A Thief’s Fortune
By Bobby Fisher
The characters and events portrayed in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events are purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text Copyright © 2017 Bobby Fisher
All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof may not be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission of the publisher.
Published by Back to Front Publishing
Edited by Courtney Cannon
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Crouching down, Ewyn looked out over Silverbrook from his lofty position as the early morning mist crept through the streets. Thickening into fog, it seemingly stalked the droves of market stall owners making their way to set up in the city’s already crowded trade district. The perfect weather for a thief.
He grinned in amusement as the owner of a nearby fruit stall stood arguing over the cost of berries with an equally stubborn old man.
“You are charging twice as much as they’re worth!” said the old man.
“I told you, they’re hard to come by this time of year!” said the stall owner, clenching his jaw.
“I will pay two silver. No more!”
The stall owner glared at the man. Considering his counter offer, his gaze drifted slightly to the left where he noticed something moving out of the corner of his eye. Turning around, he found Ewyn crouching with a basket full of fresh apples, dates, and nuts in hand.
“You again!” roared the stall owner advancing on him.
Ewyn froze for an instant before flashing a grin and diving to his right to avoid the man’s grasp, before weaving his way through the crowd.
“Thief! Stop him!” shouted the man to the city guards patrolling the far end of the street.
As they charged towards Ewyn, he clutched his loot tightly and slid through the dirt, passing between their legs. As they struggled to stop and turn, Ewyn continued to widen the distance between them. With his head turned he did not see the obstacle in his path which sent him reeling backwards from the force of the collision.
“I’ve got you this time boy!”
Ewyn rubbed his head and looked up to discover he had run straight into a dark brown horse mounted by Captain Bennett.
“You have escaped far too many times! Your fortune is at an end!” said the captain as he drew his sword.
Ewyn dodged the swing of his blade as he slipped behind the horse. Mustering as much power as he could, he slapped the animal’s hind quarters sending it bolting forward. Unprepared for this sudden movement, Captain Bennett fell backwards, landing head first in the load of a passing dung cart.
Roars of laughter ensued as Bennett struggled and screamed with frustration. He wiped his face and lifted his stout figure over the edge of the cart, only to fall back in with a resounding plop.
As the guards rushed to the captain’s aid, Ewyn took the opportunity to slip away quietly.
Crawling through a small hole hidden behind an empty crate, Ewyn made his way into the old, boarded up house. Many such buildings lay in ruin across the city, most abandoned after their former owner had failed to come home from the last war. Stripped of their riches, they were left to rot as empty shells.
As he climbed the rickety stairs, he looked around with a frown. “Isobel? Where are you?”
“Over here, in the back room.”
He found the small, blonde girl sitting amidst balls of coloured thread and needles which lay scattered around the floor. She held a small blanket full of patched up holes which had been repaired by unskilled hands.
“What are you doing? You should be resting!” said Ewyn.
“Look, I found this blanket and mended it! Just like mum’s old patchwork ones!” said Isobel, ignoring her brother’s words as she held it up for approval.
Ewyn inspected the blanket and sighed. He smiled warmly at his little sister and patted her on the head before sitting cross-legged next to her.
“Here’s your breakfast- you’ve earned it!”
Isobel took the apple and bit into its crisp, juicy flesh. Polishing it off, she reached for a second, but as she did, she began to cough violently.
“Are you ok?” said Ewyn as he rubbed her back gently. “I told you to rest, or it will get worse!”
“I’m fine … but I think I’ll lie down for a while.”
Ewyn carefully helped her to the nearby bed, placing his hand on her forehead. Her clammy skin and burning fever confirmed that her condition was worse than the previous day.
“You rest now. I have to go out for a while, but I’ll be back soon.”
Placing a tattered blanket over her, Ewyn stroked her hair gently before leaving the house once more.
He knew Isobel desperately needed a Doctor, but they had no gold. The markets had closed for the day and begging would only earn him jeers and taunts from passers-by or at worst a one-way journey to the city graveyard, courtesy of some rogue wandering the back alleys. Ewyn hoped that the streets of the trade district might yield a few coins.
The jewellery shop on the far side of the trade district was famous for its beautiful, expensive pieces. Everyone knew the shop was only frequented by wealthy nobles and traders hoping to buy their wares and sell them in other cities for a tidy profit.
Ewyn waited in front of the apothecary further down the street. As an experienced thief by necessity, he knew his plan was foolish and risky, but he was left with no alternative.
After a while, a well-dressed man and his servant approached the jewellery shop. The tell-tale bulge protruding from the man’s cloak gave away the presence of a full coin bag. Deciding that the cloak would provide the cover he needed, Ewyn waited for his mark to exit the shop. The two men stepped back onto the street. He moved towards them, his heart pounding. As he drew near Ewyn turned his head and pretended to gaze into a nearby window. Colliding with the man, he swiftly untied the coin bag and slipped it into his shirt before moving away.
“My apologies, sir!” said Ewyn, bowing politely.
“Err, yes … well … be careful in future!” stuttered the man. He brushed himself off and continued down the street.
Ewyn rushed in the opposite direction until he was out of sight. Opening the coin bag, he was disappointed to find only a few silver coins – barely enough for a good meal let alone a Doctor. Curses! He must have spent it at the jewellery shop! Ewyn knew that taking the coin bag before the man entered the shop would have been more profitable, but he did not want the discovery of its absence to occur too soon.
He moved on to an expensive clothing store on the opposite side of the district. A tall man dressed in extravagant attire was looking into the window, though he appeared to be admiring his reflection rather than the wares beyond the glass. Spying the overflowing coin purse on his belt Ewyn began to move towards him. The man’s somehow familiar presence filled Ewyn with unease. Ignoring his feelings, he drew closer until they collided. Ewyn quickly removed the coin bag from the man’s belt, but as he pulled away, he felt a firm tug under the cape before strong, brutal hands seized him and threw him to the ground.
“So, another piece of filth who thinks he can steal from Lord Ravensworth!” shouted the man.
Lord Ravensworth? The strength drained from Ewyn’s body as he realised who he had been foolish enough to cross.
Standing over the now trembling boy, he threw his cloak aside to reveal a small chain linking the coin bag to his belt.
“Did you think it would be that easy?” he shouted as he pushed Ewyn’s head further into the dirt with his boot.
The commotion attracted a crowd of spectators and the attention of the city guards patrolling the area. Three guards rushed over, pulled Ewyn to his feet and bound his hands behind his back. Moments later shouting could be heard as a large figure pushed through the crowd. The last of the onlookers parted to reveal a breathless Captain Bennett, who appeared to have emerged from the nearby tavern. Seeing Ewyn in the custody of the guards, he grinned from ear to ear like a beggar who had stumbled across a horde of lost treasure.
“Bennett! Have you been swigging ales on duty?”
“Lord Ravensworth! I was merely err … gathering information from the locals!” said Bennett, red-faced and wheezing. “Has this boy caused you harm?”
“You are fortunate that I am uninjured. Though I must question your competence when these vermin still have the nerve to try and steal from me in my own city!”
“I can assure you, my Lord, I have instructed the guards on countless occasions to – “
“Silence! I have no use for your excuses!” Lord Ravensworth glared at the captain in disgust, as if he was no more than dirt stuck to his boot. “Take the filth away. I expect an example to be made of him!”
Straightening his clothing and giving Ewyn a malevolent grin, Ravensworth pushed past the captain and disappeared into the crowd.
“You’re mine this time! No more running! The jailer will be pleased to have a new guest,” said the Captain.
Ewyn struggled, but could not free himself from his bonds or the guard’s vice-like grip. Tired of his resistance, one of the guards struck him on the back of the head. Feeling his body fall forward, the world around began to spin as he felt his body tumble forward into darkness.
The sound of rushing water coupled with the stench of sewage greeted Ewyn as he regained consciousness. Pushing himself up on his elbows, he strained his eyes to see through the darkness. His blurry vision and throbbing head forced him to lie down once more on the cold stone floor.
“Ah, I see you are finally awake!”
Ewyn sat up with a start despite the pain. “Who’s there?”
“Just another forgotten soul left to the darkness,” said the rough, gravelly voice.
As Ewyn’s vision slowly started to clear and adjust to the poorly lit room, he was able to make out the form of a hooded man in long robes huddled in the far corner.
“I see that the city guards extended you their usual hospitality,” The hooded figure slowly rose to his feet. “Show me,” he said as he began to hobble towards Ewyn.
“Don’t come any closer!” shouted the boy, pushing himself across the cold, rough stone in the opposite corner.
The figure stopped and slowly pulled back his hood to reveal a gaunt face. His skin was rough and full of lines, reminiscent of old bark, which had sprouted wisps of fine grey hair. “I am but an old man. You have nothing to fear.” He moved closer to Ewyn and examined the back of his head.
“You will live. At least until your execution,” said the man.
“Execution?” said Ewyn, fear spreading through his chest. His eyes darted around the room, revealing it to be a cell – one of many judging by the muffled cries of despair that broke the silence of the dimly lit passage outside.
“I am sorry, lad. You are in Ravensworth’s tower.”
Ewyn now felt his heart pounding. Everyone knew Ravensworth’s tower – a hell reserved for those who had the misfortune to cross its Lord, where death by torture or execution was the only escape.
“My name is Brennan. May I know yours?” said the old man.
“I see. Might I assume that you had the … pleasure of meeting Lord Ravensworth?”
“Yes. He caught me taking his coin bag, and the guards took me away.”
Brennan’s eyes narrowed.
“I am no common thief. My father did not return from the last war, and my mother died shortly after, leaving only my sister and me. We have no other family and orphans are made to work as slaves. We ran before they could take us away. I usually take only what we need, but my sister is sick, and I needed the coins for a Doctor …”
Ewyn fell silent. Isobel! Is she alright? How long have I been here? He pictured her sick and alone in bed, waiting and wondering where he was.
“Humph! His heart truly is black to send a child here,” said Brennan.
“Do you know him?”
“I dare say that everyone knows Lord Ravensworth, but yes, I had the misfortune of working for him. I used to be a well-known architect. Most of the cities in this region use my designs, and even the king requested my services when building the royal chapel. But once my work here was complete, he refused to pay me.”
Ewyn began to wonder just how many Ravensworth had wronged over the years.
“After I threatened to spread the word of his treachery, the wretch imprisoned me. Though I have been here for years, the hangman does not come. I suspect that Ravensworth wishes to prolong my suffering. My poor wife … she must think I am dead after all these years.”
Brennan and Ewyn stood in silence, each thinking of those left behind, unaware of their fate.
“Is there no way out?” said Ewyn.
“There may be a way. I will tell you only if you take me with you.”
“You have my word.”
“The word of a thief …” Brennan studied Ewyn for a few moments before a small smile crept across his dry, cracked lips. “Very well Ewyn. But be warned, the risk is great.”
Brennan took a seat close to Ewyn. “I have long thought it a cruel irony that I helped to create this place. Fortune, however, may be on our side. I recall a hidden passage to the west, which Ravensworth uses to move prisoners in secret and to serve as a means of escape from the adjoining castle during an invasion.”
“Why haven’t you used this passage to escape after so long?”
“We must first break free of this cell, but I do not possess the strength.”
Brennan pointed to the floor in the middle of the room. Moving closer Ewyn discovered the source of the stench which had greeted him earlier – a small metal grate enclosing a drain. As he peered in, watery tendrils from the surging mass below reached upwards as if daring him to enter its domain before falling back, crashing violently against the surrounding stone.
“After passing under the cells, the pipe branches off to the left leading to a grate in the corner of the captain’s office. That is where you will find the key. Take it and return without being seen. Once you release me, I will lead us to the passage.”
Ewyn continued to stare at the mix of water and waste below.
“There are no other means of escape,” said Brennan.
The thought of Isobel sick and alone pushed Ewyn’s fear to the back of his mind, strengthening his resolve. “I will not abandon my sister. I will return to her at any cost.”
Brennan hobbled over to the drain and motioned for help with removing the grate. The cover, old and rusted stayed firmly wedged in place despite their best efforts.
Brennan fell to his knees, his strength consumed by the exertion. “Curse the gods! There must be some way to move it!” he cried in frustration.
Looking around, Ewyn noticed that one of the legs supporting the bed was cracked at the top. Pulling hard, the wood began to creak and groan until finally, it came away with a loud snap.
Brennan frowned as he watched Ewyn carry the broken leg to the grate and place one end between the bars.
“A lever! Of course! Sitting in this cell for so long has blunted my mind!” said Brennan as he grabbed the wooden leg and added his remaining strength to Ewyn’s.
Iron ground against stone, louder and louder before giving way abruptly, leaving the drain exposed.
Catching his breath, Brennan gazed at Ewyn thoughtfully. “It seems you are more resourceful than I believed. But now comes the test. The pipe branches off after four grates. I pray you are able to endure, until the end.”
Ewyn braced himself as he slowly lowered his body into the drain. His skin stung as the water lashed against his legs. Ewyn filled his lungs with the warm, foul smelling air and laid back. He released his grip and surrendered his body to the water, which instantly swept him away into the darkness.
“May the Gods be with you lad,” said Brennan.
Ewyn struggled to keep his eyes open and stay above the surface as he counted the grates passing overhead.
One … two … just a little further … three …. almost there … four!
Ewyn turned his body to the left and stretched his arms out until he felt a gap appear. As he passed it, his hands found the other side of the opening. He grasped at the edge, frantically trying to pull himself forward into the connecting drain, but the wall was too smooth, and the current dragged him back. Struggling against the water, Ewyn’s chest burnt as his lungs cried out for air. He started to claw wildly at the wall, his skin becoming raw until his fingers found a small crack. Pulling himself forward, every fibre of his being burnt beneath his skin as his body began to slow down. Shafts of light penetrated the murky water ahead. Ewyn’s hope grew as the light became stronger until a grate finally came into view. With his last ounce of effort, he grasped the grate and pulled himself above the surface. His head spun as he desperately forced air back into his lungs while waiting for the pain to dissipate.
As his strength returned, Ewyn peered through the grate to find a wooden cabinet hiding the room from view. He slowly pushed the metal cover aside and climbed up. Using the cabinet for cover, he peered around the corner and surveyed the room. A large shield on the far wall bearing the city guard’s coat of arms with the captain’s crest confirmed his location.
As he emerged, Ewyn noticed the Captain’s ceremonial dagger on a stand next to his desk. Every citizen knew the silver blade with blood red rubies set into the hilt. Bennett often paraded around the city, boasting about how the royal family had rewarded him for apprehending a notorious murderer. Although most knew this was not entirely true, Bennett seemed happy to take the accolades.
Ewyn remembered every occasion that the Captain and his guards had mercilessly pursued him over a loaf of bread or an apple. It was time to repay him. Ewyn picked up the surprisingly light weapon and slipped it into his robes. He knew that the dagger would be worthless as no one would be foolish enough to buy it and risk being accused of theft. No, he would throw it in a river or bury it – anything to wipe that smug grin off Bennett’s face.
Turning his attention back to the task at hand, he spied a large keyring hanging next to the door. He lifted it off the hook and reached for the knob when he noticed the visible trail of water his soaking clothes had dripped along the stone floor, leading to the drain. Hatching a plan, he made his way back, making sure not to stray from the trail he had left. He pulled off his clothes and threw them along with the dagger into the drain. Seeing them swept away and imagining Bennett’s angry expression brought him a great sense of satisfaction. After replacing the grate, he began to rummage through the drawers and cabinets in the room. Finding a spare tunic, Ewyn dressed and left through the door, avoiding the water.
After losing his way several times, Ewyn returned to the cells, thankful not to have run into any guards.
“So, you survived! A talented thief indeed!” said Brennan as Ewyn appeared at the cell door. “Quickly! Before the guards catch us!”
Fumbling with the keys, the lock finally clicked, and the cell door swung open with a low creek.
“Good job, lad! Follow me,” said Brennan.
The old man hobbled down the hallway as fast as he could, Ewyn in tow. Taking care to avoid any guards on patrol, they followed what seemed like an endless labyrinth of identical passages until they found themselves in front of a large coat of arms chiselled into a wall.
“This is it! Yes … Now let me see …” said Brennan as he carefully studied the stonework.
Ewyn watched with interest as the old man’s long, bony fingers traced their way around each shape as if remembering a long-forgotten dance, occasionally pausing to recall the next step.
“Yes, that should be it … hmm … not quite …”
As Brennan continued to mutter under his breath, Eywn picked up the faint sound of footsteps and laughter drawing closer. Slowly peeking around the corner, his heart skipped a beat as he saw two guards stumbling down the hallway. One looked as if he had spent the day in a tavern. Red-faced and roaring with laughter, the guard swayed from left to right as his comrade tried his best to keep him upright.
“It’ll be the cells for you if the Captain finds out!”
“Old pig face? Bah! The swine sleeps half the day and takes the praise for our work! He wouldn’t notice if I drained a whole keg of ale in front of him!”
Sighing at his partner, the sober guard looked up and stopped in his tracks, noticing movement ahead. Ewyn quickly pulled himself back, hoping he had not been seen.
“Who’s there?” shouted the guard.
“Brennan, hurry! Guards are coming!” whispered Ewyn, urging him on. Brennan, however, seemed to not to hear.
“Show yourself!” The guard was now becoming impatient. The sound of footsteps resumed, faster and louder than before.
Sharp, shallow breaths pulled at Ewyn’s chest as the footsteps grew closer still. Closing his eyes, he waited for the inevitable moment of their discovery.
A hand gripped Ewyn’s wrist tightly and pulled him backwards with a jolt. Opening his eyes, he found himself in a dark tunnel.
“Got there in the end!” grinned Brennan as he sealed the opening behind them. “Now, did you say something? I’m afraid I lose myself once I begin solving a problem!”
“I see. Well, let us continue.”
Brennan took a torch from the wall, its embers barely alive. Picking up a jar from a nearby shelf, he carefully sprinkled a coarse powder over it. There was a loud whoosh as the head of the torch came to life. The fire danced and twirled around its surface as it broke through the darkness. Ewyn gazed in amazement at the bright green flame, beautiful yet unnatural.
“We should make haste before they discover our absence,” said Brennan.
The warm, damp air of the tunnel wrapped itself around them even tighter than the darkness beyond the torch. Sweating and panting, they paused for a break thankful for the measure of relief that the cold stone floor provided.
“How far until the end?” asked Ewyn.
“A fair while yet. This tunnel reaches from the centre of the city to the outer wall,” said Brennan before continuing onwards.
Minutes later the old man suddenly came to a halt once more. Ewyn looked ahead to discover the reason for the stop in the form of another crest in a large alcove to the right.
Brennan pressed his ear to the stone. Satisfied that the room beyond was unoccupied, he pushed hard until the wall gave way. Ewyn’s eyes almost popped out. Enormous piles of gold, jewels, and all manner of trinkets covered every surface of the room.
“May I present Lord Ravensworth’s private vault. I would wager there is more in this room than in all the coin bags of Silverbrook combined.”
Ewyn could not fathom how one man lived with such wealth, while others existed in squalor, begging just to prolong their misery. Brennan picked up a large, empty coin bag and counted as he filled it with gold coins. Looking up at Ewyn he smiled.
“I am no thief. I will take only what I am owed for my work … and a few extra coins – enough for a Doctor and a few good meals. You have earned it.”
Ewyn smiled back, appreciative of Brennan’s thoughtful nature. Kindness was not something to which he was accustomed.
Compensation in hand, they continued down the tunnel until a set of stone steps appeared before them. Sounds from the street above grew progressively louder as they ascended. Reaching the exit, the wall yielded to a strong push leading out into a small room housing armaments and supplies.
“We should be at the rear of the Eastern guardhouse. Do you know the way back to your sister from here?” asked Brennan.
Ewyn gave a nod and followed the old man to the rear entrance. Brennan opened the door slightly and peered through the crack. A frown crept across his face.
“Night has fallen yet … all this pandemonium and the streets are deserted. Something is not right. We should proceed with care,” said Brennan.
After checking for guards, they crept outside following the dimly lit back streets which were empty save for the odd beggar asleep in a doorway. As they neared the river, the commotion grew louder, and the sound of shouts and raucous laughter filled the air.
“By the Gods, what is this madness?” said Brennan, taking in the scene before them.
“A week’s worth of gold to the man who finds it and two weeks’ worth for the filth who escaped with it – dead or alive! No meat or ale for the rest of you!” screamed a red-faced Captain Bennett.
What looked like every guard in the city was wading around the river in various states of undress, desperately searching for something. The streets were lined with citizens observing the spectacle as they laughed and jeered.
Brennan noticed Ewyn chuckling under his breath as he watched in delight.
“Should I assume that you are somehow responsible for this?” asked Brennan.
“It was too tempting. Old Bennett’s precious dagger was in his office, so I made it look like someone had stolen it and escaped through the drains.”
Brennan gave his best disapproving look while trying to conceal his amusement.
“It helped to cover our escape!” said Ewyn suppressing his laughter as Bennett slipped and fell into the water.
“Indeed. Now let us continue before we are seen. Your sister is waiting.”
The smile faded from Ewyn’s face as his thoughts returned to Isobel. Quickening their pace, they soon arrived at the dilapidated house. Ewyn pushed through the hole in the wall and rushed up the stairs.
“Isobel? Are you there? Isobel!”
His eyes searched every corner of the bedroom, settling on a lump beneath the ragged blanket on the bed. Pulling the cover aside, he found Isobel laying just where he had left her.
“Isobel? Wake up! I’m back!” shouted Ewyn, shaking her small, frail body.
Slowly opening her eyes, she stared at Ewyn for a few moments before smiling. “Brother … I knew you’d come back. Where were you?”
“I’m sorry. I would have come back sooner if I could. I’ll explain later, we must find a Doctor for you,” said Ewyn.
“She must remain in bed. Stay with her, I will call a Doctor,” said Brennan before hobbling out of the room.
Stroking her fine blonde hair, Ewyn tried his best to keep her comfortable. Memories of their mother began to surface as he remembered her gentle touch and warm embrace. The softness of her voice filled his mind with a bedtime story she often told them. Knowing it was one of Isobel’s favourites, he hoped it would help to calm her.
Brennan meanwhile, attempted to remain inconspicuous while scouring the quiet street. He spotted a young boy whose attention he attracted with a wave.
“You there! Would you like to earn a few coins?” said Brennan.
“Do you know of a nearby Doctor’s office?”
“Yes, sir. Doctor Payne is two streets away.”
“Good. Find him and bring him here. If he tries to turn you away, tell him I will pay double. A silver coin for you now and two more when you return with the Doctor! Quickly!”
Brennan handed the coin over, and the boy ran out of sight. He did not have to wait long before the figure of an irritated old man carrying a large leather case came into view.
“Here’s the Doctor, sir.” The boy held his hand out with a grin.
Brennan had barely placed the two coins in his palm before the boy pocketed them and disappeared.
“I do not appreciate being disturbed at this late hour,” said the man through crooked yellow teeth.
“My apologies. There is a sick girl who requires your attention. Please follow me.”
Brennan squeezed through the hole in the wall closely followed by the Doctor who was muttering angrily to himself. Stopping in the bedroom doorway, the Doctor looked around. The corners of his mouth turned downwards in disgust at the poverty surrounding him as he approached the bed to examine Isobel. Satisfied with his diagnosis, the Doctor started to rummage around in his bag at a nearby table. Chopping up some herbs and roots, he created a mixture, handed it to Isobel and instructed her to drink it. Taking the cup with shaking hands, she quickly drained the contents and handed it back to the Doctor who proceeded to gather his belongings.
“Have her drink one cup of tea brewed with these dried roots each night, and she will soon be well.” The Doctor handed over a small packet which emitted a pungent odour. “Now for my payment which will be double as promised – twenty gold coins!” said the Doctor, glaring at Brennan.
“Twenty? Of all the …” Brennan stopped himself. The Doctor was obviously taking advantage of them by demanding such an excessive amount, however paying him was preferable to an argument ending in their arrest by the city guards. “Take your payment and be gone,” growled Brennan as he handed the coins over. The Doctor counted his payment before leaving with a smirk.
Ewyn noticed the colour slowly returning to his sister’s cheeks. A sense of relief spread through his body, draining the strength from his limbs. As he lay exhausted on the cracked wooden floor, he thanked the Gods Isobel was all right.
“I am sorry lad there is no time to rest. The guards will not give up so easily and will soon widen their search from the river. We must make plans to leave Silverbrook tonight,” said Brennan.
Ewyn sat up quickly at the realisation that despite their escape, Lord Ravensworth was not a man who would allow his victims to elude him and old Bennett certainly would not let his embarrassment and loss go unavenged. The guards would pursue them until they were caught and taken for execution. Ewyn watched Isobel as she slept, peacefully unaware. Silverbrook was their home … or at least it used to be. With their parents long gone, they had to steal and scavenge like vermin to survive. No one helped. No one cared. There was nothing left for them but lost lives and old memories.
“How will we pass through the city gates unnoticed?” said Ewyn.
“You forget that I helped build this city! Tell me, does Alistair Bigges still own the Buttercup Bakery north of here?”
“The Buttercup Bakery is still open, though I’m unsure who owns it.”
Brennan narrowed his eyes in thought. “He was an old friend of mine. His bakery was opened several years before I was employed to help expand the city and was one of the first shops opened in Silverbrook. The crooked guards often helped themselves to his supplies, making business difficult. I aided him by building an underground passage for deliveries. With the city gates likely under watch, this is our only means of escape. Gather your belongings, we must leave at once.”
Ewyn cobbled together their remaining food and any useful items into a bundle and dressed his sister in warm clothes. Ready to depart, Ewyn took a last look around the room before lifting Isobel onto his back. Following Brennan out onto the cold, dark street, he felt his stomach turn over. He was unsure what lay beyond the walls but hoped that their fortunes would change for the better.
With dawn approaching, the darkness slowly abandoned them, their presence now obvious amongst the flurry of vendors moving with purpose towards the market square.
As they turned the corner next to Sorrow’s End Tavern, the mouth-watering aroma of fresh bread greeted them. They approached the bakery and tried the front door. It was firmly locked. At the rear, a middle-aged man stood with his back to the open door. He was busy kneading dough, while whistling cheerfully.
“Merry as ever I see, Alistair!” said Brennan, smiling.
The man froze for a moment before slowly turning around.
“Brennan? My old friend! You are alive! Where have you been these past years?”
“I had the displeasure of being one of Lord Ravensworth’s special guests.”
“Say no more. Where that cur has a hand, all men suffer.” Approaching Brennan, he looked closely at the wrinkles and scars lining his face. “Time, or should I say the jailer has not been kind … though kindness is not something found in abundance inside or outside that forsaken place. But I sense you are not here for an ale and a story. How may I aid you, my friend?”
“The guards are searching for us. The tunnel is our only way out.”
“Of course, come inside,” said Alistair locking the door behind them. “You all look famished. Please, help yourself to some bread and cakes.”
Looking through the selection of delicious pastries in front of him, Ewyn settled on a meat pie and stuffed it into his mouth enjoying the flaky pastry and succulent chunks of meat. Isobel was now wide awake convincing Ewyn that she could indeed sense food nearby, even in her sleep. Enjoying a crumbly jam tart and perhaps convinced that she was still dreaming, Isobel did not seem to find their immediate presence in a bakery surrounded by food to be the slightest bit strange.
“Here – this should be enough for a few days,” said the baker as he handed Brennan a large cloth bag filled to the brim with treats. “You will need transport away from the city. It so happens that a merchant I am on good terms with will be leaving Silverbrook later today. He is not the most amiable man, but he is trustworthy. Remain hidden inside the ruins at the end of the tunnel. I will pay him to stop there and take you to the nearest city.”
Moments later, someone banged loudly on the front door.
“Alistair Bigges, open up immediately by order of the city guard!” said a gruff voice.
“You must have been seen! Hurry! Into the tunnel!” whispered Alistair, as he moved a large crate aside and lifted a section of the tiled floor.
“Thank you. I am in your debt,” said Brennan.
“No, my friend, I will always be in debt to you for all your past kindness. Now go and may the Gods be with you!”
As the tiles were replaced and the crate moved back, the banging at the door became louder.
Brennan listened carefully as Alistair answered the door. The guards pushed past him and immediately began to search the rooms.
“My apologies, I dozed off next to the warm oven. The streets were so alive with commotion last night, I could barely sleep!” said the baker.
The guard glared at him. “We have been informed that two escaped criminals were sighted entering this shop.”
“No one here!” called a young guard from the back room.
Alistair shrugged while pretending to look confused. The oldest guard scowled before recalling his men and leaving to search the building next door. Hearing them leave and satisfied that his friend was safe, Brennan led the way down the narrow passage. Climbing the crumbling stone steps to the surface, they emerged in front of a broken statue in an overgrown courtyard.
“I know this place! This is the old trade district where the markets were held before Silverbrook was rebuilt. My father told me about it!” Ewyn exclaimed.
Brennan was surprised that someone so young knew such an old place.
“It has been years since I was last here, but I believe there is an old storehouse this way. It has a good view of the road.”
As they settled down in the storehouse, Isobel awoke once more, now fully aware of their surroundings. Ewyn explained the situation and tried his best to reassure her. He fell silent, however, when she raised the question of their destination. Ewyn had tried his best to provide and keep them safe since the loss of their parents. Having never left Silverbrook, his natural confidence had been replaced with a feeling of helplessness and uncertainty. Isobel continued to press him, but he had no answer.
Brennan looked at the two children, sitting on the cold floor, lost beyond the boundaries of the only world they had ever known.
“Ewyn, Isobel … I once had a home too. A beautiful wife and two beautiful children. But no more. My children left this world long ago, and though my wife may live, I cannot return to her as Lord Ravensworth will surely come searching for me. I will not put her life in danger. For now, I must wander until I find a new place in this world.” Brennan paused and smiled warmly. “I cannot offer you a home, but if you wish, we can follow the road together and see where fortune takes us.”
The streets were a dangerous place, and Ewyn had learnt to exercise caution with trust. Nevertheless, he believed in this old man who had already shown them such kindness. Looking down, he found Isobel smiling, seemingly in agreement.
“We would like that very much,” said Ewyn.
As dusk cloaked the ruins in darkness, Brennan heard a cart approaching. Venturing outside alone, he walked towards the cart which stopped at his feet.
“What is your name stranger?” asked the rough, stocky man in charge of the large wagon loaded with empty barrels and piles of linen.
“I am Brennan.”
“Very well. The baker paid me to pick you up. Climb on.”
Brennan beckoned to Ewyn and Isobel. The young boy ran to the cart with his sister on his back and all three quickly climbed on, settling amongst the goods.
“Where are you headed?” asked the merchant.
Ewyn looked at the long road before them unsure of where it led, but knowing they would be fine.
“Where ever fortune takes us.”
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About the author
Originally from England, Bobby Fisher currently lives in Australia with his wife and family of twelve birds and sixteen guinea pigs.
He has been an avid reader of a variety of genres since childhood, including Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy. He enjoys the works of authors such as Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Stephen King and more recently Colin F. Barnes and Rosa Montero.
Upon graduating from University with a degree in Archaeology and Ancient History, he worked as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan before moving to Australia. After deciding to make use of his personal passion for tech and computers, he went back to University part-time and graduated with a degree in I.T., leading to his current job as an I.T. Technician.
He took the leap from reader to storyteller in 2017, with his first published story ‘A Thief’s Fortune’.
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