Chapter 21 - Holy War

- Lytha: Thank You, Father Inquisitor - Day 10: 10:25pm

"If you want to go, go now."

The clear voice of Thalia (or my own, I was still not sure) interrupted my short nap.

I looked up. The place seemed to be empty now. I had no idea how long I had been sitting on the wall, but it was now well after dark. "Probably they are gone for dinner," I muttered, and decided that I should enter the building now. I knew it had a small torture chamber in the basement - probably for training purposes or for a quick torture between the dinners, or whatever. I slid down to the place between the buildings of the cloister, and headed to the living complex. Entering was easy, because there were no Hammerites around to see me. I took the stairs down to the basement, and reassured myself that the hood of the cloak hid my face.

The basement was not very well lit. I knew that the torture rooms were in the north, so I followed the hallway to the right. At the end of the corridor, I could see a Hammerite guard. He stared off into nowhere, bored and obviously not liking his current assignment. I waited, and felt nervous and angry because he blocked my way. As I stood there and tried to find a possible way to sneak past him, the opportunity came. A loud cry rose from behind the door he guarded, and he turned to the door to listen. I drew my dagger, and hurried to his back. Luckily, the neck-guard of the Hammerites' uniform didn't protect between the shoulder blades. He died quietly.

I took the key from his belt, and unlocked the door. A small and tidy office lay behind the door. Through an open heavy metal door in the opposite wall, I could see another room, obviously the torture chamber. It had the classic look with many torture instruments, and was lit by torches. This was really not going to be fun. The fear and the pain from the last week, when I was in the hands of the Hammerites, struck me. I tried to calm myself.

I closed the exit and locked it. I was really lucky today - no one had seen me enter the office. I snuck to the open door in the opposite wall, carefully using the wall as cover. I heard voices again, but this time not inside my head. A dialogue began behind the metal door.

"Now, Eustas, I would really recommend you to cooperate. There is no need to force us to use more violence." I shuddered. That was his voice. The Inquisitor. And that was the way he tried to convince his victims to give their confessions.

"No? You won't, Eustas Myr?" A short break, and then another loud cry.

"Well, you see, my sons, that the first strategy is not working in this case. Personally, I would not recommend the use of brutal force in every case, but if the subject refuses to cooperate at this stage, it seems to be the most effective way. Continue, novice."

I felt sick, and the headache started again. Shaking, I tried to clear my thoughts and to keep from vomiting.

"Any questions about this strategy, novices?"

"Yes. Why do you combine the two strategies of violence and rationalism, as we call it, together at this stage of the interrogation?"

I refused to listen any longer. I decided to try the strategy of distraction and the strategy of sudden appearance now. I shot a water arrow at one of the torches in the torture room.

"What was that? Hmm, can you please re-light that torch, my son?" The Inquisitor said to a guard.

As I had hoped, or expected, the guard stepped towards the office. I hugged the wall behind the door, and hoped that he not would see me there when he entered the room. I readied my bow. He did not see me, headed towards the table, and fell to the ground with an arrow in the neck. The arrow seemed to have hit his larynx, because he could only make some silent gurgling sounds in his last seconds, until I hurried to him and hit the dagger into his chest. I dragged the corpse below the desk, and went back to the place behind the door.

The lecture went on, until one of the novices (there seemed to be two of them) decided to inspect where the guard had gone.

As soon as he entered the office, he saw the blood on the floor where I had killed the guard. He opened his mouth, and gasped for breath to cry for help, as I shot another arrow at him. This time, I was not so lucky. He fell to the ground, but cried aloud: "Heeeeeeeeelp!" He started to crawl to the door that I had luckily locked. I stared at him, and was too shocked to see him almost alive to do something. As he had reached it, he saw the corpse of the guard below the desk, and cried another time: "Heelp! Murder! Assassin!" He tried to open the door, found it locked, and started to beat his fists against it.

I decided that it was time now for a fast change of the strategies, and ran straight into the torture chamber. The two Hammerites were too surprised to do anything, especially the second novice, who stared with his mouth open at me, frozen in shock, same as the subject of the interrogation. The Inquisitor's reaction time was amazingly short, and he readied one of the Hammerite spells. I was faster, and shot a badly aimed arrow at him. It stuck in his leg. He wheezed and tried to ready the next spell. I hit him again. He tried to ignore the arrow in his shoulder. The next arrow hit him in his vital point. I had never hesitated to fight unfair, and especially not if I was in a hurry. He fell to his knees, and fought for breath. I aimed the next arrow at him.

The Inquisitor stared at me, and I could smell his fear. He did not dare to move. The novice stood still there, mouth open. The tortured man, Eustas, was on his knees, hands tied behind his back. The other novice was silent now and was motionless on the floor, he had lost an incredible amount of blood through the wound that the arrow had caused. My hood fell to my back. The Inquisitor stared at me, and I saw that he recognized me. I shot. The arrow stabbed his right eye and stuck in his head. He fell to the ground, twitched a few times, and then did not move any more.

I drew my dagger, and hurried to him. I wanted to be sure that he was really dead, and so I stabbed the dagger into his chest.

By now, the novice came back to reality. He ran towards the office; and died with the dagger in his back, thrown by my hand.

Now that every Hammerite in here seemed to be dead, I realized what I had done. I looked down at the Inquisitor's corpse, and saw that I had probably hit his chest and neck more than 10 times with the dagger, until the novice had tried to run away. I felt sick as I saw the mess on the floor: Blood everywhere, and one of them had wet his trousers as he died. The smell was more than disgusting. I got sick beneath the corpse of the Inquisitor.

"Okay. Okay. Calm down. Dammit. Calm down." I said to myself trying to stop shaking. "What now. Oh, yes, of course."

Eustas stared nervously at me as I spoke to myself, and even more as I rose to my feet and went into the office, ignoring him completely.

I went to the shelf, and had a look at the books there. Of course, the Inquisitor had his log books here. His notes about his interrogations. They were well sorted by the time of the interrogations, it seemed. Good that he seemed to have been a compulsive, orderly man. I found his notes about me in the most recent book, and put that book into my pocket. Then I took the matches, but before I continued, I remembered the tortured man. Eustas, they had called him. Or similar. No need to burn him, too.

I went back to the torture chamber, to the man. I looked in his eyes.

"Do you want to get out off here?" I asked.

He stared nervously at my face, and nodded.

"Okay. One moment. Why are you here?" I asked. I had no interest in releasing anyone who might act counterproductive in any way, and maybe run to tell the Hammers I was here.

"They called me a thief's pawn. I had done some business with some thieves." He said.

"With who?" I hesitated. He did not say a word, but suddenly I heard a name, maybe, no, most probably the odd voice of Thalia had said it inside of my head. "What? With Nightfall? Oh. Okay." I unchained him. His eyes seemed to drop out of his head. He stared motionless at me, mouth open. He did not even dare to raise from his knees.

"I... I did not say -" he started.

"Oh, shut up. You know how to get out off here? Wait, I will unlock the door. Now hurry out. I would recommend that you take the backdoor. However. No, wait. Here's a dagger. Take it. Now hurry away."

So he did. And though he was obviously not in condition to run very quickly, he sped away .

I sighed, and tried to ignore the bad headaches. I dragged the corpses to the shelf with the notes, threw the paper sheets on the corpses, and lit a match.

"Goodbye, Brother Inquisitor. Burn in hell," I said, and set the papers on fire.

- Ghost: Phantom of the Temple - Day 10: 10:30pm

I could see the front doors from the roof where I had hidden my gear. Guards were standing at their posts and patrols were walking around outside. I couldn't believe how well lit this place was. The Hammerites had put in spotlights aimed at the building to show it off; as if the sheer size of the thing didn't make it stand out enough already. "Not much to see from up here." I decided I had to get a closer look at the place. I couldn't see the whole building from where I was.

By the time I made it to the ground it was dark enough to make the temple look truly eerie. After circling the place and staying out of the guards sight, I decided that the best way in was by the second floor balcony. The only problem was that the guards went by there frequently.

The area under the balcony was a wide open space, with a short tree or two around, and a low string of bushes which ran all the way around the place. The guard patrol was wearing a path through their neatly cut lawn. When the guards walked past for the fifth time, I broke out in a full run to the bushes under the balcony. I dove behind them just as the next pair of guards came into view around the corner. I could hear them grumbling as they got closer, but could only make out a small piece of the conversation as they passed. Their accents were loose, so I could tell they must be new recruits.

"I don't know why we must walk this path whilst our brothers all sit inside at the ceremony."

"'Tis all political. The others have been around longer, and besides, do you really want to listen to another three hour speech by Brother Alphonse about that Cragscleft incident? Take it as a compliment that they do not feel that we need to be lectured on proper security."

"I see thy point, but I don't know why they couldn't make the novices walk..."

"Hmm some kind of ceremony. Must be dedicated to me if it's about the Cragscleft thing." This was better than I had hoped. Most of the Hammerites would be locked up listening to some guy go on and on for a couple hours. Now all I had to do is get in and I could set up a surprise for the whole group of them. Another pair of guards rounded the corner as I sat behind the bushes trying to decide the best way to not get caught.

I launched a rope arrow into the beam above the balcony. It stuck with a resounding thud. I hurriedly climbed up just as the guards came pacing around the corner once again. Luckily for me they weren't paying much attention. Or they just never looked up, and missed the heavy lump being pulled through the air.

The window was locked with no way to pick it from outside. Locked or not a window isn't a match for a glass-cutter. I made a small hole, unlocked it and slipped in before I could be seen. The room I entered was a bedroom. It looked like it may have been for high-ranking guests, because there weren't any valuables or personal items here. The door led out into a narrow hallway lined with other doors. The only sound around was the dull humming of the lights, which was disconcerting in a temple this big.

I turned to the left and looked down the hall. It led to a wide balcony, overlooking a wide open area with a few walls that blocked off other areas. After noting the guards at the two doors I stepped out of view to work on a plan. "Time to work," I muttered as I grabbed my bow and two gas arrows. There was nothing like a weapon that can put people down even if you miss. Peeking around the wall I checked for range, and launched the arrow at the guard farthest from me. I then quickly loaded and launched the second before his friend could figure out what was going on. Once both guards were down, I stuck a rope arrow into an overhead beam and slid down to the main floor.

This ceremony, lecture, or whatever the guards were talking about must have started already. There were no Hammers wandering freely inside. These two door-guards must have had thought themselves rather lucky to not have to listen to some guy preaching to them. I moved quickly to the door leading outside, and unwrapped a rope arrow. I tied the rope around the two door latches so they wouldn't be able to open that door quickly. I took off one of my packs, and begin to place an assortment of gas and explosive mines across the floor. I left a small path leading back to my entrance point. I didn't know how many mines I took from Quenton's supplier, but it was quite a few. I would have to be sure to thank him later if I made it out of this alive.

I slowly cracked open one of the doors leading to the congregation chamber. I heard someone talking in an echoing room filled with Hammerites. The size of the assembled crowd was impressive, almost scary, and they were all sitting, listening intently to the speaker. It was hard to believe that there could be this many gullible suckers gathered in one place at one time to listen to some blowhard preach about the rights and wrongs of nature and how they must build to improve themselves.

"...and for our fallen brethren we must hunt down the heathens responsible for their deaths. We knowest from our prisoner logs that one escaped and aided in the massacre. She is known as Lytha, and is to be apprehended shouldst we find her. The man who hath helped her, from what little we could gather is known by the name of Ghost. We only know of him because he hath left this dagger stuck in the burning body of your brother, Maxim, may his soul reside in peace."

He held up one of my daggers for the large crowd to see. I was impressed that it and Brother Maxim were left after being thrown in the fire. He continued. It was at this time that I noticed something. I remembered all the odd stares I had received in Cragscleft. The guards behind the speaker were wearing uniforms like the one I had stolen. It was a ceremonial uniform! No wonder people looked at me like I had a dead cat on my head.

"Shouldst this 'Ghost' be caught, he shalt be publicly destroyed, to show that no one can do this to us in our own sanctuaries. If any of thee shouldst know where he may be -" I hated to interrupt such a stirring speech, but it was a moment I couldn't pass up.

"I'm right here!" I shouted as a fire arrow leapt from my bow and exploded directly on the speaker's chest, knocking him down behind his podium. I didn't know if he was dead but I did know that if I didn't move, I would be. I turned to run for the rope and as I heard the stampede behind me. I flipped a couple flash bombs over my shoulder and ran for my life!

While I climbed the rope as fast as I possibly could I heard the screams of the blinded Hammerites being pushed into the trapped room by their overzealous brothers. The sound of the exploding mines and screaming Hammers was deafening, and made climbing the rope almost impossible. I reached the top and fell over the railing to witness the carnage below. Men knocked unconscious by gas mines flopped onto exploding mines, sending them flying into yet more mines. It was just what they deserved for threatening me like that!

- Lytha: Chaotic Contributions - Day 10: 11:30pm

As I left the office of the Inquisitor, I heard some really loud noises from above. They were explosions, probably of mines and of fire arrows. I frowned, and decided to inspect the source of the noise. Well, it was more like: I knew that I would not be able to leave the temple as quietly as I had entered it, what with alerted Hammers all over the place.

Hammer buildings are normally very well lit, so I decided to try to get to the power controls first. Once there, I could fill this place with a nice thick darkness.

Luckily, the main power controls of the temple were in the basement, which is where I was. I had a look at my mental map of the building, and headed to the east. The door to the room with the power controls was not locked, and it had an emergency ax beneath the power controls, as if they needed it relatively often. Electricity in new buildings seemed to be still a problem for the Hammerites.

I reached for the master switch, to flip it to the Off position, but stopped cold as I read the sign clearly placed above it. "High Voltage, attempt to operate while grounded may result in serious injury or death." Well, I had no idea what "grounded" meant, so I decided that I'd rather not take the chance. I had another solution.

I took the ax and smashed it on the box with the power controls. That was not very elegant or discreet, but it disabled not only the alarm that had been activated directly after the explosions, but also it had an effect on the electric lights of the temple. They now permanently went on and off. It wasn't as good as I had hoped, but it was better then nothing.

I heard someone rushing this way, so I decided to make haste in my exit. The box was probably too deformed to be repaired within the next few hours. That was long enough for me to escape.

With the smell of the burning corpses from the Inquisitor's office in my nose and the flickering light in my eyes, I quickly rushed towards the source of the commotion. Sure, the smart thing would have been to get out of the place then and there, but something in my head ordered me to investigate.

- Ghost: Into the Fray - Day 10: 11:40pm

The explosions started to die down as more bodies piled up. I had to move quickly since they would be able to make it to the stairs shortly. One smart fellow was climbing my rope to get to me. I grinned as I leaned over the balcony. He looked up at me in time to see my dagger slice the rope, sending him crashing back to the floor. As I turned I saw the lights begin to flicker off and on. I didn't know why, but it got a bit darker and that was more of a bonus for me.

I ran back down the hallway from which I made my entrance. I noticed the stairway leading down at about the mid-section of the hall. I also noticed the group of guards running up towards me. I decided to turn around and run back for the balcony. I thought about jumping off to elude the pursuers, but that would probably be a bad idea. I grabbed a couple daggers and spun to face them. Thankfully, the hall wasn't wide enough to allow them all to gang up on me. The first one in line charged me with a wild swing. He came up short, and managed to knock a door off its hinges instead. I stumbled back to the railing as he again ran at me, swinging that big hammer. I ducked and jammed my knives into his gut. He finished his swing that took a chunk out of the stone railing. He fell over me, my head against his chest. I pushed him up and over, throwing him over the ledge. He landed on a group of his comrades, knocking them unconscious.

The others wasted no time in coming at me. Thinking fast, I tossed a flash bomb at their feet. Then I looked down over the railing for a good landing spot. I jumped from the rail onto a pile of bodies with a sickening thud. I rolled onto the floor. Suddenly I was struck by a funny thought. I always seemed to have my falls broken by dead bodies. I could hear the guards cursing at me and running back down the hallway, with more men coming from the left, right, behind, and straight ahead. I spotted my bow lying on the floor and put another rope arrow into the beam by the balcony. Maybe I could wear them out making them running up and down the steps. I climbed up to the balcony just as large group of them entered the room. I heard them curse my family as I ran back down the hall to the room through which I had entered.

Closing the door behind me I caught my breath and pushed my back to the door, hoping that it would stop them from getting in. I was dripping with sweat, and blood from the bodies. I was surprised they couldn't smell me all the way downstairs. I could hear them opening all the doors to check the rooms. They were getting close to this one. Thinking better of my position, I moved directly to the side of the door, my back pressed up against the wall.

I heard the latch turn and the door slowly open. Through the crack I could see one of them peeking in. I took the opportunity to test the strength of the door by kicking it as hard as I could, sending the man flying back into the hallway into the others. I jumped to the other side of the door as it burst open. At the first sight of a body I spun around and drove both daggers deep into his chest, pushing him back outside. The last of the guards caught me with his fist as I leaned out into the hall, which sent me to the floor in the bedroom.

"Now I have thee, infidel!" That was all I could make out as he approached me, hammer raised ready to strike...

- Lytha: An Unexpected Meeting - Day 10: 11:50pm

I hurried to the source of the noises. It was in the south of the temple, and a good distance from here. I reached it without running into anyone. I think I was very lucky, again, because I could hear alerted Hammerites everywhere - only not in my way. The flickering lights added a terrifying atmosphere, and especially for the novices, who sounded as if they were in a panic.

Up ahead, I saw a collection of dead bodies. I ran to the opened door they were in front of, and saw two men. One was hunched, and I saw horror in his face. His eyes were closed. It was no wonder, since a guard stood right in front of him with a raised hammer in hand, ready to smash him. The Hammerite had his back turned at me.

I readied my blackjack, and ran to the guard. I reached him very quickly, and struck his head. He grunted quietly and collapsed to the floor. At this time, I realized that he had not reacted, because he had not enough time for that. The entire scene had happened in less than a few seconds.

I looked to the man. He wore a well known gray cloak. I frowned. Ghost? Here? Why?

- Ghost: Bonded by Fate? - Day 10: 11:55pm

I heard the thud of something heavy hitting flesh. Then a body hit the floor. I realized I was still breathing. Peeking open one eye, then the other, I saw a cloaked figure, blackjack in hand, standing over the body of the guard who was about to pound me. Something familiar about the look of my savior intrigued me. "Hey! Wait a second... Those are... My clothes! Lytha?" My confusion must have registered with her. She removed the hood of the cloak to show her face. It was Lytha! I jumped to my feet, a thousand things to say to her running through my head. "What the hell are you doing here?" That was the one that made it out first. She looked shocked at my anger and started to say something.

"I was -"

"Do you realize how much money you cost me if something had happened to you?"

"But I -"

"Why didn't you leave me a note or something?"

"I di -"

"Why are you wearing my clothes?"

"I had to -"

"You know you could have been killed here?"

"Yes but I -"

"There are Hammers all over, are you crazy?"

"I didn't -"

"And for the last time what are you doing here?" I was finally out of good questions.

Now she was the one who looked confused as she tried to figure out which question was the easiest to answer. She shrugged instead of answering any questions and just stared at me.

"Okay fine, as long as you're here, stay with me so at least I can keep you alive long enough to get you to Nightfall and get my money." I sat down on the bed to collect myself and figure out what we were going to do now. I had blown up a good portion of the Hammers assembled here, but there were still more running around. Somehow I didn't think that just killing off a few Hammerites would fix anything for the world, but killing the high priest of the Order would!

"I have an idea! It's most likely a stupid idea and may get us killed, but I like it!" Lytha looked concerned for my enthusiasm over something likely to make us dead, but she had to ask.

"What is this idea?"

"We're gonna go kill the High Priest. Unless he already ran for the door or if that was him who took the fire arrow when I started. We'll have to go into the meeting room and check. I'm sure the priest would have something on him to show who he was."

"Let's go then." Something about how easily she accepted my plan scared me, but it was too late to change it now. After resting for another minute I stood up and we started out to search the temple for the big man himself.

As we left the bedroom, I threw a flaming piece of cloth on the bed. "Let's not leave them any place to hide." I had to laugh. This was the kind of thing I had always wanted to do, but never thought I could or would do. For as long as I could remember the Hammers were here in town, dragging people off to prison and running the city the way they thought it should be run. Now I was finally avenging anyone who had been wrongly accused of something and been hurt or killed by these bastards for it. I had no love for criminals of my breed, who really deserved to die, but I have a real problem with innocent people getting hurt. Criminal for the people! Freedom Fighter! That was me! I chuckled to myself as we walked down the stairs and turned to go to the meeting room.

Lytha and I approached the scene of the massacre. The lights were flickering, and the smoke was beginning to coat the ceiling. It looked like something out of a nightmare. The shouts and moans of injured men mixed with our echoing footsteps on the marble floor. As we approached the scene of the minefield massacre Lytha gasped at the sight.

"Oh my, what happened here?" She asked, walking a little closer to me as we neared the door.

"They were so predictable. They all ran out to their deaths."

I peered into the main room where the lecture had been happening to see a few men still around. Most were near the podium, checking on the speaker who was crisped a little bit. Handing Lytha a gas arrow, I crept into the room and ducked behind a pew.

"When I start to run hit the group with that arrow!" I whisper to her. Crawling to the middle of the isle, I made my move. I ran toward the front of the room, screaming like a madman as I went. When the four men who were kneeling behind the podium stood, I remembered what I had said about this plan killing us, and decided I was right. Hooray for me, I'm a genius! They started to move around the furniture as the arrow caught the corner of the podium and exploded into a fine green mist. A Hammer or two fell to the knockout gas and several staggered backward. I ran as hard as I could to the front. The room was much bigger than it looked from the door, so I had time to contemplate my plan a bit further. As I ran, more arrows bit into the guards and they ducked for cover wherever they could find it. The podium looked good and heavy and with a couple guards behind it. It made a tempting target. I cut the corner and then jumped from the back of one of the pews, quickly putting my shoulder onto the top of the podium, pushing hard. It tipped over onto the fallen priest and a guard hiding behind it!

I could hear bones crunching, and from the pain in my shoulder I thought they were mine. I rolled when I hit the floor and drew more of my daggers. I could still see Lytha near the entrance to the room shooting arrows at anyone who tried to stand up. Several Hammers had been killed when they tried to run at her or to better hiding places. Scanning the room I didn't see anyone moving, with the exception of the man pinned under the podium who was trying to push it off. With my foot on top of the podium to keep him from moving it, I leaned down to ask him a simple question.

"Is that guy there the High Priest?" Leaning a bit more on the podium, I pointed to the dead Hammer in fancy clothes.

"No, no..." He shook his head, a pleading look in his eyes.

"Well where would he be, if he was still stupid enough to be here?"

"I... I know not. Please help..."

"How pathetic. Oh well." I stepped on the podium on my way out and met Lytha at the door.

"No luck, it wasn't him. Lets keep looking." Lytha nodded in agreement and we wandered back through the body-filled main room.

- Chapter 20 - Rescue / Chapter 22 - The Past Returns

Correspondence of Thieves copyright, 2000, Steve Tremblay, Lytha, James Sterrett, Alexandria Thomson, and Daniel Todd.