New year. New goal. I want to write more in 2016, and one of the ways I hope to keep myself motivated is by publishing serialized short stories on the ol’ blog. (I’d like to think that knowing a bunch of folks are waiting for the next installment will be enough to keep me going.)
So, without further ado, here is the first part of “It Takes a Thief”:
It Takes a Thief, Part One
“This is all your fault.”
Farris looked up and frowned at his twin. “My fault?” Easy for her to say. “Easy for you to say.”
“It is easy, brother dear.” Fayra stood up on the creaky, splintered wooden pallet that served as a bed in your finer dungeons and jail cells throughout the Seven Kingdoms. She stretched like a lazy house cat, moving her head in slow circles so her long, auburn topknot swayed back and forth.
“You’re the distraction,” she said. “Our present accommodations would lead one to correctly assume that the rubes were not properly distracted.”
“I guess the highly-trained professional soldiers employed by a city’s lord protector are a bit more … observant than the sloppy drunks with clubs that we’re used to.” With a defeated sigh, Farris leaned back against the stone wall and closed his eyes.
“Besides, you’re the one who wasn’t happy hitting villages and market towns. No–” he threw his arms up– “you’re better than that. You had to try your luck in one of the biggest cities in Dal Varris.”
“Redcastle ain’t that big.”
“That’s what you take away from this?”
Fayra laid back on her makeshift bed. “I’m just saying it’s not like we tried pulling a snatch-and-grab in the capital. Now Rivercross, that’s a big city.”
Her brother scowled. “Maybe we should have tried one of the northern kingdoms. Castrova or Ilsenor. Some of their cities are guarded by cavalry and archers. We could have been run down by horses or shot in the head at twenty paces. I’m sure that would have been much more exciting than this!”
“Come on, Farris.” Fayra leapt from her perch, somersaulted, and landed in front of her brother. “What would father say?”
“If you plan to scale a wall, wear sensible boots.”
She thought for a second, then grinned. “Our boots are the most sensible,” she agreed. “If only that soldier hadn’t taken my grapnel, we could be out that window and over the wall in a wink.”
Farris looked at the small window, the perfect height for a human to stare longingly at the outside world, but out of reach for even the tallest hauflin. Of course, if they were able to reach the window, the small opening would be large enough for the twins to slip through.
“Wishing you still had your grapnel does us as much good as me wishing I had a hippogriff.”
Farris watched his twin’s grin widen from mischievous to devious, as a familiar twinkle flashed in her eyes. “If we can’t go out the window, guess we have to use the door.”
“But they took our picks.”
Fayra shook her head, clearly disappointed. “They took the picks they could find, twin of mine.” She fidgeted with the laces of her bodice, eventually producing the delicate lock picks hidden within.
She saw her brother smile for the first time since the Dal Varran soldiers clapped them in irons. “Mother would be so proud,” he said.
“Assume the position.”
Farris crouched by the heavy wooden door that stood between them and freedom. He barely felt it when Fayra jumped up onto his shoulders. She ran her fingertips across the panel that the guards used to check on them. It wasn’t much smaller than the window.
Pointed ear pressed against the wood, her nimble fingers probed around the edge of the panel. She bit her lip in concentration as she tapped the wood. It was locked, obviously. But, from the sound, it was just a simple latch. Slipping one of her picks into the narrow space between door and panel, she found the bolt and lifted. The sound of the unlocking bolt was louder than she would have liked–and she felt her brother tense beneath her–but when she slowly opened the panel, she saw that the corridor outside the cell was empty.
“Step two, brother dear.”
Farris stood slowly, hands on his sister’s ankles to steady her. Fayra took hold of the lintel above the door and lifted herself off her twin’s shoulders. It was a tight fit, but she was able to wriggle through the opening feet first. She dropped to the floor without a sound. Once on the other side of the door, it was a simple task to pick the lock and free her brother.
“Splendid! A truly remarkable display!”
The voice didn’t belong to her brother.
A few paces down the corridor, a door had opened and three soldiers wearing the red and gold livery of Lord Redcastle filled the hallway, swords drawn. Behind them stood a robust figure in scarlet doublet and matching robe. Fayra could see the sparkle of the jeweled rings on his fingers. His sandy hair was cut short and his beard neatly trimmed. A silver circlet sat atop his head.
“I wouldn’t try to run,” he offered with the wave of a hand.
The twins glanced over their shoulders. The corridor behind them was now filled with armed men.
“Hauflins,” Redcastle said, more to himself than to anyone else in the corridor. “We don’t get many hauflins in these parts.”
“You do,” Fayra said. “They just don’t get caught.” Farris caught his sister’s jibe and frowned.
Redcastle chuckled. “As you say. Now, my little snatch-purses, let’s you and I have a little chat, hmm?”
“In the banquet hall?” Fayra asked. “I’m famished. I haven’t had a satisfying meal since I nicked that apple from a traveling merchant on the road from Southway. Between you and me, that slop you serve prisoners in positively dre–”
“Enough!” What little charm Lord Redcastle had been displaying had vanished. His face was flush as he stepped towards the twins. “You have two options, you pointy-eared pieces of shit: Put your skills to work for me and steal something I desire, after which you will be free to go. Or dangle from a hangman’s noose at dawn.”
Neither Farris nor Fayra said a word, and Farris was thankful that his sister was smart enough to hold her tongue. They both knew better than to trust Redcastle’s word. Their silence was apparently beginning to annoy the nobleman, who snapped his fingers. The soldiers, and their swords, moved closer to the twins.
“Now, what do you say?”