Eight

Eight

A Chapter by Isemay

The exit wasn’t exactly well kept. Syr had to draw power from the stone Odos had given her to jar the mechanism enough to make it work. Still, it only opened enough to slip through. She closed it behind her, certain the old man could find his way out as surely as he’d found his way in.


What to do now. Stowing her goods would be wise, and then visiting Imos. The bag she took back to the lodgings she’d secured for herself first. It wasn’t a place any sane person would leave anything of value, or sleep too deeply. It was however a place she’d stayed at before and she knew the little hiding places that could be discreetly used and warded and how to get to safer spaces. 


Her surprise in finding her room already resold was a source of amusement for the proprietor. “A pretty thing like you, I thought you’d found work in a brothel by now. I’ll let you warm my bed for the price you paid.” His leer faded as she fixed him with a look of disgust.


“I will have my room. Go rouse whoever you sold it too.”


“He paid more than you did, little w***e. You-EEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIII!” The shriek as she cast a ward at his feet making him burst into flames that extinguished as quickly as they appeared, leaving him singed and staring in horror caused a stir above them.


“The next time you call me a w***e will be the last time you stand in the land of the living. Now. Do I need to repeat myself?”


“N-n-no.” He moved to the stairs at speed.


“What’s going on down there?” A voice growled in annoyance.


“A matter that’s being remedied. Unless you’re the one in my room I’d suggest you go back to bed because it doesn’t concern you.” Syr called up cheerfully.


“M-master Dwarf-” It sounded as if the singed proprietor were trying to enter a room.


“No you don’t. You’ll leave my things where they are.” 


The proprietor backed down the stairs looking like he was caught between two horrible fates. Syr had to smile as she saw the dwarf advancing in his nightshirt with an impressive axe at the ready. “You can go, innkeeper. If we need you to resolve the matter we’ll let you know.”


The dwarf glowered down at her, remaining on the stairs. “You’re the Hammersworn girl.”


The proprietor bolted.


“No, I’m the Rook.” She watched his hands loosen on the haft of the axe. “You knew Syreilla Hammersworn?”


“Everyone knew Syreilla. After what she did for Aledelver, word of the half-elf who married a dwarf spread. Her circumstances were made known.”


“That we were split in two?”


“How is it you’re here and not chained to Vezar Edra.” He eyed her suspiciously and gestured for her to come up.


“Family disagreement. My uncle and I don’t really get along well.” She shrugged and mounted the stairs. “What did she do for Aledelver?”


“Took back what Tirnel Acharnion stole. With a vengeance.”


“I’m amazed Tirnel would dare take anything from her dwarves. She made it clear where her loyalties lie, and that she could outwit him even if she couldn’t outrun him.”


The dwarf snorted as she called them her dwarves, “When she was whole. Halved, she said she was less quick, less sharp. Whole, she must have been a thief without equal.” He sat on the bed and gestured for her to shut the door.


“Only Master Odos was better. She told me she felt less like she wanted to work before we parted ways. She wanted to go home and stay.”


“And you?”


“I have trouble sitting still. I need the challenge and being locked in that hole nearly drove me insane.” She gave him a bright smile and watched his eyebrows rise.


“That hole?”


“I used to like mines, but Uncle’s home isn’t one, it’s a prison. He tried to keep me confined to a single chamber. You can’t blame me for getting restless and finding ways to entertain myself.”


“You don’t like mines anymore?” He laid the axe on the bed next to him.


“I haven’t been in one in a long time.” Syr lifted the heavy bag off of her shoulders and set it down at her feet before moving to get her smaller purses from the hidden warded space between wall, dresser, and bed. “What clan are you? What mine are you from?”


“I was wondering when you’d ask.” He smiled as he watched with interest. “You still seem to have a fondness for dwarves at least.”


“Of course. No dwarf has given me a reason to change my mind.” She studied his face, stowing her money in the larger bag and waiting.


“Juddri Grimgrip, Clan Trueshield of Bhiraldur. I never expected to meet Syreilla the Rook. You have quite the reputation.” Juddri chuckled as she bowed. “What’s in the bag?”


“Everything I need to make dragon’s fire.” It was her turn to laugh as his eyes trained on the bag with apprehension. “It isn’t mixed yet and my plans for mischief don’t involve any mines.”


“Mischief and dragon’s fire shouldn’t belong in the same thought, much less the same sentence, Rook.”


“It’s just so pretty, Juddri, and I think it likes the mischief as much as I do. Have you ever seen it?”


“Once. I asked Syreilla Hammersworn to mix it in my presence.” He looked up from the bag with consternation, “After what I saw, I made her promise she wouldn’t do it again.”


“Did she botch it? Burn herself?” Syr crossed her arms leaning next to the small window’s frame.


“No, it was done flawlessly. The look on her face was awed as she said, ‘I would almost swear it’s alive, it reaches for you. It reminds me of the way Oduil reaches up from his cradle.’ It gave me chills.”


“That was enough to make you forbid her from mixing it? That doesn’t seem-”


He held up his hand with a scowl, “It was immensely dangerous and she was a mother with a young child.”


“If she agreed, that argument must have carried some weight with her. It’s an incredibly useful tool.” She tried not to return his scowl.


“She loved her husband and her children more than anything else.”


“Children?” That sparked her interest. “She had more than one?”


He blinked. “You don’t know?”


“No. I wasn’t exactly allowed to keep track of her. Vezar got upset at the thought of me going near the mine.”


“He didn’t want you to go back to your husband.” Juddri shook his head and rose from the bed moving to a large bag. “Dragons guard what they take jealously. She said he considered you his golden treasure.”


“He did, and he does. He’s not thrilled that I’m out and about without him.” She smiled wryly, “It’s a practically elvish arrangement but he can endure me at my worst and I’ve come to love him.”


“HA! Kin-fuckers, I remember. I wouldn’t have thought you could get past that easily.” He tossed her a hunk of dwarf bread.


“It took some getting used to but once he understood that he had me, he was patient. He’s always been affectionate with me.” Syr took a bite, it tasted different than the bread she’d had earlier, and the bread she remembered having before. “This doesn’t taste quite right.”


“A different recipe than what you’re used to. Syreilla Hammersworn-” He stopped speaking as she tossed it back to him and made herself gag.


Something about his smugly pleased face told her she shouldn’t have swallowed it. Making herself vomit was the best way she knew to deal with poison immediately. She wiped her mouth with her hand eyeing him distrustfully.


“Syreilla Hammersworn did exactly that. Not the most trusting woman.” Juddri looked amused. 


“Unearned trust gets you killed.” Dragging her bag a little bit away from the vomit, Syr studied him. This was a pleasant distraction but it was still a distraction. She had things to do. “I wish you well, Master Grimgrip.”


He took a bite of the bread and shrugged, “I can promise you, Rook, I didn’t try to poison you. If you need to leave.” Juddri gestured at the door. “Send the innkeep to clean that up.”


“Summon him yourself. I stay in this room for a reason.” Putting her bag in place across her shoulders she faced the window and pulled the frame open from the side. If anyone who didn’t know the trick tried it, the window would seem securely nailed shut. “I’ll be back later to chat about her children and I’ll be annoyed if you seal my spare door, Grimgrip.”


Juddri began to swear in dwarvish as she slipped out and pulled it closed by a tiny finger hold in the corner. The bag hung heavily behind her as she climbed up the wall on crumbling wooden slats nailed almost haphazardly to the side. There used to be a walkway of sorts up here.


Syr looked around with dismay. The old walkway, as haphazard as it had been, was gone. A wheezing laugh greeted her from a neighboring rooftop. “I knew it. I knew you’d go looking for the old ways of tucking things away. That’s too much to carry and too valuable to leave just anywhere.” 


“One more annoying thing to happen tonight.” She eyed the gap, it was too wide for her to want to jump with her heavy satchel.


Out of the shadow of a rooftop cote a man came shuffling, lifting a board and starting to reach it across. Coming to the edge, she took the end when it came closer and walked across. 


“It’s not my intent to annoy you, Lady Rook. I want to serve.” This close, the old mage’s eyes almost sparkled.


“You’re offering me a safe place to leave my things, and in exchange?”


“I’d like a small consideration, Lady.” He began to shuffle toward the cote. “Thieves have already been asking how you can be summoned. I’ll help you with your things, and your plans as far as I can, if you’ll make me the only one who knows the secret.”


“That’s dangerous. Honestly, I’d planned to find a younger mage who would have less knowledge and experience, and be less of a threat to try to work with.” She gave him a smile as he began to cackle with glee.


“You’re flattering an old mage.”


“I’m well aware you don’t live to be an old mage unless you’re sharp and ruthless. And considering the work I’ve done and may still be called upon to do if Vezar decides he needs a hand…” Syreilla shrugged.


“This old mage knows that if he tries to harm you, your family might intervene, or the King Undying would show his true face and devour my soul instead of taking it back to your uncle.” He sounded like he was making some sort of joke.


“He doesn’t enjoy that. Lich give him indigestion,” she made a face. “But then you aren’t a lich, and even though he isn’t overly fond of me, family is family. Uncle might let him off his chain on principle even as annoyed with me as he is.” The way the mage tried to suppress a shudder told her she’d made her point.


“I’ll show you where you can leave your things, Lady Rook. And how you can come and go without fear of my wards.”


“It’s been a long time since I was afraid of anyone’s wards. If you’re that good I’ll hang around and learn something. What is your name, by the way?”


“I’ve had many. You may have heard of Messus, though the thieves now call me Erebrim. And if I remember correctly your name was Syreilla Acharnion?”


“Once. I’m the Rook now.”


“A true name doesn’t change.” He looked at her with amusement as he led her down into the house below.


“It does when you’re split into two parts, divine and mortal, to be allowed to walk two very different paths.”


“Which god?” Messus looked at her curiously.


“Goddess. The same one that gave Vezar his gifts.” She glanced around. “Most mages have a library. I always enjoy browsing. Zylius’ was something to see before he died and I sold it off.”


Messus cackled and wheezed, “I have some of his books. I always thought Agust was a fool for selling them, I should have known better.”


“Agust fled. I thought Zylius’ things should go to people who could use them, instead of rotting away in his tower. He seemed pretty dead to me so I didn’t expect him to still need them.” Syr offered him a half-smile. 


“You underestimated him.”


“I thought a mage needed to make preparations. I didn’t know they could do it by sheer force of will, relying on a reservoir of viciousness. I might have hesitated to go through his pockets if I’d known.” Syr shrugged with one shoulder and Messus began to laugh and wheeze until she was wondering if he would survive his amusement.


“You should have given up thieving and become a mage yourself, Lady Rook. You’ve got the will and viciousness to succeed.”


“Now you’re flattering me.” She looked at the space under the floor that Messus opened, reaching into her front holding pocket she wrapped the chain around her finger and saw the seams where the compartment could be opened on both sides.


Laying down a ward that would grab anyone who reached into the compartment she set her bag on top of it and laid another ward on top of the bag. Whoever took the bag would find themselves with skin that sloughed off and bones that burned. Messus closed the compartment looking impressed until she dropped the last ward on top of it. A very simple ward to make the hatch stick, like a very rudimentary and not exceptionally effective magical lock.


“Why? If you can do more complex wards…”


“If you saw only that one, what would you assume about the contents underneath?”


“Either they’re worthless or ill protected.” He wheezed and nodded. 


“If my bag disappears, and I have a few pitiful thieves dead in your floor when I come back, Messus. I’ll hunt you down like a vengeful f*****g god and make anything my uncle might have prepared for you look like a slice of paradise.” She gave him a wide toothy grin.


The mage paled and bowed. “I want to serve, Lady Rook.”


“That’s well and good, but I know mages. And in my uncle’s realm some people are chatty.” She fixed him with a grim smile. “I liked Aizem. Why do you think I heard your name, Messus?”


“It was a matter between mages.” The man looked sick.


“It was a matter that cost thieves the use of the shop. By now you should have had time to make a copy of that book. I expect you to return the original and to pay the promised price for it. If you can’t… you can find another way to make restitution with the proprietor. I do need a few mages to do some jobs for me if you need to earn some money fast.”


The man was glowering while trying to look servile. “Of course.”


“As for your consideration, I’ll ask one of the few gods I think I can trust about the best way to go about it. You can always rely on a Rook.” She gave him a slow blink and his glower turned to uncertainty. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have business at the temple.”


It would have felt better to take some of her ingredients, but she didn’t want Uncle Imos to get the wrong idea. Technically she’d promised not to steal from his temples, not to refrain from burning them down and sifting through the ashes of whatever was left. Syr kept her hood up as she moved through the dark, quiet streets.


It seemed the temple had been closed for the night. The heavy front doors were shut. She moved around it looking for a way in. It looked as though Hammersworn had done a good job of helping him seal the obvious entrances. The lower windows even had decorative looking wrought iron bars protecting them. The sight of something small taking flight from the temple’s roofline made her smile. You can never patch up all of the holes.


Cautiously, keeping to the evening shadows, she made her way up to the place she’d seen the movement and found the hole in the boards. It was the work of a few moments to make a larger hole to slip into and down into the dusty, dirty space behind them. From there she made her way down into the bowels of the temple. The best place to call for Uncle Imos would probably be the innermost altar. And she could see what kind of gifts were being left these days while she waited. Professional curiosity. The temple seemed empty as she made her way there.


Opening the door and stepping inside the room housing the covered altar she almost laughed at seeing Imos waiting with an annoyed expression. Memories that belonged to Hammersworn bubbled up along with her affection for him. “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting, Uncle. And I wouldn’t have killed your priests if they hadn’t attacked me first.”


“You had no difficulty getting in?” He eyed her with a frown and she shrugged.


“You should really consider better maintenance of your temple roof. Otherwise I might have needed to get creative.” Syr took off her cloak and hung it on the golden sword a statue was brandishing. “Those priests seemed to think I’d stolen something from you. I haven’t. Not for a very long time.”


“Someone did, Syreilla. When I saw you roaming and Vezar flitting back and forth…” Imos beckoned her closer. “What was Vezar carrying?”


“A note from Master Odos. Did you know I have a brother?” Rifling through the few gifts laid on the white draped altar, she picked out a bottle of wine. “I remember people leaving you more gifts, Uncle, and this wine looks cheaper-”


“Your manners have not improved.” He plucked the bottle out of her hand and studied her with a frown. “Tell me of the note and of your brother. My brother has always been secretive but this seems…” 


Folding her arms she studied him back, “There are things I want to know too, Uncle. How did Syreilla Hammersworn die?”


“My brother didn’t tell you?”


“You think I would be offering up my brother if he had? He said Hammersworn called him ‘Father’. Did she die on a job? He should have protected her if he let her call him that.”


“It was more of an assassination. She left the mine to find work and visited me as she always did. It was outside the temple in Brosa that she was attacked. A single poisoned crossbow quarrel struck her and when the priest who had escorted her to the door attempted to rush out to her a mage attacked. The spells cast scored the stones. 


“I elevated my White Hands to seek justice but I could find no whisper of the assassin or the mage.”


Stunned, she leaned back against the altar. Hammersworn had no memory of her death but she had fond ones of visiting Imos. He was family. After a moment he laid a hand on her shoulder and his eyes looked soft and sorrowful for a moment. “I promise you, Syreilla, I will have justice done. I mourned her loss.”


“Thank you, Uncle.” Taking a deep breath she ran her hands over her face, “You’d have to get your Hands dirty to find these people. This is something I can do better.”


“I will lend you one of my Hands, Syreilla, I do not wish to mourn your loss as well.”


“Dying right now wouldn’t be ideal.” Syr rubbed her neck and closed her eyes. “Tell me someone took her body or whatever was left of it back to the mine?”


“I had it wrapped respectfully and it was guarded on its journey. My Temple in Brosa now has a small but impressive golden statue of a priest protecting a huddled woman. Oduil, her son, gifted it to me in thanks.”


“Words cannot express my thanks, Uncle.”


“Tell me of your brother. Is he being… molded into a thief as well? Or has my brother chosen to put him on a safer path?”


“You shouldn't have to ask that. I’m the Rook, he’s the Magpie. He’s clever, quick, and when your brother shared a drink with us-”


“You won’t call him your father?” Imos’ brow furrowed with something like concern but she thought she saw a hint of boredom in his expression.


“It’s painful, Uncle. I was so angry for so long it became a part of me. I love him, I respect him, but the word feels like broken glass in my mouth. How do you fix that?”


He stood next to her, leaning on the altar in silence for a long moment, “What did the note say?”


“I couldn't read it but I knew who it was for. You can ask him about the reply and throw him off.”


“I intercepted the answer. Edra was caught off his guard.” 


She arched a brow at him and stood straight, but before she could speak he raised a hand, “He was unharmed and sent back. It was why they thought you would be easy to search. I had impressed upon them the danger-”


“But your priests don’t listen. I’ve noticed. Next time you want me searched, Uncle, all you have to do is ask. And if you’re serious about lending me a Hand, either give me the one who listens best or the one who listens worst. If you give me one who listens I can do my best to keep him alive. If you give me one who doesn’t, well… You’ll either get him back with a newfound talent for listening or in a box.”


“It would serve me better to have you teach one who finds the matter difficult.” His silvery eyes shimmered for a moment. “But I would prefer it if you tried to keep him alive.”


“I’ll do what I can. Consider it my thanks for what you did for Syreilla Hammersworn.”


“I will summon the one I would have you take.”


“I’d ask you to have him meet me at my lodging but the innkeeper had the balls to sell my room after I stepped out to do my errands. I’m not sure if the dwarf in it realizes that he’ll be sleeping on the floor if he doesn't have the innkeep find some way to get another bed in there. The room would be cramped with three.”


“I can give you lodging for the night. The rooms are austere but clean and safe.”


“The offer is deeply appreciated but I-”


“You would prefer privacy?”


That made her laugh, the walls of the inn were thin and she wouldn’t be surprised if there was a peephole in the floor.


“No, Uncle. I like the location and the fact I can get in and out easily without using the door. You’ve gotten better about securing your temples and it makes them less appealing for me to stay in.”


A flicker of amusement crossed his face. “Ah. I will send him to your lodging in the morning if you wish. He will make certain you both have rooms that meet your needs.”


“I’ll plan to take him hunting for less conspicuous clothes. Your priests look very pretty in white but it makes them stand out.”



© 2021 Isemay


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Added on January 29, 2021
Last Updated on January 29, 2021
Tags: thief, dwarf, elf, dragon, gods

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Isemay
Isemay

Germany



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Spent some time away from here but I've come back to peek in and post again! Review my writing and I will gladly return the favor! I love reading other people's stories, and I try to review hone.. more..

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One One

A Chapter by Isemay


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A Chapter by Isemay


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A Chapter by Isemay