A solitary elf leans back in his chair in the bustling taproom of The Tipsy Stone. His mood appears light and the fancy bottle of mulled cider he fills his cup from belies a celebration.
‘Gather ’round and I’ll fill you in a bit on where I’ve been the past few days. There you go, there’s plenty of space at the table and the inn is light on soldiers this evening.
Well. Where to begin. I guess you could say that we have all been fortunate to be having an otherwise boring week following some of the other developments and revelations Erathik holds for us. I found myself wandering a bit, that old familiar twitch in my palm.
Following a somewhat portly fellow who appeared well-off, I found myself outside of a money-changing house guarded by soldiers of the Empire below the sea. A curious thought began to worm its way around my mind and I bought a few necessary provisions in order to stay well-fed and alert in the coming hours and what turned into days.
Snagging a shabby traveling cloak from a laundry line a few streets away, I studied the odd building that the Empire had appropriated for their own use. Aside from all the usual telltale markers of a bank controlled by the city, there were some stables attached to the rear of the building and the building itself sprawled over much of a city block.
I’ve a trick of the trade for you now: as you settle in to a classic watch ‘n wait, don’t worry too much about keeping a sharp focus on every detail. Let your eyes wander, let your thoughts wander, but stay awake! In those drifting moments things out of the ordinary or conversations you might not have overheard will float to the top of the mug.
I was in this rhythm for the better part of two days, taking breaks to circle the block or climb a nearby building for a better vantage point. Breath in the air of a place long enough, you get to learn its own rhythms. If you can grasp that, feel that, you’re left with a choice: either shrug and move on in your own way or you can decide to let go of the shore and let the tide pull you along as it will.
This is one of the keys to disappearing in a crowd or making a friend wherever you go. You have the choice to be whoever you want, which will help you do almost anything you want. Mark these words in crystal but never forget who is underneath. That way lies madness.
Mid-day on the second day I decided it was time to get the final pieces of the puzzle. Following the basic rhythms of those I had seen coming and going, I entered the moneylender and surprisingly found myself speaking to a dwarf by the name of Ra-ku-ta.
He changed a bit of my coin out and gave me the basic rundown on Empire currency that I already knew (but it seemed to make him feel good, which is important). While he was speaking I took as many glances around the room as possible and made a mental map of the room before taking my leave.
Night fell. When it was the deepest hours of the night, I set into motion.
Climbing the wall and slipping in through an upstairs window I found myself in an occupied guardroom. This was fine, their gentle snoring belying a deep sleep. Moving through the hallways there was a surprising amount of activity, card games and dinners running against the divide between morning and night. Bending with the shadows, it wasn’t much of a task to find my way around and downstairs near the rear doors facing the stables.
Moving away and towards the lending room, I slipped the door open and found two guards hovering near my prize. Getting them to look away wasn’t too difficult, you need only create a distraction suitable to draw their simple minds. Producing the sound of a dog barking in the alley was enough to dart in behind the counters but not without squeaking on a floorboard.
Honestly, these old buildings will be the death of me one day. But not this day.
Avoiding attention from the guards as they settled back into their musings I set to work on the bank of chests lining the counter. Muffling my picking, the lock was eventually defeated and the lid raised to get a peek at what I was working with.
Unfortunately I was dealing with so much that there were a few noisy coins that shifted and clinked around. Thinking as quickly as I could, I projected more noise outside the room, this time of the dwarf Ra-ku-ta asking for assistance out back. When one guard took the bait, it was then or never.
Moving as quickly as I could, I slid behind the one remaining guard and dispatched him before he could raise an alarm. Unfortunately for him, seeing my face that night was the last thing he did on this world. Freeing his keys from their captivity, I likewise went about opening the vault.
Rows of chests greeted me, but all with the same locks I had already beaten on the open chest. Knowing that the hourglass was losing precious grains of sand I flipped off the shabby cloak and laid it on the open chest and dumped the contents inside.
Bundling it into a makeshift bag and leaping over the counter I made for the front door, beginning to hear the noises of approaching footsteps from the direction of the stables. A steady hand is the difference between life and death in these moments and even flipping through keys to find the right one I was sure and smooth in my motions.
Finding the right one and flipping the tumblers of the lock, I started to instantly run and charged the door with my shoulder, slipping into the night and back here without anyone the wiser.
You saw me counting the sums earlier, but it was easily the largest single heist of coin I’ve had in my charmed lifetime. Soak in this story, little sisters. As I promised, next time you’re coming with me!
Calbur, friend! A few cups for my younger kin! And a quiet round on me for those not sporting allegiance to the Empire…’