Wednesday, May 20, 2015
The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 12
Robin got to her feet, leaning against the wall for support as her legs shook from the excitement of nearly falling out of a second-story window. There wasn't a moment to catch her breath, however. The four scurried along the wall to find a way down and out.
Anzo found a ladder leaning up against the catwalk. He waved his hands, ushering the others to go down before him. Gwynt slid down, and Hudtan jumped after climbing halfway. Robin put one shaky foot below the other while Anzo simply lowered himself from the edge of the catwalk. His long arms brought him only a few feet above the floor, and he dropped with a dull thump.
When Robin reached the bottom, Gwynt had found the door. For some reason, however, he wasn't leaving. Robin weaved through the stacks of crates and sacks to see what the matter was. Hudtan was on her knees examining the handle, and Anzo scratched his chin.
“Someone locked the door from the outside,” he informed Robin. “Hudtan is working out how to pick the lock from our position.”
“Couldn't you just break down the door?” Gwynt suggested.
Anzo knocked on the wood, which responded with a stubborn rap. Normally you would expect at least a rattle, but this door was so large that it nearly reached the second floor, and was wide enough to fit two horses side by side. As such, the massive hinges were holding it firmly in place, and it was extra thick to boot. Anzo shook his head.
“I'd break my shoulder first,” he said.
It was at this point that Robin became aware of a soft, constant hiss.
“Hudtan, are you making any progress?” Anzo asked. She waved her hand holding the lockpick at him.
“I need silence while I work,” she said.
“That sounds like a 'no' to me,” Anzo grumbled.
“Does anyone hear...?” Robin started to say. Gwynt suddenly looked shocked. He pointed at the stacks of crates, and Robin whirled around. There was nothing there, so she turned back to Gwynt. “What?”
“I saw a moving light,” he said. He walked along the wall, looking into the center of the room, trying to catch sight of it again. Then he jumped and waved his pointing finger again. “There!”
Then Robin saw it, and the hiss grew louder. It was coming from the light, rapidly moving along the floor, like a spark of lightning riding a miniature carriage. She dashed forward to where the light had just been, but it moved more quickly than she could run. She turned her head just in time to see it turn another corner behind a stack of crates.
Robin looked down at the ground where she had seen it move. A bit of smoke hung in the air near the floor, starting to rise and spread, becoming invisible as it mixed with the air. There was also a faint line on the floor. She bent forward, and saw that the wooden floorboards had been scorched black where the light had passed.
“Something's not right,” she said. She stood back up and looked around, still hearing the faint hiss in the background. Her eyes darted as she searched, and she wrung her hands in fear. She didn't like it when something wasn't right. That always meant something was wrong.
Gwynt climbed a stack of crates near the edge of the room. His green eyes scanned the room. “There!” he shouted, pointing, but then shook his head. “No, it's gone...Wait, there it is again! Ah, too late...”
“Would you please remain uncommunicative!” Hudtan said.
Robin scurried around the crates, trying to go where Gwynt was indicating. She kept finding faint trails of black, sometimes between two floorboards and sometimes running perpendicular across them.
“It's moving towards you! To your right!” Gwynt shouted.
“Keep it down, Gwyntmarwolaeth!” Anzo hoarsely whispered. “What are you two doing? Find another way out! Hudtan is unable to unlock the door!”
“I would be perfectly able if I were given the proper environment in which to not get so distracted!” Hudtan said.
Robin turned to the right and saw two towers of boxes stacked close together. She turned sideways to squeeze between them, but was too late to stop the spark from whizzing by, following a long gap in the wood. She noticed as it turned a corner that it was following a thin black string which, as the spark touched it, faded into black powder.
“It's a spark,” Robin said, trying to speak just loud enough for Gwynt to hear. Her voice came out cracked and thin, however, so she had to try again. “A spark is following a string! It's moving too fast for me to catch up to it, and the string is hidden in the floorboards at most points.”
“I keep losing sight of it,” Gwynt replied. “I don't think we need to be worried about a string too much.”
“I'm not worried about the string,” Robin said. “I'm worried about what's at the end of it.” She paused, an idea forming into her head. She looked up from the floor, where she had been scanning for signs of black string that had been untouched by the flame. Instead, she looked around at the stacks of crates.
Anzo was still trying to direct Hudtan. “Just turn the pick a bit to your left. No, no, too much! You must stay steady, Hudtan.” Hudtan made a sound like an elk trapped under a fallen tree.
Robin ran her hand across the top of one of the crates she stood near. A layer of dust came off, coating her hand. She brushed it against her pant leg before realizing that her clothes were even dirtier. Then she hiked around the room, glancing at the top of every crate, box, and barrel. They were all coated in about the same layer of dust towards the center of the warehouse. Suddenly, she came across one that had no dust on it at all. She looked up to see it was the tallest stack of crates in the room. There were purple swirls on the boxes.
“Can anyone read alchemical symbols?” Robin asked. Gwynt, whom she could see still perched on his own pile, shrugged. Robin decided to find out for herself. She tugged at the lid of one of the crates, and was surprised to find it open. She lifted the wooden lid to see that the box was filled to the brim with sinister black powder.
“I'm pretty sure this is a bomb,” Robin said in a high-pitched whine.
Gwynt started to say something, but his eyebrows shot up and he pointed yet again. “There it is!” he said.
Robin turned to see the spark heading straight for her, and the crates with purple squiggles.
She bent down and dug her hands inbetween the floorboards, searching for the black string. The spark hissed closer at a speed faster than a track star sprinting, giving her only a split to realize...she had chosen the wrong crack.
The spark fizzled past her.
And it disappeared.
Robin blinked, looking up at the huge pile of crates behind her. They remained unexploded. She examined the floor next to her where the spark had disappeared. She found the remaining bit of string, and it was indeed connected to that pile of crates. If it was a fuse to light the powder on fire, then it had simply failed.
“Did you get it?” Gwynt asked.
Robin tried to slow her breathing and heartbeat enough to respond. “Yugh,” she stammered.
She then noticed a glint of metal out of the corner of her eyes. She reached down to find two pieces of a broken lockpick. It wasn't just a thin piece of scrap metal like she would usually try to use (and fail, of course). This lockpick had been crafted by a metalworker to finesse even the toughest of locks. It had a decoration of a flame at the base.
There was a snapping sound from the door. “Oh, these tratten things!” Hudtan swore. “Get me another!”
“You need more practice at this,” Anzo grumbled, handing her another lockpick.
“My foot I need more practice!” Hudtan snapped back, and jammed the new lockpick into the keyhole, where it promptly broke. “Trat!”
“Here,” Robin said, approaching with Gwynt behind her. “Try this one. It's already broken, but it's got some useful hooks at the end.”
Hudtan raised one eyebrow, but took the broken off tip of the lockpick. It was long enough that she could fit it into the keyhole and move it around, her ear pressed up against the door. Anzo started to say something, but Robin and Gwynt both gave him a wide-eyed look, and he closed his mouth. The sound of the latch greeted their ears, and Hudtan stood up. She handed the pick back to Robin, then opened the door.
“About time,” Anzo said, then gave Hudtan a pat on the back. “Excellent work, Hudtan!”
Hudtan sighed. “Thank you, boss.”
“Now,” Anzo said, “let's get out of here before those guards find us!”
Robin couldn't agree more. She did find it strange, though, as they fled down the street and returned to the dark alleys, that she didn't see a single cop on the lookout for them. Robin shrugged and decided to take it, along with the fuse failing before sending them up in flames, as another sign of good luck. Maybe her life was finally starting to head down the right track.
It was then that she realized she had helped conduct her first heist, and still came away without having stolen a single thing. Being a thief was a lot harder than she'd thought. Robin sighed inwardly and followed Bedlam on their way back to their base in the Plinth.