The thief fell from the tower’s upper window. She had lost her precarious grip on the pitted brick. She remembered that she should roll herself up into a loose ball to protect her head and neck. But by the time she remembered, she had already struck the first branch of the tree in the orchard below. Then she struck another and another. Scratched and thrashed and bounced about, she finally reached the ground, thankful that the soil was soft. She lay there for far too long a moment. The breath had been knocked out of her. And she feared moving for fear she might discover that she could not.
Marcus watched as the thief pulled a cylinder from her pack that was the size of her forearm. He wondered if that was it. She uncapped the cylinder and pulled out a roll of parchment. Marcus held his breath. But when the thief, Lily, glanced up at him and saw his expression, she smirked.
“This isn’t it,” she said. Then she sighed. Her hand flicked to her collar and suddenly there was something in her hand. It was only the size of her longest finger. A fine bit of parchment, it seemed. Nothing special. But that was it. She was the one, the Only Honorable Thief. And that bit of parchment was it.
The Protean Scroll.
“You’re almost there. Keep going!”
Sola heeded her leader’s words and resisted looking behind her as she charged down the hallway of the castle’s central tower. She ignored the flashes of reddish light that illuminated the hallway behind her. She felt the claws of the dayhawk on her shoulder dig in tighter, just as her boots had dug into his flanks when she had been riding atop him. He flapped his sun-yellow wings, but thankfully did not cry out. The potion that protected Sola from the dayhawk’s strident call had worn off only moments ago. She nearly blacked out when he screamed at the guards that confronted them when they landed on the bridge that led into the tower.
Those guards should have been distracted away. Too much had gone wrong once they had reached the central tower of the castle. If she didn’t know any better, Sola would have wondered if their enemy had been warned. But she did know better. Their enemy was just that daunting.