"Project: Cetus Amicus"
by: Christopher Hogarty

He slowed his breathing; crouched in the darkness he never made a sound. The guard passed by without realising the danger he was in, too engrossed in matters of his personal finance, he muttered to himself as he left the room. That was close, thought Garret, too close.

He was still baffled as to how the guards all of a sudden knew that there was an intruder. He'd been here for days and avoided detection; Markhaws Isle was a large enough place. There were plenty of places to sit and wait and watch. That’s exactly what Garret had been doing. Sitting and monitoring the guards, their numbers and patrols.

Two long days had passed since he managed to get passage to the isle on a small fishing vessel. When he was finished his last lump of cheese, he had already formulated a plan.

He was to enter the main site through the gaps in security, the guards had a rudimentary patrol around the outskirts of the site but more concentrated and complex schemes were inside. At sunset, he had done exactly this. The last ferry of workers left and he descended from his hiding place in the forest close by. He had finished the waiting game, now it was time to strike. Since his attack on the Mechanist temple in Dayport, Garret wasn't very popular. There was a bounty on his head and people he knew he could trust would probably still turn him in for the very substantial reward, and that was for him dead.

But he had the schematics and that made him popular among those who would value this information. From the looks of it, although he was no engineer, it appeared to be a valve or pump for the engine of some machine. Of this machine he knew little, only that it was going to make every thief in the City an honest man. Things like that didn't happen in cities like this unless there was the threat of death accompanied. He also knew that he didn't have it all, unfortunately there had been a prototype made and was being kept here.

That item was the only thing that held the project together thus far. So strapped for men were the Mechanists that they had started hiring men from all the local cities big wigs for their security. Goodness knows what surprises were lying inside the main building.

An earlier accident at the side of the site he was at prevented him from entering where he would've liked. There were still some guards over dealing with the fire that had occurred around closing time, damn loud accident it was too.

But here he was, past the external patrols but stuck in the factory floor. He had planned to proceed along the floor and get onto the catwalks above. From there, he could pass from this building to the other via the rooftop. From there on in, it would have been improvisation. Garret rested back into the machinery behind him. In this dark corner of the factory, he could not be easily seen, so he thought about what was happening. He heard the commotion when he first entered the factory; some guards were speaking about an apparent threat to the goods contained inside the main building by a thief just outside.

This worried him, no one knew he was here.

He'd been acting independently since Sheriff Truart had decided to wipe out the cancer of the city that was crime. He knew that Truart was aware of his activities but that couldn't be helped. Word got around when the master thief was back on the streets.

Maybe they had caught the boat driver, this was doubtful since he was paid well and informed if anyone found out about their little excursion he would find himself on a trip, to the ocean floor. Puzzled but not deterred, Garret set out to find a way into the main building.

Where did all those damned guards come from? His mind raced, as did his heart. He was breathing heavily and resting upon his sword for support. Sweat beaded on his forehead, running into his eyes and stinging them. Saracen glanced around the corner; he was behind a small aqueduct. He had outrun the guards somewhere back at the dock.

He recognised some of them as Lord Bafford's lot working the patrol with the Mechanist guards. He ran at the back of some buildings of the site eastwards from the large factory. He could hear the calls of the guards who were sending out search parties to deal with 'an intruder'.

Saracen sniggered to himself, his fear and excitement merging in this heart-pounding situation. All he could hear was the rhythmic thump of his heart in his ears; he had to calm down.

The plan had gone all to hell. It had been simple, the machinery in one of the factories was malfunctioning and a repair job was needed.

This came to the Thieves Guild attention and to Saracen's, being the head of the Guild, who became very interested. He had heard about the rumpus created by Garret stealing the schematics of the project code-named Cetus Amicus from the Mechanists at Dayport. He was skilled at his art. They had offered him a place in their company a while ago, luckily for Saracen, Garret refused and he had been promoted. Knowing about this new project was like knowing where the X is on a treasure map; it was a veritable gold mine. But he knew going after it would have its own repercussions, his place at the Thieves Guild would be no more. They did not take kindly to their executive members going on a job alone, especially one as coveted as this.

He'd also have to watch his back from then on; there would be an over-abundance of back-stabbers that would love to turn him in, in return for a handsome fee of course. But he knew he could handle the Thieves Guild but he was worried about the Mechanists.

They were a relatively new face to the religious scene in the City and were very well organised. They were a new industrious fraction from the dominant Hammerite religion, instead of praising the Master Builder for his work with stone and hammer, they wished to better his work with metal and steam. They thought themselves better than the primitively minded Hammerites and that they should be alone in their new foundations.

This had brought a fierce war to the streets, not only with the Hammerite and Mechanist forces but the City watch as well. Many had died in brawls started over simple matters like a patrol route to the inner city nearest each of their temples. This was finished with the arrival of the new Sheriff, Gormon Truart, and his decision to side with the Mechanists; the Hammerite forces had no choice but to simply stand back.

The most worrying creation of this new faction, and perhaps the most terrifying, are the metal monstrosities that it was rumoured walked inside the temples serving the guards and priests? Could that truly be?

Unstoppable machines with no heart or soul, only cogs and boiler engines inside their cold, metal bodies.

The newest design was speculated to be a robot whose specific function was to kill and destroy all those who stood in the way of the law. Word is that Gormon Truart was very pleased with the most deadly invention, determined to have it on the streets by winter.

In the meantime, Saracen had decided to steal the new invention and disappeared from the streets. Listening to rumour and hearsay, Saracen discovered that most thought he had been captured by the Sheriff and put in jail. This was what he had wished for; he then made preparations to join the joiners and welders that were going with the Mechanists to Markhaws Isle. That had been a simple matter of paying off the head of shop, he had told the others in the crew just to act as if he was a normal member of their repair group.

When this had been done, he prepared his bag with the necessary materials. A few more exotic items now adorned his gear from discrete acquaintances he'd made in the council. Once there, he would monitor the guards and then form a plan on the move. The only problem he then faced was the guard on the gates to the site; they made every person check in and out. It was an even bigger problem because it was a Mechanist guard and they couldn't be bought like any of the others. Loyalty to the Builder came before such matters of worldly wealth. But, once again, he had a plan, he bribed a member of the Bafford guard to cause a diversion when it was finishing time at the site. Saracen gave him a small explosive device with which to set off at a set of fuel drums at the Far West side of the site. It worked like a charm, when the explosion went off he got one of the welders he was with to sign his name. He did it, for a small sum. Now he was in, he hid at the empty working quarters until the last ferry set sail. Then he had left but he made a mistake.

He was out in the open only five minutes when he was spotted, there had been a Mechanist guard returning from fighting the fire that was surprisingly still raging and had seen him leave. Well, that was all he saw. The guard drew his sword and opened his mouth to cry for help. Saracen whipped his crossbow from its strap across his back under his cloak, he pulled back the arrow and took aim. He fired with shocking precision at such a heated moment, the arrow went through the guards eye. He heard it hit the back of the mans armoured head plate, the guard dropped like a stone. A gargle came from his throat instead of the cry for help. He dragged the guard to the empty working quarters and hid the corpse in the bathroom. The blood that had poured from the gaping wound where the guard's eye used to be had left quite a mess. He had to clean the area thoroughly and quickly. This had been the last thing he wanted to happen, killing was not a thief's speciality but when necessity called for it, they were always ready.

He had a short sword and crossbow with him, various arrows of different uses and a few incendiary items of the mine form made up his kit. He also carried a few of the highly experimental and unheard of electronic devices. These were very hard to come by and also very expensive. Once the guard's body had been disposed of, it seemed as if trouble was hanging over his head like a cloud, another guard saw him and this time he wasn't as lucky.

He had raised the alarm and in five minutes the area was crawling with Mechanists and with the other guards. He ran to the docks and dove into the river; he then swam around the site under the cover of sunset.

By the time he had got back to shore and dried off enough to try again it was very dark, he roughly estimated an hour had passed since the incident with the guard and he knew the patrols would be hectic. He then ran back to the site, north of the port where the guards had lost him and the factory was due east. He would watch for a while longer and then make his move.

Gormon was not pleased in the least, for too long this thief has eluded him and had caused him a fair amount of harassment. Not only that, his reputation and his very name could be tarnished by this scum, that thief by the name of Garret. Too many of the townsfolk were for that man, too many eager to keep quiet about where he was or where he operated from. Apparently he became popular after defeating 'The Trickster'. Ha! A folk legend if ever he had heard one, there was no evil lords or demons, only evil thieves and murderers. He planned to stamp them out. He had made a name for himself elsewhere as being the manifestation of the Law; he rather liked to think of himself as a revolutionary.

A bright new mind to combat the clever criminals, who inhabited their society, thus his collaboration with the Mechanists. He didn't believe in their religion, in fact, he didn't believe in anything. Except Justice and the Law. He liked the idea that he could clean out this rat infested city and make it clean and safe, possibly for the new Mayor Truart. He liked that even better.

He leaned back into his chair and gazed out the window over the City. He liked to watch the City at night and he always took Night Watch, it was always the busiest. He knew that the worst members of society loved to strut around under cover of darkness.

Well, he had something to do with the lower crime rate in this City over the past few months. Guard patrols had been doubled and with the help of the Mechanists, they now had a great influence on the streets at night.

He had been trying to keep as up to date on the work at Markhaws Isle, production had been slow, in fact it hadn't occurred at all. For the last few weeks all that occurred on the site was the constant importation of materials for such times, as production would start.

After the theft of the schematics by Garret, the Head Engineer Karas was making it from memory. The purchasing of imported goods for production was a great expense to the City funds, which Sheriff Truart had seized upon finding the Mayor to be a corrupt pig and had him thrown in jail. And which he needed for the number of men he now had employed under his service. It was hard business being the Sheriff in a town like this, but he had a feeling from now on things were only going to get better.

The horse thundered through the bustling streets, it's rider's hoarse cries barely audible above the clatter of the hooves on the cobbled pavements. Peasants and the destitute had to dive for cover, this horse was not in any mood for slowing down especially not after the whipping its master had given it. Cummins was breathless, the ride left his bottom stinging and he felt as if he'd been riding for hours. In reality, Cummins had only been on the horse less than a half-hour but he had ridden like the very Trickster was at his heels.

As soon as lighthouse keeper Jones had sent for a member of the City watch and then he had seen with his own eyes what was happening he was obligated to get to the Sheriff as fast as his steed could manage. He could see the office of the Sheriff from where he was, at the other end of the street the main building of the City Watch stood and that was his destination.

He'd only been in the watch for five months, a new recruit when things started changing around the City. He liked the job, he liked the uniform and the pay was okay too but he hated night duty. The night held too many dangers for Cummins liking and he was terribly afraid of the vicious sorts that hung around the docks at that time of night.

He was quite close to the building now, his horse, who he named Thunder, was still going strong. Then the horse saw a water trough; Cummins face struck the ground hard.

Everything in his vision went black and then flashed a paralysing white, the pain lashing his face was surely the effect of a broken cheekbone. He looked blearily up, his eyes glistening with stubborn tears that refused to shed, he was a Watchman. He wasn't going to cry. Not in front of all these peasants. The horse was next to a trough, drinking heartily and then turned and saw him. It whinnied at him. Damn that horse thought Cummins and then he blacked out. Water splashed his face, it was cold and he became aware of feeling wet. He could hear something, laughter, it sounded like laughter. He opened his eyes and found himself in the horse trough, he looked up to see Don and Romeo his friends from the watch.

'What have you been up to you stupid taffer?' asked Romeo laughing violently.

'Going for a swim Cummins?' taunted Don.

The crowd around the trough was large and the peasants stood laughing, mocking him. He couldn't stand for it. He drew himself out of the trough and stood straight, he pulled out his sword to scare off the crowd.

'All right you lot, clear aaaawfff…' started Cummins but slipped in mid-gesture with his sword and ended up firmly on his backside on the hard pavement.

The laughter erupted again, all the more heartily.

'It's all right lad, no need to get your bloomers in a knot. We're only waking you up from your nap' said Don, still sniggering.

Feeling himself blush, he allowed himself to be helped up by Romeo and Don. The crowd dispersed when there was no more humour to be supplied. Cummins raised a hand to his cheek and felt the sting of his injured cheek.

'That's a smasher of a bruise you'll have tomorrow,' Romeo offered.

'Hell and the Trickster!' cried Cummins. 'I need to go see the Sheriff.'

Suddenly remembering why he was even coming here, Cummins rushed off. Leaving his two friends to laugh for a while longer at their friend's clumsy antics.

Squelching as he ran up the stairs, occasionally slipping, Cummins tried to straighten his uniform. He hadn't met the Sheriff yet but you didn't have to meet him to know about him.

He was a legendary hard ass and not someone to be taken at all lightly. He was daunted with the prospect of delivering such vital news to the Sheriff in the state he was in but he didn't want anyone else to get the credit.

He knocked.

'Come in,' was the reply from behind the door. It was a gruff and manly voice, just perfect for the mental image he had.

He opened the door and stepped inside. The Sheriff immediately rose from his chair when he saw Cummins.

'Good heavens man! What happened to you?' asked the Sheriff.

Cummins was surprised, the reputation and the voice gave the totally wrong impression of Gormon Truart. He was struck by how handsome the man was and also how young, he had shoulder length blond hair and a small beard just around his mouth. Cummins guessed that he aged around himself, about twenty-five or twenty-six. He had a square jaw and penetrating blue eyes. He was also quite tall, not at all what he'd expected, which was an old battle-axe with a face as rough as his manner.

'Well? I asked you a question officer.' Said the Sheriff sternly.

'Sorry sir,' stammered Cummins. 'I fell…into a trough sir.'

'What happened to your face?' asked Truart.

'Oh that, that's nothing.'

'Well, what is it young sir that I may help you with?' asked the Sheriff.

Cummins felt the man's piercing eyes studying him, taking in every minute detail.

'Well, sir I have a watch over at the docks and…well, you said to report any unusual activity from Markhaws Isle.'

The Sheriff was half way down to his seat when he heard this and stood straight back up.

'Go on.' He ordered.

'Well, sir. I was talking to Jones and he said, oh, Jones is the lighthouse keeper…'

'Get on with it!' snapped the Sheriff irritably.

'Yes sir, sorry sir. He told me that there was some sort of huge fire at the Isle and that it was from the site but was spreading to the forest.'

The Sheriff grabbed his coat and hat and put them on. He looked for his sword and scabbard.

'Go on.' He said.

'He also said sir, that there was a trawler coming across the water to the port. He thought that it looked like a Mechanist vessel and in a bit of a hurry too.'

The Sheriff fixed his scabbard and sheathed his sword, it was a precious item to him, his sword. It had been in his family for countless generations, his father before him had worn it as Sheriff of the watch and his father before him. And he wasn't afraid to use it; he had been well trained in sword fighting. 'Is that all the information you have for me?' asked Truart, his back to Cummins.

'Yes sir, that's all I have sir.'

'Thank you Officer…?'

'Cummins, sir.'

'Yes, thank you Officer Cummins,' said the Sheriff with a twitch of his mouth that could've been interpreted as a smile.

'Thank you sir.' replied the officer puffing out his chest.

With that, the Sheriff bid him farewell and left the room. He heard a few horses thunder off down the road a few minutes later. Oh Thunder, he thought. He was going to thrash that animal when he saw it again. A minute later, an officer came and informed him that he was free to go home from duty and rest for a few days. Cummins sighed and hoped his chances of promotion would be furthered for this night.

He released the arrow from the bow, it struck at the side of the metal catwalk. Slowly but surely, a vine crept out of the pod that was embedded from the arrow. The vine snaked its way down the wall, sprouting leaves and branches everywhere it became part of the wall.

After a few minutes the face of the wall that Garret faced was teeming with greenery, the Vine arrow that his friend had provided him with sometime ago was an expensive and rare commodity but it was needed at this moment.

It had been developed from some special potion found at a destroyed mansion in the City, Garret had quizzed the man but refused to find out exactly where.

Garret had a feeling he knew where, that was the same sort of vines that had tied him down, when he had been confronted by the Trickster in his mansion. That was how he had lost his eye.

But he got it back, albeit a different form. The now transformed eye was more accurate than any other human eye. He could see in the darkness and could see farther than before, this was all help from his friends. Or at least the kind of friends who took a lot of money and managed to do this for him without questions asked.

He knew of some technology that wasn't available to the common thief but the more outlandish criminal. He couldn't afford some of the things that he wanted at the moment but if he pulled this off. He'd be flushed with cash for a considerable amount of time, apart from the Hammerites keen interest to buy the items from his possession, there was also a hefty offer made by the Thieves Guild. He'd have to consider them all and he'd have time to as well.

Garret turned and looked around the factory floor, almost empty he thought. He could hear a guard coughing over by the stairs leading to the catwalk level. That was the only reason for using the vine arrow, he only had one and hadn't wished to use it unless there was an emergency.

Garret's vision blurred and then refocused at fifty time's normal magnification, he could see the guard. Standing just in front of the stairs, coughing and generally making a racket. He could just knock him out but if someone called in here then his position was away. They would know where he was, although he was unsure Garret felt less and less like he was the thief they were looking for.

He was sure he overheard a guard whispering to another as they changed the factory shift that a Hammerite guard was dead. He hadn't killed anyone but maybe the death was due to the accident at the fuel depot. Supposedly the fire there had spread and was worsening this served to complicated matters further.

Not only did this mean that more guards were going to be on the move but also, more guards would be called in from onshore. The only good possibility from that would be that there would be a smaller patrol designated to the main building and perimeter of the site for his escape.

He had a small make shift raft that was made from tree wood, it would serve his purpose and it wasn't impossible to swim to the shore.

Turning away and returning his sight to normal, Garret started to scale the vines. His dark cloak blended him in with the darkness of the factory, there was only one torch in the place alight and that was right next to the guard. He gripped the vine tightly and to his surprise, it did not give way. He found a foothold and proceeded to climb upwards. He reached the catwalk, swung his leg over and then dropped onto it. A slight metallic clang echoed through the stagnant air. Garret looked toward the guard, he didn't appear to have heard it. He made his way to the end of the catwalk; high above him a wooden beam led to a small window.

He pulled a Rope arrow from his quiver and fired. It slammed into the beam silently, the rope slipping away from its strap and dangling down. The head of the arrow was visible through the other side of the beam, he knew it would support him. Garret was tall but slim and not very heavy. His gear was heavier than he, between his sword or his bow and quiver or his various tricks of the trade he didn't know which made him the heaviest. He grabbed the rope and pulled himself up, he clambered onto the beam. He pushed the window up but it was old and the glass pane left the frame and fell down to the factory floor. He was on the roof and had the window closed before the glass hit the ground. It shattered loudly and the guard did hear it, he called out a warning. He then drew his sword and took the torch from its bracket and walked towards the sound.

Damn, thought Garret. He had messed that up but it couldn't be helped. He'd done well so far to avoid detection from the large patrols that had been around at first but now there seemed to be hardly any guards around. He wondered where they all were. He took one last look at the hapless guard and decided that the guard need not die for one small mistake on his own part. But he had to move even faster now, time was of the essence. He turned around, still crouched on the rooftop and looked west. He suddenly realised where all the guards were.

The orange glow from the fire even made him visible to those down below for the light was so great. The raging fire tore across the forest, sweeping north with the wind back towards the forest.

He could kiss his make shift raft goodbye, it was where the fire now consumed everything in it's path. The relatively warm summer night had left all the wood dry and now there was no stopping the fire.

It was a fiery giant that would burn the forest to ashes and eventually, this site would be destroyed as well. He shook his head and stared at the blaze. This was not turning out as he had planned.

Saracen shook his head and muttered curses at that damned Bafford guard, this was not turning out the way he had planned. Almost all guard duty had been called away from the perimeter and other buildings, only one guard watched the factory as far as he could tell and two Mechanist guards stood outside the main building. The soaring fire was so hot that he could feel the warmth emanating from it even where he was.

He was next to some carts and wagons, a small section of the site had been cordoned off for them. He now watched the inferno eat through the forest like a fat lord munching his grub, there wasn't going to be much left that was for sure.

He had moved quickly but had taken a long route, to avoid the guards he went back into the forest and around the factory and the main building. He was now south-westerly of the main building and watched the guards for now.

He had seen the ship with a Mechanist messenger, probably to go notify the City Watch and get some help for the fire which was now raging beyond all control.

Time was now quickly running out, he had to get into the building and get the item and leave before anymore guards got here.

His plan of waiting till the next day and slipping out on the ferry was suckered. He'd be lucky if there was a ferry out here ever again. This whole island was going to burn and nothing could stop it now.

He slowly crept from behind the carts and wagons, he slid down the ridge that led to the sea. From here he could circle around the building again and try to find a way in at the back.

The building itself was a large circular stone structure, no spires or extensions. Just a circle of stone and mortar, there were a lot of windows around the building. There were at least five floors, he had no idea what was inside it.

Where the piece was or the layout of the building, it was all a mystery to him. He didn't have the luxury of time to plan and properly think about the situation but a thief often has to think on his feet. He moved through the dark night silently, the moon risen up to the top of the inky black sky casting eerie shadows.

He couldn't believe what he was seeing, in fact, he didn't really know what he could see. From the sea it appeared as if the whole isle was ablaze. He couldn't be sure that it wasn't, there were so many seas of flames from the hay and burning towers were the trees now. The boat rocked gently from side to side as it came close to port, only another fifteen minutes and he'd be ashore. He'd find out what this thief business was all about.

The young guard at the City had been right and he'd be rewarded for his enthusiasm, there was indeed a Mechanist on the vessel. He was a messenger, sent for Sheriff Gormon Truart with the message that there was an intruder who was on the site and all was in danger. The latter was indeed true, if he hadn't left right away the project may be beyond saving but as it stood, he could retrieve the prototype and the materials would have to be bought by the Mechanists somehow.

They wanted the project to succeed as much as he did but they were more weak and flawed, they had petty squabbles among their own ranks.

Some still believed in the Hammerite way and this provoked much arguing and unpleasant confrontations resulting in one or two deaths had occurred.

Gormon Truart sighed. This was going to be a busy night.

He rested his hand on his sword's hilt and called forth the wisdom of the previous owners, he asked for their help at this time of trial and their help to see Justice served. He felt them inside of him and he smiled at their power within him and their feelings surging through his mind and invading his thoughts. All was not lost.

The shadow was crouched next to one of the basement windows, the small grate that covered the opening had been melted off or something, the edges of the grate glowed. Thyron was around the other end of the building circling in case the intruder ran. They had heard something, at first they dismissed it but then decided to check. Now this was definitely something.

He whispered a prayer to the Master Builder as he tightened his grip on his weapon. He said the prayer in Hammerite form, he still firmly believed in the Builder's original words but saw the new scriptures of the Book of Hammers in a holy light also. He was still of two minds of which he believed the most. 'Hey you,' he called out. 'What are you doing there?'

The shadow froze, it didn't move. Just froze on the spot.

'Don't make any sudden moves…'

The words weren't even out of his mouth before the shadow sprang into action. The figure threw a cloak around his sword and smashed some kind of vial at his feet. A green vapour rose around him. He suddenly realised he was being gassed, he tried to cover his mouth with his glove but it was too late. The dark figure stood and watched as the sword slipped from his fingers and his eyes rolled into the back of his head, his vision darkened and all was quiet.

Saracen smiled as the guard collapsed before him, the green haze evaporated and left him lying unconscious. He had to be alert though, there was another…

'You killed him! Take this you bastard!' cried the guard behind him.

Saracen didn't have enough time to react, he spun away from the voice but the blade of his enemy's sword had pierced his leather armour on his arm. Pain shot up his left arm, ignoring it he grabbed a flash bomb from his pouch. He depressed the ten-second timer and held it tightly, the guard lunged at him. Now was his chance.

The guard lunged clumsily, passing Saracen and continuing onwards. Saracen spun with the guard and threw the flash bomb down onto the ground in front of him and shielded his face from the light. The flash bomb was designed with a small fuse to burn and set off a chemical that reacted to create a paralysing white flash that rendered their enemies vision impaired for a few brief moments. The guard staggered backwards, his head reeled. He didn't what had happened, everything in his sight was white and blurry.

Saracen took his dagger from his belt and rammed it home underneath the guard's chin. The tip of the knife came through the side his neck and sliced his jugular. Arterial blood spurted from his veins and the guard pushed himself away from Saracen in a desperate attempt to stop the life force draining from his body. He gasped and clawed but the wound was fatal, the dagger was still lodged in his windpipe. A final ragged breath escaping the lips of the man. His chest fell with that breath and rose no more.

Saracen removed his knife from the guard's neck and wiped it clean, he placed it back on his belt and started to move the still warm bodies of the men into the cellar in which he entered.

Garret hopped across the gap between the roofs, a considerable drop lay below but he was confident in his own abilities. He landed firmly on the stone roof, there were no doors or hatches to down below that he could see. He peered over the side, just the curve of the building could be seen and the light from the burning torches at the guard station.

There had been two Mechanists standing guard at the front door, the only door as far as Garret could see. The guards were no longer there, he walked around the building but they were not patrolling. Maybe they'd been called to the fire, which was becoming more of a threat by the minute. The fire continued to burn everything in its path, but things had taken a more deadly turn. The wind had changed and was now blowing eastwards; this led the fire towards the factory and ultimately, the main building.

He could see the guards frantic efforts to douse out the inferno a bucket and pail of water at a time. Their efforts were so futile, Garret hoped they would not take their chance to leave at too late a time. He took another glance over the edge of the building, he could see some window ledges.

He'd have to drop down onto one of the nearest ones, there were six floors to Garrets knowledge and possibly a basement. There was something coming towards the isle by sea, there was a small trawler with six or seven people aboard. He could not make out whom but he didn’t like the feeling in his gut. And his gut feelings were always right. The trawler pulled into the dock, Sheriff Truart was already hopping onto the deck of the port. His men were just behind him, three archers and two swordsmen, the best he had. He walked up onto the site, past the main gate.

The full extent of the damage was devastating, the fire had more than half the isle blackened and charred. The earliest fires had died out but the main swell of the firestorm headed straight for the factory and the main building.

He turned to see an approaching Mechanist Priest running toward him, he was surprised to see a priest here. They usually only came out when they were requested, he ignored this for the time being. The Priest stopped, he appeared exhausted and breathless. He leaned against the gate for support as he gulped in air.

'Sheriff…this is terrible…lost so many souls trying to fight the…blaze.'

'Calm down, what is your name?' asked Truart.

'Brother Ramis,' he gasped. 'I was out here on…religious business.'

Gormon ordered two of his archers to help with the fire but kept the rest for the main building. From what he could see, there were no guards at the door. This perturbed him. 'Brother Ramis, is the project safe from harm?'

The Priest looked him in the eye, for a moment Truart saw hesitation.

'Yes but not for long. We must hurry and retrieve it and then leave,' replied the Priest quickly. 'Is there no hope of saving the isle?' asked the Sheriff. He knew himself that there was not but he was cautious of this new face. He hadn't seen him before. Also he noticed how he had said that 'we must hurry', the project was in the hands of the Sheriff in times of emergency and all the Mechanists knew that. It had been decided to move the machine to a new location known only to him and the Chief Elder and Priest of the Mechanists in the case of an emergency.

Why did the Priest not know this? This rang alarm bells in Truart's mind; he became very doubtful that this was a Mechanist priest. But who he was remained to be seen, but one thing was for sure. Gormon Truart could take on any man but a man with wizardry on his side.

If he was a mage or elder, he would have a command of spirits and spells not of this world. And steel could not touch them.

Truart decided it best to play it safe, he would try to get the Priest to return to the fire for now and tell him that he would call for him when he was leaving. Of course, no such call will be made and nothing bad can come of it. He started towards the building, which lay far to the east and was a good ten minutes walk.

He turned to the Priest. 'Brother Ramis,'

'Yes?' replied the Priest. His brown eyes probing his own, he felt those eyes would strip his lies bare. 'I will proceed to the main building and retrieve the machine. If you could return to the fire for now and help try to control it, I'm sure your help would be greatly appreciated.'

The Priest stopped, he looked at the Sheriff and said firmly:

'I am duty bound to ensure the protection of that item is fortified.'

Oh, so the Priest could be stern, thought Truart. He'll rue the day he thought to be sharp with me. 'Listen old man,' this had the proper effect. The mage's face twisted with anger.

' I give the orders around here and you will return to the fire until called for.'

He rested his hand slowly on the hilt of his sword.

'Or do I have to enforce the issue?' he said calmly staring into those angered eyes.

The Priest visibly calmed down, he closed his eyes for a brief moment and let out a noisy breath. He opened his eyes and once again regarded him coldly.

'We will see young man, how far you dare go'

He turned on his heel and strode off towards the fire, which had now reached the factory. The wooden beams that supported the metal walls of the factory had caught alight. There were a lot of materials stored in there, not to mention the expensive machinery.

Sheriff Truart breathed a clip sigh of relief and dismay at once, relief at the tense situation with Brother Ramis being resolved and dismay at the loss of life and money he witnessed from this raging inferno. He called on his men and moved toward the main building.

Saracen opened the door very slowly, taking every caution not to be seen. He'd made far too many mistakes tonight for his own liking and the sting of the gash on his left upper arm served as a painful reminder.

The building was huge; the basement itself was like a maze. Full of cogs and machinery that powered whatever lay above this floor.

The door opened silently and he could see the darkened corridor at the main door, there was the door and a hallway. A staircase in the middle was in the centre of the room and went to the next level. He could see a few locked doors and a metal panel with a switch on it next to the main door. He wondered what the switch was for, the lights possibly but there was another switch close by that looked like a common light switch. There was a red light bulb above the unusual switch, ha! He knew what it was. The building had an alarm system of some sort and that was an activation point but not the master control unfortunately. That meant that there would be either automated devices of some sort regulating security or there were people upstairs. There was a fair amount of noise produced from the machinery downstairs and he couldn't tell if there were people upstairs or not.

He took a deep breath and stepped out from the door leading to the basement, it had been locked but nothing that a lock pick could not cure. He walked into the dark hallway, there was no movement or noise other than the constant whining of pistons and gears that was now below his feet. He glanced out of the window, he could see figures approaching from the port. He didn't like the look of them, he feared it was the Watch and decided on a more direct approach to stealing this. Get in and get out, if the alarm goes off. Who's around to hear it?

The window slid shut quietly; he fixed the latch back down and locked it behind him. Opening windows were always easy, no-one expected someone to be that high up, unless they could fly. Well, in a sense, Garret could fly.

The Keepers had taught him how to be agile like a cat or move like a bird when in the air, all these things made a person invisible and that's how the Keepers were still only known as myth.

They found Garret as a child, homeless and picking pockets.

He tried to pick the pocket of a Keeper and had almost succeeded but was caught by him.

That Keeper's name was Annals and he became his guardian and tutor.

He taught him that there was a balance to all life and that the people of the world were weak and corrupt and could be easily influenced by all that is evil. They believed all that was evil was created by the Trickster, a monster from the pits of Hell that craved for the world of the man flesh to become dark and tainted.

He found that the Keepers maintained the balance and fought the battle for good to prevail. Since no one else would do it, they had to. They were secretive because not all people believed in the good of the Creator, the God of all good, but believed in Pagan lore like the Hammerites and Mechanists. Garret had felt the teachings of the Keepers useful in matters of being invisible, but he lacked the faith of their morals.

He decided to put his abilities to a more, profitable end. This had angered the Keepers and they had banished him. But Keeper Annals wrote in scripture that he was the One, the one to bring balance back to a hopeless world.

Whether or not that meant killing the Trickster, that's what Garret had done. Two years had passed since the demon lord tried to kill him and destroy the world of the living with the hideous creatures that he conjured up in his dark lair. He had failed and there were many who still believed, that knew that the Woodsie Lord, as he was known among his followers, would return and take the land of the living for his own. The way Garret saw it was, if he wasn't satisfied with last time, he would just have to kill him again.

Garret turned from the window, he was on the top floor of the building. Most likely where the item was kept, the hardest place to reach. Well, at least for normal human beings. He was inside the office of the Site Supervisor by the looks of it, there were lots of tapestries and fancy ornaments adorning the room. Tempting was the sight of so many valuables, yet he resisted. The item he was after would get him more money than all the goods in the building were worth.

He padded across the carpet towards the door and tested it. Locked. He pushed his cloak back and retrieved his lock-picks from a pouch on his belt. He leant towards the door and laid his ear against the wood and listened for a moment. There was almost silence, a small mechanical grinding, like cogs or wheels turning could be just heard. Must be machinery in the basement thought Garret.

He slipped the triangular headed pick inside the lock, he knelt down and looked inside to see what he was doing. He twisted it and turned it, this way and that then a succession of three small clicks followed. The lock opened and he removed the small tool and placed it back on his belt pouch. He stood up and opened the door.

He was met with a hallway of extravagant proportions, it was easy to see that this was the working quarters of the executives. The floor was marble of black and white check and the walls were covered with paintings and designs of the most expensive taste. Three torches burned on the wall to his left, which faced the ascending staircase, with a door opposite where Garret stood. Probably the other executive on the site, the Head Engineer. Two more torches burned from their golden brackets at the stairwell. Lit torches meant one thing, guards.

The floor was a problem; Marble made the most dreadful noise when walked upon. It was far too loud for the stealthy approach that Garret favoured. So, he pulled his quiver of mixed arrows forward and selected the Moss arrow.

A small pouch of moss collected from the forests was stored inside the head of these arrows. Which, when they hit a surface, would sprout several small patches of moss which provided a light carpet. He loved these of his arrows as much as the Water arrow, they provided a thief with the second most valuable weapon of all silence. The Water arrow provided the most deadly weapon for a Thief, the cover of darkness.

He took his bow from his shoulder and placed his arrow in it, he drew back the string and released. Not much concentration was required for the firing of these arrows, they provided a large enough surface radius to adequately cover a small hallway such as this with the thin layer of moss. It did its work and spouted into several small patches. He walked forward and paced across it. There was no sound made by his footsteps and he was pleased, he started to smile when he heard it.

A bang followed by another heavy metallic thump, it sounded like something quite large and made of metal was walking around. He guessed it could be a Mechanist serving droid but he had seen them for the first time at the temple in Dayport, they hadn't made such loud sounds when walking. He had frozen on the spot, not more than a footstep away from the comfort of the darkened room he stood and listened. It wasn't on this floor, that much he could tell but it was fairly close by. He decided to take a risk and knock out the torches, he withdrew to the room and started to get his water arrows.

The first floor had been nothing worth bothering about, just the door to the basement and guards quarters. There was a lift next to the stairwell that he hadn't seen it appeared to be operated by machinery that must be switched off at the moment. It had been in an alcove next to the other door at the opposite end of the hall. He guessed that it led right to the top floor but he didn't want to go that way. He decided to climb the stairs and take each floor individually, there's no reason why the device may not be kept on a lower floor. He decided it was best to be thorough.

He had walked up the carpeted stairs, there were still no lit torches or signs of life. But that isn't exactly a sure sign that the place was empty, there were things that could roam these rooms that he wouldn't classify as living.

He had seen the servant droids when the Thieves Guild had been invited to the grand opening of the first Hammerite Temple, they were the first to warn them about the penalties upon any thief caught on their premises. It had been a hostile evening, the guards glaring at all the members hatefully. Some of them even suspected it was a trick to lure them into coming, unarmed and defenceless. But there was no attacks or cloak and dagger conspiracy. It was what it was, a genuine invitation of friendship with the new faces and a monthly fee to ensure the thieves to stay away from the temples in the City. The servant droids had disgusted him, the Mechanists were very proud of their creation. In his opinion they were abominations, a boiler of fire was the 'life' of the machine which wandered around wordlessly, performing remedial tasks and functions that was its design. But the terrifying thing was that, it appeared as if the machines were learning. Functioning more efficiently as time passed to become more optimal, performing tasks that were out with their design specifications.

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