Foreword / Spoiler Warning
Chapter 1 - "From the Top"
Chapter 2 - "In and Out"
Chapter 3 - "Cheating Death"
Chapter 4 - "A Better Place"
Chapter 5 - "Constantine's Pride"
Chapter 6 - "Finders, Keepers"
Chapter 7 - "The Fiery Depths"
Chapter 8 - "Losers, Weepers"
Chapter 9 - "Finishing the Job"
Chapter 10 - "Plans and Schemes"
Chapter 11 - "Where Are They Now?"
Chapter 12 - "An Eye for an Eye"
A Brief Word / Spoiler Warning
Thief: The Dark Project by Looking Glass Studios is a most excellent game. It's game play is unique, its atmosphere ranges from spooky to intense, and it is incredibly fun to play. Even its sounds, music, movies and plot line are nothing short of phenomenal.
It was, in fact, an interest in the plot that inspired this work. I look forward to seeing LG's efforts to expand and enrich the high-tech/medieval world that they have created. Until then, the work below reveals my interpretation of the events that transpired in Thief: The Dark Project.
Those of you who have not finished the game: I would classify this as a "narrative walkthrough" written for those who want a good read and/or help with the game, so it contains some spoilers. Read at your own risk.
In the end, this was written for your entertainment as well as mine. If you find something wrong with it, don't hesitate to drop me an email at email@example.com. I really want this to be worthy of the great game it describes.
My last act as a thief is to get this letter to you, since traditional means would probably not succeed in that regard, and you might not believe my story if you didn't see some evidence of my talent.
The reason for my doing so is harder to explain. I have seen more worlds than most people dream of. I've watched terror unspoken and observed beauty unheard. I have spied familiar things slip away, and things unfamiliar grow. I have stolen from man, machine, beast, and god. A thief's job is to take what isn't his: but I've long decided that some secrets you shouldn't keep forever. And so, here is my testimony of what happened to kindle the dawn of the metal age.
When I was in training, my instructor taught of the many things that could kill a thief: sword and arrow, true, but also, light, sound, air, and voice. The worst enemies to a thief, though, are sentiment and anger. Sentiment, you see, can kill the thief while leaving the man alive, while anger kills the man and leaves only the thief.
Sometimes, in the dark, when the ripples of a lake reflect the moonlight, when the wind still whispers its secrets to those who would hear, and the stars sing out the silent emptiness of the night, I wonder if he was right...
You'll never find a band of cut throats more heartless than the Keepers. They're not cruel, but they read the state of the world with a strange detachment, like they're not part of it or something. Doesn't sound so bad until you realize that they wouldn't help a starving child on the street--unless it served their interests. Don't ever trust anyone who's ever been a Keeper.
That includes myself.
I never did buy into their ideology, or even pay much attention. They were always harping on "balance" and "distance". They could swipe stuff real good, though. They have a way of blending into shadows that transcends magic, and technology, and all the other instruments that mankind uses to try to pretend it's better than what it is. To wrap yourself in darkness and be still is the only true thing that I've found in this world. It's just too bad it had to come from the Keepers.
Sure, they taught me how to fight, how to shoot a bow, even some simple maneuvers that come in handy now and again. Stuff you can learn elsewhere, and better. But that's not for me. After all, when it comes right down to it, I've always been a thief.
Chapter 1 - "From the Top"
I suppose if I really want to tell this story, I should start well before the beginning, so you can understand why I did what I did. The Keepers' dogma pissed me off, so I dropped them and went independent in a city that could make a good thief rich.
I found a fence there called Cutty. Not a great guy, but not that bad either. He knew the ins and outs of the city, and was willing to set up jobs for me for a modest cut of my retainer. Not a bad deal, really. Many of his jobs were easy, like the one I start my story with--steal some trinket from a rich fool called Bafford. He even gave me some info on a way in.
Now, I'm not fond of jumping into deep wells, but I figured that Cutty wouldn't lie to me if it meant that he wouldn't get paid, so I swiped the key from the drunk pretending to be a guard, and jumped in. While doing some underwater exploration, I found a natural cavern. It was already occupied, but its current residents were easily dispatched, and I picked up some nice stuff for my efforts.
A little further downstream, and I found out that Bafford should pay less for baubles and more for masonry. Too bad for him. I worked my way inside, easily avoiding all the guards, to the cellars behind his little palace. Sneaking into fortress proper was just as easy--turns out that there are a number of ways into the place, none of which provide any real trouble.
The north side of Bafford's palace provided a way out, so before I headed upstairs, I opened up the gate. It didn't even have a guard on it. Typical egotistical bastard lord. I was feeling better about my job by the minute. I finally worked my way up into what seemed like a throne room. Really, how pretentious can you get? But the scepter was there, the back door was open, and my rent was paid--or so I thought, anyway. It was too easy.
I guess when the city council decided to use the old Bafford mansion as a meeting place, they found that most of his books were nothing but bound sheets of blank paper. Must have been just for show.
Chapter 2 - "In and Out"
Of course, Cutty had to get himself caught, so I wasn't going to get paid until I broke him out. This meant that I'd have to deal with the Hammers: a fanatic religious cult which was almost as concerned with building equipment as with breaking apart anyone who didn't follow the Hammerite code.
Back then, Cragscleft prison was a warden's dream: it was filled with Hammerite gadgetry, strategically placed watchrooms, and cells that could only be opened remotely. Oh, and let's not forget the place was built on top of an abandoned quarry, miles away from civilization. Most people figured that if you were sent to Cragscleft, you weren't coming back. And most people were right.
"Most people" included Sophie. Ahh, Sophie. She and I were close, in a distant sort of way. I figured that since I was going in to Cragscleft anyway, I might as well try to break her brother out: she might be grateful in a special sort of way. At least she'd stop nagging me about how selfish I always am.
Also on the checklist was getting my lucky "Hand of Glory" back from that taffer, Issyt. It's tough getting a job when your potential clients hear that people stole from you, and far easier to deny those nasty rumors when you have proof to the contrary.
Killing Issyt was merely optional--I didn't want to spend too much time in Cragscleft.
The Hammers didn't feel that the mines needed to be guarded, so getting in was easy enough. There was even an elevator to the top floors, which, naturally, was broken. If even one of the buttons the upper floors was working, life would have been easier, but hey, I was an expert thief right? I could handle it.
And I did. Some exploration around a charged up power coupling revealed a alternate, albeit more difficult way up. And before you ask, yes the undead were quite real, yes those mines did have a few, and no they weren't the terror of evil that all the stories make them out to be. Death, apparently, does nothing for improving your speed, either of body or mind. In the end, zombies proved to be nothing more than an annoyance.
Sneaking around Cragscleft turned out to be easier than I expected. For all the vaunted Hammer technology, there was very little lighting in the place. What turned out to be more difficult was dealing with noises. Walking on metal grating is like a written invitation for anyone nearby to hurt you. Fortunately, I had picked up some moss crystals ("crystals of earth" the Keepers called 'em) which turns a handful of dirt into a compact package of silence.
Once I made it to the holding cells, I just had to sneak my way into the control rooms that looked out over the cells. Checking out the logbooks in each made it easy for me to find Issyt, Basso, and Cutty. Problem was, Issyt was dead, Cutty as good as, and Basso might as well have been for all the help he could give me. Still, getting the hand from Issyt's bones was easy (clever Issyt--I didn't realize until then how much the hand of glory actually looks like a real hand,) and Cutty gave me some information on some sort of map. He always was did honor a bargain.
As for Basso, well, I felt less inclined to actually help him out once I found that I'd have to carry him, but I figured he'd be in more trouble on my account if I left him here. I'm not always selfish.
However, I agree with Sophie that I like gold better than I like most people, which is why I went looking for that map. I found it in the officer's quarters, off of the number one cell block. Or rather, I found where it had been. Grumbling that it would still be there if the god of thieves wasn't such a brickhead, I set off to search west of the stocks, where my competitor had supposedly gone.
A search turned up another chink in Cragscleft's armor: a small opening in the wall right next to the watchroom for cell blocks three and four. Sneaking past the guard and the rotating "Builder's eye" while one of the overhead lights flickered out was just a little tricky. After finding the map, I just jumped in the river behind the guard and swam back to the mines.
Basso finally woke up on the way back home. He was surprised that I had rescued him, and assured me that I might even get some gold for my trouble, since Sophie's new fiance was quite wealthy. I nearly took him back.
Chapter 3 - "Cheating Death"
Now, I've never been the tomb raiding type: I've found that the living keep the best stuff for themselves. But Felix's map showed where the fabled "Horn of Quintus" is. I knew a few burrick hunters who would pay a fortune to own the thing, and I wanted to see something from the Bafford job.
The bonehoard was infamous in legend before it itself turned into legend. Most common people believed that the dead were restless there, and tried to avoid even talking about it. According to some of my associates, some of the most famous thieves of history got lost down there with all of their maps and booty.
Even the Hammerites believed that their "Builder's First Apprentice" is buried down there somewhere, "even whose bones will resist corrosion, corruption, and all manner of evil until the Rebuilding". This was before they started denying rumors of the bonehoard, along with everything else that hinted of magic. Who would have guessed that I would have buried his skull and four of his bones?
The most important stories to me, however, were those of the Clever Mystic, who captured his heart and his soul in two magical gems so that he could be brought back to life at some undetermined point in the future. Now, I don't buy into the stories: never did, but the thought of getting those gems appealed to me. Who knows, maybe I just wanted a souvenir of my spelunking.
Like the last place, getting in was not a problem. I remembered from my last mission that getting close to the various dead lying around sometimes would wake them up, so avoided it when I could. Exploring around the entrance revealed some important facts: 1.) Felix's team had marked the walls on the way to tombs, pointing back to the entrance, 2.) Felix was not the inspiring leader, and 3.) the dead were still kind of slow.
So, I explored the place a bit, dropped down to the lower levels, explored those, and finally found a way down some caves filled with burricks.
I hate burricks.
You have to understand: burricks will be very peaceful and friendly toward you, unless you don't happen to be another burrick. Then they'll attack you with brutality and viciousness normally associated with an Inquisitor. Although they don't like to attack close range, their digestion produces a particularly corrosive gas for them to belch, which will nearly suffocate a human. It also can wear through steel and stone with time: most burrick tunnels are formed by generations of the creatures attacking rats and bugs.
But I got to deal with them, or rather, ran around trying hard not to deal with them. Not very fun for someone who's used to avoiding conflict with stealth. It wasn't long, though, before I found an abandoned room whose entrance was flooded. Even though it filled with traps, I managed to obtain five fire crystals, and a reason why I should hang onto them until I found the way to the gems I sought.
Back to the burrick tunnels again. I finally picked up the train of Felix's markings, and they led me to the catacombs. Which, unsurprisingly, was filled with the dead. What was surprising was that all of the dead were up and walking around. A few water crystals sprinkled with holy water cut down their numbers a bit, but I still found it difficult to sneak around all of them. I felt more like soldier than a thief when I ran for cover, but in the end, I got my prizes.
The Mystic's Soul was found in a room locked doors and dark torches. I was sure glad at that point that I had saved those five fire crystals. Actually getting to the gem and escaping with my skin was tricky, but I didn't train with the Keepers for nothing.
The Mystic's Heart I found after ascending a stone ramp and ladder in quick succession. Again, my acrobatic skills and intellect were tested and proved true. Those guardian statues weren't all that quick, anyway.
The Horn itself was found by climbing up to the top of the tombs, passing through a cave full of burricks, (which were placid because of the horn's resounding), and making my way to the top of another catacomb (some of those ladders were hard to spot!) In retrospect, it makes sense that the magic of the Horn of Quintus only works when used by a Quintus, even a dead one, but I was still cursing Cutty, Felix, Old Man Quintus, and most of the rest of the dead as I ran away from suddenly angry burricks to find an alternate way to the surface.
I did manage to regain my sense of humor, though, when I sold the horn to a braggart nobleman hunter. Apparently, he planned to kill a burrick with nothing but the Horn and a pocketknife, but I suggested he use just his bare hands. He seemed to be thinking about it when we parted.
Chapter 4 - "A Better Place"
Few people know me well, and they all call me frugal when they're being polite. I suppose it was my upbringing: I never had much, so I learned to hoard what I had. In any case, when I got my cash from the sale of the horn I considered just stashing it for a stormy day, but decided instead to get some tools I needed for my line of work.
People always seem to be getting less and less social, if the quality of their locks is to be any measure, and I found myself needing some better quality picks. Fortunately, I had some associates who knew some people whose friends were in the locksmithing business. Or so they said.
Farkus was one such individual. The funny thing was, he somehow kept a respectable business going on the side. This was good, and bad. Good, because it meant he had his own shop, and not even a Hammer would bother to ask what you were doing there. Bad, because if someone did suspect you, the shop was a death trap.
Which, naturally, was the first thought on my mind when the arrow sliced through the window to hit Farkus square on the neck. As my instincts rushed me into shadow, I heard the assassins outside.
"Yeah, that was Garrett at the window. He's dead now."
I didn't know which pissed me off more: that one of the city's crime bosses actually tried to do me in, or that he sent inept boys to do it. I was going to teach this burrick sucking pig a lesson about going after me. Just as soon as I figured out who it was.
The easiest way to find out who was after me was by trailing the assassins. With no time to mourn for Farkus, I grabbed as much stuff from his shop in as little time as possible before setting off after my would-be antagonists.
Following the two of them proved almost too easy. The town's layout was pretty simple, so I could let them get pretty far ahead without losing their trail. They had good ears, I'll give them that, but whenever I had to cross something that would amplify my footsteps, a moss arrow would keep them in ignorance.
I finally tracked them down to Ramirez's mansion. Ramirez. I think the man would've sold his soul for gold if he could have. Hell, I'm not sure that he didn't. He was rich enough, and cruel enough. He even kept a couple of burricks as pets, although I now realize he just liked to torture his own guards. See how much pain they'll take before they quit, that sort of thing.
When I saw the assassins enter Ramirez's place, I was about ready to plan an assassination of my own, but I quickly realized that killing Ramirez would only disturb the delicate thread of peace that this area was already balancing on. Besides, guys like Ramirez are easy to find, and he'd quickly be replaced.
No, what I really needed to do was remind Ramirez that his gold didn't make him invincible. Taking the purse from his belt might do the trick. Maybe then he wouldn't be so quick to send out his goons. Maybe he'd be looking over his shoulder a little more often. Maybe I could make a little money searching his stronghold. The idea had merit.
So I snuck in and took everything of value that wasn't nailed down. I stole plates, gems, rings, candlesticks, whatever. I even found Ramirez's famed silver poker while in his master bedroom. Not a bad hiding spot, really, but easily taken by a thief armed with water arrows and good knees.
I overheard some of the servants talk about how Ramirez was in his basement counting his loot. It was easy enough to get to him with my new lock picks, and he and his guard were quickly overpowered with a flashbomb and a blackjack. Not very subtle, but it kept them from sounding the alarm. Sure enough, I took the bag of gold that Ramirez always carries with him, as well as a bunch of other toys and made my escape.
I wasn't all that familiar with this area, so I checked my map on the way back home, and realized how far away I was from safer territory. I was glad then that I hadn't set off the alarm, or Ramirez's boys would have hounded me all the way back to my turf.
It surprised me to learn that Bafford ended up with the poker: he must not have known whose it was originally. More ironic, though, is when he tried to give it Ramirez to settle some sort of debt. The feud which resulted weakened them both and is a big reason why the city council now exists.
Chapter 5 - "Constantine's Pride"
I like to think that I'm wiser now than I once was. I listen carefully to what people say, I learn about people who ask favors of me. If I had done that back then, perhaps this whole mess wouldn't have happened. And even if it did, it would have left me alone. But I'm telling what happened, not what might have, and what happened was that when Viktoria offered me what seemed like a ludicrous job, I took it.
It seemed simple enough: get some sword on display in a mansion, and get out. Even then I knew there was more to it, though.
For starters, the owner of said mansion was "Constantine". And that's it. Not Lord Constantine, not Constantine of Istanbul, not Constantine the Baron's Cousin Who's Milking the Baron For Everything He's Worth. Just "Constantine". Like it explained how he and his mansion just seemed to appear in the city one day, with no ties, no associations, and even stranger, no resistance from anyone else.
No one really talked about him, because there was nothing much to say. He appeared from nowhere, did nothing, and otherwise kept to himself. And now Viktoria tells me that strange architecture, elite guards, and a magic sword are also involved.
If I had stopped to think about it, to remember I had read that Viktoria was part of the "Order of the Vine"--but no, this is a story of what happened.
So I went in. By the balcony, of course. Even though I don't usually appreciate the Hammerites, but they make some nice contraptions, and rope arrows and noisemaker arrows are some of the nicest. Once in, I felt I had to give myself a little breathing room, so I took out a few guards in the area. Blackjacked 'em: no reason to leave a mess for someone to find.
The first level contained some loot and not much else, so I made my way back to the garden, which was like most every garden I've seen, except bigger. So I stole some cash from the guards and moved on to the second level.
Just remembering what I saw there makes me shake. At the time, however, it was great fun to be able to send a rope arrow at a carpeted "ceiling" and climb up to avoid guards or grab loot. I enjoyed the darkness and quiet of the creeping passageways, in comparison to the loud, bright glare of tile and torch. I still wonder, sometimes, if that contrast wasn't intentional.
I had to leave the wooded part of the mansion to get the sword, though, since it near the middle of the third floor of the mansion, where the floors were checkerboard tile, and brightly lit to boot. Once I spotted it, my blackjack and water arrows knocked out all the necessary lights. That done, I noticed some sort of magical emitter on the ceiling that seemed to keep the sword was floating in mid-air. Although I suppose that I could have just jumped for the damn sword, a thief is nothing if not thorough. The sword clattered to the ground after the emmiter was destroyed.
I took a more circuitous route back down to grab the sword. On the way back to the balcony, though, I spied a key in the master bedroom right next to the bad. Chastising myself for not noticing it before, despite that fact that it almost blended in with the carpet, I quickly checked all the doors in the place I could not yet open. Only one--a door in the greenhouse--yielded to the key, but what I found there was well worth the extra trip. Not only did it appear that Constantine was heavily involved in arcane magic, but he also seemed to have a suspiciously large supply of gold. Thinking that this information might be useful if I ever came face to face with Constantine, I quietly left the way I came.
Like I said before, I don't think I would make the same mistakes now. I understand the terrible power of hatred and revenge. Sometimes I wander past the rubble that was once Constantine's mansion to remind myself of the atrocities that have been committed by the Wood, and what terrible punishments might have been inflicted upon mankind had things gone differently.
I won't write of those here, though. This is a story of what happened.
Chapter 6 - "Finders, Keepers"
I won't burden you with the details of how I ended up working for Constantine. I suppose I could argue that he could be supernaturally persuasive, that I thought he was part of yet another stupid religion, that I was kept in the dark, and that they money sorely tempted me. All of which are true, except that that he wasn't that persuasive, cult leaders don't typically have hooves, I had already stolen everything I needed to tell me what was going on, and the money--well, actually, the money was quite tempting.
But the truth of the matter is, I didn't want to believe in what was in front of my face, and so I didn't. I was a blind as the Keepers made me out to be. Which was why I found myself in the walled off section of the city at night trying to find a Cathedral which had been sealed off for a reason that no one was sure of, but everyone agreed with.
I didn't really expect the walled off section of the city to be very hard to navigate. A couple of worn down buildings, a few broken street signs, and I'm there. I even had an map of the place which gave a sort of vague layout of the area. Honestly, I expected to be back over the wall with the eye before the first watch was over. I even planned on finding the long-lost Serpentile Torc and leaving some coins at the Watchman's Grave before leaving the area. I'm not that superstitious, but you never know. Besides, I had convinced myself that this mission was a vacation.
I found out otherwise when a zombie caught me strolling around the corner--strolling! I shouldn't have been so optimistic entering the place. I should have gone home and returned better equipped. I should have packed it in right there and apologized to Constantine, sorry, but you'll have to find some other stooge to swipe your precious eye.
But I didn't. I gritted my teeth and kept at it, even more determined now to meet my goals. I don't know whether it was youthful enthusiasm or sheer stupidity that kept me going, but I actually accomplished most of what I set out to do that night. Getting all the money I had hoped to find was the toughest part; it was pretty well distributed all over the walled section: on window ledges, wooden beams, hidden passages, towers, walkways, caves, and anywhere else you can think of. The jewels especially were difficult to see in the dark, which is why I turned on every generator I could find: there were still plenty of shadows for an expert thief to hide in.
The Torc was easy enough to find once I lowered the drawbridge. When crossing it, I spotted a doorway on the west side of the fortress wall, accessible with a little jumping and scaling. It led to an impressive looking house guarded by a couple of impressive looking (and sounding) ghosts that quickly fell to my impressive new sword. It was easy enough to guess this was the house I had read about elsewhere; sure enough, the Torc was on the second floor. I put it in my bag with the rest of my treasure, and checked off that goal as completed.
A little leaping and mantling let me get out of that area the way I came in, and from there I went to Market Street. On the southwest side was what appeared to be some sort of tower. I navigated the halls on that side of the street and quickly found my way to the top, where I could leap across the street to an opposing ledge. A door there led to the Watchman's grave. I contributed my two cents and left the way I came.
When I finally made it to the Cathedral, though, I was quite disappointed. Sure, the guardian haunts were easy enough to sneak past, but the doors to the church itself were bolted shut, and no amount of lock picking or banging on them seemed to help. I'm not one to keep trying the front door when there are other possibilities, so I walked around the church trying to find another way in. I thought I had found one when I climbed onto a ledge and tried to pry open a window that was slightly ajar.
When I heard the voice I wasn't sure what it was. "A trick," I thought. Someone was inside the church making strange noises and trying to get me away from the eye. It was strange Hammer mechanism designed to scare off intruders. I was being led to a trap at the Keeper grotto. Or worse, this was just Constantine, testing me again. Still, I couldn't find a way into the damned church, and I really didn't have any other options. Getting back to the grotto wasn't a problem, since zombies had already killed the burricks wandering around that spot. I was careful, suspecting something bad to happen at any moment.
After searching the place for traps, I jumped onto the grotto platform and shot a fire arrow at the statue there--and loaded another one when the wall to my left started opening. But no hoards of undead piled through, and after a few moments I jumped across and stepped through.
Obviously, the place was built by Keepers. Besides their symbol on the platform, in the entrance, on the door, and just about everywhere else I cared to look, this sort of clever entrance thing had their name written all over it. I had had some experience with them, so I jumped on the pedestals to see what sort of esoteric puzzle they'd left behind. After that, it was a matter of what the Keepers might call "finding balance". The broken statue pieces nearby suited nicely. I could have just run in at that point; I later found a switch inside the door that opened it, but a thief is nothing if not cautious, and a pile rubble near the grotto took some weight off my mind.
I guess the Keepers expected whoever tried to break into their hideaway to be much larger and slower than myself, which was why I could easily avoid all their traps and get my way past their second door without any problems. Finally inside their keep, it was child's play to find out exactly what the state of the Cathedral was, so I picked up the odd stone "key", examined a strangely marked table, read a book and a couple letters, and got myself the hell out of the walled section.
I've since returned to the walled section. Of course, now it's called the ghetto, and is where all the "undesirable" elements of humanity are herded into. While wandering through streets once filled with zombies, I saw how these people lived, how they were treated, and how their lives were starved of power, of food, and of hope. And it seems to me that these masses have no more life in them than the previous residents.
Chapter 7 - "The Fiery Depths"
Let me say this once again: I'm no tomb raider. I wish there was enough stuff in most graves to make a living off of, but then, I might as well wish I was good looking and a better fighter. Occasionally, though, my skills are required for a less traditional job.
This was one of those jobs. The mission itself was simple enough: I needed to find the four talismans to open the door to the Cathedral, and two of those talismans were hidden somewhere in the fabled Lost City. However, the whole time I was down there, I felt like I was in the wrong place. More like it was me who was the odd man, really, like I was written into the wrong story. It couldn't have been that bad, though; every story I've ever read about a lost city was filled with abandoned loot.
Finding the City went as planned--I dropped into a nearby river and placed my stone key on a stone tablet embedded into the rock, which opened up the entrance. Once in, I had to deal with plenty of spiders before I made my way to the heart of the city.
My map, as usual, provided a nice overview of the place without cluing me in to any real detail. Fortunately, the city was planned very nicely into a central region with eight surrounding "satellite" sectors, each satellite having a paths to its neighboring sectors and back to the center. Unfortunately, whatever catastrophe knocked out the city also blocked off most of the paths, which made for a lot more traveling than I would have liked.
Worse than the wandering, though, were city's current inhabitants. I thought that the burricks living there were bad enough, but there also were fire elementals--the essence of flame, given life by some arcane magic which still hung in the place.
These fireballs roamed the city, looking for targets of their hot temper. I had read of such creatures at the Keeper libraries--a thief is nothing if not prepared--and knew they could be extinguished by being in close proximity to a water crystal, but I didn't think I had enough crystals to take them all out. Besides, they were easy enough to sneak past, and practically telegraphed their presence with shifting patterns of light and a crackling sound easy to recognize. With a little presence of mind and some patience, they would never know I was there.
I was able to make out from nearby landmarks that I had arrived in the east side of the city, and by doing a little exploring on the rooftops of the dwelling area there, was able to find the path west toward the center of town. Before entering the central square, I noticed a broken down building to the north, across a wide pit of molten rock. I risked a water arrow to quench the fire elemental guarding the palace, and jumped from the outer wall across the lava to find a stash of all kinds of useful items. The way back across was not tough to find, either.
Carefully avoiding more fireballs, I arrived at the center of town to find that there were really only two more paths out of the city--all of the northern paths were blocked off, the western path ended with a nice view, and the southeast path didn't lead anywhere useful, which left only the southwest path and the southern trail. At random, I chose to go due south, which led to some sort of temple.
Instead of continuing south, I noticed a cavernous opening to my left, and decided to try and follow that as far east as I was able, in case I missed something by not being able to go southeast directly. And my hunch paid off. I was soon leaping from building to building to building to cross a river of lava that had closed off the southeastern portion of the city.
Just past that I found an encampment of Keepers which had met with some tragedy. I picked a Keeper medallion off one of the skeletons and continued onward to some sort of crypt. It was in this crypt that I found all sorts of goodies: treasure, gold, artifacts, and a mechanical lever. I also found the water talisman here, kept in the most appropriate place for such a thing. I finished off the south portion of the level by exploring the temple I had noticed earlier--a fallen blue gem in the main hall made me a rich man when I realized where it came from.
Back at the central area, I took the southwest route, and arrived via a twisting passage at some sort of palace. After quietly taking out the bug men haunting the place, I found an arena of sorts sitting on a peninsula in a lake of lava. I checked the scrolls I had been collecting, and found a reference to this place. Now all I had to was find a bridge to extend. The control rooms were in the basement, and required only the lever I had found to operate.
A few more minutes of exploration brought me to a second Keeper campground, identical to the first, including the presence of a medallion, which I added to my collection. A nearby cache of water arrows was much appreciated as well, although I still wonder why it wasn't used by the ever resourceful Keepers against their foes.
In any event, my journeys eventually brought me to the tower I had seen twice before: both from my original entrance, and from the blocked off western passage. Only this time, it was easily accessible. Well, "easily" is a bad word. I had guessed what I had to do from the book I read at the last Keeper's camp, but I didn't think I'd have to creep around most of four sides of the building. Good thing I'm not afraid of heights. Finally, a rope arrow, a support beam, and an open window lined up to give me the chance to steal the fire talisman.
I left the way I came in. Even though a hoard (flock? rage? pyre?) of fire elementals seemed to spring to life at my latest theft, I had a good stock of water arrows by that time--and was more than willing to use them.
When I returned the medallions to the Keepers, they didn't even blink an eye. No thanks, no recognition; just "you have returned to us what is ours". Well, that's the Keepers for you. That cold attitude is probably why I still have their Lost City key.
Chapter 8 - "Losers, Weepers"
I'm pretty sure that I'm the only person who was a Hammer novice, Keeper initiate, and Vine agent all at the same time.
Even though I really don't like the Hammers, the disguise was the best way to get the Talismans: after all, novices aren't supposed to talk while on the grounds, and they sure aren't expected to have any of the skills that I hone. So getting in and avoiding conflict wasn't a problem. The real challenge was finding a way to open up the cells and spells that held the Talismans.
But I'm a thief, and that's my job.
My job was made much easier when I found a note in the Library detailing exactly what I had to do. The note was a little dated, but not difficult to decipher. I realized that the kitchen it referred to was actually the locked storeroom in the basement, and that the "keystone" was in part of the outer wall that stuck out into the garden. The "Resting with" bit sounded to me like the "Rest in Peace" prayer that I've heard Hammerite mutter over their own dead--I don't doubt they pray for someone the Inquisitor kills on his torture devices. Yora's skull was easy to find--after I flipped that switch off, I turned around and swiped the "First Hammer" that seemed to be so important. After all, there's no use in missing an opportunity to give it to the Hammers where it hurts.
Once I had flipped all the switches, I just had to grab the Talismans--or so I thought. My light fingers and heavier blackjack did a little more work before I explored the area behind the kitchen and dining room and found where the Talismans were held. I could see that a bridge could extend to let me get to them, and was trying to see how to activate it when I stepped onto the mosaic pattern in the floor, and some sort of magic caused the bridge to extend to me. I guess that someone or something mistook me for someone else.
But I wasn't complaining. I opened the cell that the Talismans were in, and tried to grab them. Ouch. I had to take a few moments to curse at my haste: after all, a thief is nothing if not patient. The instruction scroll also mentioned some sort of prayer. I had thought that this was just part of some ritual, but decided to see if it had a more practical purpose. I had picked up the wallbuilder's prayer near the artifact room, and sure enough, reading it did the trick. All four talismans were now mine.
As I left the way I came, I was glad I had made sure everyone was feeling hospitable: I didn't want to deal with angry Hammerites on my way out.
You know how the Hammerites hold processions every once in while? Parades, really, with enough regalia and formality to sway the crowds over to the "Sacred and True Order of the Hammer". I once saw such a display where they were showing off some of their holy artifacts, including the famed First Hammer. I wonder how many of the Brethren know it's a fake?
Chapter 9 - "Finishing the Job"
If I needed any more evidence that this job was out of the ordinary, figuring out that it really was the rock talking to me would have done it. It seemed to enjoy taunting me, like it was playing some sort of game with me. For that matter, it probably was.
All the stories about the Cathedral that you've heard are made up; they're just fairy tales invented by mothers when they want to scare their kids into being good. No, the truth was much worse, and I doubt that most people would even speak of it had they seen the sort of evil that once walked on its grounds.
The dead and undead were in full force there: minions of shadow given a semblance of life by the dark powers which pulsed through the Eye. Hatred, anger, fear and loathing never had such unnatural physical presence. I had seen them before--zombies, spooks, and haunts, but never in such concentration. Such creatures exist now only on the lips of storytellers, but there was a time when you wouldn't dare speak of them in the dark of night.
Everything in that unholy place was quite real, and reeked of abhorrence, filth, and rancor. What was worse, the forces gathered there seemed to be waiting for some living thing, some poor soul to use as a target for their years of unfocused malevolence.
Which is where I come in.
I didn't enter the place completely unprepared, though. I couldn't get any holy water, hard as I tried, but I did manage to dig up something infinitely more valuable: a good map of the place. Plus, I had learned something about fighting the dead in and out of my missions. Turns out that Constantine's sword disrupted the energies that held them together, and could actually destroy most of them with enough time. Except for zombies, which were too stupid to realize they'd been beat.
Not that I planned to go toe to toe with any of any of them; that's why I had my map. I even figured that I could get out using the cloister gate if things got rough near the main doors. I still had to use the talismans to get in, though, but that was easy even for a simple thief. Water talisman goes on water seal, and so on, until the doors parted.
I immediately took a left and worked my way to the second floor, keeping to shadows and making as little noise as possible. I carefully watched the movements of the patrols in the area, and finally made it the stairwell at the back of the church. I wasn't planning on taking the Eye right then: I wanted to be certain of my alternate exit first. A little paranoia does wonders for a thief's chances.
My doubts about the gate were vindicated: not only was the gate shut and locked, but the bolts holding it closed were rusted in place. It would take a good deal more than lock picks to open them once again. I thought then that I would have to go out the front door. And was glad I had learned of that obstacle beforehand.
Since the stairs back up from the cloister were ruined, I decided to have a look around before heading back to the chapel. The place was organized quite nicely: tools built at St. Tennor's factory could be sent down a chute into the work area, while St. Vale's library and St. Jenel's laboratory were placed to welcome the brothers who entered via the cloister gate.
And beneath them all ran the winter tunnels, a series of passageways designed so that the students of the Hammer didn't have to face the cold when traveling from one building to the next. Most of the entrances to the tunnels were sealed by their own non-functional elevators, but the abundance of wood surfaces in St. Jenel's let me found me not only a safe entrance to the winter tunnels, but to the cemetery as well. It was also in St. Jenel's that I found insight into some of the Hammer's practices.
Casing the other structures also proved fruitful. I got to try my hand at the Hammer's practice of using molds and molten iron to create equipment in St. Tennor's. Some of my creations even looked useful. I picked up some light reading on the second floor of the library, mostly because the book looked expensive. Finally, I very carefully searched every room in St. Yora's dormitories as I returned to the cathedral. After all, if the Hammerites revere his skull so much, anything found in his building is bound to be worth a search or two.
I returned to the Cathedral better prepared than before, but before going after the Eye, I wanted to make sure that I had every advantage possible. And what better way than restoring power to the old place? The dead were hardly technically minded: an elevator, gate, or even a light switch could make a big difference if things got hot, so I headed to the basement, where I had read the generator was.
To this day, I'm still not sure exactly what prompted me to carry the poor sap's body all the way from the wine cellars to the cemetery. On any other mission, I would have left poor Renault to rot where he was, but this wasn't a normal job, and I saw him, perhaps, in the same boat I was in--another victim of the Hammer's laziness and incompetence. Besides, he was the only dead guy around who didn't want to kill me.
So, I switched on the generator and carried the corpse back to its proper resting place. When I was done, of course, I was glad I did: I would never have noticed the discolored tile on the mural without the ghost's help, but the cache I found from hitting it was most useful. Proof that it pays to be selfless. Well, sometimes.
Now that I felt a little more confident in my ability to get out in one piece, I decided to go after the Eye. The now functional elevator to the east of the main entrance provided me with a way to get to it unseen. However, when I grabbed it, every monster in the place was alerted to my presence. The Eye toying with me again. But I'm a thief, and thief is nothing if not calm; instead of yielding to panic, I let the dead observe my marksmanship skills. They were impressed. Once my adversaries were gone, I jumped down and ran for the front door, certain I was done.
The Eye had different plans. I don't know if it was just having fun, if it wanted to test me, or if it really didn't want to leave the cathedral, but the promise of a hundred thousand is the only thing that kept me from breaking the thing against the nearest wall. Instead, I sucked it up and left the back way, leaving some really confused zombies wandering about.
Brother Murus was pretty cheerful for a dead guy, and I respected that. Plus, he seemed the only way out of this place, so I ran around and collected what he needed for his sacrament. I had already discovered how to bless the holy symbol, and a rope arrow in the work yard got me the candle--everything else I already had. Even after that, the ghost still wanted me to bury his friends. Since Renault was already safely tucked in, I just had to spend a little time on the beams and rafters of the main chapel.
My prize was a key to the armory, and what I found there easily let me escape through the cloister gate. As I made my way back home, I was actually thinking about where I would retire with my money. I should have known better.
I'm far from what you'd call religious, but even I know that there has to be a weighing out: a time when the actions of your life get judged, when your heart and soul are put on a scale and you get what's coming to you. Even though I like to think that the sins I've committed were more a product of circumstance, and that I've done what I can to make up for them, I'd guess I'm still on shaky ground.
So if you're listening, Brother Murus, put in a good word for me. I sure could use it.
Chapter 10 - "Plans and Schemes"
I cannot adequately explain to you the nightmare I existed in; trapped in the Trickster's coils, with nothing but pain where there should have been light. This was no story, this was real and furious. Constantine's revealing of himself, Viktoria's malignity that bordered on madness, and the vines twining around me: no mere ropes, they were alive, and, I sensed, hungry. All this and more ripped apart my world. My thoughts, my mind itself fled before the Woodsy Lord, and left only the gaping black pit of stark terror. I can still feel the worn stain of it on my every emotion.
I was surprised, to say the least, when the Keepers freed me. I realize now that they must have been keeping tabs on me ever since I left them: they never really let anyone go. Still, their gift was welcome, if not expected. I was even going to thank them, but they blended back into the shadow before my eye could regain its focus. It was soon after that I regained my focus. In the absence of anything else, instinct took over. And my first instinct has always been that of a thief.
A cold, calculating anger surged through me then. Never mind that Constantine was actually a god of legend, or that his priestesses could ensnare me with a thought--he stole from me, and I was going to get him for that. Which was why I was going to find out what he was up to, and put a stop to it. This is why you never want to try and steal from an expert.
There's really not much to tell about my escape. I found my blackjack and some of my other equipment in the same room that I was imprisoned in: I even recognized it from my last visit to Constantine's mansion, although I had to visit the caverns beneath his house to get out this time. Once there, though, the creatures that guarded the place, both strange and mundane, quickly fell prey to my stealth, my speed, and my blackjack.
I must admit that I probably wouldn't have survived had it not been for the odd purple fruit I spied down there. I ate the first one because I was hungry, but I once I found that they had a most restorative effect, I gathered all of them that I could find. During my scavenging, I noticed that there were some strange looking tree forts built underground. After reading the materials that were kept in a couple of them, I was able to piece together Constantine's plans for the Eye. He was going to perform a magical ritual which cause the raw forces of the earth to destroy mankind, and feed upon the bloodshed. Or so he thought.
After a little more scouring, I found a way up to the mansion's first level, which was had become much greener since my last stay. It was easy enough to find out which parts were still open to me, and in a moment of poetic justice, I left the mansion the same way I had left it before. This time, I suspect, Constantine was not as pleased with my exit.
I found out later that I wasn't Constantine's only victim. When he learned of my escape, he wrecked havoc on the city, ripping down houses, sending lightning through the streets, stealing husbands, wives, and children from their families to vent his rage. You've even heard of the destruction, which is now referred to as "The Great Storm". Even now, it fades quickly from the collective memory of the world. I guess people stay sane however they can.
The worst part is that the Keepers could have prevented it. It was all written down in their damn books: exactly when and where the Trickster would take out revenge for his lost pawn. I asked them once if clearing out the city, or organizing a defense would have been too much trouble. They just looked at me and said that would have "upset the balance." Screw the cold-hearted bastards. I'll never forgive them for that.
Chapter 11 - "Where Are They Now?"
I had always thought of the Hammers as a straightforward bunch. Sure, they're legalistic to the extreme, and will throw you in Cragscleft for spitting. Sure, they think they have the definitions of right and wrong written down in their Book of the Stone. Sure, they have all the faults that every fanatical cult has. But I thought that that was it, that at least you knew where you stood with them. Like so many other things, I was wrong about that.
I had gone to the Hammerite temple in order to warn them about the Trickster's return. Turns out I was a little too late for that. Still, the Hammers were my best chance of getting back at Constantine, and maybe saving the world. So, I snuck in and looked around. It didn't take much to see that the Trickster's little pets were still hanging around the place, so I decided to give them a warm welcome. One gas arrow took out both a red spider and one of those freakish green insect beasts. The wail that thing made when it died was so satisfying, and I was so pissed off by then, that I pulled out my sword and let it finish the job. I vowed right then to take out any more of the unnatural things I could find.
It seemed that Constantine's boys had over turned the chapel's alter over to reveal a ladder heading downward to a secret underground sanctuary. At that point, I was surprised that the enemy was so symbolically inclined; everywhere else you looked there was simple-minded, random destruction, but the altar must have weighed a ton, and nothing short of a focused, coordinated effort could have budged it. It was only later in my explorations that I understood it was the Hammers, in their haste to escape the onslaught of the Vine, had toppled their own altar.
In any case, I jumped in and did a little exploring. All around were the tell-tale signs of a bloody battle between the Hammers and the beasts. Bodies strewn around, flies feasting on the carnage, and the smell--phew! It almost made me sick. Still, the low light made it easy to take out the monkey-guards who were still wandering and the occasional spider cooped up in its nest. I don't know why they end up attracted to the most trivial things, but two of them were guarding a small cave that held nothing more interesting than a chisel. In the shadows, I couldn't make out whether the chisel looked expensive or not, but I picked it up and carried it with me. I figured it could double as a knife in a pinch.
It was only as I went down a little further that I realized what was going on. These passages were no mere garden, friend. A fellowship of Hammers, in some fit of insanity, had built their temple on top of a worship-place of the Vine! They didn't stop there, though--oh, no. Instead of laying waste to its accursed altars and sacrilegious wells, the Hammers had used them for its own purposes, trying to channel the mystic energies into their own symbolism and dogma. I feel now that this is what allowed the Woodsy Lord's servants to so quickly besiege the Hammers. Like one lodestone pulling on another, their forces were drawn to the powers stored in those murky depths, and once connected, were greatly enhanced.
But such matters are not for a simple thief. Not that I was a simple thief right then, mind you. I was putting my weapons, and not my wit to good use right then. Mines and arrows, blades and blackjacks flew through the endless night of that place before I made my way to the hammers. And though I survived where my enemies--including another insect-beast--did not, I am not proud of those few short minutes, for things could have easily turned out differently.
When I finally found the Hammers at their siege window, a cooler temper prevailed, and I took their key, map, and instructions to heart. The key led to a locked door I had seen before, and I had only taken a few steps through it before I found a third insect-beast on a cautious patrol. Although my thirst for blood had been slaked by this time, I remembered my vow, and dispatched the creature as quietly as I could.
A raft on a quickly flowing river brought me to the Hammer's second siege window, and the lower levels of the passageways, where I spied the fourth and final insect-creature warming itself. Its death cry alerted the nearby guards, but I was prepared for them. A little more exploration brought me to the Hammerite High Priest lying unconscious in the center of a large room. The monkey-creatures guarding the man never even knew I was there, and I soon returned to the Hammers all that they asked.
I must admit at this point that the Hammers do have a small amount of foresight; they had rigged the entire place with what they called a "spiritual trap", that killed every non-human creature in the tunnels. It's too bad that their high priest was the only one who could trigger it, and then only with the chisel. I wish they had told me that ahead of time--I can't imagine why they don't trust me.
Chapter 12 - "An Eye for an Eye"
The story I told the Hammers wasn't the exact truth. In it, I had discovered another way into the Cathedral, had no associations with the Keepers, and was less an agent of the Vine than a pawn. I suspect that some of them guessed the truth of the matter, but were willing to keep their mouths shut, since the plan they came up with was most likely a death sentence.
Some time after my escape, Constantine had opened a gateway from the "Maw of Chaos", where he was busy setting up his ritual. Worse yet, the Maw itself held another gateway--one that led to Constantine's own twisted dimension. Because of this, he was able to use the Maw as a pathway from his world to ours. More to the point, it meant that all the creatures from there would have no trouble in invading ours. My job was to enter the gateway, travel through the Maw, and swap Constantine's Eye with a booby-trapped fake Eye the Hammers had constructed. Without anyone noticing, of course. Oh, and while I was down there, to break Constantine's gateway before he finished his ritual.
Sure, no problem.
As expected, the Maw of Chaos was very chaotic. The place just didn't seem to want to make sense, instead choosing to defy one's intuition about space and reality. There was never any question about where I had to go: there was usually only one option. And getting there usually wasn't very tough, either. A little care went a long way over there. In fact, except for the inherent weirdness of the place, it wasn't difficult to navigate, and had a lot of nice crystals besides.
The crystals came in handy when I finally made it to the portal. The Hammers had told me that the key to destroying the thing was to use the four elements--fire, water, earth, and air--against their opposites. And from my vantage point, it was easy to see exactly how and where the portal was using those elements to stay open. It didn't take much to put two and two together and give the Hammers a fighting chance.
And as for Constantine: let's just say that gods aren't exactly vigilant when they're performing their rituals. Too bad for them.
When I got back, there were the Keepers, waiting for me. The first thing they did was to rush me off to one of their healers, who somehow managed to dislodge my eye from its stone namesake and put it back where it belonged, with only slight modifications. I never did find out what they did with the Eye.
And that's how it was done. Looking back on the series of events, it seems more like a dance, like something meticulously choreographed rather than a random sequence of events. To my mind, the end result was a little too clean for this to not have been planned from the start, and I have more than a sneaking suspicion who did the planning.
Still, I find it difficult to argue with the outcome. The Trickster is dead, and although the metal age is far from perfect, it's a step mankind has to take. A step that could not have been taken if the cloven hooves of the Woodsy Lord still roamed the paths of the forest. Damn, I'm beginning to sound like a Keeper.
There's one thing I know for certain. In the dark, when the glint of steel reflects the moonlight, when the wind screams its secrets to unhearing stone, when the thunders of a thousand hammers break the silent emptiness of the night, you'll no longer find the malice of the Trickster.
But there will always be the shadow of a thief.
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