The Hunter and The Hunted
© 2001 Demeter

"The night will become his only ally and the day an enemy among many. The light have always fought the darkness, both on the outside and within. But nothing created by the light will be able to win this battle…"

- The Dark Prophecy
Written before the First Elven War

Like a black shadow he swept past the four guards dressed in green uniforms with blue stripes, standing before the gates. Unnoticed by the four men under the clear night sky. The black shadow hurled himself over the wall behind the guards and cursed himself for the thud when his feet touched the ground.

"Jac, I thought I heard something", said one of the guards.

"From where?", asked another.

"Behind the wall", answered the first.

"Wake up, Slein! It was just an animal. You should go to bed a little earlier, so you can handle the nightshift", said a third voice and gave a short laughter.

The black shadow looked around. He noticed that he stood in a large garden with trees twice as high as any man. A carpet of grass covered the ground and a narrow path of gravel led from the gates to a mansion in the middle of the garden. The mansion was a large rectangular building made of red bricks and black tiles, it was a two storey building with steps leading up to a terrace on the front. Almost every window was black except for those in lit hallways and the large window above the front entrance.

The black shadow took out a piece of paper and studied it in the brightness of the full moon. He put back the paper and went to the left, following the wall. All the time he kept himself in the shadow of the wall and watched what was ahead and to the right, afraid as he was of running into patrols. After he went round the gable of the house he searched with his eyes for a door that should be in the right corner of the building.

There it is, he thought and looked to the left and right before he quickly but quietly ran over the grass to the door. He stood at the top of the few steps where the shadows where the thickest, a shadow among shadows. Gently he tried the door handle, locked. But that doesn't stop a real thief that easily. Discreetly he pulled out a small silvery lockpick which he immediately inserted into the keyhole. Carefully he twisted and turned it until he heard a clicking sound. The shadow pushed the door slightly open and sneaked inside. The door was quietly shut behind the dark shape who then squatted in one of the dark corners of the small room.

A faint light shed through a slightly open door in front of him. He could clearly hear a man's voice from the other room saying:

"...that would have been the end of him if he wasn't the lucky bastard which he is. But the next time I will catch Warren and then I'll finally receive my reward from the mayor of Chetryn personally."

Another much darker voice laughed while a sweet woman's voice asked:

"Why do you think that this Warren will come here?"

A pause.

"Because he seeks to steal your countess's famous diamond, which she brought with her from her residence in Chetryn", answered the first voice when there was a sound of footsteps and a door which opened and shut.

Have I really become that predictable, thought the shadow but had to hold back a guffaw after he heard the man's voice saying:

"Warren is a clever one, but I know him well by now. And that's why I know he will decide to enter through the attic and there is where I and half of the countess's house guard will lay in ambush when he arrives."

"But if he already have arrived?", asked the woman's voice.

"Then he will walk right into my trap. Now please excuse me young lady, but duty calls and I want to be the one who delivers the first blow on that wretch", said the man and stepped out of the room.

The woman stayed in the room and started to hum on a tune that Warren didn't recognise. At once he stood up and moved closer to the slightly open door. Warren peeked into the other room and noticed a woman, who stood with her back to Warren, with long brown hair in a pony tail over her right shoulder. She was dressed in a blue dress and a white apron and was she was occupied with stirring in a stew. To her left in the middle of the room stood a large wooden table. Apparently this was the kitchen.

Warren pushed gently the door open and crept in. In the same moment Warren was inside he heard a clicking sound and a strong draught that slammed the door shut behind him. The woman turned around. She looked terrified at the shape of a man in black cloak and hood who stood there fully visible in the light of a torch to his left. She was about to scream but not a single sound left her lips before stood by her holding a black knife to her throat. When the woman felt the touch of cold steel she tried to back away until Warren took hold of her chin and whispered in a cold voice:

"Not a sound! Understood?"

Slowly the woman gave a slight nod that she understood. Then Warren let go of her chin and held her arm instead, the knife remained by her throat. This was the first moment when Warren realised how beautiful really was, with her thin pink lips, the little pointy nose and her brown eyes.

"What's your name?", he whispered as quiet as ever.

"Jelenn", the woman whispered back.

Quickly Warren looked around in the room, he immediately noticed the second door in the wall to his left. He heard a voice from the door behind him:

"I only checked if it was locked and then the other door slammed in my face."

"Move aside you twit!", ordered another voice.

Warren took cover behind the wooden table and pulled Jelenn to a chair in front of him. The door opened and Warren heard someone enter the kitchen.

"Is everything alright?", Warren heard a man ask in a harsh voice.

Jelenn looked nervously at the second door.

"Y...yes", she finally answered while fiddling with her apron.

"I will lock the backdoor now, and I don't want you to open it to anybody! Do you understand?", said the man with an ordering tone in his voice.

"Yes, as you wish", Jelenn answered and looked down on the floor behind the table. Warren heard the man leave and lock the backdoor. He then stood up and pointed the black knife in a threatening fashion at Jelenn.

"Good, now go and close that door!", Warren ordered, pointing at the door which he entered from.

Jelenn started to walk toward the door but received a blow to the back of her head and fell limp to the floor. Warren put back the knife behind his belt and lifted in the same motion up Jelenns unconscious body to carry her to the little storage room before the backdoor. There he put her down on some bags containing flour and closed the door behind him when he re-entered the kitchen.

Warren went directly toward the second door. He opened it and looked both ways down the small hallway outside. Warren then took out the piece of paper which he kept under his cloak and studied it carefully. The paper went back to its place and Warren looked once again out the door. Thereafter he set off to the left and stopped only to peek around corners and listen for suspicious sounds. At one corner a guard was sleeping in a chair. The guard was dressed in the green and blue colours of the countess's private guard.

He won't be a problem, Warren thought before he quietly sneaked past the sleeping guard and went round another corner. There he found the flight of stairs he was looking for. He stopped and listened for the faintest sound. When he didn't hear any footsteps or voices, he went carefully up the stairs. At the top he immediately suffocated the flame of a torch by placing a black sack over it and regretted that he had done so. He had heard distant voices and now the voices had stopped. In the dim light Warren could see a door in the end of the hallway to the right. The door was made of steel.

That must be it, he thought when moving closer to the door. Nice of Loiden to take all the guards up to the attic.

Warren tried the doors handle. It was locked.

Didn't expect it to be that easy.

He chose a lockpick and started picking the lock. After a short while it got stuck. Warren swallowed some curse words and tried to pull the lockpick out again. That's when he heard two voices getting closer from behind.

"Loiden is a madman. Personally I would guard the room with the valuable trinkets instead of sitting up in the attic, in the cold and watching for someone who won't even show up", pointed a man's voice out.

"Maybe. But don't you think this Warrel, or whatever his name is, would be frightened and run off if he saw ten guards in the hallway?", asked a woman's voice.

Warren searched the wall to his right for a door. The voices were getting closer.

"Yes, you are probably right. It would be the surprise of my life if I was a thief and broke into this mansion, just to step into ten guards guarding what I came for", the man's voice said. Panic started building up inside Warrens otherwise cold heart.

"You wouldn't even get into the mansion if you were a thief, Arnel", said the woman and gave a short laughter.

Finally Warren found the door and a handle, he pressed it down immediately and stepped into the darkness inside, in that moment two guards came round a corner and almost noticed the door close.

Warren pushed himself up against the wall and listened to his own heartbeats and a man's snore. After awhile Warren opened the door and got a glimpse of a man and a woman in uniforms going round a corner and out of sight. Warren sneaked out and tried to pull the lockpick out of the lock. On the second try it came out. Warren took out another lockpick and tried with that one. The lock didn't stand a chance and the door was opened.

Cheap locks! Here? That was something new, Warren thought.

He stepped inside and closed the door behind himself. The light of the full moon spread through a window in the far end of the room. To the left and right were shelves filled with porcelain and forks, knives and spoons of silver. Warren started to systematically search through the shelves for a small box, which he knew would contain the diamond he sought. The only real valuables he found in here was two candleholders made of solid gold, this night they exchanged owners, but no diamond.

Damn, she must have hidden it in her room, Warren thought when leaving the room. He knew where the countess had her bedroom and he went in that direction. The only thing Warren heard was footsteps, but they were getting fainter by the minute. At the countess's door he suffocated another torch and tried the doors handle. Locked, of course. Warren chose a lockpick more carefully this time and started his treatment of the lock. After two long breaths the familiar click said it all. Warren put the lockpick away and gently, carefully opened the door. He sneaked inside and pulled the door shut behind him. The moon spread a silvery light over the entire room and what Warren saw on the bedside table made him smile. It was the small box. On the bed to the left of the box lay the countess, taking calm and deep breaths, she was sleeping. Quiet as a mouse, Warren crept to the bedside table and slowly opened the little jewel box. A diamond as big as a man's thumb sparkled in the middle of golden necklaces and rings.

It is moments like these that makes it all worth the effort, Warren thought when emptying the box into a small black bag.

After this night I won't have to work again for a whole year, was the thought circling through Warrens rapturous mind when he opened the door and stepped on outside. Right into the two patrolling guards.

"Who are you?", the male guard asked in confusion while the woman pulled her sword from its hilt.

"It's the thief! Stop him!", she shouted and attacked Warren.

Warrens reflexes saved him. He pulled his knife and parried the woman's attack while moving backward. He saw his chance and quickly took it. He gave the woman a blow from his fist and stepped back into the countess's bedchamber before the other guard could attack, he had been given enough time to pull his own blade. Warren blocked the door with his foot while locking it again with a lockpick.

"Damn the nights eternal hell...", were some of the more lenient words he uttered. The countess started shouting when she was awakened, terrified of the swearing thief that was desperately looking for a way out.

"If you want to live, then shut your mouth!", Warren hissed at her, pointing with the knife.

The countess started crying and hid under the cover. Guards started kicking at the door and Warren could hear the voice of Loiden shouting:

"Warren, you pig! Come out and fight like a man!"

Warren looked out the window and noticed two trees growing under it.

If I jump then maybe..., he didn't have time to finish the thought when the door was kicked in and guards started invading the room.

Warren wasn't late to defend himself now either. He managed to knock one guard unconscious and drive another back. While Loiden, dressed in all grey, pushed himself past the guards with a naked sword in his hands. Warren grabbed hold of a chair -he thought it was a chair- and threw it at the window. The glass shattered in a loud crash. Warren jumped out, aiming for on of the trees. In the fall Warren was unable to grab hold of any of the branches and therefore fell down hard on the grass. With aching body Warren got to his feet and made haste for the wall. The whole mansion was in pandemonium, with shouts about thieves everywhere.

What Warren didn't think of was the fact that Loiden too, jumped out the window. And with his right hand on his knee, limping, and the sword in his left hand, the tall and muscular man was chasing Warren shouting curses and threats.

Somewhat recovered Warren threw himself up the stone wall and grabbed the upper edge. With aching arms he was able to pull himself up and almost fall down on the other side. It hurt when he hit the ground, but it didn't matter to Warren. He was outside. Warren pulled himself together and ran, half limping, toward the forest surrounding the mansions walls. Yes! Finally! Now I can take it easy, it's almost impossible to find someone who knows the forest here. Damn that Loiden, Warren thought. Happy that finally he can rest.

Suddenly a voice said:

"Hello, Warren!"

And then everything went black for the unfortunate thief.

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