"The Dark Project"
by Chris Sawyer
In the far reaches of a dark city, there was a tavern. Inside the tavern, an old man sat. No one knew where he had come from, no one knew his name. Now the tavern was deserted, and little homeless children would find refuge inside-shelter, food, a place to sleep, and a funny old man who told stories.
Inside, the children sat in a ragged semicircle around the old man. "Tell us another!" one pleaded.
The old man looked around, rubbed his scraggly beard.
"Alright; one more. Let's see... have you ever heard the story of a young knight who rescued a princess from a sorcerer?"
A chorus of groans answered him.
"Well, you've heard them all," the old man said laughingly. "Just pick your favorite one."
"Tell us a new story!" a little girl said.
"A new story...a new story," the man repeated. "Aha...no, that won't do.
The children looked up at him with hopeful eyes.
"Hmm...yes! That's it." the old man stated, straightening up. The children leaned in with anticipation.
"How many of you have heard of...The Trickster?"
He allowed himself a moment's pause as a sharp intake of breath of many children invaded the silence. Outside, lightning flashed as rain beat down on the window. Slowly, little children raised their smudged hands. A look of awed fear was in their eyes.
The old man smiled. He heard the steady thump-thump of the rain against the roof, the distant boom of thunder. His dark eyes swept over the children, their faces lit by flickering lamplight. He had his story, and he had his audience. The old man leaned back and began his story.
2. The Beginning
Garrett was a homeless young man who tended to make a living as a pickpocket. He had been abandoned at birth, and he learned that no one was there to care for him. But that was fine. He cared for himself. He moved along a busy street, his tattered cloak flowing behind him. He stopped for a moment at Janus' booth. Janus was a merchant who sold all sorts of things. Today, it was vegetables. And Garrett was hungry. At the moment, Janus was shouting at the passers-by, advertising his wares. He paused to wipe the sweat from his forehead with a pudgy hand, then began shouting again. Little specks of spittle flew from his mouth, often landing on the very items he wished to sell. Garrett allowed himself a quick smile. Janus was distracted. Two small hands darted out of his cloak. One found its way to a bright red apple, and the other...nothing. Janus clamped his hand down on Garret's left forearm. Garrett looked up guiltily, then flung the apple at Janus' face. Janus flinched, and Garrett tore his arm from Janus' grasp. He ducked and rolled into a nearby alley, and hid in the shadows. He allowed himself a few shaky breaths, then ran. On the other side of the alley was his side of the town. People whose faces were hidden by dark hoods glanced suspiciously at Garrett. Beggars clung to the side if the street and someone hurried away from what looked like a pile of rags, tucking a glinting object into his belt. Garrett relaxed. He felt at home here, he always had. But something was different...something not quite right. He could feel it, like someone had brushed against him. He looked, and no one was there.
Then all of a sudden, it became clear. Garrett's eyes focused, and a dark figure resolved itself before his eyes. The man was moving quickly through the crowd, but there was nothing frantic about his movements, he moved fluidly and gracefully, weaving through the various people. No one seemed to notice him, though he walked in plain sight. Obviously, Garrett thought, he has something valuable. He tucked his uneasy feelings in the recesses of his mind and his experience as a thief took over. He pulled his cloak about him and moved in behind the man. Something in the back of his mind was nagging at him, telling him not to go any closer. Too late, Garrett thought, and made a grab.
"That's not for you." An icy hand clamped down just as Garrett reached the money pouch. For the second time, Garrett was caught. That voice seemed to echo across the heavens. It was a gravely low voice, and Garrett shrunk back, visibly weakened by the man's icy glare.
"Please, sir, don't tell the Hammers, I promise..."
"Silence." the man cut Garrett off mid-sentence.
"What is your name, boy?"
"Garrett." the young thief replied. The man's grip did not waver. He gave a squirm of protest. "Let go of me, old man!"
The figure ignored his plea. As Garrett looked into the dark hood, he caught a glimpse of the man's eyes. They were locked in each other's stare for a moment, and Garrett found himself looking in awe. Little one, those eyes seemed to say, I am all that you wish to be. All stealth and silence and shadow. For a moment, Garrett saw something flicker onto the man's features. Kindness, perhaps? Recognition?
"To see a Keeper is not an easy thing...especially when one does not wish to be seen. We have use for those with such insight."
Garrett's eyes widened. He had gotten himself into something big. The Keepers were a mysterious organization, their methods strange, their intent unknown. Garrett saw the gold ring on the man's finger, which bore the simple mark of a Keeper-a keyhole.
" If you grow tired of the life you lead, then follow me."
With that, the Keeper turned and walked away.
After a moment of silence, one of the children said, "So what happened?"
"Well, Garrett thought for a moment. As for the Keeper, he was almost gone. Garrett made up his mind, and he caught up with the Keeper just as he was about to vanish into the crowd. It was the beginning of a very long education..."
3. A Challenge
Garrett had lived with the Keepers for almost a year now. They were teaching him, training him, to be one of them. But Garrett still had a thief in himself. After all this time, a part of him was still the old Garrett-a thief. So when no one was expecting it, he grabbed some valuables, broke his window, and ran off into the night. He never looked back.
Fifteen years had passed, and Garrett found himself a famous thief-for-hire. He was rich, oh, very rich indeed. But money wasn't really what Garrett was looking for. The past few jobs had been too easy. The outcome was always the same, never in question. Garrett wanted something more...a challenge.
Two small knocks sounded from Garrett's door. He opened it to find a beautiful woman standing before him. He knew her. It was Viktoria, an intermediary. Several people in the thief-for-hire business wished to keep their identities secret, so they used go-betweens. Viktoria was one of these.
"What is it?" he asked.
"A private job."
Now that interested Garrett. Some people wished to acquire an object with a considerable amount of discretion. This was harder, so it was more expensive. And when someone hired Garrett, they knew he would succeed. Therefore, private jobs paid. They paid very well.
"A simple job. A sword, being held in the mansion of Lord Constantine. This sword is being guarded at maximum security. Because it is not just any sword. It is the Sword. Sleek, black...priceless."
Figures, Garrett thought. The simple jobs are the ones that get you killed. Constantine's mansion was the embodiment of madness. A man could be driven insane trying to find a certain room. This house was a thief's nightmare.
"Your employer and I are willing to pay whatever you ask. I expect you will be wanting quite a bit. Your objective is clear. Get the Sword, and bring it to the rendezvous. We will be waiting. "
"You're right about one thing, Viktoria."
"And what's that?"
"It's going to cost you."
4. The Sword
Three hours later, Garrett found himself in a predicament. He had managed to find his way through Constantine's mansion, leaving a trail of knocked out guards behind him. All that was between him and his objective was about thirty feet. The room he had entered was cylindrical and about sixty feet high. Two floors of the building connected to it, and Garrett was standing on the higher of the two. The Sword was on a pedestal, hung from the ceiling. To make things more difficult, wires were strung around the Sword. Garrett pulled a rope arrow from the quiver on his back and strung his bow. He pulled back and released...just as a guard entered the room on the floor below.
The guard slammed the door behind him, and it was just enough to mask the sound of the arrow thumping against the ceiling. A chunk of wood dislodged from the ceiling, and it fluttered down towards the guard's head. The guard stopped to stretch and yawn, his chain mail glinting in the low light, then continued on his rounds. The piece of wood fell...and for a moment it looked as if it was going to hit the guard on the head. It dropped and dropped...and landed softly...right where the guard had been standing. It's the simple jobs, Garrett thought, that get you killed. Always.
He hoisted himself on the rope attached to the arrow, and began to climb. Moving with a grace he didn't know he had, Garrett dodged through all the wires without touching a single one. The wired had been rigged so that if they were moved, the entire ceiling would plummet down, smashing an unfortunate thief sixty feet below. Garrett had a lot of experience with security, and this was a particularly effective way of dealing with thieves. He attached the rope to the four leather straps he wore on his cloak, then took a look at the Sword. It was fairly simple in design, almost matching his own. However, it was entirely black, and on the blade were hairline fissures that showed a fiery interior. Little glowing embers seemed to be inside the Sword. Garrett reached for it, then took his own sword from its sheath. They were about the same size, but weight? He wasn't sure. Quickly, he snatched the Sword from the pedestal and placed his on it at the same time. He held his breath, waiting for the ceiling to drop on him...but it never did. The swords were the same weight! Garrett couldn't believe his good fortune. He let out his breath shakily. Yes, he thought. It's always the simple jobs that get you killed. But not today.
"A refreshment, Mr. Garrett? I am in the possession of a superior brandy that has the most...restorative...effect." A balding man stood in front of Garrett, holding a large bottle of green liquid. He poured it into a glass, then handed it to the thief. Garrett held it for a moment, then slammed it down on the table beside him.
"I prefer my payment in cash, not liquor." Garrett said mockingly.
"Of course...all in good time. But I don't think we have met. Allow me to introduce myself."" the old man leaned forward, out of the shadows. The flickering firelight illuminated his face. "I am...Constantine."
He raised his own glass of the liquid, and so did Garrett. They clinked glasses, and Garrett drank, seeing Constantine down the entire glass.
"And all this time I thought I was gonna get paid...you brought me here to kill me?"
Oh, but you have it all wrong, Mr. Garrett. It was I who hired you to steal my own sword. Yes...you see...I have been watching you for a long time. I need you to steal something, but I had to know if you were good enough."
"So you were testing me..."
"Yes. Viktoria and I are..."
"Old associates," she filled in.
"Yes. I am a collector, Mr. Garrett, of strange and valuable items, some of which are most easily acquired...by theft. There is an item that I wish to have. That is why I found a thief. Not an ordinary thief, no. I need an artist, like yourself."
"And this...item?" Garrett inquired.
"A gemstone, called the Eye, for its unusual..."
"Appearance," Viktoria stated.
"Yes," Constantine said.
"And if I refuse..."
"Oh, you needn't worry about that, my thief," Constantine said smugly, gesturing to the drops of green liquid on the table. "I think you will find my offer to be most irresistible."
Garrett looked over at the table. The green drops had sprouted into vines, which were curling themselves around the table's legs.
"Within your stomach, the process is slowed quite considerably. I have already ingested the antidote. Although you have not been so fortunate, I am willing to make a deal."
"Why..." Garrett stuttered.
"To show that I mean business."
"Exactly, Garrett. I am a businessman, and I have given you a very good deal indeed. Take the job, receive your life. And a hefty sum upon completion."
"An offer I can't refuse," Garrett stated.
"Exactly," said Constantine, and handed Garrett the antidote.
Drinking it, Garrett looked down. A section of his stomach had hardened into a wood-like substance.
"Go now, my thief. Bring me the Eye, and you shall receive your payment." They stood, shook hands, and Garrett stalked out of the room. Serious business. I must be wary. Payment, indeed. I'll just have to be on my guard.
6. An eye for an Eye
Delivering is the worst part, Garrett decided. Of all the parts of a theft, the danger, the surprises, the fights, delivering was the worst of them all. Actually, it was the only part that Garrett didn't enjoy. He lived for stealing. The cash just let him do more of it. But he hated delivery. All the clients, they think they are all higher beings. But they are all the same. One after another, when it comes down to it, they never want to pay up. They aren't willing to let a little gold slip through their greedy fingers.
Garrett pushed open a heavy door covered in ornate carvings. The old wood depicted the fall of some long dead king. It opened silently, sending a rivet of light cascading into the dark room. Garrett looked in, frowning. Constantine was sitting at a table in the center of the room. The room itself was an oval, and pillars framed the outer ring. In the center of the ceiling, a circular stained glass window streamed colored light down onto Constantine's bald head. Constantine held open his hands and the Eye began to glow. It drifted from Garrett, and settled quietly in Constantine's open palms. Garrett looked up at the stained glass window. A young man, hands and feet tied, was being hung on a gnarled tree. Woe be to him that defies the tree, Garrett thought, reciting an old Hammer phrase. It warned traitors of their fate.
"I can't tell you how pleased I am with you, Mr. Garrett, I simply can't find the words. But allow Viktoria. She does have a way with them."
"That I do." Viktoria said, stepping out from behind a pillar. "You really are an exceptional thief. But this Eye is dead."
"I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but Viktoria is right. This Eye is completely blind."
"It's a rock. It's what you asked for."
"Oh, I have no misconceptions about that, Mr. Garrett. It's what I asked for." Constantine smiled. Viktoria flashed a smile that would have had most men on their knees. But Garrett wasn't fooled. I've dealt with this barve before. Something's up. "And now, what I asked for." "Ah yes. Viktoria, are you prepared to give our Mr. Garrett his...compensation?"
Constantine's eyes flashed green, and two fissures appeared on his forehead. Horns slid out and black lines traced across his forehead. They finally resolved themselves into the mark of the Trickster- an eye, underscored by vines, emblazoned on the old man's forehead. Viktoria's slender black dress burst apart as vines wrapped themselves across her body. The Eye glowed fiercely, and Constantine placed it on a staff, which clamped onto the gemstone.
A whirlwind of vines arced upward from the floor to meet Viktoria, and Garrett heard voices, the voices of thousands of people moaning. "Bow to the Treesie lord, the Trickster of legend..." Garrett couldn't tell who was speaking. A low humming issued from all sides of the room, and Garrett screamed. Viktoria drew back her arm as Garrett reached for the Sword at his side. The vines wrapped themselves around her arm, and it elongated, screaming through the air at Garrett. Her arm hit him with full force in the chest and slammed him against a pillar, sending a cloud of ancient dust into the air. The Sword went flying, landing at the other end of the room. The vines began to crawl all over Garrett, binding him to the pillar, cutting off his circulation. Constantine watched Garrett squirm with amusement.
Viktoria's arm drew back, and she smiled. The whites of her eyes flashed green, cutting through the darkness. Her fingers quivered and formed into huge claws. Her arm stretched toward Garrett, and time seemed to stop as Garrett watched her reach for him. He closed his eyes, and Viktoria reached for his head.
A sharp pain, in his left eye. Garrett tried to open it, and found that he couldn't. His right eye darted to see Viktoria, holding Garrett's left eye in her hand. Garrett went into shock. He couldn't move, all he could do was watch. Viktoria handed his eye to Constantine, and he placed it on top of the Eye. "We must have the eye of the thief, so that this blind Eye may see..."
Three vines clamped down onto Garrett's disembodied eye, holding it in place over the gemstone. Garrett felt warmth trickle down his face, and tried not to think of what had happened. He experienced pain as he never thought possible, but he forced himself to watch. The Eye began to glow with a frightful intensity as Constantine roared, "Did you think those were mere words, manfool? Look at me! I am the Trickster of old, the stuff of legend!" His voice was growing in intensity, and so was the glow that lit the room. A thousand voices screamed at Garrett, and the low hum grew louder.
The Eye had become a blazing ball of blue fire. Constantine swung the staff, and it ripped the air like it was fabric. Behind the fabric of the air was light, terrible light, but soon it was gone, and so were Constantine and Viktoria. Garrett took a sharp breath, and it burned his lungs. He fell into darkness, and the afterimage of the Eye shimmered faintly before him...
Garrett saw a statue before him. It was of The Builder, the God of the Hammerites. The statue looked upon Garrett, and he could feel its words in his mind. Ye shall not steal from the house I have built, or commit any theft or unrighteousness. Lest ye be cast down, and driven into the earth forthwith, and the land of the heathen consume you. The vision faded from Garrett's sight, and he was on a cliff, clinging to his consciousness. Below, he knew, was darkness. But he was not ready to die. Garrett realized that the pain would be over, and he took a final breath and let himself slip. He fell into the darkness...
7. A second chance
Garrett became aware of sounds first, he could hear voices.
The second voice sounded familiar. Garrett couldn't remember who it was, and he expected it was another illusion. He thanked the Builder for the blessings of madness, some company as he died. The door swung open; he could hear it. He opened his eye. Faint, disconnected images greeted him. Two dark figures standing in an open doorway. A knife, flashing in the cool air. And a ring...a gold ring, with a keyhole in it... Garrett felt the pressure of the vines release, and then he knew what he saw and felt was real. He was still alive.
"This is your second chance, Garrett. The Trickster will not forgive you for doing what he could not. Go now, and stop him." Garrett looked into the figure's eyes, and recognized them. Twenty years ago, he had looked into those same eyes. The two figures turned and walked away, and Garrett heard his own voice. "A second chance..."
The Hammerites were religious fanatics. Garrett hardly had time for religion, though a crisis might lead him to ask for help from the Builder, or Gen, the god of thieves. Garrett had had a run-in with the Hammerites about seven years ago. Cutty, his old go-between, had been captured. Garrett broke into Craglesceft Prison, an abandoned mine converted to a prison, and attempted to rescue Cutty. He found Cutty in a cell, face warped until it was unrecognizable, arm burned off, and cuts all over his body. Cutty managed to give Garrett one last job-and a piece of information. He handed Garrett a map of a Hammer temple and said that it would come in handy. Garrett was caught by the Hammers and forced to fight his way out. Twenty Hammers were killed, and Garrett learned a lesson-the Hammers didn't approve of his profession. He didn't approve of theirs. After Garrett got out of Constantine's mansion, he wandered about aimlessly. He realized what he was up against-a thousand-year-old legend with power over life and death-the Trickster. No one believed that he existed, it was just a legend to scare religious people into being righteous. Therefore, no one knew how to fight him. No one, that is, but the descendants of those who had fought him thousands of years past-the Hammerites. So Garrett pretended to be a Hammer apprentice, and snuck into the temple using the map Cutty gave him.
"May the Builder guide you on your journey, Brother Garrett." A Hammerite approached Garrett. The thief didn't hesitate. He spoke, giving the appropriate response. "May He be with you also."
Satisfied, the Hammer strode away.
An unfortunate encounter, Garrett thought. Too many Hammers had noticed him in the past few minutes. His papers were well forged, but a close look with an eye of suspicion could reveal him. I must move quickly.
"Young one, what you have described to me fulfills the Scriptures. The Circle has been begun by you, and it is you who must finish it." the old Hammerite said to Garrett. He bent down and picked up a quill, then dipped it in ink. Garrett watched the dark ripples as the Hammer scratched out a message on a piece of parchment.
"Go down fifteen levels. Turn right, then immediately left. Enter the foundry, and give this to Brother Beidlo. The workers there will create an exact replica of this Eye you speak of. The Trickster will not be able to tell the difference. The Trickster will attempt to open an inter-dimensional path. Once opened, his minions can travel into this world. And once opened, it cannot be closed. He must complete a ritual to open the pathway. This ritual requires much care and concentration. While the Trickster is performing this ritual, his insight will be dimmed, as he will be concentrating on the task at hand. Thus, he should not be able to sense your presence. You must switch the replica Eye with the real one. When he completes the ritual, the replica will explode and destroy him. Now go, young one. Success to your mission." Garrett clutched the parchment tightly, and headed out the door. He could feel the Hammer staring. He could feel something else, too. The weight of an entire world on his shoulders.
8. The Maw
Deep underneath Constantine's mansion, there was a secret set of rooms. A network of dark tunnels connected it to the outside world. Garrett found out just where it was connected, and traveled there quickly. He arrived at the location, and found a waterfall. After looking at it for what seemed an eternity, the water stopped flowing. Looking closer, he noticed a small cave behind where the water used to be. Garrett peered in, and saw a large stone doorway. Underneath it was a small iron grate, which obviously let water flow through. Garrett stood there for a moment, then he fumbled in his cloak for his lock picks. A corroded keyhole was in plain sight on the door. After two minutes' work, he felt the final tumbler in the lock. Just one more turn, and the lock would be disabled.
Garrett heard a soft rushing sound, which grew to a roar in the space of a few seconds. A bit of water spurted through the grate, then it shot through, knocking Garrett to his knees. He got up and began to run for the opening. He reached it, and jumped. Suddenly, the waterfall gushed down on him, knocking him to the small pool below with force enough to knock the breath from his lungs.
Forty minutes later, Garrett sat watching the waterfall. It showed no sign of letting up, and Garrett knew he could not get past the force of the water into the cave. He was about to give up, and the water stopped flowing. For a moment, he didn't know what to do. Then he sprung to his feet and ran to the rock face. After a few moments, he made it to the door. One of his lock picks had been lost in the barrage of water here before, so he hoped that the tumblers were still open. They were.
After a minute in the labyrinth, Garrett was lost. He just kept heading forward, and hoped he had enough time. The tunnels were completely dark, and Garrett had to feel his way around. The faint light from the grate had all but disappeared, and the afterimage of the setting sun danced before his eyes. All he had to guide him was the sound of rushing water. It had been almost two minutes now. Garrett was completely lost. The tunnels formed a sort of maze, and he had traversed most of it. Ahead, he saw light. A hole in the ceiling illuminated a wall of dark obsidian. Upon closed inspection, Garrett found a diamond-shaped hole in it. Above was a carving. It looked like a sword, but the light was too low to tell.
Almost three minutes now, Garrett thought. He had come to a dead end. Defeated, he sat down and waited for his demise. After what seemed hours, he was looking at his reflection in the obsidian. It was black...like a sword...like the Sword! Garrett ripped the Sword from its sheath and shoved the blade into the diamond-shaped hole. After a moment, the wall began to quiver. Hairline fissures extended outward from the Sword, then they widened into cracks. The entire wall disintegrated before Garrett's eyes. But it didn't matter. Garrett could hear the water roaring from the end of the maze, wherever that was. Ten seconds, he thought, and dove behind the cracked obsidian. He began running, up a flight of steps, then looked back. Water burst inward through the obsidian wall, and he caught a last glimpse of the Sword as the rushing water carried it away. Garrett was exhausted. He couldn't go any further, so he collapsed on the stone stairway. The water rose up, and up...and stopped-three steps away from Garrett. After a moment, Garrett realized that he wasn't dead after all, and began to trudge up the steps once again. They ended quickly, and Garrett found himself in a room filled with statues. A four-by-four foot pool shimmered in the darkness on the other side of the room. The thief found himself looking at one of them intently, then tossed a coin at its feet. It was a statue of Gen, the god of thieves. Garrett turned to look at the rest of the statues, and saw one in the far corner of the room. It looked familiar, and he stepped forward to get a closed look. "Well, well. Viktoria." The statue was of the very woman who had gotten him into this mess-Viktoria. She stood near a statue of the Trickster. Garrett looked for a while longer, then spat on the statue. He turned, and began walking toward the pool. He stopped when he heard a snickering laughter. I know that laugh, he thought, and spun around, bow in hand. Viktoria stood there, regarding the thief with a cold intensity. "You have turned out to be surprisingly hardy. Yes, you are quite an exceptional thief. Unfortunately, Constantine and I no longer have any use for you. Garrett regarded the woman, looking for weapons. He saw none, though he believed that she wouldn't need any. Viktoria laughed. "Your Keeper friends can't help you now, Garrett. You're on your own." Now! Garrett couldn't tell where the voice came from, but he obeyed. With surprising speed, he pulled a water arrow from his quiver. He strung it, and fired it into the torch on the wall nearby. He heard the glass shatter, and the water wash over the torch. The room was cloaked in darkness, and the image of the torch burned in Garrett's eyes. Viktoria hissed. Garrett could see her eyes through the darkness. He ducked behind a statue and heard the whip of vines. The statue beside him crumbled, leaving a thick mist of dust hanging in the air.
Garrett could see Viktoria. She was moving toward him. Unable to draw an arrow, he pulled himself into a fighting stance. Viktoria lashed out with her hands, her fingers hardening into claws. Garrett ducked, then swung his foot around in a roundhouse kick that would have floored a grown man. Viktoria's head snapped back, and for a moment, she seemed dazed. She recovered quickly. Garrett was still spinning, and ducked as he did so to avoid two blows from Viktoria. She drew back, and as Garrett completed his spin, he brought up his arm, slamming into Viktoria's neck. She gurgled, and Garrett backed up. Viktoria moved back, then her arm flashed out toward Garrett's feet, turning into a mass of vines as it did so. Garrett gathered his strength, and closed his eyes. He jumped backward, high into the air, and somersaulted onto the shoulders of the god of thieves. Viktoria's arm struck the floor where he had been standing, and it exploded, raining chunks of stone all over the room. Garrett fired a fire arrow, and watched its bright arc. Viktoria watched it too, and the light in her eyes was accompanied by the reflection of the fire. Garrett took advantage of his opponent's distraction, and strung a broadhead. He pulled back, and released. The arrow screamed through the air, and slammed into Viktoria's left eye. She hissed in agony, and Garrett smiled. "An eye for an eye," he said, and braced himself against the wall. He put his boots on the statue of Gen, then pushed with all his might. It did not move. Viktoria was writhing in agony, but she managed to move slowly toward Garrett. Garrett gathered his strength, and sent off a silent prayer to the Builder. He pushed with all the strength he possessed, but it was no good. The statue wouldn't move. Garrett fumbled in his pocket for something, then found it. The ring. The Keepers had given it to him twenty years ago, but he never had the heart to throw it away. He slipped it on. An odd feeling crept over his body, and a warm glow emanated from the keyhole. He felt relaxed, at ease. One last time, he pushed. The statue rumbled, then tilted. He pushed...harder...harder. The statue rose up on the tip of its feet. It hung in the air for what seemed an eternity, then toppled over. Viktoria looked up at it looming over her, and screamed. The statue of the god of thieves slammed into her, and it burst into pieces as it hit. Viktoria evaporated into a green mist, and the head of the statue rolled to a stop at Garrett's feet. Gen's stone eyes came to rest on Garrett, and for a moment, he felt he was looking at himself. Thank you. Garrett set a single golden coin in front of the statue, and turned. He walked away, and the gold coin glistened in the dwindling light of the fire arrow.
Garrett had been walking down a stairwell for what seemed like hours. He had to swim down through the pool to get to them, and he was out of breath. He was also exhausted from his fight with Viktoria, and even the ring seemed to be drained. Just as he was about to collapse, he reached the end of the stairway. Finally, he thought, I seem to be getting somewhere. At the end of the stairs was a large stone door. All of his lock picks had been lost in his fight, so he took his last fire arrow from his quiver. He looked at it for a moment, the ball of fire shimmering behind the glass. The whole arrowhead was held together by a few strips of iron, and he realized how fragile it was. Garrett stuck the arrowhead into the large keyhole and twisted it with the last of his strength. A column of light filtered from the keyhole as the lock disintegrated. Garrett took the ring off and put it in his pocket. It didn't seem to be helping.
The door swung open of its own accord, and Garrett stared in awe. Inside was a gigantic circular room, held up by pillars. On the ceiling was a huge circular stained glass window, it had a strip of white in the center, which blossomed out in blue and green spirals. In the center of the room, a single white pedestal stood. On it was the Eye, which was holding Garrett's eye over it with three golden spikes. Near it, a figure paced, chanting. On the figure's head were horns. Constantine. Garrett pulled the replica Eye from the pouch at his side. Constantine was doing something at the other end of the room, so Garrett slipped into the shadow of a pillar. He moved from pillar to pillar, ducking as Constantine glanced around. Then Constantine went to prepare something at the pillar directly across from the one Garrett was hiding behind. Constantine began counting down. Forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight...This is my chance. Now, or never. Garrett ran softly toward the white pedestal, and saw the Eye, glowing faintly. He held up the replica. They looked the same. Constantine was almost to his destination. Garrett took the Eye from the pedestal and placed the fake one where it had been. He plucked his own eye from the real Eye with disgust and placed it on the replica. It began shining blue, and Garrett took a rope arrow and shot it into the ceiling. He grabbed the rope and strapped it to his back, then began to climb furiously. His muscles screamed in agony, but he kept going. Got...to get...away! He slipped the ring on. One last time, buddy.
Constantine stiffened. He whirled around and saw the rope. He looked further upward and saw Garrett. They were locked in each other's gaze. Garrett made the first move. He let himself fall until the rope caught, stopping him thirty feet above ground. He pulled a broadhead from his quiver and sent it flying toward Constantine. He launched another arrow to finish the job. Constantine reacted with cool efficiency. His hand shot up, and clutched into a fist as the first arrow screamed toward his head. The arrow's shaft splintered into a thousand pieces, and the arrowhead fell useless at Constantine's feet. The other arrow veered away and struck the ground. Constantine lowered his hand. Garrett was shocked. Again, the Trickster raised his hand. This time, he flicked his wrist, and his robes fluttered behind him as though he was hit by a powerful gust of wind. The harness on Garrett's back unlatched itself, and Garrett found himself in free-fall. He plummeted toward the ground, wondering how long it had been. Ten seconds left, he decided. Constantine made a shoving motion with one hand, and Garrett felt an invisible force strike him. He rose upward, rocketing toward the ceiling at a terrifying speed. Five seconds. Four. Three. Two...Garrett slammed into the stained glass window, and shards of glass rained down on Constantine. "Resistance is useless! You see, the gateway is opening!" Garrett heard Constantine scream as the replica Eye began to glow. A beam of blue light shot up through the broken window, and Constantine laughed, relishing his moment of glory. The remaining shards of glass lit up, and a beam of light streamed through the opening. Garrett's last thought was that in the end, it was so very beautiful...A shockwave erupted from the fake Eye, and Constantine's triumphant smile transformed into a grimace of fear. He screamed, and Garrett looked upon the wonderfully bright light one last time...
Two days later
"So you think you've won."
"I think I got my eye back."
"Yet...still...you are blind."
Garrett was standing on a rooftop. He used to live here, back in the days of his youth. He would sleep on the rooftop and watch the lights dim in the houses as he fell asleep. Now, Garrett felt a bit of the same. He watched the lights fade with his new eye. The Hammers had built him one, thanks to the old man who helped him defeat the Trickster.
"If you hadn't noticed, I just saved the world...yourself included," Garrett said mockingly.
"As we knew you would...as it had to be."
"Now I remember why I left the Keepers."
"And I remember why we let you go," the old Keeper replied. He looked Garrett in the eye. Twenty years ago, they had stood not far from here, locked in each other's gaze. Garrett felt a sense of déjà vu as they locked eyes. He turned away.
"What do you want from me?" he asked, and the two began walking. "You come here to congratulate me, welcome me back to the fold?"
"Very well. I will speak my piece plainly. You have accomplished what was written, and yes, you've done it well, but there is no place for you with us anymore, Garrett. But you will have a great need of us, and soon."
"I don't think so. I'm through with heroics, and with your kind as well."
They passed the foundry, workers lit in surreal light from glowing metal.
"You cannot run from life as you did from us, Garrett. Life had a way of finding you...no matter how artistic a sneak you are." He paused for a moment. "Listen. There is a book, which you were not made aware of. I think that now would be a good time to read it. You can still read hieroglyphs?"
"I keep trying to forget you Keepers leave them everywhere for me to find."
"Yes. You have more friends than you know."
"Tell my friends that I don't need their book. I don't need their secret messages and warnings." Garrett's voice was growing more spiteful by the second. He leaned in toward the Keeper, and began speaking with disgust. His tone was mocking, and he was surprised by his own anger.
"Tell them it's over. Tell them I'm through. Tell them Garrett is done."
With that, he ripped the ring from his finger. He threw it on the ground at the Keeper's feet. It glowed faintly.
The Keeper looked down. Garrett turned, and with a swirl of his cloak, he disappeared into the orange mist from the foundry.
"I will tell them this," the Keeper said in a low tone, his voice echoing over the sky. "Nothing has changed. All is as it was written. The Trickster is dead. Beware the dawn...of the Metal Age."
Garrett was long gone, and the Keeper looked into the mist. Below him, the small glow that emanated from the ring flickered, then faded, and Garrett disappeared into the night.
The children shared a moment of silence as the old man finished his story. The old man closed his eyes, and leaned back. The children began to get up, and they walked toward the stairs. One stayed behind. She approached the old man, and he opened his left eye to look at her. It glinted in the low light, and it looked almost...mechanical.
"Is Garrett good...or bad?" she asked.
"Only you can decide," he responded, and closed his eye again. The little girl turned and tiptoed quietly up the stairs, leaving the old man alone with his thoughts. Well, not quite alone.
He turned...and saw a face out of the past. Sixty years earlier, he had looked into those eyes...
"It's been forty years, Mayar." He shook his head. "You do not seem to age."
"Neither do you, Garrett. I see the same boy that I did seventy years ago when I look into your eyes."
"You finally found me. I knew you would."
"I never lost you, Garrett. We have been watching, all these years."
Garrett looked, his eyebrow rising. He reached into his cloak, and pulled out an object coated with dust.
"I thought you might like to have this..." he said, and set the Eye down on the table. It still glowed blue from the inside.
Mayer picked it up. He handed Garrett something. Garrett felt it. It was warm, and it felt familiar.
"What's this?" he asked.
"A piece of the past. And a piece of the future, if you want it to be."
Garrett opened his palm. The ring lay there, glistening like it had so many years ago...
Garrett turned, but the Keeper was already gone. But Garrett knew he was
watching. He held the ring up, and it glimmered in the firelight, sending
little golden beams ricocheting around the room. Garrett slipped it on, and
in the dark keyhole, a light flared, as it had not done in forty years...
I know it isn't completely accurate with the storyline of the game, but I thought I'd submit it anyway. Enjoy!
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