The most dangerous place in Jaon was the open stone court where the philosophers claimed their seats between the pillars. No vault was as heavily guarded, no gilded hoard more watched than the ringed steps and ominent towering columns. Intrusion was a death sentence carried out immediately on the edges of guard blades.
“I hate this plan.” Thorn muttered to the night sky. “It seems like a bad plan.” The thick cord cut into his fingers and palms as he braced against gravity. With a grunt he hauled his employer up the side of the entablature and onto the angled top. Thorn unwound the ropes and massaged blood back into his hands.
“You don’t know the plan. Its a good one.” Raf pointed a finger at Thorn, half bent and breathing hard from the climb. “Shut it.”
“So far its consisted of sneak in and lug your ass up a column. You haven’t explained anything.” Thorn kneeled and pulled Raf easily down with him. She hit the top of the entablature gracelessly and he wondered again just what type of thief got winded from a basic scurry up a rope.
Safe above the red robed guard’s rounds Thorn was able to relax a little. Against a moonless sky two dark shapes wouldn’t be seen atop the pillars, unless you believed the fanciful stories of the stone court’s guardians. Thorn didn’t as he and Raf were uncaught and breathing.
Thorn snuck a glance at the woman who’d hired him to sneak her into the most forbidden place on the continent. As usual, those who hired Thorn told him little of their intentions. It was often better he didn’t know why they needed to be where he got them. But he was currently in the midst of more than a hundred red robed killers, a little context might be helpful. If she noticed his attention, she didn’t show it.
According to Jaon’s rulers the minds that honed themselves here were more precious than any treasure. A single sentence the grey robed philosophers uttered could affect thousands of lives as they debated issues of war, money, religion and of course the power struggles within and outside of Jaon. Thus, these minds and the bodies that housed them were well protected from outside meddling.
Thorn assumed that was exactly what they were doing here, not that she was sharing. He made a living getting into places he wasn’t supposed to be, he didn’t know exactly how Raf made hers, but he suspected it probably had to do with some sort of meddling.
“We’ll be spotted when the sun rises.” Thorn pointed out after a bit, as Raf still hadn’t explained anything. While he knew his way around a knife the red guards moved like vipers. In an honest fight Thorn would not stand a chance.
“The philosophers assemble before dawn.” Raf said. Her voice was calm and Thorn couldn’t see any tremor in her fingers. He was impressed, nerves prior to any job were common for even the best thieves and assassins. “The guards memorize every scholar and philosopher by face, as dawn approaches the red robes will withdraw to the entrance ways to check every man and woman who enters into the court.”
Thorn didn’t see how this was going to help them remain unseen.
“Which is why we had to be inside far before dawn.” Raf explained and opened the bag she’d brought. Thorn balked when she pulled out the folded grey cloth.
“You are joking.” Thorn said. Impersonating one of the scholars was unfathomable, to even be considered for the grey robe required years of study and a mastery of the higher arts. Thorn didn’t even know what those were.
Raf threw the cloth around her shoulders. “No, weren’t you a little curious about what I was planning to steal here? Its not as if the philosophers have gold or treasure under their robes.” She snorted as if that was silly.
“What exactly are you taking then? And why did I need to haul you up here?” Thorn forced himself to lower his voice. Raf was definitely going to get them killed, but he didn’t have to hurry the process.
“We needed a safe place to wait until we can slip in among the others. And you know what they do here, bet you’ve never stolen a trade agreement before? A succession? Or a war?” Raf grinned and Thorn didn’t like the manic gleam in her eyes. “A single well placed argument can turn the course of the country. You just need one of these on to do it.” She pulled out a second bundle of grey cloth.
Thorn stared at her and shook his head. He was a skulk, he got the thieves, assassins and rogues into the places they shouldn’t be…but he kept his hands clean of the messes they made there. “No.”
“They’ll see you when the sun comes up.” Raf’s grin was sharp as she parroted his words back. Thorn found he liked the woman less and less, impressive handle on nerves notwithstanding. “There is just as many stories about the guards as there is about the philosophers. Which do you care to explore?”
The answer was obvious, but Raf’s smile widened like she’d won something when he grabbed the robe from her. “I hate this plan.” He told her.