A bit of a mystery
The library wasn't closely watched, obviously not being the primary target of the city thieves. There was only one guard at the entrance but, as every Hammerite I've met, he was taking his duty quite seriously, and he didn't seem tired at all. He was mumbling his prayers, turned to the farther side of the corridor. There was a torch next to the door that created a bright pool of light, so I couldn't get pass him without being seen. Not unless…
An invisible beam of energy hit the hammer that lay on a small table at the end of the corridor, knocking it on the floor. The noise rang out in the passage, deafening the guard's words.
'Show thyself and speak!' The man advanced toward the source of the sound, raising his heavy hammer. I'd rather not think what would have happened, if he had turned back before I disappeared inside the door.
I decided to wait until the guard entered the darker area of the passage. His footsteps echoed loudly, as he slowly paced the corridor, searching for whatever had caused the noise. Just two more steps…
I quickly reached the door, hoping it wouldn't be locked. It was. Damn it! I glanced at the guard - he was still marching down the corridor, but it won't be long when he'll be coming back. Another beam of energy hit the lock and I heard the metal cracking under the huge pressure. The door opened with a soft creak.
'Strange,' the guard's words reached me, as I disappeared in the darkness inside. 'How could it fall down?'
The lamp was standing there exactly where I had seen it earlier. I took it and walked to the bookcases. I found it - the one which contained the book I needed - despite the surrounding darkness. Stained-glass windows projected a faint moonlight on the floor, but the shelves themselves, endless at the first sight, were cloaked in darkness. The tables, situated parallel to the shelvings, marked the successive sections of the library.
I took a turn at one of the tables, immediately overwhelmed by hundreds of books of history. Only then I raised the wick, as I needed to take a closer look on the titles. The lamp sizzled slightly and lighted the area. It glittered on the side of the nearby bookcase and cast a shadow on the opposite wall. It seemed as if the shadow moved and I was certain it wasn't just the flickering of the flame. But when I raised my head everything appeared normal and still, however I still felt a touch of nervousness. Behind the door I heard a muffled voice of the guard, the sound from behind the other entrance I recognized as the steady footsteps of a patrol. The library itself was quiet and there was nothing to disturb the silence.
I returned to my studies and took from the shelf a book I had
read before. I lay it on the table and began to read.
Day 2nd of the month of Lamat, 3114 years after the death
of the Prophet Jeremyn
Day 3rd of the month of Lamat, 3114 years after the death of
the Prophet Jeremyn
A faint, muffled sound. I sharply raised my head from the pages of the book: the library seemed quiet as before. But when I glanced where I thought I heard something, I saw the shadow flickered, fading the next second without a trace. All motionless. No, I saw it again, three tables away now. Whatever it was, I wasn't going to be taken aback. I raised a hand, but the shadow reappeared in a different place and the lamp suddenly went off. I had no time to make a gesture: I was hit in a temple, I staggered and fell, stunned. Moments later I felt that my arms are being twisted on the back and tied. Next I could feel was a cold steel tickling my throat. Then I heard the whisper:
'You are trying to track me down, you work for the sheriff and you are one of the Mages. Give me a single reason not to kill you now and here.'
The dagger driving harder on my skin, a warm trickle on the neck. Hell, he wasn't joking at all!
'The Metal Age!' I croaked wildly. I had no idea, if it'll ring a bell, but there was no better choice. There couldn't be: this one was real.
The pressure eased off and in a second I felt that the man stood up, the dagger returning to its holster with a slight hiss.
'Nonsense. Just another story made up by the Hammers.'
I raised my brow, astonished by his response. He knew. Now I really started to believe that he was something more than a talented thief. Who the hell was he?!
I yanked, trying to turn, but my tied hands effectively prevented such maneuvers. My ears hummed, white spots appeared before my eyes.
'You know about the prophecy, the logbook must not get into the hands of the Mechanists.'
The man turned toward me, a dark figure towering above my head.
'It has already had. Why is it so special? Why you care so much about it? You don't mean the treasure, do you?' A clear sarcasm in his voice.
I bit my tongue and restrained myself from criticizing his lack of faith. Offending the man was not the best option in my present situation. I took a deep breath and answered with as much calm as I could master.
'The treasure is not of our concern. The logbook contains something much greater than you imagine. Nobody can be allowed to see it.'
'Your offer wasn't generous enough. It appears that your... target decided that Karras will pay more handsomely for the item.' I heard his footsteps, as he approached the table with the chronicle still opened where I'd read it. 'Will he too have to be... silenced?' I heard a thud as he closed the book.
'He's not in town for a couple of days. Only you can get, where I cannot.' The rope was strong and I almost cut off the blood flow, struggling to free my hands. How surprised I was when under my fingers I felt a thin shape in a hidden pocket on the inside of my sleeve. How come he hadn't noticed a knife? 'Besides, I don't understand why they care that much about their safety.'
'You can ask them about it.' The chronicle hit the floor with a loud crash, when both corridors filled the clatter of running feet. I thought I also heard something inside, but the noise the guards made deafened everything else.
'In the library!' The voices shouted outside, but seconds later the door opened and the floorboards creaked under the heavy ironed boots of the guards. 'He won't escape this time!'
I desperately twisted my arm, almost breaking it, but my fingers just brushed the handle of the knife. Good God! They find me here, I'm as good as dead! They won't even ask for an explanation, because there was nothing that would account for my presence here. I hated to think what they'd ask in the torture chamber.
The brethren were checking the room slowly but thoroughly. As I listened, the creaking grew; I realized that one of the guards must be headed my way.
'You can't hide forever.'
I froze - the voice was just above me, heavy boots stopped a few steps away. I clutched my hands.
'I'm sure someone's in here.' I heard once more and floorboard creaked again. No, I'd rather drop dead before they get me alive. I focused all my strength, ready to kick the guard as soon as he stoops. But instead of seeing his face, I only heard another creak and the footsteps began to recede.
For a while I just lied motionless, still unable to believe he didn't find me. Then I remembered about the knife. After another struggle with my bonds, the handle moved for an inch. I tried to ignore the pain in the wrist. Once the get hold of the handle, the blade will poke out and...
The rope snapped and I felt a surge of blood flowing back through my wrists. The knife clattered on the board, but there was nobody near to hear it. I kneeled to look around, reaching for the blade.
The three guards were still searching the library - I could see the dark figures, with hammers ready to strike, moving slowly in the far side of the room. I had no idea, if my extraordinary thief was still here and - honestly - I didn't give a damn. If I could, I'd be happy to see how he's making his last mistake in this library.
The door I used to enter the chamber were open now, illuminated by the torch outside. If I could only sneak past the brethren - from there on it would be easy. I assumed that the rest of the compound was unaware of the intruder's presence in the library.
A sudden flash of light made me turn back. From where I stood I could make out the table, with a burning lamp and an open book. The second flash and a dark shape fell from the shadows into the sphere of dim light, cast by the lamp. A second figure appeared next to it: unlike the other brethren the man wasn't wearing an armor and his red tabard was embroidered with silver. He was unarmed, so he must have been one of the echelons, maybe even... The man raised his head, showing his face: it was the High Priest.
The man bent over the fallen figure, but immediately straightened up, his face a mixture of surprise and anger. He murmured:
'It's you. I warned you to stay away from this place. Your last doing will not atone for all the insults and problems you caused us in the past.' The High Priest turned to the brothers and shouted. 'Guards!'
Heavy footsteps rumbled near the wall with the stained-glass windows, so I retreated deeper into the safety of the shadows. Curse the wretched thief! If he's caught by the Hammerites, it will be the end of my mission. I will never be able to retrieve the logbook by myself, I obviously lacked the necessary skills and experience. Despite my dislike for the man, I knew too well I needed him. Besides, if I rescue him, he'll owe me a favor. I just hoped that he will prove a man enough to remember that, to know the price of honor. Maybe then he will be more willing to accept my offer.
The gesture produced an energy missile that came buzzing out of my hand. It hit the first guard with such force that it sent him flying across the room. He landed heavily several feet away, releasing the hammer, apparently unable to get up again. The others reacted more quickly than I thought.
In an instant they came to a halt, waiting for an enemy to jump on them and at the same time stared, trying to penetrate the darkness around. The High Priest shifted his attention and that was the dark shape needed to rise and vanish in the shadows between the bookcases. The priest, seeing that the thief has disappeared, moved to join the brethren, sparks of fire jumping between his fingers.
Damn! I knew the priests of the Order mastered the Fire Elemental, at least partially. Of course, it was a far cry from the abilities of my fellow Mages, but I didn't want to test my skills in a battle against the High Priest. I also did not intend to risk my life for my talented thief. I needed to think something up, and better do it quick.
'Builder, guide me!'
The brethren wandered in the blackness, in that distance they weren't a threat, but the High Priest was a real danger. He seemed to sense something, as he advanced toward the place of my hiding. He walked slowly, as if uncertain of his decision. He hasn't attacked yet, but he kept coming. I couldn't use the Elemental without giving away my position, and I didn't notice anything I could heave to disrupt his attention. There was always a spell of oblivion, but I was quite reluctant to use it, unless there was no other choice - I suspected his skills and religious practices helped him resist magic attacks. A few more steps and he'll see me! There was one more option. Damned! I was definitely to weak for this, but my time was getting shorter with every second. I concentrated and raised both hands.
The thief walked nimbly, his stare fixed at the door. He was almost there, when the door suddenly opened and two brethren rushed inside. He backed down, but it was too late - the guards were headed exactly toward him. He reached for the dagger, but they were faster: within a moment the two figures turned up in front of him, but instead of attacking, they... went through him, as if he wasn't there. The air waved slightly and the feeling sent a shiver down his neck.
They didn't look like apparitions he saw in the Bonehoard, nor
were they like the haunts of the haunted Cathedral. They seemed more... material.
He almost couldn't believe his eyes when the strange apparitions turned and run
back from the room, drawing the rest of the guards after them. The High Priest
hesitated, but only for a moment. He retreated, then marched to the bookcases
opposite the wall. Whatever it was, the thief concluded, he did not discover
anything, because he soon swore badly. The thief saw what the High Priest couldn't -
how the flame of the torch at the entrance flickered. The man shook his head in
a genuine surprise - he did not expect the Mage to be that good.
Go back to Thief Fanworks