This is the first chapter of my Fantasy novel, An Uncommon Burglar...as you probably guessed from the title... Anyways, if this grabs your attention you can pick up a copy of your very own through the link above. Enjoy!
P.S. I'm sorry about the weird format. For some reason it went all wonky when I copy/pasted it over from Word. *shrugs*
A pair of guards walked past on the wall barely visible in the late night gloom. A form slipped through the shadows and up to the edge of the moat that surrounded the curtain wall. The intruder tentatively dipped a probing foot into the water and smiled to herself. The crowns she had spread around proved well spent: there was indeed a hidden causeway submerged about a foot and a half or so below the scummy surface of the foul smelling water.
Sarah grimaced as she eased out onto the underwater causeway carefully balancing on the narrow stone path. It was only about a few hand spans wide and covered in a thick layer of slippery algae. The water was surprisingly chilly in spite of the humid summer night air. She tried to not think about the fact that the keep's privies likely emptied into the moat and what might be living in the water. Nobody said anything about the owner of the keep having monsters or man eating fish or anything like that. The tall, lithe woman bit back a cry of alarm when her foot suddenly slid out from under her. Arms pinwheeling she managed to catch her balance with a minimum of splashing and, more importantly, she was not suddenly scrambling to try and get back on the causeway.
She froze once she was steady on her feet again straining her senses to their very limits. No shouts of warning. No barking dogs. The guards were far away but there was no telling what tricks of the wind might bring a stray sound their way. Sarah tiptoed the rest of the way across the causeway and looked up at the top of the wall some twenty feet over her head.
Sarah tugged the drawstrings on the supple light brown calf hide gloves she wore tight against her wrists. After another quick glance at the top of the wall she held her hands in front of her mouth as if she were warming them on a cold night. The magic bound up in the silver threads stitched into the soft leather flashed a dull light blue in the dark. The woman pressed her hand against the smooth stone and started up the curtain wall as easily as a spider.
The coast seemed clear at the top of the wall so Sarah hoisted one long leg over the edge then swung down onto the walkway. Crouching low she looked around then plopped down on her butt, scooted to the edge and dangled by her fingertips in the air for a moment. Sarah dropped onto the packed earth of the courtyard below and quickly hid in the deeper shadows behind a pillar supporting the catwalk overhead.
She held her breath when a pair of what looked like a pair of servants appeared out of nowhere so close that she could have reached out and touched them. The two men stood there for what seemed like an age and a half gossiping about the weather and the likelihood of a good harvest and Hezra knew what else... Her dexterous fingers wrapped around the hilt of one of the daggers sheathed at her sides. Don't turn around the woman thought at the backs of the two men's heads. Just move on and don't turn around... Sarah rolled her dark blue eyes and sagged relieved against the wooden pillar when the servants finally moved on heading for what she guessed to be the servant's quarters at the rear of the large tower house.
Sarah counted to fifteen in her head to make sure the men had plenty of time to get out of the way. From her best guess gathered from a week of watching the keep she still had plenty of time before the men on the walls came back around again. She sprinted across the wide courtyard her footfalls muffled by the dirt packed as hard as stone by generations of horse hooves and boots. Sarah paused to catch her breath between a small tool shed and the outer wall of the tower house proper.
Once the guards passed again Sarah took a few deep breaths and shook out her arms and legs steeling herself for the hardest part of the job. She started up the smooth marble as fast as she could trying to make it above eye level of the guards before they returned. Sarah glanced at the dim shadow of a moon visible behind the dark clouds overhead. Right on schedule. Sarah thought grimacing with effort as she scrambled up the side of the tower. If everything went according to plan she would have what she was being paid to acquire and be back down while the guards were changing shifts.
A gust of wind tugged at her long auburn hair once she was about thirty feet from the ground. A second one came up that almost certainly would have tossed her around if she were using more conventional means to scale the side of the tower. Sarah struggled onward toward the large window at the top as the wind picked up almost threatening to fling her away into space. Finally at long last she struggled the last few dozen feet and dragged herself over the sill.
Sarah leaned against the sill as she caught her breath staring into the gloomy chamber where she now found herself. She was alone which would have been awkward for all involved if the owner of the keep had been using his study at the moment. The room had four windows facing each of the four cardinal directions all of them opened wide to let the air blow down the staircase and into the keep. It was dark but Sarah could make out the fine furniture arranged tastefully around the large circular room. A small fortune in books and scrolls filled shelves and covered tables. Sarah gritted her teeth, her eyes rolling again as she tiptoed into the study.
The client wanted a certain book and of course the place was a mess. Fuckin' hells! Sarah grumbled internally as she crept up to the nearest table and carefully started glancing at the titles printed on the books there. She paused to consider the massive brass telescope mounted on a tripod in the western window. The temptation to steal a glance through the insanely expensive instrument was hard to resist. The milled glass for the lenses alone had to cost a small fortune.
All the while she kept an ear open in the chance that someone might come up to shutter the windows or what have you. According to what information she could gather the owner of the keep was out so it was not likely that he would turn up wanting to burn the midnight oil.
As Sarah moved to a nearby shelf straining her eyes to read the small print on the spines of the books it suddenly clicked into place. She smiled in the dark as she headed toward a shelf farthest from the window she had entered through. There actually was a system to the seeming anarchy of the material stored in piles and strewn around the tables. It was divided by subject and loosely organized by author... The woman's clever fingers found a small book a little bigger than the span of her outstretched fingers and several inches thick. She grinned and stuffed the book into a satchel slung over her shoulder and started across the room. Her heart became a lump of ice in her chest when she heard footsteps at the bottom of the stairs.
Two figures entered the chamber. One was an older gentleman in robes of a darker though indistinguishable color thanks to the dimness of the lighting though the odd glint of gold or silver thread shone dully. The other was younger, perhaps in his mid to late teens, and more simply dressed in a white tunic and trousers. The older man stopped at the top of the stairs scowling into the shadows stroking his beard. His companion paused after a few steps and turned. “Are you alright, my lord?” the young man asked.
The old man snapped his fingers and torches flared to life in their sconces on the walls. The young man squinted in the yellow orange light and shaded his eyes for a moment. “My lord?” he asked taking a step or two toward the old man. The old man held out a hand silencing his companion with a gesture as he advanced into the middle of the chamber a look of concentration on his wizened face. The old man turned his head toward the domed ceiling and slowly opened his eyes.
“Um...hello...” a nervous titter escaped Sarah's lips as she and the old man stared at each other for a heartbeat or two from her perch in the rafters. Several things happened at once. The young woman swung down from the oaken timber and onto the top of the nearest bookshelf as a ball of greenish light shot through with blue lightning formed between the palms of the old man's hands. Sarah leaped from bookshelf to bookshelf tucking and rolling then springing up and diving out of the eastern window as the old man hurled the ball of magical energy at the woman missing her by inches. The spell shattered against the wall dissipating in a flurry of yellow and blue sparks.
The young man sprinted to the window staring open mouthed into the darkness below. He had only caught a glimpse of a tall, beautiful redhead in tight fitting dark blue clothing. “Guards! Intruder!” he shouted using his cupped hands to amplify his call all the while hoping not to see the girl splattered all over the courtyard below. Chester worked a quick spell concentrating on a point in the air below him and a bright red orb sprung to life. A relieved smile spread across his face when he spotted a form swinging to the ground below on a rope attached to the side of the tower in the flickering light at the edge of the area lit by his spell.
A handful of men clad in chainshirts and carrying spears of crossbows hurried into view by the time the woman was already across the courtyard. The woman paused at the top of the wall and, somehow, Chester could sense the mocking grin on her face before she disappeared over the precipice. Strangely he could not help but be incredibly, instantly taken with whoever this girl was. He shook his head and turned back to face Alleyn. The old man scowled. “Well...I suppose we had better see if anything is missing...” the wizard sighed over his shoulder as he frowned at his study. Due to his long intimacy with the room he had an idea of where to start looking.