Chapter 2 - The Thief's Initiation

Chapter 2 - The Thief's Initiation

A Chapter by Richard Linsley III
"

Johanna thought she was having a good day. A decent score netted her and her friends with enough gold to finally move forward with their skills. But that same score brought new troubles

"

Johanna knew she was falling.  The air sang through her hair as she fell.  She felt as if she were in a cavern dropping to the floor.  The darkness around her made it difficult to see the floor.  The floor seemed to be one smooth, dark, billowing black mass beneath her.  Not the hard ground she expected to see.  Not knowing what to expect she braced for the shock.

The pool of water shocked her senses as she fell into it. The water was ice-cold and she shivered as she swam to the surface.  When she surfaced to the top she could not see the walls of the cavern.  There was a light underneath the water at the other end of the pool.  Looking up Johanna couldn't tell where she fell from.  She swam to the wall next to her to see if it was climbable.  The wall was completely smooth, it would be impossible to find a hand hold much less anything else to climb the wall.

“Why can't I just have an easy job?  Is just once too much to ask for?  And who in the world makes a cavern completely smooth?” thought Johanna.  This situation was becoming interesting.  All her life as a thief she seemed to always have the hardest of jobs.  Maybe it was that she was just new at the career choice, who knows?  At least the payout was getting better each time.  Well, there is only one way out it seems.

Her muscles ached and rebelled against her with every stroke of her swim to the other side.  When she arrived at the wall, she found that the source of light was a glowing diamond attached to the wall below the surface.  It marked the entrance to an underwater tunnel.  Maybe it led the way out.  Well, if anything else, the jewel would fetch a decent price on the black market back in town.  Although she was wet from the pool, she could feel her hairs stand up on the back of her neck, something wasn't right.  Johanna looked around, but there was no other exits were visible, so down it will have to be.

Johanna took a couple deep breaths, and then slipped under the water to look into the tunnel.  It was still so very cold, and the sting of the water on her face didn't help the situation.  A few feet into the tunnel she lost her vision as the tunnel went completely dark.

Returning to the surface, Johanna gasped for breath and settled her nerves.  Looks like the stone is going with. Johanna pulled herself next to the wall and steadied her grip.  She pulled back her sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a knife on her wrist and palm.  

"Velve." recited Johanna.  She could feel movement on her hand.  The tattoo of a knife tickled the back of her hand as it began to move.  The knife wriggled itself free of her skin and formed into a full length dagger.  Johanna took the knife and turned it over.  She was glad that her mentor gave her this weapon.  It was a present given to her just prior to her leaving to the fair and ‘profitable’ Trié.  As so long as she remembered the words to activate it, she would never be without a weapon.  Even better, the weapon had a false bottom where she stored her lock picks and extraction tools.  It guaranteed her to never be without a weapon or tool.  Perfect for times like this.

It took a few minutes of careful struggling, but Johanna  removed the diamond from its fixture using her lock picks.  After putting the tools back into the knife she repeated the mantra to turn it back into a tattoo on her hand.  She headed back down into the tunnel.  Now fully lit, Johanna was grateful that she didn't go too much further as she could see a trap already waiting for her.  Looking at the wall of the tunnel, she began to disarm the trap.  There were a few ropes here and there to cut through but nothing out of the ordinary.  This should be a cinch.  However, she would have to return to the surface soon though to get another breath before continuing.

Suddenly, the trap sprung collapsing the the tunnel behind her.  Her hair caught itself in between a vise mechanism and the wall of the tunnel.  She dropped the stone and its light illuminated the trapped girl and her surroundings.

She grabbed the vise and struggled against it to pull herself free.  However, she wasn’t strong enough to budge the boards that held her hair. Her lungs began to burn for air as she fought against the vise.  “I am not going out like this.”  She tugged on the ropes that set off the trap to see if there was a way to release it to no avail.   No matter what she tried, she just couldn't free herself.  As her last resort, she cut her hair off near the vise.

Now free of the trap she had a decision to make, continue through the tunnel or go back the way she came.  Her lungs finally made the decision for her.  She had just enough time to turn around and look at the blank granite wall that sealed the entrance to the tunnel before she blacked out.

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Johanna woke up screaming.  She was in her own apartment in Trié.  The sounds of a bustling morning rush could be heard outside.  She was covered in her own sweat from head to toe.  Gasping for breath, she held the bed sheets close to her chest.  Rocking back and forth she tried to calm her nerves.  Ever since she arrived in Trié three weeks ago, these dreams were becoming more and more vivid and even more disturbing they were coming true.

"Dear goddess, that was too real."

As she slid from the bed her toes touched the cold floor and she jumped backward back onto the bed.  The cold floor reminded her of the cold water of the pool in her dream.  Slipping on some soft shoes, she walked to the counter on the side of the room and poured a little water from a pitcher into the bowl next to it.  Wiping the dust of sleep from her eyes and face, she looked in the polished metal sheet at her reflection. "What I wouldn't do for a warm bath right now." she thought to herself.

The warm water would help to soothe her nerves.  That thought was out of the question though.  Life in the city, as a common thief, was poor at best.  Even when you did come out ahead, there was no telling when the next good score was going to be.  If you wanted the good life, you had to join a guild.  The hard part was to get the guild's attention to let you in.

Johanna took her breeches from the floor and slid them on.  There was a new hole in the side of one of the legs.  It was repairable, but it would need to be replaced soon.  Maybe one or two more jobs and she would have to get a new pair.  A few purses and packs today should be enough to cover the expense.  Maybe she should get some perfume as well.  Boots, shirt and cloak came next and she was finally ready to head out into the world.

Walking out of the apartment into the street, Johanna sought out her friends.  She had made a deal with them last night, to meet at the neighborhood tavern for a morning meal while they planned the morning's stakes.  Yesterday's haul was very good and they were going to celebrate their success with a good meal. Perhaps a warm meal could raise her attitude.

When she entered the tavern, she could smell food baking, the ale already beginning to flow into the patrons’ mugs and some of the patrons who needed baths themselves.  Her stomach growled out loud that it was time to ignore the smells and fill it up.

"Jo! We're over here." said a familiar voice coming from a corner of the tavern. "Come on, the food’s getting cold."

Her pace quickened and she sat down to breakfast.  The food was heaven sent compared to the last few meals she had eaten.  Warm mutton, scrambled eggs, buttered rolls, and honey mead just melted her worries away as they crossed her lips.  Johanna was even able to palm a few rolls into her backpack without having them seen by the other members of the group.  It's always a good time to practice.  Later on, when the day grew longer she would be able to enjoy her meal just a little more.

"Did ya'll hear about the job?" laughed one of the friends.  "The mayor is steamed!  My contact in town center says he has already created a massive task force looking for the filthy 'brigands' who stole his daughter's vanity sets."

"Filthy?" chuckled another. "I will have you know that I bathed last month!"  The statement was quickly met with groans, protests and pinched noses from most of the rest of the group.

The doors to the tavern burst open and a mob of men rushed the place overtaking the table and the friends by surprise.  Each member of the group was caught and pinned to the floor.  Gags were placed over mouths, cloth bags were quick to follow over the head, and their hands were tied. The next thing Johanna knew, she was being carried over someone's shoulder out a door.  The scene happened too fast to keep track of where she was and what was going on around her.

All Johanna could tell was that she was being taken through the alleyways of the town to a building and into some room.  The people who took them moved swift and sure-footed through the town.  Even more peculiar, none of them spoke a word.  This wasn't the work of regular law enforcement.  "Great,..." thought Johanna. "The Mayor called the military on us!"

"Gentlemen! Bad!" a new voice broke the silence. "Put our guests down.  Let us not seem inhospitable in our own home."  

Johanna was dropped on her bottom onto some form of a seat.  She could hear the rest of her group also be treated the same way.  Only the gods could guess where they were right now.

The bag was taken from Johanna's head.  She could see she was seated on a bench near a wall.  Each of her friends was also with her.  The room itself was interesting.  It held an eclectic collection of rare items.  There were books galore all over the place, no doubt unread, but still they looked old and expensive.  She wondered what secrets were held between the bindings.  One shelf held an interesting collection of picks, while another shelf had what looked like a jeweled dragon egg.  There were a few ornate boxes here and there.  Johanna estimated that if she and her crew were to clean this room out that they could live decently for a few years.  There didn't seem to be an exit, but the bookshelves in the corner could have been moved to hide the exit.

"Ah, where are my manners?" said the new person in the room.  "I am the guildmaster of the fair city of Trié.  Welcome to my city.  I do have a real name, but Guildmaster is what you will know me by.  Any moves you make to find out my real name will be met at the end of my blade.  Questions so far?"  Dressed elegantly in silk and fine materials, he didn't seem to be much of a thief; more rather like an overpaid pirate.

    The stunned silence led the guildmaster to a negative conclusion. With a short bow, he continued.  "Let me just say that we welcome you to our fair city.  New blood to a vibrant society is always an enjoyment.  However, your unguilded tradecraft we do not enjoy.  You must understand that as a guildmaster I have to look out after my own.”

    “Now don’t be looking too surprised.  We knew when each of you entered the city.  I have all thieves in this city under my watchful eye.  So far you all have been pretty good petty thieves, content to delve with pick pocketing and minor larceny.  It’s a good place to start, I'll admit.  It would have built you a solid reputation among the underground.  It’s just that ...  well, last night's job has me a little worried. You see, I had that specific heist already slotted to another group of thieves in the town, and as I just lost that significantly large bit of profit, I thought it would be in the guild's best interest to put a stop to that."

"Well, if you had only given us an invitation we would have been more than happy to come down, have some tea and enjoy some crumpets. You know mingle a bit." said one of Johanna's friends sarcastically.

"Ah, Travis is it?" responded the guildmaster.  "I hear the speed of your tongue's wit matches your speed at lock picking.  Just for your information, this is my way of sending a gold-engraved invitation.  Be glad that I didn't send you a silver-etched one.  Speaking of which, I might as well come to the point."

"I have been impressed by you, as a team, and I want you to put your lives on the line for the ‘greater good’ of my guild." began the Guildmaster's proposal. "More specifically, I want all of you to join.  The pay is good; you get to keep fifty percent of the value of your take.  The rest goes to the 'support the guild' charity of my choice.  The benefits of joining are many.  Free reign to ply your trade in this fair city is the most lucrative of them all.  Even professional missions to help build your reputation in the underworld.  Not to mention that you will have free room and board at our safe houses.  You will also have free training by the most experienced of all of us.  Sounds nice, eh?"

    "I must bring one point up though." remarked the guildmaster.  "The price of failure to take the initiation is singular; you will stay here in this room forever.”  Smiling he looked at the group, one at a time.  “Seeing as you have no real choice in the matter I suggest we find out who starts first."

The guildmaster stepped around the group, looking each of them over one by one.  On his way around the group, he stopped behind Johanna and then behind Travis before coming back to the front.

    "Well, I have a thought.  Let's never say that the guild wasn't chivalrous." said the Guildmaster finally.  "Jo, I believe the name is.  How about you?"

    "Beats sitting here forever." retorted Johanna.  The Guildmaster slid his dagger between her hands and cut the rope that bound her hands.  Escorting her to the bookcase, he leaned over so that his remark couldn't be heard by the rest of the group.

"Oh, just one hint.  My initiation is not meant for the faint of heart.  If you fail, you will die.  If you give up at any point, you will die.  There is no turning back once you enter the labyrinth. You are free to explore, but remember that there is only one way out.  And that is to succeed.  Remember this; the life of a thief is about the payoff.  Don't be afraid to take risks.  Keep your mind open and you will succeed.  This is just as much about luck as it is about skill.  Is this clear?"

    "Abundantly." Johanna took a deep breath and wondered if she could sit back down again.

    "Good luck, then."  The guildmaster reached over to the wall and pulled a trinket off the shelf, opening a hole in the wall.  Johanna was just able to turn to the doorway when she was kicked through it.  Her scream could only be heard for just a moment, as the door shut immediately behind her.

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The fall and splash into the water was just like in her dream.  The cold water stung her skin worse the second time she entered the pool.  The pool seemed to be a perfect sphere about 75 feet in diameter and halfway filled with water.  Off in the far corner was the glowing diamond from her dream.  The faint glow of the stone through the water gave the room an eerie crypt type of feeling.

    “Okay, this is more than just a coincidence.” thought Johanna. She swam using slow strokes across the pool to the tunnel.  The slow strokes helped her acclimate to the water and settle her nerves.  Looking underneath the water, she saw the same tunnel, and no doubt the same trap awaited her.

    "If I go in, I die." muttered Johanna to herself.  "If I don't, I will die of drowning, hypothermia or something else."  Each minute she spent in the water continued to quickly sap away her strength.  She had to come up with a way out of the trap before she gave in to the cold.

    "If it’s a water trap, then it isn't pressure sensitive, so I should be able to swim right through." thought Jo to herself.  "So what set it off?  The diamond or the ropes?"

    Johanna decided to go into the tunnel without the diamond.  No reason to tempt fate.  She took a few deep breaths and entered the tunnel.  She found cracks in the ceilings and wall that would serve as handholds to pull her along the tunnel.  The tunnel felt like it was made out of granite blocks just stacked one on top of another.

    She could feel the trap as she passed it.  She took great care to not touch any of the ropes or to disturb the mechanism.  Paranoia crept into her mind and she almost wanted to turn back before anything could happen to her.  She slowly maneuvered her way forward past the vise and when she was clear of it, she took off in a mad sprint to find the other side of the tunnel.

    As she moved forward Johanna felt as if the tunnel had no end.  About a minute underneath the water, her lungs felt as if they were on fire.  Swallowing her breath, she kept pulling herself forward.  Either way, it would be soon over.  She had to do something about the air in her lungs that was begging her to be released and refreshed, so she started to slowly let her breath out in controlled bursts.  

    "Where is the fraggin' exit?" she thought.  Wanting to breathe so badly, she closed her eyes to help concentrate on holding her breath.  A moment later she hit her head hard on a wall.  Looking up, she saw the most wonderful sight she could ever wish for.  The faint lights of an exit! With one last effort, she kicked the floor and emerged from the cold tunnel into a warm tunnel filled with air!

Gasping for air, she cleared her lungs of the stale air that clogged her mind and breathed in the clean air from the new tunnel.  The only problem was now that the hole between the two tunnels was too small and Johanna had to rest a few seconds before struggling to get her chest through the hole.  It was times like this that made her wish she had been less endowed.

    Isn’t the first time these have been trouble.  It won’t be the last.” She thought to herself as she finished pulling herself out of the hole.  This version of the tunnel was also very dark.  Up ahead about a hundred feet or so were some lights.  Still cold and wet, Johanna couldn't tell what it was yet.  

Johanna stripped off her clothes and wrung out as much of the water as she could.   She was glad that she was alone this time.  She would never hear the end of it if one of her friends caught her like this.  When she was finished fixing her clothes, she started off again in the direction of the light source.

    About halfway down to the lights, Johanna heard a faint click and the floor moved underneath her slightly. "Oh ... frag!" she said to herself stopping in mid-step.  She knew that she had just stepped on a pressure plate and triggered a trap or other mechanism.  Looking around, it was still too dark to see completely the nature of the trap that she had just set off.  When nothing happened immediately, her nerves spiked in anticipation.

    "Okay... Not dead yet."  muttered Johanna. "I am such an idiot."  This is a thief's haven and already I have gotten past one trap, you would think that there would be more.

    Stepping back off of the plate, she could hear the faint whirring of mechanisms in the wall and floor.  Putting her hand on the wall, she could tell that the movement came from up ahead. Going back is out of the question, so she decided to proceed slowly and cautiously down the hallway.

    Progressing only a few more feet, the floor gave way underneath Johanna.  Before she lost her footing, Johanna jumped forward to the other side of a now open pit.  Johanna smelled fuel vapors coming from the pit.  A couple seconds later, a few clicks could be heard as the pit erupted in flames. 

    "Now that's a way to dry off!" exclaimed Johanna. She welcomed the new heat source as the amber flames warmed her face.   “Too bad I ain't got anything to cook.”

    Johanna turned and proceeded down the hallway.   Well lit now, she could see clearly the beginnings of a maze.  In front of her she could see tunnels that crisscrossed each other, some that split and some that just stopped at dead ends.

    Johanna looked down at her wrist and recited the incantation her mentor taught her.  The knife wiggled itself free of her hand.  Johanna giggled slightly under her breath as it tickled her skin.  Now fully formed, she opened the pommel and took out her tools.  She decided on the first of the lit stones to help guide her way.  Once she completed the task, she put the tools back into the knife and returned it to tattoo form.  

    Johanna continued down the maze.  About 50 feet in, she found a small hole in the wall.  A quick inspection of the wall made it clear that it was a ventilation shaft to supply air to the maze.  However, it was the little holes in the top part of the hole leading to the shaft that held her interest.

    Let me guess. I go in, the shaft closes and I get the royal char broil treatment or some other unpleasant torture.” thought Johanna.  Not wanting to be a crispy version of herself anytime soon, she ignored the vent and continued down the hall.  There were so many twists and turns, it was hard to keep track where she was going.  She decided to keep her hand on the outside wall and to follow it to wherever it went.  Left, right, another left, the twists were still confusing.

    A little further she could the flickering light of torches up ahead.  From here it looked like a large open room.  Could it be that she found her way out of the maze?  It couldn't have been that easy.

    When Johanna reached the entrance to the room, she looked around.  It was about 20 feet wide and about 25 feet long.   A moss and slime covered wall surrounded the room on all sides.  The far end of the room appeared to be climbable but was also lit up very well.  No ceiling was able to be seen though as it was outside of the light from the torches.  As she poked her head out of the tunnel, she was met with the crisp, shrill song of a crossbow bolt as it landed in her shoulder.

    Johanna was thrown backwards from the hit and let out a muffled scream as she hit the floor.  Johanna was lucky this time, the bolt missed anything vital but this was going to hurt for a while.  “Those friggin idiots!  They are trying to kill me!” Johanna reeled backward from the entrance as two more bolts found their home in the wall next to her. Johanna muttered several curses toward her attackers.  Johanna tore a couple strips off her shirt to bind her shoulder.  "Guildmaster, or whatever his name is, owes me a new shirt."

    “One things for sure, that isn’t the way out.” muttered Johanna beneath her breath.  Johanna walked back down the maze and turned another direction.  A couple turns later and she was faced with another room just like the one before.

    "Uh huh..." said Johanna under her breath.  As a test, she tossed her glowing stone out into the room to the far end.  She could hear people on scaffolding above her shifting around.  There are few men's voices shouting to others if they could see the 'thief 'or not.

    Johanna wanted badly to correct them on the proper term for a ‘procurement specialist,’ but somehow this didn't seem to be the time for it. Instead, she moved to the first room and grabbed a couple torches from the wall before the next crossbow bolt was launched her way.  She could already hear the footsteps of people shifting around to aim at her. The next bolt landed at her feet, rolling forward she avoided the shot.  Just a couple more seconds and she will be in the safety of the tunnel. 

    Now, with plan in mind, she ran heavy-footed to the second room and threw the torch down the room to the far end.  Again she heard the call for reinforcements to lock on her position.  This time, she didn't stick around to see if they would come after her. She ran as silent as she could to the other room.  As fast as her legs would carry her, she ran to the other end of the room and threw the torch back toward the tunnel.  

    At first the reinforcements showed up and took a bead on the torch but went to the other side to anticipate her showing up again.  This was her chance and she took it.  She began to scale the wall. Twice, her shoulder nearly gave out from the injury.  However, with tears watering her eyes, she made it to the top without saying anything. 

    At the top of the wall, she saw the people on the battlements looking around for her.  They were looking at three or four such rooms as the one she had just climbed out of.  One of the people was wearing a mask and looked directly at her.  Apparently he could see her, but why didn't he turn her over to the others?

    The masked man looked at the others and spoke a few words to them.  It seemed as if he was the one giving the orders to the group. If he turned her in, she would be a pincushin.  To Johanna's amazement, the others left the battlement and the masked person nodded her way.

    As the archers moved away from the scaffolding, Johanna let out an audible sigh and turned around.  She found a small ledge that led along the wall of the cavern to a tunnel in the wall.  The tunnel was well lit and seemed to be covered in either polished bronze or gold metal from the floor to the ceiling.  The sides of the tunnel were lined with a one inch hole every three inches the entire distance of the tunnel's walls.  Although she couldn't see any light sources, she guessed some kind of magic.  Johanna also smelled a faint whisper of fuel vapors in the hallway.  At the other end of the hallway, she could see a heavy wooden door with steel bands reinforcing it.  In the middle of the door was a tumbler lock.  Johanna smiled at the upcoming test.  At lock picking she was mediocre, but safe cracking was a specialty for her.

    She looked at the walls, ceiling and floor of the tunnel.  There were no marks, scuffs, or finger prints, and strangely had the faint scent of mint.  Someone had been here recently and cleaned away any evidences of traps.  Johanna stayed as close to the wall as she crept forward toward the door. As Johanna progressed into the first area of the tunnel, she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.  She couldn't see any obvious traps, but she didn't like the fact that it was just an "ordinary" hallway either.  That conclusion just made her believe that there were traps in this hallway even more.

    A few more steps into the hallway a pressure plate gave way underneath her weight.  A block of granite fell from the ceiling into the middle of the hallway.  Already against the wall, she flattened herself as much as she could to keep from being smashed by the block.  The stone stopped one inch from the floor.  Just enough to keep from marring the floor, but more than enough to kill any living thing underneath it.  Wide-eyed and breathing, Johanna looked at the granite block for a few seconds and crawled along the wall until she passed it.

    The smell of fuel vapor was now stronger beyond the block.  She looked at the multitude of holes in the wall, thinking of arrows, or pikes or poison darts.  She looked below her to see if there were any marks on the floor to give away the location of a trap door, or another trigger plate.  Nope not this time.

    She crept forward at a snail's pace.  Testing each area for everything she could think of.  About ten feet from the falling block, a pit trap fell open in the floor.  The stench of fuel vapor was thick in the air as she heard the now familiar clicking sound the fuel igniters.  Before the flames could begin to fill the area, Johanna jumped through the air and landed on the other side as the flames erupted beside her.

    The flames and heat sapped the air of oxygen and Johanna sat down to rest for a few seconds before moving on.  It did not help that her body kept rebelling from the ice-water bath and the arrow still stuck in her shoulder.  This time when she came closer to the point where she thought the trap would be she looked around with more patience.  Johanna guessed that she was now almost halfway down the hall.  Below her, she could see individual squares in the floor's metal.  No doubt they were all trigger plates, but for what?

    Johanna bent down on all fours and slammed her fist onto a plate. Behind her, a spike flew from one hole in the wall into another on the other side.  Taking note of it, she did it again on another one.  This time, she had to duck to keep from being hit by the spike as it sailed over her head.

    "Okay, no more testing." she thought.  Johanna took a couple steps back and jumped as far as she could.  When she landed, she rolled over the last few plates.  Spikes from all areas of the wall flew from their holes and Johanna kept rolling.  A few feet later, she rolled on to another trigger plate, which caused two granite stones to fall from the ceiling on the wall sides of the hallway.  Johanna had to pull her feet to her chest to keep from being crushed by the stones.

    "Oops." muttered Johanna softly under her breath. "Let's see, stone, fire pit, spikes, two stones,..."  Her voice trailed off as she looked in front of her.  Now almost two-thirds down the hallway, she began to have an idea what was coming next.

    Johanna moved forward down the hall.  The moment she felt her foot move the trigger plate underneath her, she slipped backwards and watched the pit open up.  Looking down into the pit she saw that is was filled with spikes, blades and other undesirable implements of torture, designed to cause its occupants great misery if they were to fall in.  

    Johanna looked forward jumped across the pit, landing on the other side.  After standing up and dusting herself off, she turned around and walked forward.  A few feet later, the floor opened up underneath her and she fell into a pit of fuel.  She surfaced quickly, got out her dagger and quickly made her way up the pit wall.  Her shoulder ached at the work, but she didn't have much time to get out of the pool.  About halfway up the wall, stones opened up and metallic pinchers protruded from the wall.  Johanna knew she had just seconds to go before the fuel would be ignited.  She strained herself to get up the wall.  The pinchers made their clicking down and Johanna was just able to get to the top when the fuel erupted.  

    Johanna was thrown forward from the pit. Her left leg was now on fire, and if she didn't do something very soon, all of her would be as well.  Johanna took her knife and cut the leg of her pants off and threw it to the pit.  She sat there breathing, panting for lack of clean air and again tried to make it to the door.

    The last ten feet looked exactly the same as the middle ten feet.  There was a checkerboard style of gold and bronze plates.  The design went all the way to the door and across the entire floor.  Johanna tried the gold panels, which moved.  She tried hard not to trigger its associated trap.  Then, she tried to move the bronze panels, which also moved.  No matter what, she would be facing a trap of some sort.  Johanna decided to activate whatever trap was underneath the gold panels.

    Johanna firmly stepped on the gold panel.  All the pits behind her sealed and the stones retracted into the ceiling.  Surprised at the reaction she received she stepped forward onto the next gold panel, one row forward of the one she was just on.  The holes the wall next to her opened up and a granite wall slammed closed behind her.  Realizing her mistake she jumped forward to the door.  Landing on a bronze panel, water began to rush into the room.  The falling water made so much noise that Johanna couldn't hear the tumblers as she spun the dial on the door.  Nor could she feel the clicking of the dial as she spun it.  

    As frustrating as this was, Johanna only had one other option.  She had a vial of acid in her dagger.  She was keeping it for the day that she got a really good score on a chest or some other locked item.  She took it out and poured it around the dial on the door.  Already the water was at her ankles and climbing quickly.  The acid slowly ate through the wood, but left the metal alone.  Johanna shoved her dagger into the holes left by the acid and tried to force the dial out of the door.

    As the seconds flew by, she struggled with the lock, trying to take off the dial.  The water swirled around her hips as it moved out of the walls.  She stumbled from the water once as it attempted to pull her over.  She needed something stronger than her dagger to remove the dial.  She opened her dagger to get out her extraction tools.  She forced the bars into the holes in the dial to try and pry it off.    She struggled with the dial and felt something move.  Johanna slammed her good shoulder against the bars.  After an eternity, the dial came off.  Now only her face was out of the water.  She dived under the water to look in the dial and find the tumblers and put them into position so that she could unlock the door.  After the tumblers were set in position, she forced the handle of the door to move into position.  

    Johanna could feel the mechanisms beginning to work inside the walls.   All of the holes in the wall finally opened up and the water quickly drained from the room.  As the water came down, She swam upward and gasped for breath. As the last of the water drained from the room, she turned to look at the door.

    The door opened to Johanna and gave her access to her treasured goal.  The door opened to a darkened room with a lit pedestal with a piece of parchment in the middle of the circular room.   She slowly walked into the room, looking for traps.  She could see holes circling the room's floor.  Another door stood at the other side of the room.  

    Investigating the door she found it to be locked with no handle or keyhole.  It was made of solid construction and was meant not to prevent someone coming in, but rather to prevent someone leaving the room.  The light that shone on the pedestal came from a hole in the ceiling.  Also in the hole was a rope hanging halfway down to the floor.  Johanna would have ignored it in the dark room if it hadn't hit her in the head as she walked over to the pedestal.  

    She lifted up the parchment to her eyes and read the missive written upon it:



The pedestal began to sink into the floor the moment she lifted the paper up to read it.  Behind her she could hear a rhythmic clicking sound.  Turning to the sound, she noticed a clock that was set for five minutes.  She guessed had already used up ten seconds.  The door she came in from had silently closed behind her and locked.  Johanna looked around her taking stock of what she had in the room.  She had to find five things that would let her out of this room before it kills her.

    The clicking of the mechanism became deafening in the silent room.  Johanna looked around the room for any thoughts of what to find.  Walking up to the rope in the center of the room, she pulled on it to see if it could move.  Nothing.  It was securely locked into the ceiling, although she couldn’t see where the rope started.  Looking at the frayed knot, she saw a silver thread.  Pulling on the thread she saw one of the five markers light up.  That’s one.

    Johanna was startled by and turned to a sound of a small rat scurrying from one side of the room to the other.  Johanna dropped to her knees to look at the holes on the floor and found one with a handle on the inside.  Activating a handle she could feel something working in the wall but no marker. Great… Just barely more than a minute in here and I set off a trap, great going Jo.

    Johanna heard a popping and a hissing sound as a green noxious gas poured from the holes in the wall.  Caught unaware, the gas poured onto her face, and she took in a deep breath before she could catch herself.  Johanna quickly stood up and coughed uncontrollably for a few seconds trying to catch her breath.  The green gas filled the bottom of the room.  Still coughing, Johanna backed to the wall of the room.  Looking up, she could see the second marker light up on the board.  That’s two.

    The smell of the gas was unbearable.  Its stench reminded her of a ripe swamp bog festering in the middle of Trié's landfill on the hottest day of summer.  The only saving grace between her and dry heaving from the gas was the fact that it was actually heavier than the air it was displacing.  

    As the gas filled into the room, it pillowed and rolled across the floor and began to thicken around her feet. The more it came into the room the more it climbed up her legs, threatening soon to overtake her again.  

Johanna, now able to stand, leaned against the wall looking into the thickening fog before her.  Looking up, she could tell she had only a couple minutes left in this challenge and three more things to find.  Pushing her way through the fog the floor began to move under her feet.  Looking forward to the center of the room, she could see the fog divot as the two halves of the floor opened and the gas fall into a lower chamber.

Johanna counted her blessings as the now waist deep fog dropped through the widening split in the floor.  Wondering to herself what was beneath her, she looked into the growing hole to see her next challenge.

She could see the pit beneath her.  It went down for sixty feet and ended in a series of blade traps.  It would be a really bad thing to get by the trap.  The floor was still moving apart and would soon be gone.  Johanna looked around for something that she could hold on to.  Finding any new markers was out of the question.  Johanna looked at the walls, and then to the ceilings.  Another fifteen seconds and she would have to start climbing the walls to keep from falling in.

    Johanna looked at the rope dangling in the middle of the room.  She could easily reach it if she jumped.  Taking her own dare, Johanna leapt for the rope.  Swinging back and forth in mid air was not her way of finishing this but she didn't have any other thought as to how to finish it.  

    Johanna wanted to scream out her frustration when the ceiling began to lower.  She wanted to wrap the rope around her and wait out rest of the time limit.  However, as the ceiling began to drop; the rope, instead of going down with the roof, stayed perfectly in place.  In effect, retracting into the ceiling.  

    No where to go, Johanna fought to hold onto the rope until the very last second.  She took the end of the rope and tied it into a simple knot to hold onto, wrapping her arm around it as the rope went up.  Then she held onto the knot itself as it continued its upward path.  Finally, she had to say goodbye to the rope and held on for dear life to the ceiling by gripping the hole that the rope was fed through.  She arched her back and steadied her body by using her feet as anchors on the ceiling.

    Just then a sharp pain lanced through her shoulder.  The hole in her shoulder from the crossbow bolt reopened and blood began to drip from her shoulder.  This time, Johanna vented her frustration by crying out.  Barely a minute on the ceiling, every ounce of strength she had went into holding onto that little hole.  Finally, her core gave out and she hung for a second from the hole.  Johanna lifted her feet back up to the ceiling and was about to rest again when her shoulder collapsed and she fell from the ceiling into the pit.

Johanna looked up at the fading ceiling above her not noticing the door to her side open up and an arm reached into the room and pulled her out of the air.  She was thrown into a small room with the door open.  Johanna just sat back and closed her eyes and fell fast asleep.

--------

When Johanna woke up, she noticed that there was a figure leaning against the doorframe of her cell.  At her feet was a new change of clothes and some equipment.  She pulled up her sheets in mock modesty.  She felt that some of her clothes had been removed.

"Wakey, wakey sleeping beauty." said the Guildmaster. "How do you feel?  I trust Bruno didn't treat you too badly.  We took the liberty of removing the clothes that were damaged to get you some correct fitting clothes." He walked over to Johanna and picked up the clothing packet and handed it to her.

"Aren't you supposed to at least kiss me first?" countered Johanna. Sitting up she held up a set of new clothes.  She felt the silk lining of the dress she was holding.  Her hands lightly sailed over the crisscrossed stitches of gold in the hem.  "These are nice threads for a humble thief."

    "Well, from now on, you won't be that humble." replied the Guildmaster.

    "You mean I passed?"

    "No. You survived.  There's a big difference.  The test is only half over." answered the Guildmaster. "Up till now you have been tested on your improvisational skills and fluid techniques.  Your challenges have been faced without any prior knowledge of them.  This is a good skill to have, but we don’t go into a high stakes job without information."

    "Sounds reasonable." smiled Johanna.  Her mind was in other places but she fought to stay on track.

    "Now the stakes will be raised somewhat and you will be tested on your abilities against a known target with limited information.  The same rules apply, if you fail or give up at any point in time, you will die.  Either by your apathy or by my hand.  I suggest you sleep, change clothes, and use the healing salves on your shoulder and leg.  And I think a little bit of study before night fall will be in order.”

With those words he placed a roll of parchments by her side and left the room.  There was no window there and it was next to impossible to figure out what time of the day it was.

Johanna unrolled the rolls of parchment.  It appeared to be blueprints to a house.  This wasn't an ordinary house; however.  This one had a perimeter wall and natural obstacles built into the landscaping.  The interior of the house also had tunnels and false walls built in for security purposes.  Whoever owned this home was into privacy and security.  This job became interesting.

--------

Johanna found herself meandering through the streets of Trié with the Guildmaster.  The whole time he talked about the history of the town and the interactions that the Guild had with its 'savory' history.  She felt out of place in her dress, like she was pretending to be someone she wasn't.  After a while he turned to her and asked her if she was hungry.  Her stomach answered before she could utter a word.  Smiling he told her that he intended to treat her to a nice dinner on the riverfront. Somehow, she didn't think that her fellow friends were getting the same treatment. 

When the two sat down at the table, she soon noticed the reason why.  The target house from the parchments was just across the river.  She could see just over the stone wall and into the courtyard.  There were guards all over the place.  At first glance she counted at least eight that she could see and could make a reasonable guess that there were at a minimum of eight more inside the home.

    "It’s not nice to stare at the Governor’s house like that." said the Guildmaster smilingly.  "Some people would think that you are gawking."

"Oh, it is a lovely house." replied Johanna. "Makes one wonder what he has to protect that is so important."

    "Well, it’s not what he is protecting that concerns me.  I left something behind the last time I visited him.  Something near and dear to my heart and I want you to get it back."  He closed his menu and ordered the house fish and a glass of white wine from the cellar.

She looked to the waiter and ordered a steak sirloin, very rare, with steamed vegetables.  “What drink do you suggest?”

“I think for your meal, madam.  The rose blush would be perfect.” replied the waiter with a thick accent. “It has a very good aroma and the taste is just perfect.”

    “Sounds good.” Johanna, slightly blushing herself from being called ‘madam’, closed her menu and returned to her companion.  His glass had already been delivered and he sat watching her while she ordered.

    "So, you get to visit the Governor on an amiable level?" smirked Johanna.  "I am impressed.  It’s not every day that we get to walk with high society."

    "You would too if he was your neophyte.  He's much like you I might add." replied the Guildmaster.  "Smart, skilled and intuitive.  He has been good to the Guild over the years and you would be able to learn much from him.  I will have to introduce the two of you later on."

    "Uh huh, so there is still hope for a place for thieves in the political circles.  What exactly would be this piece of eccentric love that you have left behind?"

    "A feather.  Actually a purple one.  Quite large, I’m afraid.  It was a gift from a friend of mine.  It’s rather unmistakable when you see it."

The Guild master’s ring began to pulse with a faint white light.  His hand moved to cover it to prevent other people from noticing, but Johanna's eyes had already noticed.

    "A feather." said Johanna.  Her face showed complete shock at the description of the item.  "I am going in there for a feather?"

    "Like I said, it’s a very special feather." said the Guildmaster standing from his chair. "If you will excuse me for a moment.  I have well, uhm, unfinished business to attend to.   I would however start thinking of how you are going to pay for dinner and make it over there."  His head cocked in the direction of the Governor’s house to indicate her target.

    Before she could protest the Guildmaster disappeared into the crowd.  She was now stuck with the bill.  She couldn't fathom that this was by circumstance alone.

    A few moments later her drink and the meals arrived and she muttered to the waiter that her companion was indisposed for a few moments and would be returning in a short while.  In the meantime, she decided to wrap and place the stake into her handbag.  Such things would probably come in handy later on.

    Taking her drink in her hand she walked out on the veranda where she could see the waterfront.  She rested lightly against the wood wall, and looked out onto the water.  From here she could see the boats on the river in their myriad dance.  There were several boats of night time lovers out for a moonlight cruise on her left and a very loud raucous party boat to her right.  

    Turning around she mingled with a few of the guests for a few moments while she planned her next move.  As she mingled more she acted more and more giddy, the glass in her hand gave her the perfect excuse to play it up.  The glass was a beautiful red colored crystal in the form of a rose.  The stem and leaves made a handle that was a delight to hold on to.  Johanna wished that she could just stuff a few of these into her purse and walk out with them.

    As she walked around she could see a couple who were arguing on the side of the veranda.  It would be a pity to let this go unpunished.  Johanna mock stumbled over to the man and his companion and bumped into him spilling her drink all over his shirt.

    “Oops.  I’m s.. sorry, hunny.” giggled Johanna, winking at his companion.  Johanna per her arms around the man and kissed him on the lips.  The man tried to recover the situation and pulled Johanna from off of him

    “And just who is she?” fired off the other female taking advantage of him being off guard. “You been around with her too?”

    “No. No. No.” stammered the man. “I have never seen this woman before in my life.”

    “Oh really!” screamed Johanna.  “You mean last night didn’t mean anything to you?  So I was just a one night stand to you? A fling?” Johanna turned with her hands up at her face and ran the other direction and hit the wall of the veranda falling into the river.  As she went over she planted the rose glass firmly onto the wall so that it wouldn’t fall and break.  It would be a great pity to lose something as pretty at that.

    Johanna smiled as she hit the water and she could see people rushing to the veranda wall to see if she would surface so they could direct help to her.  She swam under the veranda and slid out of her dress.  It was a beautiful piece of clothing that covered her night suit, but now its usefulness was at an end.

    Now free of the dress, she slid under the water toward the other side of the river.  She stayed under the water as much as she could, just coming up to breathe every so often before going back under the surface again.  The water was cold against her skin, but this time she knew there wouldn’t be any traps waiting for her and that was comforting.  After what seemed like forever, she reached the other side of the river and slid out of the water. Only a ghost would have known she was there as she slid over to the side of the wall.

    From there, she took a moment to duck into a corner of the wall to relieve her suit from its baggage of cold river water and wring the extra liquid from her hair.  She tied her hair back with a piece of cloth that she lifted along her way through the city earlier.  Leaned against the wall she could feel the breeze from the river cross her body.  The wall was made of hard rock but this felt strangely comforting to her.  At least she wasn't undergound.  She looked up and could see stars peeking through the clouded sky. 

    Now ready, she turned to the wall and began to climb.  Her shoulder still hurt from the arrow and would be sore for the next week or so; but it didn’t give her any further trouble as she went over.  She reminded herself to get the recipe of that healing salve later on.  On top of the wall she laid down and looked out across the courtyard.  She saw guards doing their rounds of the perimeter.  From here it looked as if she was going to have climb down and hide for a few minutes while the guards passed by before going on.  

    She ducked back to the wall and waited as the footfalls of the guards became louder in the soft ground from both sides.  Strangely, they stopped a few feet away from her and she could hear the two talking to each other.

    “How’s it going man?” the first began the conversation.

    “Not bad, not bad.” the second.  “The wind gonna be howlin’ tonight.”

    “Yup.  How’s the wife?” asked the first. “You have been on watch a lot lately.  Need the money?”

    Johanna couldn’t believe her ears.  She was freezing on top of this wall and these two guys were shooting the breeze with each other.  

    “So where’s Johnny?” asked the second of the first.

    “He’s inside with one of the maids.  One of the perks of being the new watch sergeant.” smiled the first. “Hopefully she will keep him busy the rest of the night.  He’s been on a tirade about always being alert and being conscious for intruder or something like that.  Like who would want to do anything to the Governor’s house?”

    The second guard laughed at that remark and they continued on their way.  After a couple moments Johanna moved down the wall and into the tree line.  Hmmm… now who would want to do anything to the Governor’s house? Johanna laughed to herself after hiding a couple moments in the tree before she moved forward toward the home of the "Gov'na."

    Crossing the courtyard, she maintained a low profile against the hills so that the guards would have a harder time to see her moving.  If she stood up she would be spotted against the wall as a silhouette, but if she moved low she could move around and people would think she was either an animal or something else in the grass making it unlikely she would be investigated.

    When she reached the house, she could see several rooms were lit.  The one on the bottom of the house showed a basement below the house.  The room was lit with a couple lanterns and she could see clothes thrown around the room.  The sounds of people moaning and creaking furniture told her that the sergeant was down there for a “meeting.”

    Johanna ducked into the bushes near the house and waited as the sentry passed her.  She was careful not to look at the guard's face.  She had learned from her friends that this would have caused him to look at her and discover her hiding place.

    After the guard turned the corner and was out of sight she climbed up the wall and went to the door of the balcony.  It was locked.  She let out a deep breath to herself and bent her legs to look at the lock.  A regular key lock with no special designs to keep a thief from entering.  Pity that.  With all the security, he must not be expecting many guests tonight. 

    Johanna quietly opened the door and crept inside.  After she shut the door she found out the reason for it not having a special lock.  The low growl of a large dog warned her that she was not welcome here.   She turned to look into the dark eyes of one of the biggest hounds she had ever seen before.

    "Nice doggy..." soothed Johanna.  The dog responded with a louder growl that threatened to bring the guards to the room. 

    "Are you hungry?  I have a nice steak you can have.” Johanna brought out the steak she had been saving from the restaurant and threw it to the side of the room.  The dog yelped and ran to the side of the room and began to eat the morsel of food.  

    Johanna ran to the other side of the room and closed the door behind her.  The door had a key in the lock and she turned it to the locked position and withdrew the key.  Maybe it will come in handy later?

    Now moving within the house, Johanna could make sense of her location.  The kitchen was below her and in front of her was the Master Bedroom.  All the lights in the house were off but light streamed in from the windows above her in the roof.  

    Johanna looked around for guards in the house but could only locate the two at the front door and the one who was in a "meeting" downstairs.   Johanna crept forward next to the wall to make sure that she didn't hit any loose boards and give her location away.  

    When she made it to the Master Bedroom, she could see the feather in question.  A large purple one that was attached to a velvet hat that was sitting on a bureau.  Johanna walked up and picked up the hat and turned to face a little girl starring directly at her.  How did she sneak up on Johanna without being heard.  "Like father like daughter"

    “Well hello there little one.” whisperJohanna quietly. “And how are you tonight?”

    “You’re new. Do you work with daddy?” came the innocent request.  A small child she was standing in her nightgown.  Apparently her daddy didn’t quit his night job when he became the leader of the community.

    “Yes I do.  He sent me over to pick this up for him.  It’s his lucky hat you know.” lied Johanna.  “Let’s get you into bed before your daddy and mommy find you awake.”

    “Oh he won’t, he went out to take care of a problem.  He left me with Misty.” The girl turned as if to refer to the maid downstairs.

    “Then we really need to get you in bed quickly.  On second thought, I tell you what; can you do me a favor?”  Johanna smiled at the new turn of events.  This might work out for her.  “I need you to go get Misty and get a drink of water for bed.  Then come back up here so I can tuck you in.”

    She waited for the little girl to go out of sight, and  followed her downstairs.  The girl knocked on the door and Johanna could hear the quick dressing of the two inside the room.  She could guess at the conversation they were having.  With any luck he will remain there while she goes to attend to the girl.  The maid came out of room in a hurry and headed straight for the kitchen.  She even passed Johanna without seeing her.

    The maid attended to the girl sending her on with her glass.  Turning around the maid met with the flat of Johanna’s palm.  Johanna gagged and bound the woman before she could recover.

    “Now listen carefully.” Johanna told the woman.  “I need your clothes.  Don’t worry, its not like you have been wearing them much tonight.  I am sure your employer will understand.  If you resist, I will have to knock you out.  Maybe even permanently.”  Johanna undressed the woman and covered her with a sheet.   Having dressed herself, she couldn’t finish the attachments on the bodice and grabbed a cape from the wall.

    “Is this his?” asked Johanna.  The frightened girl nodded yes.  Johanna took it and made her way to the front door.

“M... Misty?”  It was the sergeant.  He must have gotten tired of waiting for her to return. “Where ya going hun?”  
    Johanna covered her face with the cape and turned around to the guard, kissing him on the lips.  In the same motion, she kicked him in the groin and finished him off with a palm strike to the temple of the forehead.  On the ground now, he looked so peaceful.  Too bad he wasn’t wearing much.  Now she needed an alibi.

    Sighing she turned to the front door and ran through it.

“He’s trying to kill me!” she screamed.  “Help! Help! He’s a maniac! He’s a monster! He put poison in the girl's water glass.”

She ran through the two guards and kept running for the main gates as the guards turned around to find out what was going on.  When she hit the gates, she kept running until she was out of sight and ducked into the nearest alleyway.  

    Johanna stood out in the alley looking at the house she just escaped from.  One of the guards rushed inside to check on their captain the other looked around to see where she had gone.  Johanna thought to herself how funny the situation was going to look like on the inside.  Panting she pulled the cloak around her body more closely for protection from the cold night air and slid into the shadows of the streets.  Beside her a familiar voice came out of nowhere.

"Good job, young one." said the Guildmaster "Congratulations, you pass the test."  He stepped out of the shadows and walked beside her as they continued down the street.  Johanna took a look at the Guildmaster and handed over the feather.   Smiling, he took the feather and placed it into his own hat.  "Are you ready for your first assignment?"

    Ducking into the shadows next to her apartment she found the false door in the wall that gave her access to her room.

"Are you kidding me?  I just finished this one!” said Johanna exasperatedly. She looked down at her maid’s uniform and then back at Guildmaster.  Sighing with an eyebrow raised, she turned to him “What do you have in mind?  And can I have some decent clothes this time?”

    “Sure.” replied the master thief. Reaching into his backpack he brought out a large pouch. “Although I must say that I am impressed with your taste so far.  I am sorry it’s not much, but its standard issue for all of our new trainees.”  Johanna opened the large pouch and found a cotton dress, bodice, soft boots and arm guards.  Not having a decent place to change her clothes, Johanna stripped right there and threw the maids uniform on her bed.  Maybe she would keep it for a later time.

    The clothing was plain and simple; the dress was a neutral beige color with a matching leather bodice.  Easy to move in but the leather protected the important vitals of the body.  The dress also had hidden slits built into them so that the dress was free moving enough to allow for climbing and sneaking around.  The slits also gave her access to hidden pockets that she could use in town to hide her stolen goods.  Johanna wondered what was next on the Guild Master’s mind for her jobs.  Johanna felt something in one of the pockets of the dress.  It was a silver signet ring fitted for her finger size.

    “If you find yourself in need, that ring will bring you help.  Trust me on that.” the Master Thief opened the door to her living room.  The guildmaster sat himself down on her table and turned to address the newest of his guild.

    “As for your mission, I will come straight to the point.  There is a boat waiting at pierside in Merri Weather’s Port.  It is leaving soon to go to a location that no one from this town save one has ever heard of.  We are interested in this location because of its unique ‘opportunities’.”

    “Meaning you want me to scout the area and see if there is any thing left to acquire, eh?”

    “Something like that.  My informants also tell me that all the other guilds are becoming extremely interested in the location and already a master ‘procurer’ has made a home there.  If you find him then you might be able to learn a few things from him before returning.”

    “So why are you sending me?” asked Johanna.

    “It’s simple really.  The new master of the vessel is a young warrior, who as far as my information can tell, has a weakness when it comes to the female gender. In other words, I am sending you because he is unable to do anything about you.  If I sent a man, he would probably throw him overboard before he got onboard. Maybe worse.”

    “And I am going to be able to just walk on the boat?”

    “Well, I didn’t say it was going to be that easy.”



© 2016 Richard Linsley III


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Featured Review

Why did Johanna's muscles hurt in the dream?

I recommend cutting thoughts about her past (who had given her the dagger/tattoo, Trie, etc.) out of the dream sequence.

You mention Johanna having other hard jobs in her life. Give examples.

Instead of telling that Johanna's dreams had started coming true, try to show it – either through her realizing it on a smaller scale, or a friend bringing up how lucky she is, or a more natural thought such as hoping that was just a dream unlike (example). Or just don't have her think about her dreams being prophetic until she falls into the water for real.

The scene where men barge into the cavern and take Johanna felt rushed and ungrounded. What does the tavern look like? Is it full of patrons or nearly empty? What are the reactions of the bystanders? How does Johanna immediately feel? Are chairs knocked over? How many men barge in? What are they gagging people with? Are they just going after Johanna's group or everyone? The point being, more detail is needed. I understand you are trying to make it feel fast, but you can ground the tavern scene before the men barge in – and taking a few sentences to clarify what is happening isn't going to drag down the pace.

(be treated the same) should be (being treated the same)

(more rather) – redundant

I'm having trouble imagining the labyrinth. At first it is clearly underground, then she makes it to a series of rooms and hallways – but then she is climbing … outside? I may have missed something, but even so the labyrinth needs more description. It isn't enough to describe the traps. I want to know about the lighting, the floor, how big the hallway and rooms are, if there is a smell.

Hahahah. So literally right after writing the previous paragraph I read the next few lines: “The tunnel was well lit and seemed to be covered in either polished bronze or gold metal from the floor to the ceiling. The sides of the tunnel were lined with a one inch hole every three inches the entire distance of the tunnel's walls. Although she couldn't see any light sources, she guessed some kind of magic. Johanna also smelled a faint whisper of fuel vapors in the hallway.”

Even so, in general (and especially when she climbs after being shot at) add more detail.

(The door opened to …. . The door opened to … .) - redundant phrasing.

For my own reference, I got as for as the graphic note. That should be an easy place to find when I come back.

The labyrinth has been an exciting read. I kept wondering if Illandra is going to show up and mess up her test like she did to Eric.


Posted 9 Years Ago


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Richard Linsley III

9 Years Ago

Rose, Thanks for the comments, I'm gonna add them to the manuscript for additional training later. .. read more
Richard Linsley III

9 Years Ago

P.S. - Illandra didn't appear in this one, but you'll love what happens to the Sorceress :D.
C. Rose

9 Years Ago

I didn't understand until later that it was the cold that made her muscles hurt. At first I assumed .. read more



Reviews

C. Rose's advice was good, so I won't say much more. Other than that, I found this chapter very entertaining and I like Johanna, especially her smarts and wit! Great job creating her. And I loved the action scenes when she was enduring her test. I'll definitely read on to see what happens on her next adventure with the young warrior with a weakness for women!

Posted 9 Years Ago


For the last section:
1. I doubt Johanna is the only female in the guild, why is he sending her and not a more experienced girl?
2. Doesn't Johanna care enough to ask or think about what happened to her friends?

Posted 9 Years Ago


Richard Linsley III

9 Years Ago

Rose, as always your critiques are wonderful and insightful. I thank you very much!
let her out of this room before it kills her - verb tense of kill
It would be a really bad thing to get by the trap - rephrase
to wrap and place the stake into her handbag- typo

Why did she have to let go of the rope?
Why isn't she asking about her friends' status?
Shouldn't she have some thoughts on who saved her and why?

out for a moonlight cruise - this was the first hint I noticed that it was night time. I thought it was light out by default.
Johanna turned with her hands up at her face and ran the other direction and hit the wall of the veranda falling into the river. As she went over she planted the rose glass firmly onto the wall so that it wouldn’t fall and break. --- ????????????

to see if she would surface so they could direct help to her. - perspective shift
that she lifted along her way through the city earlier - so mention it earlier and say why. Did she think she might need it later? What exactly is she wearing at this point?

I don't understand what her logic was behind causing a scene and jumping - Is she faking her death to get out of the bill? - and I can't picture the shore line - you keep talking about walls.

be sore for the next week or so; - incorrect use of semicolon
whisperJohanna quietly - typo
"Gov'na." - I feel like this is meant to be mocking - but no one said Gov'na, it feels out of place.

*******************************
For my own reference, I stopped at "Gov'na".

Posted 9 Years Ago


Why did Johanna's muscles hurt in the dream?

I recommend cutting thoughts about her past (who had given her the dagger/tattoo, Trie, etc.) out of the dream sequence.

You mention Johanna having other hard jobs in her life. Give examples.

Instead of telling that Johanna's dreams had started coming true, try to show it – either through her realizing it on a smaller scale, or a friend bringing up how lucky she is, or a more natural thought such as hoping that was just a dream unlike (example). Or just don't have her think about her dreams being prophetic until she falls into the water for real.

The scene where men barge into the cavern and take Johanna felt rushed and ungrounded. What does the tavern look like? Is it full of patrons or nearly empty? What are the reactions of the bystanders? How does Johanna immediately feel? Are chairs knocked over? How many men barge in? What are they gagging people with? Are they just going after Johanna's group or everyone? The point being, more detail is needed. I understand you are trying to make it feel fast, but you can ground the tavern scene before the men barge in – and taking a few sentences to clarify what is happening isn't going to drag down the pace.

(be treated the same) should be (being treated the same)

(more rather) – redundant

I'm having trouble imagining the labyrinth. At first it is clearly underground, then she makes it to a series of rooms and hallways – but then she is climbing … outside? I may have missed something, but even so the labyrinth needs more description. It isn't enough to describe the traps. I want to know about the lighting, the floor, how big the hallway and rooms are, if there is a smell.

Hahahah. So literally right after writing the previous paragraph I read the next few lines: “The tunnel was well lit and seemed to be covered in either polished bronze or gold metal from the floor to the ceiling. The sides of the tunnel were lined with a one inch hole every three inches the entire distance of the tunnel's walls. Although she couldn't see any light sources, she guessed some kind of magic. Johanna also smelled a faint whisper of fuel vapors in the hallway.”

Even so, in general (and especially when she climbs after being shot at) add more detail.

(The door opened to …. . The door opened to … .) - redundant phrasing.

For my own reference, I got as for as the graphic note. That should be an easy place to find when I come back.

The labyrinth has been an exciting read. I kept wondering if Illandra is going to show up and mess up her test like she did to Eric.


Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Richard Linsley III

9 Years Ago

Rose, Thanks for the comments, I'm gonna add them to the manuscript for additional training later. .. read more
Richard Linsley III

9 Years Ago

P.S. - Illandra didn't appear in this one, but you'll love what happens to the Sorceress :D.
C. Rose

9 Years Ago

I didn't understand until later that it was the cold that made her muscles hurt. At first I assumed .. read more
Hey richard. This was a lot of fun. I dig Johanna and her attitude.
Unfrotunately, due to the length of the passage, I wasn't able to keep track of when and where you made technical mistakes. I do have a few things though.
Careful with using words repeatively right next to each other. Especially nouns. You can get around this by simply rewording the sentence so that it isn't using that word. Many times the reader will understand without refering to it again.
Some of your dialog with the guildmaster is lengthy enough to need a paragraph break. I believe when you do this, you're not supposed to close the paragraph with a quotation mark. However, you do have to start the next paragraph with them.
I didn't think the second line break was needed. There was no passing of time or perspective shift.
I'm very curious about why she dreamed the test first. The dagger tattoo was an awesome idea as well.
I'm excited to see where this goes.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Richard Linsley III

10 Years Ago

Thanks for the review. I was worried about this passage being too long. Maybe this is one that shou.. read more
jjwilbourne

10 Years Ago

I don't think bresking it into two chapters is a bad idea. But it just depends on the pacing you wan.. read more

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5 Reviews
Added on May 20, 2014
Last Updated on March 23, 2016
Tags: Thief, Adventure, Fantasy, Guild


Author

Richard Linsley III
Richard Linsley III

San Antonio, TX



About
A humble sailor with a story to tell. I'm a 39 year old dad of 3, and husband to the love of my life. Retired from the Navy after 20 years of hard work. Looking forward to some rest, and enjoying m.. more..

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