A man sat in his apartment above the noisy tavern, the thick smell of meat filled the room in which he lingered. Black hair covered his eyes as he stabbed at his dinner. A wooden bow and leather quiver sat in the corner he faced. One candle lit the small room, and shadows hid the mans face. A sliding sound alerted the man who turned his head toward the door, a small parchment slid under it. He sighed as he leaned his fork against the clay plate. He pushed his chair back which stopped against the wall. The closet like room was not nearly enough space. He sighed again and reached down to pick up the paper. Rent is due; five hundred gold. The man fumbled into his pocket; he pulled out five copper pieces and a key. Near his bed sat a chest with a bronze lock. He approached the chest and laid a hand upon it feeling a cold sensation from the larder only inches away. He contemplated the key in his hand, then put it back in his pocket.
The quiver fell to the ground, as if fate tempted him. He turned his head to the corner as the quiver rolled and the arrows knocked around inside it. He nodded and walked to the corner where it rested, he slung the quiver around his shoulder and adjusted the string on the bow. The archer pulled a cloth from the quiver and wrapped it around his jaw, hiding a pale scar that had yet been revealed by the dim candle light. With his face now concealed, he approached the window and leaped out onto the roof; closing the window behind him. His eyes glowed blue in the night and the wind passed through his black hair. The star light silhouetted the archer as he strolled across the roof.
A castle stood in the distance. Guarded by loyal men who wore blue cloth shirts and chainmail for protection; armed with swords they stood watch at the gate. One man stood out; his robes purple. A more stately look held upon his face, unlike the others. He instructed the men and then walked into the castle as a large gate closed behind him. He proceeded deeper into the castle where a regal figure dressed in red and gold placed his crown upon its perch. He thought to himself, ‘What a lovely diadem.’ The king stared at his crown, as it gleamed in the candlelight. A knock came at the door and the king turned to see his loyal captain. They looked each other in the eye and the king nodded. The king blew out the candle and darkness gathered in the room.
The archer sat at the tavern sipping mead, his five copper now in the bartenders hand. The owner leaned down to the archer and showed him a small patch which the darkness covered. He nodded and the man whispered to the archer. Though his breath smelt of alcohol the archer listened carefully. He leaned back and the rabbles noise returned to his ears. He smiled and stood up, lifting his mask back to his jaw, hiding his iniquitous grin. He returned to the streets and stealthily moved toward the castle.
The moon hovered over the castle in a foreboding manner. A tower stood tall in front of the moon as a dark figure was shown making his way toward the stone wall. Climbing to the tower he reached the top quickly and jumped straight down into the courtyard. From a tree in which he stood, he lowered himself to the ground and leaned behind the same oak. Two guards passed on their route, the flames of their torches made their chain mail glint. When back to back the archer ran quickly passed them, all the guards noticed was a slight breeze as they continued down the path.
The king lie asleep in his bed as guards pass outside his door. Wind blows the curtain through an open window. A loud clap came from the sky and lightning struck down from the heavens. The once darkened window lit up and the flash revealed the archer, sitting on the window seal. The rain poured down outdoors and the guards moved their posts back to the castle interior.
The thief tip toed through the kings room. A crack in the door allowed a passing guards torch light to peer in, as if a sign for him, the light perfectly sought the stand where the kings crown was perched. His nimble fingers lifted the jewel encrusted circlet and placed it in a small bag hung by his left belt loop. The king shifted in his bed, the thief looked eyes opening slightly as he fingered his dagger. The restless king stopped and mumbled before falling back to silence. The dagger slid back into its place in the sheath and the sneak moved silently to the door, he peered around the corner then moved along the hall.
A guard rounded the corner as the thief approached. Hidden by the blackness between torches and pillars the thief hid. The decorative pillars throughout the castle were perfect hiding spots for any well trained thief. The guard passed, he stopped a felt the hilt of his blade, then continued on. Turning the corner another guard slowly walked away from the approaching thief, the guards torch being the only thing that lit the long hall the thief tailed him close. The thief exhales as he reaches forward and lays his hand on the key attached to the guards hip. Moving the key up the ring and off the loop the pickpocket earns his prize.
The nimble man escapes through a door to the left. The door clicks and the stirred guard turns to see nothing but empty hall. He holds the torch at arms length, looks, shrugs his shoulders and continues his duty unbeknownst of the prowler in his kings castle. Continuing to a room with a lock the swift man enters the key to the tumblers and opens the wooden door. He enters and opens a window, ‘Can never be too careful.’ he thinks to himself as he sets up his escape. In this room sits chests, drawers and gilded cabinets alike. The thief ignores these insignificant treasures and continues to a bust, of a long dead queen. Her regal features carved into this block of marble, ameliorated by a golden chaplet and a necklace of gold and diamond.
A boy stirred in his bed, he sat up and looked around his dark room. He shuddered from the breeze and moved to close his window. Another thunderclap came from the sky and rain poured down harder, within seconds a lightning bolt streaked across the clouds almost as Zeus himself stood above their very castle and hurled lightning at the unsuspecting village. The boy rubbed his eyes and closed the window and curtains. He returned to his bed and tried to ignore the rain dropping on the stone not far above his head.
Tension remained low as the thief lifted the glass surrounding the bust and set it gently upon the wood floor. With caution he removed the golden reef from the queens bust and placed it gently into his pouch. ‘Now the necklace.’ The thief thought. As he lifted the hefty diamonds carefully off her neck a yell echoed through the stone halls. ‘Thief! Vandal! Cut throat!’ an angry voice called out. The king had discovered his crown missing and his window opened. Metal feet clanked down the halls toward the thief.
‘Damn it.’ the man thought. ‘Good deeds such as mine does not go unpunished.’ He said to himself snidely. Quickly he placed the pilfered necklace into the pouch at his hip and proceeded to the window. “Stop!” Yelled a guard. The thief looked back at the watchmen approaching him with swords in hand. “Sorry boys, I have a date with a fence.” He tossed a small silver orb at the men who flinched as it exploded into pink rose petals which floated down gently to the ground. When they looked up from the flash of flowers, he was gone, the only thing left in the window were the curtains being blown by the wind.
The man walked down the blackened alley to a man in a plate cuirass. The armored man tilted his head back and looked at the thief, who reached into a pouch on his right hip and pulled out a badge. The dimly lit alley showed the patch, just like the bartenders. A gold coin pierced by an arrow. A script sentence was sewn beneath the gold piece that read ‘Innocent Thief, Guilty Prey.’ With a nod the Armored man opened a door hidden by grime and garbage and allowed the innocent to enter. He opened the pouch and let the goods fall onto the wooden table. Blood stained the corner of the table, as if someones head met an unfortunate fate. The armored man inspected the goods and his eyes widened. Without a word he looked upon the innocent man, his eyes opened wider than the door to a stable. He lifted the kings crown and pushed it violently into the mans hand. “I can’t buy this, do you know how hot this item is? Right now the kings men are probably looking for it. Looking for you!” The fence said in a panic. “Relax.” The innocent man said. “If you won’t buy it I might as well return it to the poor fool. More of a jester than a king.” He reached for the pouch and placed the crown back in. Fixing it to his hip he spoke again. “How much will you give me for the others.” The fence thought for a moment, “I know this is all from the castle, but I don’t know who exactly these jewels belong to, I might as well give you, five thousand gold.” He walked into the back and pulled out a medium sized coin pouch and threw it to the seller. He nodded and left the fence to his own devices.
After paying the rent, the humbled man sat in his room. Quiver and bow back in the same corner they once were. A rotten smell filled the air, the man stood at the table holding his clay plate up. The mutton he once enjoyed had been forgotten over night. Flies flew over the meat and crawled across his unpleasant smelling leftovers. He unhappily dropped his plate out the window. Which slid off the roof and shattered into the gutter below. “Watch it up there!” A man shouted up from the street. With a sigh and a laze the man opened his larder, finding nothing but a lowly potato. He sighed and waited for nightfall.
He left his house as the sun set on the hill and laid a cloud of red and purple above the kingdom. The anomaly goes unnoticed as villagers walk amongst the town returning to their homes, a sunset they have seen one hundred times before looks the same from all eyes and wondrous to none. Night fell and a blackness replaced the red sky. Clicking of leather heels upon the wood roofs ran across the town and people looked up from their dinner tables to see dust fall from their ceilings as the quick man ran across their homes.
At the castle the king was still in a rage beyond which the guard had seen. They tried not to cower as his booming voice which echoed through their ears. He dispatched them to their posts and their torches brought the last of the light away from the room which the king stayed in. All light was gone now but a lone candle sitting on a wardrobe next to the same stand the crown once sat on. A creek came from the door as the king turned away then became loud as the door opened. The king turned quickly not thinking. “What is it!?” He yelled out. Standing there at the door with a lantern was his young son, now with a sad look on his face. “Oh I am sorry my son.” said the king leaning down to his boy. “What is it?” The boy looked up at his father with sad eyes that sparkled slightly in the candlelight. “I miss mother. You’re always working on something.” The father sighed and looked his boy in the eye brushing his hair back behind his ear. “Listen son.” He said. “I know I’ve been busy, I’ll tell you what by tonight in less than an hour I shall be ready. So you come right here and we’ll do whatever you’d like.” The boy smiled and nodded, running off back to his room.
A short time had passed between the nightfall and the change of guard. In this time a quiet mouse had sneaked past the soldiers and into his hole. The mouse squeaked as a man climbed over the wall with a rope and hook. Up and over he climbed tossing his weight into the same tree he had perched in once before. Dropping down silently, small leaves floated down with him. A sense of Déjà vu rushed the man as he repeated the same action as before, running as the guards backs were to each other. A smile could barely be made out through his mask as he felt the tension grow when one guard turned, he jump into a small brush just before the gate to lead out of the courtyard. He looked through the bush and back into the courtyard, one guard stood where he once was and looked upon the bush. Foolishly the guard disregarded his instinct and continued on his route. As did the thief. Climbing the stairs quietly to the next floor he turned to see a long hallway where he had once found trouble.
A single guard stood at attention outside the kings quarters. ‘Barely night and already all these guards. Tsk tsk.’ The thief thought. He reached behind his back and plucked an arrow gently from his quiver. Knocking back the arrow he turned his shoulders to face a torch down the hall from the guard. Letting go the arrow sailed through the air, noiseless. The arrow met the torch and knocked it down from its holster on the wall. The torched rolled as the fire slowly burnt out causing the hallway to become dark as night.. The guard drew his sword, “Who goes there?” He yelled into the darkness. No response. He continued down the hall and into the black corner, leaving the kings quarters safely unattended. Tiptoeing to the room the thief proceeded with caution yet a quiet quickness about him that none other could match. Without a sound he entered the bedchamber and closed the door behind him.
Looking around the room deeming it as safe the thief stood and stretched. His bones popped and cracked, and he let go sigh of relief. He walked over to the stand where the crown once sat, and placed it back on properly as if it was never gone. He nodded and his mask slid down his face. He lifted it back to his mouth and once again hid that scar. The old wound went up the left side of his face from the lip and connected to his eye. Before leaving he stared into the mirror. “Only the glass can know my true face.” He said quietly to himself as he traced his finger down his scar and a tear descended down to his cloth facade. A wooden creek came from behind the lowered man. Nearly panicked, the man pulled an arrow from his bow and spun to face the door. He knelt to ensure only an injuring blow, letting go of the arrow it sailed through the air for a short time. The archers eyes widened like never before. “No.” Whispered the archer.
A small body fell to the ground and a lantern beside it. The man rushed to the body as blood spilled onto the floor. “No!” He gasped. “I was expecting a guard not a boy! Damn it all what have I done!” The panicked man paced in the room. The boy on the ground was none other, than the lonely prince just on his way to be with his father. The distraught man looked upon the body, he knew he had to leave now. He knew they would be out for his head. Blood dripped down the boys face, the arrow buried itself deep into his skull. The blood ran down his cheek as if tears were meant to be there. A red pool formed, one would think the human body couldn’t hold so much blood. “Murder!” A shout came from the hall, as a guard rushed to the rescue. The man opened the window and leaped out leading him back to the courtyard. He tumbled and continued in a sprint. The guards now knowing he was there followed as closely as possible, although none could catch him. He clambered up the wall and vaulted over the battlements. Making his way back to the town shouts came from behind him, the black night barely hid him from their torches. Calls from the guards were shouted into the village. Yelling profanities and urges to stop the murderer.
He quickly rounded a corner and hid in the doorway of a strangers home. Guards rushed by the alley and continued down toward the town square. He sighed, the memory of that boys face now haunting him. Leaning his head against the wall the cold stone calmed his burning migraine. The poor boy, now dead with a father crying over him and a thief that was only returning what he had stolen, responsible for what should have never happened.
In the kings quarters kneeled the regal figure over his lost son, he fixed his hand around the shaft of the arrow and slowly pulled it out. An emotionless look struck his face, guards watched in horror as they watched their silent king lift his lifeless son up off the blood stained floor. He carried him through the hall then down the stairs which the thief once ascended. Slowly he walked, the sons arm limp hanging down toward he ground and his eyes open staring up toward the heavens. Into the physicians room he layed his son upon the table. He pressed his head into his son's chest, hoping to feel a heartbeat. The king closed his sons eyes for the final time and tears wept down his solemn face.
The sun began to rise, hours had past by in what seemed like seconds and the thief sat back in his house, his head on the table where he once ate. Tears falling down from his eyes, a small puddle gathered on the wooden counter. He slammed his hands down onto the table and stood up throwing the chair back as he began to pace around the room. “Damn it!” He yelled. “Stupid guild, why couldn’t the fence just buy the damned diadem. I’m sure the king would have been happier with his son then a useless symbol.” He stomped his feet and approached the wall, he swung his fist back and punched into the wall driving a hole in the weak wood. “Damn it.” He said quietly as he leaned his brow against the wall. He walked to the window and looked out, a guard stood talking to the innkeeper. He pointed up to his room. The guard looked up with a look of disdain, then proceeded to enter the building. Looking around the room quickly the man pulled a key out of his pocket and moved for the chest he once contemplated opening. He unlocked the brassed lock and looked upon all the gold and silver pieces he had saved. He gathered up all he could and forced them into a pouch which he strung around his belt. As he strung his bow a loud knock came at the door, “Open up in there!” The guards voice bellowed. The man quickly gathered what he needed and opened the window. With a hard push the guard broke through the door, it splintered and fell off its hinges. “Stop!” He yelled. The man didn’t listen and jumped out the window and ran across the roof then dropping unseen into an alley. The innkeeper appeared in the doorway and looked upon the door which had been broken and taken off the hinges, he looked at the guard and said, “You’re paying for that.”
The guilty man ran through the streets avoiding the towns guard and patrolmen. He continued up a small road and found a large cottage farther from the town than the other homes. He ran in and slammed the door behind him, he rested his head back and sighed a sigh of relief. It had been too long for the man, it had been nearly a year since he last saw this house. With another sigh, he walked slowly up the staircase. A man dressed in white appeared at the top of the staircase, “Oh you’re here.” The man in white said. He pondered for a second then spoke, “She’s stable.” The man in white walked away into the next room, and the thief continued to ascend. He followed the steps of the other man and opened a door leading to a bedroom. A very pale woman laid under the covers, her black hair made her skin seem even more white, nearly matching the other mans coat. She breathed heavily and did not open her eyes as the thief entered the room. “Don’t worry, she hasn’t woken since you left. It’s been over a year you know.” The man in white said. The thief looked at him with a hint of anger, “You think I don’t know that? I’ve been trying to get the money so she can be treated. Here.” The thief threw the pouch full of coins at the man. “That should be enough doctor.” The doctor felt the bags weight then set it aside, “You know.” He paused. “I know you haven’t been doing exactly legal things to get these funds, I can’t say I approve, but you’re a loyal husband.” The man looked at him for a second, then nodded. He walked past the doctor and kneeled at the bedside. He let his head rest onto the woman's chest. “I’m so sorry.” He said. “Even if I’ve been loyal, I haven’t been a good husband. I couldn’t protect you.” Quietly the doctor put his hand on the thief's shoulder. “I think she’d understand.” Tears fell down the thief’s face once again. He looked upon his wife and stroked her hair away from her eyes. “I screwed up doc.” he said. “Now,” The doctor started, but the thief interrupted. “You don’t understand, on the last heist, I decided to steal from the king.” The doctor sighed and shook his head. “It went swimmingly at first, wasn’t caught stole the king's crown and some jewels, but when I got to the fence, he freaked out at the sight of the crown, he told me to give it back. So I said fine, and I took it back. Placed it upon the stand and was distracted for a second by a mirror, showing my scar.” The thief once again traced the scar down his face. “The door behind me opened, I spun around and knelt to deal a crippling blow to a guard. Little did I realize it was a boy behind the door, the kings boy.” He stopped and the doctor looked upon him with astonishment. No words could escape his gaping mouth. He shook his head. “I’m guessing you want to hide out here?” He questioned. “No.” The thief stood up. “I screwed up, took a shot to quick.” He dropped his bow and quiver on the ground. “I fucked up. I’ll take the punishment. Besides, at least she’ll have her health back soon.” He rubbed the woman’s face and left the room. The doctors eyes followed him until the door shut behind him. “Poor fool.”
He walked outside, the guards had found him. Up the path they traveled and toward the house. He stopped as the guards surrounded him. He nodded and dropped to his knees, one walked up and took his hands behind his back. Iron shackles tightly around the thief’s wrists, they chafed his skin and were cold against his bones. They took him through the town on a walk of shame, a guard dropped a few coins into the hand of a man who had seen the thief run to the good doctor.
They brought him back to the castle which he robbed. No emotion crossed the thief’s face, no smile, no sadness, no regret. Although he felt more regret than any man there knew. The guards brought him to the dungeon and let the shackles go, pushing him into the dark moistened cell. They had stripped him of all his possessions. All he had now, was the cloth prison clothes they threw at him, and a rope belt. He sighed and walked his bare feet through the wet mud and straw that littered the ground. A small window sat in the stone wall ten feet off the ground, a ray of light peered through the barred window and ended just outside the cell. To his left a small roll up bed covered in mud and vomit, to the right chains and shackles hung from the ceiling and under that a small bucket that smelled of excrement. A stone slab protruded from the wall, giving the prisoner a place to sit. He sat on the cold stone and leaned his head against the even colder wall.
When it rained water dripped down through the window and down the wall, making more mud and worse livings. After a short time of being in the dungeon a struggling man was carried down the cell hall which a thief once walked. The prisoner looked out from the bars and saw that the bartender he once met was being thrown into the cage across from him. The bartender stood back up and leaned against the bars. “Well if it isn’t the thief.” He said. “I’m in for conspiracy, they got me for giving you information. Ch, that’s what I get for signing with the guild. This informant stuff ain’t worth the dime it pays.” He walked back into his own muddy cell, and the thief returned to his bench. Rain water crawled down the wall and trickled down the prisoner, it fell down his face, as if a tear was meant to be there.
Within a month it was time for the execution. One does not get away with life in prison after killing a prince. The thief understood this, they walked him down the cell hall and out into the village. Mud stained his body and clothes, people stared and threw rotten fruit. The thief stepped up into the town square. The sun fell behind the guillotine and the light shined off the blade, guards pushed him up the stairs and stood him before the device. He looked out into the distance, a woman covered by a hood stood in the middle of the crowd. As she became the center of his attention people began to herd around the town square like cattle. He recognized the woman, her black hair and light eyes were not covered by the ragged hood and dress. His wife watched as he knelt down and put his head down to the block. The executioner placed the mans head into the lunette and fastened the other down to keep his head in place.
He managed to barely lift his head enough to meet his wife’s eyes. He smiled at her, and a tear traveled down his face. The tear followed the path of his scar down to his lip and fell into the basket below his chin. He smiled kindly at her as the blade came down. The crowd dispersed once the blood had stopped. The wife looked on, she couldn’t bare the sight anymore. Her husbands head now in a basket meant for heads of cabbage. Not his own. She looked upon the ground and turned to walk away, as she walked a single tear fell down her face, from her eye to her lip. As if a scar was meant to be there.
© Copyright 2016 Tucker Haase. All rights reserved.