Copyright © 2001 by Aaron Graham

Dawson sighed as he pushed the needle through the tough cloth of his jacket. The work was tiring and time-consuming, and he might have easily avoided the rent in his jacket had he been a bit faster on his feet. The sword had been obvious, it's bearer obviously drunk and in a mood for combat. Even though it was Dawson's job as a guard in the City Watch to take care of the drunks and sots that had congregated outside the inns and taverns, he should perhaps have waited and disarmed the man before attempting to force him to the nearest watch station last night. And now, before he left for the station, he had to sow his jacket back up before his sergeant pounced on him for improper attention to dress. He could go for months without making a single arrest, but if his jacket had a rent in it from his attempting to do his duty..

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door of his small cubicle. He flicked his eyes up in annoyance, and decided to let it be. This was his time to do as he would, and he would be damned if he gave it up so Benny could have company on his "inspection" of the taverns in Shoalsgate. The knock came again, and insistent rapping on the thin wooden door of his small, and rather spartan, cubicle. He sighed again, and, dropping the jacket on the floor, stood and walked over to the door. He threw back the bolts, and opened it.

It was Benny, who obviously hadn't bothered to change out of his uniform before walking over to bother him. The man was a disgrace to that uniform anyway - as usual, his belt was awry, his jacket stained and dirty, his chain-mail faintly traced with rust, and his helmet disfigured with a dent that he refused to hammer out. Perhaps he had kept it as a trophy of when he'd been blackjacked by some thief in his days before he joined the Watch. But he probably couldn't be bothered to - like most of the scum in the Watch, he had no pride in his job. He'd been a guard, others had been criminals. Only a few were still good men, but they had been discredited in the days before Truarts reforms. And most of them had been killed in that foolishness with the Trickster's beasts.

Exasperated beyond words, Dawson stepped back to give himself space to slam the door. But Benny put his foot out to stop the door, with impacted loudly on it.

"Oww, you taffer!" he cried out. "Why'd you go and do that?"

"Because I'm not interested in speaking with you Benny. Or going on another of your stupid inspections. I don't want to have to carry you home again"

Benny glared back in self-righteous indignation, his foot forgotten.

"That was only once, Dawson. Besides, you...you said you had a good time you taffer. Better than old Benny had, I thinks. Anyways, I is. I is not here 'bout that. 'Though if you're in.in..in'erested?

He winked rakishly, and hiccupped. Dawson rolled his eyes. Benny had obviously started early tonight.

"No Benny, I'm not. Not get your taffing foot away from my door before I crush it for real"

"Ohhh, Dawson, you would'n' do that to ol' Benny, would you? Besides, I's not here t'ask you that. Serg.Serg.Sergeant Trevick tol' me to fetch you to the station. 'Pparently they want to.to speak with you? What you done now, eh, you taffer?"

Dawson fielded off Benny's playful punch, and managed to slam the door before the man's addled sense could detect it. He leaned against the door, and listened as Benny, apparently communicating with a third party known only to himself, discovered that the door was closed, and Dawson was gone. Dawson walked over to the bed, and sat down. The summons were unusual, and worrying. What could Trevick be interested in him for? If it was about the incident with the Baron's niece and the burrick cloak, then he was blameless. But.and here an icy chill gripped his heart...what if the sergeant wanted to speak with him about the whole episode with Webster and Lord Dionies? That had been a good piece of detective work, putting the Warden away finally, but Dionies was Lieutenant Mosley's friend.

Well, obviously she'd just heard about it. Dawson could feel the beginnings of a cold sweat running down his back. They wouldn't kill him, but apparently Mosley had liked Dionies a lot, and so her revenge might be.unpleasant. Should he just run now?

Eventually, he decided against it. After all, it might be something else. By the Builder, let it be something else. He pulled on his jacket over his chain-mail, pushed the helmet onto his head, and, taking his sword and sheathing it, stepped out the door. He locked it behind him, and strode to the stairway at the end of the corridor. The wood was damp and rotten, so he took care. He slammed the door behind him as he left the block of cubicles, and set off across the ward to Shoalsgate station.

Arriving there, he reported to Sergeant Trevick. The man held him at attention while he studied the rent in Dawson's jacket that he'd not had the time to repair. Finally Trevick stood him at ease, and told him to report to the Lieutenant Mosley. Or, rather, Sheriff Mosley. Now. Dawson asked why, but Trevick just shrugged.

Now Dawson knocked on the door of the Sheriff's office, and waited for the acknowledgement before entering. The office was well appointed, with a large desk, a fireplace, and several armchairs. It was also liberally decorated with plants - there were plants on the windowsills, in pots by the fire place, and on stands around the room. Mosley was standing at the window, idly fingering the peony there. It looked wilted, as if it had been there for several weeks. As he entered she turned, and Dawson was struck by the look of worry and anxiety there, so different from the casual superiority that had been there before.

"You many stand at ease Dawson" she said. "Has your sergeant told you why you're here?"

"No Ma'am. I was sent for, and I have only just arrived"

"Very well. I've just been reading the report of your investigation into Webster. An encouraging example of investigation. The Warden Affairs Department were still struggling to find the head of that Ward"

Dawson relaxed slightly. So far she hadn't mentioned Dionies. Perhaps she wasn't going to punish him for that? He suddenly noticed that there was a silence, and that she was looking at him expectantly. A reply seemed called for.

"Thank you Ma'am. I simply found some leads during the raid of his warehouse a few months before, and followed them up in my own time"

"Yes - it was impressive how you managed to find enough evidence to incriminate him. And did so without the help of our own department. Most impressive. I was considering promoting you to heading the Warden Affairs Department, but."

Here she paused, and looked towards the window at the peony. Her face creased in worry, and.nervousness? She took a deep breath and turned back.

"I find I have other uses for your skills. More.unorthodox uses. You are aware of what went on at Soulforge?"

"Vaguely, Ma'am. I know it's been sealed by the Mechanists, and that there have been rumours Karras hasn't been seen since then. And something about a red mist or dust, but I don't believe that"

"Hmmm. Well, I suppose you will know soon enough. Karras is dead"

Dawson gaped at her, his mouth hanging open before he thought to shut it. Karras dead? The head of the Mechanists gone? Sure, there had been rumours, but he hadn't believed them. Suddenly he realised Mosley was still talking

"...perished at Soulforge. From what I've heard, the red mist is some sort of corrosive agent. For plants and animals only it seems. And his demise has also resulted in a decrease in Pagan activities. Almost as if their leader has gone too. I've waited.I've not heard reports of Pagans for several weeks. I need you to discover what has happened, who did it, and where the Pagans have gone"

Having said this, she turned around again and walked to the window. She stood there, looking out of it, and fingering the peony, as Dawson hurriedly accepted the offer. A chance to stop those taffing patrols and night watches? And gain the gratitude of the Sheriff? This must be a gift from the Builder Himself.

"Very well," Mosley said when he had accepted "you'd best start immediately. The Mechanists have sealed Soulforge, but I have for you a pass to get you inside. The letter on my desk requires any member of the Watch to help you - within reason. Take them - and leave."

Dawson hurried to pick up the sheets of parchment from the desk, and stuffed them inside his jacket. He moved towards the door, and was opening it when Mosley's voice reached him;

"And Dawson - be careful. There are forces at work here beyond what you can know. Be discreet, especially around Mechanists. And never tell anyone but me what you find. It is vital that only I find out where the Pagans have gone."

He turned, saluted, and escaped out the door.

Dawson decided to start with the most obvious of places - Soulforge. He picked his way through crowded streets, bumped and jostled by the crowds around him. Servants, traders, guards - he passed all on his journey to the Cathedral. Sometimes he passed figures in long cloaks and hoods, their faces hidden. Normally he would have studied them, for only thieves and jackblades hid themselves so. But now he had a new mission he paid them no mind. He didn't even think to stop one figure when they inadvertently bumped against him and almost knocked him over.

Eventually he reached Soulforge - a tall structure of grey stone that loomed over the manor houses and mansions surrounding it. It was encircled by a sheer wall, with only one entrance barred with iron gates. At the gates stood two Mechanists, their posture tall and their weapons held ready. A small crowd stood by a distance away from them, gesturing at the Cathedral, but hostile glances from the Mechanists soon scattered them. No-one wanted to risk their wrath.

Dawson marched to the gate and its Mechanist guards, and loudly demanded entrance. The guards looked at each other amusedly, and then one spoke to him.

"Thine request cannot be granted, Watchman. Friend Gorrick hast forbidden any entry to Soulforge. Shouldst not thou be at thy duties, dealing with the scum that doth polute our streets like a vine upon a wall"?

Dawson bridled at the mockery and the veiled insult, and his anger made him aggressive.

"Hold your tongue, you taffer! I've got here a letter that allows me entrance to your Cathedral. Open the gates and let me in."

The Mechanist's reaction was impressive.

"Silence thy tongue, knave, and soil it not with the name of our defeated adversary! Show us then thine letter - I disbelieve that Friend Gorrick wouldst allow such a thing as thee to enter."

Dawson reached inside his jacket, and brought out the sheet of paper, which he thrust at the Mechanists to read. His pride trampled, he awaited eagerly the humiliation for them that was soon to come. However, the humiliation was his when the Mechanists laughed at reading the paper, and handed it back to him with mocking politeness. Angry but puzzled, he looked at what was written on it.


We know what Mosley has asked of you. For the sake of your life, and of the City, cease your investigation. You are meddling with forces you would be better to ignore. If you continue, you risk destruction.

He dropped the letter as if it were burning, then spun on his heel and ran. The mocking laughter of the Mechanists followed him.

Leaning against the wall, Dawson took stock of his situation. The precious letters were gone, and he did not dare go back to ask for new copies. The humiliation of asking, of admitting that he has been pickpocketed, and the letters replaced with someone's idea of a joke. Who could have done it? Probably someone in the City Watch, who knew he'd been assigned somewhere else and who used to be a thief. He'd have to continue without the letters. His teeth bared in a wry grin - he hadn't had the letters when he'd discovered Webster. But then again, Webster was a Warden, while this involved the High Priest of the Mechanist Order.

Sighing, he straightened. There was no sense in bemoaning what could have been, and meanwhile there was still an investigation to conduct. He looked around, taking stock of where he was. He'd run down one of the streets leading away from the Cathedral, a small one lined with trading stalls. In doorways there lay wasted bodies bundles of rags that were the homeless of the City. Most were still, either asleep or dead, but a few held out cupped hands to passers-by, begging for alms. He moved towards them, and was momentarily amused at the speed with which they became rags again. After all, it had only been a few weeks ago that the order had come down from Truart to round up street scum such as these.

Still, street scum though they were, they might have seen something the night the Cathedral was sealed that might give him some leads. Most beggars tended to stay in one place, to avoid losing their small patches in doorways or under awnings to others. The first few had been asleep, or hadn't seen anything, or didn't want to say. Then Dawson struck gold. One man said that he had heard strange sounds coming from the Cathedral that night, sounds of explosions, as if the Mechanist's machines had been fighting each other. The man - scrawny, lice-infested, and dirty - told the story with disinterest, but then smiled a gap-toothed smile, and held out his hand for a reward. Interest piqued by the man's story, Dawson flipped him a small coin, and turned to ask others.

There was a forest of hands in front of him, as the beggars grabbed at his small purse, and gabbled accounts of that night. Now that he was paying, they were eager. They told him of explosions in the Cathedral, strange flashes in the windows, shadows of creeping vines silhouetted against the windows, and first one, then several, dark figures leaving and entering the Cathedral. Dawson was interested in the last account, and asked the scrawny old crone who had said it to explain.

"There were dark shadows, Mister. Were like the shadows were moving. These figures in black cloaks and cowls, meltin' into shadows and like. They's all saying I's blind, I's seeing things. But nothing wrong with my eyes Mister. Can still see. They's all blind!"

Her wave encompassed the rest of the beggars, who angrily protested, and began to threaten the old woman. Dawson asked more, but the woman had no more to offer. Shrugging, he turned away. Hands plucked at his jacket, and angry voices demanded payment. He took several coins from his pouch, and, without looking back, tossed them into the crowd of beggars. The squabble for them was still audible by the time he'd reached the end of the street.

Dawson paced the streets, wondering what those shadows could be. Wondering if the old crone has been lying, or mistaken. Figures that could melt into shadows? It sounded like a childrens tale, a tale told by mothers to frighten children into obedience. He snorted in wry self-derision. It was clearly ridiculous - he was foolish to even consider it. And yet, as the sun fell and the shadows lengthened, he found himself looking into them anxiously, his head constantly pivoting as he tried to scan the shadows for figures lurking within. Eventually, when he seemed to catch sight of something move in a shadow in the corner of his vision, he drew his sword and rushed over to it, preparing to swing and cut down whoever lurked there. But there was nothing.

Eventually, he looked up and realised that the stars were beginning to appear in the firmament, and that the moon was providing most of the illumination. Scattered street lights through pools of light onto the ground, and dimly lit the buildings around them that loomed up so that the street appeared a canyon. Dawson looked around him, and realised that his wanderings had taken him near Shoalsgate. He was far from his lodgings, and the City could not be.hospitable for a watchman, alone, at night. He hurried to the Shoalsgate station, passing the watching mechanical eyes at the door, and signed in for a bed for the night. He walked to the locker room and left his sword and helmet there, then threw himself onto the bed. Most of the Watch were out patrolling, otherwise he would never have gotten any room. The day had been long and tiring.

He was drifting asleep when suddenly a thought struck him that made him sit bolt upright in bed. He'd suddenly remembered what a thief had said, a long time ago, as he'd hauled him to gaol. He'd been caught in a noble's home, and protested that he was innocent. He'd been in the manor, yes, but it had already been picked clean. By a thief. A master thief. Perhaps the best there was. One who could melt into shadows at will. What was his name.Garreth? Garrotte? Garrett? Yes, Garrett. The thief who could become a shadow, the gabbling man had said.

Dawson threw off his covers, too excited for sleep. Could this man be the one who'd killed Karras? The woman had said several figures were there, but she could have been mistaken.

He rushed to the main hall, where the Watch officers conducted their administrative business. Thank the Builder, Trevick was still there.

"Uhh, Sergeant, is there anyone from Robbery still here?"

Trevick looked up, saw Dawson standing there, and frowned at the man's haste.

"At this time of night, you taffer? Unlikely. Halterly might be there, if he's not sleeping off the alcohol."

Dawson nodded his thanks and rushed off, feet pounding on the stone floor as he ran through the corridors to the staircase. He pounded up the stairs, past the bemused guards there, and ran to the Robbery/Homicide office. Thank the Builder, it was open. There was someone there, slumped over a desk at the end, snoring and muttering.

Dawson hurried over to the man, and shook him. The man mumbled but refused to wake. Dawson shook him harder, until the man finally stopped snoring and opened his eyes.

"Watcha.watcha.watch doing, you taffing Pagan? It's slack time - I'm allowed to be asleep"

"Not on duty, and not because you're drunk you aren't. Now shut up you taffer, I've got a question for you"

"What? I ain't drunk. I didn't touch a drop! I was jus' sleeping. What you want t'know?"

"Shut up. You were. I need to see what you have on a thief called Garrett"

The change in Halterly was remarkable. The man snapped completely awake. All the tiredness and drunkenness seemed gone. His eyes were suddenly alert, and when he spoke his voice was steady.

"Garrett? Now there's a name I haven't heard in a while. What do you want with a man like him?"

"He exists? He's a thief, isn't he?"

"Yes - one of the best. So good that we don't have the slightest bit of evidence to go on. What do you want with him?"

"I need to know about him. I've heard he has a reputation for melting into shadows or something. I need to find out about that"

Halterly seemed to absorb that, then nodded. Indicating that Dawson should follow him, he led him along the corridor to the stairs, down them, and then to the other side of the building where the secure records were kept. He nodded to the guard on duty there, and then climbed the spiral steps to the library. He produced a key from his belt, and opened the door. Books lined the walls and the shelves there, and Dawson could see doors that presumably led off to more rooms of books and records. Halterly walked along the shelves, mumbling names under his breath.

"..Gabbley.Gapsons.ahhh - Garrett"

He took from the shelves a thin folder with only a few sheets of paper in it. These he removed, and spread out on a table nearby. Dawson bent to examine them as Halterly started talking.

An hour later, Dawson gingerly rose and rubbed his cramped back. The work had been exhausting, but rewarding.

"So, we think Garrett might be responsible for all that business with Larnseng? I thought that was something to do with the Downwinders"

"In a way it was, but there's more to it. Garrett framed Larnseng, and planted the evidence so the Downwinders found out they'd been working for him. They were suspicious, but they still made sure that we found him."

"Why didn't they take him out themselves?"

"The Downwinders have a reputation for always letting their victim realise what happened to them. They did it with Lord Randall, when they stole his vase collection. I believe they let him know somehow that they knew, and held him until they could tip us off"

"Hmmm. So Garrett was behind that. Anything else?"

"There was some business with the Hammers a while back, around the time that those Trickster beasts appeared. I don't know what went on there. And I remember reading somewhere that when the Hammers had that break-in at Cragscleft, the thief was spotted by another of the prisoners talking to Cutty, Garrett's fence"

"Cutty? That might be my link to find Garrett. Where can I get hold of Cutty, and ask him some questions?"

"With a shovel. He died soon after. I'm sure Garrett has a new fence, but I've no idea who. If you have any contacts, or any favours, now might be a good time to call them in"

"Fine. Don't worry, I know some people who might be able to find out. Can I ask you a question?"

Halterly looked at Dawson, wondering what the question would be. After an hour of scanning the meagre file, and cross checking it with other accounts, what questions could remain?
"How do you know so much about Garrett? You seemed to only wake up when I mentioned his name, and now you've just spent an hour talking to me about him. Why?"

Halterly looked away from Dawson, towards the wall of books and records. His fingers squeezed each other white as he spoke.

"I had a brother once. He used to work as a guard for Bafford - chief guard in fact. Then, someone broke into the manor, and stripped it. Everything, gone. Including Bafford's precious sceptre. Cedric was dismissed, and.killed himself out of shame."

Halterly's voice broke as something caught in his throat.

"Some of the guards said they had seen strange shadows that night. When I first heard about Garrett, I knew it was him. He'd shamed my brother into suicide. I joined the Watch to try to get Garrett, but thus far.my luck has not been what it might. You seem as if you might catch him. That's why I' ve helped you."

Dawson stirred, and held out his hand to Halterly, murmuring his thanks. The man turned. His eyes glistening with moisture, he clasped it.

"Good luck Dawson. And when you finally arrest him, spit on him for me. Please"

Dawson mumbled agreement, and moved off.

Dawson wearily approached the door of his cubicle, and fumbled at his waist for the key. It'd been several days since he had last seen his home - he had spent much of his time on the streets, chasing up fragile leads to Garrett. He'd thought that it would be easy - merely a case of finding a thief with the grudge against him, and proceeding from there. But too many criminals had shaken their heads and proclaimed themselves ignorant of him, while others had refused to talk. No threats had made them reveal what they knew - they all said that Garrett's revenge would be worse than anything Dawson himself could do. One had muttered that Dawson should see what Garrett had done to Ramirez if he was so eager to continue the case.

Dawson had looked at Ramirez's case, but found nothing special. The man had been robbed at his home, and not been heard of since. Was that the best Garrett could do?

He finally grasped the key, and pushed it into the lock. It clicked as he turned it, and then the bolts sprang back. He pushed open the door, and was greeted by the darkness of an unlit room. He felt in his pocket for a flintlock. Grasping it, he lifted it to the candle by the side of the door, and struck sparks with it until the wick began to flare, and flames rise . He then shut the door, and was preparing to bolt it when.

"Don't bother"
The quiet, mocking voice sounded behind him. Dawson spun round, to see a black shape standing there, a figure in a dark cloak and hood. He clutched for his sword, but discovered with icy surprise that it was no longer there.

"Looking for this, Dawson?" the figure said, waving the sword at him. "Don' t worry, you have no need for it. I won't harm you.yet"

Dawson took a step backwards in fear, and came up against the closed door. He scrabbled at it, but the figure shook his head within the shadowed hood.

"Stop it Dawson. I'll only kill you if you become a threat. Killing isn't my style - it's too messy and loud. I prefer to sneak past idiots like you rather than having to mop up your blood"

Dawson finally found a voice.

"You're.you're.you're Garrett?"

"Cleverly deduced. Yes, I'm Garrett."

"What.what do you want?"

"Some answers. Why have you been making such ineffectual attempts to get me?"

"Attempts? What attempts? I.I don't know what you mean"

Garrett's voice now held a sharper tone, and he began to play idly with the sword that he had stolen from Dawson without him noticing. He twirled it on its point as he spoke, adding a threatening undertone to his words.

"Dawson, don't act the idiot, however easy it may be for you. I have certain friends who alerted me when you began to make your rather indiscreet enquiries. As you can imagine, my profession does not encourage notoriety, and I do not appreciate attention from the forces of law and order. Now, besides my past activities, why do you want to get me?"

"I don't.I don't! I've no idea what you're talking about"

"Dawson, I've indulged you thus far, but my patience has limits. Tell me"

Dawson looked around frantically but there was no escape. Garrett now held his sword, and could flick it up and at his throat before he could escape. He might yell and alert the people in the building, but would he be there to see Garrett captured? Probably not. He took a deep breath, and, forcing his weak knees to hold him upright against the door, told Garrett

"You murdered Karras! Mosley told me to find out who did it, and catch him!"

Garrett's head jerked up within the cloak, and the sword became still as he gripped it in his hands.

"Well, not what I was expecting at all. And why might I be the murderer?"

"Some.some woman said she saw figures at Soulforge that could melt into shadows. And I remembered that someone had said you, a master thief could. So I wanted to find where you were so I could tell Mosley"

Dawson sagged against the door, limp after his confession, and panting with fear and terror. His terror increased as Garrett stepped nearer, a black figure with a shining sword. The thief stopped a short distance from Dawsom. The light of the candle illuminated the raised parts of his face, but the rest was black shadow. Garrett lowered his voice.

"Listen to me Dawson. You're meddling with forces that are more potent and dangerous than you imagine. Mosley is using you, as I was once used by another, for her own plans. She has an agenda you do not even suspect. When I was used I was lucky to only lose this"

He tapped his right eye, and leaned closer to Dawson, who saw with horror that the eye was not normal. It was metal, a construction that clicked and whirred as it focused on him from the new position.

"You may lose a lot more, Dawson. Those who work for the Pagans do not remain long once their usefulness is at an end.

"The Pa...the Pagans? But Mosley isn't a Pagan!"

"Don't be so sure. Stop searching, tell Mosley that you can't find the culprits. You can either remain silent by choice, or by force. Leave; now"

Garrett watched with silent amusement - and a hint of contempt - as the desperate watchman wrenched the door open and ran from the room. Footsteps echoed as the man hurried along the hallway and down the stairs. When they died away, Garrett stirred, and walked to the open door. He blew out the candle and closed the door, then addressed the shadow in the hallway.

"That was easier than I expected, Keeper Darnley. Was it really necessary for me to do it? Surely some other keeper."

"Dawson would not believe a keeper. He would dismiss it as a joke. Your presence was necessary to convince him of the seriousness of what you said"

"I guess so. Do you think he'll listen?"

"I believe so. We will follow him to be sure, but yes, I believe that he will give us no further trouble. Oh, and Garrett?


With a hint of amusment, the shadow said
"Your old ways continue to assert themselves. At least leave the man his money"

Garrett smiled, and tossed the small pouch onto Dawson's bed. Together he and the Keeper walked toward the stairwell. The thief turned to look one last time at the empty corridor, and then, flicking a small coin, descended out of sight.

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