A young woman, chicly dressed, was accompanied by six Chevaliers as she left the Tower Cerulean. This was done with much pomp and the entire departure had a theatrical air. The Chevaliers strode in lockstep, their armor shining or rippling or undulating depending on the style and make.
With a roar, a large Velo-Pede pulled in front of the gates and they all got in and it sped off through the Arrondissement. For anyone watching, it was just as much a declaration as it was a departure and no one noticed a lone squire who trotted towards the gate but then gently turned and doubled back across the training grounds.
On the east-west corner of the tower was the kitchen entrance where our lone squire entered. Pots full of bubbling sauces, spits roasting a variety of meats, and ovens baking fresh bread would be an easy distraction for most squires but not this one. She moved through the kitchen quickly and without disturbing the culinary dance. Once out of the kitchen, she walked along the hallway to the entrance to the lower levels.
She turned to see a Chevalier clad in topaz scale mail.
“Where are you headed?”
“I’m to find a particular lance.”
“In who’s service are you?”
“The Observant Chevalier, sir.”
“She tasked me with finding a red lance with a scratch on the grip in the lower armory.”
“That sounds like one of her tasks.”
“I don’t mind sir.”
“I admire your attitude.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Well, you better get going, it won’t be easy.”
“I’ll do my best sir.”
She turned but the Chevalier spoke again.
“Make sure it’s really red and not burgundy or vermillion or cardinal.”
“Thank you, sir. I will.”
“Off with you then, it’s going to be a long day.”
She nodded and entered the door. Stairs wound down past the dungeons, now only used for storage, and into the armory. Racks of wooden swords, spears, maces, war-hammers, and other training weaponry filled the chamber. Walking past a row of lances, the squire removed her padded coif and shook out her hair. So unstylish, thought Maxi.
Along the back wall stood a statue of a Chevalier holding a shield. The coat of arms was an owl with a lotus flower above the head and two below the talons. With a careful touch, she rotated the bottom two clockwise and the top one widdershins. The owl’s wings opened and the statue slid into the floor, revealing a dark doorway.
Taking a deep breath, Maxi walked in and immediately began to plummet. Even knowing what was happening, she still screamed, it was impossible not to. Rushing towards a point of light, she emerged and floated to the floor.
“Welcome, little thief.”
The room was made of steel and stone, lit with braziers that filled with a blue flame. Standing in front of the floor to ceiling door was a tall, cloaked figure made of what looked like brass. The face was always shrouded in darkness, and Maxi was unsure if this was a very sophisticated automata or a living being.
Blowing, Maxi said, “I feel welcomed, though I would like to point out that I’ve stolen nothing from here.”
“Are those raiments yours?”
“I’m just borrowing them.”
“Make sure to return them.”
“Very well then, but you are still a thief nonetheless.”
A number of clever retorts danced through her mind but she had a job to do and this guardian was not taken with her charms.
“I will not debate you today.”
“A wise choice, little thief.”
“However, I do need to retrieve what I placed in your vaults.”
“As is your right.”
“Thank you, if you could-“
“But I must warn you.”
“Since you solved the mystery of the vault, you may enter and remove only what you placed there. But lest you forget, the penalty for taking what is not yours is dire.”
“Stray from your vow, and regret will be an inadequate word to describe what you will feel.”
“I hate to be rude, but I’m on a bit of a schedule.”
“I see,” replied the guardian.
“You’re very intimidating. Really.”
“This is a matter of the gravest import.”
“And you have made that crystal clear.”
“You seem unimpressed.”
“No, no, no. Not at all. But since my intentions are pure, I have nothing to fear.”
“Clever. Very well, you may enter. But do not forget my words.”
“I will not.”
The guardian stepped aside as the locks whirred and clicked. With a sigh, the tall doors opened. Maxi walked towards the vault.
“One last drop of wisdom. Beware your own nature.”
Maxi bowed and entered. It took her a half hour to make her way to the obsidian casket where she had placed the box containing her inheritance. She took the box and placed it inside her tunic. Turning she began to retrace her steps.
As she walked through this repository, she felt the itch of larceny on her fingertips. So many treasures. A cast of viscous emeralds. The rune encrusted reliquary of St. Erasmus, patron of high-flying heroes. A crystal orb containing the grand blizzard from the year of the Hart. The prophetic portrait of Cassia said to know your heart’s most desperate desire. These temptations spread before her and she wanted them all. Plans bloomed in her mind and just as quickly died, impractical at best, impossible at worst. Time to leave.
After secreting the box in the austere quarters provide for her by the Coterie du Honor, Maxi made her way out of the Tower Cerulean. Everyone thought that the item was hidden somewhere in the Arrondissement, which technically it was. More than enough time to have a little fun. After all, she’d earned it.