Chapter 7 - Tests of Fortitude

- Nightfall: Personal Log, 9.11 - Day 5: 12:00pm

"Yesterday was quite a day. After we got underway, the Hammerite task force made about three miles progress, working from midday, to midnight. The weather was fair, though quite hot and damp, and the forest was mostly submissive. They let me travel home for the night, thankfully, and while on my way, I met with a Keeper.

"He told me I was following too many paths, or something like that. He also told me it was dangerous. Iím sure he meant how I have come to be known not only as the Emissary to the Master Builder, but also as the Patron Saint of Thieves. If the givers of the former title discovered the latter designation, there would be hell to pay. Oh well, I had kept it under wraps for quite some time now, and I didnít foresee myself getting careless any time soon. Still, if one of the Keepers made himself known to me, it must have been for a good reason, other than to state the blindingly obvious. Iíd find out soon enough, I suppose.

"This morning, I decided it was about time to buy that carriage I had been putting off getting, and hire a chauffeur. It was a good five mile walk from my tower, clear across town to the cityís edge, and then three more through the mud and torn dirt of the newly constructed road to where the task force was making its way to the lodge. I cared not to go it by foot. Besides, I had needed a vehicle, and now was as good as time as any to buy one.

"Okay, I lied. I didnít buy one -- I bought two. Hey, sue me, I wanted a rugged one that would be able to navigate off-road terrain, and a stately one for leisurely trips around town. Wealth has its privileges, after all. The luxury stagecoach is being custom built, so I wonít have it for at least a week. It will seat four, comfortably, and six if absolutely necessary. Designed to be pulled by four horses -- plenty of room inside -- leather interior (brick red!), aged dark cherry-wood exterior with a cast iron frame (painted black wherever it shows) -- bronze trim *very nice* -- room for luggage -- I could go on and on. The rugged one: itís small, about a fourth of the size of the other. Just seats, two, driver & passenger. Just a carriage basically. Open to the air, but has a sort of awning that can be erected in case you want to travel when itís raining, or when the sun gets too hot. Itís pulled by one horse. Built light -- all pine. Painted black, of course. Large wheels -- two axle -- high clearance, low center of gravity. Small compartment in the back for cargo, which can be converted to a third seat in a pinch. Well designed Ė sporty -- I like it.

"Of course whatís a carriage without a driver? I hired Richen -- smart guy, good etiquette. Best getaway driver this side of the forbidden zone -- never been caught too, or even identified -- thatís why I can use him in the presence of the Hammers. This guy makes an art out of getting to point A to point B the fastest way possible, while avoiding all authority. Which is good, for I donít care to have my chauffeur whipped in the street for speeding. He also makes the tightest fastest turns Iíve ever experienced, or seen, without the vehicle turning over! The horse was good too, very good. Thoroughbred, black, young, with one white sock on the left rear leg. I let Richen pick her out, seeing as he would be the driver. Good size, about nine hands. I havenít bought horses for the stagecoach yet. Iíll probably get Clydesdales or something.

"It took us about a half an hour to make it to the task force, as they worked diligently in the woods. None the sooner too, for Thurm was getting ready to send a squad after me. Hrumph, does he just love my company, or does he not trust me? Itís not my fault that shopping for a vehicle is a lengthy process! I did it faster then most -- two hours -- and I bought two! I should get some kind of award! I admit, being four hours late to an engagement is rather sloppy, but they didnít really need me there at all. I, unlike they, do not enjoy watching the pistons on those bulldozers, as we have come to nickname them, go up and down, up and down. It gets mesmerizing after the first five hours.

"Then came the fun part. You see, Hammers are not too keen on animals. Not even domesticated animals. It was hard enough for them to grasp the concepts of domesticating plants, but animals, whew, those critter have a mind of their own! And a horse, they particularly dislike. I once heard one of them say, Ďif a normal humanís intelligence was ground level, a horseís would be a pit, ten miles deep.í Not that I disagree with them, (I laughed quite a bit when he said that), but still; the critter is useful. Why walk when you can have a dumb beast pull you? Ah well, to each his own. If they want to rely on their own two legs, or one of those machines, then, may the Builder bless them. Iím sticking to what works. Anyway, getting back to the subject, they let me ride in my horse drawn carriage, but I had to stay to the far rear of the group, and keep that beast, as they insisted on calling it, away from them. I thought it was very funny when the captain said, in all seriousness, that if the horse so much as looked one of his men in the eye, he would have it beat to death. Howís THAT for fear of animals! Well, Richen was none too keen on these redcoats (as he called them), threatening his Suzy (thatís what he named the horse), but he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut, and his eyes downcast.

"Of course, staying about a hundred yards behind the task force has its advantages. For instance, Richen and I could talk in peace. We had plenty of time to do it in too. Thankfully the canopy of the trees provided shade for most of the day, or I would have been miserable. AnywayÖ

"We talked about plenty of things. He was eager to discuss one thing in particular, his garage and stable at my tower. Simply put, there is no room to build one! We eventually sorted out that they can be carved out of the side of the hill, below the mansion. It would be about halfway between the structure and the base of the hill. A ramp would lead from it to the main road, and part of the stairway would branch off too meet the ramp. Itís hard to describe, Iíll have to sketch it out. The Hammers should really enjoy building that for me. Cheaper then hiring a private contractor, and less stressful then contracting it myself.

"End Entry"

- Jyre: A Poem - Day 5: 3:00pm

I was awakened by the heat of the sun striking my face. It brought me to my feet with a jolt. Silence. I waited in trepidation for the groans to continue, but they never came. I looked down the street in both directions, but could see nothing from my lofty position. I must have stood there silently for a good half hour, dreading that any second the undead would return to finish me. Nothing stirred except the dirt, swirled up by the gentle breeze. Finally satisfied that I was alone, I jumped down the broken stairs and moved out onto the street. The silence frightened me almost as much as the wailing voices had the night before. I found myself tiptoeing, breathing softly through my nose, so as to make as little noise as possible. The dead slept and I did not wish to wake them.

I kept to the middle of the dirt road, avoiding any shadows in the fear that they might contain one of the undead. When I came to the first junction I took a left. The houses along this street, as on all the other streets, were little more than ruins, although the occasional one still stood and looked intact, from the outside at least. I probably should've turned back and left right then, but something inside pulled me deeper into the haunted dereliction. I followed its pull like a blind man would his dog, never once questioning its source. It wasn't a new experience to me. I often felt this way when I sought something and, more often than not, my feelings led me straight to it.

I turned another corner and found myself staring up at the wall surrounding what had come to be termed the "Haunted Cathedral." Behind that stood the structure itself. The whole place seemed to be cast in shadow, which in turn cast a chill on the surrounding area. I kept as far from it as I could whilst following alongside the wall, hoping that I walked toward the cloister gates and not away from them.

The manor came into view before the gates did. It was HUGE. It was also derelict. It stood three stories high probably, with a fourth hidden in the rafters of the roof and at least one level beneath the ground as well. It was also in ruins. The front of the house and a side wall still stood, as did a small section of the roof but the rest was gone. I stopped dead in the middle of the path and stared at it in disbelief. I had risked my life for this! I had nearly died for a pile of rubble! I shook my head and cursed. There had to be more to it than this, surely? I ran to the heap of stones, clambered over them and looked up. Nothing but a rotten carcass! I kicked at the rubble beneath my feet in disgust, sighed and sat on the heap with an angry grunt, staring at my shredded palms. This whole thing had been a big mistake. A cold shadow fell over me as I sat there, drawing me out of my reverie. Looking up I found the sun slowly slipping away behind the Cathedral. Something howled inside its walls. Panicking, I leapt to my feet and started to run. The rubble gave way beneath me and I ended up sliding to its base on my backside. I felt the tears where the stone had opened my flesh, as I struggled to stand. Rolling onto my hands and knees I found myself staring at a ragged sheet of vellum. Despite the danger, I picked it up and read it aloud.

When shadows grow,
and danger walks,
Come out, come out,
Come play with me.

When Trickster's thwarted,
And hammers rise,
Come down, come down,
And join with me.

In caverns deep,
I make my bed,
Where city sleeps,
I lay my head.

When hammers fall,
and mortals quake,
Your voice from death,
Will me awake.

It meant nothing! A dumb rhyme. I screwed it up and shoved it into my trouser pocket, not even bothering to try and fathom its purpose. I hated poetry and I hated riddles even more! But still, I'd risked my life for this and I wasn't about to throw it away. I had just started walking again when the ground began to shake.

The dirt beneath me lurched. My left ankle twisted painfully and I fell to my knees. Before I could recover the ground lurched again and I was thrown forward. I crashed into the wall of the nearest building and felt my shoulder pop. For a second there was only blackness. My vision cleared and I found myself cast in shadow. I tried to stand but my left ankle refused to take my weight. My right arm dangled uselessly at my side. I swiveled around so my back was against the wall and used it to regain my feet. It wasn't until I was standing that I noticed the cause of the earth's sudden upheaval.

It stood before me, a towering monstrosity. Its skin was gray and crinkled, like old leather. Its whole body rippled with bulging muscle. And it had wings! Stretched out as they were, they blocked everything from sight. But it was the head that scared me the most. Two bulging eyes set in a continuously writhing mass, they seemed to swallow everything they beheld. I was beginning to wish I had never got back to my feet.

"Death comes, mortal."

I heard the words echo in my head and knew they had originated from the thing before me. It never spoke, though. In fact, it couldn't speak for it had no mouth! It took a step towards me. I ran. Straight between its legs and down a narrow passage between houses, my fear making me forget the pain in my injuries. I expected a roar of anger. Instead came what I can only describe as laughter. It was like a ripple in the very air around me that produced a deep, resonant boom that repeated itself over and over, pounding my ears until they hurt. I didn't stop to see if it followed, but continued to run, telling myself it was a dream; that I would wake up soon. If the undead were still around I could no longer hear them.

"Fool!" The word boomed in my head. My thoughts exploded. Blinding white light ripped through my mind like a fireball. I found myself lying in the dirt before the city wall, sobbing. My blood dripped into the dirt from numerous wounds I had no recollection of receiving. All I knew then was terror. "You cannot escape me!"

I saw the undead then. Swarms of them, summoned here by some unheard command. They moved silently now, almost stealthily. The nearest haunt raised its sword above my head. I screamed and scrambled away, squirming between a zombie and the haunt. My arm brushed against zombie flesh and I felt my skin burn and fall away. But I was too far gone now to register the pain. The only thing that mattered was escape. I spotted a collapsing building and ran for it, tripping over the uneven road and using my good arm to keep myself on my feet. The thing's shadow fell over the street just as I dashed through the building's doorway.

"Stone will not protect you." The voice was quieter now, almost teasing. "You will be mine."

I could hear the shuffle of undead feet as they approached the building. I glanced around for the stairs to the upper floor but saw nothing. Ran into the adjoining room. Nothing. Spinning around in panic, I spotted it. A ladder. Hysterical laughter threatened to bubble forth at the irony of it. A ruined arm and a damaged leg and I had to find a ladder!

A zombie's groan echoed through from the other room. I closed my eyes for a second, wished myself luck and leapt at the ladder. I managed to catch a rung that was level with the ceiling. Kicking awkwardly, I found purchase with my feet and begged them to hold my weight as I worked my hand up the ladder's side to the next rung. Then I moved my feet, one at I time. It was a slow process, but effective. My shoulders and torso were through the opening to the upper floor when the first zombie reached me. It swiped at my leg, ripping a chunk of flesh from my calf and leaving my blood sizzling. Nausea swept over me and I nearly fell. Only the edge of the opening pressing against my back kept me up. I kicked at the reaching hands, threw my hand above my head and hauled myself through. I rolled onto the floor and lay there, breathing hard and listening to the moans of the undead beneath me.

The roof exploded. A huge hand plunged straight towards me. I felt it brush my back as I dived out the way. The hand withdrew but I knew it would come back. Spotting the half-collapsed wall that had drawn me here, I scrambled onto it and used its crumbling brickwork as a stairway to the top of the city wall. Once there, I looked back once, saw the thing's hand plunging towards me and jumped.

"No...!!" The word pounded in my head like thunder. I lay on my back and watched as the thing slowly withdrew. Whatever magic had been placed in the wall to hold back the undead apparently worked on that thing too. Not that I cared right then. All I wanted to do was get back home and rest.

- Lytha: Submission - Day 5: 5:00pm

I was back in my cell. I had told them everything they wanted to hear. It was easy, at last. I had told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that I was a pagan and a witch, and that I wanted to summon some demons into this world to destroy it. I told them that I had met the Trickster himself and handed him my life, in exchange for some goodies. I told them that my sister, my brother, my father, my mother, my neighbors, my fences were all involved in this conspiracy. I told them everything to escape from the pain. It did not matter that I had never had a brother and that my entire family was dead now. The Hammers didn't know that. And they seemed to be pleased. And they seemed to believe it.

And I believed it, myself, shortly after my arms were almost dislocated.

The light went on, and off, and on.

I stared at it. It went off.

I hit the nails of my left hand into the right arm, and pulled them towards the hand. They left bloody sores. The pain was slightly satisfying. A feeling in the numbness, at least. I continued.

The light went on.

The light went out.

I had mistreated my right arm, until it bled. It hurt. It gave me one feeling in the numbness. One feeling -- pain. Better than nothing. Better than the numbness I had felt in the last days. I continued, ignoring the blood. Scratching deeper, and deeper.

I did not even give it a glance.

I had closed my eyes to lock out sight of the cell, and the door, and the chains from my mind. I let my thoughts wander freely. My mind drifted away. I felt my body go limp.

Amidst the wild dancing pictures of the last days, I made my sister's face out. She stood there without moving, beneath the picture of this Inquisitor, beneath the rack where I had lain the last day. Thalia looked straight into my eyes.

I focused her image, and tried to step closer. She looked younger, much younger. As young as she had been before the Hammerites had taken her away, three years ago. She smiled at me. But when I took the next step, she turned and ran away. I had so much to ask, so much to say. I followed her. She headed to a sunny valley. I followed her happily.

But when I had reached the valley, all went black. I realized that I was in another area, black as a pit. The valley was away. And also was Thalia away. I was alone in the dark. But I could hear voices in the darkness. Low voices, and shouting. One came directly from behind.

"Why have you betrayed me? Why did you not read the letter I wrote?" That was Thalia's voice. She spoke quietly. I turned.

"No! WHY Has You Betrayed Usss? LISTEN!" I turned again. The new voice echoed Thalia's. But it perverted its contents. And it shouted.

"Wasn't it enough that they had captured me? Why you?" I saw Thalia's face, but it disappeared shortly after I had seen it.

"Wasn't It enough that you left Usss alone when they Captured Ussss, and WHEN we DIED?!" I saw two old Thalias in front of me. All were dead. They pointed with their cold, dead claw like hands at me.

"And Now you Think WE should Sympathize with You?!" Their eyes were glassy. Their claws touched my face.

"Ohhhh, My Dear Poooor Lytha!?"

I turned. I tried to move my frozen legs to get out off there. I could not do one single move. I could not even say a word or cry.

"It was odd, but shortly before my death, I could see it clear. I understood. It made sense, at last. I analyzed myself, and understood. I had visions. Visions about the future. And I wanted to protect you." I turned. Thalia again. The younger version. The friendly one.


She continued, hasty. I stared at the grotesque caricature of my sister. It tried to push Thalia away.

"I tried to warn you. I knew that you would not read the letter, so I addressed it to a man who might be able to help you now. And I signed with your name, well knowing that my last days had approached."

"Yes, you never LISTEN. But NOW you are Ourssss!" a cold claw touched me again.

Thalia spoke in a greater hurry now. "Take it as a chance. As the small possibility ofÖhope."

She disappeared. With her vanishing, I could move my feet again. I ran.

I ran.

- Nightfall: Personal Log, Supplemental - Day 5: 5:00pm

"Well things were going smoothly, until about mid afternoon. As a tree fell, a large branch came smashing down onto one of the bulldozers, and broke the main cylinder. What was odd, was that the tree began to fall the way they always fell, the way the machine was designed to make them fall, out and away, and then suddenly changed the path of descent just enough to let the branch smash into the most sensitive part of the device. Bad news. What resulted was an explosion, a small fire, and unfortunately, or fortunately, depends on whose side youíre on, three of the Hammerite workers were killed. One of them was right next to the thing when it happened. He felt no pain, but the people who were struck by his flying bones did. He was obliterated by the force of the explosion. His blood is still on the machine. Ghastly. The second was burned badly, and died from a head wound sustained by flying debris. The third had his arm severed, and bled to death within minutes. He died bravely, I must say. Didnít cry out or anything, just let the Builder take him. We all held ten minutes of silent prayer for them, burned them; Thurm did a short ceremony as we put the ashes in makeshift urns. Markers were erected, and then the Hammers got right back to work.

"It would take a good day, and new material to fix the broken 'dozer, so until that happened the progress speed was cut in half. They pulled it off the road, where they, and a team summoned to bring repair equipment and more workers, would work on fixing it. Meanwhile the rest of the force would push ahead.

"Richen and I remounted the carriage to continue our journey behind them, but our mood was quite different. We didnít talk much -- just sat in silence.

"End entry."

- Ghost: Smirking Chaos - Day 5: 5:00pm

Consciousness returned to me some time later. I wasn't sure how long I had been out cold. I may as well have kept sleeping, seeing as I had a headache like no living person has ever had. It took a moment to register what had happened, and where I was. As I looked out from behind the bars, I managed to figure it out. This was a cell in the maximum-security area. I was shackled to the wall by the ankles, and my hands were chained together. The Hammerite uniform was gone, even my boots. All I had left were bruises to show for my efforts. Thank goodness they didn't take all my clothes. My new living quarters consisted of a cell of about 4 feet by 8 feet. It was just long enough to keep me from reaching the door while I was chained to the wall. I could hear the crying and moans from other prisoners. If this headache didn't stop pounding I would probably join the chorus. I guess that second guard had all the suspicion he needed, and cracked me on the head with one of those huge maul-hammers they like to play with. It was probably the smartest thing he'd done since joining the order.

So, now it was to be an escape instead of a jailbreak. I did have a backup plan in case this happened. Unfortunately, the plan did not include how I was going to get out of my cell once I got the shackles off. I checked my leg for my emergency backup lock picks. I found they hadn't been that thorough when they stripped me of my gear. I peeled back the glue patch on my leg, which hid the picks. That skin-colored glue really comes in handy for some things. If done right, it looks just like a nasty scar. I spent a few minutes fiddling with those minuscule picks, trying to get the shackles off. Eventually I was freed from my bonds. Now I just had to find a way to get the door open, to get out, and get something done. I slid the picks back under the glue patch and stuck it back as best as I could. Hopefully they wouldn't notice it, just in case I got caught again. I crawled forward and peeked out the door. I could see a few other cells in the room, and a door, probably locked, to the right. There was also the usual guard watching from above. Only one guard? I couldn't be in the security zone. That is, unless there is something worse outside that door.

"Guaaarrdd!" I formed a plan as I sat there. I was going to get out of this cell and take as many of these scumbags with me as I could. Revenge on the inquisitor could wait. No answer, but it wouldn't stop me from trying. "I killed that other guard and I'm going to kill you too! But you need to let me out first!" I thought maybe if I got him mad enough he'd come down to beat on me a little. I draped the wrist shackles back over my hands and sat back by the wall. Strangely enough, the door to my cell slid open, but I didn't dare step out. He probably had a crossbow waiting to shoot me if I was loose. Footsteps approached the cell, and a deep voice finally spoke as the guard came into view and stopped just outside of my room.

"Thou hast killed my brother, but thou will never kill again, heathen!" He looked as if he wanted to step in and beat me senseless right then, but a good guard would never step into danger like that. I stood up and rattled my chains a bit to let him think I was still secure and taunted him a bit more.

"Why don't you come on in here and show me how tough you big bad-assed guards are without those hammers?" This guy was well trained; he didn't look too upset, but I don't think he liked me for killing another guard. Still, he was dumb enough to open the door for me.

"If it is a fight thee wants, then thou shalt have to come out and face me, craven!" He was taunting me back! The look of surprise on his face when I launched myself at him was almost priceless. He didn't expect me to be loose, and he surely didn't expect the punch to the groin, which sent him to the ground moaning like most of the other people in this area. He wouldn't stay down from that for long, but the shackles wrapped around his neck fixed that. Some other prisoners had noticed what was happening and started shouting for freedom. They quieted down some when I assured them they would be out soon. His keys and uniform would prove as useful as the others I had borrowed. The armor would help a little too. After shackling the body into my cell, I went upstairs to check the log book.

The door slid open to reveal a panel of levers and a desk. The log book listed Lytha as being in cell 4, but the levers weren't numbered. I flipped each of the levers and the doors slid open one by one. The prisoners started making noise again. I went down to cell 4 first, in spite of the othersí demands to be the first to escape. She was conscious, but just barely. It seemed like she was in a state of shock.

Occasionally she muttered something, and her eyes twitched about. Weird. She was in no condition to move by her own power. Even though she was beaten badly, in terrible shape, bleeding all over, and in this weird trance, she still seemed to have a bit of charm about her. I unchained her and let her lie there for a minute while I released the others, who could walk, and explained what I needed them all to do. The need to move fast was imperative, since I didn't know what time of day it was or if someone was about to walk in. The plan was simple. Assuming I was in the same place I had originally been heading to, we could mob the guards and equip anyone who could fight for the big escape. I would have to carry the girl out. I wanted out fast, and we had no time to bring her to her senses.

One of the prisoners was a tall man. He had probably been a guard or soldier at some point. Although he was rather thin and beaten, he had fire in his eyes. He wanted out of here just as much as I, so I let him lead the break. I handed him the armor and hammer I had taken from the guard and gave him some suggestions. When I was done unchaining the rest of the prisoners, I picked Lytha up and slung her over my shoulder. Carrying her like that, meant I wasn't going to climb out the way I came in. Unless, of course, we ran into a case full of healing potions or were blessed with a miracle.

I unlocked the block door and signaled the small group of prisoners to move. The objective was to get to Cell Blocks 3 and 4, and release those prisoners as well. That would make enough of a distraction for Lytha and I to escape, I hoped. It seemed that there was only one or two guards at any given station. Getting to the other prisoners wouldn't be that hard. Seeing as this was the maximum security group, it meant that these were the most dangerous prisoners in the entire place. The hallway beyond the door split off into several others. Thankfully, the Hammerites insisted on putting signs everywhere. The escape group and I were about to make a break for the stairs when a door opened to the left and a guard wandered out. I don't think he even knew what hit him when the prisoners took him down. He was quickly disarmed. I pushed the crowd to keep moving and not make a lot of noise. We made our way to the steps, and sure enough there were two new guards at the bottom. The prisoners were an enthusiastic bunch, looking for freedom and revenge on their captors. The gang leader took one guard down fast by throwing his borrowed hammer and hitting the guard squarely in the chest. Sadly, I saw a couple of the prisoners struck down, killed, before the other guard was taken down as well. By some stroke of luck the alarm hadn't been sounded yet, but I knew that wouldn't last long. I warned the group about the checkpoint up ahead. This crowd's first job was take out those guards, and then move on to block 4 to free more prisoners, while I took Lytha back to the room where I stashed my pack.

The event went pretty much as I expected; as soon as the guards saw the mob heading towards them the alarm was sounded, and the carnage really got started. I didn't even stop to watch. Running down the hallway with a body in your arms tends to make sightseeing less likely. The mob got to the guards and another brawl began. By the time I got to the lift, only a few of the prisoners were left standing. I reached the edge of the shaft. I heard the platform coming down. There was no one on it but it didn't stop, so I took a chance and jumped on anyway. It was headed for the ground floor, to load up with guards to stop the riot, no doubt. I jumped off at the next floor without stopping the lift. Lytha and I both tumbled to the ground. I could hear the shouts from the guards waiting impatiently for the lift. I quickly grabbed her and almost dragged her down the hall. I didn't want to be standing here when the lift, full of Hammerites, went by, even though I still had on a Hammer uniform. The safety of the room was close, and if I could make it there I would be very happy.

I kicked in the door to the room. Someone was there. That wasn't good. I did the only thing I could think to do. I screamed at the man, who was shaving, as I set Lytha down on the floor. "Come on Brother! They are all escaping! We need every man out there! GO GO GO!" He almost tripped over himself as he ran out the door with his hammer in hand. "They sure don't grow these boys very bright now do they?" I had to laugh as I pulled Lytha's limp body into the room and pulled the pack from the vent. This was going to work. At least that's what I kept telling myself over and over. By now a good portion of the guards should be upstairs and the front door should be open except for a few guards. Those I had plans for. The footsteps clomping down the hall prompted me to shut the door and wait another minute. That gave me time to count my supplies. There wasn't much to work with: two gas mines, four flash bombs, and a dagger. Maybe next time someone offers me a lot of money to do something like this I should think about saying no and walking away.

"Well, it's time Lytha, are you ready? Of course you are, or you would say no!" To tell the truth, I wasn't ready. I was hurting all over, but she was in much worse shape. She was bleeding on me, and she hadn't even been hit by anything but the floor. All she did was moan in pain as I picked her up and opened the door again. I could hear the shouting and clanging of weapons as a battle went on one floor above. I guess the guys I freed had freed the other prisoners, because the ones who were left couldn't make all that noise on their own. Sadly, I was pretty sure that all of them were going to die. Thinking about it, I'm sure they would all much rather die like this, then to be executed. With a press of the button the lift started on it's way down and stopped in front of us. I stepped on, and hit the descend button. On the way down I pulled out a flasher just in case there were more guards waiting, but it sounded like most were upstairs already.

The hallways winded a bit, but as usual the signs pointed the way to the main entrance. Soon the hall opened up into a large chamber. At the other end was the exit. The room was empty except for a big fire pit and some benches, but I could see a couple guards lingering around outside of the doorway. I laid Lytha down on one of the benches, and decided this is one of those times I just had to fight my way out. Hell, itís starting to become the rule rather then the exception in my life.

I activated the two gas mines and slid them toward the door. In my most nasal Hammer voice I screamed, "Brothers, the heathens are upon us!" Naturally the fanatical group of about six ran into battle without thinking and discovered the trap laid for them.

The gas mines went off with a fwoosh! Most of the group didn't even get out a curse on my family before hitting the floor. The big guy in back, who had managed to escape the gas, wasn't amused. He raised his hammer and charged me! I stood my ground calmly until he got within about ten feet. Then I let him have the backup plan. I shielded my eyes as I slammed two flash bombs at my feet. Blind and dazed, the Hammerite still tried to swing his hammer at my head. Without being encumbered by armor and a heavy weapon, I was able to duck and spin around him, slashing my dagger across the back of his knee, severing whatever it is there that keeps you from falling down.

Bleeding and screaming as he fell over, he threatened me with the wrath of the Builder. He told me that my death will be inevitable, or something like that. "I don't like being imprisoned and threatened, sir. For that you must pay and go to see The Builder. You will be the example!" My blood boiled as I plunge my knife into his chest. "You are merely the first, many others will join you." With that said, I picked up his body, my dagger still embedded in his chest, and threw him onto the smoldering fire.

My work done, I collected Lytha and tried to put as much distance between myself and this place as possible. I didnít think any of the other prisoners made it out, but, again, at least they died fighting, instead of rotting away in a cell. Lytha and I camped outside of town until it got dark, so there would be shadows to hide in on the way home. I needed rest, and I wasnít about to go climbing up Nightfallís fancy stairway with Lytha on my back; I don't care how much he pays. Hopefully she would come out of her daze soon.

Even though I caused quite a bit of chaos back there, and managed to get quite a few of those bastards killed, I wasnít satisfied.

- Chapter 6 - Following in the Footsteps of a Legend / Chapter 8 - A Change of Pace

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