Theo was aware he was evil. He was the right hand of the worst villain to plague the continent in a century, after all. He was even aware that his current behavior was rather hypocritical.
Still, he couldn’t stop the hiss of anger that escaped his breath when he saw the dungeon full of thin children. The children who were awake cowered before him, too scared to make a sound.
He may have been trash, but even he couldn’t ignore suffering children.
Sighing, Theo turned around and closed the dungeon’s door. A plan to reveal the children to someone who would make a far better savior than him began to form in Theo’s mind.
Theo stepped over the guard he had already knocked out while he formed his plot. Theo had been trying to find the treasury when he stumbled on this place. He would have to hurry and find the real one before the guard woke up.
While slinking down the hall, Theo made sure to listen for the sounds of any other life. He eventually came to a corner. Left would take him back upstairs where he would find a lively party. Theo turned right.
After a few more turns, Theo heard the sound of someone breathing. It was probably a guard for the treasury. He grinned before slipping into the shadows.
Theo was a warlock, a practitioner of the dark arts. He wasn’t skilled at spell casting or rituals, but he was able to manipulate shadows to an extent. As long as he didn’t want to be seen, the shadows would devour his presence.
Theo hopped between the plentiful shadows until he came to the guard. He struck the back of the guard’s neck with the blunt end of a dagger and the guard crumpled to the floor without a single cry. Satisfied, Theo tucked the dagger back into his sleeve.
Theo always tried to end fights quickly; he hated to spill even a drop of his own blood.
Theo pulled a ring of keys out of his coat pocket and slipped a key into the treasury door’s lock. He had already stolen the treasury keys earlier this evening. It took a couple of tries, but he found the correct key.
The sight that greeted Theo would have been overwhelming if he hadn’t already broken into more treasuries than he could count. Gold, precious gems and treasure chests were piled everywhere.
Theo pocketed a handful of gold coins with a frown. It would be difficult to find the artifact he was supposed to steal in this mess of wealth and it was only a matter of time until one of the guards woke up.
Toward the back of the room, pedestals with glass cases stood in a neat row. It was as good a place to start as anywhere.
If Dullahan, Theo’s boss of sorts, had asked Theo to steal something, it was probably one of the more expensive things in the treasury.
The first pedestal held an obscenely large string of pearls. Theo wondered if it was enchanted before continuing to the next pedestal.
It held a small dagger. Black runes were etched into the hilt. Theo couldn’t read the runes. He was illiterate when it came to magic.
Still, he thought the blade might be useful, so he moved the glass case to the floor and slipped the dagger into his other coat pocket.
The third pedestal held an item that matched the description Dullahan had given him.
It was a simple earring made from a black stone attached to a gold thread. Theo slipped on a pair of leather gloves before picking up the earring.
He wasn’t sure what it did, but Dullahan had ordered him not to touch it. Moving quickly, Theo slipped the earring into a linen pouch before tucking it away with the pilfered gold.
Theo then rushed out the treasury and up the stairs. Despite his notoriety as one of the worst men in the continent, not that many people recognized his face.
There was, however, a woman at the party who would recognize him. Her name was Marie Audie and she was one of the best magic users in the continent.
She had also saved Theo’s life in the past and felt particularly responsible for her mistake. She would undoubtedly chase after Theo if she saw him.
Somebody bumped into Theo as he entered the ballroom, but he didn’t pay any mind to their apology. He was too busy scanning the crowd for Marie.
She was across the room at a table piled high with desserts. Her brown curls bobbed up and down as she laughed at whatever the person speaking to her was saying.
Theo pushed his way through the crowd until he got to Marie. Then, he “accidentally” tripped in front of her. Marie reached down to help him up.
“You-“ Marie stopped as she realized who she was talking to.
Theo contorted his face into a shocked expression as he scrambled to his feet. “Ah, Marie,” Theo said, “lovely to see you.”
He gave a quick wave before dashing back through the crowd. He ran as fast as he could. He knew Marie would run after him.
Shouting followed Theo as he dashed back down the stairs to the basement. He paused just long enough to make sure Marie saw which direction he turned.
He had to duck as a bullet whizzed past his cheek. It hit the wall with a far louder impact than a normal bullet would. Theo glanced at the wall to see a section the size of his forearm crumbling.
Marie was an enchantress who used a pistol to harness her magic. Her bullets were far more dangerous than unenhanced ones and were often spelled with unpleasant side effects.
Picking up the pace, Theo ran to the dungeon and kicked the unconscious guard out of the way as he opened the door. Too late, Theo realized a fatal flaw in his plan: There was only one entrance to the dungeon.
Theo froze as Marie entered the dungeon. He could see shock and then understanding register on her face. She tucked her pistol back into a holster on her leg and unsheathed a sword instead.
Theo understood her decision. The pistol was far too dangerous to use around children in such a narrow room.
However, her decision made the situation more favorable to Theo. It would be far easier to escape unscathed if Marie wasn’t using magic.
“You might as well surrender,” Marie said. “There’s nowhere to run to.”
“Please,” Theo grinned while feigning confidence, “you can’t even use magic without hurting these little gremlins you so obviously care about.”
Theo adjusted his grip on his dagger as he sauntered forward. He had to make sure there wouldn’t be any rumors that he was soft-hearted or cared about children.
“I, on the other hand, am not held back by such paltry concerns.”
Theo attempted to dash past Marie while swiping at her with a dagger. His slash fell short, but Marie made a little more space for Theo to run by as she dodged.
He made it to the door of the dungeon when her sword caught his left arm.
It was a relatively shallow wound, but Theo’s eyes widened as his blood splattered to the ground.
“Oh fantastic.” Theo muttered.