Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction) Part 2

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 3, 2016

This is the second of a four-part short story of one of Dirk’s adventures shortly before he met Chloe and Arianna and formed the Frayed Knights. You can read part 1 here.

The Thief and the Chalice, Part 2
by Jay Barnson

The baron slammed and locked the door behind them. It took a moment for Dirk’s eyes to adjust to the dim lighting provided by magical glowstones set throughout the walls. Glowstones weren’t cheap illumination, and were markers of a wealthy home. Not that Dirk expected a sorcerer’s tower in the heart of the city to belong to a pauper.

They stood in a hall, surrounded by open doors to mundane living quarters. The hall terminated at a curved stairway leading up. Dirk ignored the small rooms, and headed immediately for the stairs.

Taigan spoke up. “Do we have a truce until we find the chalice?”

Dirk stopped. “I don’t think I want to be the one delivering the chalice, if that’s what you are worried about.”

“You don’t think the baron will keep his word?”

“Was there anything about him that suggests he would?”

“What other choice do we have?”

Dirk shrugged. “I don’t know yet. Let’s find out.”

Ascending the stairs, they discovered sources of the terrible stench. Human bodies littered the floor. Some were only a few weeks dead. Many had been hewn down by a blade, but others showed marks of several different murder methods. Stranger still were skeletons that appeared decades old, scattered among the more recent dead.

Taigan crossed to one of the skeletons, bent down, and touched the clothes it still wore. He tugged at the clothing, and the bones rolled over, falling apart as the aged shreds of attached tissue crumbled. “This is strange,” he said. “This skeleton seems many years old, but the clothes are new.”

“Magic,” suggested Dirk. “Maybe the sorcerer was a necromancer who summoned the skeletons to attack these intruders. Or maybe he had a weapon that turned them to dust and left their clothes. My guess is that most of these people were killed by their partners over the chalice.”

Taigan shuddered, and stood up, fists clenched. “I don’t want either of us to end up like this. I agree with you now. Let’s escape together. Deal?”

Dirk nodded. “Deal. I don’t see anything chalice-shaped on this floor.” In fact, except for the bodies, there wasn’t much of anything on this floor, including any kind of clue as to what danger they’d be facing aside from each other. There was magic involved, and something with a blade, and it had been the end of more than a score of men. As much as Dirk would like to believe he was cleverer than them all, he had to admit that unless he realized how they all failed, he was likely to end up just another corpse on the floor for the next pair of prisoners to stumble across.

“Let’s be extra careful going up,” Dirk added, not really sure what that meant. But Taigan nodded.

They crept up the next set of stairs, keeping to the shadows as best as they could. Fortunately, the next floor was cluttered with tables and shelves, making it easy to conceal themselves as they explored.

The chalice sat upon an ornate pedestal in the center of the floor. Encrusted pearls encompassed the lip and base of the rune-etched silver cup, gleaming even in the half-light of the glowstones.

A nightmarish creature stood by the pedestal, facing away from them. The cadaverous parody of humanity bore no helmet, but was otherwise encased in the steel plate armor of a wealthy knight or trusted champion. The thin husk-like skin wrapping its skull and vertebrae bore little resemblance to anything still alive. In one mail-covered fist, the guardian clasped the bejeweled hilt of a sword. The blade glimmered with a faint, baleful red glow.

“Never mind the chalice,” Dirk whispered, “I want that sword! That looks awesome!”

Dirk calculated three possible routes to reach the chalice without being seen by the guardian, assuming it possessed the undead equivalent to eyes. If all he wanted to do was grab the chalice and escape, that would be easy. But one did not gain glory by doing the minimum! Especially when he had the entire tower of a dead sorcerer to explore. Who knew what incredible treasures lay hidden within these walls? Even if the chalice was the most valuable of them all, why must it go to the baron? For both thieves to go free, they had to find some other way of escaping the tower anyway. Dirk smiled to himself, realizing what a tactical error the baron had made by threatening that only one of them could go free.

“There are more stairs past the bad guy,” Dirk whispered to his companion, without taking his eyes off the undead warrior. “We should find out what’s there first. Can you see a path to the stairs behind its field of view?”

His companion was silent. Very silent. Dirk glanced over his shoulder, but Taigan was gone. Scanning the room, he spotted Taigan crawling towards the pedestal opposite the guardian. Dirk had to admit that the young man was stealthy. And fast. He gave Taigan a thumbs-up sign.

Taigan pulled himself to a crouch behind the pedestal. He glanced up at Dirk and stared for several seconds, then smirked. With an underhand toss, he flicked a small bone at Dirk, taken from the skeleton on the floor below. The bone bounced off the floor inches away from Dirk’s hiding place with a sharp clack.

The guardian whirled to stare at him. The sword flared an angry scarlet glow, matching the evil sparks inside hollow, black eye sockets of the guardian’s skull.

Dirk was the diversion. Taigan had planned to betray him all along.


[ Continued in Part 3 ]


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