Another Night, Another Job (2000)

It was the first night of the feast of Arbrio the Drunk, god of cooks, wine, and entertainers and Solaris, the third moon of Yaerte, was just rising, throwing its feeble light over the unscalable walls of the miniature fortresses that made up the upper class part of town. One of these fortresses stood out as the light of Solaris struck it. Suddenly a crossbow bolt sped through the night air trailing a long, thin, silk cord like the tail of a child’s kite. With a muffled “thump” the bolt came to a stop with its head embedded in the trunk of a tree. After testing the cord two black clad figures inched their way along the rope. As they passed over the wall, a stray bit of moonlight glinted off of an opal set in the pommel of a leather wrapped sword hilt, which was hastily covered by the second, and larger, figure. The figures continued on to the tree and after they both dropped silently to the ground the taller one pulled the bolt free of the tree, tugged sharply on the cord, and rapidly wound it up. Scanning the area carefully he replaced the bolt in its quiver and the cord in his pack as his partner returned from scouting the immediate area.

In a hushed, slightly feminine whisper the returning figure said, “Just as we thought, there aren’t any guards in this part of the complex.”

They then melted into the shadows. As they flitted from tree to tree, the only sounds were those of the few night birds singing softly.

The pair came to a halt at the edge of a well-kept gravel path and while the larger of the two unslung and loaded his crossbow the shorter drew a large dark bladed knife and loaded her sling to stand watch. The bowman dropped smoothly to one knee, leveled the crossbow, and fired.

With its characteristic muffled “thump” the bolt stuck into a tree at a point about seven feet off the ground. The shorter sheathed her knife and sling and tied off a cord, which had been attached to the quarrel. The two of them then suspended themselves, by both hands and feet, from the cord and set off across the path to another small wooded area.

A few feet later the taller figure stopped and listened intently. He slowly drew a dark bladed knife and motioned his companion to their left. She drew out a small axe and twisted it around so the edge faced her. They both crept off in that direction and gradually were able to make out the shapes of two other figures crouched a few arrow shots from the clearing.

 Coming up behind them the larger hit the one on his side with the pommel of his knife and caught the figure as it crumpled. His companion simultaneously hit the other figure in the back of the neck with her reversed axe. They quickly and silently drew out lengths of rope, bound and gagged the now unconscious figures, and hid them under some bushes.

Creeping cautiously through the rest of the woods the two proceeded to the edge closest to the only building in the compound. Both were thinking that so far everything had gone to smoothly. Everything was just as their employer had said, few guards and no magical defenses. In fact the only obstacle left before the house itself was the nearly fifty yards of open ground with two guards patrolling it.

Off in the distance the sounds of bells, drums, shouting, and laughter filled the air as an impromptu parade wound its way through the city. As the sounds drew nearer, the guards made their way to the south wall to watch the revelers as they passed by. At that moment, if anyone had been watching they might have seen two shadows detach themselves from the trees and glide swiftly and silently across the yard to the wall of the house.

The two made their way around to the rear door of the house and the shorter drew forth a set of lockpicks and started working. After a few tense timeless moments there was a slight click and the short figure stood up with a proud gleam in her eye. The man nudged open the door and with a small flourish and a slight bow motioned her in. After checking to be sure no one had seen or heard them he silently closed and locked the door.

The two looked around and found themselves in the manor’s kitchen. There were numerous pots and pans of various sizes on racks and shelves as well as hundreds of plates, bowls, cups, forks, and other cooking utensils. Directly across the room from them, on the south side of the room, was a swinging door which probably lead to the main hall. To their left was another door which lead to the servants’ quarters.

After a moment of silent debate the pair headed stealthily to the swinging door and slowly opened it. The door swung open about an inch on well oiled hinges and Alfric peered through the crack into the main hall.

The main hall was dominated by a massive oak table that supported five golden candelabra. The table could seat twenty but only three places were set. At the far end of the hall was a huge double door. Along the two side walls were huge fireplaces flanked by tapestries depicting scenes from ancient legends. In each of the other three corners were statues of famous philosophers and statesmen. Behind the head seat of the table was a brilliant tapestry showing a battle between two armies of dragons. As Alfric examined the room Kiyah carefully wrapped two of the silver place settings and a candelabra up and placed them carefully in a small sack along with one of the smaller tapestries.

Exiting the main double doors, Alfric and Kiyah entered the entrance hall of the manor. The hall was filled with statues and paintings as well as a hat rack, a large mirror, and a set of pegs for cloaks. At the far end were the main doors into the manor as they turned right toward the doors they noticed a smaller door at the far end of the right-hand wall. They also noticed two more figures.

These two already had weapons out and came at Alfric and Kiyah. The one on Alfric had a pair of knives in his hands and was weaving them menacingly. Alfric quickly ducked under his assailant’s first two strikes and caught his left arm, twisted, and broke it. He then grabbed the man’s right arm, twisted it around behind his back, and encircled his neck with his other arm. Alfric tightened his hold until a few minutes after the man stopped struggling.

Meanwhile Kiyah’s assailant came at her with a short stabbing sword. After backpedaling to dodge her opponent’s first attack Kiyah managed to get her axe out and caught the next blow on the wooden haft. She then swept her opponent’s legs out from underneath him and, while he was down, hit him over the head with her reversed axe.

They again made sure that the two other intruders were well tied up and left in a fairly easy to spot place.

Before continuing on into the house the two stopped for a moment to appraise the statues and paintings but, after discovering that the first few were just well made reproductions, left them alone.

Most rooms in the manor were lit dimly with candles in an attempt to deter thievery but in reality making it easier for thieves to conceal themselves. The sitting room that Alfric and Kiyah entered was no exception. From the dim light of the candles and the still glowing coals in the fireplace they could make out the furnishings of the room. There were seven or eight plush chairs and a number of end tables arranged around the room as well as a few low divans. The few bookcases in the room seemed to be relatively well stocked, but of little use to the two since, like most people in Yaerte, they couldn’t read. The pair passed quickly through the room to the door at the far end.

The door lead to a small storage room containing buckets, rags, and other cleaning implements as well as an unconcealed door into the main hall and a staircase to their left.

Alfric drew his saber and Kiyah a pair of dark bladed knives as they ascended the stairs. At the top they found themselves in a small hallway. The only entrance was a small locked door at the other end. Kiyah picked the lock a few seconds after disarming the small poisoned dart trap in it. Inching the door open the pair found themselves entering a large room. By the light of the three moons still in the sky they saw shelves stacked with rows and rows of books, scrolls, and parchments as well as a few tables, desks, and chairs.

Before using the south door the two searched the east and south walls, the two inner walls, for secret doors. As the second moon, Mendamis, was setting, leaving only Solaris and Keellis to light the night sky, Alfric suddenly discovered that when he moved a certain scroll the bookcase he was searching on the east wall moved. The case pivoted on a pole that went through its center. Moving the scroll had released the pin which held the door closed. The slight creak of the door was masked by the now distant sounds of the revelers’ shouts, music, and fireworks.

They entered the private chambers of the manor’s owner using all the stealth their training and practice conferred. To their left were four statues depicting the Old Gods. On their right was a cage containing a good sized, and sleeping, chimpanzee. In front of them the extremely tall, well over six feet, lanky master of the manor asleep in a huge four poster bed near him was a disembodied right hand that looked to be a human’s. Against the inside of the other door, beyond the cage, slept a giant guard with a scimitar.

Alfric cautiously drew a small slender bladed knife from its concealed sheath at the small of his back. A stray bit of light from Kedgellis glinted momentarily off the razor edged silvery blade. As he neared the bed the knife started giving off a very faint bluish light, announcing the presence of a very weak magical barrier around the bed. Kiyah then crept forward and producing a small black wand proceeded to wave it left to right about a foot off the ground and a few inches from the bed. The gem at the end of the wand flashed briefly and dimly indicating that the barrier had been dispelled.

Assured that nothing else stood between him and completion of his job Alfric calmly and quietly plunged his stiletto into the sleeping man’s chest puncturing his lung and impaling his heart. As he withdrew and cleaned the blade, he and Kiyah, who had been watching the guard, retreated back into the library. From there they took the south door into the master’s study. There they found yet another shadowy figure.

Without conscious thought Kiyah drew and threw one of her knives in one fluid motion. The figure caught the knife in its throat, and dropped to the floor right next to the window. Kiyah shrugged to Alfric’s questioning glance and quickly retrieved her knife.

They then climbed out the window and down the rough wall of the building and crept toward the rear door of the complex.

Upon reaching the rear door of the complex the two took off their outer layer of black clothing.

Alfric’s shoulder length brown hair was freed as he pulled his dark mask off. He quickly, and without a wasted motion, tied it back. His well-tanned face still appeared dark in the lack of light. As he pulled off the rest, a tan beaded tunic and dark wool pants were revealed. Both fit his lanky body fairly loosely concealing his lithe musculature. He then hung a slim gold chain, with a small dragon pendant, around his neck. Finally he put on a silver studded sword belt upon which his opal pommeled sword hung.

Meanwhile Kiyah had changed to a loose red blouse and black doeskin pants. Her small axe hung from her wide belt and two cunningly made silver porpoises adorned her ears. She let her slightly longer, but also brown, hair cascade down her back. Her deep brown soulful eyes were as deep wells in her otherwise slightly pale complexioned face. A knife embossed gold coin, a symbol holy to Darius, hung from a silver chain around her neck.

Alfric’s hazel eyes passed over her once slowly as he whispered, “Beautiful, as always.”

She acknowledged his compliment with a quick smile.

Hearing the sounds of the approaching revelers the two quickly picked the lock, exited the compound, and melded unnoticed into the crowd.

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