~~~~~~~~~~~This is a story telling thread so please do not post any replies here. Thank you! ~~~~~~
~~All of the events in this thread occured in the past for this Character. Any resemblance to any other Cs living or dead is only a coincidence. ~~
A dark cloaked shape slipped quietly along the sewer tunnels ignoring the rats and filth that surrounded it. In near darkness it glided easily, seeing clearly from the slight moonlight and city light that filtered through the street drains above.
At a culvert of connecting tunnels it paused. The noise from water running into several of the tunnels made silent movement here almost unnecessary but the dark covered one still was wary. It slipped to the side of the tunnel entrance against the wall and waited. All it’s senses tuned, trying to determine if it had been detected.
It knew that somewhere nearby had to be a lookout, most likely down one of the other tunnels in the dark watching the brighter are of the culvert for any intruders. After waiting for about 15 mins it heard a sound so faint that human ears would not have detected it at all. The dark one moved slowly towards the tunnel to it’s left from whence the sound originated.
The shadowy figure paused just to the edge of the tunnel , a dagger appeared in one of the gloved hands. It waited and soon the faint sound was repeated; the scrape of leather on stone. Probably a boot heel of a sentry moving about slightly as the wearer paced in boredom.
Slowly the cloaked head moved to the lip of the tunnel and peering in the tunnel entrance. Eyes sharper than a hawks pierce the gloom and spotted the lookout as it waited 15 feet down the tunnel. The sentry appeared to be armed but no weapon was at hand and the person was obviously bored and often moved about and even took their eyes off the culvert area as he paced. A Novice mistake!
Watching the sentry the shadow cling tightly to the wall and when the watcher turned away even for a second, it slowly moved a tiny bit into the tunnel and seemed to blend into the wall. It took the dark one over half an hour to get to within 6 feet of the lookout and the next time the sentry turned to their left the shadow struck.
Darkness moved silently and the lookout died quickly as the hand clamped down tight over his mouth and a dagger pierced his spinal column killing him instantly. Lowering the lookout to the floor of the tunnel the shadow quickly looked up and down the tunnel for any sign of alarm. Nothing stirred.
Deft hands quickly stripped the body of anything useful and then moved on up the tunnel slowly and carefully always on the lookout for signs of trouble.
Half an hour later the shadowy figure came to another culvert, the one below the market square in the city above. A pile of rotting garbage blocked the center sluice of the drain and made the water here back up to a couple of feet around the pile. The stench here was even greater than elsewhere in the sewer if that were possible. The hawkers in the market above often cast their bad perishable goods down here; rotting heads of cabbage, maggoty meat, and all manner of spoiled food goods mixed with human excrement made a mixture that would gag even the strongest stomach.
‘Humans’ the figure thought, they were such filthy creatures. Living so close to their waste, discarding it wherever they could, with no thought to the consequences to the future. What could one expect, they breed at will and even though they lived only a short time compared to the other races they had grown and were taking over large areas of fertile land and destroying nature. It was a wonder they could manage to survive at all.
The dark one’s paused in it’s thoughts and gave out a soft whistle, two short blasts and then a long one. A answering signal in reverse came from one of the tunnels ahead. Shortly after the signal a figure stepped out of one of the tunnels and raising a lantern opened the shutter slightly to light the paused, waiting. The cloaked one stepped out and looked upon the one it was meeting. A human male dressed in filthy leather breeches ,a soiled tunic, with his shoulder length hair tied back with a scrap of cloth. A short sword hung from one hip and a dagger could be seen sticking out of the right boot. “Your late. You must be Vatta.”
The cloaked one stepped forward into the faint lantern light and reaching up a hand drew back the hood revealing it’s face to the man.
The lantern light revealed a figure dressed all in black with a cloaked that covered most of it’s short, slightly over 4 and a half feet, frame. Straight silver shoulder-length hair surrounding a beautiful female elfin face with a tiny smirk on her lips. The hilt of a rapier can be seen protruding from the cloak and the tip of a compound short bow peering over the top of one shoulder.
“That’s me. I was delayed, a lookout was guarding the way into this section.”, she said in a voice that was smooth and yet strong and hard. “Are you sure no one else knows of this meeting.” She slowly glanced about wondering if others might be hiding in the other tunnels.
The man chuckled slightly, “No one knows, probably you just ran into some scavenger looking for anything valuable someone might have lost into the sewers. It happens all the time.”
Amber eyes returned to gaze upon the man and narrowed slightly. Did she detect a waver in his voice, was he lying. Her instincts told her something was not right here. Her left hand was still hidden within her cloak as she shrugged to him, “Maybe, ok so tell me, where can I find this man you told me of in your message?”
The human smiled nervously as he continued and walked closer to here avoiding most, but not all, of the rotting muck. “Well, this information didn’t come cheap, so what do you offer for it?”
In response, she reached her right hand into her cloak and brought out a money pouch, hefting it slightly so the man could hear it and see it’s girth. “Enough gold?”
He grinned and nodded, “More than enough.”
“So then, quit wasting my time, tell me where he is and the gold is yours,“ She stated and then added with a wicked looking grin, “but you had better be right or I will come back her and take the price back out of your hide.”
The smile on the man’s face faded and he nodded his understanding, “Ok, don’t worry the information is good.”
Was that a noise, she thought. Her keen ears scanning the sounds of the sewer for anything out of the ordinary, and there it was again, the sound of steel scraping against leather. The sound of a sword slowly being drawn from a scabbard. It was a trap. She knew that surely several men waited in the other tunnels, and perhaps even the one from which she had come. She had to remain calm, she reminded herself that the best way out of a trap was to spring it before it was ready.
“Well then, if that is so,” she said slowly and evenly and hefting the pouch, “Then HERE!” As she said the last she tossed the sack at the guy’s face then her hands were a blur as her rapier suddenly appeared.
The man instinctively reached up with his free hand to catch the purse, that was his mistake as the tip of her rapier opened up his throat. He went down with a gurgling sound, dropping the lantern and purse as he tried to stop the flow of blood gushing from his neck. He made one more short blood filled gasp before he sank face first into the muck and water.
Suddenly the other tunnels erupted with men, one or more from each tunnel, short swords and daggers at the ready. The first one fell as a dagger flew from the elfin woman’s left hand taking him high in the chest propelling him backwards. The dagger yanked itself out of the man and raced back to Vatta to be caught deftly as she moved to avoid the awkward slash of the man who came up behind her.
Avoiding the blow that would have cleaved her back wide open she whirled and let his momentum carry him past her and into the path of the other attackers. The point of her rapier pierced the man’s lower back and spine before she raced up the tunnel from whence she came.
The wounded man staggered into the way of the others momentarily blocking their path to the tunnel, but he was soon pushed out of the way to die on the pile of rotting refuse as the others ran up the tunnel after her.
Vatta raced up the tunnel, the shouts of her pursuers echoing off the walls. She ran into another culvert and there she hesitated not a moment as she darted into a tunnel on the right, her left hand sheathing the dagger and pulling out a small flask from belt. Flashing into the tunnel she tosses the flask over her shoulder in a haphazard manner and runs even faster . The flask crashes on the side of the tunnel and with a mighty flash it lights the tunnel momentarily causing the pursuing men to pause as it blinds them in the gloom. After the flash the tunnel fills with an acidic smoke that the first couple of men who try to continue soon find themselves coughing and gasping for breath. The others manage to drag the effected men out of the smoke and soon curses are the only thing pursuing the fleeing elf up the tunnel.
A few minutes later, Vatta climbs out of a sewer opening in an alley a few blocks away. She straightens her cloak and replaces the hood and glances around as she heads out into main thoroughfare. She curses her luck. She knew it was a long shot and possibly a trap. The message had been too convenient and too good to be true, but she had to risk it in case it was the real thing. She was glad she only lost a hundred copper pieces that the pouch contained instead of the promised gold. It paid to prepare.
As she headed back towards here room she contemplated her next move. She had to get her things out of the room and move on, they surely knew where she was staying and might try for her there. She would leave the city tonight, no sense hanging around any longer it would only invite trouble.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~To be continued~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Posted on 2007-07-12 at 23:40:52.
Edited on 2007-07-14 at 01:54:00 by TannTalas
Vatta’s horse crested a rise in the road and she reined in the horse and looked down upon a small valley dotted with farms here and there. She rode down into the valley with her normally ever present hood thrown back revealing her straight silver hair which glistened in the midday sun. Her rapier hung from her left hip and her compound short bow was close at hand tied to the left side of the saddle with a leather thong.
She thought about her bad luck back in the city and how she narrowly escaped a trap. She wished she could have found out why she was attacked. Was it because of the man she was seeking, or were those men simple city thieves who thought she was operating in the city without the writ from the Guild. In any case, she had to leave and wouldn’t be able to set foot in that city for a while.
Vatta rode slowly up the road passing several farmers in the field, most of which would stop and stare at the sight of an beautiful elf maiden riding by. Maybe it was her stunning beauty or maybe it was her race but it seemed that everyone stopped to gaze at her. She only smirked slightly, one of her favorite expressions, and rode on without a word or glance at any of them.
About an hour before sunset and she was contemplating on a place to spend the night when she heard the sound of horses running hard. She paused and pulled her horse to the side of the road and quickly scanned the area for the location of the noise. The source soon crested a hill just off the road to her right; a group of 6 men on horseback reined in and looked in her direction. Normally she wouldn’t think much of seeing strangers along the road, but the shabbily dressed men about a 100 yards away watching her raised her alarm a bit. Bandits probably out here this time of day and this far from any town or city proper. As they watched her she kicked her horse gently in the side and started it back up the road but kept an eye on them.
To her surprise they didn’t give chase but they did ride down to the road to where she had stop to watch them and then slowly they road in her direction but not overtaking her. Her brow furrowed in wonder, why would they follow but not attack while she was alone, she thought. Something didn’t make sense but she wasn’t going to ‘look a gift horse in the mouth’ as the saying goes.
She rode on casting a glance back behind here every minute or so and saw that they stayed back there until just before sunset and then one time she looked back they were gone. Immediately she was alert and snatched her bow from it’s holder and notched an arrow as she spun her horse around in a circle looking for trouble. She waited for a minute but no attack came. She didn’t know what to make of this and after a couple more nerve-wracking minutes she quivered her arrow and set her heels to her horse sending it racing up the road.
Suddenly the world was spinning and the ground rushed up at her and only her training and agility saved her from a nasty fall as her horse went down shot out from under her by a crossbow bolt. She rolled along the ground and came up on her feet, her bow still in hand, and continued to run in the direction of a nearby cluster of trees near the road. Hearing the heavy beat of horses behind her she drew an arrow and notched it on the run and as the sound of hooves drew near she whirled and drew down on the lead rider bearing down on her.
Her first arrow slammed into his chest and the strength of the composite bow at such short range propelled the rider backwards sending him flipping over the rump of this mount. Lightning fast she drew another arrow and loosed it and another arrow before the first had even struck it’s target. As soon as the third arrow was away she turned and sprinted towards those trees leaving three men down on the ground either dead or dying.
She reached the trees and looked back as she notched another arrow, but she saw that the other three riders had pulled up around the wounded men on the ground. They seemed to be discussing the deadly marksmanship of their intended prey. As she caught her breath she weighted her options; if she left the trees it would be on foot and she knew she couldn’t outrun the horse so staying here was a much better plan. Here in the trees she could use them as cover and she was sure should could bring down at least two of the riders before they reached the trees if they continued their assault; so she waited and rested.
One of the bandits got off of his horse and checked the men on the ground as the others watched Vatta among the trees. In less than a minute the man remounted and spoke to the others; the ones on the ground were not moving so they must be dead or beyond hope.
Vatta watched and silently hoped the others lost heart and left having counted themselves lucky that they were still alive, but only seconds after she finished that thought the others drew their weapons again and with cries of rage they charged her position. Quickly she loosed and arrow at one of the men but he kept low over the withers of his animal and avoided her shot. The next shot she fired at the same man took his horse in it’s broad chest and set it to the ground along with it’s rider.
She fired one more arrow at one of the others and took him with a shot in his throat. Seeing that she had little time to fire any more she tossed her bow aside and drew her rapier and dagger before the last man she hit had landed on the ground dead.
Two men remained, one bearing down on her position on his horse and the other slowly getting up further away. She chose to take on the mounted one and leaped out in the open to entice him in closer. When he tried to run her down she ran to her right and let him pass on his off hand side so he had to swipe at her over the neck of his horse and missed her cleanly. She booted feet hit the tree right next to her and she ran up it two strides from her momentum before she leaped back towards the horseman. She flipped in the air behind him as he reined his horse in quickly turning it towards where she had been on his left. Now behind him on foot she quickly stepped up and lunged forward, her thin yet strong rapier blade piecing his lower left side under his ribcage and extending up straight into his heart., he was dead before he hit the ground.
She withdrew her sword as he fell from his mount and she turned towards the last remaining bandit and just in time to duck a sword blow that would have removed her pretty head from her shoulders. Rolling on the ground away from the man she came up her dagger and rapier at the ready. She saw immediately that this man was an experience opponent and he was not going to rush in fall to one of her simple tricks.
He circled Vatta a moment, sizing her up as she calmly watched him turning to face him thinking of her next move. The man lunged at her and she barely deflected the blow with her rapier and backpedaled as he continued his attack. She knew right away he was a superior swordsman and she had to think of something cause she couldn’t keep dodging all night.
On his next lunge, she ducked and rolled to his right and came up on his flank and quickly she cast her dagger in her left hand taking the man in the thigh as he turned. He cried out in pain and then again as the dagger quickly withdrew from the man’s leg and flew back to Vatta’s hand. She had slowed him down and maybe she had a chance. The man appeared wounded and limped towards her, here was her chance she fainted high and then when his sword came up she reversed and struck low but suddenly she found her blade turned aside by the heaver long sword the man carried. Pain burned down her left arm as his razor sharp blade sliced into her upper arm cutting it almost to the bone. She dropped her dagger and staggered back crying out and kept moving back so he could quickly pursue her.
‘Stupid’ she thought, ‘he is obviously better at the swords than she so she had to think rather than just fight’. Reaching into her belt pouch with her left hand she drew out a small folded paper and held it tightly. Taking a firm grip on her rapier she waited till he had limped almost into range and then she feinted at him and as he went to parry she crushed the paper in her hand and cast it towards his face as she ducked under his sword. The blinding powder took him square in the face and his left hand came to his eyes. He never saw the blow coming as it took him through the chest piercing his heart.
Vatta withdrew her blade and sat on the ground with a thump. Dropping her sword she clasped her wound tightly to staunch the bleeding. She quickly retrieved her dagger and used it to cut a piece of the dead man’s tunic and used that to tightly bind the wound . She retained her sword and then stumbled over to where her horse fell and digging into the backpack she pulled out a small flask and drank from it eagerly.
She sat there for a couple of minutes to give the healing potion time to react somewhat, and then she looked about the area. One horse stood not far away feeding on a clump of grass, rising she slowly approached it and managed to get it’s reins before it bolted. Talking calmly to the animal it soon accepted it’s new master. As the potion began to work she felt some strength return but knew she needed to get out of this area. Gathering her things from her dead mount and what little the dead bandits carried, she managed to climb into the saddle and slowly ride off back up the road in the direction she had been headed.
Vatta’s horse limped into the next town several hours after dark and stopped in front of what appeared to be an Inn; a faded wooden sign showed a picture of a dwarf sitting by the fire smoking a pipe with his feet propped up on a stool. She slid off the animal to the ground and only by leaning on the horse did she manage to keep her feet. She threw the reins over the hitching post and staggered up to the door of the Inn.
Of course the door was barred at this late hour, so she leaned against the door post and banged weakly at the door. After banging repeatedly someone came to the door and opened a sliding panel so they could look out and see what was causing all the commotion. “Who is it? What do you want?” A man’s voice asked.
“I’m injured.. let me in.” She answered weakly. There was just enough moonlight that the man peering out could see her and the blood covering her left arm from shoulder to hand. He paused a moment as if he were going to tell her no, but the blood and the fact that he saw a small woman, even an elf woman, covered in blood. He shut the sliding panel and unbarred the door. She almost fell forward into the room but the man caught her and held her up. “Thank you!” She said weakly before she passed out.
When Vatta awoke she wasn’t quite sure where she was at first, then she remembered pounding on the door of some Inn someplace. Looking around she was in a bed in what looked like a modest room of an Inn so she figured someone must have let her in though she doesn’t recall anything after being at the door.
She winced when she tried to move and found her left arm was bandaged and strapped to her side so that she couldn’t move it. She was shocked to find that her clothing had been removed and she was wearing some sort of frilly gown. She sat up quicker than she should have and her head reeled in protest. When her head stopped spinning she looked around and saw her clothes were draped over a chair, and her weapons, bags and equipment from her horse were setting in the corner.
Someone had obviously taken good care of her, she sat back and relaxed and thought she needn’t worry because if anyone here had wanted to harm her she would never have woken up. She drifted back off to sleep, for how long she didn’t know, but she was awakened again by the opening of the door into her room. She opened her eyes and watched as a man entered carrying a tray. Seeing her awake he smiled, “Ah good, you are awake finally.” He said, “This is good news.. good news indeed.” He sat the tray on a small table against one wall and came over to her.
He was a thin man, gaunt even, with thinning gray hair but a pleasant smile. “My name is Tooman. I am the proprietor here at “The Happy Drawf.” Vatta assumed this was the name of the Inn. “We were worried at first but when we got all the blood cleaned off we saw that you had tended your wound and the damage wasn’t as life threatening as it first appeared.” He paused in his rambling and looked closely at her face and then he spoke slowly, “Can..you..under..stand.. me?”
Vatta smirked and answered him softly, “Yes, I speak your tongue.” She looked around the room and then back to Tooman. “My name is Vatta Silestia and I offer my thanks and will repay you any amount for caring for me.” She paused at a thought and then asked, “How long have I been here?”
Tooman smiled at her, “Nice to meet you Vatta, and you have been in our charge for 2 whole days now.” He walked over to the table and picked up a mug and brought it over to her and offered it to her. “Here this will help.” Vatta took the mug and smelling the rich aroma of ale she downed half the mug in one draught. “Whoa, easy now, don’t over do it.” Tooman chuckled.
She handed him back the mug, “I want to thank you for bringing all my stuff in here and taking good care of me, but have one question…” She looked directly at him and asked, “Who undressed me and tended my wounds.” Tooman blushed a bit and chuckled, “That would be my wife and daughter who took on that chore,” He grinned slightly, “I would have done it meself but my wife wouldn’t stand for it..let me tell you.” He laughed and Vatta chuckled at him relieved at his answer.
Tooman took the mug back to the table and left it on the tray, “Iffin you feel like eating I brought some broth and bread and alittle cheese and I can get you some more ale iffin you like.” Vatta nodded, “Thank you, I will eat in a bit. Don’t worry about me.” Tooman nodded and turned and opened the door to leave, “You need anything just holler down” and turned and shut the door behind him.
Vatta sat there a minute and then throwing the covers back she slowly got out of bed. Her arm hurt but she thank the stars that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Going to the table she sat in one of the chairs and slowly began to eat and even though she hadn’t thought herself hungry she soon devoured everything Tooman had brought and the rest of the ale as well. She went to the corner and grabbed her dagger, sheath and all, before returning to the bed where she covered up and soon drifted back off into a healing sleep.
Vatta stayed a week at the “The Happy Dwarf Inn” and recuperated from her injury. She helped out where she could in the kitchen helping Marie, Tooman’s plump but agreeable wife, and Tina, his daughter who appeared to be a younger, but no less plump, version of Marie. Tooman’s young son, Thomas kept the stables and Vatta had the most trouble out of him. Being on 15 years of age, the boy had an infatuation with Vatta that she found amusing but irritating at times; she would be glad to be on her way.
Now finally she had fully recovered and had for days been practicing with her weapons and bow to get her arm strength back to normal again and she was ready to travel. With no other reason to stay here, she paid Tooman and his family 200 gps, a fortune to them, for caring for her and letting her stay with them. Bidding them goodbye and giving the young Thomas a peck on the cheek causing him to blush profusely, she got on her horse and waving to them all she rode out of the small town.
Vatta sat back in her chair and enjoyed her ale as she waited for her next client; her hood was up as usual hiding most of her face especially from across the room. She looked around The Gentle Moon Inn where she had stayed her in the City of Westgate for the past month. Not many customers this time of day, only a few travelers who were having lunch before heading out into the Market Square nearby.
She hoped her client wasn’t going to let her down, she hated it when people didn’t show. She could always refuse the job but she at least wanted the choice to be hers so people had better show. She thought of her line of employment she had chosen here in Westgate, a services for hire type business which included a lot, except for assassination. She had paid her share to the Thieves Guild here in the City to have their blessing, but she didn’t want to cross the Assassin’s guild despite her aversion of killing for gold.
Since she was a regular patron at The Golden Moon and had keep a room here since arriving in the city, she had come to know the owner and all his family/workers. They seemed to like her, especially since she rented their highest price room and paid in advance, always the best way to make good friends with vendors.
She looked up from her ale as the door opened and a man entered and looked around as his eyes adjusted to the gloomier interior. The man was dressed in fine clothes and didn’t appear to carry any weapons, his manner of dress seemed to imply a man with gold; your typical merchant. As he stepped further into the room the owner left the bar and greeted him and asked how he could help, Vatta didn’t hear the Merchant’s reply but the owner nodded and gestured over to Vatta’s table. The merchant headed towards her without another word to the owner who only turned and went back to the bar.
The Merchant looked over the cloaked figure as he stepped up to the table, he cleared his throat before asking, “Are you Vatta?” She nodded her hood once and gestured with a gloved hand to the chair across from where she sat with her back to the corner so she could see the whole room.
“I am Tarnus Masterson,” he said as he sat down, “I have a problem I need help with immediately.” He appeared nervous to be here and constantly glanced around as if looking to see if he was being watched. “You are safe here,” she said revealing her female nature, “no one can over hear you.. Now tell me your problem and I will tell you if I can help you.”
Tarnus Masterson told her how another Merchant named Gant Van Grabel was blackmailing him by holding evidence of a shading dealing he had last year that avoided the trade taxes and if it were revealed to the city tax agents would result in him losing everything and possibly send him to jail.
“So what is this evidence?” Vatta asked. “It is a ledger, a book, which shows certain.. Ah.. Questionable shipments which were not reported as they should have been.” He smiled sheepishly, “This Gant Van Grabel had an inside man in my company and stole it and now he holds it over my head to blackmail me into selling him my business… I would rather die… well not quite.” He sighed.
Vatta proceeded to ask Tarnus questions about his competitor and his operations, warehouses, men, etc. When she was satisfied she had all he could tell her she nodded and told him, “I think I can help you.. It will cost you 1,000gold pieces up front for me to look into it and see if I can locate this evidence. This money is not refundable in any case.” She knew the price was high but this man looked like he could afford it. “It will cost you another 1,000 gold pieces when I return the ledger to you. It that acceptable?” She asked and waited for his answer.
Tarnus thought for a moment then nodded. “Your fee is steep but it will be worth it,” he consented as he rose from his chair. “Come to my warehouse on Southgate Market Street tomorrow afternoon and I will have your gold, until then.” Vatta nodded and the merchant turned and left the Inn and she ordered another ale; it helped her to think and she would need it on this job. She had charged a lot but somehow she had a feeling that she would earn every gold piece.
It was late afternoon as Vatta stood in the shadow of a doorway of a building and watched the business warehouse of Gant Van Grabel and waited for the man to leave for the day. She had picked up her fee earlier in the day and had began work right away by learning where the Grabel merchant house was located near the Southgate only a block from his client’s business. It seemed that most of the merchant businesses were located here being near the town market, it only made sense.
She had checked out all sides of the warehouse and noticed several ways which might give access and while not guards were visible she was sure they would be present inside the building. She waited now for Gant Van Grabel to follow him and find out where he lived for she really doubted that the man was dumb enough to keep the blackmail ledger here are his place of business; it was more likely stored away in his home or some other secret place yet unknown.
She busied herself while she waited by watching all the people scurry around the city. Consisting mostly of humans, they ran here and there intent on some errand, always in a hurry. Well she figured that perhaps since their lives were so short that maybe they wanted to get in much into it as possible. Maybe, maybe not.
She glanced around and spotted Grabel as he left the business with two armed escorts, interesting she thought as she slipped out into the throng of people and followed them. The streets here were teeming with people making following them without notice quite easy.
They left the Market area and entered the South ward of Westgate, the area where most of the merchant nobles of the city held residence. Here she had to be more careful as the traffic thinned and would make someone like her more noticeable to those she followed. They seemed to not care if they were being followed for they never glanced back once though the guards kept a eye out for anyone getting too close to the merchant.
Vatta stopped when the trio entered the walled are around a rather large three story mansion, she nodded her approval, ‘Grabel seems to be doing quite well for himself’ she thought. After 10 minutes she made a slow circuit of the walled structure locating all entrances and sentries; returning to the front she shook her head. The place only had two entrance, the main one and a smaller servant entrance in the rear for kitchen deliveries and servants, the wall was tall and was no doubt hiding guards on the other side. She spend 10 more minutes studying the place, every visible window, chimney and ledge then still shaking her head she slipped off back the way she had come before someone spotted her and wondered what someone dressed like her was doing in the rich quarter.
Headed back towards her Inn, which was only a few blocks away, she started to run her plans around in her head. She would need some time to think , but she thought best with a drink so reaching the Inn she slipped into her usual table and order a meal and some ale and began to formulate her plan. As she sipped her ale waiting on her meal, her first thought was that she would try the warehouse first, it would be easiest and who knew the merchant might not be as smart as she thought, but she doubted she was that lucky.
By the time the meal arrived she had already decided that tomorrow she would check out the warehouse again from every angle and then tomorrow night she would attempt and entry and search it for the ledger. She hoped for a quick easy solution, but her luck had not been good lately and she sensed this was not the time for her luck to change.
Vatta watched the warehouse from across the street from deep in the shadows of an adjacent building. She had been there for over an hour after having checked the building for all sides and choosing this side as the best accessible avenue. After an hour observing the windows on this side, she had seen no signs of movement.
Having waited long enough, she took one last look up and down the street to make sure no one was on the darkened street then she slipped out of the shadows and to the other side. If anyone was watching all they would have seen was a blurred shadow that quickly blended from one side of the street to the other.
She paused to listen for signs of alarm, hearing none she unslung her rope and hook within moments she was on her way up the wall to the second story windows. A few moments later she had the window opened and was slipping inside after pulling up the rope and securing it on the ledge outside the window.
Inside the tall two story warehouse Vatta found herself on the level of support beams crisscrossing the warehouse about 15’ above the floor. On the 6” wooden beams, the agile thief walked as swiftly and confidently as if she were strolling down the main street. Her eyes scanned the floor below watching for guards or any other signs of life.
She sees only a large open floor dotted with stacks of crates, barrels and sacks of all sizes, a typical warehouse from all appearances. Against the back wall she spots a large room that could be an office so she heads in that direction.
Dropping deftly to the ground without a sound, she studied the door before her. A sign on the door said “Van Grabel” and Vatta smiled and she hardly broke stride as she picked the lock and slipped in the door. She found a rather modest with a large desk, a couple of tall cabinets, a table littered with items and a couple chairs.
She lit a lantern on the main desk and began to thoroughly search the desk, cabinets and everything on the table. After an hour of searching, she found several ledgers on shipments of goods but all belong to Van Grabel and had no mention of her client.
She frowned as she began to put everything back where it belonged. She hadn’t expected to find the ledger here as it wouldn’t have been the safest place to store a valuable piece of blackmail against a competitor.
Blowing out the lantern she glanced once more around the room then headed to the door. She paused as she heard voices out in the warehouse, she silently cursed as she realized she must have taken too long in searching. Listening, she could tell that the voices didn’t get any closer and so she clacked open the door and peered out. Seeing a light on the far side of the warehouse, the same direction as the voices, she slipped out the door and relocked it. In a moment she had run to the wall and quickly scaled its rough surface and was securely back amongst the rafters.
She looked at the stationary light in the distance and listened to the voices which she couldn’t make out and then glanced at the open window through which she entered. Should she see what was happening or get out while she was still undetected. Her curiosity won and she glided along the beam and headed towards the lit area.
Now crouching on a rafter just outside of the area of light she could see two men standing in the pool of light cast by a single lantern. One man was Van Grabel himself, and the other man she had never seen before. He was dressed in robes and she sensed a strange eeriness coming from the man, an aura of magic almost exuded from him. He was human, just past middle aged, bald and clean shaven; giving all the signs of a user of magic and she had to wonder why Van Grabel was meeting with him here secretly in the dead of night.
“You don’t understand.. I cant deliver it because I have not yet received the shipment,” Van Grabel was saying as they came into her sight.
The mage snorted, “That is not my problem… you promised shipment today and it isn’t here,” He replied with obvious contempt and disregard for the merchant’s problem. “You had better not be holding out on me.. cause if you are.. the consequences will not be pleasant.”
Van Grabel straightened at the threat, “You know I wouldn’t do such a thing.. and I don’t care for your threats.. you will have it in a few days.. so just be patient.. what will a few more days matter?”
“A few days can change everything,” the mage fairly shouted, “you don’t understand that everything must proceed on schedule or everything is….” He paused and looked at the back of his right hand and suddenly he whirled and looked around the warehouse.
“Someone is here.” He said in a lower tone to the merchant.
Van Grabel started looking about and Vatta thought it was time to leave. She didn’t know how the mage knew she was there but she didn’t want to wait. As she slipped back along the beam the mage began speaking some incomprehensible words and gestured, she moved quicker for she knew a spell when she saw one.
Before she had gone more than a few paces the mage pointed up into the rafters and shouted, “There.. they are up there!” She glanced back and saw the mage waving his arms again and suddenly their was a pop in the air that hurt her ears slightly and suddenly there were two more shapes in the warehouse.
Dark, bestial looking forms came out of the shadows and looked up towards her. They were larger than humans and heavily muscled with large teeth and red eyes and they immediately leaped from the floor to the beams and started after her.
Vatta let out one of her more choice curses and raced along the beams headed for the window, the large beastmen chasing after her closing on her. She didn’t know if she was going to make it, they were large but very fast and she knew that if they caught her they would rip her limbs easily from their sockets.
She doubled her effort and could swear she could feel their fetid breath on her neck as she leaped at the window and snatched the rope as she sailed through into the night. The rope jerked and her momentum swung her back to slam into the side of the warehouse and she let the rope go and fell to the ground only 6 more feet below and was on the run as her feet touched the ground.
Glancing back she saw two shadows watching her out the window with large red glowing eyes. She didn’t know why they didn’t follow but she was thankful for it no matter the reason.
The mage snared at the two beast and with a wave send them back into the shadows, and turned to Van Grabel, “Whoever it was has overheard us.. they must be found.”
The merchant nodded, “I will have some of my men…”
“BAH!” The mage interrupted, “your men are useless.. I will handle this myself…. Just tend to the shipment. I want it by tomorrow… or else.” He turned and stalked off leaving a slightly stunned merchant standing in his warehouse.
Vatta made it back to the Inn where she was staying and quietly slipped up the outside wall and into her third story window which she had left unlatched so she could get in again since the main door was certainly barred at this time of night. Closing and locking the window behind her she unburdened herself of her bow and quiver and set it in the corner before she collapsed on the bed with a heavy sigh.
Things had not gone as expected. What had she gotten herself into here, a mage and dark shadowy creatures chasing her? This was not what she had signed up for here. There was something going that shouldn’t involve her but somehow she had gotten involved and no doubt Grabel and the mage would want her dead now that she had over heard them. Not that she had any idea to what object they were referring but the mage certainly seemed to think it was important.
Why had she gone to check out the light, curiosity again? It had gotten her into more problems before and it seemed….. She paused in her thoughts as she sat up… ‘what was that?’
A noise, a scrape of some kind and it came from outside her window.. she got up and inched closer and peered out from the side… suddenly she was jumping back as a large hand with long talons crashed through the glass and narrowly missed her face. She stumbled back and fell on her behind and scurried backwards towards the door to the hallway as she stared wide-eyed at one of the shadowy beast men from the warehouse trying to climb in the window.
She got a much closer look now than she did in the warehouse and saw that the creature was slightly larger than a human male with large muscular arms ending in hands tipped with long razor sharp looking talons. Its head looked much very ape like but with a larger mouth lined with very dangerous looking teeth. How had it followed her? She had left her rope and hook there so maybe it had used that to track her scent.
The creature appeared to be stuck for a moment as it found the window too small for it’s large frame. As the creature reared back outside and began to tear at the window frame so it could enter the room, Vatta came out of her shock and got up whirling to the door and escape. She unlatched the door and bolted into the hallway as she heard the window being ripped out in her room. Glancing up and down the hallway she saw the stairs going down at one end and an open window at the other end. She chose the window and sprinted for it as the crashing from her room continued.
She slid to a stop at the window and glanced out and saw the top of the next two story building only about 10 feet away. She glanced back as she stepped onto the ledge crouching and saw the beastman come crashing out of her room and look around for her. His red eyes glared into her and he growled with hatred.
Vatta didn’t wait any longer and turning she leaped from the window ledge to the next roof top and flipping in the air she came down on her shoulder and rolled to her feet and used her momentum to continue running across the rooftop.
The beast saw his quarry disappear out the window and it launched itself in pursuit down the corridor. Just then a door opened and a man came out with sword in hand to investigate the ruckus. “What is going on here?” He bellowed and before he knew it the beast flung him aside with one hand as it passed, laying the man’s throat open with its sharp talons. The man slid to the floor of his room choking on his own blood as his life ebbed.
Vatta glanced back over her shoulder as she printed across the rooftop towards the next and saw a large shadow fly out of the window and land on the roof halfway to her. Cursing she sprinted as fast as her little legs would carry her towards the next adjoining roof.
She could swear she could feel the creature’s hot breath on her neck as she leaped to the next building and ran for her life with the creature seeming to gain on her. The roof she ran across here was flat and was decorated with a few chairs, a lean-to held up with a couple of poles and a small garden. Someone’s private get away spot no doubt. She dodged around the lean-to cover and nearly tripped over the chairs as she continued towards what she hoped was the next rooftop.
She heard a loud crack behind her as the creature didn’t even bother to dodge the lean-to but swiped it aside with one arm, splintering the poles in two and sending them scattering across the roof.
Vatta reached the roof edge and slid to a stop as she saw that she had reached a street and the next roof was too far away to leap so she whirled and drew her rapier. She stepped up on the roof ledge behind her as she panted trying to regain her breath as she waited for the creature. She didn’t have to wait long as she saw the beast plow through the small garden and hurl itself at her.
Her sword poised she waited till the last possible second and leaped upwards… she flipped in midair over the back of the beast as it flashed by below her headed over the edge of the roof. She tumbled when she hit the roof and came to a stop among the remains of the garden and glanced back gasping from the ground as she saw the creature disappear over the ledge with a howl of rage.
Vatta sighed as she stood slowly and sheathed her sword, walking to the edge she looked over the edge for she wanted to see the crumpled body of the creature on the street below. She jerked back; the creature wasn’t lying dead on the street stones, but was clinging to a window ledge just one story below the roof and she had seen that it was starting to climb back up. Wouldn’t this thing give up?
She looked around she had to hit the thing with before it reached the rooftop. She spotted one of the poles belonging to the lean-to that the garden over had used for shade when relaxing up here. She ran over to it and hefted it easily and turned to the ledge in time to see the taloned hand crest the lip. She balanced the pole and ran at the creature hoping to catch it in the face as it pulled itself up. But she wasn’t ten feet from the ledge when the creature propelled itself on the roof ledge and growled at her showing it’s large teeth. With hardly a pause the beast launched itself at her talons extended to rend her throat.
Vatta ducked her head and put all her strength into putting the splintered end of the pole in between her and the beast. A jarring impact flung her to the ground and she lost her grip on the pole as she was sent spinning across the roof to come to a stop among the scattered dirt of the former garden.
She shook her head, having almost lost consciousness, and looked up and saw the beastman withering on the roof with the pole protruding out it’s back at least two feet. It moaned softly and clutched at the pole and weakly tried to pull it from it’s body, but it’s strength was waning.
Vatta stood slowly and drew her rapier as she walked towards the beast and with a single thrust through the throat she ended its struggles. She wanted so much to collapse right there on the roof, but she knew the noise up here couldn’t have overlooked by those below.
She was startled when the creature on the roof before her suddenly disappeared in a loud flash of smoke which drifted off into the night leaving nothing but the pole laying there. She cursed and sheathed her sword again and quickly found her way off of this roof and headed back to her Inn.
She would have to be careful back at her room, surely the City Watch were there and would be asking a lot of questions. She would claim ignorance and say that she was out and didn’t know what happened. She would gather her things and get out of there as soon as she could. She would have to find another place to hide out; someplace a lot safer than an Inn while she contemplated her next move.
Magda looked up from the pot of stew she was stirring and frowned at what she saw around her kitchen. Shaking her head she grabbed a towel and began to wipe her hands as she stormed over to one of the scullery maids. Grabbing the girl by her hair she pulled her away from where she had been trying to light the fire in the cooking fireplace. The girl cried out at the unexpected attack and struggled as she was pulled back and then suddenly dumped on the floor. The girl looked up at the Head Housemaid Magda as she glowered down at her, “Are you stupid?.. don’t you know you dont start the fire with green wood? .. you trying to smoke us out of here?” Magda kicked the girl hard and yelled at her, “Go get some dry ripe wood and get that fire going now.” The girl cried as she got up quickly and ran out the back of the kitchen to fetch the right wood.
The other scullery maid present only glanced over and looked as Magda went back to her pot. Dark Amber eyes watched closely from beneath ill-kept dark hair that partially concealed the girls face. A faint smile came to the lips of the dirty faced girl as she went back to scrubbing the floor.
Soon the other girl came back into the kitchen with dry wood and began to remake the fire as she still sobbed at her mistreatment. The one scrubbing the floor ignored her and finished up her job and after making sure all was right she took her bucket out back to dump it. The girl paused as she went out the door and watched as Magda came around to check the floors to see if the girl did a good enough job. Magda looked up and saw the dark haired one watching her, the older woman shivered a bit under that gaze and then grunted as if the job was just barely satisfactory and she went back to the stew. The girl only grinned again and continued out the back door into the alleyway behind the house.
Magda glared at the now closed door, something about that girl bothered her. She didn’t cower like the other scullery maids when Magda was around them, and though Magda had tried to bully her one several opportunities since she had started here a few weeks ago, the girl didn’t seem to be fazed by Magda’s threats. The older woman had never struck this one; she somehow knew that if she did the girl just might kill her. It was something in her strange Amber colored eyes.
Having dumped the water down the sewer grate behind the large three story mansion, the girl turned and dropped the bucket by the back door and walked around and went in another door to the servant’s quarters. Inside she went into one of the small servant rooms that 4 of the maids shared and smiled when she saw no one else there. Closing the door behind her she slipped out of the dirty dress and tossed it in the dirty hamper. Her lithe body wasn’t what one would normally find in a simple scullery maid; neither were the short sword strapped to her back nor the daggers strapped to her arms and legs. Grabbing a clean dress from the closet she quickly donned it and looked at herself in the mirror.
Vatta straightened her hair and made sure the dress revealed no signs of her hidden weapons. She smiled at what she saw but then the smile slipped away as she looked at her hair. She didn’t like the dark hair she much preferred he silvery strands which she normally kept pulled back out of her way. But she couldn’t have gotten this job in Van Grabel’s household as a scullery maid with the silvery hair and besides the dark mass helped to hide her protruding ears. Her eyes she couldn’t help but sometimes humans had such amber eyes as hers.
Her disguise had worked for the last 3 weeks since she had gotten the job as a scullery maid in the kitchen. Doing all of the dirty jobs the kitchen or house maids didn’t like to do. She didn’t mind and most people never gave her a second thought. So far she had met Van Grabel himself and his wife and they hardly took notice of her; well Van Grabel himself did gaze upon her lithe figure more than anyone even under the large dress that well concealed her athletic form. She had even seen the mage that he worked with here in the house.
The man apparently had a place here in the household, something she had not counted on. She hoped they were just business associates but it seemed the mage had a section of the house to himself and no one was to enter that part of the house, not even to clean it. Vatta had been tempted several times in the last couple of weeks to sneak into that area and check out what the mage was up to here but so far.. with considered difficulty… she had managed to restrain her curiosity.
She reminder herself that she was here for Masterson’s Ledger and nothing more, that was the job she was being paid to do. It was just that sometimes the curiosity got to her and often when it did she found herself in even greater trouble. Besides this was the man who had obviously sent those shadowlike beasts after her and the one had nearly done her in on the roof top. But this time she promised herself she would just find the ledger and be done with it, but so far she had little luck in finding it.
She had search Van Grabel’s office areas and even sneaked into his bedchamber while they were out and search it. Everywhere she could think he would hide it here in his house had yielded nothing of the ledger. Oh she had found his own heavily modified books, but she wasn’t here to steal any more blackmail material, she was just here for Masterson’s Ledger to clear him of the blackmail. The only place she hadn’t checked had been the Mage’s area.
Vatta sighed, and then smiled at the thought that she might have to search the mage’s area after all. It would be dangerous but it apparently had to be done. She thought about the promise to herself, then shrugged, it can’t be helped.
She figured she best go during the day when most of the owners and servants were out of the house on errands or if they were here they were busy with chores. Besides the only one that she expected to find in the Mage’s area would be the man himself. He often went out during the day and if her luck was good he was probably out there right now. She checked her disguise in the mirror again and then took a deep breath and let it out. Best to get it done before too late; the kitchen was getting geared up for dinner in a couple hours so now was as good a time as ever.
Vatta slipped out of the servant’s area carrying a bundle of laundered bed linens as she mad her way into the main part of the house. She went upstairs to the third level where the Masters of the house lived and turned left towards the mage’s area. She didn’t see anyone in the hallway, which was good since anyone seeing her up here and headed to the forbidden part of the house, would no doubt raise the alarm. Van Grabel kept a couple of thugs around for protection; one was usually hanging around the downstairs trying to look like he was doing his job. She wasn’t worried about him but if the mage was alerted it could ruin her operation and weeks of work not to mention threaten her life.
So far so good she thought as she past the last hallway and entered the forbidden area. You could tell by the way the hallway seemed darker here as if the light refused to enter this area. She approached the first doorway and after looking back up the hallway for anyone, she knelt down and began to examine the door. After several minutes she found it, a trap, and a clever one. One less skilled would have missed it and no doubt died for his trouble. Reaching under her dress she took out a pick from where it had been strapped to her thigh, and began her attempt to disarm the trap.
The trap was activated by the door handle, but the trap sprang from the wall, darts no doubt and highly poisoned she bet. Sweating slightly as she worked carefully and silently she jumped slightly at the click and froze waiting to see if the poisoned dart flew. Nothing but her breathing filled the air. She sighed and reached out and turned the knob; locked. Shaking her head she quickly picked it and was soon opening the door with her foot as she peer in from the hallway. Nothing else struck out at her and she couldn’t see anything but darkness from the doorway so she slipped inside easing the door closed behind her.
Slipping inside she eased the door closed behind her and felt around until she found a candle on the table by the door. In a minute she had it lit and gasped at what she saw; this was definitely the mage’s workshop as all sorts of strange devices and such lay about the tables in this room. There were several tables covered with scrolls, glassware filled with strange colored liquids, bones and skulls – human and otherwise, other unrecognizable parts of strange creatures, books of various sizes, and all manner of things one would only seem to find in a mage’s place. It all had an evil feel to it and she didn’t like being here so she went to work looking for the ledger; the sooner she got out the better.
As she looked through the books she grimaced at some of them, the covers of some seemed to be human skin and touching them made her skin crawl. On the same table as the majority of the books she also found a large bowl filled with gems; some of considerable wealth. She smiled at these and decided that maybe she might make a little bonus on this one, but first the ledger. After digging through the stack of books she was beginning to think that the ledger wasn’t here when suddenly she saw a smaller thin book at the bottom of the pile. She pulled it out and smiled as it had Masterson’s name on the front cover, she flipped open the book and looked inside just to confirm her findings. It was filled with numbers and not magic squiggles and she chuckled softly as she slipped the book inside her dress and beneath one of the straps of her weapon’s harness.
Vatta heard a strange sound which made her pause on her way back to the door, she listened and it came again from the door off to the side which was partially open. She wondered if the mage was in the other room, but the sound was soft and sounded like a whimper. She looked from that door to the main door deciding what to do and in the end her curiosity won out. She inched over to the door and listened; reaching back beneath her dress she drew out her short sword. She reached out with her foot and drew open the door and holding up the candle she peered into the darkened room.
Vatta gasped, inside was a horrific site, a small room which had been transformed into a torture chamber. The walls and floor were covered in blood with only two pieces of furniture in the room. A table containing all manner of knives, hooks and other instruments she didn’t recognize but knew they looked like they were fashioned to inflict pain. The other was a rack of some sort, fashioned of metal and designed to hold a person upright off of the floor, spread out to make it easier for the torturer to access all parts of the victim’s body. All this was bad, but what made Vatta gasp was the sight of the woman spread eagle naked upon that rack, her skin flayed from her body exposing the flesh and muscle underneath, blood oozing from every part of her body to add to the muck upon the floor. The woman appeared dead but a soft moan came from her telling Vatta that somehow she was still alive, though just barely.
“Find what you were looking for did you?” an eerie voice spoke softly from behind her. Vatta whirled and saw the mage closing the main door behind him, he gestured absently in the air and a strange light came from the ceiling to illuminate the room dimly. He wasn’t very tall for a human, middle aged with scraggily unkempt hair; his dark robes almost hiding his body in the gloom of this room. The grin upon his lips only seemed to add to the gloom of the room for it was not a pleasant smile; it was the smile of a torturer who was envisioning his next plaything and all the hours of enjoyment he would draw from that persons flesh.
Vatta saw that he stood between her and the exit so instant flight was not an option and he seemed ready for her to run. She only smiled and chuckled a bit, “Well actually….” She said as she took a step forward into the workshop room again leaving the dying woman behind her, “… I found more than I bargained for here.”
The mage chuckled evilly, “That is often the case when people pry into the places where they are not wanted.” He took another step before her raising his hands.
“Wait!” cried Vatta as if she had something to say before he cast his spell.
The mage paused and raised an eyebrow, “Yes?”
Vatta opened her mouth to speak but instead of speaking she launched herself at him with a cry she hoped would disrupt his casting,
The mage gestured quickly in the air as she took a step backwards to give him another precious second before she could reach him across the workshop.
Vatta’s sword made a slash at the mage’s throat but just before it struck him it impacted some invisible barrier and rebound with enough force to almost wrench the blade from her hand.
The mage gesture with his hand at her and Vatta yelped as something slapped her hard in the chest and flung her backwards into the table full of books which toppled over spilling her and everything on it to the floor.
Vatta rolled to a crouch behind the table using it as cover and whipped out a dagger and raised up and flung it at the mage; it too encountered the shield and bounced off harmlessly. She cursed mages and their cursed spells which blocked her weapons.
The mage lifted his hands and lightning flashed out and struck her before she could duck, the bolts of energy coursed over and through her and flung her back against the wall to lie among the spilt items upon the floor. The dirty dress Vatta wore caught fire in the blast and she screamed out as her flesh was burned along with the convulsions of her muscles as the high current passed through her body.
Vatta barely regained consciousness as she struggled to roll over on the floor to put out the fire of her dress. She rose to her hands and knees and realized that her sword was gone and looking around she couldn’t spot it in the mess on the floor. She could hear the mage chuckling and glanced in his direction as her hands searched through the things on the floor to find something with which to defend herself. She saw him coming closer obviously ready to finish her as his hands began to gesture the complex motions that always preceded a spell. Her hands could find her sword or any other blade but her fingers closed on a small round object and drew it forth.
Vatta looked back to her hand and looked at what she had found, only a large emerald about 2” in diameter; she cursed her luck and turning to look at the mage saw him drawing his hands back to cast something at her, something that would hurt no doubt.
In desperation Vatta raised up on her knees and screamed her rage as she flung the large emerald at the mage with all her strength; the force of her throw spinning her around and she fell upon her back throwing up her hands waiting for the blast of whatever magic was sure to come.
The emerald sped through the air and went right through the invisible shield of the mage and struck him solidly in the throat. He gasped for breath as the gem crushed his windpipe and the energy of the unfinished spell faded away as the mage’s hands went to his throat clawing at it uselessly.
Vatta lowered her hands and watched as the mage clutched at his throat and his face began to turn blue, she looked on in stunned silence as the mage continued to choke and then looked at her with pleading eyes before he slumped forward onto his face. She broke her silence with a faint chuckle and she slowly got to her feet and looked at her body. The brief fire had burned off most of her dress leaving it hanging from her in tatters, leaving her wearing only her undergarments and weapons harness beneath.
She saw the hilt of her short sword sticking out from beneath a pile of books a few feet away, retrieving it she staggered over to the mage and kicked him over with her foot. She looked at his blue face and into his now lifeless eyes and smiled as her blade pressed into his throat and severed his spinal column. Withdrawing the blade she wiped the blade on the dead man’s robes and spotting the emerald she picked it up and smiling slipped it in the harness next to the ledger which was still there unharmed.
She staggered over to the torture room and saw that the woman there had died, she sighed and nodding, “It’s probably best after what you went through.” She said softly.
She left the mage’s workshop and headed back into the main house. The tattered dress was giving her problems so she ripped the rest of it from her body with one hand and tossed it to the floor. She ran into other servants on her way downstairs, they only stared at her; what a sight she must have been wearing only her undergarments and a weapons harness with her singed hair and skin.
She made a stop at her small room in the servant’s quarters to grab another simple dress which she threw over her head before ducking out the back door of the house. She got out of there as soon as possible for by now the racket of the battle had surely been heard by now and guards would have been sent up to the area to find the cause of the disturbance. She wondered if they would go into the mage’s quarters or wait till the master of the house returned to investigate. Either way she wanted to be far from here before the mage’s body was found and his gruesome deeds uncovered.
As she made her way down the street she sighed in relief; her job was completed, she had the ledger and by tonight she would collect the rest of her fee and she would be on her way to a much deserved rest. Yes, a nice long hot bath, some new clothes and a long vacation from danger; she hoped.
~To be continued~
Posted on 2007-12-18 at 15:49:40.
Edited on 2007-12-18 at 16:18:07 by YeOlde
Vatta was thoroughly enjoying her dinner of Roast Pheasant, spiced potatoes, fresh corn, fresh baked bread with honey, and washing it all down with some very fine Elvin wine. She looked around the lavish dining area as she ate and smiled at her situation. Here she was in the finest Inn in town, dressed not as a thief but in a woman’s fine gown sporting a long traveling cloak with hood. She figured that in this disguise in this place, no one would ever think to look for her here.
She had been laying low since her ordeal at the Van Grabel house and the killing of the mage. She had returned Masterson’s journal and collected the second half of her large fee. The man hadn’t even blinked at turning over the gold to her since he was so happy to have his journal back.
She had immediately gone and got cleaned up, and while she was washing she came up with the plan. She went out and bought some fine clothes, fit for a noble woman, and checked into the most lavish Inn in Westgate, The Blais House in the Trades ward.
She had given some story to the Owner of the Blais House about how she was the daughter of a Noble man from some far away part of the nation. Some place most people had heard of but was too far away for most people here to have visited.
For the last two weeks she had been living it up, indulging in fine food, fine wine, hot baths, fine clothes which she went out and bought occasionally to keep up the appearance of a young woman in the city to shop. She had used her disguise equipment to again change her hair color to golden blonde, and to add some makeup judiciously to hide her Elvin heritage. It was hard to hide the shape of her eyes, but with the right makeup most people didn’t get a close enough look to notice. Wearing her hair loose and down covered her Elvin ears most effectively, though when she went outside she always put the hood of her cloak up for added concealment.
Vatta’s plan was to sit back and hide where no one would find her and enjoy some of the fruits of her labors until the heat was off. The battle with the mage had been harrowing and she had been lucky to have lived through it. Remembering how it ended, she reached into a pocket inside her cloak and drew out the large emerald that had saved her life. Keeping it low in her lap so no one else would likely see it, she smiled as she looked at its many green facets. She had thought to sell it for it was surely worth a lot, but she began to think of it as a lucky charm so she kept it close.
Putting the emerald back in her pocket she returned to her succulent meal. The pheasant was mouthwatering and juicy, the potatoes and vegetables were tender and flavorful and the wine was superb. The fine food, wine, clothes and accommodations were something she was not use to experiencing. But the last two weeks here had shown that she could get use to this lifestyle.
In the time she had been here all had been going according to plan, until today.
She watched the man enter the dining room of the Blais House. He was a well dressed man, but not the typical noble types she had seen before around the Inn. He was a tall human male, handsome in a way, with long dark hair he kept pulled back behind his head. His clothes spoke of money but the chain shirt and longsword beneath this cloak spoke of someone expecting trouble or here to cause it.
She continued to eat appearing to enjoy her food while he walked across the dining room looking at all the assembled diners. Since it was late in the evening, the room was only about half as full as it had been about an hour ago. As the man walked about the room, Vatta slipped one hand down beneath her cloak and withdrew a dagger from its hidden sheath and placed the blade on her lap under her fine cloth napkin. She returned to eating making it look like she was uninterested in the man but watching him out of the corner of her eye.
Vatta saw him as he spotted her and made his way across the room to her table. She tried not to tense as he approached but she couldn’t help but wonder if her ‘vacation’ was at an end. When he walked up to her table and stopped across the table from her, she looked up at him with a look of wonder on her face and raised and eyebrow and offered him a faint smile but said nothing. It was usually the gentlemen who would initiate the conversation with a lady.
“Good Evening Milady,” He spoke with a deep and almost entrancing voice. Vatta liked his voice, it was strong and friendly sounding, but she reminded herself that she couldn’t let herself be swayed by a pretty voice.
“Good Evening Sir!” She replied in kind, giving her voice a soft, helpless quality which she hoped would imply that she was just a simple nobleman’s daughter.
“You are the thief known as Vatta,” he said to her with a faint smile on his lips as he looked at her appraisingly, like she was some prize mare that he was intending to buy.
Vatta took offense at his gaze and at his words; how could anyone know her in this guise. She had been very careful and no one she knew on the streets knew she was here. She managed to conceal her surprise by feigning offense at his words.
“Thief?” she exclaimed, “You are mistaken Sir.. you obviously have me confused with some harlot off the street.” She turned her gaze down to her wine glass which she picked up with her left hand before continuing with her disgust.
“I will forgive your ignorance this time,” she said as she raised her glass towards her lips, “but leave immediately or I will summon the guard.” She concluded by taking a drink of her wine and not looking at him again. Yet she kept him in her sight and saw out of the corner of her eye as he moved to slowly come around the table, pulled out the chair on her right and sat down.
Lowering the glass he looked at him with incredulity as she sat the glass down and with her right hand raised the fine linen napkin to dap the moisture from her lips and waited for him to explain himself.
“Pardon me, Milady,” he said with a hint of sarcasm, “but I know who you are and what it is that you do for a living.” He grinned at her, he actually had the gall to grin at her.
Lowering the napkin again to her lap she turned her steel gaze once again to look him square in the eyes and leaned forward slightly to look closer at him.
“I will say it once again,” her voice now as steely as her gaze, “you have the wrong person.”
The man’s grin broadened as he started to speak again and then suddenly stopped; looking down he saw a long dagger protruding from under the table, the tip resting between his legs was poking him ever so slightly in the crotch of his soft leather pants. The grin left his face as he froze and raised his eyes to her again, his eyes now filled with a mixture of fear and anger.
“I have men in this room,” he said between clenched teeth as if afraid to move too much lest the dagger penetrate further, “with the snap of my fingers….”
“And with the flick of my wrist,” Vatta interrupted him with a small grin, “I can change you into a gelding.”
The man started to sweat as he remained still and kept his hands over the table, his eyes casting furtive glances down to the dagger pressed into his tender area. Looking back up at her she guessed he had decided against any rash actions that might make her carry through with her threat.
“My Master would like to hire you,” he said cautiously, “he heard about the job you did at Van Grabel’s and how you took care of his pet mage.. may he burn in hell.” Vatta noticed how his eyes narrowed when talking of the evil mage she had killed, and the man’s offer of a job sounded sincere. She let him sweat for a few long seconds then withdrew the dagger and tucked it inside her cloak.
“Lets say… perhaps I was this ‘thief’ you were looking for,” she asked with a grin, “would this job be worth a lot of gold?” She knew that she had just blown her cover but then again this man wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“That depends on what you think is a lot,” he said as he wiped beads of sweat from his forehead and eased his chair back about a foot from the table, “but I assure you that it will be quiet sufficient I am sure.”
Vatta pondered the idea of another job so soon, sure she still had gold left over and was enjoying her time off, but she had been feeling bored lately.
“Ok, what is the offer?” she asked.
“You will have to come speak to my Master,” the man said as he rose to his feet, “he has a house not far from here.”
“What is your Master’s name?” she said rising and straightening her cloak to hide her gear underneath and proceeded to follow him towards the door.
“Jonas Gorrath,” the man replied as he lead her out of the Blais House.
Vatta paused a second as she went out the door, then recovered and follow the man up the street. The Gorrath Family was well know here in Westgate, they were not as wealthy as the Ssemms’ or the Guldars’, but they were wealthy enough. She had to wonder what job a rich merchant would have for a lowly thief; she smiled to herself thinking she would soon find out and perhaps she could afford the rich lifestyle after all.
Vatta wrapped the cloak tightly around her to keep out the chill wind that whipped along the street; it seemed that a storm was coming. Her eyes never strayed far from the back of the man leading her through the merchant district of Westgate to the house of Jonas Gorrath, one of the wealthiest merchants in the city. When her eyes did stray they scanned her surroundings; the side streets, behind her, even the roof tops. She wasn’t paranoid just cautious; something that had kept her alive so far.
When they arrived at a large house surrounded by a stone wall and guarded by several hired warriors, she knew this was a serious man with a lot of month as the many rumors said. Some tales said he was a elderly man, a recluse who hoarded his money and many a thief had tried to take it only to be strung up atop those walls. She wasn’t afraid of entering here for she had attempted nothing against this man, but she was cautions and curious at the same time; why would this man want to hire a thief.
Entering the courtyard she saw the gates swing shut behind her and at least a dozen heavily armed men within sight. Something was going on here, something that required protection. She followed her unnamed guide into the main entrance and paused looking up at the two story foyer; it was huge, larger than most places where she had spent the night. A winding staircase ran up one wall the the second level and the floor appeared to be solid marble tiles of some kind. Large expensive paintings adorned the walls and the candle sconces were golden, probably solid. She shook herself out of her amazement at the wealth distributed here and hurried after her guide.
She followed him through several rooms until they came to a large set of double doors, solid Oak they were with golden fixtures. The man paused and knocked once then pushed open the door and bid her to follow him. She stepped into the room; a lavish study of some kind, richly adorned with more paintings, fine vases on pedestals and a large oak deck behind which sat a large man. Her guide bowed to the man behind the desk
“Sire, may I present Ms Vatta Silestia,” the guide said and then straightening he withdrew from the room closing the door behind him leaving her and the man alone.
Vatta reached up and slipped the hood of her cloak from her head and looked closely at the man. He was middle aged for a human, some grey starting to frost the edges of his short auburn hair. He wasn’t portly as most merchants but seemed in decent physical shape though he didn’t look like a warrior. His clothes were made of fine silks and adorned with little buttons of gold and he wore a gold amulet around his neck. His eyes were dark and seemed to bore into her as if trying to read into her soul.
She only stood there and stared back at him, her countenance firm and unyielding. She was not going to let this man intimidate her by his gaze and obvious power. They stood there for several long seconds before a small smile lifted the corner of his mouth and he nodded slightly.
“I am Jonas Gorrath,” he stated, his voice firm and authoritative, “would you like something to drink?”
He rose from behind his desk and walked over to a side table where several decanters holding various colored spirits waited with some glasses. He picked up one decanter containing a reddish liquid and poured a small amount into a short glass and looked at her questioningly.
“Yes please,” Vatta replied and walked over towards him, “I will have whatever you are having.”
Jonas Gorrath poured another glass filling it about half way… lifting both glasses he walks around the desk and hands her one of them… he takes a step back and looks at her again… a faint smile comes to his lips and then he lifts the glass to his lips and takes a sip… lowering the glass he continued to smile
“It isn’t poisoned,” he said to her
She nodded to him and then took a sip of the liquid… lowering the glass she nodded her approval as the liquor burned down her throat.
“So,” she said looking the man square in the face… “what is it you need from me?”
“Straight to the point,” Jonas said and nodded… “I like that… well…” he walked around and sat on the other side of the large desk, “I need your … unique services… I need an item retrieved…”
Vatta looked at him and only sipped his wine waiting for more that she knew would come.
Seeing that she was going to say nothing… Jonas continued.. “A family heirloom was stolen from me… I want you to find it and get it back… problem is.. I don’t know who took it…”
“Why don’t you start with what the item is that was taken?”
He nodded… “The item was a sword… it belonged to my great-great grandfather… Minas Gorrath… I have a drawing of it.” He handed a piece of paper across the desk to her… the paper showed a sword unlike one she had seen before…
The sword was a typical design a long blade with a cross piece hilt and a wire wrapped pommel… the blade had a full sharp blade on one side… and only a half sharp edge on the back of the blade… the half closest to the hilt on that side was flat … the strangest thing about the drawing was what looked like holes of various sizes all along the length of the blade…
“What are these… rust holes?” she asked
“No..” Jonas replied shaking his head… “If you look at them you see that they are round… almost perfectly so… they are not rust … I… cant tell you where they came from… they have been there as long as I can remember.”
She looked up from the drawing at him and raised an eyebrow… she could tell that he wasn’t telling her the whole truth… but it didn’t matter … she was use to not getting everything from her client.
“So you don’t know who took it… tell me how it was taken and from where.”
He sat back as if thinking for a moment and then after a sip of his drink he continued… “It was stolen from this very house… the thief was a professional… he came in … killing two of my guards… took the sword from this very room…” he gestured to the side … looking she saw a glass case that would have held a sword … “he left with the sword… every resource I have has been unable to find a clue as to his identity or that of the person who hired them… someone gave me your name … and so I have brought you here to hire you to find it.”
He reached behind the desk and brought out a good size sack… the tossed it on the table and it gave a satisfactory clinking sound when it landed… Vatta raised and eyebrow and downed the rest of her drink.
“I cant promise anything….” she said as she sat up looking at him… “I mean you don’t have any evidence to go on… no clues… I can check around and promise that I will do my best… but… I cant promise I will find it.”
Jonas nodded understandingly… “Consider this a payment for you to investigate… if you find the sword and return it to me… I will double that payment.”
She looked at the sack and then at him… it would be more than quadruple her usual cost for such a job… she could take a long time off and just enjoy… she stood up … taking the drawing and folding it and putting it inside her dress… she took a step forward and reached out slowly and lifted the sack… it was heavier than she thought… looking at Jonas Gorrath she nodded slowly…
“I will do my best… I will contact you and let you know when I have found something..” she said … Jonas only nodded and sipped his drink… she turned without another word and walked to the door… it opened before she got to it… and the man who had brought her here was waiting for her… without a word he showed her out of the house and escorted her to the gate… there he left her and nodded to her…
“Good luck!” He said to her and then returned inside… Vatta tucked the sack inside her clothing… she contemplated where to start… turning she walked off into the city…
It was seven days later … Vatta had put out the word to several of her contacts… spread some coins around … and even paid a scribe to make copies of drawings of the sword blade to show around… it was unique and if anyone saw it they would remember that piece of crap… Vatta still didn’t understand why Jonas Gorrath… one of Westgate’s richest men… would want such a rusted up sword… but he was paying her well and she would give it her best.
She was sitting in one of the cities finest eating establishments enjoying a wonderful lunch when she noticed someone she knew walked in…it was Bobblehead Benny… she caught his attention and gestured him to come over… Benny came over to her and sat down.
“Hey Vatta… I gots some info on that thing you looking for…”
She had to bite her lip a little to keep from snickering… Benny was too thin for his height of almost 6 feet and he had a head too large for his body… when he talked he had a tendency to move his head side to side… it bobble back and forth … hence the nickname … he hated the name and no one called him Bobblehead to his face… but behind his back everyone called him Bobblehead Benny.
“What do you have B.. Benny?” She had almost slipped… she took a bite of her veal chop and tried to maintain…
“Well… I put out the word to some people… showed those drawings around… and I got a bite..” he eyed her food and when she looked up and saw him she paused and wiping her mouth she shoved the remainder of her meal over to him… he dug in immediately mumbling a thanks…
“Well? What bit?” she asked as she sipped at her wine…
“Well… a street vendor contact of mine… one who sometimes fences stolen goods… said that a couple of days ago someone tried to sell him the sword blade that looked like the drawing I showed him…” Vatta had to sit back as he spoke to keep from getting sprayed by bits of food… she wiped away a few bits that landed on her..
“Did he buy it?” she asked hopefully…
Bobble shook his head which set it to wobbling again… “Nawww… he said he didn’t want the piece of junk… but he was right disappointed when he learned that you were offering a reward for it.”
She tried to hide her disappointment … she had counted on whomever had taken it to try and sell it for some quick coin… she might be able to pick it up cheap from some fence… but apparently the thing looked as bad as it sounded and no one wanted to buy it… she might never find it.
“Well thanks Benny..” she started to say but saw him wobbling his head again and smiling…
“That not all… the guy didn’t buy the sword but he did remember who It was that tried to sell it to him… I convinced him to tell me… for a price.”
Vatta smiled and drew out a small sack and set it on the table… “Tell me you know where to find him and…” she said resting her hand atop the sack…
Benny only nodded and smiled and then turned to finishing the meal before him.
Tanis Rydor sat in his small apartment and looked at the sword blade that lay on his table… it wasn’t much to look at … the pommel was severely worn… the blade was full of holes all up and down the length of it… the only place free of the defects was the razor sharp edge and the tip… and he knew that the edge was indeed very sharp… earlier he had held the sword out edge up and dropped a apple towards the blade and the apple had parted neatly in half without stalling the apple at all… it almost seemed as if he had missed the blade but the apple had fallen in two halves showing that he had indeed hit the blade squarely.
He reached out and hefted the blade … he shuttered when he held it… he didn’t know what it was about the blade… when he had stolen it he had thought he might be able to sell it for a bit of coin… after all Jonas Gorrath had kept the blade in a place of honor in his home… surely it was valuable… but everyone he had approached about buying it had turned him down flatly as soon as they had seen it… they said it was worthless and he should jut toss it in the river for all he would get out of it… he had been angry that he had risked his life for nothing.
But now… Tanis couldn’t seem to put the blade down for long… when he held it he felt… powerful… almost invincible … he stood holding the blade out in front of him… he began to swing it around in front of him carving patterns in the air… it felt so light… and the more the swung it the more powerful he felt…
Knock Knock Knock …
Tanis whirled and pointed the sword towards his apartment door… who could that be… he wasn’t expecting anyone…
“Who is it?” he asked still holding the sword as if he were expecting someone to burst in the door at any second…
“Tanis?” a voice asked… it sounded familiar… “It is Wilaver Tarmikos… remember me? You brought some… goods to me the other day to sell? I would like to talk to you.”
Tanis slowly lowered the sword… he remembered Tarmikos… he had been one of the fences he had tried to sell the blade too but he hadn’t wanted it… he took the sword to the table and wrapped it in the blanket he had there… he then went to the door and opened it… Tarmikos was standing there in the hallway… alone.
“Hey Tarmikos,” Tanis said and after looking out in the hallway to make sure he was alone he stepped back and gestured for the man to come in… “What brings you here?”
Tarmikos stepped in and looked around the small apartment as Tanis closed the door behind him…
“Well… I thought about that sword you showed me … and well… I thought I might take it off your hands after all.”
“Really?” Tanis said suspiciously.. “the other day you said it was a piece of junk… why the change of heart?”
“Well I thought it might be worth something after all… and well I knew you were hard up and could use a little extra coin.”
Tanis knew it was more than that… Tarmikos wasn’t the kind of guy who gave away money… the thief walked around the man and stopped by the table upon which the wrapped sword lay … involuntarily he reached out and laid a hand on the bundle.
“Well you are too late…” he told the merchant… “I have decided not to sell it.”
“What?” Tarmikos asked sounding surprised.. “the other day you wanted to get rid of it badly.”
“Well…” Tanis said as he stroked the bundle… “the thing has … grown on me … I think I will keep it.”
“I see..” Tarmikos said eyeing the wrapped bundle on the table… “Is that it?”
“Why?” the thief asked taking a grip on the bundle as if he were afraid the man might try to steal it..
“Oh.. I just thought if you didn’t want to sell it you wouldn’t mind if I took another look at it… it’s so unique that I thought I might be able to tell you if it is worth something.”
Tanis considered this for a moment… Tarmikos was one of the City’s best known weapons merchants… he specialized in unique weaponry … the reason Tanis had taken it to the man thinking it was valuable…
“Well..” Tanis said… “maybe just this once… but remember it isn’t for sale.”
“No problem…” Tarmikos replied excitedly …
Tanis unwrapped the bundle and exposed the sword… the defects in the blade certainly made it look worthless… he gestured at the blade and the merchant stepped up to it… he reached for it then stopped and looked at Tanis… after a moment the man nodded that it was ok… the merchant picked up the blade and held it up before his eyes…
“The holes are definitely strange..” Tarmikos said as he examined the blade … “it isn’t rust… the holes are too clean… and it is strange how the edge of the blade doesn’t have any holes… it is…”
Tarmikos felt a tingle run through is body… as he held the blade he felt… powerful… he wasn’t a fighter and didn’t use swords… but something about this one… it seemed to fill him with a sense of … strength… and power… he suddenly knew that he had to have this sword…
“Tell you what Tanis..” he said still holding the sword out in front of him… “I will give you 500 gold for this right now.” He reached in his robe with one hand and drew out a large sack and tossed it on the table… it made a very satisfying clinking sound…
“What? Hell no…” Tanis said… “I told you it isn’t for sale…” He started forward to retrieve his sword but Tarmikos moved and held the sword out pointed at Tanis who pulled up short
“Listen Tanis… that is a lot of Gold… more than this thing is worth… take it…” the merchant said as he drew the sword back holding it menacingly… “don’t be a fool… I am taking this sword… don’t try to stop me… or…” he swung the blade across in front of him to illustrate his point…
Tanis was about to say something as he gritted his teeth and started to move forward … seeing the merchant swinging the sword he jumped back… but at that moment something strange happened… as Tarmikos swung it seemed sure that Tanis was outside his reach but then it seemed as if the sword reached out… or Tarmikos’ reach increased … in any case it seemed as if the blade came a little too close to the thief…
“Oh man…” Tarmikos said at the near miss… “I’m sorry I didn’t…”
Tanis stepped back and his hands began to flutter in front of him like uncertain butterflies… they came up as the thief looked at the merchant wonderingly…
Tarmikos saw a thin red line appear across the thief’s neck… the line parted and the head of Tanis Rydor rolled slowly off of his shoulders as a fountain of red spurted up into the air… the hands trembled in the air for a few seconds more before the body tumbled forward to the floor…
The merchant staggered back to avoid the geyser of blood and in shock… what had happened… he hadn’t done that had he? … he hadn’t felt a thing… the blade didn’t feel as if it had touched a thing as it had sliced through the air… he looked at the edge of the blade and saw a little bit of red on it’s razor tip… he dropped the blade as he stood there against the wall breathing heavily…
What could he do? He couldn’t tell the guard… they would arrest him for murder … but it had been an accident… but how could he prove it… he couldn’t… he had to get out of here… he looked down at the dead body of the thief… he saw the blade laying at his feet… he reached down and picked up the blade… carefully he stepped around the blood and wrapped the sword in the blanket… he grabbed the bag of gold off the table as well… he couldn’t leave any sign that he had been here… with one last look at the body he closed the door behind him as he made a hasty retreat from the building…
Vatta walked up to the second floor of the building keeping an eye out for anyone that might notice her… she wore her normal gear under a long cloak with a heavy hood… if anyone did see her they wouldn’t get a good look at her and be able to identify her…
Benny had come through for her and gotten the location of the apartment where the suspected thief of the sword lived… she had come prepared to buy the blade from him… but if the man didn’t want to sell… well she was prepared to get the blade one way or the other… she was hoping it didn’t come to that… but she didn’t have a problem stealing from someone who wasn’t the rightful owner of the sword….
Arriving at the door she reached up to knock on the door… and paused… she saw that the door was ajar…her intuition told her something wasn’t right here… instead of knocking she reached out with her right hand and slowly pushed the door open… a long thin bladed dagger had appeared in her left hand… her index and middle finger were wrapped over the hilt of the dagger so only the blade protruded between her fingers…
“Tanis… Tanis Rydor?” she said questioningly as she eased the door inward… even before the door had opened fully she smelled it… blood… and a lot of it… the inside of the room was dark… but she saw a pool of blood visible in the light seeping in from the hallway…
With a look around the hallway… seeing no one… she eased into the room leaving the door open… in case she needed a hasty retreat… she moved so she wouldn’t step in the blood… she saw the body laying on the floor… she noticed that the head wasn’t in it’s normal place… she spotted it finally as it stared out from beneath a table… she didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the body… it was obviously Tanis… instead she spent time looking for a threat… like the person who did this…
Circumventing the body she quickly scanned the room… it was small and offered not many places to hide a person… finding no one she then looked around the room for the blade… it didn’t take long to find that the sword was not here… looking at the body she wondered if the sword could have been used to remove the head… she doubted that defective blade could be that sharp… and she doubted that she would find that blade now… since she had no clue who had killed the man and obviously taken the sword…
As she slipped out of the apartment again making sure no one was around to see her… she eased the door closed completely this time… she wondered… could the sword be the reason that Tanis was killed… was someone else looking for it? … well someone else had it now… but who???