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She slipped through the open doorway and padded softly down the corridor. So far, so good. If she had timed it right, she could get all the way down to the basement before the guards changed shift. She slipped from shadow to shadow, alcove to corner, and finally reached her destination.

They called it the safest place in the city. Protected by the sturdiest locks and the strongest magical wards, this was where the richest nobles put their valuables for safe keeping. Even the royal family made use of it. If she could walk out of here with just the tiniest fraction of what lay behind the door, even just a single handful, she would be free from financial hardship for the rest of her life.

She set her pack down and knelt before the door, pulling out her lockpicks and the ritual accoutrements she would need to dispel the wards. Her gaze was already caught by the puzzle of the wards, trying to see the way they overlapped and interacted, trying to spot the equivalent of a loose thread, a hole she could get her magical fingers in to pull it all apart. She was so focussed on the wards that she didn’t notice when the wrap that held her picks caught on the buckle of her pack and came undone. As fast as she was, she couldn’t catch all the picks in time. One fell, hitting the ground with a tiny metallic noise. In an instant the echo was multiplied by the wards, ringing out like an alarm, screaming down the corridor and alerting the guards.

The would-be thief swallowed a curse, grabbed her pack and ran, leaving the safest place in the city untouched and secure.

For the time being.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: This week the Three Word Wednesday prompts are Echo, Hardship and Softly.)

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