The Red Blade
Part Four – The Lock Breaker
Carse probed carefully at the heavy lock with the thin piece of wire. His eyes had been bound by a thick band of cloth so that he could see nothing at all. Gently he turned the wire, feeling for the minute vibrations that travelled through it into his fingers, building up a picture of the lock’s inner workings in his mind. A twist, a turn, and he heard a faint click as the lock came undone.
He pulled back the cloth that blinded him to look at the open lock. It sat on a table in front of him, the last of three that he had been working on, three large, bulky but cunning crafted devices. Across the table from him sat a seedy looking man who had much of the mannerisms and appearance of a rat about him, having a long, pointed nose, beady eyes and dark hair that had been oiled back. Prador, as he called himself, came from the melting pots that were the city-states of the Swordlands of Kharadas, his ethnicity so blended so as to be unknown. He claimed ancestry of half a dozen lands; Ishmarite, Akuvian, Cahadian, Navodian, Agaran and even Metsheput, and for each he had ties to nobility. How much of his stories were simply fanciful tales Carse found impossible to tell, but they were entertaining nonetheless.
Prador had a knack with traps and locks, with sleight of hand and of being able move silently and unseen, which spoke of a less than honest life. Now he sought to impart his skills upon Carse, at the behest of Athradies. As with all he was being taught, Carse had pondered long and hard as to the reasoning behind needing to learn them.
All will become clear in time, my boy, was all that Athradies would tell him when pressed on the issue. For now, learn all that you can. It will stand you in good stead, no matter what the future may bring.
“You are making good progress,” Prador told Carse, displaying a toothy grin. “That is good, though to make a truly first rate lock breaker, you would need to be faster still. It will come with practice, given your aptitude, I am certain. Admittedly, these are devilishly difficult twister locks, so you did well to crack them. There are not many who can do so.”
Prador, unlike Ilafra the swordsman, did acknowledge success and progress. That, and the many and varied stories the little man interspersed throughout the lessons, favoured Carse more towards him than his other teachers. In a way he was the closest thing that Carse had had to a friend. At times, the lessons had even been put aside to simply talk on many matters. Beneath his looks, Prador possessed a cunning intellect, sharp as a knife and just as deadly.
“Are there many places with locks such as these?” Carse inquired.
Prador shrugged a non-committal answer, as if to say that he did not know. Not for a second did Carse believe that. “A few,” Prador admitted, “And none of those are places you would ever want to be caught in after you’ve cracked their locks. You have to be quick and quiet if you do,” he added, tapping at the side of his nose, his eyes agleam with mischief.
“Am I likely to see the insides of one of those places?” Carse asked.
The shrug came once more. “Who can say, lad.”
“Does Master Athradies wish me to see the inside of them?” Carse persisted, attempting by subtle means to dig out clues as to Athradies intent for him.
Prador laughed easily and shook his head. “Don’t think that you can twist the Master’s designs out of me that easily, lad. He’ll reveal them all in good time, when he is ready, and not before. Now, recite for me the Three Principles of the Silent Step, and give examples of how each would be used.”
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