Just throwing it in here as a little taster, it's a short, down and dirty read that will hopefully raise a smile of enjoyment. Thanks for reading.
Copyright Andy Logan March 2012
In the moonlight, Erical and the creature stared at each other, and neither moved, neither even appeared to breathe. The silence was complete and oppressive. The creature’s red eyes glowed like fires in the dark, and its mouth opened wider, spit dripping down from its fangs. It fixed its absolute gaze on the young thief and inclined its head to one side, studying him. It looked Erical up and down, and then, with a voice thick with danger and the promise of sudden and total violence, it spoke.
In those seconds before the creature leapt for him, Erical’s mind flashed back to a few minutes earlier…
He had stood on the roof and stared down at the street below. Erical loved the view from so high - some people strode with purpose, the fire torches they used to light their way bobbing methodically up and down as they walked. Others could be seen stumbling haphazardly in the darkness, suffering from the effects of Drellakian Ale.
Crime was far from rife in this part of Drell, but the Militia presence was at its greatest. As young as he was, Erical had already succumbed to the bitter irony of poverty – the poor usually steal from the poor, because it’s easier.
Tonight, though, he was stealing from one of the richest men in the City. He had to get in and retrieve a vase. If he could do so, he would have passed the final test and would no longer be an apprentice - he would be a NightRunner, a true thief. In the alley far below, opposite his target, his masters waited, ready, should he return with the vase, to bow to him as an equal in the traditional manner.
Taking one last deep breath, Erical ran as fast he could towards the edge, mentally steadying himself for the right moment, for the exact second when he would have to make the leap over.
His feet hit the edge, and he jumped, throwing his arms ahead of him, his speed and power carrying him out over the street and across the deadly drop to the gutters below. For a brief second, he was suspended, weightless, and felt the familiar sensation of his stomach flip-flopping back and forward inside him as he sailed across the gap.
He landed safely and elegantly and gently lowered himself head-first over the roof, both hands gripping the edge with the claw fingers attached to his gloves, allowing him to peer through the glass window just below. Inside, all was still. According to his research, this was a storage room, and should be unoccupied. Erical pushed the window as gently as he could, and manoeuvred inside.
The vase he had been charged with stealing was on a table outside the bedroom below. Erical moved downstairs, quickly, silently, but stopped suddenly when he reached the bedroom door - it was wide open. Was the Merchant awake? He could see the object of his desire on its table on the other side of the open doorway, and realised he had no choice, had to pass by the open doorway and grab the vase. Erical moved as quickly as he dared, his eyes drawn to the doorway as he did so, and he chewed furiously on his bottom lip. Halfway across, he stopped dead in his tracks.
Standing there, completely silent, was a…thing….at least seven feet tall. The moonlight that came streaming in through the glass windows illuminated only part of it, but those parts were covered in shaggy dark hair and Erical could see what appeared to be bone sticking from parts of it’s arms and legs. A huge head with a mouth full of white, sharp, pointed teeth that glistened and gleamed in the light like finely polished and wicked daggers turned to look at where he stood, rooted to the spot.
He had heard of these creatures, semi-intelligent brutes purchased and placed in the homes of those wealthy enough to afford them, tasked with guarding property, and eviscerating anybody foolish enough to trespass.
Erical’s mind snapped back to the present as the creature lunged forward, and the soundless spell was broken. It reached for Erical, and the young thief hurled himself across the doorway, trying to stay out of reach, his hands reaching out to try and grasp the vase as he dove past, fingertips reaching for it.
He wasn’t quite quick enough, felt sharp claws rake his back, a burning and stinging sensation assaulting him as jagged wounds opened across his skin. Rolling across the floor, wincing with the pain, he willed himself to get up, as the creature, snarling and growling, closed on him. He felt the hot air of it’s breath on his back, a smell of rotting meat and carrion assailing his senses.
Once chance, one choice – Erical threw himself at a nearby window, aware that he was two floors up, but also aware that this was his only chance of escape and survival. He braced and bunched as he crashed out of the window, sailing through the air. He could hear a feral cry of impotent rage as the creature realised he had escaped its grasp; it would have been trained to say in the house, to never stray from its boundaries.
Erical hit the ground, hard, and the air rushed out from him. He rolled with the impact, wincing as his ravaged back slid across the gravel, gasping as a popping sound heralded the breaking of ribs. Clutching his hands to his stomach, he scrambled to the alley, where his masters waited, and dropped, exhausted and in pain to his knees.
“Ran into trouble, did you?” Rayvan asked.
“You didn’t get the vase…” Millar sighed. “I’m sorry Erical.”
Erical looked up at the two men, and smiled, showing a mouth bloodied from his landing. He spat a single tooth out, took his hands away from his stomach to reveal the vase he was clutching onto, and smiled.
“Bow…” he whispered.