It is that time again, and, lo and behold, it is the second week in a row that I manage to write a story well within the allotted time. Wonders never cease to exist.
The challenge this week was to pick five words of a list of ten and use them all in the story. I randomly picked Foxglove, Whalebone, Orphan, Acid and Topaz.
I’ve been binge-watching White Collar on Netflix a lot lately, so my inspiration for this story is clear, though my miss Shirotori is hardly a Neal Caffrey and Foxglove is definitely not a Peter Burke. But, there’s a heist of sorts. The title is a little off, considering the time period for the story. I’ve decided that I do not care.
Oh and I’ve used a a little more than my word allowance. A good 20 percent. Sorry.
By Trine Toft Schmidt
The door clicked and then opened up an inch. Kyouki pocketed her tools and stepped away from the door, sketching a tiny curtsy in the direction of the man behind her.
“After you, Mr. Foxglove.”
Mr. Foxglove bowed slightly at the waist, but made no attempt to enter the door.
“No, milady, after you.”
Kyouki rolled her eyes at his insecurities and slipped through the cracked door into the Orphan Emperor’s Treasury.
The room was huge, at least fifty feet across, and as impressive as it was rumoured. A colonnade of white marble columns circled it, holding up a glass-dome. It bathed the room in a million fractured rays of moon light, highlighting the treasures, displayed on hundreds of pedestals, in the most appealing way. Kyouki could see statues from Grecaia, ancient ceramics from Zhengui, lustrous oil paintings from Ardentania, precious jewels from Ai’Aba. The thought of making away with any one of these pieces made her heart beat faster, but her order was clear. Steal a small silver ring set with topaz. No more, no less. She held her life dear and did not voice her doubts, though it seemed unlikely that the Orphan Emperor would even own such a worthless little thing.
“We have not all night to dilly-dally away, gawking at pretties, miss Shirotori.” Mr. Foxglove stepped past her. Kyouki watched him weave his way through the pedestals. His steps whispered along the rounded walls and she shook her head. Foxglove was big and ungainly and apparently could not move across a room without announcing himself. It was utterly unclear to her, why the Hidden man had lumbered her down with this useless idiot, a master thief he was definitely not! She almost flew past him on silent feet.
The ring was surprisingly easy to find. It was hidden on the finger of a carved likeness of an Ardanian woman, wearing a stunning dress covered, hem to bodice, in tiny pink tear shaped diamonds. The ring was set with an ordinary pale blue topaz, hidden among splendid diamonds and sapphires on an oaken finger.
“I have it.” The gentle tones of her hushed voice carried far in the room.
“Good.” Foxglove was less careful and his hoarse gravel voice multiplied and drifted back to them from several directions. Kyouki swore under her breath.
“Keep your voice down, Foxglove, or do you really wish to bring the imperial guard upon us?” She looked up to shadows moved around the rim of the dome.
Foxglove shrugged and held out his hand.
“Let me see it, I want to make sure it is the right ring.”
“It is the right one.” She held it up in a ray of moonlight, but quickly snatched it away again, when Foxglove made to take it from her. With a deft move of her fingers, she slid the ring into the hidden pocket in her sleeve and then made a show of putting her empty hand into her pocket. Anger and fury moved like thunderclouds across Foxglove’s face and Kyouki braced herself for a show of force, but, to her surprise, Foxglove’s features smoothed out and he nodded and turned back toward the distant door.
Kyouki had passed him again, was already half way across the room, when she felt a burning sting on the back of her neck. She slapped her hand over the burning spot and felt something small and hard protruding from just under her hairline. She stopped and yanked out a tiny arrow, no longer than half her finger and as thin as a needle. Around the small puncture wound her skin burned like acid and tongues of fire licked at her nerve endings. She cursed and put a wide pedestal to her back. Foxglove appeared, smiling an ugly toothy smile.
“I need the ring. Give it to me.” A small blowpipe poked out of his sleeve.
“You poisoned me.” The acid flow was washing over her shoulders, climbing up her neck. Already her upper arms were numb and breathing was getting difficult.
“Yes.” He dipped his hand into his pocket and came up with a tiny vial filled with a murky violet substance. “Maybe I will give you the antidote. Provided that you give me the ring, of course”
“No. What did you use?” It felt like a numbing poison, but the burn was unfamiliar. A combination of several poisons perhaps.
“It is irrelevant, miss Shirotori. No ring, no antidote. No antidote…” His grin widened. She just shook her head. Who did he think she was? A simple, little novice, on her first job? Did he think she’d never been poisoned before? The thought alone confirmed her suspicions. That he was not Guild, had not been trained by the Hidden Man and his associates. She slid her hand to her trusted dagger, nestled against her spine. The poison was trickling down her arms and made gripping the hilt difficult. It would only be a matter of time before she wouldn’t be able to use her hands either.
“You’re just a clumsy back-alley mutt. If you think I will hand over the ring, you are even more of an idiot than I thought… which is quite a feat. I guess you do deserve a little credit for that…”
He leaned forward on the balls of his feet, as his fist shot out and connected with her chin. But she was ready for him, as he drew back his hand to hit her again, she drove her trusted whalebone dagger deep into his gut. He crumbled around it, dropping the vial, as he fell to his knees. She pulled out the dagger, held it in her hand, just in case he decided to want more.
“You bi…” She kicked out with her left foot and hit his chin. He tilted right and hit the floor like a kicked-over doll. Kyouki sneered at him. What an amateur!
She spotted the vial against a pedestal. Her arms were almost completely dead now, so she flipped onto her side, like some crippled snake, and scrabbled along the floor until she could grab it with her teeth. She pushed herself up against a pedestal, held the tiny vial between her knees, while she worked the stopper off with her teeth. The she clamped down delicately around the glass rim and threw her head back, almost choking on the vile bitter brew inside. It might not be the antidote to the poison in her body, but it sure tasted like it was. Without waiting for the effects to set in, she managed to get onto her feet and make it back to the door. With fingers buzzing and tingling she pulled it open and looked back. She could barely see the outline of Foxglove in the distance. He wasn’t dead, at least not yet, though you never knew with gut-wounds. To make sure he wouldn’t come after her, she aimed a kick at one spindly thin pedestal that crashed to the floor.
She grinned and closed the door, listening to the guards above yell and shout, before she slipped into the shadows and disappeared.