Monday, January 16, 2012

Dalsakesh Manor

At night the streets of Red Rock were just a dark orange blur, especially from this height. Daneski Vilton climbed carefully up the side of the Dalsakesh Manor. It was one of the tallest buildings in Red Rock and housed one of the wealthiest men there. Hasha Dalsakesh was the owner of more Red Rock horses than any other man except Lord Faralay himself and unlike Faralay he was obsessed with foreign luxuries and decorations. Nobody had dared to scale the Dalsakesh Manor in the past, but Daneski had worked out how to do it.
There was a guard keeping watch on the top of the tower, but unless he looked straight down at the wall, and he would have to lean a long way over his barrier to do so, he would never see Daneski. This meant Daneski had to be quiet as flea in the dirt as he climbed, which was why he moved so slowly.
There was also a soldier on the ground walking circuits of the tower. Each circuit took four minutes, after which Daneski would need to be hidden behind one of the drapes that decorated the tower. If he had to hurry to the next drape then the guard above would hear, if he didn’t make it in time the one below would see. Most saw this task as impossible, for a master like Daneski it was simply a challenge.
The only unlocked window was the highest in the Manor, at least eight stories up, and Daneski was almost there. If he were to look down now he would see the entire city, its flat topped roofs and grid of streets and alleyways, fading into the gloom. Many would hear of the great heist he was about to pull in the days to come, it was his most ambitious job yet.
Daneski once again carefully positioned himself behind one of the drapes that covered the tower as the soldier below made his circuit once more. The drapes were decorated with pictures of mountains and forests unlike anything in the Faran Badlands that Red Rock was surrounded by. Daneski always wondered how much of the world there was. He had been read stories as a child about heroes and wizards travelling through incredible lands but could barely believe anywhere could really be so different. Dalsakesh’s treasures were some proof however.
He was within reach of the window now, the guards above and below still oblivious. Somewhere nearby on the ground were Milosh and Grendic, two of the toughs in the gang that Daneski was also in. Jeneal, their leader, would be with them, she was running the show. Everything needed to work perfectly.
Daneski had with him a stone, which he would throw from the window when he was ready to make his escape. When they saw the signal Milosh and Grendic would start a diversion, drawing the attention of both guards, so Daneski could make a speed descent down the wall with as much treasure as he could carry, which would hopefully be a lot. Then Jeneal would meet him at the bottom and they would make for their safe house, Mad Naric’s.
The guard passed by, oblivious once more, and Daneski made his move, still being careful with every movement he glided up the wall and onto the windowsill. The room he saw was filled with all kinds of golden artefacts but it was not these that caught Daneski’s eye. A man in an armchair holding a crossbow was staring straight at him, Hasha Dalsakesh. Or would have been staring at him, had he not been sound asleep. Daneski breathed a sigh of relief. He had been about to risk the huge fall and jump from the building. Either way though this man was sure to complicate matters.
Daneski felt for his knife, but he carried nothing except the warning stone. He could not risk carrying the treasure he wanted while the sleeping man was armed and ungagged. On one of the tables in the room the aristocrat had been eating something with a silver knife and fork. That would have to do. The thief took the knife and crept behind the sleeping man’s chair. With the blade on his neck Daneski carefully removed the bolt from the crossbow before covering Dalsakesh’s mouth with his hand.
The man woke immediately and tried to called for help but only the tiniest mumble was able to escape.
“If you want to live, stand up and stay quiet.”
Daneski tried to keep his voice calm and authoritative, praying to Almar that the man would fail to see through the bluff. This knife was so dull it would barely draw blood, he could never kill with it.
“Even if you scream now I could kill you and be gone before anyone could intervene,” Daneski whispered, thankful to see his hostage tense with fear at the words. Meanwhile Daneski’s eyes scanned the room like a sprinting wolf, desperately looking for something highly valuable to sneak away with. He would not be taking a sackful of loot home with him today.
In this light what looked gold could be brass, silver could be polished iron, jewels could be real or fake. He needed a sure thing, something that was guaranteed to be valuable. Then he saw it.
Daneski grew up around horses in Red Rock. He had ridden in the races as a child until he became too tall and heavy. He had even ridden Dalsakesh’s horses for a short time and had won a highly prestigious trophy as well. As the rider Daneski had been given a small painted wooden replica of the trophy but Dalsakesh had received the real, solid gold version. Daneski would never forget it, and he was looking at it now. He just needed enough time to throw his stone, wait for the diversion, then grab it and leave. He turned Dalsakesh away from the window to face the middle of the room then moved his hand from the man’s mouth to go into his pocket for the stone to throw.
“You know,” said Dalsakesh. “You won’t cut much with a serving knife. Guards!”
Dalaskesh spun and Daneski had to duck the rich man’s fist. Daneski responded with a slash of the knife but it was blocked by a forearm and sent sliding to the floor, without leaving even a mark. Daneski realised what a fool he’d been, he’d faced his hostage directly in front on the table he took the knife from. The guards would be here soon, Daneski needed to get that prize or this would all be for nothing, but he also needed to escape. Milosh and Grendic would have heard the commotion, they would be doing their best on the ground to make an escape route but that would only be open for a short time. Daneski had to act fast.
He dodged two more punches and responded with a strike to the man’s jaw that sent him reeling back. Daneski took his chance and grabbed the trophy before leaping from the window, catching a drape as he did.
Climbing down was an exercise in speed, not stealth. For any other to climb that wall with the heavy trophy in hand would be near suicide, but Daneski was a master escape artist. In moments he had both feet on the ground and was running into the side streets with Jeneal, Dalsakesh screaming incoherently from the windowsill.
“So you finally got your hands on that trophy after all these years,” Jeneal chuckled. “Get any trouble from the old boss?”
“Nothing a good right hook couldn’t solve,” Daneski joked back.
“You idiot,” Jeneal laughed. “We wanted you to break into his house, not break his jaw.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Krull Assassin, part 1

Kekai paused, bow steady, and released the shaft. His aim was true as another elf sentry fell. His unit of highly trained Krull Assassins continued their progress through the elf city of Alfeira, to the royal palace. Just as other identical groups moved to different locations inside the borders of Turlai, the land of the elves.
Kekai was part of the great Krull counter attack. Casualties in the battles on the Plain of Altar were said to be catastrophic, but the war that could not be won face to face could still be won by more cunning means.
Again Kekai motioned his assassin brothers to stop as he raised his bow, placing an arrow in the neck of another elf sentry. It was almost inconceivable how easily the task was turning out to be. With the best elven warriors away at war the city was all but defenceless. The elves foolishly believed the Krull would not attack civilian targets.
Mardai, an Arcaner in the group nodded his approval at the kill. Arcaners were spell casters, wizards that could us magic as a weapon. Mardai’s task would come later, using the elves own enchanted weapons to destroy their city. Kekai’s assassins were Mardai’s escort.
The city of Alfeira was a bleak place now. The elves once boasted of its beauty, The Jewel of the East. Under King Baredah’s rule it had been scarred. Windows filled with cobwebs, waste littering the street, houses about to collapse having been stripped for spare wood and metal to help the war effort. The deserted streets only enhanced the feeling of a city that could never return to its former splendour.
Yet no Krull would ever feel sympathy for the plight of the elves. Krua lay in complete ruin. Alfeira had lost some of its beauty but Krua had lost everything. Buildings were reduced to rubble, forests had been burned to the ground and entire populations left homeless and starving. The stench of death coated the nation, bodies lay rotting in streets as those left had nowhere to take them. The blow that was struck this day would be fully justified. The elves could not hide behind their biased views of a just war any longer.
Five elven soldiers patrolled in front of the palace of King Baredah. The King was absent so the security was bare. If not for spies reporting of the elves weapons of magic being locked in the treasury here then this raid would be all but meaningless.
Kekai assigned four of his assassins a separate target with a series of hand movements and then raised his own bow. His tongue would click, five times in tempo, to ensure all assassins fired in unison. The result was perfect, five elves toppled, arrows to the neck. You could not scream in your last seconds and sound an alarm when an arrow pierced your throat.
Mardai the Arcaner let out a chuckle and Kekai glared at him. It was true that to someone untrained in the Krull Assassin techniques that such a feat of coordination would appear lucky or even magical and that the Arcaner was right to be awed. But the assassins operated in complete silence, anything less than that standard and they risked discovery. The Arcaner was not an assassin but he was just as likely to reveal their position.
They crept past the five bodies, drawing their blades as they opened the palace doors. The treasury would be on the lower levels, but they needed a hostage to confirm its location.
The halls of Baredah’s palace were dark and completely deserted. With the royal family away at the front line there was no need for servants to be roaming every corridor. Still it was essential that someone be found and made to talk.
The palace featured finery from across the civilised world. Dwarven cabinets housed human silver and elven gold. Weapons from every culture, even orc, hung from the walls. Even the flooring was Krullian carpet. The wealth of the world was on display for a King who cared for no culture, not even his own.
The palace moved from one grand room to the next, not a soul in sight. All that could be seen were shadows, any but a krull, with their superior night vision, would be blind.
But ears were better than eyes. Above the heartbeats of his assassin brothers Kekai could hear the softest whimpering from a side room. He peered into the undecorated storage room and saw the first person they had encountered since entering the palace.
“Have you found something?” Mardai whispered. Kekai didn’t bother to glare back. The figure in the corner of the room could not escape now. Behind a barrel of aromatic spices there sat an elf servant girl. Although she looked no more than sixteen, as an elf she would be nearly forty years old. Yet it was said that elves matured slowly both in body and mind, and this girl had childlike eyes, full of fear.
“Oh she’s exquisite,” Mardai spoke softly but his words were like knives. Kekai motioned to Aznas to keep Mardai away from the girl. They would get nothing from her with him salivated everywhere.
“Don’t be afraid,” Kekai said, barely whispering, but the girl’s pale blue eyes responded to meet his own as if he had bellowed the words from the top of his lungs. Her skin was soft and fair, almost white, her cheeks only imperfection were the tears that stained them. She wore simple white robes over her tiny frame.
“Did you come to set us free?” she responded in her lyrical elven voice. “Because he is not here, you are too late.”
“We did not come for the King,” Kekai whispered back. “But if you help me, I can take you from this place.” Baredah’s crimes cut deeper than Kekai could ever have believed, if this girl saw the krull as a means of escape. “Can you take us to the treasury?”
The girl did not respond, but she stood up and walked to the doorway, leading the group of assassins back through the palace, her eyes never leaving Kekai for an instant.