“We’ll leave your man, Markson, on watch by the corner. We’ll send the signal to him to start the display, from there we’ll move to here.” Aaren pointed to the rough route he’d drawn on the map towards the building adjacent to the guild that he and Eamonn had looked at the previous night. “The building is small so we’ll need to keep moving up the staircase. The room to the right leads out onto a balcony. It’s at eye level with the roof of the guild and it’ll give a good vantage point to navigate our way across. Eamonn will fire a crossbow bolt at one of the narrow supportive beams to the over-hang at the front that would have been the signpost years ago.”
Aaren retrieved a specially crafted arrow from his quiver and laid it out on the table in front of Braum. After they had finished in the alleyway, they had returned to meet with Braum to discuss their plan. They had left things fairly vague for the time being, Braum trusting Aaren to sort out the rest of the details the following day. Aaren and Eamonn had spent most of their day making and testing the strength of the arrowheads and found the new one he had purchased at the stall in Blackden to be the best suited for the job.
With its reinforced arrow head and shaft, they used Eamonn to trial it, firing the arrow into the roofing beams in their room and lifting him steadily above a well cushioned floor. It was ridiculous and an amusing sight if anyone had visited them, but it was the best scenario to compare the arrows.
“Eamonn will fire one of these” Aaren said, holding the arrow aloft, “it should be strong enough to support me across to the top of the guild. It’ll be slow going, so I’ll be taking a stronger and heavier rope with me. I’ll tie that off on the sturdiest post there and the rest of you can come across. You could even use both pieces of rope together to pull yourself along even faster.”
“How will we get inside?” Braum put in. He already knew, but David and the other sentries didn’t. Aaren tapped the side of his nose and replied. “There’s a cloth covering that is meant to keep the glare of the sun out of the top of the building. It’s a small opening by what we can gather, perhaps a couple meters wide and long. As far as I can see, it appears to cover one of the rooms towards the rear of the building, maybe it was used to help inspect jewels or the gold in natural light rather than bringing in artificial torches or lanterns.” He told them.
“Either way, the covering is slightly askew and there is a window opened there, wide enough for a man to slip through.” He added. He saw eyebrows raise as the men realised its importance. “I’ve stationed someone there to keep watch from inside the building to be sure that we can still get through the opening. If it’s closed off, we’ll need to force our way in and I’d prefer those inside didn’t know we were there until we were all in position.” He said.
Braum looked around the room at his men, one by one they nodded in confirmation until he came to the man known as Markson. “Are there any questions?” Braum’s eye flicked to different faces before they settled on Markson. He was the man responsible for sending the signal to the apothecary.
“Once I send word to the apothecary, we do you want me after?” he asked. Aaren nodded, he’d been waiting for that very question, “Once you’ve done your job I want you to round up the other guards, most will be on duty keeping watch over the crowd, grab as many as you can and form a perimeter around the alleyways out the front. Above all else we do not want them to get back into the crowds, it’s too easy for one to slip away or they could harm the townspeople. Once we’re in we’ll engage them and force their surrender, if that fails, we’ll try to flush them out into the streets, straight into your men. We’ll act as the hammer, you will be the anvil.”
Markson seemed content with the answer, and quickly moved away to prepare himself, he wanted half a dozen within easy reach to call upon immediately. Eamonn conferred with the other sentries they’d enlisted during their infiltration, ensuring that each understood their role and the expectations.
He grinned silently to himself as they walked away with confused expressions on their faces. Likely not used to someone half their age giving them orders, he told himself and went to retrieve his own gear. They had made extras of the bolts in case he missed the shot, not that he planned on doing so.
The bolt itself was straight forward, the end was rounded rather than having the usual feathered tips. The shaft was considerably wider to accommodate a gap to loop the thinner rope through. The rope would be tied off ahead of time, they thought first to connect the rope to his crossbow then thought against, if the sudden jerking force on the crossbow damaged it, he wouldn’t have it if they needed it during the infiltration.
Aaren and Eamonn left the guardhouse quickly, the people were milling about the town, many with their backs to them, positioned that way by the administrators and the accompanying sentries.
They had gradually increased the numbers on guard throughout the day so that by mid-afternoon, there were nearly thirty men strewn throughout the Blackden. They had arranged the meeting too so that it coincided with the next increase in guard numbers. It would help cover their movements as they worked their way into position, where they would wait until night.
The food and ale offerings had long expired. Several of the marshal’s administrators and tenders had ushered the townsfolk to the vacated market area to await the grand finale event of the evening. The event was a well-kept secret this year and many were hoping that this it wouldn’t disappoint. Those on patrol kept to their positions, though some were set to maintain the general crowd and were afford the luxury of witnessing the big event.
Eamonn was running quietly towards Aaren. From their lookout, they could see the three men standing outside the entrance of the guild. “Everyone is in position.” Said Eamonn.
Aaren nodded and he spoke in a low whisper, “Did you give them the go ahead?”
“They should be coming around the corner in the next minute or so.” He replied.
The sun had eased its way across the sky, bringing with it the early evening shadows and uneasiness of the darkness. Eamonn and Aaren were at the height of their senses now, the conditions well and truly suited them and their plans. Behind them, they could hear the echo of a trained orator’s voice calling out to its crowd as it gathered their focus. The sound was dulled as they could see the drunken antics of two men walking towards them from the far side of the street.
The pair staggered continuously, mumbling and cursing heartily in a way that epitomized the behaviour of a drunken loony. “And then I said, ‘what about the ladder?’” one of them was shouting, “And what did the fool say?” the other blurted out between laughs, the first man stopped and spoke deliberately, “‘That’s ok we only need to get up there’” and instantly both men cackled at the horrible joke he’d made.
They staggered over one another, one walked into a nearby light post. It rattled it as he pushed off from it and they say the three men waiting outside the guild. The three turned to look at the drunks, the door was flung open and two more rough looking men stepped clear of the doorway and directly towards the drunks, “Oi you!” the first one called, “What makes you think you can cause such a racket?” he demanded, turning away Aaren looked at the those surrounding him, “Time need to go.” he said in barely a whisper.
Eamonn stood quickly, waving his hand towards the shadows where he knew Markson would be watching. He heard, rather than saw, the man run off towards the rest of the town.
The group, moved quickly towards the back. One of the guards stepped forward with the large heavy hammer to strike the door. Aaren put a hand in front to bar his way, holding a finger to his mouth for silence, “Wait for the bang.” He whispered.
They had organised for the ‘drunks’ to wait a period of two minutes, then they would do their best to make as much noise as possible, to cover whatever noise was made by the striking hammer. Aaren counted the seconds off in his head, “Any moment now.” He said quietly. There it was, the sound of crashing came from the street and he signaled for the man to go.
Swiftly, the hammer was raised and brought down in a rapid movement. The lock didn’t stand a chance. Rusted and old as it was, it shattered, shards were sent flying and the door swung open. Aaren crouched low and pushed his way through the gap.
He found himself at the rear of the building and opened up another door, admitting them to the central room on the bottom floor. Braum was waiting for them at the top of the stairs as the others joined Aaren, “You’re late” Braum said with a serious face, then after a moment, his features softened and he smiled, “You boys ready to wreak some havoc?”
Aaren nodded stern faced. David was waiting with the other sentry in the corner of the wash room. He held the others back as he stepped forward to take a look out the windows down to the street below. The drunks were being pushed away from the building. Aaren turned back to those who were on duty. From where he was standing he couldn’t see the opposing rooftop.
Braum diverted to question to the third man, Tucker was his name. “All clear” he declared.
One of the doors had been closed and he turned a questioning look on Braum, “We closed it to keep out the glare of the sun this afternoon.”
Aaren promptly pulled it open, calling for Eamonn to come forth with his crossbow in hand. Aaren kept his slung across his back. Once the rope was tied off, he would cover the others until they were all across.
Eamonn quickly checked his crossbow for anything out of place. He pushed the extended sights into place that would help him judge the angle as he measured off the distance. He’d have to place the shot just right, too high and the beam itself could break from the added weight of Aaren, too low and Aaren wouldn’t have the height to get onto the rooftop. He stayed in a crouching position, aiming the bow straight down the line, he altered it slightly and tried to remain calm.
“Remember to use your instincts.” Aaren whispered to him, “And breath.” he said. The youth relaxed, breathing deeply and taking his time to fire, “Ready.” He announced.
Hastily, Aaren stood, with the rope in his hand. He wound the rope around the leg of the heavy counter of the washroom. He added a third knot just in and tapped Eamonn on the shoulder.
The breeze had kicked up slightly and he could hear raised voices and cries of the excited people waiting for the show to start. The fireworks, as the locals called them, were rockets that would be fired into the air, the line laced with black powder, they would reach a certain height and explode, combining the chemicals inside and releasing an array of colours into the air in intricate patterns.
Not all were rigged correctly however, upon request, the apothecary in charge of putting together the display had tampered with one of the rockets, it would be fired directly over the top of the guild building, the intention would be to disguise the bolt colliding with the beam with the sound of the exploding rocket and Aaren reminded the boy of that fact again, “It’s the fourth one. There will be the signal rocket, release your shot on the third after that.” Aaren slipped quietly forward to the open window, he busily stretched out his fingers and arms in readiness.
A full minute passed before the first rocket shot away, exploding into a fine mist of red light, Eamonn started counting them off to himself, “one…two…” and released as he said “three”. The shot was good, hitting perhaps a centimeter to the left of center on the beam, Eamonn smiled in satisfaction of the shot, the rope came taut and David pulled hard on it to make sure it was firmly in place.
David gave Aaren the all clear and, stealthily, the commissioner swung himself up to the rope with the heavier rope wound around his left shoulder and set about pulling himself along the line in a crablike motion. Hearts in mouths, the others watched as Aaren dangled precariously over the drop until he safely dropped himself feet first onto the roof and hurried over to support beams. He lowered the rope from his shoulder and grabbed up the end, casting it quickly around the support beam and pulling it tight in a series of knots.
Then he realised his mistake, he’d neglected to leave one end of the heavier rope behind. Thinking furiously, he gathered the end of the rope up and attached it towards the end of the thinner rope. He looked up to Eamonn, make a pulling, jerking motion and saw the boy nod. He pulled out his dagger and held it above the rope.
Eamonn nodded and turned to the others, “He’s tied the thicker rope to the other one, I think he forgot to tie it off to begin with. He’ll cut the thinner rope and we’ll haul it across, someone lend me a hand.” He said, hitching his crossbow onto his shoulder.
David stepped forward, taking a length of the rope as Aaren cut his end and, hand over hand, pulled it across the gap again.
Aaren watched for some minutes. He smiled as he said a positive signal from Eamonn. He beckoned the others across, he’d been on his own for long enough, he thought.