166/365 – A Thief by Any Other Name

Day 24 of 100 Word Prompts: House


Byron woke to the throb of a headache already pounding away. He had passed out at the tavern again, sleeping with his face against the rough wood of a table. He winced as he lifted his head and felt a twinge in his neck. The room smelled of alcohol and poor decisions of the night before as the gentle snoring of his traveling companion Dakis emanated from somewhere unseen on the far side of the table.

Pushing his chair out, Byron stood and stretched before double-checking the location of his leather bag under the table. As he pulled the bag up, he saw Dakis, drooling on himself as he lay flat on the floor with one leg on the chair he had occupied the night before.

“Dakis,” Byron said, “Come on. It’s time to wake up.”

Dakis continued snoring, utterly unphased by the sudden noise.

Byron shrugged, set his bag on the table and began going through the contents. He made it about halfway through when he hesitated, looking at the spot where his book had been.

“Dakis, get up now!” Byron said as he dumped his bag out on the table. He scattered the remaining items, and when he still didn’t see his book, he began checking under the table and around where he had slept. “Dakis, for the sake of the gods, get your ass off the floor.”

“W-what’s the deal?” Dakis said as he stretched, “Oh, I’m on the floor again. Man, that was a crazy-”

“Dakis, my book’s gone, help me look for it! It wasn’t in my bag,” Byron said as he dropped to his hands and knees, crawling around the table, scanning for the familiar leather cover.

“Ow, my head,” Dakis moaned as his leg dropped from the chair. He propped himself up and looked at Byron through one open eye. “That lady last night was the last one looking at it, remember?”

“What? I let someone look at my songs? I wouldn’t-I couldn’t-I never-” Byron said, dropping his forehead to the floor. He remembered a blonde human vaguely, or was she an elf? “I can’t see her clearly.”

“You’re mumbling,” Dakis said as he pulled himself to his feet on shaky legs. His hands went to his stomach quickly, “Oh, I don’t feel so good.”

Byron lifted himself from the floor and ran to the bar. “Hello? Is anyone still here?”

A few dull thuds and the quick patter of bare feet on the floor came from somewhere in the back before the door behind the bar opened.

“Hello, how can I-”

“Harper! Do you remember a woman last night that was near me?” Byron said.

“Yeah, you two were pretty sweet on each other. I thought you were going to go find an inn-”

“Do you remember what she looked like? Was she human or an elf?” Byron asked. “I need to find her. I think she took my book of songs. I need it back.”

“She was a human, I pretty sure,” Harper yawned, “though humans don’t usually have skin that fair. She might have a tinge of elf in her. Why?”

“I need to find her,” Byron repeated. “Did you hear anything last night? Her name or the house where she’s staying?”

“No, I don’t think I-wait. Yes, she had said she was taking a boat today. Said she chartered passage to somewhere in the south or something or other,” Harper replied.

“Did she say the name of the boat?” Byron asked. “Quickly, please.”

“No, she never mentioned it,” Harper said, but Byron was already at the door.

“Dakis, I’m heading to the docks, hurry up and come on,” Byron said as he pushed through the door into the sweltering heat that had plagued Skiple for weeks.

Byron knew the docks were less than a mile away, and he ran as fast as he could manage. Halfway there, his breath was beginning to catch, and a stitch threatened his left side as he forced himself onward. He stopped at the top of the docks and found a sailor loading crates.

“Have you seen a blonde woman come through here? She could be human or possibly a half-elf,” Byron asked.

“Yeah, a few hours ago,” the sailor said. “I was just starting my watch-”

“Where did she go?” Byron interrupted.

“I think she went down to the Aquilon on the larger docks,” the sailor replied, pointing down the pier.

“Thanks,” Byron said as he tore off through the district, breathing heavily.

Every person he saw, as he approached, he called out the name of the ship and pointed. Each time he got a positive response, his heart would skip. He knew he could retrieve it if he could catch her, provided that the ship hadn’t departed.

“Aquilon?” Byron called out as someone stepped in front of him with their hands up to stop him. “I need to get on the Aquilon. A passenger has something that’s-”

“Not possible, mate,” the man replied. It was only now that Byron saw the man wasn’t dressed as a sailor. “The ship left two hours ago.”

“Who are you?” Byron asked.

“Ignacio Pratt,” he replied, holding out a hand for Byron to shake. “Dock manager.”

“Ignacio, do you know where the Aquilon was heading?” Byron asked.

“Their next port, I believe, was supposed to be Port Rether for supplies, then out to Causter before continuing on,” Ignacio replied. “They aren’t supposed to be back for a year, maybe more. Their heading westward for a while.”

Byron’s arms dropped to his sides. “Thanks,” he muttered as he trudged down to the end of the dock.

Byron walked along the docks of Skiple, looking out over the ocean to the west. The cool ocean breeze cooled his skin. He took a deep breath, letting the salty air fill his lungs and nose. His left hand, clenched tight, shook slightly as he searched for her.

“She’s gone,” Dakis said, drawing Byron’s attention from the water.

“She stole my book, Dakis,” Byron replied. “I have to find her. Whatever her name is. I have to find her to get those back.”

 

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