Author’s Note: Find Prior Installments: Here
They had indeed found them. Estalwyn was just to the right side of Rilles, the two of them had a clear view. Paul’s was slightly obstructed by some low hanging vines above him. They could see it, and he could not.
Wow! And why do these damn vines have to be here?
He moved his hands forward to move the vines. Then his better judgment stopped him. These were burglars, yes. Not soldiers, nor trained mercenaries like the companies Estalwyn and Rilles would march shoulder to shoulder with. But the chance of him performing this action and not being spotted was high. Equally high was the opportunity for a concealed bowman armed with the short crossbow, the auto-cocking crossbow of Estalwyn’s people, or the classic longbow common in Pinningdale to transfix his hand if they saw that movement even in the dark. The world is full of surprises. One cannot be immune to all of them, but you can attempt it, in vain of course.
His better judgment prevailed of course.
I’ll just ask.
“What do you all see up there?”
Rilles replied softly.
“There’s a perimeter fence. Sharpened tips at each stake of the fence. Tied together with twine. There’s an earthen rampart too. A gate is on the western side of the wall. Two lit torches are showing it to my eyes. Patrols of two burglars are circling this compound, and two of them armed with pikes seem to be manning a gate. There are about eight of these patrols. They also seem to have a bell attached to the gate. An alarm, likely. Wait.. Here’s a patrol, and both have swords at their sides, one has a lantern in the left hand, the other has a bell in their left as well. Their perimeter security is more impressive than a typical chapterhouse.”
That’s obvious, Rilles. Damn. I shouldn’t think that. He saved my life. I should have my thoughts be more respectful.
“As for their interior defenses I’m seeing the same type of patrols. No lanterns though. This encampment has torches roughly every 25 yards along pathways. I see about four of these patrols. There’s a sawmill, tents all around it and a large wooden cabin/barn just north of this sawmill. You can see the flames being reflected just off the glass. I cannot see any indication why our wood is not stored indoors. I recommend we search that cabin. The question is when? Your thoughts?”
There are a lot of patrols. And they have lots of men likely. Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Hard to say.
Paul tapped Estalwyn’s boot sole.
“Waiting until morning could have some consequence we don’t need. And what that means are wakened burglars. We need to strike now. The front gate should not be an option. They’re expecting any intruders to come from the front. They’re not expecting a coordinated assault either as they don’t really have enough readied troops. But, they’re burglars and that is expected.”
She’s got a good point.
“Rilles, what are your thoughts on our method of entry?”
Estalwyn interrupted before Rilles had a chance to say anything or protest.
“We’ll use a Grand Counties style cloak, mine’s thicker and a sword can’t go through it. We’ll cover the stake points with those. Rilles can lift each of us up, and I know he can probably lift himself up. How high do you think that fence is, Rilles?”
“Nine feet at most, Estalwyn. I can accomplish this task with ease.”
“All right. I think I’ve a fine plan. Do you agree, Paul?”
What would I do without her? I don’t think I could have come up with this.
“I agree, Estalwyn. Let’s do this. And once we’re inside we should proceed with Rilles’s simple but likely true theory that our quarry is inside the cabin. And once we get in there, we should do what?”
“Don’t worry. I have ways of getting the lumber and it’s lumineer to safety. They’re all in the backpack.”
To the lumber.
The three of them crept slowly down the side of the hill crouched. They stayed clear of the lanterns which were inevitably closer to them as they made their way down facing the east side of the encampment. Rilles, had removed his cloak and was only wearing his breeches. Estalwyn had one hand on her short double bladed axe. The creatures of the wood appeared to be present yet not interested in the party of three approaching the encampment in a single file. The rabbits wondered who these strangers were, but they lost interest fast. They likely had seen a few of their kin hunted by their neighbors the burglars. They wanted nothing to do with it. The Houndsman didn’t look too friendly either.
Estalwyn and Rilles had the best night vision they were the front and back of the column. Paul was in the middle. He followed Estalwyn’s lead when she fell down to her stomach and a patrol swiftly passed them by. He followed her lead again, a minute later when she got up and they all sprinted past a small clearing. They were now only fifty feet from the earthen rampart and the palisade. They fell down to the dirt again on their bellies and resumed their crawl. They were now in taller grass. They had to stay on their bellies and they had to stay quiet. It was a simple yet major error, the burglars of this encampment had made with this tall grass.
They won’t be able to see anybody coming up to their rampart really. Their mistake is our gain.
The last patrol passed them by two minutes ago, then another did. They could be heard whispering.
“What lap are we on now, Tarleton?”
“We are now on the thirty-third, Henris. Two more and we’re allowed our brief stop at the gate to smoke our pipes. Steady on.”
“I’m not protesting, Tarleton. This is good for me. I love working out like this. Instead of being stuck in the encampment. I am not in the mood to sit idly. We’ve not done a burglary in weeks, and this passes the time. I’m not certain why the local chapter has us out here really. Any idea why they’ve got us at this encampment. We’ve been here for over three weeks now, what’s really in the big cabin?”
“Shh! Henris, don’t talk of it. I’ve heard rumors that they aren’t going to share it with us, and those who ask aren’t shown anything but a blade. Let’s keep going now. Steady on! Chin up!”
So the Burglar’s Union isn’t so united right now about this project. It is hush huh, all right. I didn’t expect this. Wonder why..”
Paul stopped thinking about this and focused back on the task at hand. He crawled further with Estalwyn further into the grass, and then they rolled softly into the rampart. No stakes were in it.
Estalwyn likely checked for those before we rolled in.
The three of them stood up on Estalwyn’s move and approached the palisade. She took off her cloak. He muscles were visible even under her strong cuirass of leather. She hadn’t worn the heavier one due to the nature of this job. Then she tossed the cloak over the top of the palisade and Rilles quickly lifted her up where she crossed over the palisade’s top with it’s points now rendered harmless by her cloak. Rilles looked at Paul.
“Your turn. Hurry.”
Paul approached the cloak, and then had Rilles hoist him up with his strong paws. He felt as if he was being propped up by a spring in one of Estalwyn’s more advanced razor plates they had once installed. He forgot where though.
He saves me. Now he hoists me up over a fence. What next? This Houndsman has always been a surprising companion. Whatever would I do about him. I need to give these two a raise in their cut of the spoils. Otherwise, I may lose them after this. They’re going above and beyond.
Paul went over the palisade and got to see the tents that Rilles had seen, the torches that provided illumination and now the sawmill with it’s massive blade and attached ramps, door to it’s interior, and a chimney likely for some kind of stove inside. The cabin too was large, possibly three stories. It was unknown what was inside there. And it was likely the wood. Estalwyn approached Paul.
“You needn’t worry about these tents.” She said this softly. “I looked under most of them. They’re too small for a grown human man. They’re stacks of lumber. Just milled and they’re strong as the kind made from the lumineer.” She paused. “Something bad is happening here. I can feel it. I didn’t know the Burglar’s Union was so bad.”
“Maybe it isn’t the Union. Let’s go find out.”
Rilles was close behind them and nodded in agreement as they once more pierced the darkness of this night and proceeded to advance on the location of the sawmill. The ground here was firm. It wasn’t a parade ground though. It was just a rocky soil that was covered with silt on top of it to provide a smooth surface for the burglars to walk on.
Wonder if they know someone from the Grand Counties?
As they approached the sawmill they saw sentries pass by them. But they were moving so silently that there wasn’t a doubt that they would not be heard by the patrols of two men each. These burglars did not seem to really be paying attention.
From the conversation earlier though, it doesn’t seem like this is a popular posting for them. They’d rather be doing burglaries. I wonder how many crews from the chapterhouse are a part of this camp’s contingent. They’ve got the right idea for security; they’re burglars. They’re as smart as us. But they are certainly failing in their execution.
They were now up against the walls of the sawmill. Estalwyn motioned for them to stick close to the walls of the sawmill as they approached the entrance. Rilles was now at the lead of the column. He was soon closest to the wooden man door that was illuminated by a lantern hanging above the door’s frame. He soon blew it out.
“They’ll know the wind did it. There’s a small breeze, I can feel it picking up a bit. You’re turn, Paul.”
Paul moved up to the lead of the column now passing Rilles and Estalwyn and tested the door.
He opened it. And the three of them passed through into the interior of the sawmill.
They’ve taken the storage area and made it into a barracks. The tents are holding the wood. They’ve put up twelve burglars in here.
Estalwyn and Rilles followed suit. Upon their entry, Estalwyn began a chant swiftly and then started to hum slowly.
“Fraka B’niesth Tar-Ulama, up Bar-Tartisk”
The snoring burglars were now completely silent. Each of them appeared earlier under the candlelight earlier as having healthy colors. Now they all looked gray in complexion.
What has she done?
“They dead, Estalwyn?”
I’m glad Rilles is as ignorant as I about this. What has she done? I’ve never known her to use magic like this in any circumstance. What does she think justify this? I won’t ask. I’ll listen though. This is an operation.
Estalwyn said the answer firmly and calmly.
“They’re asleep. The lumber and it’s lumineer isn’t here it is in the large cabin. It wouldn’t make sense for it to be in this mill. Don’t the both of you remember that were looking for lumber, not raw material. This building is being used as a makeshift barracks. The last thing we need is for them to have backup on our way out of here with the wood. They’ll know were here once we have the lumber. We’ll have to leave with it, so this was the best thing for me to do. Besides, I’m not an assassin. I’m an engineer.”
True. And I am glad of that. Even I have reservations about killing these burglars in their sleep. That work is not for the likes of me.
“How long will they be sleeping?” Rilles made another inquiry.
“Twelve hours, Rilles.”
“Excellent.” The Houndsman said this as he put his sword back in his scabbard he had drawn it upon seeing the burglars.
He would have cut them to ribbons at the soonest chance and he wouldn’t have thought anything of it. He’s a soldier at heart. Not a merchant. I’m lucky to have him here.
The three of them got back into their singe file and exited out the way they came shutting the door and relighting the candle with a match Estalwyn had in her belt pouch. This was to maintain their cover. Silhouettes of sentries could be observed in the distance. The three of them quickly and silently continued moving towards the large cabin.
Oddly, there are no guards close to it. I’m uncertain why.
The three of them made it to the door. Paul again tested it.
He produced a pin and a knife. And fed both into the door’s keyhole. He twisted and turned several times until the wards of the lock gave into his tools that leveraged his and his companions’ will. He then tried the door again.
Paul drew his sword and entered, Rilles did the same, and Estalwyn produced her axe out of it’s tinier scabbards that covered it’s double blades. She shut the door behind them as they entered this cabin.
Where’s the lumber?
He paused for a moment. Like he needed to at a time like this.
A switch.. A lever.., a passage…
This cabin had a vast interior and could be divided into three sections there was the dining area, a bunkhouse area, and a pantry. The dining area had three long tables that were twelve feet in length and two feet in width. There were empty bunks that no longer held mattresses of feather or straw, just more wood some looked blessed like Henricks’s in Red Spire. Others looked as common as the pines near Pinningdale. The source was unknown, but it was likely that they were from Henricks’s shop and that the wood had been sent to the saw mill here at this camp. The donkey powered mill had turned the wood into a lumber, and now this lumber rested in this camp. For what purpose it was hard to say? But that didn’t matter. They had to rescue Henricks’s lumineerii and they would be here in this cabin.
Only a fool would say otherwise.
“Look around for anything suspicious. The lumber is here. But not where we are right now.”
This was said by Estalwyn and Rilles as they went about the room looking for this classic brick, switch, button, lever, tile, or mere stick that was concealed by the décor, light, or in some cases something more simple: a rug or a tapestry. Perhaps under a desk or table that wouldn’t move from lifting it. It was hard to say.
Somewhere it’s here. Otherwise we won’t find it ever.
Rilles took a fork off of a common dining table in the middle of the room, sniffed it and then went about the room looking to find something anything that would unlock it.
You can always count on Rilles.
In a moment, Rilles started scraping away at an odd film of dust and dirt by one of the corners of the cabin next to some bunks far from the common tables. He found a loose log. He pulled it. A small rumble was heard for only four seconds.
The rumble was over, and Rilles quickly pointed over to the pantry.
“The rumble came from there, Paul. Estalwyn’s over there.”
I hope she’s alright.
The two of them darted into the pantry. Estalwyn wasn’t to be seen at first but then she crawled up the newly revealed wide ramp that was visible in this long room. Estalwyn smiled and revealed a bruise on her chin. She rubbed it as she spoke to them.
“I knew this pantry was where our passage was going to be. this pantry had no shelves, and no food in it. I tapped the walls, and then I was on the floor feeling around for the trigger for the passage. You guys found it before I did. And so that’s how I fell down the ramp. Chin first! Ha.”
Foosteps were heard approaching. Two burglars armed with swords arrived. One held a lantern another held a bell.
These two burglars looked inexperienced at their craft. Their faces appeared young, their beards were overgrown and their hair shined brighter than the typical malnourished burglars that were common amongst their ilk in the Union. One burglar drew his sword. The other drew his as well. He held the bell though and he was struggling to get it to ring as he approached with his right side rather than the front of his body with his sword drawn.
We’ve got to stop them from alerting the others.
Estalwyn charged the one without the bell with her double bladed axe. In three swings she had this assailant out of commission. The other burglar was clawed by Rilles into shreds. However in doing this, the burglar was overpowered enough to drop his bell. Paul dove at it and was cut by one of the edges slightly as it dropped into his hand.
That was a close one.
With the two burglars dead. Estalwyn and Rilles looked at him with the lantern.
“Good move, Paul.” Rilles said.
Estalwyn shook her head in approval.
“If you would not have done that, I guarantee you that we’d have guards coming for us at this level and the level below. Thankfully most of them are asleep for a long while, but we have no true idea of what lays beneath the cabin. We owe you one, Paul.”
“Thank you.” Rilles softly spoke.
“Thank you, Paul” Estalwyn uttered softly.
“You both are welcome. Shall we go down there now?”
The three of them descended two flights of ramps until they came to a hallway. They crossed it and then crossed four flights of ramps. The chambers kept getting cooler and finally the two of them were cold, save for Rilles whose coat of fur kept him warm considering the circumstances that they were in. At the bottom of the flight of steps was a wide and deep chamber constructed of wood and stone. Tapestries hung from the walls and torches lit the room on both sides. Three men who were at the other end of the chamber could be seen and heard conversing. Paul and his companions halted at the jam of the door and could hear their words.
“…He’s resisting. She’s resisting. Or are they it’s? They’re resisting still, my Lord.”
This is a voice that meant business.
“Have you tried the pelo method?”
This guy’s the one in charge.
“You both cannot handle this. I’ll be the one to do this. Give me ten minutes, and I’ll show you how it is done, Captain.”
No. He’s the one in charge.
“Thank you, my Lord.”
He turned to his other counterpart as the captain walked away a long mane could be seen in the torchlight, and it was brownish-red hair with a slight curl.
“Excuse the boy, Colonel. I’m surprised he was made a member of the Procurator’s Bureau at his age. Before this he was a logistics officer. Friends in high places no doubt. Ha.”
“Now, you had something you wanted to tell me.”
“We have seventy units made, Sir. We need to make twenty more to be at full strength. My men are ready to crew them. However we need to know when we can train with them. I don’t want my men getting rusty. Where are we on the timeline? Do you know?”
“I do know. I have told you soon in the past, Colonel Vercin. Now, we’re near. So near.”
“Do you know the target, Sir?”
“I wasn’t told. Alas. The General when he arrives will be sure to tell us. Excuse me, Colonel. I must assist the captain. In a few days time, we’ll both be aware. Good evening, Captain.”
“Good evening, My Lord.”
The two men departed. Vercin exited via side door and the noble who was addressed as lord kept travelling down the passage.
He’s the guy. Follow him.
The two of them kept travelling down the hall. The torch lights and lanterns were disappearing and all of a sudden screaming could be heard echoing in a massive chamber. Massive blue flames were dancing in the middle of the room. The young captain as dead, and this noble was arching a red beam from his hands and forehead.
“Come out, Spirit. Lumineer of Lumber. In the name of the Theocracy I command thee. You will serve me and I shall will thee for the rest of your days. Come out.”
The blue flames danced and trembled at the terror of not knowing what their fate was. Or perhaps they did know.
Did they watched what happened to their kin?
More blue flames appeared from the wood. The wood was not on fire. These were the lumineer. They spoke to this Lord.
“WE DO NOT SERVE YOU. WE DO NOT SERVE A THEOCRACY WE SERVE OUR CREATOR. HE MADE US TO STRENGTHEN THIS WOOD. WE SERVE NO ONE BUT OUR GOD AND THE NATURAL BALANCE HE INSTILLS. HE WILL PUNISH THEE.”
The noble laughed briefly.
“THEN YOU SHALL ASK WHERE HE IS TODAY.”
The red beams widened and some of the wood crumbled into dust and the blue flames vanished.
They’re being killed. But how does one fight a mage? With a mage?
Paul turned to Estalwyn.