The Mirror of Lies: Part I

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

A new short story about a young thief and the strange entity that forced him into servitude.

As you all know by now, my work contains a lot of allegory; let’s see if you can figure this one out before part two 😉

Enjoy!

Heavy rain pelted down, drenching the face of Thorn Etheren.

He closed his eyes for a fraction of a second and sighed internally. This was without a doubt, not the weather he had been hoping to be working in. He opened his eyes and peered cautiously down at the street many stories below his precarious position. He was perched on the small parapet of the central tower of the Imperial Complex. It had been no small feat to make it all the way up here and if it weren’t for the rain, Thorn would be feeling quite satisfied with his performance. Fortunately, the downpour had only started once the thief had made it past the third set of parapets, which meant that the most dangerous portion of the job was behind him.

He hoped.

Cringing slightly, he edged around the small ledge until his hands found the latch of a window behind him. He held his breath, as nimble fingers investigated the lock’s intimate anatomy.

“Heh, they didn’t expect anybody to be playing with you anytime soon,” he murmured as he fished out a stumpy lock pick from one of the pouches around his belt. A few seconds later, he heard a satisfying “click” and the window swung quietly inwards. Behind him, Thorn could now feel musty warm air wafting out of the open space. He quickly ducked down into the large study, making sure to close the window firmly behind him.

He turned and whistled softly under his breath as his eyes took in sumptuous furniture, cabinets filled with opulent jewellery and chests filled with coin.

“The Imperial Law-master likes to keep his riches close to home,” he whispered to himself as his hand passed absentmindedly over a small pile of gold talents.

“Remember why you are here, filth. You have a contract to uphold; I require my payment.”

An odd emotion gripped Thorn’s stomach and settled around it like a stone. He didn’t need to turn around to know that Yersch’s demonic muzzle was grinning mere inches from the back of his neck.

“I’m working on it,” he growled, refusing to give the infernal creature the slightest satisfaction. He looked around the study, searching for the Ebony Coronet, the ultimate symbol of imperial law.

“Hurry it up, boy. I have little patience for your dawdling. If you take too long, I may just have to find new ways of encouraging you…,” the deep voice trailed off ominously.

“Give it a rest Yersch! I haven’t forgotten our agreement and I have so far never cheated you out of a single one of your precious baubles. So shut up and let me work!”

The smoke demon said nothing, but Thorn could feel it seething behind him with barely contained rage. His eyes finally found what he was looking for: an ornate oak case resting gently on a small table in the far corner. He padded carefully forward, paying close attention to the floor between him and the box.

“Careful,” hissed the demon and Thorn’s vision flared as Yersch’s magic flooded his senses.

The thief gasped and quickly stopped moving, as a dark hole appeared a mere step in front of him. It had been well hidden by a carefully crafted illusion and the young man was certain that, had the demon not intervened, he would be dead.

“Your debt grows larger, slave,” Yersch whispered darkly, placing a cold, clawed hand on Thorn’s shoulder.

The thief cursed softly to himself as he skirted around the pit. With trembling hands, he undid the small knot holding the case shut. He smiled appreciatively as he looked within. The Ebony Coronet was indeed nestled on a bed of dark velvet and the Veiled Eye –a monstrous amethyst- shimmered dully in its centre.

“Yeeesss…,” crooned the demon softly.

Thorn quickly shut the case and did up the knot. In a few quick movements, he was back on the ledge of the small window, the rain tapping rhythmically on the wooden box.

“Now for the fun part,” he said looking at Starling Square, a few miles from his current position.

“Quickly!” snarled Yersch, whipping shadows around Thorn, “Ukal Velirius comes!”

The thief’s head snapped towards the door of the study. It was now ajar and contained within its frame was a small dark-haired elf.

“Interesting,” the newcomer murmured softly. “If I’m not mistaken, you must be the famous Shadow-skipper, the demon-bound master-thief of legend! I am, I must admit, quite impressed.”

A cold bead of sweat ran down Thorn’s back as the Law-master stepped calmly into his study. Ukal Velirius was one of the most skilled sorcerers in the Emperor’s employ. He was also, not a man whose attention the thief wanted to attract.

“Greetings, Your Lordship,” he answered jovially, his voice masked by the swirls of Yersch’s unholy magic. “I must say, your quarters are rather more sumptuous than I imagined.”

“I will take that as a compliment, master Shadow-skipper,” the elf answered, moving to sit down in a comfortable armchair just opposite the window. “I am, myself, quite fascinated to be perfectly frank…your fabled “possession” is not at all what I was expecting.” He peered curiously at the smoke surrounding the young man’s form.

Thorn felt the demon swirling around tense up; Yersch was growing angry. He smiled to himself.

“Oh? How so?”

“Well, the stories always mentioned that you had incurred a debt with a powerful elemental demon from beyond…and I’m quite astonished to discover that this is indeed not the case.”

“What?!” he exclaimed, setting one foot down from the ledge and into the office.

“Don’t listen to him,” snarled Yersch, “he’s trying to trick you. If you listen to his lies, you will soon feel the bite of a torturer’s blade.”

“I…I don’t understand,” Thorn said, staring into the Law-master’s sapphire eyes.

“I’m sure you don’t. The nature of the thing controlling you is much more…personal. But, I don’t think I shall say anything more. That is, not until you’ve returned the Coronet.”

“The trickster shows his hand,” came the wheezing growl.

“I’m afraid that isn’t much of an offer, Your Lordship,” said the thief, mustering a scornful tone.

“No,” mused Velirius, “perhaps not. Very well; if you return my property, I will not only consider employing you, but I will also help you remove the influence of your pesky friend. Does that sound more appetizing?”

Thorn froze, as for the first time in fifteen years, he allowed himself to think of a life without Yersch.

“No!”

“You…you could do that?” he asked tentatively, ignoring the demon’s cold claws digging in between his shoulder blades.

The Law-master studied him carefully from behind steepled fingers.

“Yes, I think I could. If you were willing to rid yourself of its influence, most certainly.”

Hope bloomed in the dark corners of Thorn’s demon-infested mind and for a second, his grip on the wooden box relaxed.

“NO! You are mine! Always and forever! Until your debt is extinguished or your weary bones crumble into dust and your spirit falters into nothing! Now, JUMP!”

The order lashed through him like a fire-tongued whip and Thorn was out the window and plummeting through the storm to the street below.

“Damn you!” he sobbed as the demon wrapped around him and transported them to the Smokefells, the dimension parallel to Thorn’s own reality. Immediately, the buildings around them grew into dark spires of roiling black mist and the street faded away, replaced by a space without up or down.

Yersch’s cruel laughter floated around them as he tugged Thorn along, navigating the Fells back to the space that, in the real world, was the cavern beneath the Wounded Boar.

“You cannot be free of me. I have powers beyond the comprehension of that pathetic elf. I laid claim to your soul fifteen years ago and no magic in the ten dimensions could rid you of me. So, submit. And pay. Your. Dues.”

They emerged from a shadow beneath a giant stalagmite, a few feet away from the Pit. The dark chasm took up most of the cavern and was the fulcrum of all of Thorn’s tasks.

“Quickly now, quickly,” the demon hissed, drifting to the sliver of rock that jutted out over the empty space.

Like countless times before, the thief moved out on to the small outcrop until he was standing in front of a small stone altar. Two objects lay on the polished surface: a smooth silver mirror and a simple butcher’s knife. He picked up the knife and stared at the mirror, hate filling his soul at the sight of the thing that was the source of all his misery.

Sensing Yersch’s impatience, he quickly drew blood from his finger and let a few crimson drops fall into the Pit. Then, without any ceremony, he heaved the oak case over the edge. He didn’t even look at it disappear into the darkness, nor did he wait to hear the sounds of an impact.

There wouldn’t be any.

“Satisfied?” he murmured, as he made his way to the ladder that would take him to his small rooms in the bowels of the Wounded Boar tavern.

“Yes,” gurgled Yersch happily. Thorn always thought that the demon sounded fuller after the ritual. Satisfied even.

As he collapsed on to his bed and faded into sleep, smoke curled around his form and a slow hiss filled the corridors of his dreams.

“More…I need more…” Far below, the mirror glinted evilly on the stone altar.-

The story continues in The Mirror of Lies: Part II

3 thoughts on “The Mirror of Lies: Part I

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