In Shadowed Silence Ch. 01byBrasstacks©
In Shadowed Silence: Chapter 1
Two bodies writhed intertwined on satin sheets, the soft glow of candles setting their skin aglow. Soft, passionate sounds filled the large bedchamber. The man was pale, a bit soft-looking of body and perhaps a bit past his prime. The woman, by contrast, was fit, lithe and young, with the swarthy skin of the seafaring people of Trigandus. She rolled the nobleman over so that she was on top, her long black hair just brushing his pale chest as her slender hips rolled and gyrated over his. Their eyes were locked together in passion, and she murmured to him urgently, her sotto voice intense with need, as though she could talk him to orgasm.
Neither lover, thus occupied, noted the odd movement of shadow from the high bedchamber's balcony. The form stopped in its motion just inside the curtains which were gently billowing within the open doors of glass and fine wood in the night breeze. Had the sporting noble chanced to look toward the moon or the graceful edifice of the temple of Thalyssia, with its elegant marble architecture and sprawling, manicured grounds, in the East beyond the balcony outside, the thief would have been plainly outlined in the silvery light. A loud moan escaped the lovely, full lips of the sable-haired woman, and the man beneath her slid his hands and eyes from her hips to sweat-slicked breasts. Just then, neither seemed to have the presence of mind to know anything beyond their own bodies, beyond passion and sensation.
The shadowy thief in question had no idea that he was exposed to sight, as his interest and intentions had been somewhat subverted by other exposed things in those lavish apartments. He caught his breath at the moan, and felt his jaw go slack at the play of candle light upon the gently swaying swell of the foreigner's perfectly formed bosom. Her breasts, with their cream-and-coffee tone, and large, dark nipples, glistened with the sweat of her exertions, the pert nubs rigid with her arousal. He was well and truly mesmerized by the sight of this magnificently formed woman, and were there a hypnotist present to whisper in his ear, he'd have sworn off his life of crime, or any other thing he was asked at that moment.
I love my job, the thief thought to himself.
The thought alone shocked him back into awareness. He had trained himself in the shadowy arts in the streets of Loria, and silence was his watchword. Becoming distracted could be a life-threatening mistake; one stumble, one misstep could be his last. And woe be it if the Guilds caught wind of his freelancing; the guildmasters would not look kindly upon him encroaching on their territories without paying tribute. They could react... violently.
Compared to what the guilds would do to him, running afoul of the guards and being put in stocks, jailed, or even losing a hand seemed like a pleasant prospect. He'd already been caught with his hand in a wizard's pantry; even a dabbling hedge wizard can be terrifying. He was lucky he didn't do any time as something slimy and unnatural, mindlessly scouring the muck and offal from the bottom of the hole in the wizard's privy. As it was, he'd had to do a couple of months' work gathering items the wizard needed to pay off his 'debt of Karma', as Fend had put it.
He had thus stricken both wizards and the priesthood from his list of marks. Though he'd never tested himself against any temple's defenses, he chalked them off just to be safe; he was possessed of a fine enough imagination for horrid things that he declined to press his luck in that arena. Aulric had a haywain-load of troubles and complications to deal with on a daily basis without making even more enemies than he already had, just by virtue of who and what he was, and what he did to scratch out a living.
However, it was not often that the thief was treated to this kind of sight. The woman was simply luscious. The line of her arched back, her flawless, dark, exotic skin tone, her long, wild hair framing her angular face, drew the eyes and enticed nicely. Her hips rolled with a boneless grace, the motion causing the thief's breeches to seem suddenly a couple sizes too small. A bead of sweat sparkled in the candle's light, and lazily rolled down the Trigandoi woman's back languidly, catching his eye and holding it. Visions of following that drop of salty perspiration with his fingers, or better, his tongue, filled his mind.
But that was not his fate. Survival first. This kind of woman was not to be a thief's prize. The uncomfortably stiffening member in his pants knew no such limitations, and was voicing its objections.
Focus, Aulric, he chided himself mentally, and got back to work.
The bedchamber was insanely large and ostentatious, lit by only a few candles near the bed. Luxurious wall hangings covered every inch of wall that was not layered in rich, dark woodwork. Burgundy carpeting stretched from the doors of the balcony to every wall, not an inch of cold stone to meet bare feet. The furnishings were equally rich, in dark mahogany and teak, cushioned chairs near at hand to Aulric's left. Just beyond this sitting area nearest the balcony was the bed, its headboard high and carved with frescoes of hunting scenes and fae-like creatures sporting. It's posts reached to the high ceiling, shrouded in diaphanous, cloudlike lengths of gauzy cloth.
A wardrobe loomed on the other side of the gigantic bed, a dressing screen mostly blocking the view of the lintel over a great wooden door. Across an expanse of ten feet of carpet opposite the bed was a dressing table, gilt and topped with a huge, crystal-clear mirror. At the room's far corner lay a nook with a writing desk, high-backed chair and bookshelves behind, all sumptuously carven, in exquisite woods and workmanship. Every available nook not occupied by furniture or curios was adorned with potted plants of every description, adding their aromas and a certain vibrant life to the space.
Silver candelabras, decanters, goblets and trinkets of every stripe filled tables and shelves, laying a heavy temptation over the entire room. Silver adorned most of the articles in the chamber, which was hardly surprising, considering the Lord Amburgey had made his fortune in mining rights in the nearby Eyre of Heaven, the mountain range to the north.
Aulric crept silently onto the thick, luxuriant, burgundy carpet, silent as a shadow and lithe as a cat. Crouching low and moving in a wide-footed stalk, his head barely reached the level of the large bed the noble and tonight's plaything labored upon; he was as good as invisible. He bypassed the dressing table at the wall near the foot of the bed. The noble's jewelry and other fine things were there, but fencing such things within Loria was pure folly.
He passed as well a silver decanter full of what smelled like fine mead, though the intoxicating and heady scent of sex filling the room distracted his senses. The silver pitcher, while easily transported and fenced, would be missed immediately upon the lovers' need for refreshment. There was a slight temptation for a sip of the sweet honey wine, for what chance would he have to taste anything so fine? But no. His gut told him that tarrying here would be a fatal error, and his instincts had rarely led him astray.
The shadows in the room shifted strangely as the couple on the bed changed positions and the young thief froze, near a fernlike potted plant on his way to his goal. He shot a glance out of the corner of his eye at the man, now climbing to his knees, mounting the panting woman from behind. Shadow and moonlight and candlelight conspired to make the scene more sinister from this angle; shadows sharpened and loomed. The lovers on the bed might as well been wrestling demons, and the carpet seemed to Aulric a darker, bloody red. He grimaced under his dark grey mask and hood at this omen.
Something within the thief clenched and shrunk from the sudden dread , but he was a scant five feet from the alcove where the Lord Amburgey kept his strongbox. His reconnoiter some nights before had shown him where he needed to go. The writing desk and high-backed, darkwood and burgundy, leather-upholstered chair blocked his view of most of the bookshelves recessed into the wall behind them. The coffer was nestled into the bottom shelf behind a clever bit of paneling that would swing outward with the manipulation of a hidden catch lever concealed in the scrollwork decorating it. Once satisfied that he would not be discovered, he continued.
As loudly as the woman was moaning and beginning to cry out her passion in her native tongue, the young thief could well have taken an axe to said panel, and Lord Amburgey would not have heard. The rhythmic slapping of the pale flesh of Amburgey's hips against her shapely posterior applied a beat and counterpoint to their debauched dance, and Aulric knew he had to hurry. The time, as they were fond of saying, was drawing nigh. He slipped behind the writing desk and felt for the catch lever at the base of the bookshelves, placing his free hand upon the panel itself to quiet its release and lower it softly.
The pace of the nobleman's thrusts, by the sound of it, were reaching a speed which the young street thief scarcely thought possible, or healthy for the man at his advancement of age. He quirked a brow and was not just a little impressed. The wild cries of the woman in her own strange tongue, her hissing intake of breath, and the unceasing, wet slap of flesh on flesh drew a sort of bewildered admiration out of Aulric as he felt carefully inside the recess in which the coffer lay. In his mind a clock ticked loudly, telling him that he was out of time, and he was past the point where he could still leave while the Lord and his concubine were occupied. This was going to get sticky... so to speak.
He found the slender wire attached to the back of the strongbox. The wire led to a hook at its end, looped through an eyelet screwed into the coffer's back. He didn't know what this trap would do, and wasn't inclined to find out, whether it be a devilish magical trap or a simple alarm. His mind conjured images of acid spraying from hidden atomizers in the woodwork and melting his flesh from his bones, or a subtler curse that swelled his hands to twice their normal size; countless possibilities, up to and including simply alerting a guard to come and run him through with nothing more than steel and mean strength. He dispelled those images by disengaging the hook from the eyelet and carefully drawing the box from its resting place.
Aulric hastily unrolled a soft cloth bundle he kept in a hidden pocket in his vest. He laid it out on the carpet before the coffer and took up the crude but serviceable lock pick set he had cobbled together over the nine years since he had turned thievery into his actual profession. The noise in the room was distracting and the smell of sex overwhelming. He tried to will his raging hard-on to give him some slack.
How can a guy work under these conditions? The stray, wry thought set off a mental giggling that threatened to spill from his lips. He steeled himself against it, but ironic humor set Aulric's lips stretching into a broad grin.
Huh. I have performance anxiety. Priceless.
The cacophony from the bed reached a crescendo, and the thief could hear the headboard rattling and the bed squeaking mightily with the frenzy of the islander's orgasm, accompanied by the Lord's grunts and cries of ecstasy. They had climaxed simultaneously... just as the lock popped open.
It was good for me, too, Aulric thought with a small, avaricious grin.
The couple on the bed gasped and panted loudly, shivering through aftershocks of their orgasms and murmuring to one another between heaving breaths. Aulric carefully swung the lid open on the strongbox, barely silencing the small bell affixed to the inside of the lid in time, muffling it with a finger. He hissed out a startled breath. The simplest traps were always the trickiest.
Inside the box lay his prize, and his survival. There were twelve neat stacks of coins arranged in a tray that ostensibly could be removed from the box. The gold in that tray alone could make Aulric a comfortable young man for a couple of years to come, with even a few excesses indulged. That left alone the likely gems and trade notes that would lie beneath, among other items of value; deeds, writs from other nobles giving the bearer privileges and rights few could boast... But none of it mattered.
No. The gold would stay. He would take not one trade note, deed, writ or gem. Aulric had never been an idiot, except by design, to mislead others into underestimating him. Walking around Loria with his lack of station, in the areas he haunted, with a purse brimming with gold coins? No. Uncomfortable questions would be asked by all the wrong sort, if he weren't simply murdered for it.
Aulric took the scant copper coins first, thirteen in all, then five silver coins. These he stacked upon one another and slipped into a leather fist pack from which he had dumped the sand an hour before in one of the myriad darkened alleys of Loria. The copper would buy him food enough to fill the gnawing hole in his belly for a while at least, and the silver would finish paying off the shady, mean-spirited smith from whom he had commissioned a brace of throwing knives. Perhaps enough that he could upgrade to a real dagger from the simple, flimsy shiv he had ground upon a rock until it could serve as a weapon. He regarded the gold longingly, then palmed another four silver, enough to bribe the watchman who had taken an unhealthy interest in the young thief a few days back.
The fist pack wasn't full yet. Five more coins would do it. The leather roll would jingle as it was, but just five more coins would allow it to cinch tight enough to silence the coins. The Lord and his lover were exclaiming at their intense session, making plans for the next dalliance out of the eyes of Amburgey's shrewish wife. Ah ha. Aulric smirked as five gold coins went into the leather sap, and hoped he'd be able to squirrel them away someplace safe until he needed them, though a bribe in gold would affect the guardsman's memory more effectively than silver. Plus, the new dagger would be a reality rather than a pipe dream.
Now the hard part: getting back out with both his prize, and hopefully, his body intact. He replaced the strongbox in its hidden shelf, reattaching the hook to the eyelet, then relocked the box with his picks. Closing the hidden compartment was challenging; Aulric could feel the tension in the catch that would undoubtedly bring a click as it snapped into place. He listened to the illicit lovers chuckle and sigh together, the decanter tapping against the first silver goblet, which rang like a bell, clear and low. The thief waited for the second ring to come before pressing the panel and letting the catch spring home. The resulting sound was more quiet than he expected.
"Are you sure you shouldn't be getting dressed?" Lord Amburgey was clearly dismissing the foreign woman now.
She laughed airily. "She'll be busy in the stables for a while longer, I should think," she replied lightly, a tone in her voice that Aulric thought dangerous. Dead silence answered.
By the sound of her voice, she had risen and crossed the floor to where her lover stood. "Come, now, my Lord," she chided lightly. "You don't truly think that she would not seek solace in the arms of another when you do not give her a husband's attention, do you?" More silence. She was playing a dangerous game here.
Aulric wondered what insanity had gripped her. Amburgey was powerful and subtle; not a man to cross lightly. He could, and had, Aulric knew, made more important people than this Trigandoi woman disappear without a trace. Aulric had tripped over the remains of one of those "disappearances" while fleeing guild enforcers.
To the thief's surprise, Lord Amburgey simply said, "Quite so." His tone was mild and reasonable, though not so reasonable as to make Aulric worry. "It seems, my exotic Thydara," he murmured to her, his voice a soft, intimate baritone, "That I may hardly be jealous when my own faithfulness is... questionable. Though until you, I had been perfectly faithful to milady Ferona."
Thydara laughed. "No difficult feat, though, my Lord, you must admit," she boldly inferred. "Your desires were all but dried as a corpse upon the desert. Before me, that is."
The Lord Amburgey sniffed distastefully. "Have a care, concubine, else I should become insulted, and call for satisfaction."
She only laughed wickedly at the implication. "So soon? It would seem your ailing hungers have recovered miraculously," she mocked lightly. The lord's rolling chuckle joined hers.
Aulric never stirred in his hiding place. His ankles and thighs ached from the crouch he maintained, and his stomach was threatening to growl menacingly as it ravaged his spine in protest of hunger. At least his cock had stopped being a problem. It seemed as though the verbal sparring would go on indefinitely, and Aulric's risk of discovery increased with each second spent here. Aulric prayed fervently for luck, to whatever god might hear him, knowing no proper name to invoke.
Finally the lord's voice drifted toward the door of the bedchamber along with the woman, and Aulric heard the room's heavy door open and close. He seized upon his chance to make good his escape. The young thief crossed the floor of the room, gained the balcony and slipped down the wall and out into the night, unaware that he had been watched.