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The Tale of the Apprentice #7

Author: 
Stariovarius
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
484

Peering around the edge of his dormitory, looking out over the large open area that lead to the gate, the area that was used for the school's public ceremonies, the graduation ceremony that he would not be able to attend. Seeing no one there, and none of the teachers moving, he jogged over to the gate, heading to the small personal gate that was there to allow teachers in and out of the school without opening the main gate. Listening for a moment, he heard no one coming in or out, and not desiring of being caught from the inside, the apprentice slipped out, making sure to leave the door just slightly ajar so he could return. Making his way down to the city, Tarranau felt the fool carrying two large and heavy sacks on his shoulders, each large enough that it would show that he was going somewhere. At least he had remembered not to wear his robes, which would mark him out as even more obvious. However, despite all of that, as one of the graduating class at the school, he would be at least partially known among the docklands people, for they had worked with him over the past several years, and he had done tasks for them. It was that same familiarity that he was counting on now, but it could also lead to his getting caught should the school come looking for him before he had made his way safely out of the port at the far end of the journey.

Tarranau struggled through the outskirts of the city, the bags on his shoulders beginning to weight him down and to pull at his arms. Passing along in the shadows between the houses here, there were alleyways between them, the houses built in haphazard fashion on whatever land the owner could buy. There was little worry out here, dead after dark and with no targets who would be of much value to pickpockets, but as he made his way into the centre of the city and down to the docks, there would be more of them, waiting to pick on either the drunken sailors, or the merchants who were seeking to make a journey with the night-time tides. Tarranau was not going all the way to the docks this time, but rather to a small warehouse on this side of the docks, looking for a place to store his goods that he knew was at least partially derelict, its owner being a poor trader who spent much of his time in the warmer lands of the continent. It was a place he had played in as a child, and hoped that it still stood mostly untouched, for otherwise he would have a hard time finding a place for the goods that he was carrying.

Grunting with effort at carrying the heavy bags, Tarranau began to see the large inns and warehouses that marked the edge of the docks district, the streets lit with torches, and people in various states of sobriety walking along the roads. Turning off down one of the side streets, he headed in the direction of the old warehouse, looking for the one where he had played as a child. He slipped down side streets and around the backs of the buildings, looking for the place where he could hide his bags. More than a few times, Tarranau had to hide or go back the way he had come, stepping aside from the drunks, beggars, and other types who lived in the back alleys of the warehouse district. Soon he began to arrive in the warehouses closer to the docks. The apprentice stepped out into the docks themselves to orient himself for a moment, looking to the left and the right to see where he was. Recognizing it as near the centre of the city docklands, Tarranau began to head back towards the school, keeping to the shadows to avoid the sailors coming and going from their ships.

Tarranau saw the building peeking over the edge of the smaller places in front of it, and stepped into the alleyway that would take him to the side entrance to the building. It was dark back there, and foul; it had been used as a urinal by more than a few generations of sailors, and tonight it smelled like there had been a sick drunk through the channel as well. A groan from underneath a pile of rotting crates spoke eloquently to the drunk's still being there, and Tarranau moved past as quickly as he could, shifting his feet carefully in the refuse that had built up along the alley floor. Reaching the side of the building, he slid along it until the mage's apprentice found the door, still in sturdy condition despite not being used for some time, ever since the merchant who had owned it had lost his savings, and been unable to sell the building, situated as it was without access to the main roads. At least one building would need to be knocked down to change that, and so far no one had managed to purchase the buildings in the way at the same time as closing on the warehouse.

Twisting and shaking at the door made the hinges squeal, rusty and tight from their ill-use. Tarranau lent his weight against the jammed portal, shoving it hard. It moved not at all. He eyed the door for a moment, then took a step back and hit his shoulder into it. It screeched and slid back half a foot, just enough for Tarranau to slip inside. He turned to grab his bags and saw the drunk emerging from the alley, awoken by the sound of the protesting door. Snatching at the bag that he had left near the door, Tarranau pulled it into the hidden darkness of the interior, hoping that the hadn't been noticed.

The drunk banged into the wall across from the alleyway, leaning against it and groaning as he made his way towards the open door. Tarranau could hear him scraping as he walked down the alley, his shoulder against the wall dragging along. The sound stopped for a moment, and Tarranau held his breath, listening to the loud and ragged breathing of the alcoholic. The drunk began moving again, stumbling along the wall of the warehouse, still moving towards the partially open door, behind which Tarranau was hiding, and where he hidden his bsg for the time being. The sound was very close now, almost at the open doorway, the coughing and spluttering marking the drunk as clear as if Tarranau could see him. Two more steps would place him at the door, and there went the first, the shoulder thudding into the wall. Another, and the drunk stumbled, the wall suddenly no longer there for him to lean upon. He slammed into the door, tripping over his feet and falling heavily to the ground, stunned.

Tarranau had been leaning against the door, listening through the cracks in the wood, and the impact of the drunk knocked him back, opening the door a few more inches. With the way the drunk had fallen, Tarranau could not get out through this door, and did not think he could open the main doors of the warehouse. All the drunk had to do to make Tarranau get caught, or delay him badly, was to simply remain in front of the door, lying there in a stunned and drunken stupor. Tarranau stepped around the door, looking at the filthy, rag clothed man on the floor beneath him. Dare he risk moving the man? If the drunk awoke, Tarranau could be in danger, for the drunk would think nothing of taking the apprentice for his money. The noise alone could also attract more awake and less inebriated types of people as well. Tarranau decided to wait for a moment, to see if the drunk would regain his footing, or if the alcohol had stewed his brain into one of the mashes out of which the drink had been made.

Minutes passed, and aside from the occasional groan or twitch of the limbs, there was no movement happening that would free Tarranau from being confined in the warehouse for several hours. There was also the need to make it to the docks and to set up an appointment with one of the merchant sailors who was due out on the night after. Tarranau glared at the wretch, thinking him a most unkind individual to have the poor timing to fall asleep in front of the door on the one night that Tarranau needed to use it freely.

Tarranau reached out, nudging the drunk in his foot. He stirred, but awoke not. Tarranau paused a moment, then prodded him again. There was still no sign of waking from the wretched beggar. Becoming bold, Tarranau hid the sacks containing his goods farther in the shadows of the warehouse, and stepped out, placing his arms under those of the beggar, and hauling him slowly and carefully down the alley, making sure not to do anything to wake the man. Depositing the man against the side of the one of the small houses near the warehouse, Tarranau made sure it was around the corner and unable to see the door of the warehouse. Heading back into the warehouse, the apprentice pulled the door closed, attempting to hide the tracks in the dirt and muck, so as to not lead anyone to the his hidden goods.

He hurried back through the city, pausing to look at the sky, trying to catch a glimpse of the moon, to tell how many hours he had left in the night, before he had to return to his room and make ready against the coming day. There was also the need to gather his things and return quickly, allowing him to set up the trip that would take him across the seas and to his new home. While looking up through the gaps among the houses, attempting to spot the moon, he stumbled over a pile of trash that had been left in the alleyway, falling to the ground and sliding in the muck, covering his clothes in the crud and filth that crawled along the alleyway. There was a clatter and bang, a rotten crate knocked to the ground, slapping loudly in the quiet of the night. Tarranau froze, listening to the sounds of the night, wondering if the bang had alerted the others who lived in these alleys, the criminals who would gladly relieve him of his goods, if not his life. Even his status as a mage would not protect him here, as it might in some more civilized areas of the city and during the day. After all, not even the criminals would anger the ruling power of the city, especially not a power that could track them across water and using the liquids that ran through the city.

Thankfully, there was no sound that quickly arose after his stumble and fall. Perhaps the people who frequented the alleys were so used to the sound of drunks stumbling at night that they did not come to find them, for drunks had often liberated themselves of all their own money within the bars of the docks, drinking cheap swill until they were thrown out the door, and left to stumble to a cold and faceless corner in an alley, curling up against it for heat. Struggling to his feet and wiping the muck off of him as best he could, Tarranau began to walk swiftly, being careful still to not make any more sound than was needed. He stayed close to the main roads, fearful of becoming lost further in the twists and turns of the back ways among the city. There were times when he had to swiftly turn aside, stepping into a darkened overhang to avoid the eyes of those who he would rather not have been seen by. It took him almost an hour to return to the school, and from there he had to sneak back into through the gate. Thankfully, there was no one who had come through and shut the gate after them, so all that Tarranau had to do was slip back into his room, grabbing the rest of his bags and returning towards the city. First though, he washed himself as best he could in a short time in his room, attempting to remove the stink of the alley from his clothes, for the waste and filth would give him away should a teacher walk into his room, or even nearby and notice the scent arising out of his garments.

The last two bags over his shoulders, Tarranau staggered to the gate, moving back out through it, again outside the school and looking to hide his goods. Having been awake since early this morning, and with the disruptive events of the last few days, Tarranau felt the weariness of days spent in activities other than sleeping catching up with him, and knew that he would have to spend the day awake, for to spend it in bed would signal that he had been engaged the night long. Walking on, Tarranau moved swiftly down into the city, through the empty outskirts of town, back towards the more crowded areas from which he had so recently come. The bags over his shoulders grew heavier, and his arms grew leaden, but he continued on, finding again that same warehouse. This time, with knowledge restored of where the warehouse lay, he was able to find the door into which he had hidden his bags. Smiling with relief, he nudged the door open, striding inside, into the blackness within. Feeling around for his bags Tarranau dropped the two he had on his shoulder, sliding them back into the shadows along with the rest of his things. Tired, he pushed the door closed, and sat down, his back to the wall, leaning against it and resting for a few minutes.

 

The Tale of the Apprentice #7 © Stratovarius

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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