Shadows Bane (Book One)Mature

this is a fantasy story set in the world of Mara, and is about Magic, friendship, hardship, loss, love, Demons and how they all fit together

Chapter 1 (part 1)

Seth knelt in the shadows of an alleyway just off of the main Market square, the buildings around him made from white limestone mined from the quarry a few miles distant outside the north gates with timber framework jutting out a foot or so from the stone where the upstairs began, obviously some of the work when building them had been rushed as even now Seth could see the building across from him was starting to lean oppressively towards him as some of the limestone had started to crack and crumble making him feel crushed, yet in retrospect these building were the grandest buildings in the city not counting the palace district which was built entirely from white marble. The market district being the centre place for commerce, yet if you walked downhill a few hundred yards towards the outskirts everything took on a whole new look. there building were made from an assortment of cheap limestone, felled oak logs from the forests to the south and in some cases woven sticks covered in a clay like mud to keep out the wind and rain, the roofs covered with turf or thatch and all were built slightly below ground to conserve heat and gave the impression of filth and decay and that was even before the actual smell of filth and decay hit you.

It was just approaching midday, a glint of a small steel knife tucked in his sleeve the only indications of what he was about. he was already into the late stages of his seventeenth year, slight of build with an average height, unruly dark brown hair and the makings of a beard just ghosting his strong pale face that had yet to drop all of its childish innocence, his mouth was pressed into a tight line as he studied everything around him from the nobles browsing the wares to the birds flying overhead. He was dressed in a grey woolen shirt on top of this was a three - quarter coat cinched at the waist with a thick leather bronze buckled belt and baggy cloth pants lined with pockets of the same colour, boiled leather buckled long boots graced his feet while his grey cloak was hand made specially for Guild members with numerous hidden pockets filled with an array of equipment. his clothes were typically plane but if searched he would be executed immediatly for the small arsenal he carried consisting of numerous throwing knives strapped to his forearms hidden by the sleeves of the three quarter coat, a lenght of strong silk rope attached to the inside of his leather belt, a small stilleto dagger strapped to his hip hidden carefully but easy to reach through a concealed slit in the pant leg and finally a curved falchion was strapped between his shoulder blades hidden by the long cloak he wore that was clasped at the neck with a cheap iron clasp.

Emerald green eyes scanned the crowd with practiced ease. He had been waiting and training for this moment for years, having been brought into the guild at a young age, he couldn't remember his life before, only small fragments that appeared in dreams. Like all guild members he had been trained in the art of theft, combat, conversation and acting for years, and these were just the primary skills. Yet this was still his first market run, stealing from houses in the dead of the night was difficult but doable but stealing in broad daylight surrounded by people keeping an eye on their coin purses while surrounded by guards armed to the teeth was nigh on suicide if anything went wrong, yet it had to be done, the Guild was losing more money then it was bringing in and tensions were running high, Seth and his companions had been hand picked by Bulgruf the guild master, his companions for their experience at market heists and Seth had been picked to see how well he could blend with the crowds and if he was ready for the more coin worthy heists.

He kept hidden in the recess of a wooden doorway for even with the help of the shadows it was foolish to rely too heavily on blind luck. He watched guards pass periodically on their rounds, their eyes scanning the large crowds and vendors buying and selling their wares, sometimes their eyes would fix on a certain individual and said individual would freeze on the spot until the guard deemed them harmless and passed without a word. Every guard wore a chainmail shirt over a thick black leather tunic, heavy black pants, boots and cloak. Black armored gauntlets and a thick leather belt emblazoned with the emblem of the city watch, a crow in flight. Strapped everywhere were enough weapons to outfit a small army. On normal men the effect would have been ridiculous; On men who had been trained since they were old enough to lift a blade and stood a head higher then everyone else in sight... It was frightening. they were walking armories, deadly with every weapon they carried. Each carried a large two handed steel claymore strapped over one shoulder, the strap that held it also holding various short knives, a flanged mace hung from their belts while a hand and a half sword was strapped to the right hip and the ornate hilt of a dagger stuck above the lip of their boots. Most of the time they never had to use these weapons for just their presence alone was normally enough to deter anyone foolish enough to even think of stealing or starting trouble, for even without their weapons they were still formidable adversaries, they were impossible to bribe, barter or reason with and once a weapon was drawn or a fist was raised it was normally a sure thing that someone would lay dead, dying or maimed within moments, Seth remembered the last time a guild thief had been caught stealing, he shivered and his eyes flicked to the bracelet he wore on his right wrist subconsciously.

Seth and a few other young guild members had been brought up above ground that day by Bulgruf, the Guild Master, three years earlier as part of their training, their only job was to observe carefully the other members of the guild at work and learn the tricks of the trade, everything had gone as planned, two of the guild acted as a distraction to draw the guards and publics attention away from the third guild member who would slip among the crowds and stalls, cutting coin purses and lifting whatever trinkets they knew could be resold without too much trouble. but one of the guards, by luck had seen the third member as he tried to lift an ornate silver bracelet decorated with complex patterns  from one of the wooden framed antique stands.

Seth could still vividly hear the screams in his head as the thief had been dragged away cradling the stump where his hand had once been to the Tower of Ismere, the braclet had been lost in the commotion, but as Seth was lead back underground with the others, the two surviving members who Seth knew to be brothers, had passed them with mingled expressions of anger and despair. the eldest of the two had turned to Bulgruf and exchanged quick yet harsh words with him and handed him the bracelet before storming away with his younger sibling to the main hall to raise a toast to their fallen comrade and drown their sorrows. Bulgruf had stood their for awhile staring down at the bracelet with an unreadable expression before he turned to Seth an the other youngsters and ordered them to bed with a tone that held no sway for arguments.

When Seth had awoken the following morning he flew out of his skin as Bulgruf stood over him, the bracelet still clutched in his hands, an intense yet thoughtful look to his scarred and weathered features. after what seemed like hours but was in reality only moments Bulgruf had leant towards Seth and held the bracelet out. Seth had reached out cautiously, unsure of what was going through the Guild masters mind but as his hand touched the bracelet he immediately felt like some unseen yet powerful force was watching him as the fine hairs on the back of his neck rose and a sudden chill crept over him as the feeling of being strangled by just this unseen beings gaze settled over him, his breath caught and his eyes went wide yet the feeling passed so quickly and he wasn't sure at the time whether it had just been his imagination or not, he felt strangely compelled so accepted the bracelet with a nodded thanks but as he had withdrawn his arm, Bulgruf's hand had lashed out quicker then Seth could react and clamped down on his wrist with a grip like iron. He stared into the then young boys face, his eyes seeming to drill into Seth's own eyes as an almost crazed look passed across Bulgruf's features. "Keep it safe! Keep it safe as if your own life depended on it!" he had ordered in a deep husky voice barely above a whisper yet with a sense of urgency that Seth had never before heard in the old Masters voice, Seth had swallowed hard as he nodded once his understanding never breaking eye contact. Bulgruf had quickly released his arm, his features returning to their normal kindly father figure set as he rose to his full height, he clapped Seth on the shoulder in a friendly manner "There's a good lad" he had laughed "Now get up out of that thing you call a bed boy and get to the mess hall with the others, Daylights wasting and you've got work to do." and with that Bulgruf turned on his heel and swept out of the room with a flourish of his Black emblemed cloak, yet not before glancing back at the boy with what seemed like apprehension, maybe hope, yet noticing the boy examining the bracelet, polishing the burnished silver with his sleeve and lifting it to the candlelight, Bulgruf smiled sadly and disapeared.

To this day Seth still wore the bracelet, having grown so much in the last three years that it was getting difficult for him to remove it from his wrist and Bulgruf had never once said another word to him about it even when Seth had relentlessly pressed him for answers, he'd only ever repeated what he had said when first he had given it to Seth. "Keep it safe!" he shuddered at the memory of the feeling the bracelet had given him the first time he touchd it, Seth shook himself mentally brushing aside the memory as he checked the sky above him, the sun was just starting to appear directly above the alley he hid in.

Midday was approaching and his attention snapped back to the Market square, he watched as the guards started to move off towards the Tower of Ismere to change shifts, the Tower of Ismere being the city's prison and guard barracks, no one knew what happened to prisoners that were dragged there but one thing was for sure, they were never seen again, at least alive they weren't, the rumours surrounding the tower were many and all were frightening if real, yet no one knew for sure what was true for none had the courage or inclination to try and break in. With that he pulled a small shard of of a mirror fragment from one of the pockets of his cloak, he leaned out of his cover briefly to catch the sunglight, a shard of light reflected off his mirror fragment to hit the building across the market square from him, within moments a shard of light hit the entrance to the alley he was in. Seth stepped from his cover pulling the hood of his cloak over his head and quickly moved to the alley entrance, he looked across the square through the crowd to see Amira and Chase dressed in the colourful nobles garb, Amira was a young woman of eighteen who would make any man's breath catch at the sight of her, Her black hair was full, lush and long, her eyes seemed to pierce people hearts with their vibrant sky blue colour, her eyebrows had a graceful arch and she exuded a sort of innocence that seemed to draw people in which was complimented by a perfect hourglass figure.

Whereas Chase was the exact opposite, a large heavily built man of twenty years with a shaved dome head and permanent tan, thick eyebrows that shadowed hard amber eyes, a nose that had obviously been broken before and a small scar over the left side of his mouth, no matter how he stood he seemed to dwarf everyone else, with spade like fists he was the undisputed champion when it came to bar brawls, and because of this, most people saw him as a thug, but Seth had learnt that he was a remarkably intelligent man with a remarkable way with words that could stop most fights before they started and only resorted to violence if their was no other choice. Seth lifted his hand slightly and all three of them seemed to disapear into the crowd. Almost immediatly a scuffle broke out on the far side of the square from Seth as Chase started shouting at one of the stall vendors, Seth had to surpress a laugh as he caught snippets of the argument, a red faced Chase was accusing the vendor of selling stolen goods and was being very vocal about how one of the items the poor vendor was selling was the engagement ring he had bought for Amira who stood next to him looking suitably distraught, even Seth had to admit the acting was good as he slipped through the distracted crowd.

Seth approached his marks with ease, normally a rich noble or wealthy stall vendor and would start a friendly conversation with them about what was happening, and while they were further distracted by him gesturing wih one hand the other hand would shoot out, cut the ties holding their coin purses and catch it with barely a sound of clinking coins and he'd quickly slip the pilfered purse into the hidden pockets of his cloak, the same trick was used on the stall vendors as well, approach and start a friendly conversation, lean casually on the stall, and then look and point towards the argument across the square, the vendor would of course look with him and while his gaze was off his wares, the hand leaning on the stall would slip various items up the sleeve of the shirt and for larger items they would be slowly swept of the stall to be caught with practiced grace and quickly attached to one of the many ties in Seth heavy cloak and once the conversations was finished he moved away quickly but without haste so as not to arouse suspicion, he gave a half smile as he lifted a shortsword from the sheath at a nobles belt without the man even noticing, by which time the guards where returning at a run as they heard the commotion.

The crowd quickly parted as the guards approached Chase and Amira as they continued arguing with the vendor. Seth disapeared into the crowd and watched from a distance as one of the guards started questioning the Vendor, who pleaded his case and his innocence, the guard then turned to Chase and Amira. Seth held his breath, hoping their acting skills would fool the guards as easily as it had fooled the crowd, Chase for his part seemed exceedingly convincing from where Seth stood and Amira breaking into tears was a nice touch as the guards seemed to be caught off guard and the guard that had been questioning them quickly produced a cloth for her to wipe her eyes. They had pulled it off, Seth allowed himself a smile of satisfaction as he turned to leave, the clear crisp ringing sound of steel being drawn snapped him back round, he watched as the act had taken a turn for the worse, the guards were forming up around Seth's companions as he watched in horror, Two guards had moved forward to restrain Chase and another was moving to grab Amira who tried to dodge out of the way only to be dragged back by her hair with a cry of pain, Chase having seen this went red faces and went berserk, yelling loudly and lashing out with fists like hammers and Seth watched as one of the guards restraining Chase reeled backwards with blood streaming from his nose to crumple to the floor in a heap, he didnt get back up.

The End

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