Drivena was a fast lead, moving quickly from the shadow of one building to a crevice in the layered stone of another, as she would if being followed. This was not because she was particularly cautious, but rather out of force of habit. Davi surely wished she would not however, as he was forced to repeatedly spot her in the dark. He had nothing but the faint street lamps to guide his way, and Drivena was a rather good hider, even when not trying to. Zambor, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen, having seemingly vanished. Normally one in Davi’s position would’ve found this worrisome, but he assumed she must’ve simply left.
After about half an hour of walking Drivena stopped at a gate of a house. It was fairly tall, probably three stories, but didn’t really stick out compared to the other buildings in the city. What was different was the yard surrounding it. It was grassy and maintained. There was even a little garden with flowers from the warmer climate up North towards the satrapies of Aslacka.
Drivena breathed on her hands and rubbed them together, warming them up as she looked for the low point she had hopped earlier. As she did so, Davi and her heard the ringing sound of heating metal, followed by a quick pop. They turned to see that Zambor had arrived, and had her hand outstretched to the gate that was now wriggling against the wind. Pieces of what used to be the lock were glowing slightly on the ground.
“Come on Davi,” said Drivena as she walked over to the now unlocked gate. “Seems like our little magician friend here’s a quick problem solver.”
“Actually, it’s sorceress,” Zambor replied meekly.
“Tomato potato,” answered Drivena as she walked onto the estate.
“Those aren’t the same things,” Zambor whispered to herself as she followed.
Davi stood outside the wall for a second, being uncomfortable with breaking and entering, but with a deep breath built up the courage needed and briskly caught up with the others.
The main door was a blackened brass color, and emblazoned on the front was some sort of shield, with a horse standing atop a cloud? Maybe? Lords whose families went back a way had the weirdest symbols. Drivena dragged her hand across the brand new lumber that made the foundation.
“This is definitely a good house to check twice,” she cooed to herself.
“Do you need me to open this one too?” Asked Zambor, holding up her ringed hand.
“No,” Drivena said as she grabbed the door knob and opened it. “I broke this lock the old fashioned way earlier today.”
“Cool,” replied Zambor with a childlike fascination as Drivena held the door open. Davi entered next.
“It’s not “cool.” It’s breaking and entering,” he scolded. Drivena ignored him as she entered, making sure the door closed as quietly as possible behind them. The house was unlit, with the only source of illumination being that which poured through the house’s many large windows.
“Alright. Where’d Higorin be?” Asked Davi.
“This way,” replied Drivena as she moved towards the room containing most of Higorin’s valuables.
“He doesn’t sleep on the top floor?”
Drivena didn’t answer as they maneuvered the dark corridors, making sure that she was the first to make it inside the storage room. It was dark, but even in these poor conditions she was able to pinpoint items of value. She swiped from the shelf a statuette of some kind, made of wood but nicely carved. She slipped it in her bag, or would’ve if it was there, for she remembered now that the bag was soaking up mud in an alley somewhere, strapless and sad. She placed it back atop the shelf as Davi and Zambor entered.
“Check the safe,” said Drivena. “That’s where it was last time.”
Davi bent down to open it, sighing again as he found it to already be unlocked, and felt around inside. Suddenly, it came to him all the other ways he could’ve handled this, not least of which would simply be visiting in the day and asking questions to someone who wasn’t even suspected of wrongdoing. In this moment, he began to see why the Chief dismissed all of his ideas.
“There’s nothing here!” He whispered as he shut the safe, louder than would’ve pleased Drivena. Suddenly, all three made out talking coming from the hall, not loud but clearly not trying to be unheard. Zambor shrunk into the corner.
“Are there guards?” She asked as she turned to Drivena.
“Well, there was one earlier.”
“Did you not think that important enough to share?!” Davi whispered, malice from his own disappointment with his choice to come along poking through.
Drivena didn’t answer, as was her normal way of dealing with conflict, hoping that something would grab their attention. A horrified screaming did so.
“Please!” Shouted a man’s voice. “I was robbed! I never tried to back out.”
“You’re lying,” replied a significantly calmer, more calculated voice.
“No, I’m not! All my lock’s are broken! Someone broke in earlier, my guard chased them out! They took the talisman!”
Drivena had already leaned her head against the door out of instinct, and Zambor responded by moving up closer too. Davi observed the wall, looking for some hole to see through, but found none.
“He’s a dirty liar!” Shouted a third voice, this one angry. Clearly. “We should just kill him now.”
“No Gedjind,” ordered the calculated voice. “I believe him. It makes sense, considering how easily we got in. Now what I don’t believe.” The voice stopped for dramatic effect. “Is that this treacherous, underhanded, and dishonest swine of a man had no plans of betrayal. We’ve been keeping track of this talisman for years now, as it moved from museum to museum, from collector to bored noble. Like you. We most certainly know that you were planning on selling to a buyer outside of the satrapy. Now, I find myself wondering how you thought you’d be able to give us what we payed for if, and this may just be me being picky, if what we bought is on the other side of Aegeroth!”
“Please. Please don’t kill me.”
“Now, I could believe that, when you learned that you were buying from checkered knights, you panicked, and thought you could make it someone else’s problem. Or maybe you just wanted to double your profit.”
“Please, I don’t want to die like this.”
There was a moment of silence as the calculated checkered knight prepared his response.
“We are not going to kill you.”
“But Telvin!” Shouted Gedjind, the angry one. “He betrayed us! We cannot let him leave!”
“We are not here for revenge, Gedjind!” Answered Telvin. “Do not ever forget that. Now, Higorin, we are not going to kill you. That might arouse suspicion, you dying immediately after an employee and everything.”
“He’s dead?” Asked Higorin, barely audible.
“Yes,” answered Telvin with a somewhat convincing but still faked sympathy. “He gave up the talisman quite easily.”
On the other side of the door Zambor’s breath paused. Drivena, on the other hand, was slow on the uptake.
“Still had to kill him, though. Hard enough keeping one man quiet.”
“If, if you already have it, then why are you here?” Asked Higorin, his voice starting to break.
“Because we don’t want any squealing, swine. This was just another random checkered knight attack, and you’re personally saddened by the lost of that servant boy, whatever his name was.”
“Of, of course sir.”
“Grab him and take him with us. We’re going to get his story straight.”
As the checkered knights shuffled on the other side of the door, Drivena at last put two and two together. Those checkered knights were looking for the same thing she was! She reached for the handle, but Zambor grabbed her hand. With a mere second of reflection, Drivena comprehended the mistake and dropped the arm to her side. Then, Davi zipped past her, ripping the door open as he practically jumped into the main hallway. The checkered knights that turned to face him looked mostly like normal people. In fact, the only thing that stood out was they were all wearing, or “wearing,” tunics with a black and white checkered pattern. One of the ones who was carrying Higorin had not yet turned, and wore a thin chain around his neck. Before the knights had a chance to react, Davi lurched at it, getting a good grip and pulling. The rusted old links clattered to the ground, and Davi held the amulet in his hand. During a split moment of hesitation, Davi saw the man’s face as he straightened up, or at least where it was, as a vertically draped checkered bandana covered it.
Davi then decided that noticing things was not as important as getting the hell out of dodge, and began to run back towards the treasure room.
“After him!” Shouted the one in the bandana, who Davi now assumed to be Telvin.
Several pairs of boots thudded on the ground behind him, noticeably faster than his own. They were easily catching up with him, but as soon as he jumped from the carpet running along the bottom of the floor to the doorway, it caught fire. Shouting and heavy stomping could be heard as Davi slammed the door behind him. Zambor’s hand was still outstretched, herself standing completely still as Davi began to look for a way out. Drivena dropped to the floor.
“What the hell are you doing?” Asked Davi as Drivena laid her ear against the floor and tapped.
“Looking for a cellar door, underground vault, somewhere we could hide.”
“Why don’t we just go through the window?
“Good luck,” sneered Drivena as she remembered the unpleasant memories from earlier that day. “That kind doesn’t open.”
“Yes they do. There’s just this bar holding it down.”
Drivena cursed in shameful frustration as Davi removed a metal bar from the window sill and dropped it to the floor. Today was not her day.
Davi, then Drivena, and then Zambor slid themselves out the window and into the crisp night air, beginning to sprint through the well kept grass. A shot was heard from the window, and Drivena noticed the bullet embed itself in the estate’s wall, just a few feet away from it’s low point. She grabbed Zambor’s arm and directed her towards it, while also calling for Davi.
Drivena first helped Zambor over the wall, as she was the least athletic. Drivena then followed, quickly hoisting herself over. Davi had lagged behind, having taken the wrong way at first. He heard the sound of a bullet breaking the air nearby.
“Stop firing!” He heard Telvin yell. “We don’t want any witnesses we don’t need!”
The trigger happy checkered knight dropped his pistol, and drew from his side a serrated sword, one that resembled a giant steak knife. He began to run ahead of the others, blade raised with both hands above his head, giving Davi a clear shot.
He crumpled to the ground, and Gedjind yelled angrily.
“Just shoot him! It doesn’t matter!”
It was too late, though. Davi had managed to fling himself over the wall, and caught up with Drivena and Zambor.
“What can we do now?” Said Zambor, panic in her voice. “They’re going to kill us!”
Drivena looked over at her with a reassuringly calm expression.
“It’s cool. I’ve been in worse.” She stopped for a second and wondered if that was actually true.
“It’s cool. I’ve been in similar situations before. Look, they want as few people as possible to know what’s going on. Davi.”
He sped up his already brisk pace to stand beside Drivena. “Yes?”
“Is there any public place or something like that you could bring her?”
“There’s a tavern near the station, popular with the other guards.”
“Great!” replied Drivena, although with little sincerity as she took notice of the amulet sticking out of Davi’s back pocket. “I think I’ll break off from you guys.”
“Why?” asked Davi, the legitimate concern in his eyes making Drivena feel slightly guilty. Not as guilty as was necessary, though. That would take a lot of guilt. She began to talk very fast.
“We have the amulet now, so the checkered knights will be after it, and Kajulan and her cronies are after me, but they’d be after you if they knew you had the amulet, so it’s best if we part ways for now.”
Zambor stared at her blankly, but Davi smiled the most reassuring smile he could muster.
“Alright. Just be safe Drivena.”
“Of course,” said Drivena as he turned around. She reached for the amulet, but before her fingers even grazed it Davi grabbed it and presented it to Zambor.
“What is this?” he asked.
Zambor said something in response, but Drivena didn’t hear it as she backed away. She couldn’t be seen lagging behind now, not after he had been so sympathetic! She moved into the shadows, quickly feeling around for anyone who could possibly be hiding. Part of her knew this was a mistake, but she rarely ever listened to that part, whichever it may be, and began to return home.