Lofti's adventures continue.
(This is a work in progress.)
Copyright © 2016 Alistair Potter
"Lofthouse Greyseed, I believe?" said a soft female voice.
Lofti froze in his tracks. He was halfway across the floor of King Ralph's treasure room, it was well past midnight, the doors were sealed and nobody was supposed to be here, not even him. The voice had come from up high. He lifted his partially shuttered lantern and scanned the walls, spotting a pair of thin, comely legs dangling from a small opening near the ceiling.
"Who wants to know?"
"Carmilla Eversure, of the Miskin Eversures."
She leant forward, the weak light from Lofti's lantern catching on a narrow and intriguing profile. The name Eversure sounded familiar and Lofti searched his memories, eventually drawing up one of his merr scolding him as a child, warning that if he didn't mend his ways he'd go the way of those despicable Eversures. But he sensed no malice from Carmilla.
"Pleased to meet you," he said. "My name is indeed Lofthouse Greyseed."
"Good," said Carmilla, dropping lightly to the floor. "I've a message for you."
"Well, what is it?"
As Carmilla approached, Lofti's mouth began to dry. She was beautiful, with the most delicate of features, short bobbed hair and finely pointed ears, which was unusual, but not unknown among Dunnits. Like him she was dressed for travel in britches and jacket, though her clothes were better cut than his, enough to emphasise her femininity.
"Wizard Brack requests the pleasure of your company," she said.
"The very same."
Lofti's heart missed a beat, remembering a conversation with Marcus where Lofti had asked that if ever there was another wizard's journey, one that might be aided by the presence of a Dunnit, Marcus would consider calling on Lofti. Was this the call?
"We'd better get going then," said Lofti.
Carmilla smiled gently, her eyes flicking past Lofti's shoulder, and taking in the contents of the room.
"It's my perr's birthday soon," she said, wistfully. "He has a liking for delicate works in gold."
Lofti's memories of the Eversures began to crystallise; they were known to be particularly avaricious, and it was in no small part due to their activities that Dunnits in general had a bad reputation. But his conscience could cope, if she were careful and prudent in her selection.
"Then it wouldn't do to bring something for my perr, were I to ignore my merr, what with her being the jealous sort," she added, with a sparkle in her eye.
Lofti sighed, and she winked.
"Then there's Cobb, Garse, Jeno, Missa and Clava; my brothers and sisters, you see. Wouldn't want them to feel ignored."
"I'm not here to rob the King," said Lofti, sternly.
She smiled. "Just teasing, Lofthouse, my dear. We all knows how you circle-valley Dunnits are so proper and honest."
Lofti narrowed his eyes; he'd never heard of the hidden Dunnit valley described that way before, though it was an accurate enough description. Many, many generations back, there was a grand falling out between the Eversures and the rest of the Dunnits in the valley, and after that the Eversures had just up and left. Nobody had heard a word from them since, and it was common knowledge that few lamented their departure.
They both froze as a key rattled against the door to the treasure room. Lofti quickly shuttered his lantern and they both scrambled to hide behind a tall freestanding bookcase filled with ledgers and legal scrolls. Somehow they managed to choose a confined spot where they were pressed close to one another, and Lofti was pleasantly aware of Carmilla's presence. She wore the gentlest of perfumes and Lofti's senses were intoxicated, as much by the perfume as the energetic aura around her. She bristled with excitement and mischief. It had been a long time since Lofti could enjoy this simple closeness; since losing Pruth on Mirt, it had been hard to find pleasure or even mirth in a situation.
The treasure room door creaked open and four guards entered, two carrying lanterns, the other two gripping the handles of a weighty chest.
"Time to go," whispered Carmilla, and she was off, heading towards the open door.
She ran through the legs of the first light bearer, vaulted neatly over the treasure chest and leapfrogged the head of the last light bearer. The guards had no idea what had just happened, other than catching a fleeting glimpse of a tiny fast-moving body. Lofti suppressed a chuckle and darted around the perimeter of the room, going from shadow to shadow, and barely a few seconds later was through the door, without the confused guards even detecting his presence.
Carmilla waited at the end of the wood panelled corridor outside the treasure room, arms crossed and leaning casually against the wall.
Before the guards had even found the presence of mind to inspect the corridor, they were off again, sprinting through the dimly-lit night-time corridors of King Ralph's castle.
Lofti never thought for a moment to take the lead, instead enjoying the tantalising pleasure of admiring Carmilla's progress. Her Dunnit skills were as finely tuned as his, and though their route might not have been as clandestine as Lofti's would have been, it was enough to see them clear of the castle in barely thirty seconds without being detected.
Sitting beside Carmilla, on the windy rooftop of one of the high stone-built houses crowded close to the sheer walls of the castle, Lofti couldn't help but think back to another rooftop and the start of another adventure with the wizard Zerphal.
"Well, that was fun," whispered Carmilla.
Lofti grinned, it had been fun.
"What did you get?" she said.
Lofti shook his head. "I wasn't really after anything. Just curious to see if the rumour that King Ralph had a diamond the size of duck's egg was true."
"More like a small chicken's egg," she said, producing a glittering stone from a pocket in her jerkin. She held it up, allowing the moonlight to catch on its facets.
"Don't worry, frowny face," she said. "I'll put it back before he notices."
King Ralph was one of those better monarchs, who used his taxes and other wealth to benefit his people. It wouldn't have fitted Lofti's sense of balance to rob him.
"But this," she said, pulling out a small gold bracelet and laying it admiringly across her wrist. "I'm keeping this."
"I'm sure it won't be missed," said Lofti, indulgently.
"Matches my eyes," she said, holding it up to her face.
Her eyes were a golden brown, flecked with a ring of lighter highlights. It was hard to tell in the moonlight, but he guessed her hair was a warm red, and again he was struck how beautiful she was.
"Are you travelling back with me?" he said.
"Other business to complete first."
She caught his eye, examining him carefully, and then she tilted her head to the side. "Yes it is."
"Will I see you again?"
"If you want to. Marcus knows where to find me." She stood and pecked his cheek. "Nice meeting you Lofthouse Greyseed."
He stood too. "It was nice meeting you, Carmilla Eversure."
"See you around then," she said, then sprinted along the ridge of the roof and leapt to another rooftop.
Lofti let his eyes follow her for a few seconds, before she disappeared into shadow. Then he let out a long sigh and pondered their meeting, chuckling and whispering gently, "An Eversure, I wonder what my merr would make of that?"
All content © Alistair Potter.