It has been quiet in Dameron since the last attack. You don’t expect that the thing that would wake you from sleep would be a child’s song.
It was part of a dream at first. I was there again, back on the hilltop surrounded by white flowers and the scent of the Southern Sea. The Bay of Mount Laer stretched around me then like a warm embrace, keeping it’s kin close in the little seaside village. I liked to spend most of my time as a child up on those bluffs overlooking the city and the sea.
That was one of the images that I always held during the campaign to the dark lands of the East. Well, that and of course dear Lenette. I was the shortest one of the six of us that would head off on our own little adventures when the grown ups were busy. We did use to get into such trouble, primarily being lost or late for dinner. It was never anything that involved actual danger like the sinewy fingers of the blackness. Those curling tendrils had not yet reached our little fishing village, like many protected by the rocky shore or the northern plains of Umahh. Dameron was closer to the plains but also closer to the bridges that would take me back to where we had travelled. Dameron seemed treacherous at that time. It was many winter’s snows in the city for me since Clantan the Grand Master lead us east. We sung the song on the road, our hearts thumping with seemingly unbreakable joy.
My eyes opened to he pale light of the moons flooding the room in gentle blue against the Leyleaf-stained roof. The song was still in the air, stealing in through the cracks in the cracks of the window. I got out of bed in my baggy nightclothes and peered down into the street. The song was fading and it seemed urgent that I find it’s source.
My gaze fell up and down the shadows and snow of the narrow streets. The snow was still falling but only lightly so I could make out much of the world below from two floors up in my room. There were tracks of people walking through the snow of course, the wind dusting the falling snow along like leaves catching the waterline in a river but I had no spell to tell me the identity of a singer. Slowly the sound melted away. A ghost of the home I could not return to, even as a wandering sight.
Then I heard it. It was so incredibly soft that you would scarcely believe it happened but it had not been the first time. Copper tumblers were being brushed aside with a thin needle. The door creaked to life as though simply pushed by the wind.
A man in rags, his swirl of clothes hiding a flash of steel left the floorboards and swung to the wall, the back of his head hitting the solid boards with a dull thud. He tried to reach his sword but I drew that away, the useless blade skittering across the floor and under the drawropes of my bed.
“First rule, friend,” I said coming closer “A mage rarely sleeps.”
He strained against my will. He wasn’t a big fellow as the best thieves typically are not, but he was from the guild and carried with him a relentless wirey strength. His eyes fell on the other side of the room where I kept my books, stacked neatly or somewhat neatly with bits of paper poking out, the soft chair and candles for reading late and of course, the chest beneath my desk.
“Really, you’d be better off with one of the books,” I continued as he glared at me.
His faced grew red as he breathed hard as though the man had just finished running clear across town. He was one of the brave and stupid ones. Perhaps he had just got the wrong room but not with the mark left on my door. I knew what that was carved for.
“So how about this…we treat it as a learning experience and I don’t tell Namal about your little…shall we call it…lack of communication?” I said looking at the man who only started to resign his attempts to move from his comfy spot a foot and a half above the floorboards. He took a deep breath.
“Sorry about all this Peter,” he said “Things haven’t been easy since I got back here.”
“Wait,” I said looking at the face now coupled with the man’s accent,”I know you…”
“And I know you are not a man to wake up.”
“Marc of second company,” I suddenly said, the sudden realization falling into place. He was a thief but he was, well, one of ours. I let him down.
Marc breathed, his back still on the wall, where he stretched it like his was in one of the city baths. He leaned back still a little wary of me, standing before him in probably a less impressive sight with my oversized bedclothes. He walked over to a chair and then turned to face half asleep scratching, me. He sat down and rubbed his feet.
“Sorry, I couldn’t get my dagger back could I?” he asked “I know I don’t deserve it but…”
“Oh, no that’s fine. I was awake anyways,” I replied, sitting on my bed and spirited his dagger across to him “Was that you whistling? You shouldn’t do that…kind of counter-productive.”
“The Fisherman’s Song…I heard that too,” he said “No, not me. I tried to go home and couldn’t find work and ended up with Namal’s gang. I just wanted to borrow from you but…”
He looked at me.
“Nah, I didn’t think you’d buy that,” he said getting up to go “Sorry again Peter. I won’t repeat this”
“Marcellian,” I said pointing to the barrel I kept next to my door “take the pouch, there. And ask me next time.”
He took the pouch and smiled at me. He gave a little hand gesture of thanks.
“Ask, got it.”
The door clicked closed. I locked it with a wave of my hand.