The caravan had set up a camp and were getting ready to settle in for the day. This meant that some were to help take care of a few quick chores, and then it was off to bed. Pitch was old enough to begin helping out, so his mother had asked him to go to the river and fetch some water in a bucket. They had stopped rather far from the river however, mostly because the forest was so dense that they had a hard time finding a path for the wagons. But she had told Pitch to head east for a certain amount of steps, turn left and then straight ahead.
Or had that been right that she meant? Pitch had been certain it had been left, but he had walked for a very long time now, and there was no sign of a river anywhere. That the forestfloor felt as if it was going upward simply told him that he was basically climbing up the mountains foot.
To top it off, there were large dark clouds gathering, and thereby blocking the sun so that Pitch couldn’t tell what time it was. For all he knew, it could be early or late afternoon. All he knew for certain, was that he was utterly and completely lost.
And he was also exhausted and hungry, he thought miserably as he sat down on a large rock to rest. If he had just follows the dumb directions properly, he would have been curled up and sleeping in the wagon by now, sleeping with his mother and stepfather and the rest of his family.
Instead, here he was now, alone, lost and afraid.
He didn’t realize he had started to cry, until he let out a small sob. And then from there, it just turned into outright bawling. Being only a child, he was not too proud to admit that he was scared and he wanted his mom.
“You must be looking for my other half. Presently I could care less about anyone. I am Mani. The one you seek is Lunar and he is presently in the embrace of said Hellhound due to a fright. How may I help you?”
For as long as he could remember, Nicholas st North had always had a fatal attraction to palaces.
Scratch that - he’d always had a fatal attraction to any building with a lock on the door and interesting things inside.
Perhaps he had been a bandit at heart even before he’d been picked up by the rogues that he had adopted as his (rather dysfunctional) family; perhaps having spent his formative years as a feral child had simply given him a grey moral compass when it came to breaking and entering.
Either way, one of his earliest memories was sneaking in to one of the Russian palaces as a boy - so blatantly a child from the streets, with his filthy bare feet and grubby clothing - and at the time he’d been so proud of himself because he convinced himself that he’d passed himself off as a servant and been given hot bread and fats from the kitchen by one of the cooks there. When he thought back on it now, he knew that he hadn’t really pulled off the deception, and that likely the woman had taken pity on that scrawny, dirty creature; but he could still remember how delicious that food had been to his empty stomach and it had only further fueled the desire to sneak back in again, next time for the silver cutlery that he’d seen in the drawers or the richly-embroidered clothing that he’d seen folded and pressed by the washer women’s rooms.
Perhaps another attraction was that palaces - and their inhabitants - were so heavily guarded. The challenge made him thrill with excitement, and he’d have been lying if he’d said that he didn’t get a kick out of the adrenaline rush. To sneak in and out, pockets heavy with gold, right underneath the noses of those slow-footed palace show ponies… The thought of it made him grin with pleasure. It was a suitable middle finger to those who lorded it over their lands.
His bandit clan, nomadic as they were, had come to set their camps in the eastern tundras for a while, and whereas his fellows were happy to eat and drink and spend their days relaxing, their chief had set his mind to greater adventures. As they’d travelled, they’d picked up tales of the Zeemah Dvo'rets - the Winter Palace - a mystical place guarded by frost giants and filled with treasures beyond even the greatest imagination.
It was like it had been built just for North. What greater challenge could a King of Bandits ask for?
His men might have been content to laze, but North had been eyeing up the stories practically from the moment that they’d settled in these lands. His whole body itched for a challenge, and with his crew else-wise distracted with their own amusements he’d slipped away, traversing forests and passing lakes as he dug his way deeper into the landscape, further into the darkness of a godless country, until he’d come across those glittering, icy spires and frozen towers.
His breath vanished to gaze at it - it was a true marvel, a joy to behold, and he could only imagine what wondrous treasures he might discover with in. Just imagine it - just sitting there, waiting for his pockets to relieve them of their boring life on a shelf!
As silent as the darkness that protected him, the thief moved with years of practiced grace, scaling walls and slipping along in the shadows of courtyard walls. The sharp tip of a knife made short work of a lock on a window, and he slid through it with a congratulatory, white-toothed grin and a flush of satisfaction. It was one of the distinct pleasures of being able to pick locks; no glass or key could keep his prying hands and eyes on the outside.
Easy. It was all too easy.
The soft soles of his boots made little noise as he padded his way down one of the corridors, taking a chance to admire the rich tapestries that hung on the walls and the carved furniture that lined the hallways. Whoever existed here knew how to live - he had to commend them for that, if nothing else. They were definitely rich - they wouldn’t miss a trinket or two. Technically, the gold he took would go to feeding hungry bandits - it was a kind of charity, surely. He was simply the humble vessel of beneficence.
As he walked, he picked up various ornaments from the sideboards - a drinking cup here, a statue there - appraising them idly for their value before placing them back further down the corridor when their value didn’t satisfy his standards. Whatever jewels he was after, they would be further in - in the bedrooms, perhaps, or if he was lucky, he’d come across an armory or treasury. He’d picked up a wonderfully useful, gold-gilt hunting knife from a Tsar’s country home a few years back - perhaps he’d come across another and make himself a set from them.
The corridor turned a corner, and opened into one that boasted rows of heavy, ornately-carved doors down its length. As good a place as any to start, the thief considered idly, stopping at the first door and trying it lightly. Unlocked. Hah, these people were practically asking to be robbed. Glancing back down the corridor to make sure that he was alone, he nudged the door a little further open, and slipped inside.