Chapter 12: Complication (cont.)

The ornate container had been inside the halfling’s pack when he had left the room. Whoever had moved it was either incredibly incompetent or they wanted the small assassin to know. Before moving any further, Racieus took another hard glance around the room. It was incredibly possible that whoever had come in had meant to take the halfling off his guard with the box and blind him to any number of traps.

Seeing nothing, Racieus approached the bed and cautiously picked up the box, subjecting it to the same rigorous examination. The container also appeared safe, and the small assassin wasted no time in opening it up. There was another note.

“He has taken your friend.”

Racieus slowly sat on the bed, his mind sorting through his small list of acquaintances in attempt to pick out the subject of the strange notes. The first was still in the box, apparently untampered with, still reading Don’t trust him.”

The obvious choice was Taryn, but Racieus didn’t need any notes to warn him away from the petulant thief. The only other people who he really knew, or thought he knew, were Eira and Lieran. The note mentioned the perpetrator was a he, indicating Lieran. The halfling thought hard on this for a moment before promptly bursting into laughter, the idea that Lieran would betray him seeming so ridiculous.

Racieus began to ready himself for bed, but his mind, not required to accomplish the rote tasks of settling in, switched back, of all things, to the elven parade. Again he snorted in derision simply because it was for an elf. He thought to his moment of indecision and reassured himself that he made the right choice, and then his mind took a jump, with the thought of what ridiculous affairs parades were.

Or anything that involves a group actually, he said to himself. You’re practically inviting a thief or an assassin to-

The halfling blinked at the thought. He wasted little time in applying it to his current job, and within moments a smile crossed his face. He had found his method of entry.

———~~~~———

Early the next morning saw Racieus waiting a little ways away from the gate in dress that he found both constricting and uncomfortable, but it was necessary to play his part, and he had made up his mind to put up with it. He hoped that his guess had been correct, it would make his job much easier. A couple hours passed, and with them crowds of people, prompting Racieus to once again play a small game.

Lieran had called it “people-watching.” The object was to choose one person at a time and scrutinize them as best you could, without being overly obvious about it. Then, by the time they had begun to pass from sight you had to use all the information you had collected and make a guess at their background.

Racieus’ first subject was a an elderly man slowly making his way down the street. The man’s gait seemed rather awkward, and the halfling figured that it had something to do with the unusually long cane that his subject was using. As he shuffled along, the elderly gentleman glanced over at a pair of guards who approaching from the opposite direction. The man began to smile, but the expression turned sour when the two guards began to laugh at a young lady who had tripped. One of the soldiers helped the woman up, only to sandwich her between himself and his friend. Racieus heard one or two lewd comments escape the soldiers’ mouths as they dragged along the obviously unwilling woman. One of the guards was too free with has hands and the woman managed to slap him. She dashed away in the brief moment of surprise, or tried to. The other guard caught hold of her and held her to face his companion. The soldier glared as he rubbed at his face, and his own hand slowly began to rise.

Thwack!

The soldier cursed and turned to face the old man who had batted his hand away. The gentleman seemed to no longer have any need for the crutch as he barked at the guards in a tone that commanded respect. The man hadn’t been slouching before, but he continued to straighten anyway as his voice gained in volume. His shoulders drew back and the weakness had left his legs.

Racieus tensed, readying himself to help the old man, but to his surprise, it wasn’t needed. The soldiers had been shocked out of whatever cadaverous mood they had worn moments before, and were nodding stiffly to the old man. The woman was released and apologies were made before she hurried away. Thoroughly upbraided, the guards also continued along under the keen eye of the older man. Only once they had turned a corner, did they old man begin to hobble along, his body losing its stern and rigid appearance. The small assassin noticed that his subject still wasn’t hunched over, and it was then that his mind made the connection with the cane.

The older man was trying to march. The longer cane allowed him to stand tall as he walked, and while diminished, the air of respect still hung about him. By Racieus’ best guess, the man had been an officer of some sort when he was younger, and old habits, it seemed, died hard. The elderly gentleman reminded the halfling of a story he had loved as a child. It was the tale of a man who had been a terror to all manners of foes in his prime. The story said he had the spirit of twenty men, and there were none who could match him in skill and intensity. As is always the case however, the man’s body began to grow old, though his spirit remained as strong as ever, and even into his later years he continued to live a life of danger. He was as noble as they came, and the story referenced a time in the hero’s later years when he single-handedly fought off a group of rogue youngsters in a tavern, and then proceeded to reprove and instruct them in how to become better men.

The halfling smiled, and though the old soldier’s back was to him, Racieus saluted, and he couldn’t help but sit a little straighter. The small assassin started in on analyzing another passerby, this one a tall dark haired woman, but he didn’t get very far. The sound of laughter cut through his observations, and instantly had his attention. As Racieus watched, a line of children snaked around the corner of a building. He had been expecting them, they were his method of entry. They approached the gate and Racieus slipped in behind the group, his clothes, the homespun tunic and trousers typical of a young boy, fitting in perfectly with the children. He was cautious to stay far enough behind that he wouldn’t attract the attention of the children, but the small assassin didn’t have much cause for worry, the rambunctious group had plenty of other things to focus on.

Racieus had found yet another good advantage to his size, for class tours were about the only business that the museum still entertained. The halfling looked about him as the group covered the ground between the gate and the museum entrance, there was still a good many guards roaming about, but not quite as many as there had been several hours earlier. The large wooden doors were pushed open as the class approached, and the mob squeezed through, past two more pairs of soldiers. The small assassin tensed ever so slightly, but the guards paid him no mind, and once he was inside, he relaxed.

The tutor barked out a few orders before allowing the kids to fan out and observe at their own pace. There were no rooms, no hallways, only a set of stairs, leaving little guesswork for Racieus. He worked his way over gradually, trying as best he could to remain inconspicuous. When he came to the stairs, he took a quick look around and then darted up the steps. There were a few displays, but Racieus’ attention was drawn tot he three different doorways, one on each wall. It wasn’t hard for the assassin to deduce his next move though, out of the three paths, only one had a pair guards stationed next to it. The halfling allowed his gaze to drift, but his feet were unwavering as moved towards the hall.

“You aren’t allowed past here” stated one of the soldiers, and Racieus blinked, feigning surprise.

“Oh I-I… I’m sorry. Maybe you can help me, I’m looking for the-” the moment the guards eased up, the small assassin’s knives came out. There was barely enough time for the shock to register on the mens’ faces before the blades hit home. There were a few more empty display alcoves down this hall, which the halfling used to hide the lifeless forms before he moved on. Ignoring the offices on either side of him, Racieus made a beeline for the ornate doors at the very end of the corridor. He took a deep breath, readying himself for any possibility, and kicked open the door. He was greeted by the curator’s surprised face, and nothing more.

“Are you, lost little one?” Racieus said nothing, and began to approach the man slowly. “No need to be nervous, but you really shou-” the man noticed, with wide eyes, the steel in halfling’s hands and he stood quickly, knocking over his chair in the process. “I-I’m not… please don’t. I’ll come in, I’ll do whatever you want. There’s no need for-” the man’s pleas died in his throat as Racieus raised his blades. He began to whimper as the halfling considered his instructions. Subtlety hadn’t been listed as a requirement, but the small assassin saw no advantage in leaving more evidence of his presence than was necessary. He sheathed his blades, and the blubbering stopped as the curator mistook the action for mercy. He opened his mouth to speak, but whatever he was going to say was forgotten as Racieus stuck out a foot behind the man and pushed. The curator stumbled back to bounce off a large stained glass window, which a hefty kick from Racieus sent him crashing through a moment later.

The small assassin jumped out after him, but unlike the curator, he made it to the ground alive. The halfling stuck around long enough to make sure he had done his job, before dashing for the fence.

~~~~~****~~~~~

The End

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