An Original Story

This is an original short story I’ve been toying with. I’m probably going to tinker with it more, being the perfectionist bastard that I am, but it’s at least readable. I thought you all might enjoy it.

On the Edge


Let’s see…I’ve got a splitting headache, a sprained ankle and a black eye. Everything smells like rum. And I’m missing my pants. But all in all, it was a good day.

It was a simple enough job. I was hired by the Order of the Gilded Knife, which mainly consisted of former assassins who spent their days sipping expensive wine and telling each-other how awesome they were, and they paid well. They wanted me to grab the ancient and mystical Stone of…oh, something-or-other, name had a lot of Xs and Hs in it. Whatever, it was a big shiny rock and they wanted it and they wanted to give me their money and that was all I needed to know.

Oh, sorry, silly of me. I haven’t introduced myself. To borrow an old cliché, I go by many names. You don’t get to hear any of them. But I’ve got a reputation, and it’s one that I’ve earned. I steal stuff. I am good at stealing stuff. People give me lots and lots of money to steal stuff for them.

It’s a living.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. The Unpronounceable Stone was being kept in the palace museum. Said museum and the royal library were the only sections of the palace open to the unwashed public. King Altair is a good man, really. He believes that the foundation of a good society is education. Who am I to argue? He’s the one who wears the shiny hat.

Anyway, the stone was on loan from some rich muckity-muck whom the Order didn’t like for some reason or another. I didn’t ask. I don’t ask questions. I get paid large sums of money to not ask questions.

And here I was, wrapped in dark grays and lurking about like a…thing that lurks. I’ll think up a decent simile later. I did a quick inventory. Lockpicks, check. Knife, check. Pouch of stuff that Leere the Magician swore would work this time, no, really, the theory was completely sound. Whatever, it better work this time or else I would mount his crystal balls on a plaque.

Everything seemed to be set set. I checked my pocket watch. It had just been wound and synchronized with the big one on the bell tower. Any minute now…

“HELP! HELP! I’m being attacked! HEEELP!

Perfect. I gave the beggar woman ten crowns to cause a ruckus around this time. The guard on gate duty had an unflinching sense of honor, according to that man at the pub whom I spoke with, and couldn’t resist a woman in need. He took off in a flash, and I was in.

Okay. Museum. Lots of paintings of kings and mountains and urns and gods and people wearing no clothes. In short, art. I was never an appreciator of the stuff. Stolen plenty of it in my time, but I couldn’t tell you anything about how the artist’s mournful strokes of burnt sienna symbolized the struggle of man against the tyranny of such-and-such.

There were halls lined with paintings. I crept along, silent as wind. The stone was being kept in the big exhibition hall, near the center of the museum. Which was…north of where I was? Oh, yes. I continued creeping. The shoes I wore with specially-treated soles cost me seventy crowns and they were worth every last bit. I could be doing a festive jig right behind the guards and they wouldn’t hear a thing.

Footsteps. Damn, speak of the devil. I flexed my fingers, then tensed up and jumped at the wall, whispering a word of command as I did so. My gloves stuck to the wall as if they were coated in honey, and I scuttled up to the ceiling just in time to see a guard pass by. He had a lamp in his hand and a sword at his belt. Big guy, too. But even if he looked up, he wouldn’t see me.

Amateurs tend to wear black. Black stands out in darkness. I was not an amateur. I wore mottled grays tonight but I had sneaking suits in all sorts of colors. In time, the guard went about his business elsewhere, or perhaps sneaked off to have a smoke. Anyway. I eased myself down and whispered the word again. They came unstuck and I moved along.

I eventually made it to the exhibition hall. There in the middle of it, in a large glass case being watched over by two more guards, was the object of my desire. It was black, spherical, and about the size of my fist. Perfect. I felt around for the pouch. I swear, Leere, if you only get things right one more time in your life…

I had a bandana over my nose and mouth, and Leere swore that this would be sufficient to protect me from the stuff. I cut a little slit in the bottom with my knife. Then, quickly as I could manage, I leaned out and hurled the pouch underhanded. Before the guards could say anything, it burst in midair, scattering something that looked like nothing so much as a cloud of flour throughout the air.

It worked. Leere, I could kiss you. The guards were out like lights. I allowed myself a smile. Too easy.

I walked over to the glass display case. No doubt it would set off an alarm if I moved it. But I didn’t plan to. I took out my knife again.

I don’t kill people. No exceptions. My knife has never drawn another person’s blood. If it absolutely comes down to it, I’ll surrender. Not like I haven’t escaped from a cell before. But it was coated with something the Wizard’s Guild called “diamond dust”, and it was sharp enough to cut a gust of wind in half.

I pressed the tip against the glass and slowly cut. It made a low squeaking sound, which was unpleasant to listen to but wouldn’t carry. In no time at all, I had cut a rough circle, which I gently pushed inward. It fell in and landed on the velvety cushion without a sound. I reached in, grabbed the stone, and took a moment to admire it. I may not be a patron of the arts but I know gems. This one was a thing of beauty. It was an unusually large onyx, carved and polished into a perfect sphere and treated with a coating of opal sheen to give it an unearthly glow when the light caught it. If I ever met the craftsman who made it, I’d be honored to shake his hand. Smiling, I slipped it into my bag and turned around…

Only to lock eyes with a pale blue face.

I found myself standing before a semitransparent man’s torso, floating in mid-air, with big staring eyes and a very wide mouth.

“INTRUDER!” it shouted, its voice high and shrill. “INTRUDER IN THE MUSEUM!”

Son of a thousand leprosy-ridden whores, they had watcher spirits. The client did not tell me that the museum had watcher spirits. This was going on their bill.

It was at this point I employed the most ancient and sacred of the master thief’s stratagems.

That is to say, run. A lot.

I could hear the guards coming. I may be a skilled thief but I can’t fight for beans. They would destroy me. So I ran, the spirit still wailing behind me.

The king took security seriously. His guards were competent and most of them were pretty clever. Once they realized that I could outrun them – it wouldn’t take them long – they’d try to outflank me. The museum’s halls were like a maze, and the guards knew every way around.

Damn it all. I could hear shouts from up ahead. I frantically patted around my pockets. C’mon, c’mon, please tell me I had some left…

A cry of “Stop!” rang out and a number of sword-wielding guardsmen were before me. Damnation.

Aha! One left. I took out the tiny pellet, threw it to the ground and stomped hard on it. A plume of smoke quickly blossomed up. I could hear coughing. Perfect. I darted toward the nearest opening…

…and ran face-first into a fist. Ow.

Like I said, these guards are not stupid. They had quickly stepped outside of the radius of the smoke bomb and were waiting for me. Ow. That was going to leave a mark.

“Clever thief isn’t as clever as he thinks he is,” said one of the guards, standing over me. “They all try that trick.”

He was right, really. I should have known better. But I was desperate.

“Now hand it over,” said a different voice. “Cooperate and perhaps you won’t hang.”

“Okay, okay, you win,” I said, reaching into my bag. What I pulled out was not the stone. What I pulled out was a handful of powder similar to – but distinct from – the stuff that produced the smoke and threw it in their faces. They began coughing for real this time as the vile-smelling concoction flooded their sinuses. That stuff was my own creation. Even the bandana couldn’t completely block off the smell. It wouldn’t keep them occupied for long, but I didn’t need long. I sprung to my feet and darted off.

C’mon, you idiot, keep moving, keep moving…there! The exit! Freedom! I’d duck into an alley, doff the clothes and vanish into the night. Easy as pie.

Upon reflection, I really don’t care all that much for pie.

There was an alley nearby. I darted into it…and very nearly ran straight into a wandering beggar.

“Urgh,” he mumbled, brandishing a sloshing bottle at me. Correction: A wandering and very inebriated beggar. “I told ‘em, I told ‘em, but they keeps lookin’ at me like I’m…like…I told ‘em!”

“Calm down, sir,” I told him, holding my hands up in a pacifying gesture.

“I TOLD ‘em!” he shouted, gesturing again with the bottle, which flew from his filthy hands and struck me. It had no stopper, and thus I got a nice splash of the stuff al over my face and chest. I was covered in…yes, smells like rum. Strong stuff, too. Gods, how could a person drink this stuff? Damn it all to the deepest pit of hell. The smell would never come out of the suit.

I couldn’t focus on it long. It was at that point that I felt an arrow graze my hip. I winced. and looked down. It was just a little scratch. It appeared to have done more damage to my pants than my flesh, but I didn’t take the time to examine it closely. Because people were shooting arrows at me.

“There he is!” came a shout. No time to think; I ran again. “Sorry, sir,” I said, pushing the beggar down behind me. No doubt he would slow them down for a moment, but not for long.

The alley was long, but it led to a dead end. No matter. I activated my gloves and used them to pull myself up the wall. My arms were going to be sore in the morning. Once I reached the rooftop, I paused to catch my breath.

Bad idea. What looked like a ball of flaming tar flew up onto the rooftop and just barely missed me. I looked down. I saw one of the guards, who, in addition to the standard uniform, wore a pair of ornate bracers and some rather flashy jewelry.

Son of a…they had a bloody magic-user on the payroll. He was gathering another ball of flaming energy in his hands. I bolted again. Where to go, where to go…aha. Laundry line nearby. I grabbed onto it and gave it a few tugs. Strong cord, firmly attached. I used my knife to hack it off at one end, and started using it to rappel down the opposite wall.

Halfway down, I smelled something burning. I looked down. One of my pant legs was smoldering.

I let out a panicked yelp and – really smart move here – let go of my rope.

Ow. And again, owww. It wasn’t a long drop but I heard something go crunch when I landed. Ankle, probably. Hopefully it wasn’t broken. And my pants were still on fire. Not knowing what else to do, I yanked them off.

I wear tight, form-fitting underwear. It doesn’t pay to have to constantly adjust undergarments when you’re, for example, clinging to a ceiling. Tonight was no exception. Anyone who happened by would get a free show.

Pity that my only clean pair had been the one dyed to look like leopard skin.

I looked at my ankle. It was swelling up already. I tried moving it a bit. Did I mention “ow”? I looked around. Nothing convenient to use as a cane. Guess I’d have to limp. I yanked off my shirt as well and wrapped it around my waist. Some kind of brown shawl had been on the laundry line. I grabbed that and wrapped it around my torso, and also disposed of the bandana that was around my face. Hobbling off, I looked like any other poor crippled street rat. Success.

It took me some time, but I eventually found myself in the tiny little hole I called home when I was in the city. It was mainly a bed, a dresser, a bookshelf and a wash-basin on a pedestal, but it suited my needs. I tossed the shawl and looked into the mirror.

Keeping my hair short served several purposes in my business. Long hair could get snagged on things. I had a naturally nondescript face; I could be any age from thirteen to thirty-five. My naturally petite frame was a great aid as well; there weren’t many of my gender in this line of business. Even a modest-sized bust took some serious binding to get it into the proper attire. I had a chest you could iron a shirt on, and would never wish it any other way. And I had an absolutely lovely black eye. I sighed. Probably going to get mistaken for a battered wife again. As much as I loathe the stuff, perhaps I should start investing in some makeup.

I sat down onto my bed and began to bandage up my ankle. It didn’t hurt quite so much now. Probably just a sprain but I’d ask Leere to take a look at it, just to be sure.

Satisfied, I plopped down, still clutching the bag that held the stone. I’d take it to the Order’s middleman first thing in the morning, and I’d pick up the money from my middleman in the evening, at which point I’d head back to my real home, a remote place in a distant forest, wherein I had a loved one waiting for me. The payoff from this job would see to all of our needs and a few of our wants for awhile. I could use a break.

All in all, it was a good day.

This is what my life is. The brief periods of excitement were always fun. It was a rush, an elaborate dance on the edge of a knife. But the moments of boredom and relaxation were equally treasured, and I was looking forward to them now.


I really, really like it.

More damnit, more says I :stuck_out_tongue:

My only criticism is, it’s a little too colloquial in parts, especially the description of the Order, but it doesn’t do it too much harm.

The comedy of it is very reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, and that adds to it greatly.

Not bad, GG! I usually don’t like thief characters, but you made this one very charming. It was interesting to see things from his POV; I think the prose was your strongest point here. For a moment I wondered if he was even going to make it. I wouldn’t mind reading more about him. :slight_smile:

Thank you kindly for the comics. As it stands, the story is very much a one-shot, but I might toy with the character again in the future.

I would advise against the holding of breath. :wink:

That gave me a good chuckle. I love the down-to-earth, matter of factly way everything is treated in this fantasy world. Of COURSE there are spirits keeping guard, for example XD
An enjoyable read, my dear GG. :slight_smile:

Your words mean a lot to me. Thank you for the comment. :slight_smile:

I might actually polish it off a bit and try to get it published. Several people have told me it was good enough. of course, me being me, I needed to be convinced a bit. :wink: