Rat King

No Honor among Thieves

Thaigmaal, also known as Mount Thaig; the Capitol City of Haral. Land-locked on all sides by three different Empires, the tiny Kingdom was considered neutral ground and enjoyed unprecedented peace.

From a distance, the city looked like a jewel that had been placed neatly at the intersection of the Tuyahn desert and the Thaig Mountain Range. White spires rose up out of a sea of two and three-story buildings. Its five-meter walls had been warded against the heat by the Mage Warrior of Tempre. Without question, it was a city worth visiting.

Midnight in Thaigmaal brought cooler air and an unnerving stillness, like some dangerous predator waiting to pounce. But, in this case, the prey was a small group of street urchins running silently in single file, maneuvering in and out of the shadowed back alleys like theyd done all their lives.

Although Taigmaal was beautiful like a desert flower, there was also a seedy underbelly, like any settlement where thousands dwelt. Night brought out the vermin along with dozens of other unpleasant smells that dare not show themselves in the light of day.

The leader turned abruptly down a narrow alley, motioning the others to continue while he knelt on the cobbled stone streets and kept an eye on their trail. ”Keep going; its all clear. ”

Just like that, the four became three and sprinted down the alley. Arriving at the dead-end, the gangly twins knelt down and clasped hands.

”Up you go, Rat, ” one of the twins whispered.

The smallest of the group had stopped a few meters away. Something wasn right… The youth known as Rat crouched low while he scanned the alley. They had come to the merchant section of town; three-story buildings surrounded them, commonplace in the district since most shop owners lived above their businesses.

”Something is wrong, ” Rat muttered. Instead of approaching the twins, he studied the route up. First, they would boost him to the balcony; from there, he would climb up another story to a window kept open to let in the night air.

”Hurry! ” The twins whispered simultaneously, making a sound loud enough to alert their lookout.

Rat scowled and glanced over his shoulder at Brim, the groups de facto leader. ”Shit… ” He darted toward the twins and leaped onto the clasped hands of his friends. A moment later, he shot upward into the darkness.

Two bony but surprisingly strong hands latched onto the edge of the balcony before effortlessly pulling himself upward. Rats fingers found holds in the space between bricks where the filler had eroded. Without using his feet, he moved spider-like up the wall until he could grasp the window frame.

”Welcome! ” Strong hands gripped his wrists and yanked him upward through the open window. Instead of maintaining their hold, he was tossed against the nearby wall.

Rat pushed off the floor with his hand and turned enough to kick off the wall with one foot. He landed in a crouched position, his street weapons held in his hands. ”What is this? I haven broken any laws. ”

The group consisted of three men; two stood between Rat and the window while the third placed himself in the doorway to the next room.

”Breaking into this shopkeepers home to rob it is against the law. ” The man in the doorway spoke; he wore peculiar black leathers with a gold design embroidered on the right shoulder.

Rat leaned forward, resting his weight on the balls of his feet. ”Of course it is! I was only climbing to the rooftop for a nap. ” He gestured over his shoulder. ”I didn actually enter, those pulled me in against my will. ”

Rat appeared to relax for a moment, offering a pleasant smile before darting between the two men. One step, and he was clear, diving through the open window before anyone could touch him.

The railing of the lower balcony one floor below slammed into his ribs with a sickening crack that took his breath and threatened to release his last meal as nausea welled up in his throat. That sickness faded instantly at the scene in the alley below. A figure in black was handing a leather pouch to Brim.

”Brim? BRIM! ” The youth forced himself to move; bracing his foot on the railing, he leaped toward the adjacent balcony as his heart squeezed in anguish. ”

The shouts of alarm rose in volume as Rat landed nimbly, clambering upward t

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