The zombie stumbled off into the dimness of the library, and Taffer crept out of his hiding place, moving towards the door. Outside of the library was a long hallway, and he was pleasantly surprised to find it carpeted. His shoes were designed for quiet in any event, but it was always nice to have some extra padding. What he was not happy about, however, was the zombie walking the hall. He slipped back into the library, keeping an eye to his rear.
At last it had passed the door, and he slid out to pad off in the opposite direction. Looking up, he noticed that there was a skeleton of beams just below the ceiling, leaving enough room for a tight crawlspace. These beams continued the length of the hall, and seemed a much safer option than padding along waiting for a zombie to catch him. Gathering himself, he sprung into the air and caught hold of the beam, pulling himself up.
He crawled along the beams, going around the occasional columns supporting the ceiling, freezing when one of the undead passed below him. So far he’d gotten around without being noticed, but he needed to find a way upstairs into the higher floors. The way Taffer figured, if you had something of incredible value, you’d want to keep it as far away from the common folk as possible. Therefore, the Count’s treasure room, along with The Eye, would be either on the top floor, or somewhere in the basement. He’d try the top floor, because it would be easier to escape from far above the ground than it would below. There was also a feeling in his gut that told him it was up, not down, and after a long career of thieving Taffer had learned to trust his gut.
At last he came to a staircase. There were no zombies around, so he dropped to the carpet and began stalking up the stairs, one light footstep at a time. He got a nasty shock halfway up as a weight dropped on the back of his neck. His hand flew faster than sight could follow and pulled a squeaking ball of fur away from his head. A mouse? A realization struck him, and he thought, Oh, right. Vampires. Vampires attract vermin like hotcakes attract street urchins.
He dropped the mouse to the floor, where it watched him for a moment, then took off down the stairs, chittering in fright. He shook his head at himself for being such an idiot, getting spooked at a mouse like some footpad on his first job. He wasn’t much of a fan of vermin, but in his well-oiled leather armor he had nothing to fear from them.
The stairway had been a good choice. It seemed to go right up to the roof, and there were no undead patrols that he saw while climbing. The top door was locked, and had a padlock on the door. That was a good sign, people don’t often put locks on doors with nothing valuable behind them. Out came the lock picks again, and within moments he was lowering the padlock to the floor and pulling the door open enough to get a peek inside.
Past the door was a single room, the contents and dimensions of which left Taffer’s head spinning. The room itself was immense, far larger than it had any right to be. It looked like it was larger than the entire rest of the house. There was some powerful magic at work in this place, and Taffer only knew that he didn’t like the looks of it.
The looks of the contents of the room, on the other hand, he liked very much. It was filled with treasure, more treasure than Taffer could fence in his lifetime. The room was festooned with piles of gold coins, jewels, tapestries, paintings, rugs, spools of gold wire, suits of armor that looked to predate Kynesfort itself, books, and God only knew what else. After a few seconds of awed goggling at the wealth surrounding him, Taffer took a moment to fill his sack.
Just because he couldn’t take it all didn’t mean that he couldn’t make sure this job was worth the effort he’d put in.
His sack stuffed, he took a more measured look around the gargantuan room. The Eye of Ydzotl had to be in here somewhere, and Taffer was starting to get a crawling feeling up his spine. He knew that feeling well, and knew to trust it.
It was the feeling of being watched, and it meant that it was time to get what he came for and make himself scarce. He stalked around the room, his head on a swivel, keeping a lookout out for The Eye. At last, after several minutes of searching, he came to what appeared to be the center of the massive treasure horde. Here was a pedestal, and on that pedestal sat The Eye.
He grinned under his mask. He hadn’t thought it would be this easy. With the thief’s expert eye for traps, he inspected the pedestal. It didn’t look as if it held any surprises. If it did, the workmanship was beyond what a master craftsman could accomplish. No holes for poison darts, the top appeared to be all of a piece so it wouldn’t move when The Eye was removed, the nearby pillars didn’t seem to have any spell turrets rigged up to them. It looked for all the world as if Taffer would make a clean getaway.
Concentrating, he reached his hands out, inch by inch, testing the air for tripwires. There were none, and his hand was hovering mere centimeters from the jewel. It was more beautiful than he’d imagined from the picture Theodard had given him, and he was going to be sorry to see it sold when the time came. The whole of it twinkled in the light of the torches, and the effect was hypnotizing.
He was convinced it was just sitting there, a perfect prize with no protection, and reached closer to lift it from its dais. As his gloved hand touched the jewel, he heard a swirl of wind that batted the torch flames, and his eyes went wide as a voice spoke from behind him.
“Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing in my home, little thief?”
(Part 1 here: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-1)
(Part 2 here: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-2)
(Part 4 here: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-4)
(Part 5 here: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-5)
If you enjoyed this story, you can find more of my work in the DimensionBucket Media anthology, Darkest of Dreams: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073WPKMDC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=jimfear138-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B073WPKMDC&linkId=0ef22a21e890a33c5fc0a8711774d068