I knocked on the rich cherry wood door. Shuffling and heavy footsteps neared the door and it swung open. An older Caligas man filled the doorway. Thick and sturdy he leaned forward.
“What can I do ya for?”
I was taken aback a moment. I can only remember seeing Caligas here but I’m sure none were this size. They all seemed to be slender like myself not bulky.
“You’re the wild goose I’ve been chasing. I need a chest unlocked and you come recommended,” I put the small chest under his nose.
His eyes darted down for a moment, then they were glued on it. He grabbed the chest and me with it pulling us into his shop. I let go of it preparing myself but he just turned away inspecting it. Looking around I noticed among other things a nasty looking axe sitting just inside the door jam, windows could be seen between the piles of trinkets, junk and various other utilities.
He cleaned off a wooden table with a swipe of his beefy, “So are you a thief or a pillager?”
“Neither as far as I can tell. Why do you ask?”
“This chest and few others like it belonged to high ranking officials or royalty. So which are you boy?” His eyes lifted from the chest scrutinizing me.
“Neither as far as I know.”
“Now quit playing with me!” Suddenly he was standing with his meaty hands planted on each side. “You can take your chest and leave, or tell me the truth.”
I stepped forward let out in a low growl, “I can’t remember anything short of three days ago. Now can you help me or not?”
He mumbled to himself a moment returning his gaze to the chest.
“How am I to know that you’re not a sympathizer? Do you know what punishment is for aiding such a criminal? Public execution if you’re lucky, prison for those Lord Preavus deems still of value,” he let on to mumbling again. “It’s a signature ether lock, so the only people who can open it are the original owner or those he allows.”
“What is an ether signature?”
He looked up with a little surprise and a little disgust, “Whenever ether is used, it let’s off a signature of the person who used it. It’s too slight for any person to sense it but mechanism’s can be build like this that do just that. The craftsman would incorporate the signature of the owner and any others within it. Chances are too, that a box like this was built with a fail safe in case someone tried to force it open. So, get your hands on some ether and try. That’s all I got for you,” He slid the box towards me.
I grabbed the chest, gave him a nod and turned to the door. Suddenly a crash came at the door startling me back a few steps. We both stood in silence unsure of what to do. Then it came again. Someone was knocking impatiently on the door.
“City Guard, open up!”
The words caught in my chest, had Lord Preavus already decided I wasn’t going to take the job? The handy-man stood from his wooden table and headed for the door.
“Hold on a second! I’ll be right there,” He muttered almost to himself.
I stopped him just before the door, “I’m not here.”
“We’ve sighted a known spy within the city walls and we need to search you shop. Open up!” Another barrage followed his words.
The man’s eyes shot over to me with faint surprise, then his eyes caught the glint of my blade in the dull light. I made sure he saw it in hand. I wasn’t going to go down to something so petty as a house search.
“Put that away,” He hissed.
His words were unexpected. He pulled a long cloth from a counter next to the door. Covering his mouth he opened the door and began to caught viciously in the guard’s faces. I stood on the other side of the door, prepared to gut the man if he sold me out.
“My apologies,” He sputtered before another coughing fit. “I haven’t seen any man, just have this damned fever.” He coughed again for good measure. “You’re welcome to come in I just hope I don’t pass this on. Feeling boils spring up too.”
I could see the guard covering his own mouth as he leaned to pear between the man and the door jam.
“Don’t bother, he wasn’t seen too close by. We’re just searching the outer perimeter. Back to your business,” he hurried through a gloved hand.
I slipped the knife away just as the door closed and crossed my arms.
“Not a spy eh?” The man jabbed turning back into his shop.
“If I was I wouldn’t be any use now, now would I? No use for a spy who’s lost his head. Either way, I have need of one more favor, a cloak perhaps you have spare somewhere?” I gestured to the messy room.
He let out a grunt, “Yeah I’ve got one somewhere. But that’s it, you gotta go.”
He handed me a worn rich brown cloak.
After covering myself I slapped two gold coins on the table, “You’ve done me a favor today.”
His eyes widened a bit and he nodded. I slipped out of the shop casually, the crowds were still present and bustling thankfully. Blending in to the flow of traffic I headed back towards the palace. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there, but something wouldn’t let me leave my cloak and sigil.
Watchful guards prompted a few detours, but I was finally on track. There were two main bridges leading from each sector to the High Terrace. Both crossed the Falling Delta that the Terrace and the palace sat on. I could see the bridge now, I had chosen the busier of the two bridges to cross unnoticed.
A voice bellowed behind me setting me on edge, “There he is!”
Time slowed. Guards lined each side of the bridge, they were along the path behind me as well. I could fight and hopefully disappear down a side street. I could leap off the bridge into the torrid below and hope to survive the waterfall. Before I made a decision the din returned with a rush at the point of a knife in my back and a steady word in my ear.
“Do not move.”
My mind raced. There weren’t any guards this close to me, nor could they have reached me in a split second. No, it was someone else. My decision was made for me.
I spun around in a flash, reaching for his armed hand and drawing my own blade. He recoiled as I slashed out across his chest. Blades whistled through the air, inches away from nicking and artery or slashing valuable tendons. One false move and one of us would be dead. He ducked, I lunged. We met at every split second just short of dealing a lethal blow. But, I was faster. I feinted back drawing him out and leapt forward, my hood drawing back from the swift movement.
The man hesitated for a moment, only able to utter a single word before we both realized my blade was in his side.
The crowds fled and the guards swarmed in. I pulled my knife out and prepared to kill as many men as I could. To my surprise they passed right by me and disarmed my dazed foe. Beating him into submission they drug away a limp unconscious body.
An arm slapped onto my shoulder, instinctively my blade found its way towards his armpit.
“Slow down, I wanted to thank you,” The man said with a stunned look on his face, certainly considering how fast he could’ve died.
“What do you mean?” I asked lowering my blade, but keeping it in hand.
“That man you just bested is the spy we’ve been searching for. A Render working within a network here in Prakash. Trying to undermine the Lord’s good works,” He started to walk away. “I’ll make sure you don’t go unnoticed.”
Frustration twisted up inside me. I wiped the blade off on my tunic. Unnoticed is what I wanted to go, there’s no way to infiltrate the system I just openly undermined. Taking out a key player catches people’s attention and there were a lot of people watching.
There was a silver lining I decided as I made my way to my room in the palace; Lord Preavus wasn’t searching to kill me. Just yet that is. I figure I might as well wait around til morning to see if there’s anything left to salvage. A well paying job is hard to come by, working under a lord in process is near unbelievable.
I sat on my bed turning over the dull silver sigil in my hand. It was light, yet resisted any whittling I tried with my knife. The four arms interlocked, surrounding the name I had adopted. The name I was called today by a stranger. Elias. How did he know my name? More importantly who was he?
It was decided. First thing I had to do was get to the prison and speak with him. He knew more than I did, which wasn’t saying much. But, if he knows something about my past we needed to talk.
I pulled my leather armor off, setting it on the chair across from the bed. My tunic stunk from a days worth of running around. It landed on the ground in the corner along with my trousers. Boots next to the bed, and knife under the down pillow. My fingers traced over the raised scar on my shoulder. It had been too long since I’ve been in combat. Second thing to do tomorrow: find someone worth sparring with.