From Darkness Emerges New Light
Darkness fell, blanketing the world. It was time. Leaping from the tree and using a branch as leverage, he launched himself onto the roof, its tiles clattering beneath him as he landed. He winced at the noise. Already, a sign that he wasn’t doing so well. Not even inside the home, and his lack of practice was already rearing its ugly head. But he couldn’t afford to stop. Not yet anyways.
Pulling the roof apart, quietly, one tile at a time, he peered inside. Dark. Good. That meant everyone was asleep. As they should be, at this time of the night.
Removing more tiles, he pushed the end of a rope that he carried over his shoulder into the opening. Working slowly he moved more tiles aside pushing more and more of the rope into the room, as the gap widened and the room’s contents grew clearer. Finally, with the rope lowered, and the hole large enough for a person to pass through quietly, he secured the opposite end of the rope to the chimney, and lowered himself into the upper floor of the building.
It wasn’t the first time that he’d entered a home without invitation, but it was the first time in such a long time. Releasing the rope, he put a hand to the scabbard at his belt. He couldn’t remember the last time that he had to arm himself, not to mention the last time that he had to alone. Without her. He prayed that this time would be the last.
He sighed. He’d hoped that it wouldn’t come down to this, but with his partner’s condition, he was running out of options. It’s said that the family’s treasured jewel had healing properties, capable of both curing illnesses and preventing any that have yet to manifest. Even though no one has ever witnessed its abilities in person, at this point, anything was worth a try.
If only the family wasn’t so selfish. He’d kindly asked for them to lend its services to him. Even if it were just for a few moments. Even if he needed to use it under their watch. Just one try. But they’d refused. Refused him like how they refused everyone else that asked them prior to his request. For that, he was going to make them regret it. The moment that they settled on the decision not to share…the moment the refused to help when they had the ability, they’d sealed their fate of losing the piece.
Tonight, he was going to take it, whether they liked it or not. Siereene, wait for me. Clenching his fist around the hilt of his weapon, he scanned the room. No one in sight. Nothing notable in his hearing range either.
He activated his Sight. Immediately, alarms blared from somewhere above. Shit. He straightened and started running. A place like this… Of course they would invest in new technology as soon as it hit the market. Should’ve expected it.
He’d come here too recklessly. If he had a little more time, he would’ve investigated how to deal with devices such as those. A few weeks of effort, or at least a few days of studying whatever manuals he could get his hands on. But Sierenne couldn’t hold on much longer. And with her weakening pulse, and with the limited supply of the new technology, he wasn’t sure how much time she had left.
He paused in his steps as the ringing ceased. From what he could tell, it didn’t seem like anyone woke from the ringing, much less get alerted by it. Or at least, there wasn’t any audible activity. Nothing to indicate anyone or anything was stirring, and definitely no one headed in his direction. Strange. Either they were well-equipped to handle break-ins or they were incredibly stupid.
Slinking along the shadows, preferring to err on the side of caution, he passed a windowed hallway. Regardless of whether they knew he was here, he needed to find that jewel before leaving. Siereene’s life very likely depended on it. Ignoring the overwhelming sense of unease, he entered the first room before him.
Unfortunately, his talent for finding things without activating the Sight was greatly limited. But, he couldn’t risk using it again. Not while some sort of security detection system existed. And not without familiarity of the limitations the technology presented. For all he knew, one more activation may be all they needed to pinpoint his exact location.
Even so, the idea lingered in his mind. He had shut off the Sight too quickly earlier to notice anything. With the size of the mansion, finding a gem, without the Sight, was just about as easy as finding a misplaced needle in a lake. Even so, for Siereene’s sake, he still had to give it a shot. Anything was worth it if she could only wake again.
Luckily, he hadn’t come entirely unprepared. If his sources were correct, the main bedchambers should be located on the floor. With the rich folk tendency of keeping valuables nearby, if not on their person, he’d wager that it would be somewhere nearby. In one of the rooms, with someone in the family. Careful to quiet his steps, he closed the door behind him.
Squinting, he did his best to make out the shapes before him. He cursed under his breath. In the absence of moonlight, he couldn’t even clearly make out whether anyone lay in the bed. Finding the gem without using the Sight in this floor may prove to be more impossible than he initially realized. But, Siereene. He clenched his fist. He couldn’t give up. Not when her survival depended on him.
Clack. Clack. Clack. He froze. There was no mistaking that sound. Metal greaves. They were coming in his direction. The worst case scenario. It looked like he’d underestimated the security system, and they were able to locate him anyways. But he did arm himself for a reason. If it came down to it, he wouldn’t go down without a fight. Perhaps, there was still a chance of making it back with the gem, for Siereene.
“Come here!” A voice whispered in the darkness.
Clack. Clack. Clack. Judging from the sound, the guards were getting closer.
“Come!” The voice whispered again, more urgently this time.
From the sound, they were only steps away. It didn’t look like he had much of a choice. The room had no windows, and as far as he could tell, it also had very limited furniture. There would be no where he could hide if someone entered the room with a lantern. Reluctantly, he approached the voice.
“Get down!” The voice said, yanking him downward, as he approached the bed from the side facing away from the door. He couldn’t fully trust this person. At least at the side away from the door, there would be a brief moment when he would be hidden away from physical sight. A brief moment of advantage. Enough time for him to activate his Sight and talismans, before the men could catch sight of him.
The footsteps stopped. The door flew open, and something lit up the room.
“Young Miss!” Addressed an unfamiliar male voice. One of the guards, he presumed. “Did you notice anyone strange tonight?”
“Nope. Not at all.” The voice, which he could now see belonged to a woman that wasn’t much older than Siereene, answered. She raised her arms, feigning a stretch and yawned. “What’s going on? Why did you wake me in the middle of the night?”
“A magical intruder has been detected on the premises. We believe that he entered the house somewhere near your quarters.” The guard answered. “We’re here for your safety. Micihe’s group should be with your parents for the same reason. Everyone else is searching the area for the suspicious individual.”
“There’s no need to protect me.” The woman answered. “You and your men should join those doing the search. Finding the intruder should be priority.”
“But your safety…” The guard hesitated. “We will keep some of our men with you.”
“Do I look sick or frail to you? Do you really think I can’t protect myself?” The woman demanded. “As someone that has singlehandedly defeated all of your men, even while they took me on as a group, do you really think that keeping them here would make any difference?”
“But…” The guard started, sounding uncertain.
“Off you go, or you’ll have my father to answer to when someone else is hurt because of your failure to locate this man!” She said firmly, squinting at the guard.
“Yes, Young Miss.” The guard answered, before the sound of greaves resounded the hall once more and faded into the distance.
After waiting a moment to confirm they were gone, she climbed out her bed and waved him to follow.
“Why are you helping me?” He asked.
“No one, regardless of who they are, deserves to suffer my father’s wrath.” She answered.
“How can you trust that I won’t back stab you now?” He inquired.
“I’d like to see you try it.” She challenged. “Anything funny and I’ll see to it that you regret having ever considered it an option.”
“Since you’re set on helping me, I think it’s only fair that you know the reason that I came.” He stated.
“I wouldn’t care less of the reason behind your suicidal actions.” She responded.
“I’m here for your family treasure – the jewel.” He said, disregarding her statement.
“I can help you get it.” She answered.
“What? Why?” He asked, confused. Would she really give away her family treasure that easily?
“I’d think that anyone who’s desperate enough to break into our mansion and use magic in their effort to acquire it, despite our family reputation, probably has someone very sick back at home.” She answered without hesitation as she exited the room.
He squinted his eyes in distrust. Would she really help him? Someone with questionable motives. Someone who wanted her family treasure. Someone who broke into her home to steal from her. Furthermore, there was no reason for her to deviate from her family’s reputation for refusing aid. He clenched his fist, at the thought. A reputation that he had the pleasure to personally experience.
Despite his concerns, he followed her. As suspicious as she was, she couldn’t make matters any worse than it already was for him. Worst case scenario, if she tried anything, he’d reactivate his Sight and technology or not, try to find the thing himself. If he got caught, then he got caught.
He’d tried every other option that he could think of anyway. This was one of the last. Even if he couldn’t make it back to her in time, he could at least say that he tried. Even as he hoped it wouldn’t come to that, even as hoped that she could still be saved, he knew that sooner or later he’d have to face reality. None of the doctors could save her, and the gem was likely a myth.
“We’re here.” She suddenly announced, cutting off his thoughts, as they arrived before a vase. Reaching in, she pulled out a grape-sized stone, looking no different from the typical ruby. Then, putting it into his palm, she motioned him to follow her yet again. “Let’s go.”
Was that really the stone? Would she really give it to him so easily? He closed his fist around the stone, and trailed after her. No point in focusing on those questions. He’d know the answers soon enough.
He stopped, stunned, when they arrived at the gates. In spite of her promises, he hadn’t expected her to actually lead him out.
“You’re really letting me go like that?” He asked.
“Don’t you have someone to save?” The woman retorted.
“Yes.” He answered, his hand clenching around the stone. Siereene hang in there. And without further questioning, he stepped into the night, the jewel in his hand, and began his walk toward home.
It was a long walk, but they made it back at last. Back to the place where Siereene awaited him. Opening the door, his eyes immediately fell onto the bed, lingering on the figure laying over it. Siereene. Abruptly overcome with emotion, he went up to her and desperately placed the gem into her hand. Wake up. He did his best to close her loose fingers around the piece. Wake up!
“That’s not how you use it.” A voice said behind him. Right. In his urgency to return home, he’d forgotten that she was tailing him. He looked back. He must’ve left the door open on his way in.
“Then how?” He asked with furrowed eyebrows.
“Let me handle it.” She said, pulling him aside. Sitting onto the edge of the bed, she crossed her legs and closed her eyes.
“Is there anything that I can help with?” He asked.
“Help me hold her up.” She answered, without opening her eyes. “Into a sitting posture in front of me.”
Immediately after adjusted Sierenne’s body into a sitting posture, the woman removed the gem from Siereene’s hand. Holding the jewel in a hand placed against Siereene’s back, she began to chant in a language that he didn’t understand.
“You can set her down now.” She stated when she finally opened her eyes. “She’ll be okay.”
“What do you want in return?” He asked, as she stood.
“Don’t tell anyone about today.” She answered, opening her hand out to him the jewel sitting on her palm. “I’ll be taking back the gem back.”
“Thank you.” He said, grateful. The jewel itself meant nothing to him, as long as Siereene got better. Even if she hadn’t the woman had come to help. Something more than he’d expected. Perhaps her family wasn’t as bad as he had originally assumed.
He put a hand to Siereene’s wrist. Her pulse was much smoother than when he’d last checked. If the woman hadn’t come with him… If he had been successful in stealing the gem, Siereene would still be in danger wouldn’t she?
“I’ll stay until morning.” The woman announced. “I’ll verify her condition then.”
“Thank you.” He repeated, holding Siereene’s hand in his. He’d accompany her till the very moment that she woke.
An audible scraping noise filled the room as the woman dragged a chair out from beneath the table.
“Why did you help us?” He asked, without turning.
“For the same reason that you were willing to break into our home to get the jewel.” She replied. “I hope that you’ll take good care of her once she wakes.”
“Of course.” He answered. “We’re business partners after all.”
“Relationships between people aren’t always as they appear on the surface.” The woman answered, standing and leaving the room. “If you honestly think that you’re just business partners, then I hope that the newfound time you have with one another will grant you further insight.”
What did she mean by that? He sighed. It wasn’t important. As long as Siereene’s condition improved, that was all that mattered. He rested his chin over his arms as he watched her. As long as she got better…
He felt something brush against the top of his head. He blinked his eyes open. He must’ve fallen asleep. It was still dark outside. Looking up, he found a face watching him fondly. A face that he hadn’t seen awake for so long. Too long.
Darkness fell, but this time, it also brought with it a new light. He smiled, tears welling up in his eyes, as he took her hand into his. Pressing his forehead onto it, they overcame his defenses and spilled out. For the first time since learning of her illness, for the first time since he’d found her bedridden, he cried.
This story was inspired by the daily writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.
Wednesday — Write a poem, piece of fiction, or an essay using the following prompt.