You could feel the wetness in the air. You could taste it. You could almost see it in the growing mist. Gray clouds loomed overhead, threatening to block the sun’s rays. Trees bent under the force of the powerful wind, and leaves raced to the ground, creating a carpet for the hard stone. When the water began to descend from its home in the sky, drop after drop, the thief struck.
The stakes were high and the chances low, risks were taken that should not have been took. One castle. One mission; and one success.
The thief pressed herself close to the basement wall of the Efousiam castle. The rock was slick from a leak, causing discomfort to the thief, who’s entire right side was soaked through and slimey. She smiled slightly. Seventeen years ago, she had sworn never to attempt a heist under moonlight. Oops.
She cautiously peeked around the corner and breathed a sigh of relief. The nineteen guards were trooping around the corner, leaving the twentieth, the drowsiest of the lot, on guard alone. The thief darted to the opposite wall, breathing as quietly as she could. Wood scraped her back as she turned slightly too see a door. There hung the Lock of Legend. The thief sucked in an excited gulp of musty air. A quiet scraping sound interrupted her, but it was so faint that the thief barely acknowledged it and turned back to examine the lock with gloved hands.
Six digit code. No places for keys. Two closed eyes.
The thief did a double take. The lock was asleep.
Silently the thief turned the face of the lock so the little turned up nose pointed to the fourth tick. She felt a jab of satisfaction as the lock clicked and snored on. One wrong letter and it wakes up, she thought nervously. The thief narrowed her violet eyes. She’d made it this far. No turning back now. She tilted the face and the nose to land on the letter ‘r’.
Loud footsteps neared, and the thief crouched, hoping her black clothing would melt into the shadows. A weary-eyed guard with a spear in one hand and a lantern in the other walked towards her. The intruder held her breath as the guard lumbered up like a sleepwalking pegasus. She hesitated, then cracked him over the head with the handle of her knife. His eyes closed and he slumped to the ground, motionless. The thief bit her tongue, knowing that the man would wake with a horrible headache in mere minutes.
Then a low scraping sound rang out.
The third letter snapped into place. Now the partial word showing in the lock’s mouth when it snored was ‘dra’. The thief restrained a snort. Was the code really that obvious? G, then o, ending off with the letter n. Dragon.
Another commotion interrupted the thief’s work. Lanxdulas howled . . . some kind of message?
No, the thief realized with a jolt of fear. An alarm. I’ve been found. She flung the door open, no longer afraid if the lock awoke, and grabbed the small scarlet egg inside. The thief tucked the egg into her satchel and ran, but everywhere she looked were walls, surrounding walls, all blocking the exits. All she heard was her beating heart, thundering footsteps, and the snips of sentences.
“If the thief even survives tonight—”
“Wonder what he was after?”
“I do so hope we won’t have to fight too much. It has a horribly poor effect on my appearance—”
“My best sword!”
They all think I’m male, flashed through the thief’s mind so fast she could hardly process the thought. Typical.
The rival brings power. The rival makes you weak. Run or serpents devour. For not here is what you seek.
The poem stung the thoughts of the thief and began to infect her with wonder. Where have I heard that chant before?
Then the scraping sound was back, louder than it had been before, and the floor underneath her feet gave way with an animalistic groan. Suddenly the thief’s feet were in danger of dragging her down into the clutches of creatures the thief could not see or touch, but could smell and hear. Then all was dark.
A long talon found her ankle and pulled. The thief couldn’t scream as she tumbled into the darkness, for her voice was caught in her throat. She landed with a thud, not daring to move.
Two large white circles appeared from the gloom, sending a spotlight on the thief’s exhausted body. “Is it dead? Algae wants his supper,” hissed a voice in a low tone.
“N-n-no,” the thief stammered, trembling. “Not f-food.”
“Hmm,” the voice mused with a squeak. “Algae thinks he’s found a new pal then. A not-food. Tell Algae, not-food, tell Algae your name.”
“I have to go,” the thief choked out fearfully, struck with the realization that the two pale circles hovering before her were indeed the blind eyes of a grimfoetivee.
“What a pity, Algae likes new things. Algae doesn’t want you to leave just yet.”
“No!” the thief cried, sending her conscious back to where she was also, squeezing her white pendant for its power to transfix her. The Seaskri forest, she thought. Irtaa Kertgo.
She was running through puddles of water in the forest, her treasure hunter styled arrite soaked thoroughly.
Five words repeated themselves rapidly in her mind. I have to get back, I have to get back, I have to get back!
“Don’t move! I’m armed!”
The thief froze, panting for breath, and turned her shadowed face to the ground.
“Heh, smart choice.” Footsteps from the pursuer rushed closer. “You know what I want. I strongly suggest you give it to me.” There was a pause. “Did you not hear me?”
A shadow of darkness, hardly visible in the night, burst forth from the ground and struck the pursuer, and he collapsed, lying in the gathering water, as the light flew into the sky.
The thief did not hesitate. She continued running, the rain urging her on.
Although the thief flinched, she did not stop her stride, even after hearing her name called out.
“Wait! Where are you going? Do you have it?”
Sorry my friend, the thief thought sadly. You can’t come with me this time. I have to go.
Stop yelling out. You’re just drawing me unwanted attention.
“Where are you?”
The thief turned to glance at the dripping female elf, met her eyes, she closed hers, then used her pendant to send herself to another place once more, and vanished. Qasdre, she thought, her eyes pressed shut. Take me to Qasdre.
When she opened her eyes she was in a cave. On the ledge was a massive four-winged cheetah, looking down with interest. Peering through the entrance, Rilqua saw that she was in a mountain. Below her, a boy of about eleven or twelve years desperately tried to free a griffin from a net. It was raining here too, and Rilqua ducked back inside as more black lightning — shadow-lightning — rocketed from the ground. The griffin finally escaped, flying away with the boy on its back.
Rilqua frowned at its departing back. “Difelt,” she muttered under her breath, watching the retreating fadiths. “Cass. You can’t run for long. Farcut will find you both. I’ll raise the two chosen ones from the beloved prophecy myself.” Rilqua pulled the scarlet egg from her satchel and watched as the blurry shape inside moved slightly. Rilqua patted the cheetah’s paw. “After all, it doesn’t take much to help a prophecy, or to help a friend. What do you say, Philaes?” she asked the raingburre.
Philaes narrowed her eyes. “Yse,” she growled in a language she knew Rilqua could comprehend. “Em sya yse.”