Night of thieves
The orcish reign wasn‘t all that bad, Lares thought as he patrolled along the wall walk with an exceptionally dutiful look on his face. When the Mages of Fire had been in charge, he hadn‘t dared to go after the treasures of the tempel. They had been rather sensitive about their riches. Many unlucky novices had been sentenced to guard the relics for days. To steal some of these treasures, you would have needed to be magically talented yourself.
Two Orcs were walking towards Lares, their huge battle-axes resting on their shoulders. The change of guards he had been waiting for was in progress. The warriors ignored his greetings and went down the stairs from the wall. Nobody minded his presence, as he had been patrolling on the wall for days until they had got used to him. It would have been absolutely impossible to pull something like that off in the time when the militia was controlling the city. Without a written permission, he would probably have been down from the battlements. Apart from that, he would never have put on the surcoat of the militia; but he didn’t mind wearing a mercenary’s armour. Most Orcs didn’t even pay any attention to their mercenaries – most humans looked exactly the same to them anyways.
By now, Lares had reached the end of the battlements. The wall merged into an elevated green that had probably once been the temple’s herbal garden. This was the place he had chosen to gain entry to the place of worship via a small side entrance.
He had taken measures to ensure that the guard who should take the next shift would not be in its place tonight. During his “patrols”, Lares had memorised the guards’ schedule and found out that there would only be one warrior on the next shift. The thief had taken care of that one by calling him a weakling in the tavern. In the end, the soldier had overestimated himself. Tunnelrumble was strong enough to knock down an Orc. An immense hangover should prevent him from doing his duty tonight, freeing the way for Lares.
He darted through the door and crossed the shamans’ bedchamber. Their snoring was the only sound to be heard. With a short glance to the main entrance Lares made sure that the coast was clear. Usually there was a guard patrolling in the corridor leading to the shamans’ hall, but today it was empty. Lares noticed a group of slaves rioting in front of the temple. They were drawing the temple guards’ attention, providing a nice distraction for the thief; although they might prove to be a double-edged sword. If their noise would wake the shamans, his way back would be cut off.
But he couldn’t just quit now, after he had come so far. He didn’t mean to rifle through the temple treasure until he found something he liked, but rather had a clear goal in mind: the six golden bowls of the alchemists. In the time of the king, these had been scattered throughout the city, as awards for the most skilled and influential members of their profession. Now he had the chance to obtain all of them at once, as the Orcs had collected them and brought them to the temple. Lares quickly entered the hall that the shaman Grok used to inhabit during the day. He noticed with amazement that the room was completely dark, not a single candle or torch provided any light. Only a bit of starlight illuminated the room, falling through the holes beneath the temple’s ceiling. The thief was growing even more suspicious. He stayed close to the ground and slowly approached the cabinet that should, if his informant had been right, contain the bowls. Then Lares realized what was strange about the whole scene. Was that a rope hanging from the ceiling?
Just a second after he had made that discovery, he saw something flashing in a corner of the room. A hooded figure was kneeling in front of the cabinet, apparently stealing the very bowls he had come for. Lares couldn’t contain a disbelieving snort. The figure paused and turned around. The uproar in front of the temple had calmed down, the fighting had stopped and the angry voices of several Orcs came nearer.
Suddenly, the full moon’s light burst through the clouds and enlightened the hall. For a moment that seemed like an eternity, the two thieves watched each other. With surprising quickness the other one drew a dagger and darted to the other side of the room. The stranger obviously took Lares to be one of the mercenaries. Without taking his eyes from the dagger, Lares walked a few steps back to hide himself from the people coming through the corridor. An instance later, the other thief followed his example. He was still holding on to the bag containing the bowls.
Lares whispered: “Put the weapon down! I’m a thief, just like you!” The stranger seemed to relax a bit, but didn’t yet lower the blade. “Then prove it! I need to be sure!” Lares approached the rope and replied “Let’s get out and share the profit from the bowls!” The Orcs were already approaching the entrance to the main hall. The stranger hissed “Wrong answer.” as he pushed Lares away from the rope and into a nearby commode that collapsed under his weight with a loud crash. But he immediately got on his feet again, and as his opponent started climbing the rope, he grabbed the bag and pulled with all his strength. Just as he managed to wretch it from the hooded figure, he took a kick to the chin that sent him flying to the ground. As he landed on the floor and the bowls rolled out of the bag with a deafening clanging, he shouted “Here! Over here! The thief is getting away!”
Suddenly, everything happened very quickly.
One of the Orcs grabbed his arm and roughly pulled him to his feet, while the others could just watch as the thief cut his rope and disappeared over the roof into the night. In an instant, all the torches flared up as some of the guards stormed out of the temple to catch the intruder. Orders were shouted. Somebody picked up the golden bowls.
Lares was dizzy. The stranger’s boot had hit him well. Grok, the leader of the shamans, and Nemrok, captain of the orcish warriors, were looking down upon him. While Grok confined himself to just watching Lares thoughtfully, Nemrok was questioning the supposed mercenary: “What are you doing in here? What happened?”
“When the riot outside started, I saw a figure sneaking into the temple. I thought I should get to the bottom of it and caught that thief in here.” Lares responded. “He got away, but I managed to take his loot from him.” “Why didn’t you just inform the guard?” “Well, they were busy, and I didn’t want to trouble them with what could just have been a false alarm.”
Nemrok seemed satisfied, but Grok still watched Lares warily. The two talked Orcish for a while. To the thief, it sounded like they were going to hang him next to the paladins by the city gate. He just hated it when he wasn’t able to properly assess his situation.
Suddenly, Nemrok slapped him on the back with his huge hand: “You managed to prevent the thief from stealing anything. Go and get your double pay from Samuel. Also tell him that we will reinforce the guards in and around the temple with our warriors. His mercenaries will take on their duties throughout the city.”
Lares nodded and quickly left the temple. It was hard to believe that he had actually survived this disaster. He wouldn’t be able to enter the temple again, but that would not stop him from trying to obtain the bowls. More than ever his mind was focused on that particular treasure.
Anyone who would like to know who the mysterious thief was and what the consequences of Lares’ interference will be should be excited for the CSP that will answer all these questions.