The ancestors wanted their Magics back safely in their own corporeal arms. And that meant that the Book of Pattegon had to be stolen from the Inner Council itself. Which in turn meant that a little bit of chaos had to be created.
(Rating: 15, Warnings: violence, graphic imagery, Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure) Featured Image Credit: Panoramas, Flickr
Nettie Pattegon perched on the edge of the table, and stared at the bodies on the floor.
There was always a quiet sombre atmosphere that settled about a place when there were dead bodies in the room, with their sightless eyes staring up at Nettlie from the tables where they were slumped. This task had been quite an elaborate one to get right, especially the fact that Nettlie had managed to kill both of the pub owners with a different set of poisons to the rest of the pub just to throw in a bit of intrigue for the justice department. It would take them months, maybe even years, to work out that both poisons were derivatives of plants that grew in the same region, and even then Nettlie had only done that so the Justices had something to amuse themselves with.
Something to keep me interested at least, Nettlie thought, as she carefully stood up and delicately picked her way across the tables towards the bar. Nettlie wanted to make sure she could make full use of the malt whiskey this pub was infamous for before she went to join her co-conspirators to find out the information Twale had managed to retrieve from the now recovering Raels of Peyth and Eraw. News had spread like wildfire of their attack, and Nettlie thought if she overheard another conversation about how mysterious and dramatic Twale was she was going to throw up. She knew the man as an elderly grandfather, not the young rogue of many people’s imaginations that had caused so much mayhem on the roads almost fifty years ago.
Anyway, Nettlie had a medicinal reason for the whiskey. After all, she was the reason that they had all begun on this ridiculous venture in the beginning, or more precisely her rather irritating dead ancestors were the reason she had been ‘quietly encouraged’ to form this venture. It was rather something that the Guild had even allowed her to do this, she might be one of the Faction Heads but taking orders from the undead was something even for the Guild. They might dabble in Magics, but the spirits of the deceased were a world unto their own.
Still, it paid well. And it paid well for Nettlie because her ancestor had granted her temporary access to the branch of Natural Magics that allowed her to understand the chemistry of poisons to a degree beyond which her years of self-tuition could ever hope to get her.
Nettlie danced over the final gap between the edge of the tables and the bar, missing swollen fingers and purple tongues that lolled out of the corpses fat lips as she went past. This way, when the Justices did their sweep for footprints they would never think to guess that the murderer had in fact never touched the floor in the first place. After all, there were no windows high above for anyone to supposedly enter by; the Justices would look to the floor and the Sewers for answers.
Just for the hell of it, Nettlie had laid a false trail down to the cellars just to piss of Karrl Pawe, the Chief Justice of the district. Nettlie really despised the man, especially because he had looked her over for a promotion in the previous rotation. Plus he had a really ugly moustache.
Nettlie picked off the bottle of whiskey from underneath the bar with ease, balancing on her toes and contortioning herself with ease. It was one of the requirements of the Guild to not only be physically fit but also flexible enough to use even the smallest of escape routes to get away once a task had been completed.
It was also another requirement of the Guild to always be on time, but Nettlie figured that no one would question her if she bought some good whiskey with her.
Having secured the whiskey, Nettlie stuffed the bottle down into between her outer jacket and waistcoat of weapons and swivelled on her heels to plan her escape. Whilst poison was her preferred method of killing, Nettlie had a knack for bending her body into tiny crevices that anyone else would think was impossible. It was one of the benefits of her otherwise child-like frame, tiny and skinny as a rake Nettlie always was mistaken for a young girl not a woman in her late twenties.
Having calculated her route, Nettlie leapt across the tables towards the corner of the room. Most people thought that climbing was hard, but Nettlie figured it was just an extension of her ability to bend and stretch herself into all sorts of strange shapes. Building up her momentum, Nettlie leapt at the wall, springing up from it towards one of the iron struts held up the vaulted ceiling.
She made the leap with ease, grasping the pole with her free hand and swinging around it until she was balanced onto of it like a cat. Then, she scuttled across the pole with careful precision, before reaching one of the larger metal T beams that rose up from the ground towards the ceiling.
Nettlie paused for a moment, one of her hands readjusting the bottle of whiskey to ensure that it wasn’t broken, before she began her ascent. Quick fingers found handholds that would otherwise be invisible to another, and her specially made shoes allowed her toes to curl around the bolts to allow her to push herself upwards towards the ceiling.
She made quick work, and in mere minutes Nettlie was balanced at the top of the beam, right at the apex of the ceiling. Her hand reached out to the roof tile above her, rapping on it in a particular pattern that had been drilled into her since a child.
The tile shifted, and Nettlie could hear grunts above as the heavy slab of metal was moved slightly to the left. A head poked into the gap, full of childish glee and delight.
“You kill them?” Mae asked.
Nettlie swung to the side to allow Mae the full view of the carnage below. Mae seemed to delight in the dramatics of the scene, although Nettlie could sense the tell tale hardness forming behind the girl’s eyes that came with being a member of the Assassins Guild.
“She coming or what?” Twale’s grumpy voice said from outside, “I’m getting cold.”
Mae rolled her eyes.
“Tell him I bought whiskey,” Nettlie said, wedging herself in place with her feet to free up one of her hands. She pulled the whiskey out from under her jacket and passed it up to Mae. Mae grabbed it with her quick hands and passed it out of sight, presumably towards Twale.
“Tell her to hurry up,” Twale remarked, “it’s still bloody cold.”
Nettlie smiled, knowing that was about as much praise as Twale ever dealt out, and reached across to the gap in the tiles. These metal tiles were a good few inches thick, designed to withstand the worse of the rainstorms that would occur over the winter. It would easily hold her weight.
Nettlie swung across, hands holding onto the tile slightly to her left, feet curled around the corners of the main beam. Here, she was suspended about thirty six feet in the air, and felt totally at home.
“You joining us this side of the year?” Twale asked.
Nettlie rolled her eyes. She shuffled her feet upwards until she could have enough height to wedge her elbows over the lip of the tile. Now she was almost pressed up against the metal ceiling, head poking out of the gap that Twale and Mae had created for her to escape by. They were sitting just along the roof, and Twale had already cracked open the whiskey and had a swig.
“Nice of you to join us,” Twale remarked.
“Nice of you to steal my whiskey,” Nettlie replied. With ease, she pulled her torso up out of the hole with her arms, as her feet let go of the metal bar underneath.
Nettlie smiled, and pulled her legs up through the hole, before she stood on the edge of the tile in a handstand.
“You look ridiculous,” Twale remarked.
“You’re the one who blew up half of the Inner Road with your party tricks,” Nettlie remarked, as she dropped herself out of the handstand slowly, still showing off, “why can’t I get mine?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be a Justice? I thought you guys had more finesse?” Twale said, “whiskey?”
“In a minute,” Nettlie said, standing the right way up on the roof and nodding to the tile, “Mae, come help me with this.”
It didn’t take too long for the two women to push the tile back into place, and apart from the few inches of scratches on the tile next to it, nothing looked different.
“Now I want that whiskey,” Nettlie said, walking over towards Twale and swiping the bottle out of his hand, “and you can tell me what you found out from your very un-dramatic heist.”
Twale grumbled some saying in his native Lwes tongue that Nettlie didn’t understand, before beginning.
“We have confirmed existence of the Book of Pattegon,” Twale said, taking out two weather beaten letters from his pockets and handing them over to Nettlie, “both of these Instructions refer to the Rael Council at the end of this month, and both of them hint at some sort of ‘power’ that could unify the Inner and Outer Regions for the first time in centuries.”
“How do you know for sure that it’s the Book?” Nettlie asked, “my ancestors are going to have my soul if we cock this up you do realise?”
“I got confirmation,” Twale said, “from someone inside the Council.”
Nettlie took a moment to register the comment, until she realised was Twale was implying.
“Twale,” Nettlie said, barely controlling her anger, “please don’t tell me you asked-”
“Yes, I asked Everald,” Twale said, holding his hands up in surrender, “but what other method did you think would be possible to get confirmation of the book?”
“Isn’t that the woman you had that thing with?” Mae asked Nettlie with all the inquisitiveness of a younger sister. In some ways, Mae was the younger sister Nettlie had never had.
And just as annoying, Nettlie thought.
“Yes,” Nettlie sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose with her fingers. The last person she wanted to bring into this was bloody Everald. She thought that she had put that woman behind her.
“Well I asked her for a drink,” Twale continued, ignoring Nettlie’s clear discomfort about his source, “in return for information about you.”
“Oh you didn’t,” Nettlie said, anger rising, “you didn’t do that-”
“If you haven’t noticed,” Twale said, “the Guild coffers are empty and the Benefactors want us to shut this dead guy up who happens to be your line of the ancestry so we have to do something. I offered only titbits, basically you were still alive, and you were still around the City.”
Nettlie let the conversation fall to silence as she let her thoughts race. Sure, Everald had been a thing, but it had been a thing that Nettlie had quite enjoyed until events conspired against them both and it was better for them to part separate ways. Everald was a politician and couldn’t be seen associating with someone from the city slums, and Nettlie was nothing more than a brat born in the gutters who could make poisons in her sleep.
She couldn’t admit that she still had feelings for Everald. She couldn’t.
“She ask about me?” Nettlie said, more of a whisper to herself than a statement.
“Nothing outside the ordinary,” Twale said, his voice taking on a soft grandfatherly tone that Nettlie recognised from the times he had consoled her in her youth. It was the kind of voice that told you that everything was going to be okay, and that nothing was wrong.
“I guessed,” Nettlie said, despondently.
“Don’t give up,” Mae said, nudging Nettlie.
Okay, scrap that, Mae is just as annoying and irritating, Nettlie thought to herself. Mae was right though, Nettlie didn’t want to give up her hope that things with Everald could be rekindled.
“She won’t,” Twale said, “because Nettlie hasn’t asked the most important question yet.”
Nettlie looked up from her knees, brows frowning in confusion at Twale.
“What question?” she asked.
“The question that goes “Oh Twale, you of all knowledge and wisdom, did Everald agree to help us?” kind of question,” Twale said with a smile.
“What?” Nettlie spluttered, “why would Everald want to help us? She’s a fricken politician. She wouldn’t even jeopardise that for me.”
“You’ll be surprised,” Twale said, smiling at Nettlie, “but you’ll be surprised what people will do when you tell them that the love of their life is going to have their soul taken away by the undead.”
Nettlie felt the breath get knocked out of her, as she gaped in shock at Twale. He grinned, taking out a small note, folded as an origami crane, from his pocket and handing it to Nettlie who took it with shaking hands. She unfolded the delicate creation to reveal the message that lay beneath its many folds.
You got your soul sold to your dead ancestors huh? Like I’m going to let you go that easily – E.
“Is this real?” Nettlie asked Twale, her voice breaking with emotion. The façade of confidence that she normally wore dropped away as she took in the information. It was almost too much to believe.
Almost, Nettlie thought. After all, there was still hope.
“Yes,” Twale replied convincingly, “Mae can support me on this one.”
“I was watching the meeting for any signs of disturbance,” Mae said, “Everald wrote it, folded it, and handed it over to Twale.” Mae cocked her head to the side, frowning at Nettlie.
“Anyway, why did she pick a crane?” Mae asked.
Definitely as irritating as a younger sibling, Nettlie thought, not that you have much of a baseline to go against.
“Cranes are her favourite creature,” Nettlie replied, turning the note over in her hands until the paper crane was recreated, “she said that it’s because they could fly up high in the sky and were totally free. In the Mysteries, the Crane was the creature who delivered the love from one person’s heart to another.”
“And thanks to Everald we have the opportunity to take the Book of Pettegon back,” Twale said, nudging Nettlie, “so maybe your love life and your soul can be saved all in one fell swoop!”
Nettlie elbowed Twale, who easily blocked the jab with his elbow.
“Come on now,” Twale said, holding his hand open at Nettlie, “you pretty much owe me one on this. Now give me that damn whiskey, we’ve got planning to do.”