The air was stagnant with putrid odors of piss and vomit, befitting of such a place as this, lanterns hung above the entrance to the alley casting an ominous glow. As a woman walked up the alleyway behind Taggard’s Tavern, her boots squelched in what she had hoped was only muck that had slid from the rooftops from previous rainfall and not the unfortunate side effect of walking in an alley next to a tavern.
nearing the side entrance to the tavern she stopped in front of the door, taking out her tools and setting to work with the lock, but not before a glance behind her to ensure there weren’t any unwanted observers.
She pulled out a lock tension tool and her rake, seeing as it’s the fastest way.
Inserting the tension tool, she pressed her finger lightly against it, and inserted the rake, Bouncing the pins inside until little by little the lock started to give. The lock popped and she stood up just in time to avoid being knocked on her arse by the now unlocked door as it abruptly swung in her direction. Letting out a curse she slid into the shadows, observed one man, rolling in the muck, crooning some shanty about the captain’s daughter.
The other man struggled under the weight of his companion, as he tried to keep from getting smacked in the face with a stray flailing limb. He picked his companion up off the ground and walked, with the man’s arm slung around his shoulder, further into the alley. She breathed a sigh of relief and crept into the open tavern.
Her informant wasn’t hard to see, sitting in a corner with a dim lantern, a big man with a scraggly beard gave a nod towards the glow of lanterns clustered in a group of tables, opposite the stage. That corner of the tavern doubled as a small -albeit illegal- market, and a certain goblin merchant just so happened to be selling his wares. Head bent low the goblin whispered to his colleague, luckily, he didn’t notice her less than graceful entrance.
She kept to the shadows, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Leaning against a wall here, and then sitting at empty tables there. Eyes fixed on the stage across from the merchant stalls, pretending to watch the show. She meandered her way over to his corner grabbing a mug of ale from the bar. And then she added a wobble to her step, hoping to appear as if she was a few too many pints drunk.
As she neared, snippets of conversation from the goblin merchant speaking adamantly with his comrade could be heard. “The baron tried to offer me fifteen coppers for this ole’ bottle of Red Moon Amaranth” he gave the bottle in between them a pointed look, his disgust at such a low price was clear.
His comrade chortles in response. ” And what did you tell him, Zok?”
“Well my friend, I told ’em he could take his offer and shove it up his backside!” to which they both began wheezing and snorting with laughter. Zok and his companion were laughing hard enough that they never noticed the young woman creeping closer, until finally she gave one purposeful misstep, and sloshed her drink all over them.
Zok and his companions jumped up in surprise, Zok had started to shout in outrage ” Oi! You’ll be Paying fer-” but the woman wasn’t finished yet. She flopped herself against the table, upturning all its contents and herself onto the floor. The bottle of purple powder plopped into her lap just as the tablecloth covered her. She quickly scooped up the glowing bottle and placed it in her pouch.
The table cloth was ripped off her just as she finished, thinking quickly she Grabbed a mug off the floor and lobbed it at the closest person, who just so happened to be a mercenary sitting down for what one could only guess was a break from his current contract. He looked at the woman, who pointed towards a nearby flyer on the wall and then pointed towards Zok.
The man looked at the poster, looked at Zok, and then grinned, cracking his knuckles, he rushed the goblin punching him square in the face. Leaving the woman time to get up, dust off her pants, and then make her way to the side door leaving the sounds of the scuffle behind her. She discreetly dropped a few gold pieces on the informants table, gave him a nod and then slipped out the side door and into the night.
A full moon shone bright in the night sky
In the distance, a pack of wolves took up their nightly cry. In the Royal stables the horses grew restless, snorting their displeasure at such a jarring sound. On the castle wall, the garrison of soldiers shifted nervously peering into the dark forest, praying to the stars that the creatures that prowled it’s dark depths would give this night some favor.
Not knowing how many of them would live to see the morning light, left some soldiers quaking in their boots, the howls continued, synchronizing into one loud bone chilling note. In the east wing of the castle, up high in his tower, a wizard in a black robe stood on a balcony. Wrinkled face upturned in the moonlight, eyes closed. An arm outstretched towards the forest, and in one of his hands he held a glowing rod with two prongs on the end.
A thin, barely visible thread of green mist came lazily floating from the dark forest, slinking like a snake over the balcony railing, and up to the prongs, it swirled around them and clustered in a mass similar to spider webs. The wizard muttered a short chant and let go of the rod, it hung suspended in the air as hi fished within the pockets of hi robe. seeming to find what he was looking for he held the rod again and used his teeth to uncork a bottle that barely fit in his palm. He then brought the swathed rod close to the bottle, the barest whisper of a chant escaped from his lips, and the mass of green tangles started to unwrap, slithering into the bottle.
The wizard turned and strode through the balcony doors into his workroom
Candlelight only illuminated so much, leaving the ceiling a dark void. Papers, books, potion bottles were all scattered around the room in haphazard piles. But in a corner holed away from the mess, a man sat at a desk. His brown hair kept falling into his eyes, to which he’d push back into place, but to no avail. Leathery gray wings jutted out behind him, lazily folding and unfolding, as if they had a mind of their own. He finished scratching some notes on a bit of parchment with his quill before he lifted his eyes from his work and watching as the wizard, barely containing his excitement, walked over, the bottle clenched tightly in his fist.
“Look at this wonderful specimen Cedric!” the old wizard waggled the luminously green bottle barely a hair from the man’s nose. Cedric took the bottle examining the contents with a dubious look
“What have you caught this time Urius? Bane of a Witch-stalker? By its luminous green color, it must be!” Cedric couldn’t contain his excitement either “Such a rarity in this part of the world!”
Cedric held the bottle out, and Urius took it back gingerly, giving a smug look in the general direction of the balcony doors.
“Nirihann undoubtedly shall be having a hard time trying to reproduce MY technique! The look on her brow when I present this bottle to his majesty shall be… priceless!”
“By proving my worth, that good for nothing witch will have no choice but to graciously bow down to my superiority!” Urius set the glowing bottle on a nearby shelf full of other glowing materials and made a mad dash for the balcony. He flung open the doors and stepped out onto the shadowy terrace.
He made an obscene gesture at what one could only assume was Nirihann’s tower and lifted the back end of his robe in her general direction. Yelling into the night “Ye hear that mother? I got The Bane of a witch-stalker before you!”
From his desk Cedric saw a candle being lit in the opposing tower, Nirihann-who was the court mage, and Urius’ mother- came toddling out, white hair sticking out in all directions, she was hunched over gripping her staff tight. Perched on her staff sat her hulking vile winged pet, Phelix, a Night-Crow.
“Urius Trubeus Odrawyn, If you cannot be civil at this time of night, So help the moon and stars you will find yourself knee deep in Ohedin’s Bog with nothing but a pickled beet for a brain!” with a shake of her fist, she shooed the cumbersome Night-Crow off her cane to go hunt, and she toddled back into her quarters, the candle going out soon after.
I’ve always hated that thing Cedric thought to himself, he had almost lost an eye to it when he was younger. Urius had just taken him on as an ‘apprentice’ and had given him the task of feeding it while Nirriahn was on a voyage to another neighboring kingdom. Young, and too terrified to go close to it, he had ended up launching a wriggling rat at it.
It did not catch it, but instead let the day old rat thump against the plumage on its chest. It then simply stared its beady eyes at him, looking almost offended. With a screech it leapt off its perch taking flight and chasing him around the room for seemed like an hour, trying to peck at his eyes. In the end it was his mother that had found him whimpering in a corner of the room protecting his head with his newly grown wings.
Propping his boots up on a nearby cushioned seat, Cedric leaned his head in his hand, watching with amusement. The old wizard came back inside, face burning in embarrassment, he grumbled something akin to goodnight, and made his way to his bedroom door.
Cedric gave the old man a wave in response and settled into his chair. He understood the old wizard’s frustration, having lived in his own father’s shadow for as long as he could remember. He knew the struggle, even though Urius is older and wiser beyond belief, the court’s expectations continued to render any effort Urius made to come out from his mother’s shadow futile.
If he had to guess, his own life would continue down the same sad path unless he did something to make his mark. Cedric put his feet back on the floor, and then laid his forehead down on the desk, he knew his father had gone to great lengths securing this great kingdom of Othuiryn , he had done great things during his reign, still does, but how? Where did he pick up the courage and determination to do the things that Cedric read about in history books?
Looking at his father now, most people would have never guessed that he fought in many battles, toppled hierarchies, eradicated the black market trading of Canyon Gherboams, demolished the terribly vast city of Feringuard, all the while raging inner battles with a creature only know as Molg.
No, most would definitely not believe it, if it hadn’t been recorded in history archives. Now, his father was very wizened and grey, as if a shriveled version of himself now resided in place of what used to hold magnificent strength and power. And while the king was wiser than he used to be, his continuous battles raged against the mind carver had left a permanent blemish. The king’s mind had slowly started to unwind and fray, like the many tapestries displayed in his great hall.
Sighing, Cedric got up, gave his wings a good stretch, and walked through the doors behind him to his bedchamber. He Undressing and then slipping into bed, The still lit Candle on his desk burned to its 11th notch. As Cedric slowly began to drift off, his fears for the future of his kingdom, and what was to become of his father, slipped from his mind as he entered the land of dreams.
The candle on the desk had now reached the 12th hour and then fizzled out, a hooded dark figure crept over the railing, its hood obscuring its face. It slung a sack over the railing, and then tied it in a loose loop to the rail. Moving slowly and quietly, it moved out of the shadows toward the door.
The moonlight illuminated its figure, anyone peeking out their windows at this time of night would observe a feminine shadow slipping silently across the balcony. In the distance a night-stalker screech stopped her in her tracks, she pressed herself against a dim alcove in the wall and waited. A candle lit in the window of a nearby tower, and an old woman toddling out with her eyes to the sky gave a shrill whistle.
The night-stalker, now visible, circled and the swooped down landing on the old woman’s arm. She tossed it a blob that it easily caught in its beak and then gulped down. The old woman gave its head a stroke as she brought it into her tower, the doors closed, and the light went off.
The young woman breathed a sigh of relief and continued on her way towards the balcony doors. Framing her eyes with her hands, she peered inside. It was dim, but she didn’t see any movement inside, so she lifted a small pack from her waist and unrolled it. Selecting two tools from an array of hooks and metal sticks, she crouched and began her work on the lock.
The minutes ticked by, along with a few broken pins, and some colorful words, until at last she flicked the last pin home. She stood up, and gently tried the knob, it twisted, and she slowly opened the door without so much as a creak. She stepped cautiously inside and pulled down her hood and the moonlight seeping in from the windows illuminated her blazing red hair.
It only took her a few minutes for her eyes to adjust before she spotted what she was after. There, on a shelf, was a green glowing bottle, the swaths of what looked like spiderwebs shimmered, coiling into different patterns with every second. She crept closer, and closer, picking her way through the numerous piles of books, papers, and empty bottles scattered around the room. One paper caught her eye, well in particular a certain column that said
Gargoyles: Some legends say that these stone creatures come to life to ward off evil, and that they can communicate with others when the wind or rain passes through their mouths. Inspired by the architectural element, gargoyles are stone-like supernatural creatures by day, known to fend off evil spirits and other harmful creatures.
At night, they shed and come to life. Some winged gargoyles fly around town to defend the city. As the sun rises, they go back to their posts to serve as stone guardians that adorn cathedrals and churches.
Gargoyles have six powers and abilities: immortality (invulnerable to the passing of time and to diseases), human form (shape shift to human-like beings), flight (possess wings), camouflage (blend with the inanimate grotesques to surprise intruders), endurance (cannot be wounded at night), and petrification (turns other beings into stone by touch).
Despite their strengths, gargoyles’ weaknesses include proximity (cannot fly too far from their posts), and sunlight (turn into stone when exposed to the sun’s rays).
The young woman let out a snort So many things wrong with this paper
still caught up in her disbelief. She didn’t see the stack of books with a glass bottle on top until it was too late. She crashed into the stack, knocking books left and right, and the vial on top went sailing to the floor. She made a grab for it, and it just barely grazed through her fingers, shattering against the wood floors.
The sound from the impact of the glass sent her into a panic, she made a mad dash to get behind the nearest drape as quickly and quietly as she could. She held her breath and waited for the sound of running footsteps, craning her head to look out the door to the balcony, looking for any sign of light, but all was dark and quiet. She peered around the drape and turned her head for a better listen.
Hearing no panicked footfalls, she slipped from behind the drape. Just as she did so, she noticed the sun slipping up from behind the mountains. Damn it! I need to move quickly! She maneuvered around the many piles of books, reaching the shelf with her prize at last!
Though she was in a hurry, she couldn’t help but take the smallest amount of time to observe the labels of the bottles next to her prize: Powdered pigs’ tail, manticore shavings, Fire onion roots, Etc. They are so temperamental! It must have taken them ages to get the manticore shavings. I need to come back for those
Focusing back onto the task at hand before she got sticky fingers, no need to take more than they’ll notice right now she reached out and plucked the bottle from the shelf, finally she had her prize! She dashed for the balcony doors opening them as quickly and quietly as she could. She took out a dagger and ran for the railing keeping it poised in case anyone-
Pain in her ankle?
Body reeling forward.
One second, she had been sprinting for the railing; the next she was on her face, dagger and bottle tumbling before her. Something had her! Claws sank into her ankle, piercing the leather of her boot. She stifled a scream and thrashed, but it hauled her back then let go.
What was it? She was terrified, scrabbling for purchase. She hauled herself to her knees and tried to crawl away. But was hauled back again, lying flat on her stomach she tried to look over her shoulder at what had grabbed her, but her hair tumbled into her eyes obscuring her view. She felt around for her dagger, but it was too far away, her hand brushed against something smooth and cold The bottle! She snatched it holding it to her chest
” Set the bottle down thief!” a male voice bit out making her flinch. She swiveled around to look at him. He loomed over her, casting her surroundings in shadows. She blew her hair out of her eyes and looked into the eyes of her own nightmare. His giant grey leathery wings spread out from behind him, the claw-tipped wings gleaming as a wisp of sunrise peeked out from behind the castle, were hooked into her boot, Brown hair fell into cold blue eyes blazing with fury. But then, a look of surprise crossed his face when he realized he had not only caught a thief, but a well-known one at that.
” Hair blazing like fire, skin as white as snow, eyes greener than any forest I’ve ever seen… just so happens to be hauling away something that doesn’t belong to her…” he said pointedly looking at the bottle still clutched in her hand.
He was beside himself with humor. “No…it can’t be the Famous Tabitha- Fox of Othuiryn?” he let out a chuckle.
At the name she glared at him, her eyes darted left and right looking for something to help aid in her escape. But he reached down and hauled her to her feet, keeping a tight hand on her arm. She tried to break his hold shouting “Release me, you dick” but he only chuckled at that saying to her “I’m sure the captain of the guard will want to see you, seeing as you have a major bounty on your head!” he began hauling her to the balcony doors.
It was her only chance to get away, so she began to struggle, beating at his hand clenched around her arm. He stopped and turned towards her, she kicked out at him aiming for right between the legs. he dodged her first kick with ease, but wasn’t so lucky the second time, she brought her leg up kicking as hard as she could, Making him double over in pain, she dashed towards the fallen dagger picking it up, as he staggered to his feet, giving chase.
Hurriedly untying her pack from the railing where she left it, she placed the bottle inside making sure her loot was safely clasped in its pocket. Giving the man a mock salute, she dove over the railing plummeting through the air, that last thing she saw was the furious look on his face before the clouds swallowed her up.
Once Tabitha was safely hidden in the clouds she used her momentum to propel herself through a summoned gateway, ripping off and clutching her hooded cloak in her hands, her wings sprung free from their confinement propelling her at an even faster rate through the dimensional tunnel, she tried to land and skidded to a stop in the middle of a dark cavern the only light to be seem, gleamed through a hole in the top of the cavern. It shined a big spotlight on Tabitha, and a small chute in front of her. She gave her wings a good stretch before pulling her cloak back on.
She swung her loot pack off her shoulder, digging through it to find her bottle. She was reaching for the chutes handle, when a bell chimed
” To deposit Item # 8675309 please respond to the coded message”
Lives without a body, hears without ears, speaks without a mouth, to which the air alone gives birth.
What am I?
“An-” she was about to answer when a gruff voice responded behind her ” An Echo”
She spun around, and there standing at the edge of the pool of light, was her nightmare. In all of his glory, looking more like a murderous angel of death. The light from the caverns entrance cast barely enough over him, his wings were slightly extended on either side, the razor sharp tips glinting menacingly in the light. She didn’t know how he had found her, or how she hadn’t noticed him slip into the cave. all she knew for certain was that she was in deep shit.
Tab only had time to suck in a breath and say, “Oh shit.” before Cedric’s wings snapped open and he pounced on her. They both fell to the dirt floor and grappled with each other- rolling around on the dusty floor, him trying to rip the bag free from her grasp, and her in turn screeching obscenities while trying to wriggle away.
Cedric flipped so that he was straddling her hips and spread his wings caging them in together. he grabbed her hand that was clutching the bag and began working her hand open.
His grip was too strong for her to try and break free but that didn’t deter Tab as she used her other hand to claw at his grip on her. She wriggled her hips furiously, attempting to bring up her feet and kick him in the head. But he kept dodging every time she tried.
“Get your grubby paws off my loot!” She all but growled at him
His whole body stiffened, and he glowered down at her, “Do you even realize who you stole from?”
Tab gave him a haughty look, subtly giving her hand an experimental tug. His grip on her wrist tightened briefly, and he gave her a look that said Don’t even try it. She glared at him, finally choosing to answer. “You think a girl like me can wander my way onto a castle balcony, and not know exactly what’s at stake?”
He leaned in close to her face and the angle shadowed his eyes. “Yes.” He all but growled at her sending chills up and down her spine.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in