Ara smiled as he felt the nearly imperceptible click vibrate across his fingers, and the plug easily turned. He carefully stored the homemade rake in his leather satchel, and pushed open the window, lowering himself gracefully to the stone floor. He looked around the room, which was luckily empty. A small desk was beside him, and a utilitarian bed sat in one corner, with a modest trunk tucked beneath, the stone floor showing signs of being frequently worn on certain tracks from the extraction of said trunk on a regular basis. How anyone can subject themselves to these conditions, while merely serving others, is beyond me. Ara sighed, and promptly continued, leaning through the single door of the room into the hall beyond. The clack of soldier’s boots resounded down the hallway, a distant laugh drifted through the air, and the clinking of a glass traveled alongside it.
He waited until the sound of the boots grew distant, then slipped into the hall, keeping close to the walls as he passed under the effervescent orbs which lazily hovered inches beneath the ceiling, pouring bright light across the hallway as they roiled and churned with sigils. Ara reached into the leather bag at his waist once more as he walked, drawing out a torn page, and examined the text carefully once more, absorbing the layout of the manor interior. He stuffed the page into his pocket, and wrapped his hand around the brass doorknob to the kitchens, leaning his ear against it. Satisfied, he carefully turned the knob and put his weight against the door. In a single fluid motion, he moved to the other side of the door, pushed it shut behind him, and rolled over to the prep table, hiding behind it.
“I wouldn’t want to meet any lords slipping out for a late night snack…” Ara whispered to himself with a wry smile. It was the little things that made life bearable, and there was no reason to stress on a job like this one. Easy in, well-planned retrieval of the goods, and easy out. He’d been working on this mark for weeks, having tailed the heavily guarded goods all the way here from the day they arrived at the city perimeter. He thought contentedly of the possibilities for what he might find in the shipment, for whatever it was, it was valuable enough to be heavily guarded, and shipped from the recently conquered Bexelian territories, as well as small enough to be moved in a single case. He clambered into the massive oven, and realized for the first time since the conception of this plan, that he was about to get awfully sooty. Ah well, any clothes I ruin tonight, I can just buy replacements for, after I cash in on this…
The way up the chimney was slow, especially with the layers of accumulated ash. Ara’s small picks afforded him a somewhat reliable ascent, however, and he was used to this kind of work.
“eighty nine, ninety, ninety one, ninety two, ninety three, aaaand…” crack “ninety four!” Ara sighed with relief, before coughing as quietly as he could into his shoulder, soot filling the air around his cramped form. He quickly ran the cable from his belt to his right pick, securing his position, before drawing a second page from his pouch, a much more neatly folded one, with a number of sigils upon it, and green wax seal keeping it shut. If Pedegrain messed with this again, I’ll shove his attuning crystal so far up his… Ara’s thoughts were interrupted as he slid his finger across the seal, tearing it free, and saw the symbols beginning to glow more quickly.
“Clumsy bastard!” He yelped as he let go of both his picks and freed his feet from their precarious positions. Ara fell in a cloud of soot, wind whirring past him. Just as his cable pulled taut, snapping his back against the chimney wall, the explosion sounded from above, and bits of brick landed pelted his head and shoulders. Finesse, I tell him. This one needs to be quiet, I said. Ara scowled as he dragged himself up the cable, thanking any god he could think of that his right pick hadn’t been caught in the blast. He pulled himself through the gaping hole to see, contrary to his expectations, a study.
The craftsman he’d bribed had revealed to him that the walls had been reinforced with steel, and that the only entrance was a heavy door, enchanted with by the Crown’s contracted mages. However, he had also learned that a few corners had been cut in construction. The lord had wanted this clandestine room in a very specific spot, and refused to budge on it. However, it was directly above the kitchen. Three floors above, but still. This meant that there was a rather weak wall serving as a pillar in the center of the room, and that this wall contained the chimney, just barely wide enough for Ara’s thin form to slip up.
Thankfully, no one was in the study, and there didn’t seem to be signs that Pedegrain’s overenthusiastic annihilation sigil had drawn immediate attention. It was still unwise to waste time admiring the architecture, however. The room was dominated by a towering desk, made more imposing still by the stacks of thick, dusty tomes upon it. A small letter was beside them, with a note upon it, reading “To be delivered to the Black Door, posthaste.” The rest was in Old Tarean, however. All this was irrelevant to Ara, however, since smack in the center of the desk, he saw the case he came for. He rushed over gleefully, opening his satchel once more, and depositing the case inside of it.
Ara whipped his head around just in time to see thick steel door swing open, and a number of crossbows aimed in his direction. Moving on instinct, he leapt to the side, tumbling through a jumble of scroll cases as a volley of bolts impacted behind him with an extremely menacing crack. Latching his bag shut, he scrambled to the central pillar, but the hole he had created was on the other side, unfortunately.
“There aren’t any other exits from this room, little rat, if you come easily now and tell me who sent you, I’ll ensure that you are processed fairly by the Queen’s laws!” An old, yet strong voice rang out.
“That’s a generous offer to somebody in my position, milord. Fine then, I’ll take it.” In your dreams. The Queen’s law would have me sitting on the streets with no hands or eyes, and that’s the best case scenario. Sweat dripped down Ara’s cheek, and his hands shook, despite his outwards bravado. “I’m standing up now. I’m going to walk out, take the case from my bag, and toss it over to you. Alright?”
“You’re pretty smart for a hired thug!” The same voice stated in a smug, self-assured tone. “Perhaps if you’re cooperative enough, we can work out a deal.”
“Sounds quite fine to me.” Ara said with a nervous smile as he slowly stood up, turning around the pillar, and walking out, bag in front of him. Six guards were in the doorway, and they were accompanied by a nobleman, with thick arms, graying hair, and a pair of tiny gemstone glasses. Ara watched the man carefully as he reached into his bag, sweat coating his fingers as he wrapped them around the cloak in his bag, and grasped the bottom of the case.
“Hurry it up now boy!” The nobleman had a severe look to his face. A soldier, perhaps, before he received his lordship of course. A small movement caught Ara’s eyes. The man had flicked two finger up on his left hand, and the guard beside him still had a bolt on his crossbow. Ara’s eyes widened, and he jerked his arm, throwing his cloak in the air, and bounding backwards, all the muscles in his legs pumping in a single burst. He twisted in the air, a curse forming on his lips, while a command escaped from the nobleman. I’m supposed to be the sneaky one, you cocksucker! Ara felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and yelped, before spotting a bloody blur snap into the wall. He slammed into the chimney as the result of his desperate leap, and began to plummet down the shaft he’d spent so long ascending. Ara desperately clawed at the walls, the bricks tearing his gloves to shreds, along with some of the skin beneath them. He finally managed to find a decently sized groove, coming to an abrupt, muscle wrenching halt amongst the dust and ash. A bolt clacked against the wall just above him, bounced down through the shaft, as the nobleman’s indistinct words pierced the pained haze hanging over Ara’s senses. They just couldn’t let me hang out in here, could they. He let go of his hand hold, curling around his bag and bracing for the last of the fall, as he slammed into the pile of ash and charred wood at the base of the chimney, rolling onto the floor in a cloud of dust.
Grimacing and pressing upon his ribs, Ara stumbled out of the kitchen, sprinting down the hallway towards the room he had entered the manor through. Unfortunately, a group of guards stormed around the corner in front of the room. He cursed, and dashed down an unfamiliar hall, much thinner than the one before, approaching a wooden door. A luxury in these parts, but not really the thing to be considering at the moment. Ara threw himself against it, bursting into an elegant ballroom, filled to the brim with nobleman in resplendent coats, and beautiful women in the latest fashion, sleek dresses, with those hideously bulbous shoulders. Partygoers, servants, soldiers, and the latest unwelcome guest, a bloodstained, soot covered thief.
Ara reacted before the guards, jumping onto one of the nearest tables, before leaping to the next, delicately arranged(and mostly untouched) meals were tossed to the ground. A shame… Ara thought with a grimace, hating to see food go to waste like that. He bounded from one after another, relying on the hordes of stunned partygoers to keep him safe from crossbow bolts this time.
“KAF HALRI!” A voice boomed across the room, reverberating through the crystalline chandeliers. Ara looked back to see a bolt of crackling blue light streaking across the room towards him, cutting through the screams of the confused lords and ladies. Who in the hell would be trained in combat magic at a ball?! Ara pushed off the small round table with his left foot, and hook the right under the lip of the table as he fell, flipping it upwards as he slammed into the ground. The jagged spell tore the rim of the table apart before burning a small crater in the stone beside Ara, who began scrambling between the feet of the panicking lords, and beneath the next set of tables. Like a bolt of divine inspiration, Ara saw his escape route in the form of a large balcony, which offered a splendid view of the city below. “What in Aten have I gotten myself into!?” Ara shouted in frustration as he bolted from underneath the table towards the exit, and saw two more white streaks of light coming after him, as well as a sizable contingent of guards.
He swung his hands wildly, tossing cutlery, knocking over tables, and barreling through the rapidly thinning crowd. One of the spells caught another table, before burying itself in the folds of a shrieking lady’s puffy dress, who was otherwise unharmed. Though by her yelling, you’d think she’d lost an arm. The second was close behind him. Ara slid through the legs of a portly lord, before jumping into the air in a practiced form, hands forward, and landed on the next table with his hands, forcefully adapting a front handspring to launch himself over it. A blur of colors surrounded him as he landed, feet first, and kept running.
Ara burst onto the balcony, scanning his surroundings while running, and hesitated for a moment before remembering the spell closing in.
“FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” He screamed as he pulled out the singed pick from his pocket, still hooked to his belt, and threw himself from the balcony, the sparkling city of Yarsberg before him.