"Light as a Feather"
by Rich (aka dragoman)
Ch. 4 - The Gleam of Gold
I held my breath. The guard who was passing me was close enough to touch as I crouched down in the doorway. For the last 2 hours I had been making my way across the rooftops, staying out of sight of various guards and watchmen. Finally, I reached Lord Nonnus's house. It was a medium sized dwelling, oddly shaped. The ground floor was larger than the top two stories, and very regular. It seemed exactly square shaped, with a door in the exact center of each side. Very few windows marked the walls, but a large chimney at each corner of the first floor reached up past the upper stories. I guessed that the first floor used to be a bakery, and the upper floors were added without removing the chimneys first.
In order to get into the place unseen, the upper floors seemed like the safest bet. I crept to the edge of the building adjacent to Nonnus' and looked down. A guard was posted in front of the door on the first floor. I fired a broadhead near the corner of the building to his left, and watched as he cautiously walked that way, sword at the ready. He had just gotten near the corner when I fired a specially-prepared rope arrow at the house across from me. What made this arrow so special was that an extra long rope was attached, and the end secured to the house I was at. When I was sure that the arrow was secure, I shimmied across the rope (I had done this plenty of times in my acrobat days). I trusted that a guard could not see the rope against the dark sky, and left it for my escape. Upon reaching the mansion, I slid along an outside ledge to a window.
Immediately, I reached to push in the window. My hand brushed the glass, and the tinkling as it broke sounded like a bomb going off. I thought fast, as I could hear guards coming from inside the mansion. I quickly took an arrow from my quiver, threw it through the window onto the floor, then slid back along the ledge. The guard, upon seeing the arrow, mumbled to himself "must have been a freak shot....don't see anything....3 stories up...." I heard the door close, and breathed a sigh of relief.
I snuck to the window, and opened it. I slipped into the room, wincing as my feet struck the stone floor. Careful to avoid the broken glass, I slipped across the room and listened at the door. While waiting for sounds of the guard, I glanced around the room. Carpet, of good quality but nothing special, covered the floor. Chest of drawers were inviting, but upon looking through them I realized that they were empty. The furnishings were of good quality, but nothing you would expect a lord or his family to use. Obviously, this was a little used spare bedroom for guests, with nothing valuable to speak of. No matter. Trinkets were not my main prey tonight. I crept to the door, leaning against it to listen for sounds of the guard. Nothing.
I eased the door open. Light from the window silhouetted the door against the wall of the hallway, but it also created pools of shadow on either side of the door. I used one of these once I determined no guard was coming. I didn't want to run into anyone tonight. I snuck down the hall in the direction of heavy snoring. The door it seemed to emanate from was heavy, with reinforced hinges and a heavy lock. I would need a key from somewhere. Continuing down the hallway, I came upon a guard station. The guard, thank the Gods, was asleep. I snuck up carefully, and snatched the key from his belt. I also liberated a ring and a purse. Blessing the lessons Garrett had given me, I ran back toward Nonnus's room feeling pretty good. Of course, that was when the hammer fell (figuratively). Apparently, the guard awoke just after I left, and realized the absence of his keys and purse. Starting up, he started down the hall.
Hearing footsteps behind me, I realized what was happening. Looking around, I realized that there was nowhere to go! Then I looked up. Heavy rafters crossed the hallway at even intervals. Thinking of my new name, I leaped up, caught the rafter, and pulled myself up with all the strength in my arms. "Whew," I thought, "I've gotta carry less equipment." Trembling, I held myself suspended between two rafters as the guard ran beneath me. He checked the locked door, listening for signs of a struggle. After a minute or two of searching, he started wandering back to his station, muttering "I wonder how I lost that key...." I didn't think he should be left awake, so I dropped down as silently as I could behind him. I crept up behind him and hit him with my blackjack. He moaned and went down on one knee. I hit him again, as hard as I could, and he went down without a sound. I dragged him into the room I first came into. I hoped he would be all right (the bleeding from the ears caused me some concern). I went back out into the hallway and tried the key in the locked door. It opened soundlessly, and I slipped inside.
The heavy snoring never faltered as I slipped across the floor. The heavy form of Lord Nonnus slept heavily, covered in furs despite the warmth of the room. I quickly checked the room, pocketing small items as I went. The small gold pen set I particularly liked. After a while, I had checked the entire room. The time had come to get what had been sent here for. I drew my dagger and stood over the bed. Taking a deep breath, I pressed the blade to his throat and clapped a hand over his mouth. His bulging eyes snapped open, seeing only a shadowy figure standing over him. As he realized the his peril, his eyes began to glaze with fear.
"Where is the key?" I hissed at him, lifting my hand enough for him to reply, "What key?" I pressed harder with the knife. Somewhere deep inside me, two conflicting emotions arose. One was disgusted with myself for doing something like this, the other enjoyed the sense of power over another person immensely. Right then, the second emotion won. "The key to the strongbox right underneath you" I hissed. His eyes got even wider, if that was possible. "How do you know...."
"Never mind that. I just want the key, and you will live to eat another rib roast." I couldn't resist that one. Thin people, especially those who have starved in their lifetime, naturally resent heavy people. His eyes slitted at the insult, but the knife prevented him from responding as he wished. "It's in the dresser," he said, lying like I knew he would. I had already checked every drawer in the dresser, and every other possible hiding place. So I said, "Then you won't mind if I check you out, will you?" I proceeded to frisk him, keeping the knife at his throat. I eventually found the key sewn into the front of his sleeping robe. Withdrawing it, I laughed. This was great!
Cautioning him to keep still, I removed my blackjack from my pocket and clouted him over the ear with it. His eyes rolled up in his head and his body went slack. I attempted to drag him out of bed, but my slight frame couldn't budge him. Eventually, I managed to roll him out of bed onto the floor. Good thing the floor was stone, if it had been wood the thump would have woken the entire house! Removing the mattress off the bed was a similar chore. Who would have thought goose down could be so heavy?
Under the bed, built into the frame, was the strongbox, just as promised. Using the key, I opened the door and found my objective: the Hammer of Crosus. Small, not more than 2 feet long, it was still heavy. With a solid gold head and interweaving design of gold and platinum on the handle, it was a beautiful thing. One last thing left to do. I know it was stupid, but I still felt pride in my new identity. Taking a large feather from my cloak, I left it on the floor of Nonnus's room. Tucking the hammer away under my cloak, I crept to the door, out into the hallway, and back to the room where I had entered the mansion. I exited the same way I had entered, and crept back to the rope.
Now, having had a pretty easy time of it up until now, I got a little cocky. Seeing my rope bridge still there, I swung out on the rope and starting making my way back towards the other rooftop. What I hadn't counted on was the moon coming up. My form was silhouetted against the moon when the guard below looked up. My first clue came when the first arrow whistled by me. I looked down. The guard was lining up for another shot. I couldn't stop as I would have been a sitting duck. I tried to increase my pace, but crossing a rope over 40 feet of empty space is not something you can do fast. An arrow slammed into my thigh, causing a line of fire to travel down my leg. Through sheer will I made it back to the other roof, where I collapsed. I managed to pull the arrow out of my leg and make a crude bandage. I remembered what Cutty had told me about the yellow liquid he gave me. "Use this if you get injured. It'll give you enough juice to get back home." I sucked it down, and thankfully, most of the pain went away, and an awful itching sensation arose in my leg. Looking at it, I saw the wounds begin to close by themselves.
After I was feeling a lot better, I started back across the rooftops. Somehow, I made it back to Cutty's before dawn, after having gotten lost twice. I must learn the city better. Upon reaching Cutty's door, I felt more tired than any other time in my life. Cutty opened at my knock, his face lighting up at the sight of me. "So, Feather, how'd it go?" he asked.
"The night flew by."
If you have any feedback on this story e-mail it to Rich aka dragoman
Chapter 3 / Chapter 5
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