A sea breeze lazily drifted past Leah, bringing with it the invigorating sting of salt. Although she dangled a hundred feet above cold, stony earth she stopped for a moment, inhaling the crisp scent. Hanging from a jagged climbing pick, she gazed over the great city of Dalwik, the moon casting a pale light upon the peaceful city. Slate roofed houses stretched in all directions, clouds of white smoke rolling from cobblestone chimneys. Here and there a garden or market square broke the stretch of buildings, ornate fountains burbling cheerfully.
The greatest of the city’s structures was absent from the skyline, however, for it was the building from which Leah hung. The Marlin, the royal palace of Dalwik, rose above her, its marbled brickwork stretching skyward in defiance of the moon. Having crept over the outer walls of the Duke’s personal gardens, Leah had began her ascent. Wicked climbing hooks eased her journey, and within a half hour the first of the structure’s multitude of windows was within her reach.
With one quick vault Leah would be within the labyrinthine halls of the Marlin, once again standing upon a sturdy surface. But, even with safety just feet away, she felt the need to bask in the moonlight, at least for a moment.
The moon always held great power over Leah. Since she was young she felt a strong pull to the celestial sphere, its cold light comforting in ways the harsh sun could never be. The moon gave her energy, and as it waxed and waned so to did Leah’s potential. At its zenith it drove the thief to astounding, and some would say unnatural, feats of skill and strength. Her monumental climb was one such wonder she could perform, and though it left her drained she soon felt herself fill with energy once again.
Taking in one last breath of clean sea air, Leah heaved herself over the windowsill, landing silently upon a stone staircase. Crouching low, she stopped for a moment, her ears straining for even the subtlest sound.
Only the soft breeze reached her. Satisfied she was undetected, she exhaled, and stood. Quickly she deposited her climbing hooks beneath her fur-lined cloak, placing them alongside several other tools of the trade.
Leah took a moment to smooth her attire, the climb having ruffled her cloak. While she had no intention of being caught, should the possibility arise she would have little chance of fighting a host of the Son’s of the Sea. If she looked the part of one of the Duke’s mistresses, she could talk her way out of the tower. Should guile fail, she could fling the cloak at her foe, buying her enough time to find the nearest exit.
Stepping lightly, Leah ascended the staircase. In her experience, nobles kept most of their wealth in the higher floors, as if height would discourage a seasoned thief.
The staircase stretched on for some distance, interspersed with ornate windows giving Leah a glimpse of the pale moon. Now and again doors would appear to her right, leading to the Marlin’s multitude of rooms. Their mundane nature hinted at a more menial purpose, perhaps a storeroom or the quarters of some servant. No, what Leah was looking for was something big, something pompous.
She did not have to wait long. A gilded door presented itself to her, carved from exotic hardwoods and inlaid with precious metals. Great waves adorned the monstrous portal, crashing towards the centre with a mist of silver spray. Horrendous beasts surfaced from the timber tides, their eyes replaced with spheres of gold. And, dead in the centre, was a single, colossal lock.
Leah smirked. It was a one of a kind piece, made from solid brass. The workmanship was out of place with the rest of the door, and the thief postulated that it was a relic from a bygone age, forged with more than just metal and sweat. It had been a decade since she saw a lock of that caliber, and the thought of what lay behind sent chills of excitement down her spine.
With one fluid motion Leah produced a lockpick from her belt, itself an ancient relic. Carved from whale bone and inlaid with strange symbols, it had been passed to Leah from an elderly acquaintance, a fellow thief who had come to the end of their career. Without fail the pick found the tumblers of any lock, as if driven by a sentience all its own.
Glancing side to side one last time, Leah set about opening the lock.