The trek back to Shanbydder was particularly long, or so it seemed to Racieus. As is always the case, the fact that the halfling wanted to get back to the guild and investigate the meaning behind the new note, made the trip stretch, leaving Racieus alone with his thoughts. The note captured much of his attention. Any part of him that wasn’t instinctually scanning the road or keeping him on his horse was turning over the words on the slip of paper, trying in vain to solve the meaning behind them.
“He has taken your friend.”
Who was “he?” The first person that came to mind was Taryn. Racieus would be a fool to think the thief was the only person who didn’t like him, but if anyone could be qualified as the halfling’s enemy, it would be Taryn. As clear-cut as it seemed however, Racieus wasn’t fully convinced. Taryn was many things, but a man of risks and action was not one of them. He didn’t have the gut to kidnap one of the small assassin’s friends.
That in itself was another question. Who had the mysterious “he” taken? The halfling didn’t exactly have many friends nowadays. In fact, even before the attack, there were only a few who Racieus spent any amount of time with. The only two that readily came to mind were Eira and Finn, but Racieus hadn’t seen Finn in over a year. He didn’t even know if his friend had made it out of Faerdham alive. And Eira, Racieus chuckled at the thought of someone trying to kidnap her, she could handle herself.
The guild loomed in the distance, and the small assassin put the speculations from his head. They would do nothing to help him at present, and served only as a distractions, and distractions, as Lieran often reminded him, only made you dead. Perhaps the guildmaster could offer some advice on the situation. Racieus hadn’t divulged the secret of the box to him yet, but he wasn’t going to get much further on his own. After securing his pony in the stables, the small assassin made for the house. He made the impromptu decision to surprise Lieran, and instead of taking the door, the halfling used the wall instead, his small hands and feet finding easy purchase on the rough stone. The window to the guildmaster’s office was locked, but that was a problem Racieus had long since overcome. His sessions with Lieran had gotten him more than acquainted with every possible entrance and exit to the building. The halfling’s dagger slid smoothly between the two window panels, and he carefully worked the blade up, expecting to find the resistance of the latch. To his surprise, the dagger slid all the way to the top, and Racieus tentatively pushed on the glass.
It slid open easily. Without even pausing to roll his eyes, the halfling pulled himself over the ledge and landed in a crouch on the floor.
The office was empty. Sheathing his blades, Racieus went for the door, which was shut. He pulled it open, startling two guild members who fumbled for their weapons. The halfling’s own knives appeared in his hands reflexively, but before they saw any action, one of the guards exclaimed,
“Stars, Racieus! What are you doing? The office is off-limits while Lieran is gone.”
The small assassin frowned, “He’s gone? Where’d he go?” The question was met with shrugs from both the guild lackeys.
“Not sure. He just up and left. Not a word to anybody.”
The note from the box came to Racieus’ head, “Was he taken? Or did he just go of his own volition?”
“Dunno. But there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle. If he was taken, whoever did it was good.”
Racieus considered this for a moment. “Did he tell Eira? As her trainer he might have left-” the halfling trailed off. The two guards had shared a glance, one that made the small assassin uneasy. They looked away quickly, but it was too late.
“What?” Racieus demanded, “What is it?”
Again the two men shared a glance, but this time they weren’t sharing a secret. They were silently deciding who would be the bearer of bad news. One of them, Racieus thought his name might was Mes, sighed in defeat.
“Fine.” He said, looking down at his feet for a moment, and fumbling with his weapon. “Eira’s gone too. She disappeared around the same time as the Guildmaster. It could just be-”
Racieus was no longer listening. The halfling had spun and begun walking determinedly back toward the window he had entered through. One of the men behind called out for him to wait, but he paid them no mind, and vaulted over the sill. He glanced back at the stables where his mount rested, but dismissed the building. His pony had earned a rest for the time being. Besides, where would Racieus go? He had no leads yet. His hope, slim at best, lay in digging around the city for some clue as to his friends whereabouts.
Though he hated himself for it, the small assassin couldn’t help but wonder if Lieran was responsible for Eira’s disappearance. The note came back to him, unbidden, it’s portent echoing through his scattered thoughts.
“He has taken your friend.”
The halfling normally would have dismissed the thought, had it not been for the guildmaster’s curious behavior. Lieran himself had told the halfling to underestimate nothing, no matter how insignificant, but Lieran? Kidnapping his own pupil? Perhaps it was the sorcery of a rival guild, or maybe...
Racieus put an end to the trail of thoughts, coming to a halt as he did so. Blinking, he looked around at the unfamiliar landscape he found himself in. Lost in his thoughts, the halfling had unconsciously strayed into a part of the city that he did not know. The small assassin struggled to get his bearings, berating himself for the lapse in attention. Mistakes like this could be costly, all it took was one well-placed blade and-
Something pricked at Racieus’ senses, an almost imperceptible shift in the air that alerted him to an attack from behind. Instantly alert, the small assassin steeled himself. A form slammed into his back, arms and legs scrambling to find a hold on Racieus’ small body. The halfling had been given the time he needed however, and as soon as he felt the weight, he reached back, grabbed his assailant’s clothing and, ducking down quickly, flung his attacker off his back and over his head. Quick flicks bared his weapons, and muscles tensed to throw when a voice called out.
“Raci, stop! It’s me!”
A face popped up, revealing familiar light brown curls. The recognition was instant, and Racieus almost dropped his knives in surprise.