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part one

It was cold and dank beneath Gwythr's ruins. The walls pressed in tightly on all sides plunging the winding passageways into a claustrophobic blackness. The air was stale, laced with the scent of mould and neglected decay, but Murray remained untroubled. He had been in worse places, less profitable places; the dark God's crumbled fortress had been good to him. He and other bandits had cleared out the vaults years previously, but unlike other outlaws Murray was patient and persistent. He had found the hidden places and the secret passageways hewn into the rock. The items he had discovered there had been rarer and far more precious than any of the golden heirlooms he had carried away from the vaults. Sebauza Ruins were a gift that just kept giving.

The smuggler paused in the entrance way and flicked his thumb against his forefinger as if lighting a match. A small flicker of flame crowned his thumb and he smiled at it briefly before opening the door on his lantern. Murray ignited the wick of the candle, flicked the door closed and extinguished the fire on his finger tip with a stylish puff. He held the lantern up as he edged into the tunnel, taking care to duck down to avoid any low-hanging stalactites. Water dripped and his footsteps echoed as he proceeded deeper into the cavernous belly of Gwythr's empire. His crouched shadow loomed large against the rocks, distorted by the unrefined lantern glass.

His fingers found the mark they sought. Murray had carved a cross deep into the wall on his last visit so he wouldn't lose his treasure trove; the twists and turns of the tunnels all started to look the same if you wandered them long enough. It was better to be safe than sorry. A little south of the cross was a small indent. Murray edged his fingers into the gap and pushed down hard. A small crack appeared in the wall. The smuggler pulled his flip-knife from his pocket and slipped it into the gap to prise open the door. Stone dust rained down as the stonework ground together with a sickening crunch.

Murray loosened his collar as he proceeded into the antechamber. It was warmer suddenly, though he could detect no earthly reason for it, and the ceiling was high enough for the smuggler to stand up straight. It was how he remembered it, he could see the shadows of the shelves around the corner. Murray shrugged his bag down off his shoulder and approached them. He began to pluck down choice items off the shelf and to push them carefully into the duffle. The smuggler had packed it with sawdust to protect his discoveries on the journey home. Satisfied he had relieved the shelves of its prime possessions Murray zipped up his bag and turned to leave. Something stopped him.

An image flashed into his head, and before he had chance to register what it was it had gone. The smuggler frowned and hoisted his bag higher on his shoulder. He made a move to leave again. The image returned: a glass bottle, the size of a decanter, containing a light blue gas. It seemed to be filled with little silver flecks that glimmered like stars. Murray didn't know what it was, but he knew he wanted it. He wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything. The need went beyond his usual brand of grasping greed; it ran deeper. He was lost in his desire for it.

The smuggler was so lost in his lust for the little jar that at first he didn't realise that the tunnel had filled with an eyrie blue glow. Murray blinked against the glare as the light grew brighter and managed to recover enough of himself to wonder where it was coming from. He edged cautiously around the bend, sticking close to the wall. You didn't get far in Murray's trade by being foolhardy...but his usual cowardly wisdom betrayed him when he saw the jar. It sat alone in the middle of an empty shelf. Oblivious to everything but the glow Murray scrambled forwards, reaching out for it with desperate hands. The glass was so cold it hurt his fingers. It didn't matter, the jar was worth it. Almost reverently Murray slipped the jar into his bag positioning it in such a way that he could still caress the lid as he walked.

Without a second glance, Murray hurried home.

    • part two -
    • part three -
    • the mission -

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