I had said I was going to post this today. I had looked at it a few months ago and was happy with it. This is the one I read to my writing group, which got a fairly good reception although I have tweaked it based on the advise I revived.
Reading it again today I found several bits I’m not happy with, so this isn’t the final version. Hopefully it is an improvement on this version. I’m not going to make any changes until I’ve finished the current re-write of my book.
Please let me know what you think, constructive criticism is always helpful.
The Thief Trap
Tybalt peeked out from behind the barrels, his young sharp eyes searching for a victim. His stomach twisted painfully, he wrapped his arms around himself rocking gently. He hadn’t eaten anything for three days and the pain was becoming unbearable.
He froze, a well dressed man was ambling towards him, he looked like a merchant. He stopped rocking he became posed like a cat about to leap, he could feel his heart beating faster. His tongue darted out, licking his dry lips, the merchant walked passed just at the right position for Tybalt to dart out and grab his purse. His legs refused to obey him, he closed his eyes and there it was again. Will his friend, his protector, dangling in front of him, strung up by the cities watch for stealing another merchants purse. He started shaking. He opened his eyes and shock his head to rid himself of the image. Two watchmen went passed him, stalking the merchant. It was another trap. Tybalt slid back into the shadows. His eye started to moisten, he quickly wiped them with the back of hand. He took a few slow breaths to steady himself. Will was dead, he wasn’t coming back, crying wouldn’t help. Unless he got something to eat he would be joining him.
He peered out again, he had seen Will do this so many times, ‘You have to be quicker than a virgin in a whorehouse.’ was one of Will’s favourite sayings. He just wished he had asked him what it meant.
He sat and waited, before long it started to get hot even in the shade of the barrels. Tybalt wiped the sweat from his forehead, smudging his dirty hand. His threadbare clothing already clung to his body from the usual heat of Jandan. The air was still, it was only going to get worse, thought Tybalt. He’d have to get food soon before the ground beneath his bare feet became a furnace.
Another patrol walked passed, three watchmen in their ill fitting chain mail carrying a variety of weapons, eyes searching for their next prey. Tybalt shrunk back further behind the barrels, his heart pounding and his mouth dry. He waited for as long as he could then started shuffling forward to get a better view of the street. Then he saw him, a man saunter along looking at the sights. He was very tall and lean with dirty blond hair down to his shoulders. He was simply dressed with black breaches, a white shirt and black jacket. They weren’t fancy but then they didn’t look cheap, the clothes fitted to well. He carried a wooden staff. But the thing that interested Tybalt the most was his purse tied to his belt. The man seemed clueless to the danger he was in. Wondering through the cheaper parts of town with his money there for everyone to see. His eyes scanned the crowd to see if the man was on his own. Fear gripped him again, what if he was caught? At least that death would be quick, starving would not be. He was scared; he needed to pee really badly, but the hunger pains were worse.
He darted out, weaving around the other people in the street his eyes only on the tall blond man’s purse. He deftly slipped his small knife out and moved towards it. Without warning there was blinding blue flash. To his surprise he was suspended a foot in the air held in a dome made from blue light emanating from the blond man. Terror griped Tybalt he knew he was going to die just like Will or worse. He felt a warm, wet sensation spreading down his left leg. His right hand became hot, it broke free from the dome. He looked at his hand his small knife was glowing with a red light. Without thinking he plunged the knife in to the dome it flickered then disappeared, releasing Tybalt. He landed next to the blond man who was staring at him with a look of stunned disbelief. As quick as a flash he grabbed the purse cutting the strings and then ran for it. The street around him erupted.
A well-built man dressed in dirty leathers pointed and bellowed. “Grab him; the watch will pay five silver marks for a cut purse!”
Tybalt was away, his bare feet barely making contact with the dusty, dirty, street. Hands came from nowhere he ducked and swerved, legs trying to trip him, he jumped over them. He could hear pursuit from behind but he didn’t look back. A cart was blocking the road, he rolled under it straight through some horse dung but it didn’t slow him down. He was back on his feet, he darted down a side street, then turned again into adjoining road. His heart was pounding, he risked a look behind him there was no sign of his pursuers, the cart must have stalled them. He slowed down he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He forced himself to walk normally for a few minutes his heart was still pounding but he was starting to feel weak. The combination of an adrenaline rush and lack of food was starting to take its toll. He slipped into a tiny alley and slumped on to the floor. With shaking hands he opened the purse in it he found ten coppers and two silver marks. He gave a long breath, smiled and held the purse to his chest. This was a fortune and would feed him for ages. He kept two coppers out and put the rest back in the purse then tucked it back in his waist band.
His heart beat had returned to normal, he brushed the worse of the horse dung off, the heat of the day and his run helped dry his breaches off so thankfully they didn’t cling. None of this had helped improve his smell but then it hadn’t made it much worse. If you don’t count the very rare rain storms, then he hadn’t had a bath since his mother disappeared and that was three years ago, could be four, anyway a long time ago. Now he was feeling calmer. He was relived he wasn’t now dangling from a rope but felt confused. What had made his knife glow red? It must have been something to do with the weird blue dome? He guessed the tall blond man had been wizard. He had been trying to find one ever since his mother had disappeared but the only ones he ever saw were petty conjures who were either too drunk or too stupid to tell him anything. But even if he was a wizard that still didn’t explain his glowing knife. This isn’t going to fill my empty belly. He stood up walked innocently out into the street following the smell of food.
He walked down the road slightly shaky but relieved to still be free, in fact to still be alive. He made his way to the Street of The Happy Nose. He mouth watered at the delicious smell of freshly cooked bread before he saw the shops that were open to the street, with their wares displayed on tables. Tybalt approached a bread seller, for once he had money.
“Go away, I give generously to the Lady I feel no need to give charity to likes of you!” Barked the shopkeeper as soon as Tybalt got close.
“I have money.” He tried to look offended as, he held up two of his copper coins. The shop keeper eyed them suspiciously.
“Stolen, no doubt from an honest citizen.” He snatched the coins from Tybalt and handed him a small loaf. As he passed him the loaf with his right hand he grabbed the scruff of his neck with his left.
“Instead of two copper coins I could get five silver marks for handing in thief.”
His breath stunk of garlic and alcohol making Tybalt feel slightly stick. “Unless I pass out from your smell before they arrive!” He sounded a lot braver than he felt. Tybalt turned his head and sunk his teeth into the shopkeepers hand, the man screamed out in pain releasing him. Tybalt, didn’t hesitate, holding tight to his precious bread he ran for it. After a few minutes he looked back over his shoulder no one was chasing him. He spat out the taste of shopkeeper.
He tore off a piece of bread and chewed as fast as he could. It felt so good to eat. He tore off a second piece it disappeared just as fast. The second piece was as good as the first. He looked up and his heart nearly stopped there was a young watchman looking at him from across the street. He quickly shoved the his loaf back in his shirt and darted off in to a side street. He looked over his shoulder no one was following.
With the bread secure under his shirt he made his way back to his hideout in the sewers. He kept to the shadows as much as possible. He left the relatively well kept main streets where the shopkeepers did their best to keep their patch clean. As he made his way down the side streets he found himself dodging piles of rotting rubbish and the dumped contents of people’s privies. Not for the first time he wondered why Lord Falk didn’t get the watch to do something more useful like clean the streets? Fortunately he didn’t see any more of the watch, most probably having their lunch avoiding the heat of the midday sun.
After weaving through the streets he came to a small alley. Out of sight from the main road. Down the small alley there was a door made from rusty iron, the lock was broken years ago. Tybalt pushed the door open and went into the dark tunnel. It lead a short way down in to a larger opening. Will had found this place two years ago and shared it with Tybalt. It was part of a failed attempted to build a sewer system, there where random half-finished tunnels all around the city. So the sewage was still either collected by night soil men from cesspits or just thrown in the streets.
The tunnel lead to a small roughly built dome shaped chamber. Tybalt barely noticed the dank smell anymore but the coolness came as a relief after being out in the midday sun. They had made beds by filling sacks with straw and had an upturned box as a table. He sat on his bed and greedily devoured the rest of his his small loaf quickly. All too soon it was gone and his belly ached, this time not from hunger but over filling his shrunken stomach. He slumped back down on his bed with his arms tightly around his middle. Despite the pain he started to drift off to sleep.
Someone was roughly shaking him; he opened his eyes. Sleep was still clouding his senses. Then it hit him. Staring straight at the face of the blond man. Tybalt jumped back, but there was nowhere to go just a wall. He heart was pounding fear gripped his insides.
“Calm down boy.” The voice was soft, but that did nothing to relax him “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“You haven’t brought the Watch?” Tybalt looked around expecting to see Watchmen lurking behind the tall man.
“No, just me.” He held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture.
Tybalt looked over the man’s shoulder again, he couldn’t see anyone else. Currently his exit was blocked, but if he could keep him talking he might be able to slip past him. Now he had a plan his heart started to return to normal.
The blond man moved back and sat on their box table. It creaked in protest. He gave Tybalt an intense look that made him feel a little uncomfortable. “Tell me how did you do it? How did you shatter my thief trap? I had been working on that spell for over a year, the first time I tested it on a real thief you broke it like it was nothing, how?”
“So you’re a wizard!” Tybalt sat forward excitedly. He had been looking for a real wizard for so long he felt his fear evaporate. Finally he would get answers to his question. He hesitated, how did he know he could trust this man? What would Will do he thought? He would wait to see what the Wizard wanted first. He held his question in, he felt an ache inside that was nothing to do with his protesting stomach.
“Yes of course I am, answer my question!” He brought his hand down to his knees, his eyes not leaving Tybalt.
“But how did you find me?” All the time he heard Will voice ringing in his ears, trust no one, they all want something.
“I put a tracking spell on my purse just in case, now answer my question.”
The last bit made Tybalt wince, if he gets too cross with me he might hand me over to the watch. The wizard reached forward and pulled his purse from Tybalt’s waist band, the sudden movement alarmed him. Tybalt felt his heart sink, it was a simple trick he had hoped the wizard had a spell for finding people.
“I don’t know I’ve never had anything like that happen before, please don’t take me to the watch they will kill me, they killed my friend.” Tybalt’s eyes darted around this time trying to find an escape route.
The wizards face looked quizzical. “How old are you boy?”
“I’m twelve or maybe thirteen.” Tybalt moved slowly around the edge of the bed, positioning himself to make a dash for freedom.
“Whats your name?”
Tybalt moved uneasily, was it safe to tell him his name?
The man signed “I’m just asking your name, not to give me your soul. You are very untrusting for a boy so young.”
“My name is Tybalt.” But thats all the information I’m going to give you he thought silently.
“Well my name is Walter I’m a Sorcerer from the order of Tuitus, and I have the power to change your life if you come with me to meet a friend of mine.” He smiled as he said it.
Tybalt gave a start this was the last thing he was expecting. Since his mother had gone he hadn’t met a single adult who wanted to help him. He could see no reason why Walter would be any different. He needed a wizard but was this one going to help him or hurt him? Tybalt couldn’t see a way past him, for now I’ll keep him talking.
“Why would your friend help me?” Tybalt sat back against the wall, as running wasn’t a possibility at the moment.
“Wizards are rare, when we come across someone who might have power it’s our responsibility to help them. He is a much more important wizard than me, he will be in a better position to help you.”
“You think I’m a wizard?” Tybalt cursed himself silently for sounding so excited.
“I don’t know, I can’t see how else you could have broken my spell but there might be another explanation. My friend should be able to tell us.” He pushed his long hair out of his eyes. “So do you want to come with me?”
That sounded like a choice, but he needed to know one thing first. He almost felt to scared to ask. “Can he help me find my mother?” He leaned forward, the longing inside of him hurt.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t know. Finding someone using magic can be hard but you could ask him yourself.”
Tybalt weighed up his options, he was intrigued by the offer. His life here was going nowhere, but Will had always told him he was too trusting, too quick to believe anything he has told. He needed Will to tell him what to do. However he had wanted to talk to a wizard ever since his mother had left him. He knew it was a risk but could he afford to turn down this opportunity, how often would a wizard come his way? The wizard Walter was promising to take him too sounded like a very powerful one. But what if it was a trick and there was no wizard what if Walter just wanted to get him out of the hideaway to hand him over to the watch or sell him as a servant? But then he thought to himself he could always run if it didn’t work out. He took a deep breath. “OK then I’ll come with you.” He said in a more confident voice than he was feeling.
As they emerged from the alley, Walter placed his hand on Tybalt’s shoulder. He thinks I’m going to run thought Tybalt but then the sight of three watch men standing waiting for them made his blood run cold. Tybalt looked at Walter with disgust, he had betrayed him. Walter had just tricked him to hand him over to the Watch!
To Tybalt the three watch men just looked like harden thugs. One stepped forward, he was past his prime, shorter than Walter by at least two feet he had the look of a man whose muscles where turning to fat. He had hard eyes that Tybalt couldn’t imagine smiling. He held a cudgel with a short sword at his belt. His two companions both younger fitter and taller than him both carried crude crossbows. He noticed the crossbows were loaded, but to Tybalt’s relief not pointing at anyone yet. He looked around quickly looking for an escape route, the street was almost empty which would make it harder for him to melt away.
“Thank you sir, I’ll take the boy, he’s a thief, and I’ll see you get your proper reward for capturing him.”
Walter gave the man a withering look. “You are mistaken this boy is my page, I hired him at Blackedge two months ago.” Tybalt stopped looking for an escape route and stared at Walter, he was standing up for him!
“Begging your pardon sir, hand him over, if you want a boy you can get one at The Defrocked Priest in Warble street. They’re a lot cleaner and more obliging than this one.” Gesturing with his cudgel.
Walter took his hand off Tybalt’s shoulder calmly lifted his staff a few inches above the ground he then brought it down. As the foot of the staff hit the ground a blue light covered it. Walter looked in the eyes of the Watch man.
“I have an appointment, I’m leaving with my page, you can stand aside and let us pass with your dignity intact, or I can throw you across the street. Either way we are leaving.”
The watchman puffed out his chest. “Lord Falk don’t have no truck with Wizards, hand over the boy then bugger off.”
“Yes, I have heard Lord Falk’s wife ran off with a petty conjurer of tricks.” Replied Walter with a sneer on his face. Tybalt looked at Walter in awe, he had never heard anyone speak to the Watch like this.
The lead Watchman gave a hand gesture; his two companions brought down and fired their crossbows at Walter. At the same time Walter flicked his wrist. A blue wall of light appeared, stretching three feet either side of his staff, the cross bolts stopped at they hit it and fell to the ground. He then pushed his arm, the blue shield shot forward, and the Watch men were thrown across the street.
Tybalt looked opened mouthed at Walter “That was amazing!”
Walter smiled, “Well I did warn him, it just a simple projectile shield. We had better move before any more turn up. Stand closer to me boy.”
Walter spun his staff above his head. A blue web descended on both of them flickered then disappeared.
“What was that?” asked Tybalt
“A disguise shield, we now we look like a middle-aged woman and a small girl.”
“You made me look like a girl!”
“Stay here and wait for the watch, then.” Walter walked off. Tybalt knew there was no way he could not go with Walter he had just saved him from the watch. Tybalt ran to catch him up. Walter looked down at him and smiled
“Hello little girl, are you lost?”
“No need to rub it in!” He prayed none of his friends would see him like this and with a jolt he remembered they were dead.
Walter led him through the streets. This was part of the city he and Will had never dared go in before. The road was clean and paved, although with bare feet Tybalt decided he preferred to walk on dirt. The houses were bigger and set back from the road with front gardens with bright flowers in. They must be rich, thought Tybalt if they can afford to waste water on plants. The streets were less crowded but Tybalt noticed more Watchmen. Walters disguise appeared to be working as to Tybalt’s relief they didn’t give either of them a second look. He knew if they could see what he looked like they would arrest him for just being here. Tybalt looked up at Walter, he was walking with a confident look on his face which Tybalt envied him for.
Tybalt was still suffering from his earlier exertions and lack of food, within ten minutes his feet felt like lead. After another ten minutes more he could barely put one foot in front of the other. Walter looked back at Tybalt lagging behind, he asked, not unkindly. “Do you want me to carry you?”
“No! I’m not a baby, I can look after myself.” snapped Tybalt. Although he slightly regretted refusing help as he trudged on. After what felt like a life time they arrived at a large imposing house. Unlike most houses in Janden it wasn’t made from mud bricks but a light grey stone. There wasn’t any balconies or awnings to shade it’s inhabitants from the sun’s rays. Instead it had wood framed windows and decorated columns half protruding from the front. It made the building look very strange and foreign.
“What is this place?” Asked Tybalt.
“It’s a chapter house for the order of Commutatus, but because it’s the only one in this city they let members of other orders use it.”
Tybalt hadn’t understood a word of that, he gave Walter a blank look.
“It’s a house for wizards to use.” He gave Tybalt a rye grin.
“I thought Lord Falk didn’t like wizards?” Asked Tybalt
“He doesn’t but even Lord Falk isn’t stupid enough to tangle with the Order of Commutatus, you might wake up as a frog!” Walter Chuckled to himself.
He pushed open the door and walked in, Tybalt followed reluctantly.