Chapter 25 - Correspondence Closed

- Ghost: Return to The City - Day 11: 5:00pm

Light returned as I tried to open my eyes. Some noise in the room inspired me to try to wake up. Then the pain hit me all at once. I wasn't sure if I had died in the fight with the High Priest. All I know is that I was hurting all over. This must be what death feels like, I thought to myself jokingly. Lytha was there, smiling slightly as I opened my eyes. She looked more calm than she had in the past few days. Without so much as a word she handed me a small note which read "Meet at Master Nightfall's tower tonight at dusk."

I tried to sit up. I was met with difficulty since one arm was bandaged heavily, and any movement made the wrapping tighten. Lytha helped me sit up and got a glass of water. I tried to focus on the things around me. No words were exchanged. There wasn't a lot to talk about. She knew I was in bad shape and I didn't really have any questions burning through my head at the moment.

That was an hour ago. Now dressed in the same blood-stained pants I had worn the night before, and my arm in a sling, we were ready to go see Nightfall, so I could get paid. We walked into the streets. The atmosphere seemed different. Maybe it was just that the sun was up, which is an odd sight for me. No, something really seemed different. We arrived at the base of Nightfall's tower when it hit me. We hadn't seen one Hammer patrol anywhere. Perhaps things were looking up after all.

After what seemed like an eternity of climbing, we reached the door. Lytha knocked and the door was opened by Nightfall's stuffy old butler.

"Master Nightfall is expecting you; sir," was all he said before turning and walking into the dark foyer, then through the far passageway. He lead us through the twisting hallways and rooms, with lots of closed doors. Finally he opened one of those doors. Jossimer walked in and announced to the room, "Mister, ahem, Ghost and the Mistress Lytha have arrived, Master." With a sneer he looked my way and then went back to doing whatever butlers do when they aren't annoying people. Lytha and I slowly entered the darkened living room. Nightfall was standing in front of the fireplace, and approached us with a quick walk. There were others in the room I didn't recognize. An older man stood near Nightfall's desk and a younger girl stood near the door, almost hiding from me.

"Ahh Ghost, come in! This is Lytha I presume?" Nightfall always sounded a little too happy most of the time, for my liking. His cheeriness, however, was cut short as he did a double take at Lytha. "Lytha?" he said with a very puzzled look on his face.

Lytha stepped forward before I could get my stomach out of my throat. I had a horrible oh shit feeling, as a result of Nightfall's reaction to the person he supposedly asked me to rescue! "Yes, I am Lytha," she said in a voice I had never heard come from her. It was almost calm sounding! "Have we met?" she said, just as confused as he looked.

"I received a letter from you, from, from an old woman, named Lytha, who lived in the forest," he said, offering her a seat. She didn't budge.

"Oh," she said, "Thalia, my sister, used my name."

"I see," he said.

"Why did you have Ghost rescue me?" she asked (I'm glad she did, because I would have forgotten to).

"Because you, well, your sister, warned me about the true nature of The Lady; that she was actually," he paused, "that she was much more dangerous then we could have known. I sent a," he stopped again. "The knowledge of this came into the possession of the Hammerites, who in turn went to the Lodge of the Lady, and captured you."

Lytha nodded, a pained look in her eyes. He then looked at me and then to the elderly man. The older man nodded and walked up to me. Nightfall and Lytha talked in hushed voices. I would have tried to listen in but this old guy was approaching me. Not another butler, I hoped.

- Lytha: The Mysterious Master Nightfall - Day 11: 7:00pm

Nightfall approached me. I found myself slightly fearful of what he was going to say. I knew that I already must know some of the story. The other man took Ghost to the other side of the room, keeping him out of earshot to Nightfall's hushed tone.

"The things I have to tell you I'd rather not share with my hire. It's not so much a matter of security as a matter of privacy. I sense that he has a good sense of honor amongst thieves, so he can be trusted to an extent, but not with the knowledge I must share with you."

I nodded slowly. What news of Thalia did he have?

"I have come to understand that your sister, Thalia, warned me about a great danger that threatened this city. This great danger was, of course, The Lady, who is known to those who know her as 'The Faery Queen'."

I felt slightly cold as names from my sister's mutterings were spoken. "Don't worry, I have dealt with this enemy, and it's a long story fit for another time. I must, however, tell you why I had Ghost over there rescue you."

I nodded again, anxious to hear.

"Your sister signed the letter in your name on purpose. She knew that if you warned me, that I would send the Hammerites, and then you would be in danger. She wanted me to think that you were the one who had warned me, so I would send someone to rescue you, should you come into danger."

I blinked, not fully believing what I was hearing.

"I, feeling responsible, and I was, for your abduction by these men, issued a prize for your rescue."

"I see," I said, not fully knowing what to make of it. I looked him in the eyes. His eyes were dark, and steady. I knew he was being totally honest with me. For a split second, I thought I saw a faint glimmer of light in his pupils.

Can you hear me? he said, or at least I thought he said, for his lips did not move! Puzzled, I replied in the same fashion.

Yes, I can, how are you speaking to me like this? His voice in my head was unlike the others. His was calm and rational, and of course, masculine.

I have a small amount of residual power left. I can speak to you like this only because it is possible for you to hear me like this.

I don't understand, I replied. He was not entering into my mind at all, nor was I entering his. It was surprisingly unalarming.

You have the ability to hear thought. Most of what you hear are echoes of your sub-conscious, or ghosts. Sometimes, however, other minds, living ones, can infiltrate yours.

Somehow I knew where this was all going. There was one voice, one that did not belong, I told him.

Yes, this was the Faery Queen. Though I'm sure she never made it apparent, but she was using you to do her bidding. I know that this may be shocking for you to hear, but you must know.

I was too empty of feeling to muster any anger for this. I was just tired, glad it was over, and glad that the horrible voices, the source of which I now knew, were gone. Thank you for telling me this, was all I could think to say.

He began to turn away, with a nod of acceptance, but I spoke again, How can you know all this?

He seemed to sigh. I don't really "know". A good deal of it came from speculation, and some from evidence. The rest was just deduction. I reasoned the vast majority of it just now, when I finally had access to the rest of the story, and was able to test my theory of your powers.

You have these powers too? I asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.

No, he replied. I am talking to you through magic, not with my mind power. Soon my magic will vanish, since it is not natural to this realm. I can only do such things as this for a little while.

I see, I said again. What is to become of me? I asked.

I have no sovereignty over you. It is for you to decide. If you wish, I can give you any help that you need.

I smiled. I shall consider it, I told him.

At that, the connection broke with a slight jerk.

- Ghost: More Old Jerks - Day 11: 7:00pm

The elderly man looked as if he was about to try and offer some assistance, but with a short growl from me he backed off. "Have it your way, but do you want your payment or do you not?" he said, almost smugly. I would have socked him, but I did need my pay.

"Well it's about time!" I snapped back, grinning a little. The girl moved over behind the man, now obviously trying to keep something between her and myself. I looked back at him and said, "Didn't catch your name, Mister?"

"James. I'm sorry about our absence," the man continued, "Master Nightfall and I had pressing matters to take care of."

"Yes, so did we; you can see the results of it smoking across town." I couldn't help but grin about a job well done, and to be honest I was still happy to be alive after it. Uh, maybe I should not have just told him that. Oops.

James sighed, looking exhausted and quietly muttered "That produced some; interesting results." I was going to ask him what he was talking about but I was distracted by him opening a drawer in the desk and placing several large bags of coins on the table.

"These are for you." James said, closing the drawer. I eyed the bags, but left them on the desk until I was ready to leave, since holding those with one arm would be a bit hard. The guy cleared his throat and spoke up. "Could you describe the reason for your decision to kill the High Priest?"

"What are you, the Inquisitor's heir?" I barked.

"Please, from a fellow member of your profession, I'd like to know."

I frowned and told him, since I really didn't have much more to hide. "I decided to get a little revenge on the Hammers for what they do to anyone they don't like, and for what they did to Lytha." I decided not to tell him about that woman from the ally which prodded me to do it. I didn't do it for her anyway.

"I see." He said. I noticed Nightfall, done talking with Lytha, smile at James, shaking his head. What is it with these people? I couldn't help but feel like my huge adventure was just a slice of the pie, and that there was a fat chance of these folks letting me in on what was really going on.

I turned back to James, tapping his shoulder to get his attention. "Anyway, on the way out of the temple we ran into the High Priest, and decided he was too bad to get away."

James' look turned serious. "That was an important decision." He told us both, Lytha and I.

Nightfall, as if suddenly remembering he had something else to do or was just trying to get rid of me spoke up. "Well Ghost, it was a pleasure doing business with you, perhaps some other time."

"Well," I replied "maybe next time I'll politely say no and walk away." The room broke into assorted forced chuckles as I collect the bags from the desk.

James, with a tired smile asked, "Mr. Ghost, is advice as unwelcome as medical attention?"

"Sure go for it. I'm too tired to kill anyone right now." I laughed and waited for his words of wisdom.

"Next time, make sure you know who you are working for. All the people you're working for."

I looked at him dumbfounded. "I was working for myself, and that guy over there. Your boss."

"Shh, James, leave it alone." Nightfall interrupted with a whisper. James nodded in agreement. Now I was really sure they were hiding something.

I grabbed the bags and headed for the door. It opened in front of me. At first I thought it was magic, but it seemed that Jeeves was just coming in.

"Oh are you leaving?" he asked "Well good day, and good riddance to you." He stepped into the room past me to do something. We walked through a few hallways on our way out. Giving into a nagging feeling, I gave the bags to Lytha, and took a slight detour. I wanted to teach Jeeves a lesson in better housekeeping.

I found him in a quiet hall putting the cap back on a tin flask, which he quickly shoved back into his vest at the sight of me. The arrogant servant went back to his dusting, pretending that he had been doing that all along. I walked up to him, making sure to thump as much mud on the carpet as possible. When my chest was inches from his shoulder, he turned to face me with a look of disdain on his face, just in time to see my fist swinging at his mouth. He fell to the floor in a heap, a trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth.

"Sorry," I told him, "had to be done." I turned and walked to the door with Lytha, who was more then slightly amused.

- Nightfall: Jyre - Day 11: 7:30pm

It looked as if life would be returning to normal quite quickly. After such an adventure, though relatively short, it was very good to be in my home once again. There was, however, a few things yet to be resolved. One of them was hiding in a shadow in the corner.

I walked up to Jyre slowly. She was standing in a dark part of the room, behind the couch. I didn't know how else to go about this, so I was blunt. "Jyre, I'd like it if you lived here in the tower." She just stared at me, a look of disbelief in her eyes. I walked up beside her, and crouched down, putting her head slightly above mine. "Please?"

She spoke, in a very meek voice, "But, why?"

I replied with a simple and true fact. "I owe you. You saved my life." Okay, the second part was a fact, but the fist could be disputed. She did, after all, try to kill me, and her saving me would make everything even. However I didn't feel like scrutinizing details at that moment. I added with a smile, "and aside from that, I would enjoy having you around," to give a touch of gentle humanity to my plea.

She just shook her head. She began to ring her hands as she whispered "I killed her," over and over, softly to herself.

I shook my head sadly, and sighed. I considered which she deal better with? The idea that she killed The Lady, or the fact that The Lady is still alive?

Suddenly, she spoke. "And I... I messed it all up. I was supposed to be helping you not making things worse!" She looked up at me, a look in her eyes like she was about to cry.

I did all I knew to do. I put my arms around her and hugged her tightly.

"You didn't," I said simply, "we could not have done it without you."

"But I... All I did was panic and not think!" she insisted. "I don't deserve this," she said finally, and pulled away from me.

I found that her action saddened me more then I expected. "This place will always be open to you, if you change your mind," I told her.

Jyre looked around for several seconds. She then looked at me. "I don't want to go..." She looked confused and exhausted when she said this.

"I have a room for you," I told her, "you can sleep there tonight, and decide in the morning."

"I..." she shrugged. "Do you really think I helped?"

"Undoubtedly," I said, as earnestly as I could muster. It's not that it wasn't true, I just needed to be sure that she would accept it as truth.

"Why... Why do you want me to stay? I'm just a kid." At that, she plopped down on the floor.

I didn't have to ponder too hard for the reason. "Because you deserve a better life?"

"I don't deserve any life."

I didn't like the sound of that at all. "Even if you had truly killed her, she was not a person; she was a monster," I pleaded.

"It's not that, it's what I felt inside," she said as she stared at her clammy fingers.

"What did you feel?" I asked, honestly concerned.

Jyre shrugged. "Just..." She looked me in the eyes. "I don't know! Like," she paused for a second or two, "like I was gonna enjoy killing her!"

"And you didn't, of course," trying to follow where she was taking this conversation.

"But I wanted to."

"I know the feeling," I said, with all too much honesty.

Jyre shook her head. "Not you, you're --" she stopped.

I waited a while to see if she was going to continue, "I'm?" She just shook her head. "What?"

"You're; you feel; different," she said suddenly.

"I'm listening, please, go on,"

"You're not like everyone else. There's just something about you. It's like, I can sense things, like when I'm using my bow. I feel what they are, and you, you just feel different."

I smiled at this. "Well I am. Just like everyone is. Some of us are different in odd ways though."

"What ways?" she said quickly.

I saw the opportunity and took it. "Would you like to know more about me?"

She nodded slowly.

"Then live here. And in time, you shall get to know me."

She hesitated for a second, then nodded again. I smiled, satisfied. "May I show you to your room, now?"

- Jyre: A New Beginning - Day 11: 7:40pm

I watched his back as he took his leave, and listened to the sound of his footsteps as they faded away. I was too tired to fully take in what had happened. The events of the last day or so were already starting to feel like a dream, although the ache in my gut would long remain to remind me that it had been real. As for being here, I was certain that come tomorrow I would wake and find it all to be in my imagination.

I crossed over to the window and gazed down at the city below, with its scattering of streetlights starting to illuminate the sky as the sun's light grew dim. There was still smoke rising in the distance. A result of the actions of Ghost -- whoever he was. His presence here had disturbed me, but beyond that I had no opinion of him. I sighed and stared at the golden light that danced across the roof tiles of the nearest houses, wondering what it would be like for me now, both down below in the streets where I had once lived; and up here, with Daneel.

I felt my eyelids begin to droop. The muscles in my side spasmed. Wondering could wait. I needed to sleep. I didn't even bother to strip out of my filthy rags before I hauled back the cover and fell into the soft bed. I shuddered slightly, curled up into a ball around the pain and closed my eyes to the world.

- James: Finding Order in the Chaos - Day 11: 9:90pm

Lytha and Ghost left. Dan helped Jyre move into another room, and he eventually returned. Soon we heard her snoring softly. Jossimer, looking the worse for wear, came with tea and asked to be excused for the night. Daneel assented with a tired nod, and we both turned to the tea. Perfectly made, as always. We spent several minutes drinking in silence.

As I moved to refill my cup, I asked, "Had enough of adventuring for a while?"

Dan smiled slightly. "I'd say I've had my fill."

I thought a bit, and mused, "Yet I think we are not yet done with them. There are a lot of loose ends." I stared into my teacup, pondering.

"They always seem to pop up. Not to mention the fact that old habits die hard." I said that too often. "I used to love doing that kind of stuff, once upon a time, when I was even more young and foolish then I am today." He, too, looked at his tea, then asked, "What the hell happened back there anyway? I have a vague idea; but I would like to hear your thoughts."

I thought a bit more, then began to think out loud. "I think darling Viktoria decided that if she couldn't beat us, she'd join us. Viktoria and the Trickster were always forces of chaos -- but chaos comes in many forms. The methods of the wood are fading; the Hammer's tools are gaining an increasing ascendancy over mere wood and waters. But in our new technologies there is room for chaos to strike: think of those chants she had. "From the pages Chaos leers."

Dan shook his head and replied, "I couldn't hear too well."

"She intended to corrupt the technology. Think about this: how often do steam boilers fail?"

Dan looked at me. "Aside from when large trees fall on them?"

"Right. They almost never do. Unless the calculations are really flawed, they contain the pressures for which they are designed."


"So what if a 'chaos elf' -- perhaps a 'gremlin' -- infects the boiler's plating during its forging?"

"Sometimes bad things do happen," stated Dan.

"I think they'll happen more. The ghosts in the machines now have a leader. Viktoria has deserted the wood, and, so to speak, chaos has embraced the technology. I'll bet my Hammerite copier device works even worse now."

"She's trapped for now though, hopefully forever, but something tells me that her bonds are not quite enough to keep her all the way out."

"Yes. She'll find a way to influence us -- indirectly, perhaps, possibly only through our dreams -- but through dreams she can recruit agents, and through agents, power; with that power, who knows? We'll need to stay on guard," I warned.

"Well, one of the main things that worries me, about myself personally, is how easily I was nearly killed time and again. I mean, Jyre should not have been able to nearly kill me. I should not have fallen into the vine trap in the temple. I shouldn't have been taken by surprise on the ledge, at that last moment. I don't care how upset or distracted I was, the way I behaved was just wrong. What came over me, do you suppose?"

I shook my head with a slight chuckle, "You're still human, Dan, as much as you would like to be rid of the fact. Even you are not immune to error. I think that the fact that you charged off to fight this battle alone, even after Jyre helped you prove to yourself how poor your state of mind was, is testament to that." Dan seemed to be quite displeased with himself after I said this.

"Perhaps I have not gained as much wisdom over the years as I like to think I have."

"Well, a great key to wisdom is understanding how very little you actually understand," I said, and then quickly tried to think up of at least half a dozen things I didn't understand.

"Well," he said, interrupting my pointless contemplation, "we do learn more from our mistakes then our successes"

"That's a pleasant way of putting it," I said with a smirk.

"Getting back to the true subject, there is one thing that has always bugged me. Is this creature, the Faery Queen, Viktoria as you call her, evil, without a doubt? Her attitude seemed to go beyond simple chaos and into true evil."

"Not 'evil' per se, chaotic. Chaos may seem evil to people like us, but it's no more evil then a ferocious rabid animal. Keep in mind that pure order is as 'evil' as pure chaos. If the Builder truly was victorious we would find ourselves in perfect stasis."

He did not seem content with my answer. He then said; "Everything is relative. Is not love a force of chaos?"

"Yes." I grinned. "And of order, since it is a part of our society's structure. We live in the gray area between the two forces -- and need both."

"Ah, of course, the extreme is invariably bad, and the mixing is invariably good, at least in part, in theory, anyway"

"In theory. 'Good' and 'bad' -- morality -- exists in our choices. I can use a knife to cut my lunch -- or a throat. The knife is not itself at fault. Similarly, life exists in a intertwined position; love may be chaotic in its choices of pairings, yet it causes a form of social order and often reinforces it; and despite its strange excesses, it helps the process of maintaining the species."

Dan sighed. "I'm just trying to make sense of things, motives, you know, the big question of why?"

"I don't think 'why' is even a question for Viktoria. She is, and her being is chaos, much as the Builder is order. In a sense, they are both our tools. What we do with the possibilities they offer is up to us. Though I admit," I grinned, "it may often not feel much like we use them when their plots surround us!"

"Hmmm. 'Why' is a question I should reserve for Jyre's role then. Why was she the key to most of this? How could so many coincidences, set off by her, lead to all of this? The Keepers would just say; 'it was fate'."

"Yes, they would. If I might offer an observation: there is an irony in this. You could look at the manner in which Jyre expressed her love for you as a form of chaos -- but chaos destroys all it touches, which is why love is also partly an orderly thing, being essentially a means of preservation. In the end, Jyre's actions, borne of love, brought us to the ceremony, and her desperation to save you killed the avatar of chaos."

Dan sat in silence, thinking on this. Another thought struck me, and I went on. "The unanswerable 'why' I often ponder is the purpose of the robed beings we met, who 'saved the day' as it were. Why would they save us? Do they serve a balance?"

Dan shook his head. "I'm not sure. They asked me to cleanse their home, the labyrinth, of evil, yet I did little to cleanse the place, and it was obviously not their home. They said that they helped us in return for the help I gave them."

I mused aloud, "It is often the case that the most powerful beings are also the least able to act -- bound by arcane rules which we cannot hope to fathom. Perhaps they, too, need tools that can place events into a configuration which they can exert themselves to alter. Possibly their entire intent was for us to bring Viktoria, wounded, to that Gate. There, in the guise of rescuing us -- and perhaps rescue is a legal move in their esoteric chess game -- they could strike at Viktoria and mold her into their fancy.

Dan continued the thought, "And having no interest in moral ethics, they saw no need to say anything to me other then what they felt would best cause me to reach the desired conclusion."

"Yes," I agreed

Dan gave me a worried look. I responded with a grim smile. "Perhaps the most devious plot was not spun by the Queen at all, but by these beings? Do they want her as a servant?"

"I'm not sure," I admitted. "I suspect they want her contained. It is possible they have no morals: but they serve a goal, and if the goal is balance, they may well serve life. We exist in the balance; and thus they may want to ensure that neither Viktoria nor the Builder ever gain ascendancy."

"Hmm, or perhaps not. What if we put a tool of total chaos into the hands of beings of total evil? What then?"

"Well, since we can do nothing about it, I suppose the best thing to do would be to just hope for the best, and not worry about it," I said, in all honesty.

Dan yawned. "These concepts are too worrisome for my exhausted mind." He shook his head to clear it. "Ugh. I need to get some sleep. I suggest you do the same. I do hope you shall write all this down?"

I grinned, "Can do, Dan. But one last thing."


"You can look at the Builder and Viktoria -- order and chaos - as having conducted a war, with humanity as the battleground. We take losses in this war -- sometimes grievous losses." I looked bleakly at Daneel. "And our only hope of winning rests in the war never ending."

I drained my teacup. No words seemed appropriate to the occasion; we bowed to each other, and I left for home.


- Nightfall: One Final Meeting - Day 11: 11:50pm

I slowly climbed the stairs to my bedchamber. I had not touched The Circle in days, so I knew that tomorrow would bring a load of work. Maybe I would take the day off, just to recuperate. I'm sure that Sheam would not mind a little extra responsibility around the place. I pulled open my doors and stepped in. Everything was exactly the same I had left it. Rather then jump into bed, which I so wanted to do, I made my way slowly to the balcony, and stepped out. There was one last matter to speak of, and it was time to take care of it. One of the things I did as soon as I got home was send a message. By now it was nearly midnight, and the recipient should be responding shortly.

"You wished the speak with me?" came a voice from beside me.

I did not bother to turn my head to look at the source. I knew I would not see a thing. "Word travels fast in the underground," I said, resting my hand on the gargoyle, perched on the stone rail of the balcony.

"Your word travels fast," he said in reply.

Nodding, and with a half smile I replied, "Indeed. Being who I am, when I speak, people listen; and when others speak, I listen."

I felt him come closer. "What do you want?" he asked bluntly.

I turned to face the figure, now silhouetted in the moonlight. "My my, Mr. Garrett, you do so excel in getting to the point, do you not? Have you no love for the art of dialog?"

"You wouldn't have called me here to your tower if you didn't have a reason, Nightfall. I'm asking you what it is. If you just called me here to talk, then I'm afraid I will have to be on my way." A distant lightning bolt shot across the sky, slightly illuminating his blank expression, and reflecting brilliantly off his bionic eye.

I turned away, looking out across the great expanse of the city, the Hammerite factories pushing the skyline higher and higher. "You're going to have to do something about the way that fancy eye of yours shines. The smallest ounce of light sparkles on its surface."

He responded with deep frustration in his voice. "Tell me something I don't know." He paused. "A friend of mine is working on a permanent solution." He paused again. "Why do you mention it?"

I smiled. "Just making; conversation, my friend."

His eyes narrowed. "I'm not here for conversation, and I'm not your friend. What do you want from me? Do you have a job for me? If not, I'm leaving. Now." He pulled a rope arrow out of his quiver and made ready to shoot it into the wooden beam overhead, allowing him a quick trip to the stone path below.

"The High Priest is dead." I said, still facing away from him.

He stopped. "So?" No reply from me came. "Good, the bastard had it coming." He put the arrow to bowstring.

I turned to face him. "Did you kill him?"

He stopped again, lowering the bow. "Why are you asking me? I thought you hear everything. What have your spies told you?"

"I'm not asking my spies, I'm asking you. Did you kill him?"

He put away the arrow. "No, I didn't. I haven't set foot in any Hammer compound in months."

"Are you sure?"

"What kind of question is that? I remember the face of every man I kill. There is no question of sureness about it." He seemed quite offended at the prospect. "I'm no assassin, Nightfall, killing those I rob makes for bad business, and killing high ranking Hammerites is never a good idea. They have a nasty tendency to exact revenge, which they try to call 'justice', because the word sounds more noble." He paused. "Besides, the Hammers hold me in good favor at the moment."

"Then why, my good thief, are they making it known that he was killed by an arrow to the throat, shot by your bow, held by your hands?"

His wandering vision looked straight into my eyes. The aperture of his eye narrowed with a hum. "What?"

I just nodded.

"Hammers don't lie," he said; "much."

"It seems that now they do."

"Enough games, Nightfall, what the hell is going on here?"

"Last night, two thieves broke into the Temple of the Inquisitor. They came in separately, with different objectives, and left together. Along the way, they killed the High Priest, the Inquisitor, and half the Hammerites in the building, as well as set fire to the place. The Hammerites, horrified that two simple thieves could cause such destruction, decided that the only way to save themselves from public shame was to blame you, Garrett, slayer of the Trickster. He who can kill a god is capable of much, you see, or so they hope the people will see. While there is shame in falling before a meek foe, there is little shame in falling before a powerful one. Of course, this killed two birds with one stone. With you blamed for this, they no longer had to respect you for killing the Trickster."

"Who?" he said simply.


"Who were the thieves?"

"It's not in my business to give out names, Mr. Garrett," I said sternly. He began to pace slowly, saying nothing.

"It's not like it changes anything," he said, "and I knew the Hammerites were just itching for an excuse to have me imprisoned and executed. They never could forgive me for doing what they could not." He smiled after saying this, as if recalling something. "So you did nothing to alter this plan?"

"What could I do? Do you really expect me to risk my neck for a man who can more then take care of himself?"

He harrumphed to that. "Was this all you had to tell me?"

"Well, tell, yes, but show, no." I reached into my pocket, removed a small sphere, and tossed it to him. He caught it, and then opened his grasp to look at it, holding it in the light.

It was a small shiny sphere, which resembled a misty green gem. "I have little interest in baubles, Nightfall. I steal them and sell them. What is this?"

"An eye," I replied.

A look of disgust crossed over his face. "I've had enough of gemstones and eyes," he said, as he made ready to throw it over the rail.

"Viktoria's eye."

He stopped cold. Slowly he turned to look at me, and I nodded, a smile crossing my face. He opened his hand again to look at it. He just gazed at it for at least a minute, studying it intently. "How..?" he said eventually.

"I took it from her -- personally. I thought you might like it."

Time passed slowly, as Garrett examined it. After a while, I noticed that he was no longer looking at it, but through it, deep in thought. He eventually gave a slight shudder and quickly pocketed the eye. "Thanks," he muttered.

"My pleasure" I replied. I'm not sure if he heard it or not, since he was gone as soon as he said "thanks". Once in the shadows, and on the move, Garrett could be anywhere. I wondered what he would do with that eye.

I walked back into my chamber, and closed the glass doors to the balcony behind me. I drew closed the curtain, and the room was cast in darkness, only illuminated by the blue flame of my oil lantern. I glanced over by the wardrobe where little Jyre had sat, so many nights ago. I walked over and stood in the dark shadow, just to make sure she had not snuck in. It was silly to do, I know, but I did it anyway.

Well Dan, I thought to myself, you've gone up against a chaotic deity, and won, not without nearly getting yourself killed, of course. I suppose that made up for at least some past losses. How ironic that now, when it was all over, and I was finally back in the peace of my own chambers, that I would realize a subtle detail that was really quite profound. I really cared for this land as if it were my home. I didn't fight this fight for fame, fortune, adventure, or because I was ordered to, I did it because I needed to, because I needed to protect this place in which I lived. So then it dawned on me, then, that I really belonged here.

I was still dressed in the clothing I had worn all though the adventure. It wasn't that bad, for wear and tear. The cloak was shredded here and there, one of the sleeves was torn, and it bore many other little rips and breaks, but it was definitely salvageable. I was never actually seriously wounded, so there was little blood on my person. I laughed, realizing that I looked as shabby as Jyre always did. After a quick shower, I went to bed.

I was anxious to contact the enchantress, Cristen, my love, and tell her of my grand adventure. As I felt my mind drift into sleep, I awaited her voice. That night, however, she never came.


- Chapter 24 - Vendetta's Fruition

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