Edited by Doomtrain, 22 April 2007 - 10:56 AM.
One Blind Mouse
You didn't get to be the second best thief in the northern kingdoms without knowing a little about magic. Besides; everyone knew that wizards made the best burglars. Why pick a lock or break a window when you could just walk through the wall?
Darius lifted his hand to shed the magical light on his path. It wasn't a spell of his working; that was unnecessary. The small twin diamonds in his palm were as bright as lanterns. The thief smiled smugly. He'd go down in history for this job. As far as he knew, he was the only one to successfully rob Tarin the Gem-King for over a century. And not just the theft of some petty coins, but the king's very eyes, stolen from his grinning lich-skull as he slept.
"Now…which way?" Darius asked the darkness. Thankfully, there was no reply. After everything else he'd seen in the past few hours, Darius wouldn't have been surprised if one of the shadows had given him directions. Scared witless, but not surprised.
Of the three possible paths ahead of him, Darius chose the left. Wasn't that what Father had said? Stick to one wall, and eventually you'll come out of any maze?
There was always a maze, Darius thought peevishly. It seemed like every castle in existence had a set of underground tunnels made for the sole purpose of letting thieves escape into the night. At least these weren't catacombs.
To be fair, he was technically in the Gem-King's first palace. The current one had been built on top of the original, for reasons that Darius couldn't quite fathom, other than possibly to prove the old skeleton bastard could do it. But the winding stone passages, rotted wooden doors, torn tapestries, and the occasional dry bone made it enough of a maze to call it one.
Darius had come to yet another intersection. With a sigh, he turned left, only to trip and slam into the dark floor.
Standing up and brushing himself off, Darius aimed the diamond-eyes to see the floor. The dusty, cracked marble tiles were littered with bones.
"There are always bones," Darius mumbled in a tone that fell somewhere between disappointment and disgust. Something didn't even have to die for there to be bones. They were just always there.
The man raised one boot and slammed it down on a grinning skull. The brittle skeleton shattered like an egg that had been thrown against a wall. Spotting something with his thief-trained eyes, Darius bent down and reached for the small, shiny object. It was a gold tooth. With a shrug, he pocketed it and started forward again. And then stopped, standing so still he even forgot to breath.
At the edge of the light shed by the magic diamonds, Darius could see a shape. Half in the darkness and half out of it, it appeared to have been a woman once. Once. Rotted flesh, a smooth, bald head not unlike the one he'd just crushed, the form was as motionless as he was. Its eyes, white with a pinhead of blue in the center, watched him without blinking. Without speaking, Darius tried to weave a spell.
You don't see me. You don't see me. I'm not even here…
The thing didn't look away. The eyes continued to stare with an unholy hunger.
"Well, then," Darius said. "Fine. I'll just be on my way, if that's alright." Without another word he turned and dove through the wall to his right, and prayed to whatever God was listening that there wasn't something really nasty on the other side.
He broke free of the stone like a drowning man coming up for air. He hated doing that. And now he was lost. So much for following one wall. This corridor looked suspiciously like the last one.
He held the diamonds up above his head to get a better look around. When he saw no helpful signs pointing out an exit, he regretfully took a left and hoped it wouldn't lead back to the hallway he had just come from.
It didn't. The point was moot, considering that after about ten feet the diamonds in his had illuminated someone else. Much like the woman, this shape was hunched over slightly with its head cocked at a curious angle. Its mouth gaped like a fish lying on the beach.
And it was undeniably very, very dead.
Darius watched the thing. The same eyes as before watched Darius. Then, much to his horror, the walking dead man took a shaky step towards him.
"You had better fetch a damn good price," Darius told the diamonds. He turned and ran, his footsteps echoing off the silent walls. Down to the end of one corridor, and to the left. He didn't really care where he was going; if he had to, he'd swim through the walls themselves until he reached the end, even if he went insane in the process. He did dive through two more walls, feeling his body mesh with the stone and become part of it until he was free again on the other side. Each time left his head splitting and filled his mouth with the taste of dust and grit.
Still at a full run, Darius turned one corner to find himself face-to-face with white, tiny blue-dotted eyes. He screamed, spun around, and tripped. The diamonds fell out of his hand and rolled a few feet.
Scrambling to get up, Darius looked forward and saw a pair of feet, covered by black boots. He shifted his eyes upward and wished he hadn't.
The person in front of him was just as dead as the others he'd seen so far, but this walking corpse was familiar. It was covered by a long, red cloak that many years of use had left ripped and dusty. Ruby rings lined its bony fingers, and teeth of emeralds filled its mouth.
Unlike the other zombies Darius had encountered in the maze, this one had no eyes. And he knew why.
Clammy hands of rotting flesh grabbed Darius by his shoulders from behind. He tried to twist free of their grips, but they were as strong as iron. The thief fumbled for his knife, but was slammed against the wall by his silent captor. Looking sideways, Darius could see more zombies coming down the hall, all like the one that held him. Feeling his back against the cold stone wall, he tried to sink into it.
He almost succeeded, but a skeleton hand caught him by the throat and pulled him back. The rings on the bone hand dug into his soft skin. The undead king before him shook his head slightly from side to side and grinned a green smile at the thief's efforts. In his fleshless hand, Darius saw the two glowing diamonds. The king bent his face down and popped the gems back into their rightful place. Then, with a sudden movement the skeleton brought its free hand up before Darius's eyes and stabbed two fingers into his sockets.
Darius screamed and thrashed back and forth in the zombie's grip, fighting to get away. He felt the hot blood and juices run down his cheek and into his open mouth, making him gag. Suddenly, the hands that held him vanished. Darius fell to the floor, vomiting and clutching his face, tears of pain coming from the gaping holes where his eyes had been.
After a while of lying on the dusty floor, Darius became aware that he was alone. He crawled forward with a determination born of fear, desperate to get away, to be anywhere but there. Dragging himself along, one hand on the left wall to keep his way, the blind thief moved through eternal darkness. He could find the door, he told himself. He could break any rune they sealed it with. He could get away.
The thoughts were broken by a dry, crackling sound in the silence of his head. It came from a dead throat, from a mouth of gems with a tongue of cruelty. It was the laughter of a thief who had stolen a pair of eyes.
Edited by Doomtrain, 22 April 2007 - 10:56 AM.