It is dusk. The moon has waned, the winds have shifted, and the rank salt air is slowly gusting away from this thrice accursed elvish city. The smells of the harbor below stick in my nostrils, even though I have been running on rooftops for almost half an hour away from the vegetable stands, butchers stalls, and fish carts that infest that place like fleas in Wet Rock.
It is my time. That curious time of day when the heat is still rising from the sun-warmed streets but no longer beats down from the sky-lord himself. When all sounds seem a little muted and all sights a little less certain. The twilight. The dusk. I revel in their ambiguity.
I am close now. The houses here are bigger, their grounds–well the very fact that they have grounds says a lot, doesn’t it? In a city as big as Chipford, space is always at a premium. The intervals between rooftops it too great for me to leap from house to house. I drop down, silent as a lizard sliding through water. This work suits me. It is almost too easy. I scamper across an ostentatious garden, ruffling the ears of the blissfully unaware guard beasts. I mean these people no harm; this house is not my target. And though the treasures I glimpsed through their unlocked windows were oh so tempting, I have a schedule to keep: get in, get out, swap the satchel… then that other, irritating part.
I haven’t really been paying attention to what I am doing, letting my muscles move as they see fit. It is all so familiar. I have been doing this since I was fourteen; six years of heist after heist. Never been caught once. And now this. Unbelievable.
As I vault a garishly gilt wall, I realize I have arrived. Shake it off, girl, you have a job to do. Even if your orders are a little ridiculous.
Admiral Westhill’s house is one of the most opulent in Chipford. I don’t know how he can even think with that much marble and gold above his head. His gardens are perfectly manicured–not that he ever looks at them; he is only here a few weeks out of the year. The rest of the time he is at sea, aboard his flagship. I feel my gut begin to smolder when I think about the laborers who slave to make this house so beautiful for a master who never sees it.
The veranda is a bit of a problem. The little light remaining makes the flagstones–are they alabaster?–glow. Crossing it is a bad idea, I will stick out like a shark among angelfish. I elect to instead climb to the conservatory roof, using the wisteria vines to fairly fly up the stone walls. This is all so commonplace I nearly begin dancing along the roof to alleviate boredom. Instead I keep nice and low, in case anyone is looking at the mansion roofline. Wouldn’t do to be seen, not yet at least. I find a second floor window, near enough to the admiral’s private chambers to be convenient. It isn’t even latched.
Inside the house smells of lemon and linseed oil. The dark wood furniture has been cleaned and polished for the Admiral’s arrival. I bet he didn’t even notice. I flit down the hall like a minnow, keeping to the shadows and ensuring my tail doesn’t stick out too much. Useful things, tails, but they can be a bit more obtrusive that strictly desirable for a thief.
This is a long hallway. It curves along the front of the house, one side windows, the other decorated richly with artifacts, mirrors and other finery. There is a moment of excitement when I spot a watcher node cunningly concealed amongst the carved rafters. Just for fun, I jump up to the ceiling and scuttle along, gripping with my hands, feet and tail. Once I pass the node, I drop to the floor once more.
There. The admiral’s study. A huge door of dark wood. Probably walnut. The hinges the and latch are solid gold. I shake my head. Gold makes almost no sense for door hardware. What an unnecessary display of wealth. At least the lock is turned.
After a few seconds with my tools, the door swings open. I search the room briefly, find the leather satchel, grab it, and turn to go. I even lock up on my way out. Now for the awkward, uncomfortable part. I can’t believe I have to do this.
Received orders to track fugitive out of Chipford. The missive indicates live capture and delivery to capital at Lefhame is required. Subject suspected of purloining a set of Admiral’s Orders from his home. Theft occurred at approximately eleven o’clock last night. The fact that I happened to be in the city at the time will aid my ability to capture the subject.
Subject is a female Tiefling. Early twenties. Well equipped. Slipped into Admiral Westhill’s home. Was not seen on the way in, seems to have bypassed physical and magical security. Ignored same security on the way out: spotted by watcher node and smashed an unlatched window. Chased by watch beasts from the premises.
Based on subject’s attire, she is a Gypsy. This is the fourth high profile theft carried out by Gypsies in the last month. Previous thefts attributed to gypsies based only on circumstantial evidence.
Visited the scene of the crime. Every aspect of the crime points to a quick, efficient, master thief. So why did she needlessly reveal herself as she escaped?
I must ignore these questions. It is my duty to bring her in and recover the stolen documents. So the Missive says and so shall I do.
Retrieved Tiefling chains from the Chipford dead drop at approximately 9:30 in the morning and began investigations. Followed several leads, took statements from three innkeepers who claimed subject had come to their establishments. Subject had boasted of making a big “score,” claimed to be “loaded.”
I am astounded at the carelessness exhibited by this subject. Though her skills of infiltration are clearly peerless, she seems to be a rank amateur at covering her trail. To my mind, there are only two explanations. Either this is her first operation, or she wishes to be caught.
I do so love drinking with dwarves. They suit me more than my own people. You would never catch an elf chugging an entire fifth of fire whiskey. Well, none but me. My parents would probably shake their heads and wonder how much each gulp of this singularly excellent beverage was costing me, but my dwarf drinking companions do nothing of the sort. They egg me on. They chant, they sing, they place wagers, all in their adorable gravelly voices. You would never get that from elves.
Most elves don’t come to places like this either. For one thing, this Pesky Sarpent is one of a hundred others, and elves are too snooty to patronize chain bars. But more than that, everything here is rough wood, sooty rafters, and hard benches. Elvish places are soft, elegant, and usually covered in gold. Or made of marble. Don’t get me wrong, I like gold. And marble. But there is something about walking into a Pesky Sarpent, knowing exactly what will welcome you, and knowing you will always find a group of dwarves looking to have fun. Makes me feel alive.
I drain the last drop from the bottle and smack it down on the trestle table, waving to the barkeep for another. The dwarves cheer and raise up a song.
Too rudey nay too rudey noo, too rudey nay too rudey noo.
They keep the song going and I join in. It is my favorite drinking song. I can afford to really let loose tonight. The work that brought me to Chipford is done, I can afford to not be a paladin for a few hours.
Ugg, uncomfortable. Thinking about being a paladin. Thinking about work. Thinking about the bandit clan I just singlehandedly wiped off the face of the earth. Well maybe I can think about that last one. I am pretty heroic after all. I can make my sword glow and everything. People like that kind of flashy stuff. Unless they are on the receiving end. I suppose the bandit chief wasn’t a huge fan of the glowing sword when I used it to overpower him and cut off his head.
Ok, I am feeling better about being a paladin now. Where is that bottle? I call for it again and the barkeep arrives with two of them! Windfall. I just go with it. What’s the harm? I am an elf, and that means I can drink for hours. Not as long as a dwarf, but longer than pretty much anyone else.
The song is beginning to die out, so I jump up on the table, bottle in each hand and get it going again. This night needs to last. Tomorrow I get to head home.
Too rudey nay too rudey noo, too rudey nay too rudey noo.
“The surface is smooth, as still as the ocean after a storm. It is pure, it is poetry in flesh. That which is hidden is boiling, a cauldron of madness, of rage. Like a fire lizard backed into a corner. Like a mother bear protecting her cub. That is what it is to be an Orc.”
“Father, the rage is strong. Why not let is run? Why not give it legs and wings?”
“Child. You ask that same question I asked my own monastery father when I was young. The rage is in you, and the fires burn high. But you must never allow them to burn down the walls of your spirit. This mistake our ancestors made, and now we bear the blame.”
“Nul asks a fair question Father. And your answer to my mind comes up short.”
“Listen children. The strength of the Orcs is not in our rage. The strength of our people is in our ability to open the taps to our inner fire without the pressure shattering the valve. We have control in our chaos. A wild riding lizard has no purpose, and is so destroyed. Even so, an Orc without control does only harm. They are useless to their people.”
“But Father, control is… difficult.”
“Give it time children. You are still young. Look at Krusk here. He asked the same questions, felt the same frustrations as you. And now he is a full brother, preparing to represent this monastery at the Heritage Festival. Take his example, and the examples of our other monks, and you will learn control. Now go. I believe you are due for dinner now.”
“Father, I seek your blessing.”
“Krusk, you have always had my blessing. What is troubling you?”
“The world father. I have never been there. The walls of this monastery are all I know. How am I to keep myself pure? How am I to ensure the taps do not break?”
“My son, the world is a complex place. You will encounter there beings from all walks. Many sail on seas different from our own, pushed by other winds. Do not be troubled. When swim in the waters of Kaeroth, you will not leave unchanged.”
“Thank you father.”
“I wish your journey success. May your scars bring you wisdom.”