Think fingers, tapered to cruel little points, ran themselves over the weave. The undulating barrier was strong, designed to prickle and burn the fingers even as they broke the delicate and unseen threads. It sneered at the pain, pain was nothing. Not compared to the thing on the other side of the biting ward. It licked its thin lips and stared hungry at the thing set and waiting on its small pedestal. With such a thing It would be rewarded for its courage, and the fun they would have.
It sucked its teeth, frustrated as the threads began to reweave themselves. Tricky thing, but then such a treasure would not be unguarded. It snarled and plunged its claws through the hindrance doing as it was designed. It tore and ripped and destroyed until there was a gaping hole with threads waving pitifully as they tried to regrow. The barrier tried to reconstruct, but It scurried through hissing as the frayed edges burned down its scaled back. But It was inside. And the thing was….
Gone. Its slimy eyes widened and narrowed to slits. The thing was gone. It snarled, gnashing needle teeth before bringing Its fingers around the empty pedestal, reducing the white stone to rubble. The ward around It was bright and whole again.
A trick. But the thing. The thing had been there. No one in all the realms, not Its or any other kind could fake such a thing. The thing was close.
It saw the thing. Now outside the barrier and wrapped in the arms of something, no someone, else. Raven’s hair and delicate as the threads that encircled It. Breakable, It thought, and small. But holding the thing to chest, protective and pleased with a smile on blood colored lips.
It roared and charged, rending Its thick fingers and pointed claws against the barricade keeping It in and from the thing. The threads were bright and like metal now, flashing in the weak starlight. They did not break or tear under Its furious swipes and bites.
The someone waited. Waited for It to tire of the trap. It did. The barricade was strong now. It coiled angry but caught. Time to talk then, time to deal. “Stupid …” It stopped. The someone was not a reaper, but reeked of soul. Not mortal, no mortals here. Probably dead. “Stupid someone.” It spat. “Orphan you. Rend parents and kill loved.” It snapped Its teeth for effect. Didn’t know what someone was, could be cowed, It didn’t know.
“Centuries too late for that.” The someone said. “Rending and killing only happens if you get out.”
“Got in tearing.” It said and took another swipe at the warded weave imprisoning it. Its pointed claws reverberated and burned, like metal on metal.
“A trap doesn’t work if your quarry can’t get in. As with everything here, getting out is the trick.” The someone said dryly, also unafraid.
It barred its needle teeth at the someone. It didn’t care what the someone knew. “The thing. Give the thing.” It watched the thing, wrapped so carefully in the someone’s arms. Not a reaper as It would smell that stink. “The thing not yours.” It smiled, knowing what the someone was now, It hissed the word. “Thief.”
“No, not mine. But not yours either. This is the bait.” The thief shifted the thick bound paper between arms.
“Give name Thief.”
“No. But I’ll take one, not yours, someone else’s.”
“You deal?” It questioned. Deals were something It knew.
The thief nodded. “I deal.”
Lena was rummaging through her bag in a panic. With a final desperate move she upturned the cloth and dumped its contents over the inn’s bar. Scraps of paper, gum, hair bands, and even a few marbles rolled over the shiny wood surface. “Noooo” It was half a whimper, half a moan. She dropped her forehead to the bar, hair pooling amidst the misfit residents of her purse.
“Lena?” A familiar voice asked behind her.
She didn’t look up. “What?” The response came out muffled.
“Did you lose something?”
It was an innocent question of course but it made her want to cry. “Yes.” She sniffed and raised her head from the bar, beginning to turn around. “My—“
“Notebook!” She finished, eyes going wide at the thick bound paper the other woman held out to her. “Oh if I had lost this thing….” Lena was so relieved she could have hugged her friend, she didn’t of course.
“You didn’t.” The notebook was pressed into Lena’s arms with a warm smile.
“Thank you.” Lena breathed out.
“Don’t mention it.” Another smile and she was walking away, leaving Lena to wonder what had just gone on.