A Curious Morning
By Gareth Johnson
It fell from the sky.
It made a dull thunk when it hit the dirt. Oddly, it didn’t bounce.
Thaud stood there, staring at it for a moment. He raised his gaze to the tower above. Had someone dropped it from a window? No one he could see.
Thaud picked up the dagger by its handle. It felt warm to the touch in the crisp morning air.
The blade was fine and sharp. The handle and crosspiece were elegant, and not overly glamorous. It was clearly crafted for both utility and show. Why would someone have been so careless as to drop it?
Despite the intrigue, Thaud was getting distracted from his mission. With a shrug, he tucked the dagger into the only slot in his cloak not already occupied.
The estate was just a short walk outside the city proper. It was small for the estate of duchess, but then the duchess was also small, and only 10 years old.
As Thaud reached the gate, the guards tensed. Had they been tipped off? He showed them his best tax collector smile. “Good morning Ser and Madame! I have a meeting with the Duchette.”
“Um…I’m sorry, but the Duchette is…preoccupied,” the woman said. Clearly, she was the more composed of the pair, though that wasn’t saying much. The other guard had a hand on his mace and was visibly sweating.
What is going on here? This was supposed to be a routine gig!
“Relax.” Thaud patted the air in front of him. “I’m not here to cause trouble. If it’s a bad time…”
“Well then you had better get going!” The man cut him off. It also gave him the emotional momentum to pull the mace from his belt and raise it threateningly. For a moment, it looked like the woman would try to stop him, but realizing the futility of it, she reached for her own.
Instinctively, Thaud grabbed one of his daggers and dropped into a defensive posture. He was not going to fight them. Maybe just disorient them a bit and make a break for it. He doubted he could beat them in a fair fight, and further doubted he would come out of it unscathed.
But then the woman let out a startled cry and backed away quickly. The man blanched and nearly wet himself. “Wha…what are you?” he managed to say.
Without missing a beat, Thaud decided to lean into it. “I’m your worst nightmare.” He even let out a low growl to accentuate his performance. His old stage professor would have been proud. Likely confused, but also proud.
That certainly did the trick. The guards dropped their weapons and sprinted away in sheer panic. It all seemed a bit melodramatic actually. Thaud never liked melodramas, whether he was watching or participating in them. Thaud liked subtle. He liked the attention to detail that it took to portray a deep, multi-faceted character. The terrified guards seemed like they’d been plucked out of a children’s storybook, and that irritated him on a level he couldn’t quite rationalize.
A thought occurred to him. Looking at the dagger he had pulled, he saw it was the one he just picked up that morning. Of all fifteen small sharp objects he had stowed around his person, that was the one he grabbed. He looked himself up and down. He didn’t look or feel any different, and no one else was even within earshot, as far as he could tell.
He inspected the dagger. Hmm…that’s new. There was a glowing symbol in the shape of an eye on the small pommel. As he stared at it, the symbol gradually faded. Some kind of arcane mark.
Sticking it back in his cloak, he hoped he wouldn’t need it again today. His only job was to give a fake message to a juvenile duchess and then steal some jewelry. Simple. And then he could go get the dagger assessed by a professional.
Thaud casually picked the lock on the gate and strode into the estate as if he would soon own the place. He stepped up to the manor and knocked twice before realizing the door was unbarred. Assuming an air of earned confidence, he pushed the door open, prepared to berate the wait staff.
He made it exactly two steps before stopping cold.
There was blood on the floor. A lot of it.
He had the dagger back in his hand, though he didn’t remember drawing it. And he heard its voice in his mind… “Curious,” it said.