A Mockery of Safety

Hidden behind the tapestry, Michael silently seathed with hatred for the Assassin King before him. His hands clenched into tight fists at his sides, and he glared at the back of the man's head with such intensity he was completely surprised the man did not crumble to ash on the spot.

If looks could kill... he thought angrilly. One glance around the room showed him that the only way out was the door he had come through, and from the "King's" appearance, studying the many maps and runes on the parchment pinned to the table, he was not going to leave for a while.

He felt panic threatening to consume him again, and shoved it away. He needed to get to Rose. Panicking did not help him get to Rose. Therefore, panicking was pointless... not that his body was listening to anything his brain was saying.

He forced himself to take a very long but silent deep breath and inspect the room again. Every thief knows that the only exits you cannot use are the one's you never see.

There! he thought triumphantly. Behind the Assassin King, seven feet up on the wall, was an opened air shaft, to prevent the air in the room from becoming foul. The rough stone walls, which he could feel behind him, had many hand holds and footholds in the cracks between the building stones.

If he could be silent... he could sneak past the Assassin King, absorbed in his work as he was, and up the wall, and into the air vent, which usually contained rough hewn steps for those unfortunate small persons sent to clean any blockages. He'd escaped through air vents before.

With a determined expression on his face, he glanced once at the completely absorbed King and then snuck out from behind the tapestry, pressing against the wall, careful to make no noise, scarcely breathing.

After several terrifying steps, he reached the part of wall below the air vent. He turned silently, hooking his fingers carefully against the wall and bracing his feet. He climbed as quietly as he could, his carefully worn shoes silent against the stone.

The King remained absorbed in his papers, shuffling maps.

Just as Michael scrambled silently into the shaft and pressed himself as far back as he could in shadow, the King pushed his chair back, making a very audible scraping noise against the floor, and stood to go to the wardrobe in the corner, his eyes passing over the place where moments before, Michael had stood.

Michael allowed himself a silent breath of relief and then began his quiet climb up the shaft.

If I had waited any longer... He shuddered, imagining the fate the King would have brought upon him. He had no doubt the sorcerer assassin had worse things than amulets up his sleeves.

Five minutes later, he found himself framed in a square of sunlight pouring into the cramped shaft. Above him was a grate, no doubt placed in the palace's outside wall.

I'll have to remember these shafts, he thought, taking a pocket knife from his coat and beginning to scrape away the mortar holding the metal screen in place. They'll make the perfect way in and out of the palace. They probably acess every servant's passage in the castle.

Hooking his fingers into the grate, he tugged hard, feeling the sharp-edged metal cut into his skin. He ignored the pain. He needed to find Rose. The screen gave way with a last tug, the remaining mortar crumbling onto the vent's floor. He carefully lowered it inside of the vent so it leaned to the side. Cautiously peering through, he found himself about four feet off the ground, looking directly into the pungent-fragranced lilac bush planted nearby.

There was about a foot of space between the bush and the wall. Michael crawled carefully through the hole, feeling the rough stone rubbing like sandpaper against his already tender knees. Wincing, he lowered himself out of the hole and dropped to the ground.

Bracing his feet against a crack in the wall and reaching inside the vent, he pulled out the grate and placed it carefully in the hole, so it looked as if it had never moved.

Dropping to the ground again, he brushed dust from himself as he peered through the braches of the lilac. A garden path lay several feet away. He saw no one, not above on the wall or on the ground, so he snuck carefully onto the path and darted from shadow to shadow of the trees, hiding in the hidden alcoves in the hedges, until he reached the outer wall.

Running along the wall, he found a relatively hidden spot on the stones where he could climb and clambered spider-like up it, using the tecnique learned from many years of practice breaking into houses. Reaching the top, he peered cautiously over the edge of the stone work, still hidden in the shadow of a massive oak growing against the wall.

The king needs to work on a better security system, Michael thought, pulling himself over the edge and darting to the other side as fast as he could. The gaurd was facing the other way.

As fats as he dared, he climbed down the other side, clinging to the wall like it was his last hope of survival.

He dropped to the ground from six feet up and looked around at the street. It was mostly abandonned, everyone at the market, the gaurd's having scared off any stragglers. A boy of about five years old looked at him with wide eyes, dressed in the clothes of a chimney sweep.

Michael rummaged in his pocket and found a gold crown. He flipped it deftly to the young boy, who caught it and scurried away, bribed into silence.

The young theif glanced both ways down the street as if that would give him some inkling of where Rose was. I have to find her.

The End

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