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|This is the story about Jate, a young anthro (Lizard-elf) from the Northern Lands, trying to evade an evil Queen and find a place to belong...||
“Blast! Another wrong door!” I slammed the kitchen door shut, my frustration getting the better of me once more. “Where could that room be...?”
Glancing up and down the torch-lit hallway, my eyes found a tiger-boy about five years older than I dressed in inconspicuous garb: a grey tunic and brown trousers, with a heavy brown cloak. The perfect outfit for a thief. Hoping he could help me I trotted up to him, my talons rasping on the hard stone floor.
I cleared my throat, effectively capturing his attention.
“Err, excuse me, but could you please tell me where the Newcomer’s Dorm is...?” I spoke quietly, wondering if I would be able to remember the directions. The flickering torches didn’t exactly help my nervousness, as they threw our shadows into strange shapes.
The demi-human looked me up and down, taking in my tattered clothes and green arms, legs and tail with apparent interest. He then looked into my similarly green eyes and grinned, showing all his teeth-, which happened to include fiercely sharp fangs. I distractedly wondered how he kept them from puncturing his lower lip, even as he began to talk to me.
“Hmm... Yer a newbie, ain’t cha?” He asked, still staring at me with his huge, lamp-like yellow orbs. I tore my eyes away from his canines and nodded mutely, suddenly not being able to speak. The tiger-boy grinned once more, again showing those white fangs- each one looked as long as my index finger’s claw, at least! I sincerely hoped it was a friendly grin.
“Well, I was wondering when we’d get anotha’ newbie. Welcome to the Thieves Council Guild- I’m Krin TigerFilcher. Who’re you?”
I smiled weakly before stating, “Jate. I haven’t really been initiated yet,” I mumbled, looking to the cold stones set in the floor. Krin TigerFilcher nodded knowingly.
I suppose I should tell you for the benefit of those who don’t already know, that those living in the country of Farl choose their last names after the manner of their origin and job. Say there was a metalworker of puma heritage- his or her last name could be PumaBlacksmith. Children who have not apprenticed a craft yet are accepted, but this is only allowed ‘till their eleventh birthday, when having no craft is a matter of great embarrassment. I had turned eleven two years ago. Due to this, I would most likely remain simply ‘Jate’ until tonight- that is, if I could pass the initiation challenge.
Krin held out a huge, burly paw in my direction. “Nice ta meet’cha, Jate. How about I show ya around? It might be a liddle less complicated than if ya just wander about, don‘t ya think?”
I blinked- and smiled before grasping his huge paw in my own. It was so huge that my own fairly large paw seemed minuscule in comparison, but he didn’t seem to notice, and I didn’t mind as he shook almost all feeling from my arm.
“I would greatly appreciate that, Mister TigerFilcher- but are you sure it’s no inconvenience...?” I mumbled as I stared down at my large, bare, scaly green feet.
He stared at me, then burst out into loud, guffawing barks that echoed down the eerie hallway. “It’s no trouble at all, ye silly girl! But seriously,” he said, his face suddenly wrinkled up in a fearsome grimace, “never, ever call me ‘Mister TigerFilcher.’” Krin shivered. “It gives me de creeps!” But he grinned good-naturally, and I knew he was joking. So I chuckled along with him as he led me down the flickering Hall of the Thieves.
“So where is the Newcomer’s Dorm? I can’t remember- this place is too big.” I jogged alongside Krin, forcing myself to remember which doors I was never to look into, where the secret passage behind the Goddess Alina statue led to, and where the doors to the many privy’s were- Krin told me that I would have to remember where they were if I was to eat Tria ArrowFrogChef’s cooking.
Krin’s feline-esk face grinned and said “eventually. Your dorm is at the southern end; we’re in the northern end.”
I gulped. It had felt like I had been trudging along with Krin for hours upon hours! The Thieves Council Guild must stretch far underground, because it certainly didn’t look so huge from the outside. I was impressed- it took a lot of hard work to carve out a place big enough for a house to rest in, and this was much, much bigger than a simple house.
The tiger-boy chuckled deep in his throat, as if he had read what was going through my mind. “Aye, of course the place goes underground!” He said, smiling that everlasting smile. “There ain’t enough room on the surface up there! Oh, and by the by, that’s the Filcher’s Dorm, where I live. Would ya like to see it?”
I smiled. “I would love to! But why is it called the Filcher’s Dorm?”
Krin gently prodded me into the expensive-looking room, with its satin pillows, silk sheets and leather-bound books that looked like only an expert thief could afford. As I stared at the splendour, Krin answered my question. “That’s because, Jate,” he explained patiently, “us thieves have different levels of professionality.” I didn’t bother to correct his grammar- this was more than likely something I would have to learn if I was to be in this particular guild.
“You’ll begin in the Pilferer Level- a bunch o’ us just call it the Red level,” Krin went on. “The next one’s Smuggler, an’ that one’s Orange. I’m in Filcher, Yellow, an’ next un up’s Bandit- that’s Green. Yegg’s Blue, and they’re pretty good at finding some loot. I know someone in Purple Pickpocket; he’s got some great tips on snippin'’ purses from belts.” He looked off into the distance, obviously remembering some great capture that he wouldn’t have been able to make if it hadn’t been for those tips.
Krin snapped back to the present, and began to rattle off the rest of the levels. “Oh, right’. The Level after that’s Trickster, colour Indigo- I doubt I’ll ever get there, I ain’t good enough; Ah barely passed my initiation.” He shook his head regretfully, and I wondered what his initiation was. “The second highest is Treasure Hunter, Black. I know I won’t get there, but you... ya jus’ might,” Krin added thoughtfully. I stood a little straighter, proud. “The very highest is Thief, but it’s hereditary-ya gotta be family. The Thief in charge now’s Cranbell RavenThief, the best leader we’ve ever ‘ad. Ah think you’ll like him.”
I took all of this in silently, thinking over the different kinds of Thievery Levels and what Krin spoke of my possible future. When I finally spoke to him, it was a question.
“Krin,” I began slowly, “why did you say I might make it to the Treasure Hunter Level? You’ve never seen my abilities in work before- for all you know I might not make it past the initiation! What if someone catches me?” I was really getting nervous- not to mention a tad bit scared. A thief in the hands of one of the Queen’s Guards was a thief hanging from the wrong end of a noose. Or at the bottom of the moat, depending on what the thief chose...
Krin put a paw to his chin and stroked his whiskers with a orange-and-black striped thumb, and I immediately say how long and sharp his claws were. “Well,” he said after much whisker stroking, “I guess it’s because I get this sorta... aura from ya.” I looked at him blankly, not knowing what to say. He threw up his paws in exasperation. “Ach! I mean ta say... you got this personality. Quiet, polite, you know, noble-like.” I glared at him and put my paws on my hips outraged. Nobody likes to be called ‘noble-like!’
He put up a paw, halting any thought of protest. “I mean that in the best way possible. But, I mean, even though you seem like a real nice kid and all, you seem to me like there’s more than just meets the eye. Like you feel more comfy in the night, rather than the day. You look like you should be studying in a dusty old cathedral, learnin’ how to read, not a big ole deserted theatre learnin’ to be a thief!” Strange, I remember thinking to myself- I don’t think I’d like to be stuck in a dusty cathedral all day, looking at books! Then I had a vision of myself- blue hair and green tail to boot- scrunched up in the dusty light of a window, poring over even dustier volumes with a tiny pair of spectacles balanced on my nose. What an odd thought!
Krin shook his head and sighed. “I’m sorry to confuse ya. That’s just the way I see ya.” He shrugged and walked out of the expensive-looking room, still shaking his head. I followed him, wondering how he knew I preferred night to day.
We walked down the dark hall, the flickering torches sending our shadows spinning crazily out of control. We stopped in front of a heavy oak door painted white.
“This is the Newcomer’s Dorm. If- no, when you pass the initiation, you’ll be sent to the Pilferer’s Dorm, unless you do something to please Cranbell RavenThief. In that case, you could be sent up a few levels- if you do really well, you might get past me!” Krin chuckled at this, but I didn’t find it funny- this was my future at stake here!
Krin realized that he had urgent business some where's else, and excused himself to attend to it, wishing me luck. But he didn’t walk off- he just suddenly disappeared. No smoke, no flash of light- I just blinked, and he was gone.
“I gotta ask him how he did that,” I muttered after looking up and down the Great Hall. At this point, I opened the huge door (which somehow opened at my slightest touch- how odd...) and looked inside. This room was no where's as beautiful as Krin’s dorm, but I found it suited me fine: a small but intricately carved dresser in the corner, a long, straw woven bed with a warm wool blanket that could serve any size if they wished to have a quick nap before it was time for End-fast, the final meal of the day. There was also a wooden wardrobe in the opposite corner from the dresser which held several cloaks of different lengths, and several special types of boots resting on the floor that helped individuals like me who had such awkward feet to fit.
And then I saw it: the window. Not one of the fake windows that some decided to put in, the ones that were really just a layer of magicked water that was spread across the window frame- when you touched it, it would collapse on itself and splash from the frame to the ground, making an enormous mess. No, this was a real window, made of real glass, and I could see outside almost as well as I could normally see through the air.
I stepped closer to the window, my smallish nose practically touching the glass. The harsh sunlight found its way to my sensitive eyes, but now that I think about it, I didn’t mind as much as I normally would- I couldn’t help but give my full attention to the scene passing on the other side of the glass: Hundreds of trampling feet, some huge, some tiny, were hurrying on their way to wherever it was they were going. The window was set too low to see many of the owners of the feet, but I didn’t mind.
After a few minutes of watching peoples feet scurry left-to-right and right-to-left and every other which-way, a women’s tiny feet stopped right outside my window- and holding her hand was a little boy, no older than the age of six. I think the mother had stopped to look at a peddler‘s shop, as I vaguely remember there being a stand of some sort on my way into the Thieves Council Guild Theatre- but I could be mistaken.
Anyways, the mother stopped so suddenly beside the stand that the little boy slammed into the small of her knee, forcing it to bend. He fell down on his rump, but the mother only tousled his hair distractedly- she must have seen a bargain, and was set on making sure that whatever it might have been was genuine. As the little boy looked around from this new perspective, he happened to look into the window- and right at me.
But he waved and smiled at me happily, and I grinned and waved back with two fingers. This caused him to erupt into giggles, so he had to hide his face with his hands to stifle them somewhat. He put a small finger to his lips, signalling me to be quiet, and I did the same. The young boy grinned once more before his mother tugged him out of sight, after she had either lost interest in the item or had bought it- I had never found out. I craned my neck, trying to follow them, but they disappeared behind the window frame. Then I heard a noise that brought me back to the world on my side of the glass: somebody cleared their throat, and as I whirled around, I found out that the owner to that small noise was a girl, a few years older than I.
“Are you Jate?” The girl asked. I nodded, yes, mutely. “I’m Klia RaccoonPilferer.” Indeed, she had a faint black mask encircling her eyes, and a thick black-and-brown tail that poked out from beneath her skirts. “I’m here to get you ready for Cranbell,” Klia explained.
I nodded, remembering Krin’s explanation of the Levels. “He’s the Thief, right?”
Klia’s thick brown eyebrows shot up, beneath the mass of springy dark hair. “How’d chu know that?” She demanded.
I told her about Krin, and she chuckled. “Yeah, you’d do best to hang around that one. He’s not too strange.” She noticed I was standing beside the window, and she beamed. “Oh, you like that, eh? I don’t suppose you see too many real glass ones these days, do ya?”
I shook my head. “No, not really- I was watching the people go by, and I saw this little boy out there with his mother. He looked like he was about six or seven.”
Klia chuckled again. “Yeah, I know whom ya mean. He passes through here every couple 'a days with his ma, looking for knick-knacks to collect. His names Chrinte- nice kid.” Then, with a smile, “Well, come on- I’m supposed to help you get ready for your meeting, it’s in an hour. Come on!” She walked over to the carved mahogany dresser, and I followed her.
I could not see any handles on the three drawers, but on closer inspection to the sides, I could see expertly carved lions and tigers and bears. “Oh my!” I exclaimed as the first drawer suddenly sprang open.
Klia smiled and glanced at me from the behind the overhanging curtain of hair framing her face. “There’s secret buttons in the carvings,” she explained. “This one’s for the top drawer, this one’s for the middle one, and this one’s for the bottom.” She pointed to a sleeping bear, a lion that was trying to bite it’s own tail, and a dancing tiger, respectively. I nodded. Klia closed the drawer, and then walked back to the door.
“Great! I’m gonna wait outside, and you look around for something to wear- you might wanna wear something practical, ‘cause I dunno if you’ll be able to change after End-Fast.” And with that, she stepped out and closed the door.
I realised she must have meant my initiation challenge- why else would I have to change after End-Fast? I shrugged off my nervousness, and went to work with the dresser. I found the button to the top drawer, and pushed it...
...And the bottom drawer sprang out, thumping painfully into my tail, which had somehow gotten caught around my legs. As a result, I cursed in the name of all the gods and goddesses before I realised I had pushed the dancing tiger instead of the sleeping bear. I decided I would have to stand safely to the side before attempting to open it again.
After a good seven minutes (and a smarting left paw-ouch...), I found a dark green tunic and grey trousers that would hide me well in the night-I just hoped the initiation challenge would be at night, or I’d be sunk. Checking the trousers, I found a conveniently placed hole in the bottom exactly where my tail would go. How thoughtful! I went to the wardrobe. Inside, I looked for the smallest cloak and found it- but it was still nearly a hands-length too long, and bundled around my feet. Oh well a cloak can be useful, and this one had special pockets sewn into it. Spying a belt, I snatched it off the hook and slipped it on- and realised that it had empty leather bags tied to it and pockets sewn into it.
Checking the boots, I found a pair that fit my feet perfectly, with a slit running from the heel to the very top of the boot and buttons that made them very easy and comfortable to pull on. I walked around the room, and was delighted- they suspended my talons slightly so my claws didn’t click, and I was perfectly silent- even to my sensitive ears! I finished my walk just as Klia gave a tentative knock.
I opened the door, and she stepped in. “Interesting, that’s not bad looking- you’re gonna have to be able to blend into a crowd for the initia- whoops! I’m not supposed to say that...!” But Klia didn’t look like she hadn’t meant to say anything, as her eyes twinkled excitedly.
All of a sudden, the Great Bell Tower boomed it’s huge merry-bells four times. Klia gave me a small smile and said, “Your meeting begins at fifteen after four ‘o clock. Are you ready?”
I nodded, and followed her out of the Dorm, to meet Cranbell RavenThief.
To Be Continued...
|Thief (Part Two)|