The Goblin Thief
by Richard Davey
Paeyne suppressed a curse and sucked his finger for the third time in ten minutes.
"Your not very good at that, are you?", came a smug voice behind him.
"They are new. I have to break them in", Paeyne replied through gritted teeth.
"The lockpicks or the fingers?", Celine asked sweetly.
"Celine", Paeyne replied in an equally sweet voice, "I love you like a sister, but if you don't shut up I will re-activate the pit you're standing on."
"My, my", said Celine, stepping quickly to the right, "Your in a crabby mood today. Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?"
"You should know.", Paeyne retorted, "You dragged me out of a soft bed and from the arms of a beautiful woman. I've had two hours rest and I am currently up to my knees in sewage. If anyone else had charged into my room they would be limping for a month."
"She wasn't your type anyway."
"What part of 'arms of a beautiful woman' did you not understand Celine."
Paeyne made a deft flick of the wrist and the grate lock opened with a soft click. Both the lock and the grate were well oiled. Not a good sign.
"I am sorry Paeyne.", Celine continued, "I really appreciate you helping me like this. I didn't have time to find anyone else. Not anyone I could trust, anyway."
"It's alright Celine. I am elven. I have the time. It was the timing I had a problem with. We have another problem. This area of the sewer is too well taken care of. I thought you were looking for a goblin thief?"
Celine nodded, her brow furrowed.
"Well", Paeyne continued, "we are dealing with more than goblins then.
Contrary to your opinion, goblins are smart enough to maintain traps and doors, they are just too lazy. There is something down here other than goblins and us."
The ranger frowned at Paeyne but said nothing. The pair slipped through the grate and continued slowly down the passage. They were both stealthy individuals but the foot of water they were walking through was making it difficult. Each step seemed to make a deafening sloshing sound and sent ripples for dozens of feet in every direction. As inconvenient as this was, it was not Paeyne's prime concern. The murky water could conceal a number of dangers. A corroded trip wire would be difficult to spot and a pressure plate would be almost impossible.
They had not gone far when sounds of growls and guttural words came wafting up the corridor. Celine acknowledged his sign to stay back and he continued slowly up the corridor. Keeping his back to the one wall reduced the ripples of his movement slightly. Inching along, he suddenly became aware of a brightening light coming from a side passage. He quickly looked for cover and saw there was none. Taking a deep breath, he lay down in the dirty water, praying to whichever gods might be listening that his breath would hold out and he wouldn't be stepped on.
Each second seemed like an eternity. He could feel the ripples of the creatures entering the corridor. They stopped for a moment, as if deciding which way to go. Paeyne ground is teeth as his lungs screamed for air.
Finally, he saw the dim light recede as they continued up another side passage. When he could not hold his breath any longer he slowly raised his face above the waterline. Even the putrid air of the sewer was welcome at that moment. He glanced up the other corridor and could see the retreating figures. They were wererats. Paeyne cursed under his breath and rose from the stinking water. When he was sure there were no other creatures around he whistled softly, calling Celine forward.
"Which way Celine? Personally, I don't think south is an option right now."
Celine examined each direction carefully. "It's difficult to track in this muck.", she said finally, "My first guess would be north."
"Opposite direction of the wererats; works for me.", he said. The dirt on his face seem to accent his boyish smile.
They walked for some time up the corridor. As they continued, the water receded until the floor was merely a layer of soft mud. Finally, they entered a large storm drain and met a gruesome sight. There was a score of goblins, all dead, killed in varying brutal ways.
"It would seem wererats like goblins as much as you do.", said Paeyne looking over the scene with disgust. "I don't care what you say Celine.", he said, "No-one deserves to die like that. Not even a goblin." Celine merely nodded in reply. "Come on.", Paeyne continued, "Lets see if your thief is here."
It was a long and gruesome task searching the remains. Finally Celine gave a gasp of relief and pulled an object from the mud.
"Paeyne! I found it!", she cried holding up a large cat tooth on a leather thong.
"That's it?", exclaimed Paeyne, "That's what we are here for?"
"It's important to me Paeyne!", she retorted defensively.
Paeyne took a deep even breath. "You're right. I'm sorry.", he replied, "Lets get out of here. We can climb up that pipe and get out that grate."
It took a little effort, but they managed to scale the pipe. As they entered the comparatively fresh air of the city streets, Celine put her hand on Paeyne's arm.
"I really appreciate your help Paeyne. I owe you one."
Paeyne smiled with his boyish grin. He smudged dirt over the back of her hand as he kissed it. "I stopped keeping score a long time ago, Hun."
They walked up the street arm in arm to the waiting inn, ignoring the open stares of the passersby.
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