“In the light of day we see many things, in the night we lose sight of what was once important”
-Jewel Creations, Revelation Book
Her feet were covered in a layer of chalk to keep from slipping, her black shirt clinging to her skin from sweat. She reached up to grab the next brick, slipping slightly, a sound of disgust escaping her lips. She was supposed to be a professional, her duty to remain careful. But she was lucky no one was around to hear her slip up.
She flung herself over the side of the wall, immediately crouching low to avoid notice. The grappling hook was wound around her arm when she started moving again, ducking to leap off the wall. She stuck the hook into the pack on her back.
She hit the ground with a quiet thud, rolling to absorb the impact. She grunted, almost silent in the windy night. Her quiet feet picked their way towards the small castle. She didn’t understand how somebody could call this a house, the castle being many times larger than any house she had ever encountered. The bitter wind tossed leaves into her face as she reached the house. She peered into the window, trying to spot anyone inside. The parlor looked empty, marking her point of entry.
The thief easily picked the lock on the large glass window, slipping inside silently. It was all too easy at this point. Really, what did the client fear? They could have done this themselves.
The parlor door led to a hallway. She remembered being told to go left, past two doors, and the third door was the one she wanted. The client emphasized entering quietly, making a mental note not to forget. She opened the door to what was supposed to be an office, unsure of whether or not it would be empty at this hour. The client was little help in that regards, seeming to forget some vital information. She crouched low to the ground,, peeking into survey the room. So she slipped in, not seeing anyone in the office, shutting the door behind her, hearing it latch shut with a barely audible click.
Her feet padded softly on the lush carpet. Her head swiveled, taking in the mahogany desk and the towers of books that lined the walls. She stopped in her tracks when she saw the opening in the shelves, there was more to this room than she could initially see. From the door the opening wasn’t even visible. She edged her way to the wall, peering around the opening.
She heard the crackle of fire before she saw the dancing shadows against the wall. She stalked further, noticing him for the first time. He was ripping pages out from a book and setting them ablaze. The ripping must have covered the little noise she made.
The man was little more than a figure at the distance he stood from her. She thought back to what her client wanted, a box in the top left drawer of the desk. But her interest was piqued as she watched the man rip page after page just to watch them burn. She crept over to him on silent feet. Eyeing the book spine, she read the title, A Man of Valor. Why would someone like him, most likely an aristocrat judging by the amount of books alone, be ripping up such a book? She wanted to ask him, to reach out and tug on his arm, to tear the book from his hands. Books were not something easily obtained where she came from. It was a miracle she could read at all. And the fact that he was destroying something so precious tore her up inside.
She shook her head, clearing the thoughts, and made her way back to the desk in the main area of the room. She had a mission to complete and she was not about to let the curiosity in her ruin it all.
The drawer slid open slowly, she was nervous, almost sweating. She’d never been discovered before and she was not about to let this be the time she is captured. She saw the black velvet box then, pulling it out, she cupped it in her hands. She was just about to make her way to the door when footsteps started making their way to her. She looked around in a rush, spying the only hiding place. She scrambled to get underneath the desk and away from sight. She prayed to Sillus, the god of luck, that the tables would be turned in her favor.
She sucked in a breath, preparing for the worse, but the footsteps exited the room, shutting the door behind them. She started to crawl out from under the desk, and peered around the edge. The figure of the man she had seen earlier greeted her, but this time she could see him clearly. He stood with his back to the door, eyes intently on her. His dark brown hair was shiny in the lamp light overhead and his blue eyes pierced her with their cold, calculating gaze. A smile spread across his face as he beheld the sight of her, “I knew I wasn’t alone.”
She opted to hide again, not really sure what she should do. Does she run? Would it do any good? Should she try to talk her way out, saying it was all a mistake? No, certainly that wouldn’t do her any favors. She clutched the box tighter in between her fingers, hoping that perhaps the box would save her.
The man approached the desk, carefully picking his way to the other side, just to look at the girl. He crouched to her level, “What are you doing in here?”
She raised her eyebrows, he probably thinks I’m just a lost kid. Her mother had always told her she did look young for her age. She pried her eyes open a little wider, hoping that it would let her pass for a young, lost child. A single tear slipped from her eye, like the many times she had so painstakingly rehearsed it. Then the sobs shook her body, “My mother said that if I don’t bring in ten coppers by the end of this week she’ll throw me out onto the street, I can’t survive out there.” The words slid easily off the girl’s tongue, lies that were more bitter than sweet, and he nodded like he believed her. The mention of her mother though hurt her heart, the wound was fresh even if it had been many years.
“I see,” his fingers gingerly wrestled the box from her hands. “This,” he started, holding up the box, “You can’t have though. It’s a very precious item passed down from father to son. My father gave it to me and I will give it to my son one day.”
“What’s inside?” She couldn’t suppress the curiosity that spiked in her this time. She peered at the box, trying to remember to keep her voice a little higher pitch than it actually was. “Can I see?”
The man, that she now realized was more of a boy, looked long and hard at her, “Perhaps, but you have to make me a promise.” He held up his pinky, waiting for her to put hers in his. A swear, she realized, a pinky promise and if she ever broke it, she’d have to rip off her pinky and give it to him. The girl didn’t want to at first, the thought of losing a pinky scared her, but she gave in and put her pinky in his.
He smiled at her, and she grumbled, “Now what do you want?”
“I want you to come by tomorrow, in the morning. I’ll feed you breakfast.” That alone was enough to get her to come over, though she would never admit that. She kept her face neutral. “You see, there’s just no kids around my age that I’ve been able to play with, since I was younger. I’ve been kind of lonely.” He scratched the back of his head with his free hand, almost like he was embarrassed. “I know it sounds silly, but my father just passed away and now I’m the head of this household. And while I may look like an adult, I’m still only fifteen.” The girl realized with a shock that they were only a year apart in age, and she was older. The boy sighed, looking her straight in the eyes, “I would like you to become my friend.”
That didn’t seem hard to wriggle her way out of, so the thief nodded, and they shook pinkies. All she had to do, after all, was make the boy not like her, then he would give up the idea of being friends.
“Now, how old are you?”
She stretched, peeling away from the underside of the desk. Lying, she said, “thirteen.”
“You still have three more years until you’re entrance party.”
“Is yours coming up soon?” She might wait to leave him in the dust until after his entrance party. After all, entrance parties were always stocked well with food, no matter a person’s status. People saved up their entire lives to give their children a good entrance party.
“In a month and a half, so not that far away. You’re more then welcome to come. In fact, please come, you’ll be fed and I’ll even share my presents with you.”
She made her eyes sparkle, “You’d really do that?”
He waved off her fake awe, not aware that she was putting up an act, “I don’t mind at all. After all, now that I am the head of this house, I can buy whatever I want for myself. Besides, I always find that the presents that come my way usually seem to not have been bought with my interests or personality in mind.”
She giggled, knowing all too well. The old gang she used to run with hosted her entrance party, and they made a big thing out of it. Only, the presents that she got ranged from rat carcasses to stones on a string, nothing of value or worth that she would’ve wanted. But she ran with a gang that was dirt poor and had an even poorer idea of what humor was.
He finally asked her, “What’s your name?”
She considered lying, but the consequences of lying about her name flashed quickly across her mind. If she were not to respond to the name she gave him, he would begin to wonder. “Rhode.”
He held out his hand, “It’s nice to meet you Rhode.” The girl took it, shaking his hand, “My name is Livinus. Livinus Heinrich.”
The girl’s eyes widened, “Is that where I am?” This time, the shock and awe was not fake. She had no idea that the client had sent her to the Heinrich’s house. She looked at Livinus with wide eyes, “No wonder you’re always alone.” The little thief sighed, “I don’t think there’s many children with your status of aristocracy.”
He nodded grimly, “You seem to understand.”
The girl reached for the box again, only for the boy to pull it away from her grasp. “I think you should show me what’s inside the box now.” Rhode looked at the boy carefully, sizing up the competition. He was lanky, but no more so than her. He was probably in the thick of his puberty. Rhode, on the other hand, was pure muscles at this point. The lack of nutrition and rigorous training she’d had throughout her life.
He sighed, “Okay, that’s fair.” He held out the box to her, opening it so slowly that the girl was bouncing with anticipation. The little box creaked open, revealing a small, old, folded piece of paper. He looked a little surprised himself by the sight of it. He told this to be true when he opened his mouth again, “I’ve never opened this box before, honestly I thought it was a ring.”
Rhode nodded, delicately taking the paper and unfolding it. Then she blinked, seeing that the, now rather large, sheet of paper was entirely blank, spare a few stains and other markings.
Livinus took the paper roughly from the girl’s hand. “This, I know what this is!” The girl looked from the boy to the paper, cautiously. “We just need to hold it up to the candle’s flame.” The boy started to hold the paper to the candle’s flame.
“Won’t that just burn the paper?”
“Nah, just watch.” And as he spoke, letters appeared on the paper. “You see, there’s this thing called invisible ink. My father used to use it for his formal documents, the ones that he sent to his allies. You see, right now the empire is in chaos, and there’s very few that my father could trust in the council. So he used this invisible ink to hide his messages away from those that he didn’t trust.”
“Your father was a very resourceful man.”
“The recipe for invisible ink has been in the family for generations, it’s not like he came up with it.” He gazed at the girl, “Thank you though. It means a lot. My father was a great man.”
She waved him off, not liking the way that he was looking at her, like she had said something kind. “Just tell me what the paper says.” She glared at the strange symbols -that looked more like squiggles- as they started to appear. “I have no idea what kind of language that is.”
“It’s the old language, no longer used today. Like ever.” Livinus scratched his head, “I hardly know it, and this appears to be slang. Or at least a dialect that I’m not familiar with.” He looked around him, a smile slowly sliding onto his face, “But we’re in a library, so there’s plenty of material around us.”
Rhode huffed, “I’m not a big fan of research.”
“That’s okay, just come back tomorrow and I’ll fill you in on what I found.”
“What should I tell the guards?”
He turned to her, relaxing back on the desk. “I’ll tell the guards to expect you, just tell them your name and they’ll let you in, no problems, no questions.” She nodded and turned to leave. “Oh,” he started, “and Rhode?”
He smiled gently, “I’ll walk you out, I don’t want the guards hassling you.”