Sesskia’s Diary, part 50

9 Lennitay, very early, maybe just past midnight (continued)

I climbed up on the sill and reached for the brick, tugged on it a little to satisfy myself that it was solid, then sat on the sill with my back to the open air and thought about what to do next. The spymaster had come in this way, but was it just a convenient passthrough, or was there something important about it? It hadn’t exactly been easy to find. I went all the way to the top of the tower, where the passage just went right up to the roof (the underside of the observatory) as if it had once been open to the air and some giant, possibly the same one that had built Colosse, had slapped the observatory over it like capping it off. Then I came back down until I passed “my” window and reached the first of the single brass doors. It was unlocked. I opened it cautiously, then slipped inside.

It hadn’t occurred to me, because I am occasionally stupid, that none of these tower rooms would have windows because they were all on the inside. I had to stop to do the see-in-dark pouvra, and then I was stunned at what I saw: shelves and chests and wardrobes piled high with every imaginable type of fur, all tanned and clean and ready to be turned into clothing. I’ve said before that my expert appraiser’s eye is hampered by my not knowing the value of things in Castavir, so I’ll put everything (and there was much, much more) in my own terms, and to the right buyer, this room would be worth a fortune. Furs aren’t as popular as they once were in Balaen, at least they aren’t as much a symbol of nobility as they used to be, but they’re still the province of the wealthy, and though they’re not as portable a form of wealth as you might like, they’re still valuable. I petted a mink and took a better look around. Definitely a fortune. There were five other exits from the room, all of which led to smaller rooms, all of those rooms filled with ingots of precious metals like bricks for a mad God-Empress’s palace. I released the concealment pouvra and wandered through them in a daze, because I’d never seen that much wealth accumulated in one place. Eventually I had to shut the doors and move on, before my twitching fingers could collect a souvenir.

The part of me that is a master thief would like to describe, in loving detail, the contents of the God-Empress Renatha’s treasury—because that’s what the tower was, seventeen rooms of jewels and precious metals and art and things I couldn’t even put a value on because we don’t care about them in my world. There were coffers of jewels (I love jewels, they’re so portable and everyone wants them) and strings of silver and gold chains and paintings whose frames alone were probably worth a coffer of jewels, and it was so damn hard not to take something, especially now that I know I like jewelry for myself and not just for what it can buy me. But aside from the practicalities, which is that someone like me isn’t likely to have a lot of personal wealth in any form, I wouldn’t put it past the God-Empress to know down to the last two-carat diamond exactly how much treasure she has, and to be able to figure out who walked off with whatever’s missing. Really, this place was not well protected and it wasn’t guarded at all. Unless….

It was at that point that my imagination started running wild about the possibility of th’an that sounded a silent alarm and soldiers with large swords and muskets and mages who could do who knew what kind of martial kathanas, and my heart pounded a little faster for a few beats before I reminded myself that I’d been there for a while, and I’d handled some of the treasure, and if there were silent alarms and martial kathanas, I’d have found out about them by now. Even so, I didn’t linger in any more of the treasure rooms.

I looked through, but did not enter, those brass double doors I’d passed before, and saw only a short hall that made a sharp right turn about five feet from the door. I was planning to come back up and see where it led after I reached the base of the tower, but I changed my mind when I found what was there. More exploration for another time.

But now, the base of the tower. Actually, it wasn’t the base of the tower but the base of the palace below the tower, all seven stories to the ground instead of just the three of the round tower below the observatory. At the end of the curving, descending passage was another brass double door, but this one looked beaten, as if someone had tried to break it down once. It was also locked, as I learned when I pushed on it a little, and then I very nearly became a dead thief for my carelessness, because the person on the other side of the door immediately unlocked it and flung it open. I’d skipped backward a few steps when the door began to open, and I worked the concealment pouvra and pressed myself against the wall, grateful for the pouvra’s protection even though it made it hard for me to feel my fingertips and my toes.

to be continued…