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|I was just talking to some of my peeps about the Hero Cycle (see Tone Deaf) and what kind of people it would be about. Davin in this story is supposed to sort of resemble Sinbad or Aladdin only without being Disneyfied and with some actually noble ideals. It's meant to be something of a prelude to a series of short stories I may or may not put up here being as they haven't been written yet.||
The girl slipped up to the front door of the cabin. It was slightly ajar, spilling the warm light into the cold night. She had seen the old man in the kitchen in the back of the cabin and all the windows were either easily visible from the kitchen or had little ceramic statuettes on the sills that would be knocked off if the window was opened. Slowly, she opened the door.
“Come on in,” the old man called. “I’m just sitting down to dinner.”
The girl was startled that the old man knew she was there. She went into the front room of the cabin and shut the door behind her. The man came to the archway between the kitchen and the front room, a wooden bowl in his hand.
“I hope you don’t mind stew.” He lifted an eyebrow at her. “Coming all the way out here, I would hate for you to go hungry. Of course, you being city-bred, you’re probably starving by now.”
“How did you?” She stopped herself. “Stew sounds wonderful.” The girl looked around at the well-made but modest furnishings and was acutely aware of the noise her stomach was making at the smells from the kitchen.
“Well, come on back and we can talk about why you’re here.” The old man walked back into the kitchen.
She followed him back to the kitchen and sat at the place he’d set for her. The spoons were wooden and the table was barely large enough for both of them.
“So, which guild are you trying to get into?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” The girl took a bite of her stew.
“So it’s to be like that, is it?” The old man lifted his spoon. “I’ll bet you have a memorable alias so people won’t know it’s really you.”
“Let’s see, going by your age and accent you’re probably something like The Silent Blade or The Black Rose.” He smiled into his stew. “My guess is you’ve been freelancing in a guild town and got caught. It’s either join the guild or lose a body part. But they want you to prove that you’re good enough and you need help so you came to the man who broke into x or stole y. Am I right so far?”
“Disturbingly so.” The girl looked down at her bowl. “This stew is very good.”
“It ought to be, I’ve spent forty years perfecting the recipe.” He ate another bite. “So which is it?”
She sighed. “The man who picked the Lock of Cadonia.”
“The Silent Thorn.”
“That’s cute, kid. What’s your real name?”
“Well, Rose, I feel it only fair to warn you that most of the things you’ve heard have probably been wildly exaggerated. I know for a fact that the ‘official’ version of The Lock of Cadonia is almost an outright lie.” He watched her face fall. “But coming here is probably the best thing you could’ve done for your career. Do you want me to tell you why?”
“Because you’re the best, the most famous.”
“Wrong on both counts, kid.” He stood up and took her empty bowl over to the cook pot hanging over the fire. “I will openly admit that there are better thieves than me and I’ll bet you could name three others just as famous if you tried.” He set the full bowl in front of her. “No, the best thing I’ve got going is I’m the oldest.”
“But I don’t understand. If you’re not the best, who is? And how did you get to be so famous?”
“I don’t know who the best is, that’s why they’re the best. No, I got to be famous because I always had spectacular getaways. And I’m the oldest because I was fast, lucky and I learned.”
“But, some of the stories have to be true.”
“Well, certainly, some of them are true. What ones do you want to know about?”
The girl thought for a moment and chewed. “Um, the harem? The stories almost all agree that you owned a harem.”
“The ‘harem’ as it is now referred to were two of the best, most talented and nicest assassins I’ve ever met. If I had ever thought of claiming to ‘own’ them, they would have had my balls for breakfast. We were close but I wasn’t their type. Besides, neither of them could cook.” His eyes were twinkling. “I’ll bet you’ve always wondered why I returned the Diamond of Cadonia after I picked the lock.”
“Of course. The Diamond of Cadonia is every thieves dream and nobody since you has been able to get to it.”
“I want you to think about that diamond for a moment. I know it’s called “price less” but that should really be “worthless.”
“But why? It’s a flawless canary yellow the size of a man’s head.”
“What would you do with it after you had it?”
“Would you sell it?”
“No way to, it’s far too traceable. No fence would touch it. Maybe you could break it down but you couldn’t find a jeweler who’d do it.”
“So you’re stuck with it as a trophy, with the “rightful” owner coming after it along with every other thief looking for a pretty trophy or a priceless treasure.”
“Then why did you steal it in the first place?”
“I had a bet with Christopher that I could do it.”
“You stole a priceless gem because of a bet?”
“Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Well, you were so brilliant, I didn’t think you’d do something so…”
“Stupid? Foolhardy? No, I know your objection. It’s such a normal reason for doing something anybody with any brains would never do.”
“Well, yeah. Besides, the lock was unpickable. You must have known it was an impossible task.”
“Nothing is impossible when you’ve had enough to drink. Besides, I knew something about that lock that nobody else does.
“What?” She leaned forward.
“A master never tells his secrets.”
“But I came here to learn. If there’s a secret to picking locks that no one else has ever learned it could give me an edge to get into the Silent Fingers.”
“All right, kid, I’ll help you out but you’re going to be disappointed. It was unpickable because it’s deeper than any set of lock picks ever made and even if a set of lock picks could be made that long, it would break them.”
“So how did you pick the lock?”
“Who said I picked the lock? I only claimed to steal the diamond.”
“But how? Everybody knows there is no other way into the room.”
“How else do you get through a locked door?”
A perplexed look crossed her face. “You can’t mean you had a key.”
“Of course that’s what I mean. How else could I have opened a lock that is admittedly unpickable? I didn’t lose a single pick to that monster.”
“You knew the locksmith that made that lock.” She smiled brightly. “Why, that’s brilliant.”
“Not really. I grew up in Cadonia. If you’ll take the stories in order, you’ll find that the first few take place in or around Cadonia. I knew every locksmith in a city and had ever since I was small. I’d heard about the idea for the unpickable lock since I was five. Some one told the Caliph that it was possible so he had it created for his precious diamond. The lock was such a wonderful joke that nobody wanted to tell the Caliph that he could have put it on display in the middle of the city and it would have been perfectly safe. Safer, in fact, than locking it up.”
“But you were the only one to ever steal it.”
“Yes, but I wanted to get past the unpickable lock, the diamond was inconsequential. If the lock hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t have taken Christopher’s bet.”
She shook her head. “You obviously know you’re the latest addition to the Hero Cycle.”
“Of course. It comes from traveling with Christopher.”
“He was a bard, right? Why is that?”
“He told me he wanted to make a name for himself and needed someone with enough flare to attach himself to who wasn’t going to get him killed.”
“Christopher’s the person that wrote all the stories about you?”
“So I guess the Battle of Ano is a gross exaggeration, too?
“Unfortunately, every word of that one is true. Christopher liked a good farce but he got the big things right.”
“So you stole all the weapons from two armies in a single night?”
“And kidnapped the people in charge of throwing that little war.” He leaned back in his chair. “The girls and I held them in a little room and said if one of them tried anything, they would all die. I think they believed us because they were all heavily protected by magic when we kidnapped them. We weren’t allowing them anything but bread and water until they agreed to a treaty and everybody was getting along.”
“Nobody could do that! Those were some of the most ruthless men in history.”
“Impossible, yes. They’d all killed hundreds of people in their careers but the funny thing about them was their insistence on the preservation of their own lives. Don’t forget about stealing all the weapons from two armies.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t believe it.”
“Rose, it took me close to a year to turn the impossible into something that was merely very difficult. I spent nearly everything I’d made and called in every favor owed me.”
“But what did you get out of it? I mean, you’re a thief! Why would you throw everything away on a stupid little war?”
“That stupid little war was about to reduce my home to rubble.” His eyes flashed warningly. “Remember this, young one, its only thievery if you take it from living people. Anything else makes you a vulture and a grave robber. Having all the money in the world means nothing if there is no food to eat; that’s one fact we had to force those men to realize.”
As his righteous indignation had risen, a strange light began to surround him and his voice took on a deeper timbre. Rose blinked quickly and the light began to fade.
I think I understand now,” she said slowly. “Do you ever hear from Christopher anymore?”
“He stops by now and then, between adventures.”
“But Christopher must be as old as you are.”
“Older, as I understand it.”
“But, how can he still be running about? He’s not an elf, is he?”
“Christopher is as human as I am. He just chooses to look differently. I’m retired and don’t mind looking it. I get the feeling Christopher will never retire. I’m just waiting to meet his lady love.”
Rose shook herself, as though coming out of a trance. “It’s late. I got what I needed. I should be going.”
“Stay, you can sleep in the front room on the couch. It’s comfortable and I’ll make breakfast.” He stood up. “I’ll get you a blanket.”
“You’ll find it’s more comfortable to sleep without all the hardware on.” He looked pointedly at her wrists and ankles.
“More comfortable maybe, but safer?”
“You are safer in this house than anywhere else you’ve ever been, so go ahead and worry about comfort.” With that, he left her to bed down on the couch.
In the morning a great knocking on the door woke Rose from the deepest sleep she’d ever been able to indulge in.
“Come in Christopher,” the old man called from the kitchen.
The front door opened and a man in his mid-twenties walked in. He stood about six feet two inches tall with blonde hair to his waist and hazel eyes. Everything else about him was perfectly average and unmemorable. “Do I smell breakfast, Davin?”
“You’re standing if you’re eating.” The old man appeared briefly in the entrance to the kitchen. “I have company.”
“About time, too,” Christopher flashed Rose a grin. “Although why you relegated her to that barbaric couch, I don’t know.”
“Say good morning to Rose, Christopher,” Davin said over his shoulder as he walked back into the kitchen.
“Good Morning, Rose,” Christopher said. “Would you like a hand up? Davin’s couch is difficult to get out of.”
“Yes, thank you.” Rose put out her hand. Christopher pulled her up and nearly threw her across the room. He helped steady her then followed her into the kitchen.
“Christopher, you are the only person who doesn’t need to knock and the only one who bothers.” Davin served up some sausage and eggs onto Rose’s plate and gestured for her to sit. “Why didn’t you bring her with you?”
“You have to go meet her,” Christopher glanced over at Rose. “And bring Morning Glory here with you.”
Davin stilled. “You didn’t get a job, did you?” His eyes slid over to Rose.
“Not quite,” Christopher stole a piece of sausage off the griddle. “I received a demand and a suggestion. The demand was from Honey and the suggestion from my contact. They both said that you and Rose are to come meet Honey. I have a terrible suspicion I’ll be adding to the Hero Cycle before all this is done but, for now, it’s a vacation.”
“Oh, but I couldn’t intrude on your vacation.” Rose cut in. “I only met Davin last night.”
“My dear, you may not only intrude, you are required.”
“Do you have anything better to do, Rose?” Davin quickly finished breakfast. “I’ll teach you everything I know.”
Rose could have sworn his hair had been grayer and that he was starting to go round at the middle last night. “All right,” she said. “I’ll go.”
|mage fire||Soul Cat|
|Ascension||Tone Deaf (revised)|
|Nothing to Prove|