A/N (Aroihkin's Notes) 08.14.05:
This is the revamped version of TAF 1. This is not a continuation. The way it was first written can still be found as the first chapter.
The one-shot that started a series...
05.02.2010: All scene-dividers have been eaten, again, on all of my stories. I give up. Please just go read this story on arowrites dot net where it hasn't been made incoherent; I am unable to keep up with this site's stupidity.
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The Akara Files
First File: Just BeClause She Can
Finally revamped, 08.14.05.
Snow was falling over Palanthas in the dying light of sunset, swirling down onto the buildings and streets. It added to the blanket of white that already covered the city, filling in the imperfections created from moving wagons, horses, and people. Most sensible people were indoors right now, with the approaching night only adding to the chill.
Light from inside windows cast squares of warm illusion on the deep, blue-white coating of winter, illuminating patches of falling snowflakes before they settled on the ground. The setting sun still cast its light between some of the buildings, not quite over the horizon yet... but drifting steadily downwards.
Akara didn't care how pretty it all was, she just knew she was colder than the abyss. Right now, the sun was in exactly the worst place for the thief... shining right into her eyes, and she found herself squinting as she adjusted the pack on her shoulder and hunched further into her cloak.
Pausing for a moment within view of the City Plaza, Akara fished two tangled amulets out of the front of her tunic, and held them up to look at them for perhaps the twelfth time that day. But this time it wasn't to try and pull them off--she'd given up on that--and it wasn't to scold the inanimate disks either.
/ They're both getting... warm? / she turned them over in her gloved hand, wondering if it was just an illusion from the cold. / Probably. Most things feel warm after a cross-country trek in the middle of winter. /
Shivering, she tucked them back into her shirt, yanked her cloak tighter around her shoulders, and continued to stomp through what had to be a foot of snow. Out in the open, outside of the city, the snow wasn't this deep at all. But here between the buildings it was just piling up, sliding off of rooftops to pile even more. And, after all, this was the dead of winter... it wasn't like this was the first snow of the day.
Near the center of the shining, snowy city of Palanthas, a single, lone black tower stood in sharp contrast to the blinding white around it. The evil core of the city of good, Akara snorted, eyeing the dark object looming closer as she trudged along. And in that dark tower? One black-robed man with golden skin and penetrating golden eyes. The Master of Past and Present, Hero of the Lance, and generally the Most Feared Living Person On Krynn. He had no idea what he was in store for, this Yule.
Akara personally wasn't a follower of any God or Goddess, but when Paladine himself offered her a mission and the means to accomplish it, she wasn't going to turn it down. And she knew just enough about the powerful Raistlin Majere to know this would be a challenge well worth the risk and time. Deadly, clever, powerful, and... yes, it bore repeating... deadly.
There would be no calling of the town guards to haul her away if she was caught, no chance of escape, no chance of mercy... not that she would have wanted it. The thief smiled wryly at the jail as she stomped her way past the formidable, nausea-inducing structure. No, nothing would protect her from the Archmagus' wrath if she was caught, and that was exactly the way she preferred it.
The first of the amulets was supposed to protect her from the Shoikan Grove's effects, by diluting the mind-numbing terror the place reputedly cast over any creatures who came near it. This disk, topaz and opal and the size of her open palm, would also unlock the tower doors, windows, and open the main gates.
That's what the crazy old man had said, and she saw no reason to not believe him.
And now she stood in front of the dark gates to the most feared structure on Krynn, the Grove surrounding her and managing only to give her the creeps. Both pendants were definitely warm, it wasn't an illusion. Akara shrugged out of her cloak and pulled her pack off, rummaging inside. A small wooden box with tiny holes in its bright wrapping was set aside, its contents a mystery to her, and the equally-mysterious card to be delivered with it was set out as well.
A bag with long drawstrings and loops on the bottom was also drawn out of her pack, and set down. And finally, her grappling hook and its length of rope. She packed the box and card into the smaller bag, tied off the top, and proceeded to loop the long drawstrings over her back. Within moments, the package was secure against her thin frame, and she tossed her pack into a dark tree before taking up her grappling hook.
Then she stood in front of the gate, looking it over suspiciously... and a touch warily. The fabled Grove hadn't hurt her, so she knew the first pendant worked as Paladine had claimed. But what about the second? What if it failed? The second amulet--a plain-seeming hammered disk of silver--was supposed to protect her from being seen, sensed, or smelled by any undead Guardian. Or, for that matter, any of Raistlin's -live- creations.
What if it didn't work? The game would be up before it had even been played, the second one of the Guardians spotted her. Akara sighed. She had been standing here too long, hesitating like a spineless fool instead of planning and acting like a seasoned thief. She considered her likely options for a moment, and then reached out and touched the gate.
Something clicked, the first pendant pulsed, and she was able to open the gate freely. The thief slipped inside and shut the dreaded entry before she could scare herself worse, and nearly jumped out of her skin as a spectral Guardian floated past. It hesitated for a moment, as if not sure what it had been intending to do, before continuing on its way... floating right through a wall of the tower.
/ That... that's kind of creepy. / Akara gulped. / Kind of cool, too, though. /
She looked up at the tower. And up, and up. It was much larger now that she stood right in front of it, rather than eyeing it from halfway across the city. Still, she thought she would have enough rope to reach the top. Akara coiled her rope, swung her hook as she eyed the distance, and then released the projectile. She felt it catch, and immediately began to scramble up the line.
In fact, Akara managed to get her goal window open and get inside before the Mage, alerted by the sound of the hook hitting his tower, was able to investigate. The rope was already coiled around her waist again, and she was already inside the study, before he appeared outside to look into the matter personally. No doubt, he'd tried to have his Guardians check first, to no result.
But she was in the dragon's cave now, so to speak. The most powerful and reportedly evil of mortals was alerted that something was here, and he was looking for her.
Terrifying. Akara grinned roguishly and moved to the desk, pulling her delivery out of her pack and setting it on his chair. It would be out of sight until the next time he pulled the chair from under the desk to sit, which... according to Paladine, wouldn't be much time at all. This was the man's study, where he spent most of his time.
Footsteps, outside the door.
Eyes widening, Akara quickly dove under the giant desk just before the door was opened and Raistlin Majere entered, staff thumping dully on the floor with his steps and illuminating the room. He inspected the room slowly, coming to a halt near the chair as though he would pull it out to sit at any moment.
Which meant that Akara's cover would be blown to little steaming bits. She shut her eyes and swallowed, her heartbeat so loud in her ears that she just -knew- he could hear it clearly as well. But apparently he couldn't, because after several excruciatingly long moments of silence, Raistlin turned and walked through another door. The one to his bedchamber.
Akara almost breathed a sigh of relief, almost. She wasn't that stupid... she'd stay hidden until she felt it was safe. She was a daredevil, most certainly. Suicidal, maybe... but she wasn't stupid, and Raistlin was too clever by half.
Four long hours later, the girl finally dared to move. She pulled herself out between the legs of the chair itself, stomach to the floor, and lay still for a long moment before raising to a crouch. The thief took a moment to look around, holding her breath, and then finally stood.
Mission accomplished. Time to get out.
Akara took a step away from the desk and looked from the window she had come in through, to the door to Raistlin's bedchamber. Window, door, window, door. Finally, her gaze settled on a bit of blank parchment and a quill on the desk, and a grin slowly spread across her face.
Well, why not?
Besides the soft glow of dying embers of the fireplace, the room was completely and utterly dark. Akara took a moment to let her eyes adjust, at home in the dark, before moving further into the room in silent feet. The blank parchment and a quill full of ink in hand, Akara moved to the bedside in complete silence, and looked at her target for the first time.
/ By the Gods. The legends said nothing about this. /
The lines of bitterness and pain he was told to always have had smoothed out in his sleep, the white hair was tangled a little, and almost in his face. Akara knew better than to try and move it, even if she'd really wanted to. If she so much as breathed wrong he'd be awake in a second with a spell on his lips.
His lips. Now that her attention was on them, she noted they were smooth looking; soft and un-flecked by blood. She tried to imagine his eyes... they were probably stunning, in a dangerously beautiful way, like most predators. Delicate lashes and thin eyelids wouldn't tell her, however, and she almost wished he -would- wake up, just so she could see the legendary hourglass pupils and searing gold irises.
/ He's beautiful. Nobody ever mentions that when they describe him. / Akara tipped her head to one side, still studying the sleeping Archmagus/ I don't think it would be so bad at all, to be killed by this one... /
The mischievous grin came back, she silently wrote her note and very, very, carefully set it down on his blanket-covered chest, expecting him to wake up and tear her apart with his magic at any second. Would he even -need- a spell, she wondered, or could he do it by force of power alone?
Nothing happened though, she slipped out of the room, out of the tower, and finally off of the Master of the Past and Present's grounds completely.
Raistlin stirred when light filtered into his room. It was dawn, and he wouldn't be able to sleep anymore. The Archmagus coughed slightly and put a hand to his chest.
Blinking in shock and suddenly completely awake, he picked up the piece of paper and sat up, reading the sharp handwriting.
Dear Raistlin Majere,
I don't care what people say--you're beautiful, especially when asleep.
And the elaborate signature read "wouldn't you like to know?".
Raistlin blinked in utter surprise, got up, and demanded to know what had happened from the first Guardian he encountered.
"We do not know, Master. None of us saw or felt anything last night." the disembodied head told him respectfully, "The live one's pool does not show anything, either."
Cursing, he pulled his study chair out with a violent jerk, and then saw the brightly-wrapped package and card. Grabbing the card, he opened it and read it over.
You may have been able to stop the gods from entering your tower, Raistlin Majere, but in doing so you challenged me. And I passed that challenge on to a young thief.
Merry Yuletide, Raistlin.
There was no mistaking it, the power radiating off of the card and package told that it really was from the God of good. The crazy old man really -was- determined to harass him.
Raistlin cautiously opened the package, and actually smiled genuinely at what he saw. A small black rabbit blinked up at the Archmagus, a creature immune to his cursed sight... it did not wither and decay as he watched. Paladine's work.
He picked the rabbit up out of the box and held it with one arm, stroking its back with one hand as he stared out the window. Perhaps the old man wasn't quite as crazy, then.
Somewhere else in the city, Akara grinned at the old man named Fizban.
"So, when's his birthday?"
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Dragonlance © someone else.
All here that is not found in the books... is mine.
Never steal if you value your spleen.
Reviews are lovely, reviews make the Aro happy, and a happy Aro is more inspired to write.
However, they are not absolutely required, and flames will result in a very annoyed Aro. I'm not forcing you to read my stuff, you must realize. So I've no sympathy for you if you read it, hate it, and yet can't keep your pointer off the review button.
Constructive criticism is awesome, mind, but I can tell thinly-veiled sarcasm when I see it.
Continued in TAF: Book By Its Cover.