by J.P. Fischer
A re-write of my previous story A Rude Interruption. The peace of home is disturbed.
A Rude Interruption
The fireplace crackled lazily, bathing the room in a soft orange glow. This particular fireplace stood in the middle of the shortest wall of the small room, and on the wall opposite, tucked into the corner, was a squat, lumpy bed. Lying on this bed lay a man, short and indeterminate in build, but the humble flicker of the fireplace was not enough to properly show his features. The man happened to be asleep, as one is expected to be so late at night, and fast asleep at that. With a slight snort, he rolled over, so his face, which looked rather gormless in sleep, faced the small fireplace, just as the hearth gave a loud pop, and the log crackled fiercely. The walls of the room were fairly empty, with a plain, unobtrusive wallpaper, save for two mismatched paintings sitting by either side of the winding flue of the fireplace, which was cobbled and rough. Like their owner, the contents of these pieces couldn't properly be made out, save for the subjects of the one on the left, who hung in shadows, silent guardians. A faded wooden door stood, slightly ajar next to the fireplace, a brass doorknob reflecting the firelight well. The floor of the room seemed to be quite as bare as the walls. Excluding the already mentioned bed and fireplace, not much else occupied the room. An armchair, squashy like the bed, was seated by the fire, with a pile of books stacked haphazardly on the chair. The topmost of these books had its cover opened, the revealed page folded in the corner to serve as a bookmark. A painterly plate lay beside the chair, gravy, stone cold by now, smeared around half of the dish. A seemingly ancient chest of drawers, battered and discoloured, was cramped up against the wall adjacent to the fireplace, with one of its topmost drawers opened slightly. The last thing of note in the room was a window, round and relatively small, located smack-dab in the middle of the wall opposite the drawers. Outside this window, the night sky could be seen above the silhouettes of the cramped stone buildings, a dark inky blue. Set against the sky was a lone tower, a pinnacle black both in night and day. It stood well over a few hundred metres in the sky, but like all things in the night, had details shrouded in the darkness that could not be made out until the daytime. The occasional dull thud of rain plunking against the window could be heard, but it was light and scattered. But when we are sleeping, all trouble and thought leaves us, and this was the case with the man housed in this room. As he snored sleepily, the boom of a large ringing sound filled the air. Dwomm. Dwomm. It was the sound of a bell, a church bell to be precise. The bell in question was located at the peak of the black tower outside. Judging by the volume of the bell and the perspective from the ground, one might assume that the lone building was quite nearby the man's house. This, of course, is quite incorrect. If one were to lay this tower down, its length from top to bottom could be laid out twice from the man's room to the tower's base, several hundred metres away. Nevertheless it was quite loud enough to wake an average person from even the deepest of slumbers, but the people living in the stony area around the tower had become accustomed to it over the years. Dwomm. Dwomm. The man stirred, but failed to awaken. Hopefully you have not found hearing the monotonous details of this room boring, but 'boring' was exactly what most people described it as. Nosy neighbours often peeked into the window, as some are inclined to do when they are that curious, and have a quick look around. Every night and every day however, the room remained stubbornly generic. Perhaps a book was moved from the chair to the floor, or near the bed, or the remains of a hot dinner taken to the kitchen, instead of left lazily by the fire, but these were the biggest kind of changes that occurred in the room, and eventually, even the most intruding and gossipy of neighbours were forced to conclude there was simply nothing to talk about, regarding both the room and the man, and returned to grabbing at the thinnest straws of what looked to be an interesting story, even though most of the time these straws held no more result then the man's room. Dwomm. Dwomm. Six dwomms from the dark tower. As anyone in those parts would tell you, these signalled the passing of the hour, and this particular hour happened to be one o' clock in the morning. The night was over halfway through now, in that strange time when you are either asleep, living nocturnally or lying in bed wondering why that dratted sleep just won't come. It was also the time, on this gloomy night, in that the daily routine of the household was rather rudely interrupted. The fire had dimmed down significantly now, with only a few low flames and the occasional feeble crackle. The rain was pouring down with decent force now, and the sky had darkened even further, so as the dark tower melded into the nothingness. As it was, no one, not even the man's nosiest and most beady-eyed of neighbours, could have spotted the figure that paused outside the window. For a moment, it peered into the room, surveying everything (you would be forgiven for thinking this was one of the man's neighbours), until with an eerie creak, it pushed the window open. It swung forward on a sideward hinge, and the sound of wind and rain intensified. Plunk-plunk-plunk. In most people's homes, the figure would have been confronted with a locked door or window, and would've slunk off into the shadows, perhaps disappointed, but the key for the window had been left, rather foolishly, in the lock, unturned, where it sat pointlessly. Eyeing the man in the bed apprehensively for a moment, the figure slowly lifted a leg in through the open window, and began to crawl in. After a moment, one foot lay successfully inside the room's boundaries. But as it lifted the other leg in to match, the figure's head met painfully with the top of the round window with a loud thump. The figure spasmed slightly, and crashed onto the rough timber floor inside with an even louder bang. The light of the hearth illuminating the crumpled figure now, it was clear that she was a young girl, perhaps a teenager. She looked up with terror at the sleeping man, but he simply snorted and rolled over, grumbling sleepily in a drunken fashion. Outside, the rumble of thunder filled the air. The girl had sly brown eyes and curly blonde hair, which fell over her round face unkemptly. Sighing gently as the man started snoring again, the girl closed the window slowly, so it let out a long creeaak. She winced as the window made a quiet bang as it closed, but the man was as asleep as ever. The girl then crept over, the floorboards creaking slightly, to the armchair by the fire. She began to rifle through the collection, peering at the titles.
The Ander-Uralt War, Volume 2
Heilen's Presence in the Anderwelt
The Ancient Land, Uralt's History
The Building of Nakth Turm, a Dark Tower
All the books had strange and nonsensical titles like this, but they must have made sense to the intruder. Mostly she would sit them gently back down on the chair, but occasionally she would open a small leather bag on her side, and slip one in. Eventually she finished with the books, popping one last, dusty old volume into her bag, and began to move to the set of drawers. But as soon as she moved there was a loud crash, and the sound of china breaking. The thief had stepped right onto the plate beside the chair, and it now laid shattered, gravy smeared all over the floor and her shoe. Now, deep a sleeper although he was, not even the man in the bed could ignore the sound of a plate being crushed mere metres away from him. Quickly, the thief swept the remains under the chair, and ducked behind the fireplace, her face alive with terror. The man stirred, and opened his eyes gingerly. He sat up slightly, scratched his head, and peered around the room. The thief's hand went towards a small dagger, hung at her side, and gripped it tightly. She shifted slightly so the fireplace would hide her better, and shakily quietened her breath. She unsheathed the dagger slowly, and braced herself, ready to strike. But the dagger was not required. Blinking sleepily, the man rolled over, throwing the mess of blankets back over himself. Slowly, the minutes crept by, until it felt like she had been there for an age. The man's snoring became louder and louder, until it was restored to its former glory, and the girl breathing became deeper and more uneasy. When it was quite plain the man was fast asleep once more, and was as threatening as a doorstop, the girl collapsed against the wall, clutching her chest. She sheathed the dagger, and staggered, albeit quietly, to her feet. Her eyes swept the floor, as if determined not to step on anymore plates, and tip-toed towards the ajar door. Slipping in, she vanished from sight, and much rustling could be heard, including occasional muffled bangs as drawers and cupboards were opened and shut. A few minutes later, the thief emerged back into the doorway, stuffing the remains of some dried beef taken from the kitchen in her mouth and her bag considerably heavier. She peered back into the main room, looking carefully at the man, then entered. Instantly, she made her way towards the drawers. She tiptoed and eventually made it, and then began pulling out drawers, searching through them restlessly. Personal possessions, clothes, family portraits, letters from old friends, most of it useless to the thief. Like the books, she would occasionally rest something in her bag, shooting nervous glances at the man (who remained thoroughly inactive), until the pouch was halfway full. The thief, however, bit her lip anxiously and counted up her earnings. While it certainly wasn't empty, it mustn't have been enough, because her eyes raked the room, coming to rest back on the drawers again. She had one last look through them without result, and peered desperately into the darkened corners, searching desperately for anything valuable. And as it turns out, she found it. Slung around the bedpost closest to the corner, near the pillow and the resting man's head, with a chain as fine as silk, was an amulet, gold and beautiful in the firelight. The thief bobbed up and down pointlessly for a moment, considering the risk. The bed, despite being rather short, was quite wide, and there was no way a girl of her size could reach across the full length without climbing on the bed. Eventually however, the temptation must've been too much. She had one last look through her bag, but she must have come to the same conclusion. Gulping, she slowly slinked towards the bed, where the man rested peacefully. She paused when she reached it, straightening so she loomed over the man. Her hand once again moved towards her dagger, but the thief did not unsheathe it. Instead, with a threatening creak, the thief rested her foot on the wooden frame of the bed supporting the mattress. Carefully, she pulled herself up, one foot resting slightly on the mattress, right next to the man, who remained peaceful. She stretched her hand out, her fingers grabbing desperately at the chain, but it remained stubbornly out of reach. She shifted slightly, so the bed gave a loud crack, and tried again. This time, her round face triumphant, the chain met with her fingers, and the thief pulled it gently off of the bedpost, examining it feverishly in the firelight. Suddenly, the second rude interruption that night occurred. Dwomm. Dwomm. Loud as a cannon, the church bells went off, the dawn of a new hour. The girl gave a small yelp, lost her balance, and collapsed onto the man. He yelled wildly and pushed her off the bed, flapping his limbs about. The thief fell painfully onto the wooden floorboards, where she laid, crumpled, and the amulet clattered to the ground.