her a drink from a bar.
“I’m fine. Where is Garrett?” asked Natalie as she sat down in a sinking chair.
“He said he would be here late. Apparently, the Bulls were at his apartment building arresting some other thief when he was passing by. He booked it to my place, and said that he had to lose them. So he got into a cab and drove all over town. He’ll be here in a minuet” he said. At that moment, Garrett burst in the room. He composed himself and gave his coat to the Host and walked over to his friends. He kissed Natalie and shook hands with Lucas.
“Well we’re all here” said Lucas.
“Yeah, Merry Christmas” mumbled Garrett. He was dressed well, with a fine black tunic on. He sipped a glass of wine and brought out presents which they would exchange. Garrett passed the sword and necklace to Lucas and Natalie.
“I stole that from a museum. It was a good job. Ran into one of my old cronies. Set him up, good. He won’t get out of Cragscleft until he’s 100” he joked. He opened his gifts. Natalie have him two fine cufflinks and Lucas gave him a book on the history of the City.
“What you don’t like your gift?” asked Garrett as he looked over at Natalie. She stroked the fine necklace.
“No, it’s wonderful. Thank you. It’s just…..I lost a friend today” she said. She looked up at them.
“I read it in the paper. I wouldn’t have thought that Ravenclaw would have been hit by terrorist” said Lucas.
“Heard it from Manny” said Garrett. He took a piece of fish and cheese, and put it into his mouth. He seemed to be thinking: “Do you think it was the Vine?” asked Garrett.
“Personally?” asked Natalie. She looked at Garrett and then the fire. She sighed. “I don’t know. Rumors have it, that Viktoria was re-created. But, she would have been pleased with the fact that the City has progressed so well. With the Mechanist having not as much as power as before, we have moved forward. I have a garden now. I’ve never had a garden before. An apple tree and some vegetables” said Natalie. She sipped her drink.
“I didn’t know Viktoria was re-created” said Garrett.
“She has. Apparently, when you brought that plant back from Soulforge, the interim leader Diane recreated her. She is a strong ally to have. But I do not think that the Vine is responsible for any of the attacks in the City” said Natalie.
“Whatever” said Garrett. The trio sat in silence for five minuets. Then Garrett stood up.
“Shall we go then?” asked Garrett.
“Thought you would never ask!” declared Natalie. The three left the cheery atmosphere of Truart’s and began the short walk towards The Nobleman’s Treasure, which were only a few blocks away from the Pub.
“Well, at least it’s Christmas. I get some time to relax” said Natalie. Just as she said this, an arrow flew flying through the air, just narrowly missing Lucas’s heads, and imbedded itself on a wooden beam near them. There was a scuffle then silence. Garrett had a hand on his dagger, but saw nothing with his mechanical eye.
“What the hell was that all about?” asked Natalie. Garrett was starring at an open dark area above a building. He ran towards a cramped alley way, and jumped up using the bricks as supports. He landed on a brick ledge, next to a small fashion shop. He peered down. There were traces of someone there. Bare-foot marks were pressed deeply in the powdery snow. What was someone in bare feet doing out in cold weather such as this.
Garrett jumped down from the ledge with ease. Lucas was looking at the arrow. A note was forced through it. It was in ruins. Garrett gave a grim look and walked over to the note and read it out loud:
If you strive to learn the truth about the terrorist attacks against the people of the City, go to the Eastport Private Cemetery. We will provide you with the information you need to find out who is responsible for the attacks.
Natalie looked over at them. She had no idea what was going on, but she knew that she was going to get into her work clothes before anything else happened. She put her arm through Garrett’s. What a crummy Christmas Eve!
“Should we go?” asked Lucas. He looked humidly at Garrett. Garrett seemed to know who sent the letter. He smiled.
“Yes. We’re going. No Keeper would write this kind of paper. I have an idea who could have written this, and what they’re trying to tell us. Meet in Eastport Square in one hour. Full work clothes and dress warm” said Garrett. A cab came around the corner, and he whistled for it. They pilled into the cab and gave the destinations. Lucas could get his work clothes in Dayport, at his office and Garrett would get his from North Shalebridge and Natalie, from her residence in Eastport.
Natalie waited in Eastport Square in the shadows. It was two minuets till 12 at night. And it was becoming very cold out. She had worn an extra layer for the warmth needed. She was crouched near the shadows of a barrel, when she heard a rustling and someone coming up behind her. It was Garrett and Lucas. They were both in full garbs.
“How long have you been waiting?” asked Lucas. He quiver was full, along with potions, flash bombs and other things they might need. Natalie and Garrett were similarly equipped.
“Only five minuets. I like getting to places early” said the Lady of the Shadows. She pulled her hood over her blond hair for warmth.
“Let’s go. It’s getting cold out here” said Garrett. Taking back alleyways cut significant time of their journey to the Cemetery. Garrett seemed very relaxed and ready for anything. Lucas had a heightened awareness about him. Natalie was just curious about the whole situation. Then they saw the Cemetery. An iron spiked gate was closed, and it surrounded a stone wall. Garrett opened the gate, and the three slipped through the gate. It felt very cold when they stepped into the brightly lit cemetery. Natalie saw her breath evaporated around her. Garrett led the way, even though he had no idea where to meet them, through the tomb stones. Then he noticed a small building. It was a crypt. A small building where families were buried. He drew his sword. The one he had stolen from St. Belen Cathedral of the First Apprentice. It was glowing a faint blue, symbolizing that there were undead in the area. The glowing faded away, when Garrett noticed it. And they moved towards the crypt Standing in the middle of the room was a Pagan. Alive and well, and he was dressed warmly, seeming to have been waiting for them.
“T’you is the sneeksie friend of the Lady of the Tree’s. Thou fallow me in the portal, and meet with our Leader” said the Pagan. He pulled a coffin lid aside, and a stairwell lead down. Garrett still held his sword and led the way down the staircase, and Natalie and Lucas followed.
The portal was red, like wine. It was like a liquid. Bright torches surrounded the room. Garrett knew where they were going. But he knew that they would be alright, at least for now.
“Follow me, sneaksie friends” said the Pagan. He slipped through the portal and was gone.
Garrett pushed Natalie and Lucas forward: “Where the hell are we going?” asked Natalie. Garrett nudged her again.
“We’re going into the Pagan’s realm. We’re leaving the City. We’ll be safe. Don’t worry” said Garrett. Lucas looked Garrett, then Natalie and sighed. He stepped through the portal and was gone as well. Natalie followed, then Garrett.
Seconds later, Lucas found himself in a forest. One of great beauty. A village was nearby, and a soft snow fell from the large tree’s that surrounded them. Several children were playing near the snow, and then he noticed Garrett and Natalie had materialized beside him. The Pagan smiled at them, and led the way.
The Pagan, who was eventually known as Juith led the way. Children starred at the trio of criminals as they were led by Juith towards a large straw thatched building. It was the Meeting Place. Garrett remembered that he was teleported into an area like this when he was following a messenger going to Viktoria.
“The Lady of the Tree’s awaits you, sneakiest friends” said Juith. He pointed to the caldron of red liquid that they had gone through earlier. Natalie smiled. She jumped in, followed by Lucas then Garrett.
They came into an entirely different world. Two Ape beasts were waiting for them, along with three Pagans. But they were not armed. The first pagan stepped forward, Garrett remembered her.
“Diane” said Garrett. He shook her hand. She smiled. She was a dryad mislaid. She was a servant to the late Viktoria.
“It is good to meet with you again, Garrett. I wish it was under better circumstances. Please follow me…” she said. They followed the attractive bronze-skinned women through the paths of woods for twenty minuets with no words spoken. Until finally, they came to an open grove. Flowers, bushes and tree are moved like they were truly alive and breathing. A Will o Wisp moved through the darkness. Lighting up the area, as it moved with grace. Lucas then heard something. It was like dozens of voices speaking as one, then wind pushed them violently, and vines and flowers flushed together until finally they formed an alcove of some kind, then it released and a woman of un-earthly beauty stood there. It was Viktoria.
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