A Thief in the Night
The royal vault was buried deep within the stronghold behind several fortified layers of walls, towers and guards. The inner keep was the single most securely defensible place in all of Caer Ddraig, designed to withstand the bombardment of a thousand soldiers.
Getting in was easy for the solitary EarthFolk. Drawing the gentle embrace of the earth around her, she took care to remain calm and unhurried. Without any purpose to her step, she drifted through the halls and winding stairs, always careful to keep to the shadowed gloom until she eventually came to heavily barred doors sealed with an arcane lock. That wasn’t as much a deterrent to the waterborne as the five guards standing between her and those doors. She could pass unnoticed to within a few feet of the men and be perfectly safe. They would, however, notice the doors being opened and that would inevitably draw their attention to her.
Lingering in the shadows at the far end of the hall, she watched and waited. Not a man moved. They conversed quietly amongst themselves, but otherwise were not distracted from their charge. It struck her as strange. She couldn’t understand the desire to protect coins and weapons as if they were more valuable than life itself, but it was something she’d seen often in many races. After a while, she accepted it as a strange quirk and left it at that. But contemplating the values held by the Rheyfelwr wasn’t going to help her get into the vault.
Her gaze roamed about the chamber. There was nothing but torches burning brightly along the walls. Then she heard it, the faint trickle of water far below the castle and a mischievous smile spread across her full lips. Built into the lowest level of the stronghold, the royal vault was almost directly above the underground water supply for the city.
Closing her eyes, Cara reached out to the water, she spoke to it and appealed to its playful nature. She drew it up through the earth, between the stones and into the castle. It started as a dampness across the polished floor. Then it became a thin layer of water that soaked into the plush carpets before turning into puddles. Startled, the guards watched as tiny, watery forms rose from the spreading pools. Giggling, they darted about leaving rivers behind as they danced up the stairs. The men drew their swords, stumbling over themselves in their surprise as they ran to pursue the strange little creatures.
She drifted back as they stormed past her, their boots squelching on the carpeted steps, then she turned her attention to the vault. Hurrying across the empty chamber, she inspected the arcane lock. Comprised of three inter-connected dials, each formed of three concentric rings, they were a random blend of black and white that seemed to make no sense whatsoever until Cara looked at the imagery around the dials. If turned in the right order, they would complete a picture. If turned in the wrong order, an alarm would undoubtedly be raised. Or worse, a trap would be triggered. Her hand hovering over the first dial, she took a deep breath and began to slowly turn the outermost ring. After a quarter rotation, she matched it with the picture surrounding it and moved on to the next inner ring of the dial.
She very soon finished the rest to complete the image, the Black Dragon of Arswyd rampant on a white field. There was a loud click and she jumped. The heavy bars across the door slid back with a reverberating slam. When nothing else happened, Cara hesitantly pushed on the polished wood. The door gave easily, silently swinging inward to reveal the largest accumulation of wealth and finely crafted items she'd ever seen in her life, everything from jewel encrusted goblets to finely made swords. Dazzled by the brightness, it took her a minute or two to remember what she’d come for. Having no time to lose, she ran into the vault, her gray eyes scanning every surface and hook for the sword. She found it resting atop a beautifully carved chest.
It was just as Morgan had described with a pommel in the shape of a snarling tiger’s head but what startled Cara was how identical it was to Iefan’s, right down to the words in Rheyfelwr tooled into the leather sheath. She briefly wondered if it was in fact the ambassador’s, then decided it didn’t matter. There was a time and a place for everything. Standing in the middle of the royal vault was not the time or place to be contemplating anything.
Snatching the sword, she ran out of the vault, closed it behind her and carefully returned each ring of the dials to their previous positions. The heavy bars slammed home and by the time the guards returned to their post after their wild goose chase, the EarthFolk was long gone.
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