Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Assault on The Castle (Part 1): The Thief

It's night.  The vast wall looms up into the clear sky, blocking out the moon and casting a deep shadow over the path.  The Thief pads softly beside the wall, completely shrouded in darkness.

Top floor of the tower, through the double-locked steel door (watch out for the wire trap and pressure plates).  There's a table in the centre of the room; the item is hidden in the table top, beneath the leather covering.  The table's welfare is of no concern.

The Thief reviews his instructions - Top of the tower.  It's always at the top of the tower.  Why can't it be "as you walk in, on the left", or "under a stone outside the gate"?  Looking up, he can see the top of the tower above, outlined in stars. Why hadn't he stuck to picking pockets?

Spying a small window about two-thirds up the tower wall, the Thief slips a thin wire and grappling hook from beneath his cloak.  No sound can be heard as the Thief deftly casts the hook into the air.  A muffled *chink* wafts down as the hook connects and sticks inside the window ledge.  The Thief stays still for a few minutes to ensure no-one has heard the noise, then he begins the climb.

The climb was long.  His Mk.IV Turbo Wire Climber v2.81a (prototype) climbing tool had broken two nights before and he was having to climb using a dodgy old Mk.II he'd found lodged at the bottom of his pack.  The going was pretty slow and he kept having to stop to refill the tiny oil pouch, but eventually he reached the little window.

Using a CornerSearcher(TM) patented viewing device, the Thief takes a look over the window ledge "without fear of being spotted, shot at or losing an eye or other limb or appendage from an attack that could be waiting for [him]".  The room is empty, save a considerably dead-looking potted plant, some rags, a small bottle of Madame Urnsley's BlamDirt cleaning solution and a broom.  It looks to be little more than a cleaning cupboard, although why a cleaning cupboard would require a window will remain a mystery.

Watch out for the wire trap and pressure plates

The Thief recalls the advice - would someone really booby-trap a cleaning cupboard?  Even so, he has a good look around for booby traps and other potential difficulties before hopping through the window.

Danger could be lurking around every corner and the Thief's motto (among others) is to avoid it.  His padded leather shoes have an internal sole made of small interlocking steel tiles, not dissimilar to scale mail (one of his own designs).  The soft outer padding ensures no sound is heard as he drifts up the spiral stairs, having now left the cleaning cupboard; the inner sole of leather and flax is comfortable against his feet and between the two is a layer of steel to protect his feet against unwanted pain.  This is lucky, because as the Thief nears the top of the staircase, unwanted pain is narrowly avoided (by just a few millimetres of steel, in fact).

The Thief had just passed a corded barrier with a "No Entry" sign on, written in neat handwriting and embossed with a flourish, when he heard a distinct *crunch* sound from beneath his feet.  He froze.  Looking down he sees that each step from here on is covered with tiny, inconspicuous spikes.  A closer look shows each spike is coated in a sticky substance - the Thief can only guess at what horrible fate his steel insoles had just saved him from.  He gives a slight shudder and then proceeds upwards; the spikes crunching loudly beneath each footstep and the Thief wincing with each sound.

Rounding the last bend of the spiral staircase, the Thief stops.  The stairs return to dead quiet.  Ahead of him lies a dark steel door, fitting snugly into its metal frame.  Beside him, on the outside of the narrow stairwell, a small hollow is carved into the wall, which contains a lighted candle, offering some dim light.  Behind him; several turns of stairs with deadly spikes and the rest of the tower.  The top of the tower is unguarded, just as his sponsor had anticipated - although that's not to say the Thief had not come prepared for trouble.

Approaching the door, silently, the Thief assesses his options.  The door looks pretty solid, with metal strips riveted into it from top to bottom and two heavy-duty keyholes staring ominously, like the door is an evil grin on its side.

Explosive powder in the keyholes?  No.  He would risk fusing the metal and jamming the door shut for good.

The old poke-the-key-through-the-lock-and-collect-it-via-a-newspaper-or-some-other-flat-tool trick wouldn't work here - no gap under the door.  Plus anyone with the inclination to purchase and install such a hefty door would be unlikely to keep the keys in it.

The Thief takes a quick look through the keyholes with the CornerSearcher(TM)*, just to confirm his suspicions.
* One can never be too careful

He thought about picking the locks, but a quick check with his stethoscope confirmed that they were, indeed, joined as one lock with two keys - he would need four arms, or some dastardly contrived contraption to pick them both at the same time.

The Thief had a few ideas up his sleeves, but was woken from his contemplation by a voice beside him...

"You could try knocking, you know."

Now, a good thief doesn't get surprised, and the Thief was more than a good thief.  But even the best thief would be hard-pressed not to start at hearing a candle talk.  Some hairs on the Thief's left eyebrow raised momentarily and then returned to their usual positions.

The Thief looks around, checks behind him and above him - he is alone; the stairwell is silent.

"Over here, old chap.  You were right first time - the candle."  This is followed by a wheezing chuckle.

The candle flickers a little bit when it talks.

"Some kind of voice projection?  Magic?"  The Thief gets straight to the point.

"Something like that.  Give it a knock, old mate."

The Thief knocks on the heavy steel door.  Thrice, as is customary in these parts.  The door swings open on well-oiled hinges under his fist.

"There, you see?  No need for big bangs and a grand entrance.  Leave your grey matter in-tact old friend!"

The Thief grabs the candle to light the way in the dark room beyond.  He half expected it to be fixed in-place - some kind of speaking tube or other device, but it came away in his hand much like any normal candle might.

Beyond the door is a small room - the very top of the tower.  The dim light of the candle reaches each side, but fades into darkness near the roof, which is an open spire.  In the centre of the room, lies a small wooden desk.  In front of the desk, with its back to the door is a large leather chair.

The Thief steps into the room, then quickly dodges out of the way as a large spear cracks down onto the flagstone he had just stepped on, easily puncturing the stone and sticking, quivering to a stop.  In doing so, he feels the light touch of metal against his ankle and jumps forward into the room as the floor opens up behind him.  A hidden trapdoor - activated by tripwire he had just tripped - would've quickly dispatched him out into the night, falling to an inevitable death several hundred feet below.  The Thief rolls and comes to his feet, but a familiar sinking feeling sends him jumping across the room again, just as a jet of bright orange flame spurts out of a small hole in the wall above the door, frying the tile he had rolled onto just moments ago.

Landing softly on both feet, the Thief remains still for a few moments to survey his position.  Then, using the candle to guide him, he carefully makes his way towards the desk.

The sound of gleeful applause reaches his ears and the leather chair turns around.

"Bravo, dear chap.  Bravo.  A good show, I must say.  One usually expects the poisoned spikes to invoke some clever acrobatics; the pressure plates to be circumvented; the wire trap to be avoided.  You successfully triggered every trap in the building, and survived.  I suppose it is far more amusing this way, wouldn't you agree?"  Presented on the chair, lounging in apparent great comfort with a big grin on his face is a large man with wispy grey hair and a small, scruffy moustache to suit.  "Allow me to introduce myself, my dear fellow... I am..."

"The candle guy?"  The Thief folds his arms in a sign of distrustful pique.

"Ahh, you like my little trick there, eh?"  The man continues, unperturbed.  "Dexley's the name - Edmond Dexley and you must be The Thief."

"I am a thief..." The Thief sounds a little uncertain.  This is not how things usually go.  He expected more screams and clanging and the sound of guards chasing him across courtyards and over rooftops.

"The Thief, old chap.  I assure you.  And right on time too."  Edmond stands up with a flourish - one gets the impression that his body is well used to flourishes - and puts his arm amiably around the Thief's shoulder. "It's good to have you on board, fellow.  Now, if you could just step this way... That's right, and..."

Wanna go straight to part 2?  Click here: Assault on the Castle (Part 2): Noir York City

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