The night was warm. A moist sea-breeze blew in warmly from the south. It was very late and very still. The crescent August moon had set and it would be hours still before the morning sun would begin to appear over the city of Fendir.
Two guards stood at the end of an alley. Zenny examined them from his hiding place. He was barely a shadow in a neatly trimmed shrub a few feet away. Lamplight illuminated their scruffy faces. The two men talked casually, barely comprehending the danger they were in. They must have been unaware of the valuable shipment sitting in the warehouse at the end of the alley they now guarded.
Ducking quietly into a darkened alcove out of the guards' sight, the halfling quietly placed a ripped and blood-stained cloak on the ground at the foot of some steps up to the back door of a local cafe. A liberal smattering of pig's blood on the porch and the door would complete the con. He also took note of the back warehouse door and made sure this porch was visible from it.
He steeled himself for the coming encounter, went over the plan again, and smiled confidently.
He let out half of a woman's scream, but let it be cut short in gargling noises. He loudly jumped up on the landing and slammed heavily into the door. Afterward, he deftly hid himself behind the stone-worked railing that led up the steps. As expected, one guard came alone. The other guard maintaining his position at the end of the alley. The guard saw the bloodstained cloak and picked it up. Then, he saw the trail of blood heading up the steps to the door. Looking intently at the blood and ascending the steps, he never saw nor heard the deadly halfling emerge behind him.
A few moments later, the guard was dead, a rapier had pierced a kidney and his heart in one deft upward thrust. The halfling caught the man's body and laid it down quietly. He resisted the urge to lift a few gold from his unsuspecting victim. There was a much bigger fish to fry tonight.
The alley was dimly lit by lamp-light, but the dark-clad halfling had no problem avoiding the light and skirting the sight of the now alerted second guard. As silent as a cat, the halfling crept up behind the alerted guard. This time, rapier and short sword were both prepared to taste flesh.
The guard's achilles was cut with a quick slice from the short sword, and as he flinched and turned to see the cause of the burning sensation, he caught the tip of a rapier through his abdomen. A sly smile on the face of his halfling assailant.
With both guards dispatched, the halfling's attention quickly turned toward the alleyway. He peered intently down the street, first one way and then the other. He listened intently. Not a peep. He dragged the guard's body out of the street and into the bushes, then proceeded into the alleyway.
The silent halfling sheathed his weapons and quickly moved to the door of his targeted warehouse and listened intently. He could hear muffled voices from the other side. As expected, several guards were in the warehouse, and would surely detect any attempt to unlock the door. He noticed an old metal signpost over the door, and a better plan presented itself.
Deftly jumping up to the signpost, he swung a few times to gain momentum and then flipped into position straddling the signpost against the wall over the door about 7 feet up. Confident that he wouldn't be seen in this darkened position, he carefully pulled the guard's whistle from the string on his neck and blew it loudly, then he screamed in a gruff voice, "Johnson and Milsap are dead!!!"
Very quickly, clicking and thunking could be heard as tumbler and deadbolt were released. Two heavily armed warriors stormed out of the warehouse with their weapons drawn. Seeing the guard's corpse on the porch a few doors down, they charged in that direction.
Moments later, a single, skinny robed figure stepped hesitantly out of the doorway and peered intently after them. He jumped with a start as he heard the halfling land behind him. His lips instinctively incanting the defensive spell he had prepared. He never got the chance. The halfling's dark rapier found the man's throat before he could get out the last syllable. The halfling easily caught the skinny human and pulled his body into the warehouse, quickly locking the door behind him.
He stuffed the corpse into a broom closet and flew up the stairway left of the door. Reaching the top of the stairs, he doused the only light that was present there and listened intently. He could hear two guards barking to each other, probably hesitant to leave their post at the front door. Grummus was fiercely devoted to "duty" and would quickly slice a mercenary's throat if he left his post.
At the thought of Grummus, the rogue's smile turned slightly coy... "and I'm the outlaw," he muttered under his breath.
The upper floor contained offices and a vault. Surely the day's receipts in the vault would be a nice prize easily won. Shaking his head to regain his focus, he quietly walked down the hallway. No, he would not settle for gold and trinkets, his focus was on Grummus's prized emerald. The gem was said to be worth thousands of gold pieces, but to this halfling, it was even more valuable than that.
As Zenny neared the railing where the warehouse managers would view the operations in the warehouse, he realized how this emerald could help him earn back his reputation within the Kingdom of Eliador.
Grummus had won the gem in a poker game with a prominent Duke of Eliador. Zenny had been the dealer in that game, and though Zenny saw Grummus cheat, he certainly would have been cut-down immediately for suggesting it at the time. He held his tongue, and his innards, biding his time for a more opportune moment. Now, the night before Grummus is to return from his stronghold, a courier has arrived with the emerald in an ornate hardened oak mini-chest.
It's a very good thing that Zenny knew the craftsman of the chest. They had similar backgrounds one might say, and it only took a slight greasing of the palm for Zenny to obtain an exact replica. Now he had only seconds to swap the chests and get-out before the alarm was raised. He saw the chest on a table about 20 feet from the screaming guards.
He slid down a pole to the first floor and ducked below the table. The guards did not notice this and kept bickering. Suddenly, there was a fist pounding on the front door, "It's a setup, you fools."
As the guard fiddled with the locks, and with no time to lose, Zenny clutched the replica in one hand and reached over the table top to swipe the first chest. Zenny quickly slipped the replica into place. As he heard the door open, he knew there would be the captain of the night watch and dozens of angry guards waiting to arrest him... or to mete out "justice" in a more immediate fashion.
Realizing he could not escape without detection, Zenny threw all stealth to the wind and bolted for the nearby staircase, knocking down boxes and crates to block the soldiers' advance. They screamed as they saw the black clad halfling bolting up the stairs. About half of the soldiers brandished crossbows and quickly shot at the fleeing halfling.
None of the bolts hit their mark and Zenny ran down the hallway. His small stature was truly beneficial as bolt after bolt harmlessly hit the wooden half-wall between him and the crossbows; however, it was less beneficial as strapping human warriors with huge, shiny long swords, easily bounded over the obstacles he had strewn about.
Zenny summoned every ounce of speed he had to reach his escape point, but he still had two doors to go when the first warrior reached the top of the stairs. The warrior threw a dagger at Zenny that grazed his shoulder as he ducked into the door his accomplice had left slightly ajar.
Zenny bolted across the room to the open window. He reached the window just as the huge, raging warrior burst into the room and shouted, "Surrender thief, or I'll render your sentence here!"
"If it's all the same to you, I think I won't." said Zenny as he jumped onto the window sill. The furious guard charged at him, but Zenny was already out the window. A quick glance down showed a mob of guards in the alley with torches. There was no time to think about that.
"Yondalla protect me!" shouted Zenny as he ran across the tight-rope he and his accomplice had prepared over the alleyway. The guards from the room conveniently cut the rope, blocking any pursuit via that route just as Zenny jumped to the window sill in the old abandoned meat packing plant. Quickly climbing through the window, he just managed to avoid several arrows from the angry guards below.
Guards charged into the meat-packing facility from all sides, but none were quite as familiar with it as Zenny. He had planned this scenario in his head many times and he easily evaded the guards and moved quickly away from the hot-zone rooftop by rooftop. He was safely back in the low quarter well before morning. However, with tell of his deeds already spreading through the city, he knew it was time to move on yet again.
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