The Night Job - Part 4
The voice was smoky, seductive, resonant. It filled the room, and Taffer knew by the amusement in its tone that he was in deep trouble. He wasn’t equipped to fight a vampire. All he had was his long knife. It was deadly, but it was not silver, or blessed, or enchanted. The only way he could kill it would be to take its head, but the creature would beat him to a pulp with its bare hands before he got the chance. Should I try running? Taffer wondered, and the voice spoke again.
“Did you really think you could break into my house, sneak past my servants, and steal my prized possession without incurring some kind of retribution? Did you really think you could escape me?”
Taffer sighed and stood to his full height, then turned to face the creature. The thing was at least seven feet tall, with grey skin and piercing, red eyes. Its face was angular, unnaturally so, and it wore a great cape whose collar topped its ears. The ears were pointed, almost elfish, and the cape was moving as though a breeze were drifting through the room, but Taffer couldn’t feel it himself.
With a slight shrug, Taffer said, “Well, I was hoping you’d be out of town. Seeing as you’re here, may I have The Eye of Ydzotl? Please?”
Count Vladimir Rhazien chuckled, a dark sound that Taffer didn’t much care for. “You’ve got some impudence about you, little thief, I’ll give you that. Tell me, what is your name? I should know before I add you to my servants.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint, Count, but I don’t have one.”
This was true, he didn’t have a name. He was abandoned at a young age, spent a few years in an orphanage, and then was “adopted” by the Thieves’ Guild. He’d never known his real name, the one his parents had given him. Someone had called him “Taffer,” and it stuck, but that name had no more meaning to him than anything else you could call him. It gave him a certain advantage in dealing with magical creatures. They can’t gain power over you if they don’t know your true name.
“Don’t play coy with me, boy,” the Count ordered. “Tell me your name.”
There was magical compulsion in that last command, but while Taffer felt it, it had no power to force him to reveal anything. There was, after all, nothing to reveal. “As I said, Count, I don’t have one. But even so, I expect you’re not going to be too keen on the idea of just letting me leave, are you?”
“Sharp one, aren’t you?”
“I’ve been told as much. How’d you know I was here?”
“A little mouse told me. If you give up now I’ll make it fast.”
Taffer shook his head. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Have it your way, but know that I offered mercy.”
“The mercy of a talking corpse is no mercy at all.”
“Brash, too. I think I’m taking a liking to you, human.”
“Don’t let that make you hold back,” Taffer said, and quicker than thought his hand flew up to his bandolier, pulled a throwing knife from it, and launched it at the Count. He managed to take the vampire by surprise, and the knife hit home in the creature’s left eye, burying itself to the bottom of the blade.
Count Vladimir’s face twitched, its lip curled, revealing the long, pointed canines. It reached up and plucked the knife from its face with a horrid slurping sound, and Taffer watched in horror as the skin re-knit itself, repairing the eye in seconds. Faster than Taffer, Rhazien cocked his arm and threw the knife, catching the thief in the shoulder. It punched straight through and embedded itself in the stone pillar behind him.
Taffer screamed in agony and dove off to the side. His left arm was throbbing, and it sent lightning bolts of pain through his nervous system when he tried to move it. He slid behind a pillar and pulled his long knife, trying to catch his breath. Listening for the vampire’s movement, he gasped as he saw it appear from thin air in front of him. Too fast!
Count Vladimir reached out quicker than Taffer could follow and wrapped its large, hairy hand around the thief’s neck. It squeezed, and Taffer’s vision started to go blurry at the edges. The vampire laughed in his face and said, “You’re going to die here, boy!”
With the last of his breath, Taffer managed to grunt out, “Maybe, but I can give you something to remember me by!”
He slammed his right arm up and plunged the knife into the Count’s guts. Aiming up, under the rib cage, he drove the knife up and sliced through the defunct organs. The Count grimaced in pain as blood leaked from the corners of its mouth. Taffer pushed with the last of his fading strength, and the blade reached the creature’s heart. The vampire seized up, and its hand opened reflexively, dropping Taffer to the floor.
Not waiting for the thing to heal again, he withdrew his knife and ran around the pillar back towards The Eye. He snatched it off the pedestal and kept running, slipping it into his sack while making for one of the windows. He was almost there when he heard, “That wasn’t very nice, thief,” from above him.
A blow that could shatter stone landed on his wounded shoulder and put Taffer into the floor. He bounced off a pile of coins with a groan, the wind driven from his lungs. His armor had absorbed a fair bit of the blow, and he didn’t hear any bones break when he hit the ground. However, the entirety of his body ached, and if he made it out of this he would be a man-shaped bruise for weeks.
He felt a hand lift him by his armor, and he groaned again as the floor swept away. Blinking at the mist in his head, he realized that the Count was about to defenestrate him.
“I was going to make a servant out of you, thief, but after that I think you’d make a better corpse!” Count Vladimir was shouting, and Taffer thought that maybe he’d gone a little too far in upsetting the ancient undead monstrosity whose home he’d invaded.
Rhazien cocked back and threw, putting Taffer through the nearest window. As he flew, time slowed. He was spinning, seeing now the house, now the ground, now the window with Vladimir’s grinning face, now the sky, back to the house. The detail on everything was clearly picked out, and he marveled at how sharp his focus was at this moment.
Then he remembered he was going to die if he didn’t do something.
His hands flew to his belt, pain in his shoulder ignored, and he got his grappling hook out of its pouch. He saw a tree in the yard that he would be flying next to, and threw the hook in a desperate bid to catch it before he got too close to the ground. It caught in the top branches of the tree, and his straight line path to the ground became an arc that carried him back up and over the wall.
Taffer heard the vampire shouting obscenities, screaming at the guards to follow and find him, but he was beyond caring at this point. Not only was he going to get away, he’d gotten the job done as well.
Now he only had to worry about his landing.
His arc sent him flying onto the roof of the building across the street from Vladimir’s mansion, and he landed badly. This time there was a crack of broken bones, but at the very least he was alive.
Scrambling to his feet, Taffer spared no glances back at the monster screaming at him from the mansion, in all likelihood coming over the wall after him this very moment. He ran, dropped off the roof onto a small balcony, leaped off that onto an awning, and bounced off the awning onto a cart parked on the side of the street. The cart collapsed, and he groaned in pain as his broken bones ground together.
He got up and kept moving, hearing the guards running after him. Slipping into an alley across the road, he found a sewer entrance and dove in, somehow landing on his feet in the muck. Leaving no time for them to follow him, Taffer ran off down the pipe, escaping into the night with his professional pride, if not his personal pride, intact.
(Part 1: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-1)
(Part 2: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-2)
(Part 3: https://steemit.com/fiction/@jimfear138/the-night-job-part-3)
(Part 5: 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