Morn crept to the top of the stairs dressed in his darkest clothing. His heart furiously thrummed in his chest making his hands shake. He had waited for hours, running each step of the plan through his mind over and over for tonight. The only sounds in the house were that of his father gently snoring and the occasional pop from the fireplace in the living room.
He began his descent down the stairs, using both the wall and the banister to lower himself slowly onto each step. A third of the way down sat the sixth stair, the one that sounded like a dying animal whenever weight was put on it. He was sweating. He could feel his palms losing grip on the railing as he lowered himself, and his heel hit the sixth stair.
A quick squeak echoed through the room as Morn stopped and locked his eyes on his father sleeping in the chair. His father rubbed his nose and shifted slightly before he resumed snoring. Morn let a sigh of relief escape his lips. He continued down the stairs a little faster now.
Reaching the front door at the bottom without incident, he placed his hand on the latch. He gave himself a few breaths to steady his nerves before opening the door and slipping out into the night, quickly shutting the door behind him.
The cool air of the night was welcome, but the guards he saw making their way down the road were not a welcome sight. He ran into the alley to his left where no light was and pressed himself up against the brick at his back until the guards passed, their armor glinting faintly in the light from the street torches.
Step 1 done, he thought as he looked up at Celeste’s window.
He grabbed a few pebbles from the ground and began tossing them gently at her window. After the third, the curtains drew back and she opened the window.
“What?” she asked in a hushed voice.
For a moment, Morn was at a loss for words. The candlelight flickering behind her wreathed her form, giving her the appearance of what he thought an angel might look like. Even in the dim light of the alley he could see the fire in her eyes.
“I’m trying to get over the wall tonight, are you coming?” he asked.
Celeste looked over her shoulder quickly and shook her head, “I can’t. My mother is still up, maybe tomorrow?”
Morn felt the drop in his chest.
“No worries,” Morn replied with a forced smile, “I have to try tonight, it’s the last night with no moon.”
“Let me know what you see!” she said, “Sorry.”
Celeste closed the window as Morn moved to the back of the house. From the shadows, he could see the garden shed sitting almost a hundred feet from the building. He pulled the thin metal tools from his pocket and double-checked that the two he needed for the lock were in the right hand. He looked around quickly for more guards, and when he saw there were none, he bolted for the door. With a few quick motions, the lock on the door popped open and he slipped inside closing it behind him.
The small shed housed the garden tools his mother had used to tend the now largely ignored garden behind the house before she died. Spades, hoes, and rakes hung from the wall. Pots lined the shelves opposite, and in the back center was a small table. The rope he was after sat neatly coiled under the table with an empty burlap sack. Morn jammed it into the sack and cracked the door to see if anyone was around. Not seeing anyone he moved back out into the darkness.
Step 2 done, he thought as he moved closer to the buildings.
The inner wall that lined the graveyard and monastery grounds grew closer as he darted from shadow to shadow behind the buildings. Twice he had to stop because he heard people. The first was a man talking to someone inside the building. The second was another set of guards. He had already stepped out into the open when they came past. He quickly backpedaled to the shadow and held his breath, sure that they saw him. They continued on as though they hadn’t seen or heard anything.
Too close, he thought as he continued on.
Without any further incidents, he made it to the fifteen-foot stone wall adorned with gargoyles along its top. The sculptures had unsettled him during the day, and now at night they looked positively evil. Their unseeing eyes looked out over the town as their claws reached out. The mouths of each were slightly open showing the sharp-looking fangs that could tear a man apart. They looked almost hungry for him.
Morn took a deep breath, tied a lasso in the rope, and threw it over the nearest gargoyle’s head. He tested the line twice before he felt confident enough to climb the wall. Placing his foot on the wall he began to walk up the wall as he had practiced on his house, each step bringing the stone creature’s mouth closer to him. Trying not to be exposed longer than necessary, he moved as fast as he could up the wall. Just as the gargoyle came within arm’s reach he heard a splintering crack.
It seemed to happen in slow motion in his mind. The creature’s head turned slightly in his direction, and then came toward him quickly. An instinctual yelp exited his mouth as the broken head of the gargoyle hit him in the chest, and he curled his hands around it in a vain effort to grab anything before he hit the grass beneath him. He looked down at the head, the eyes were not stone, but dark gems set into the stone. They seemed to shine with a life they didn’t have before.
Morn shoved the head away from him and got shakily to his feet.
“I’ve come too far already. I have to know what’s inside,” Morn whispered to the head as he coiled the rope once more.