The Glass Thief - by oracle93, Chapters 9-11, Fantasy

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The Glass Thief - by oracle93, Chapters 9-11, Fantasy

Post  oracle93 on Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:46 pm

When Staever and his gang of lobster thieves--second-in-command Wrest, lookout and strategist Emaria, demolitions expert Arcite and martial artist Eventhe--hijack a land vessel hauling precious glass to the wealthy center of The Eye, they expect to once again fence the loot to the crooked Gattick and call it a job well done. What they don't expect is to discover an ancient key that could hold the power to save their dying seaside city. Staever knows that the lobsters of The Eye must make a pilgrimage back to the homeland they lost centuries ago; he also knows, however, that when the slums know him as an outlaw and his only allies are his mother and an out-of-favor governor, his chances of saving his people are slim at best. But if there's one thing Staever and his gang can do, it's think on their feet--and although he's in the crosshairs of a conniving politician and his brutal enforcer, this thief's day may be about to dawn...

Sweeping from a high desert, across a barren wasteland spanned by graceful bridges, and into the swamps and forests of a land known only to legend, The Glass Thief is a tale of treason, swashbuckling adventure, despicable villains, historical power, romance, action, humor, and fear. By the end, a continent--and a world--will be forever changed.

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CHAPTER 9

To maintain a semblance of objective government, the Council Chambers were not located inside the tower at the Pupil. A domed rotunda, three stories high and surrounded by a cluster of smaller antechambers and offices, stood on a street adjacent to the center of the city. As Staever approached he was buffeted by hurried minor officials who surged to and from the building like a tide, the most energetic lobsters in The Eye. He was keeping one eye fixed on the grandeur of the spiraling dome, modeled after a conch shell, and the other on Emaria, who was on fire from within as she loaded Staever down with tips on argumentation.

“Keep focused on your points, health, resources, expansion, et cetera,” she lectured, striding to keep pace with Staever’s wide steps. “And remember, never look like you’re at a loss for words. Don’t stumble, talk fast and loud, and if you can’t think of anything to say, repeat yourself.”

Staever picked out an antechamber and headed towards it. “What do I say if I’m distracted by my beautiful co-counsel?” he replied, half-smiling.

Emaria groaned. “Staever, this is serious. If you falter before the council you’re doomed. They hear thousands of petitions a day and they’re looking for any excuse to throw yours out.”

The antechamber was the size of Taiga’s apartment and featureless, the sand walls polished to surgical smoothness. Several of the governors’ political hangers-on—referred to by the White dwellers as “council-shrimp”—stood in clumps around the room, chattering in low and earnest voices. Before the pane of translucent glass that took up the wall opposite the opening, an attendant was standing, clad in a cloth of exquisitely woven reed. Upon seeing them, he began to inch in front of the door.

“You’re contaminating our image, you know,” he snapped as Staever and Emaria approached. “You and all your filthy friends. I’ve let one of you in here today and I won’t make the same mistake twice.”

“I work in the desert,” Staever said, staring him down. “Hygiene may be a casualty of my employment, but my partner and I are far from filthy. Now, was my friend you let through a big lobster? Gray type?”

“Yes, but see here—“

“He’ll have saved us a seat. I’d like you to let us through, and I’d like you to apologize to the Lady Emaria.”

Emaria’s eyes widened and she stepped between Staever and the doorman, where a stew of unsaid words was seething. “Please, that’s not necessary. Staever, let’s just go.”

The doorman turned and worked a pair of ropes to raise the glass door by a sliver, looking ready to guillotine Staever with it as he slipped through behind Emaria.

“Why did you do that?” she asked, when they were on the other side.

“Do what?”

“Call me the Lady Emaria.”

“Innocent speechcraft.”

“I don’t believe that.”

Staever turned to face her, halting them both on the grand staircase. “You answer my questions before I answer yours. You’ve never told me who you are or what you did before you joined the Cuttlefish. I think it’s fair I know.”

Emaria was silent for a while. Then she said, “Let’s find Wrest.” Staever waited behind her, standing on the wide step and gathering his thoughts as the gallery chattered on either side of him.

Wrest’s seats were at the base of the amphitheater, wide enough for five lobsters to sit abreast. Emaria took a position on one side of Wrest and Staever spread out across the other half. “How can you be so comfortable in here?” Wrest asked his friend.

“Ah, they’re all just lobsters, Wrest,” Staever answered.

“Have you seen the others?”

Staever shifted. “I was hoping they were just late.”

“Isn’t that bad?” Wrest looked even more ill at ease. Staever thought over the absence of his usual jovial wave. “Don’t we need five people?”

“Actually we only need five petitioners to submit, not debate,” Emaria said. “It certainly won’t make us look good, though.”

“Well, what am I supposed to say?” Staever whispered loudly. “’I’m sorry, Governor Crane, we had five people but one’s hung over and another’s a sociopath?’ Let’s just soldier on.”

“Right,” Wrest said. “Soldier on.”

“Gallery attention!” A shrill voice brought the crowd to silence. Staever turned to see the doorman from the antechamber racing down the grand stair, transformed by necessity into a herald. “The council session will now continue. All seven Governors are in attendance, with High Governor Crane presiding. Debate will now continue.”

The air in the vast chamber hung with a palpable weight as Crane assumed his position on the upper tier of the enormous dais that took up the far half of the room. On the three tiers below, the remaining governors were paired according to seniority, with the youngest two on the lowest level. In front of the curved platform was a lectern for speakers, facing down Crane but far lower. Staever noted with disgust the gaudy robes and ornamental scepters in fashion among the council ever since Crane’s ascension to the high tier. The only one of the seven who looked like he’d ever slept outdoors was standing at the bottom left, wearing a simple gray cloak and mask of defiance. Graphus, Staever thought, and his heart swelled with pride.

“Previous debate concerned a motion by General Kragn to undertake military action against the rebels of The Field with the full might of the Eye Forces.” Crane’s voice echoed over the assembly, playing them like an instrument. A grizzled lobster, duller in color and larger than Wrest, gave a brisk wave from the lectern. Staever heard his friend’s sharp intake and release of breath at the sight of The Eye’s foremost commander. “Governor Graphus may resume control of the floor.”

Graphus exploded, as though he had been holding back a tide of words for the entire recess; his voice, stately yet comforting through so many public announcements, was now marred with hidden rage.

“It’s an outrage to even consider!” he spat. “The people of the Field are neither rebels nor violent. They’ve been around as long as we have and the only thing that keeps us from coexistence is their decision to renounce yellow clay. Ideological disputes do not warrant full-scale military action!”

Crane raised his scepter and sun through the high windows glinted on the glass headpiece, signaling his desire to speak. He and Graphus stared each other down, and Staever felt the hatred. Crane and Graphus were the two eldest governors, having served on the council for as long as Staever had understood The Eye’s government. For Crane to have placed Graphus on the lowest tier—across from Xander, the newest and youngest member, whom every thief knew had bought his deceased father’s position—was a scathing insult.

“You diminish their intentions, Graphus,” Crane said. “The Field was founded upon their hatred of our ways. And the general’s evidence proves they see us as vulnerable. One of our cities must fall and I for one would like to see The Eye remain standing!”

He pounded his scepter to a murmur of assent from the crowd. Graphus raised his again.

“The Field is hardly a city,” he began. “It’s closer to a commune than anything, and they have certain ideas about society we might do well to heed—“

“Are you sympathizing with the enemy, Governor Graphus?” came a reedy voice. The Cuttlefish turned to see Xander standing tall upon his dais. He was clothed even more garishly than Crane, and Staever swore that he turned to Emaria and winked. He looked over at her, but she gave no sign of having noticed.

“You’re out of turn, Xander,” Graphus said, but was interrupted again.

“Let the junior governor speak,” Crane declared. “The young speak with the voice of the people.”

Staever clenched both of his claws in indignation. Wrest tapped his skeleton. “Remember when we were going to steal those pearls?” he whispered. They both grinned.

“Graphus makes a gamble,” Xander continued. “By assuming that the Field may not be dangerous, he is wagering the safety of every lobster in this city.” He looked around, feeding on his reaction. “I say our citizens are not to be toyed with! If it’s a threat, let’s deal with it—or why do we have an army at all?”

“Hear, hear!” Kragn shouted, and the audience yelled their assent. Xander stood down, smirking. Graphus was clutching his scepter hard enough to snap it into three pieces.

“There will be no more debate on this petition,” Crane declared, avoiding Graphus’s gaze. “Further deliberation will occur in private, though an outcome is likely obvious. I will not leave the fate of the Eye to chance. Begin marshaling your troops, Kragn, in anticipation.”

“Thank you, High Governor.” Kragn bowed low, then made to exit through the Council Gateway behind the dais.

“To new business,” Crane said, becoming official once more. “A petition was submitted last night entitled ‘For the good of The Eye.’ No more was stated and the council’s interest was piqued.”

Staever felt his pulse quicken. His legs felt weak as he made to stand up and he tried to clear his mind. This nervousness, he thought, didn’t become him—though he was not so afraid of making a mistake as he was that he would speak perfectly and still be rejected.

“Petitioner Staever,” Crane called, “approach the council.”

CHAPTER 10

The walk to the podium seemed impossibly long. Staever heard the whispering council-shrimp trying to find out who he was, and how important. Their murmurs came to him from all around—including the dais—as he, Wrest, and Emaria followed the curving path to the lectern. When they took their places, he was acutely aware of how empty the final two spots seemed.

“Your petition is titled only ‘For the safety of The Eye and its people.’” Crane began. He glanced at Xander, and Staever was sickened by the knowing look they exchanged. “But…there are only three of you?”

“Governor, we felt this was too important to go searching for two more petitioners. It must be heard now.”

“I see.” Crane towered over them, cold and officious. Graphus was looking thoughtful. “It gives you no credit to flaunt the rules of this chamber, Staever. You will need to impress me.”

“I understand, governor,” Staever replied, his insides burning.

“Occupations?”

“Travelers, all three of us.” Staever looked over the audience. Everyone in the Whites, and some in the Iris, knew that “traveler” was a kind word for thief; the Pupil-dwellers, however, exercised a bizarre sort of denial about the criminal element.

Crane scratched a note into his platform. “Begin,” he said, without looking up. Emaria clenched her claws together and tried to inspire Staever with her eyes. Wrest stood motionless.

“The three of us, in our travels, have come into possession of a peculiar key, which we have here.” He produced the key from beneath his cloak, without breaking his speech. “Research has indicated that this key is connected to the lost city of The Glade, the predecessor to The Eye. We believe in fact that this key is the instrument with which the city will be made habitable again.”

He paused, listening for excited rumbling from the crowd, but there was none. Emaria made a discreet but violent gesture and he snapped back into the speech.

“We believe that this city of The Glade offers an alternative for lobster habitation preferable to The Eye. The lack of an abundant water supply accompanying the recent failure of the irrigation scheme has caused a noticeable decline in the health of the population. If we remain here I am certain death will follow.”

He met Crane’s eyes on the last line, willing him to counter this.

“And thus you propose that, instead of trusting our city engineers to save us, that we uproot our entire population and force a mass exodus in order to colonize a ruin?” All the governors save Graphus were nodding in agreement; some were chuckling. Staever wished he had a plan that couldn’t be mocked just by being described. “You…travelers…have a very odd sense of logic.”

Staever leaned toward him over the lectern. “It may not seem like a problem to lobsters in gilded robes, with clay-vessels you can take down to the sea whenever you’re thirsty, but the rest of us are already dying!” He realized he was panting, and that Emaria was glaring at him as though intent on murder.

Nobody in the chamber was laughing anymore. Crane raised his scepter and planted it in the sand of his platform, a clear signal that nobody was to speak but him. “On what authority do you fault my leadership, scum?”

The scepter remained planted. If Staever had not known that violation of the symbol would result in immediate expulsion, he would have broken protocol in a heartbeat to reply with a long list. Instead, Crane continued.

“Do you believe that I do not have the safety of every lobster in The Eye at heart? Do you believe I have any other motive? You bring a petition with only three signers for the most drastic social action ever attempted on this continent. The Eye is our home. If we do not trust our city we have nothing!” He pulled the scepter up again.

Emaria swept Staever out of the way, a weed-scroll in her claw. “There are other reasons, Governor Crane—our currency has devalued since the loss of the glass supply. The lack of red and yellow clay deposits has brought trade with the manatees to a standstill. Poverty is rampant, crime—“ she checked herself, wary of giving in to her emotions as quickly as Staever had.

Graphus, on the low platform, remained silent, like he had withdrawn from the proceedings already.

“I will not permit debate,” Crane announced. “This petition is beyond ill-conceived. If you wish to blather about a lobster’s connection with land and water, I bid you and your travelers go to The Field and leave us in peace.”

“But—“ Emaria flipped through her scroll, searching in vain for anything useful.

“Petition denied!” Crane thundered. “Get out of my sight.”

Resisting the urge to spit on the lectern, Staever turned up the grand staircase, dreading the doorman’s superior sneers, with his friends following behind.

CHAPTER 11

The hall beyond the council entrance to the chamber was lined with private studies for each of the seven governors. The decorations were lavish—carved wooden pillars every few steps, and walls lined with streaks of both glass and seaweed that caught and refracted light shimmering from the glass, throwing a dappled rainbow across the corridor. Graphus strode ahead of the pack of exiting lobsters and vanished into his own room. The four governors following him headed for the exit, chattering about their plans for the off session. Xander, the last to leave with weed-scrolls under each arm, noticed Crane lingering in the hallway, admiring the carpentry.

“You wish to see me, High Governor?” Xander asked, approaching from behind and laying his scrolls on the floor.

“You see through my pretenses, young Xander,” Crane said. “I admire your perception. The truth is, I am troubled.”

“Troubled, my lord?”

“Please, Xander, there’s no need for such formalities.” Crane laid a claw on Xander’s shoulder. “I am merely first among equals. I am troubled by a face.”

“A shrimp you’d like removed?”

“No, the face of that final speaker, the traveler Staever. I could swear this is his spitting image.” Crane held up a square of wood, marked with oil, which Xander had not noticed before. The younger lobster studied the picture.

“Somewhat similar, High Governor,” he said after a moment. “I don’t look too closely at those Whites folk. They’re an affront to the eyes of the wealthy. My father taught me so.”

“A great governor, and a good lobster,” Crane replied sadly. “But I’m glad you see the likeness as well. This is, in fact, a testimony, given to one of my regional judges by the captain of a small glass-hauler.”

Xander’s senses sharpened. “One of ours?”

“In council employ, yes. He had been recently burned when he approached the judge, and his shell was badly damaged. He was identifying his assailant.”

“Do you mean to tell me this council heard a petition from a common thief!?”

“Not at all. A very uncommon thief it is with the power to ambush a council hauler.” Sensing Xander’s anger, Crane straightened. “A few more like Staever and we’ll have to rely on the fences entirely for our glass. A thief is bad. A talented thief is worse. And a talented thief with seditious intent is something that needs to be dealt with.”

Xander said nothing, but a smile spread slowly across his face. “Dealt with,” he repeated. “I’ll need a few days’ leave.”

Crane clapped Xander on the back. “With you around, Xander, I never worry about the future of this council.” He turned to move into his study. “Staever will be working. Don’t let him out of your sight. The second you catch him at something…” he trailed off.

Xander rapped one claw against the other, hard. “I understand, High Governor.”

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What hope does Staever have to save the city now? Will the thieves fall into the clutches of Xander and Crane? Check for a new update, coming soon!

oracle93

Posts : 5
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Join date : 2012-02-16
Age : 24
Location : Walla Walla, WA

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