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Gathering – Chapter II – Heartstone
Kathara lent over the guttering, clinging with her left hand to the slippery back of a gargoyle. Below her the water spewed from its mouth down into the alley below, a torrent of noise which more than covered the slight sounds of her movements. Just below her position on the roof were a set of windows, glazed windows. The occupants were either rich or foolhardy as they had left the storm shutters open, leaving the windows to weather the storm sweeping in from the bay.
They were rich. But it was not gold nor jewels she was after.
Carefully Kathara fastened a rope around the base of the hideous carving. After testing the line for security with a few hefty tugs, she checked the shadow strewn passageway over which she hung. By the dim glow of a distant light she could see it was deserted. On a night like this, she thought grimly to herself, why wouldn’t it be?
She was a soundless shade, only tentatively mobile as she eased herself down the rope, the only sound a hissed curse as she swung into the torrent flowing from the gargoyle above. Drenched, she stopped her descent outside the window, gently twisting and swinging on the rope, water streaming from her dull clothes and matted hair.
She shook her head. Concentrate! She forced her mind blank, stopping the swinging with a foot against the wall. Trying to ignore the pelting rain and distant grumbles of thunder she fought to find that elusive, inner quiet necessary for her invocation, sweating with strain despite the growing chill. After a brief mental struggle she found it, focussed, caught the darkness around her and flung it at the panes of glass, right arm dramatically extended, head thrown back.
To an onlooker nothing happened.
But from the expensive glass and leading of the window now emanated a soft, blue-green glow. Kathara panted quietly from the strain, catching her breath and recovering her strength from the drain of that simple casting. She whispered a thankful, silent prayer to whatever gods were abroad under the storm and pushed herself away from the wall. She swung out and on the back swing kicked both booted feet at the window, striking the panes solidly. There was little sound as they shattered bar a half-heard thud when the heel of one boot soundlessly shattered a pane. The shock of the impact jarred her legs, her back and her teeth but silent shards of glass cascaded into the house and down onto the flagstones below.
Again, the eerie silence accompanying the actions forced her to check the alley. There was nothing but the continuous drum of rain accompanying the streaming water from the gargoyles.
Taking care not to catch any cloth on the jagged glass, she reached in through the shattered pane and felt for the window fastener. It moved easily and the remains of the window swung open. Kathara slipped through, crawled over the desk on the inside, and unfastened the rope. From habit she closed the window: with shattered panes in one casement it would do little to stop rain coming in but would not look so odd from the street below: diligent watchmen doing their rounds would not be alerted.
In the dappling of light from the window could be seen rows of shelving lining the walls. And on those shelves a fortune in books. She allowed herself to relax and even dared rest a minute to catch wind and calm frayed nerves, whilst rivulets of water cascaded off her tunic to make a puddle on the rug.
Kathara unslung the lightweight pack from her back, reached down one side and drew out a small lantern, followed by a tinderbox. A few strikes and a tightly focused beam sprang from the lens. She slung the pack back over her shoulders and ran the light along the spines. Seeing many were faded from age and heavy use she ran the beam along the shelves themselves.