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Chapter 84: Shadows and Blood

Chapter 84: Shadows and Blood

In Which The End Begins.

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Yazeth: Four hours before dawn Jozra wakes. It was definitely now or never. Before even moving out of her bed she double checks her remaining throwing knives. She slips out from under her cloak-blanket and silently starts towards the window when she pauses a moment, catching Soquan’s sleeping form in what little starlight comes through the window.

After a moment, she removes a single knife and the necklace he gave her in what seems like ages ago. Careful to keep them from jingling, she wraps the necklace around the little black knife and leaves it in a conspicuous spot on her bed.  …just in case.

A moment later and she’s nearly out the window, she pauses on the ledge checking the street below and then looking back to make sure she hasn’t disturbed the other two in the room.  Zander opens his eyes a moment, almost trying to communicate through a look, and then deliberately closes them again.

She knows. He’s officially asleep, never saw anything.  She swiftly climbs up to the rooftop.

Tucked into a corner of the rooftop, weighted by a loose stone scrounged from the street, is the ‘robe’ she fashioned from the cloth Zander had found for her and the scabbard she had been carrying around in the bottom of her pack since the winter.

The scabbard is promptly strapped to her left thigh, where it belonged until the thing it held was lost. The ‘robe’ with its dark coloration and uncertain edges blends her in with the night and shadows. And without letting herself gather her thoughts, she’d be there all night otherwise, she’s off, over the rooftops towards the compound that seems to serve as the hare’s headquarters, at least in this district of the city.

Zander was right. The hares never looked up.  And in the darkest hours of the nearly moonless night most of them were drowsy, if not asleep. Fortune was with Jozra. The building that houses confiscated items is guarded by an elderly and rather portly hare that was likely due for retirement. An easy post, to guard something that’s heavily guarded by proximity to other buildings.

She drops softly to the ground and eases open the door. The efficiency of the hares works to her favor, not a peep from the hinges. Low torchlight glints of rows and rows of weapons, picture frames and nick-knacks. She hesitates near a hook hung with a chain before moving on. These other weapons could be ‘liberated’ when their owners were.

Due to her previous scouting, Jozra is able to easily find the rack with her knife on it. And behind it, is another. Perfectly identical though perhaps slightly blackened.  Zander was right again.

She takes both and the sheath that they had confiscated when they took her knife. Nearby are the small throwing knives they took as well. She makes quick work of the burglary and is soon back on the roof, concealing daggers and de-modifying the other sheath so that it can be strapped to her thigh as well instead of attached to her hip like it had been for so long.

One two. No… Though she trained in switching the two knives up, the now blackened one simply belonged in her right paw.

One two. The knives now at home in their scabbards, she is ready.

She should have started sooner, it’s nearly an hour later than she planned when she finally reaches the palace in the center of the city. The journey isn’t long, but treading silently takes time and she needed that sleep.

In the main city, rooftops aren’t as closely spaces as in the slums so she often takes to the ground. Infiltration of the palace comes from scaling a fence to a nearby roof and then jumping — the thump is audible though muffled, but the hares don’t respond to a sound they can’t place in context — to the palace’s first floor roof. Balconies and architectural embellishments make the ascent to the fourth floor too easy.

The palace is equipped with actual glass windows unlike most of the rest of the city, especially the slums. The mayor’s bedroom is even adorned with intricate stained glass windows. The hallway ones are simple, though, and open upwards smoothly.

Once inside she flattens against the corners and walls. Here and there hares are guarding or patrolling, but they’ve become bored with their posting. Nothing ever happens.  The front door to the mayor’s rooms are too heavily guarded, though.  She’ll have to find another way in.

Ferrets, or at least ones trained as Scorpions, DO look up. And Jozra discovers that the architect of the building was against grates.  The ventilation system is wide open. And though tapestries are hard to climb, it’s doable.

Jozra wiggles through the opening and looks before she leaps. She’s puzzled for a moment, the layout doesn’t make obvious sense to her. It’s like a broom closet arranged as an office.

She climbs down and peeks out the door into something like a living room. There are three doors besides the one she’s looking out of. The first across the way gives her pause, she’s sure it’s a room for children but after a moment she realizes it’s neatly made up and empty. A room for visiting children. The next is the office. All heavy wood furniture and officiousness. The third is her prize.

The sky beyond the colorfully tinted window is growing lighter and she’s able to make out portraits on the walls. One of the hares in the portraits matches the one in the bed in the center of the room. In one he’s standing with a stern looking squirrel. Another looks to be a family portrait, with grandchildren. That explains the other room.

For a moment, sympathy creeps in but Jozra steels herself. This man’s policies have destroyed far more families than his death will. In a few smooth movements, Jozra draws her blade, crosses the room and catches the hare under the jaw as he starts to wake and rise reflexively.

He gurgles, eyes flashing in surprise and anger. The hare starts to reach for the ferret but she sidesteps away, drawing her knife with her, leaving a gaping wound in its wake.  Froth bubbles around the hare’s lips as he dies, bleeding far too quickly for any medicine to save. Jozra cleans her blade on the bed sheets and slips back out the door.

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