An'alla ran down the ally as if all the demons of P'teth were after her. A quick look over her shoulder at the raging mob behind her made her wish it WERE just demons after her. After all, demons could be bribed...a raging mob that was after the thief who just stolen their miserable village's most prized holy possession could not.
Feeling the first cold drops of the early winter rain hit her face with freezing coldness, she skidded to a stop spraying a puddle of slimy water just ahead of her. Ducking sideways into a smelly alley she cast her one saved spell of the day. Taking a deep breath, she pressed her back into the broken brick wall behind her and felt herself become one with it. Time stood still as she watched dispassionately as the screaming mob raced past her hidden form. She gave herself as much time as she could spare to keep from wanting to remain a wall (what a horrid thought!) and allowed the spell to dissolve around her.
Coming out of such a large transformation spell was always unnverving. She had lost days before when she took a form that almost almost made her not want to change back. On those days she had to spend a week or so just remembering how to eat and walk like a human again. On one such transormation, she could not even speak any of her known languages for almost a month. Those transformations were almost enough to stop her from changing forms, but there was always some glittering tid-bit to tempt her. Like tonight's haul for instance. A six-inch high gold and jewel encrusted statue of the goddess T'nath, goddess of the air and moon, who had the locally-belived ability to grant a true believer the ability to pass unseen. As a thief, it was too good a target to not take a transformation risk. As the spell finally wore completely off, she shook her head to clear out the last remnents of foggy wall memories. She was rather amused to see that the sun was setting in the West...she had been a wall for at least eighteen hours this time...and felt the first low rumblings of her stomach demanding food. Thievery and sorcery was hungry work.
She checked all her pockets to make sure everything came back with her, sometimes things chose to remain in the transformed state or crumbled at her touch afterwards, including a quick check to her boots and wrists for her hidden weapons. Everything came back this time to her unending relief, including her lightly spelled N'asah cloak. She pulled the hood up over her head and headed for the city gates. Ignoring her protesting stomach, she joined a group of local peasants who were returning to their outside fields and homes for the night. The spelled cloak shifted subtly, she now took on the general appearance of the shambling mass heading home for the night. She slowed her step and limped slightly to finish off the illusion and shambled out of the gate. The guard's eyes seemed to float over her, frisking others around her but not actually her. She stayed with the group until it started to break apart and head into the surrounding thin woods that separated the peasantry from the city. Like a ghost, she faded into the trees and lost herself in the evergreens and dying undergrowth.
She stepped carefully through the brittle undergrowth, toes carefully searching for quiet spots to step onto, heading towards the setting sun. Going west was the fastest way to leave the borders of this dingy Empire and therefore the fastest way to escape with her prize. It seemed as if the little statue was practically begging her to inspect it...growing heavier by the minute as it seemed to tease her mind. She ignored the temptation, hard experience had taught her that thieves who inspected their work before being truely out of danger always ended up inspecting the interiors of jail cells later. She tried to put the thought of the statuette out of her mind. Trudging doggedly onward, she started to look about for any possible shelter against the rapidly appraching night. It was too cold to just sleep on the ground, so she started to look about for some pine-needles and heaps of leaves to burrow under. Spying a small hollow that seemed to show promise, she trudged closer and started to set up a small camp. A small pit was easy enough to dig out so her small fire would not be noticable in the darkness, and she was able to scrape together enough undergrowth and leaves to have a nice fragrant bed for the night. She sneezed lightly. Okay, so it was fragrant and dusty, but still sleepable. Settling herself down for the night, she pulled her backpack under her head for a pillow and slept like a cat until the dawn woke her. Yawning and stretching, she sat up and looked around. It looked to be a beautiful day to travel she thought to herself and began to stand. In mid route, she froze. The statue was sitting roughly half a foot away from her. Finishing her stand, she looked around carefully to see if there was anyone around her and carefully picked up the statue. T'nath's serene smile gazed back up at her, and An'alla carefully turned the glittering piece over in her hand. "What the hell...?" she thought to herself and looked down at her backpack. The top flap was open. "Ah. It just rolled out in the night..." Shrugging to herself, she swung the pack onto her shoulders and slipped the little goddess back inside. It was not until almost dusk that she realized something....if the goddess had rolled out of the pack why was it standing upright?
Trudging through the ever thinning trees, she eventually stumbled through a thin treebreak and had to windmill her arms slightly to keep from slipping down a short slope that merged into a small field of corn stubble. Clucking at herself for not paying attention, she shimmied down the frost-covered slope and walked through the crackling dead corn leaves towards the distant merchant road. As she rounded a bend, she came across what appeared to be a ramshackle farmhouse. Walking cautiously towards it, she realized it appeared to be half burnt and falling in on itself. Adjusting her pack, she continued towards it and decided to look about for a bit...sometimes farmers bury their money nearby when it looks as if their homes were going to be ransacked. When she finally reached the front door, it was apparant that this house had been deserted for quite some time. Anything buried would have been long ago squirreled out of the farmer's land. Sighing to herself, she decided to sit for a bit and look at the statue. Pulling it out of her pack, she slowly felt all over its surface and hefted it's weight. "It's rather heavy for it's size..." she thought to herself. Looking closer she realized something odd about the golden surface. "No marks..." she said softly to herself. Odd. Two days in her pack should have put little scratches on the golden surface, but there was not a single scratch or nick anywhere on the surface. "Interesting." She said under her breath. Still holding the piece, she looked around suddenly. It was subtle...almost a feeling.... Standing up she cautiously peered around the corner of the crumbling building. A small group of people were coming across the opposite part of the field towards the house. "Great." She muttered. "Don't these people ever give up??" Still holding the statuette she pressed her back to the wall and dropped to a low crouch.
She peered out again and cursed softly as the man in the front of the group raised a shout and began running towards her. "Dammit!"
Standing up, she whirled to run back up the slope and heard more crashing sounds come from the woods around her. "Dammit!!"
Looking left and right down the edge of the field, she spied the distinctive red and gold of the empire's clerical constabulary slowly converging on her location. One of the men was holding a queer-looking short staff, a magick locater, capable of homing in on not only her cloak and assorted sundry magickal items but her own small patch of inborne magickal abilities. In other words...where ever she ran, they could and would find her. "DAMMIT!!"
Clutching the little goddess closer, she looked desperately about for some place to hide. A quick look at the burnt shell of the house put the kibosh on that idea. With the voices coming closer, she fumbled at her belt for her short sword. It would be useless with so many men coming at her, but at least she would take some of them with her. As she gripped her sword, she felt a queasy sensation in the pit of her stomach and a sinking sensation in her head. Blinking her eyes, she clutched her stomach and looked down.
One of her feet was sunk in the footboards of the porch up to her ankle. What the hell? She tugged at her foot, but it was held fast in the floor. The unbroken floor... While pulling at her caught foot, her eyes fell upon the statue. Still smiling serenely, the little goddess just gazed back at her. An'alla started to panic. This was NOT in her get-away plans! Angrily she shook the statuette. It had to be this golden...thing...that was doing this! And if it was, it can damn well undo it. She shook the statue again and started as she heard a soft voice in her head...
[That is quite enough] An'alla almost dropped the statue in shock.
"You can...talk?" An'alla stammered.
[Of course I can] The statue almost sounded insulted.
"Well, it's just...you didn't do so before..." An'alla's voice trailed off. A thin bead of sweat was forming on her brow and upper lip. Licking her lips, she looked up and around again. The men were getting closer. "Uh, I don't know if you did this, but..." she started.
[Of course I did] The statue's (voice?) was becoming stronger.
"Then...can you undo it? Please?" An'alla was getting ready to panic again.
[Well, I would not need to if you would have just let the spell be completed] The voice had picked up a scolding element. An'alla would have been interested to follow this new element in her life, if she was not about to die a very horrible (and painful!) death. Licking her lips again, she decided to try a different tactic.
"Oh Great T'nath the wise. And merciful," she threw in as an afterthought, "I request your assistance..." The voice cut her short.
[Stop it] An'alla paused in confusion and tried to pick up where she was interupted.
"I, um, request your assistance..." she continued haltingly.
[Well, that goes without saying, doesn't it?]
An'alla paused in total confusion. She was pretty sure a goddess was not normally prone to such...sarcasm...but then again, how many goddess did she personally know? "Um. Then would you just get me the blazes out of here!?" The words just blurted out of her mouth before she could stop them. Holy hells, I hope this goddess isn't the touchy kind...
[Will you let me finish what I start this time?]
This is NOT happening to me! "Yes!!" An'alla snapped.
[You don't sound as if you believe in me]
"I believe! I believe!!" An'alla shouted. Oh gods...I am going to die screaming at this statue...
[Well, then. Here we go.] The sick feeling was back in her gut and head. An'alla clutched the statue close to her breast and closed her eyes. After what seemed to be an eternity the bright voice floated back into her mind.
[You may open your eyes now] An'alla just shook her head stubbornly.
[I said...OPEN YOUR EYES NOW!] An'alla's eyes flew open and she flaired her arms out to catch her balance. It was pitch black around her. Reaching out her free hand tentatively, her fingertips brushed against smooth stone that was slightly damp and very cold to the touch.
"What's the good of forcing my eyes open if it is too dark to see?!" An'all snapped.
[Ah, good point]
A rushing feeling flowed down her arm and into the statue. Against her will, An'alla felt herself lifting the statue above her head. A low chuckle came to her ears. [You might want to close your eyes now.] After the last demonstration of the statue's power, An'alla screwed her eyes shut. Good thing too, the light that exploded beyond her closed lids still made her stagger backwards in pain. Raising her hand to shield her eyes, she spoke up. "Tone it down a bit, will'ya??" The light faded to a more bearable level and she blinked open her eyes.
[Better?] The voice sounded bemused.
"You did that on purpose!"
[Of course I did. Everything I do has a purpose.]
An'alla rolled her eyes in disgust. A low laughter, soft as a spring breeze, floated past her. An'alla looked around. She appeared to be in a small limestone cavern that had carefully smoothed walls and natual columns of minerals that had been carefully polished to a glowing sheen. She would have been impressed if she was not so aggravated over how she got here. Setting the statue down on what appeared to be a altar, An'alla began to roam about the small room.
"Where am I?" Her voice seemed to float up into the air towards the ceiling.
[Where I take all my priestesses]An'alla raised her eyebrow.
"Thank you for the rescue and all, but I am not your priestess. I'm not anyone's priestess."
[I did not say you were anyone's priestess. I said you were MY priestess] An'alla just shook her head and walked back over to the statue.
"Look. You are not getting this. I. Am. Not. A. Priestess." She sharply pronounced each word.
[Yes. You. Are.] The voice was starting to sound impatient. An'alla shook her head again. "Now look..."
The voice interupted her. [No, you look. Did I or did I not rescue you] An'alla just nodded.
[Did you or did you not say you belive in me?] An'alla winced but did not respond.
[I am waiting] An'alla remained silent.
[I have all eternity. Do you?]
"All right! Fine!" An'alla shouted. "I did say I believe in you. But..."
[Then you are my priestess. And I only help my priestesses] An'alla paused thoughtfully.
"Is that a threat?"
[No. It is a fact] An'all slumped to the floor and put her head against the cool stone of the altar. "Oh god...
[That is GoddESS]
"Great. So you can read my mind also."
"Swell." An'alla climbed wearily to her feet. "So now what?"
[You go out and serve me]
[Well, that remains to be seen]
"You mean, you don't know?" Great, it's insane...
[I am NOT insane]
An'alla sighed and rubbed her head where a throbbing headache was starting to form. [Here, let me get that] And just like that, the pain was gone.
"Will you just...stop that!"
An'alla took a deep breath. Let's start over... There was a feeling of watchful silence in the air. "Why did you save me? And don't say it is because I am your priestess, when I didn't even start out knowing what you were other than a nice golden statue that would have kept me in clothes and food for a year." The voice laughed in her ear.
[What abilities did the locals accredit to me?]
"Something about the ability to pass unseen."
[As you did do, as I recall]
An'alla paused thoughtfully. "Yes..." she said hesitantly. "But that was because I used some simple spells to gain access to the temple."
[Did you? You are aware that the temple possessed anti-spells and that you should not have gotten half as far as you did?]
An'alla paused again. "Well..."
[I allowed you to pass. As I allowed you to learn spells that are quite past your limited range of power to do.]
"Now wait a minute..." An'alla started "I was perfectly able to cast what I did..." The voice cut her off.
[But only with the cloak and assorted sundry spelled stones you had gathered over time, correct?] An'alla froze. "You did that?"
[Of course. It was a simple matter to make sure those items became available to you]
An'alla felt crushed. "And all this time...I thought it was just me..." She sat on the altar desolately. A warmth encased her and the voice whispered in her ear.
[You misunderstand. The items only worked for you because you had the will and knowledge to use them. It never had anything to do with power]
"Yeah, so what about it?" She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve.
[I had to see if you were worthy of the Goddess of Thieves] An'alla looked up sharply. "What?"
[Goddess of Thieves. You do need to keep up more]
An'alla felt some of her equilibrium come back. "Goddess of...Thieves?" She looked around again. "Of THIEVES?" Jumping up, she spun around in amazement. "Well that is the most sense I have heard yet! No wonder I was drawn to you! You were bored, weren't you? Gods know I would be...stuck in a one mule village with nothing to see or do." She turned back to the statue curiously. "Why didn't you say so?" The voice just laughed.
An'alla picked up the statue and looked around the room. "It is going to be very hard to travel with a statue of this value all the time...Goddess or not. Have anything a tad more suble?" Another shudder down her arm to her hand, and An'alla watched as the statue turned into a golden amulet on a golden chain. Laughing to herself, she put the amulet over her head and tucked it under her shirt. Reaching out to the overhanging ceiling she felt herself float upwards through the rock and out to the burnt remains of the farmhouse. Her pack was still there, but she did not bother to reclaim it. Afterall, the Goddess will provide... and hearing the voice of the Goddess in her ears, she headed off towards the merchants road. "I hear there is a beautiful goblet in the Emperor's capital that is said to turn water into the finest wine. Interested?"
"Excellent" She headed off towards the capital, whistling to herself. And Mother thought being a thief would be a dead-end profession..." With the Goddess's laughter echoing in her ears, she headed off to serve her new Diety.
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