Story — Cloak and Dagger

“Ten minutes, Aron. Ten minutes until showtime.”

The dagger sat on the nightstand next to the bed, propped up against the cobblestone of the room’s wall.

“It’s a big day today, you know,” Jin stated. “Our biggest heist yet. I can hardly hold in my excitement.” He approached the closet in the corner of the room and opened it up. Tossing the folded clothes out, he pushed his way to the drawer that was hidden behind the pile. One normally couldn’t see it because it was quite small, and a tunic could be placed atop it to conceal the drawer’s presence. When Jin slid it out, however, it revealed that it was far larger than it seemed. Carefully, he pulled out his bandolier, and slipped it through one of his arms. The leather rested comfortably over his jerkin. Before continuing, he glanced outside the window to check the bell tower of Kalisport. Nine minutes.

“Everything is going to change after today.” He started going through the pouches on the bandolier, taking out each individual glass vial and examining them. With some, he shook, others he flicked, with the varying colors of liquids swishing around awaiting their calling. Only one of the vials seemed unsatisfactory to Jin, so he placed it in the secret drawer from which the bandolier had been stored. “The ravager venom seems to have dissipated somewhat. Guess I didn’t seal that one properly. We’ll have to go down and get a new one before we leave.”

The dagger remained where it was, point jutting out into the wood a little even though it sat cozy in its sheathe.

“No, I don’t think we’ll need it. If everything goes according to plan I won’t even be seen. Still, I like to be prepared. Besides, it doesn’t feel quite right to go out without a full stock of potions. Come on, it won’t take long.”

He scooped up the dagger, the spot on the nightstand from which it stood worn through a few shades of brown. Jin glanced out the window before leaving. Eight minutes.

The two of them walked down into the cellar of the turret, traversing down the spiral staircase as his steps made quiet, assured contact with the stone beneath. Years ago, there would have been a breath of dust on the stair as Jin walked, but his regularity among these abandoned halls had done measures to quiet that.

At the end of the stair, an old, rotting door stood guard against any would be trespassers. Jin guessed that it probably wouldn’t last another week at this rate, but it didn’t matter anymore. Time was short, and he doubted this city would ever see him again after tonight. Pushing the door aside, he entered into the dark hall.

The only light was filtered in through the stair he had entered, and so it was difficult to make out anything inside. He knew his lab well, however. Making his way around the poorly illuminated tables with alchemical projects left unfinished, he heard rats scurry away, further into the darkness. He unlatched a cabinet door and swung it open. Selecting one of the vials from the bottom shelves, he uncorked the small flask and sniffed. The acrid, unmistakable stench of diluted ravager venom nearly made him gag, even with how familiar it was to him. He placed the vial and its cork on one of the nearby tables, and pulled out the dagger.

“Let’s hope this is all the blood you must taste today, Aron,” he said. Cutting a bit of his pinkie, he put the knife on the table and carefully held the cork up to the open vial. He aimed his wound over the flask, and as soon as it dropped, he immediately slammed the cork down on it. The venom ate up the blood instantly, bubbling up. It would have quickly spilled out onto the table if Jin had been any slower. He put the knife to his tunic and cleaned the blood off before sheathing it. He pondered the bubbling liquid for a moment before taking the vial and sliding it into the empty slot of his bandolier, leaving the way he had come as he did. He didn’t close the door. There was no point.

“I don’t know why you ask me how that works every time,” Jin commented as he ascended up the spiral. “Ravager blood catalyzes once it comes into contact with blood. Stings real sharp and can eat bones if there’s enough of it. It isn’t harmful in its dormant state. That’s why the best way to kill one is to stab it in the venom sacs.”

When he got back into the bedroom, he looked out the window once again to the clock. Only two minutes left. He tossed the dagger onto the bed and sat next to it as he kept his gaze outwards. The shadows were lengthening over the buildings and docks further off. The sun would disappear over the horizon soon, but for now the city was still clearly visible. It remained appallingly unaffected by four years of hard work.

“Did I ever tell you what I hate most about this city, Aron?”

The dagger laid on his bed and made no reply.

“I hate how nothing I’ve done has made any difference. I hate how people in this day and age can still walk over those less fortunate and still feel good about themselves at the end of the day. When I left home to go find you, I swore that I would never kill anyone ever again.”

One minute.

He picked up the dagger again and fit it onto his belt. Just before he stepped out the door, he grabbed his cloak from the closet and threw it on, pulling the hood over his head. “What I do today, brother, I do not to kill. In fact I can only hope the poor idiots have the sense not to die. But I am tired of petty schemes and tricks. Today the center of commerce loses its hold on the world. But while everyone is distracted with the party,” he stroked the handle of the dagger. “You and I will have some important meetings to attend to.”

Zero. The bell tower and many surrounding buildings suddenly erupted into flames. The lower city of Kalisport was mostly made of wood. It would burn easily. While chaos broke out below him, Jin made his way south, towards where the highborn resided.

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