Ficlet – Ishika at the Imlaya Pub – The Seer of Ice and Sky by Natsuya Uesugi
The wind whipped down the alley, a stray dog chasing its tail, as Ishika watched on hidden in a recessed doorway. She held silent staring out into the night and then kicked a stone at the dog, frightening it, scurrying away. She did not need a distraction this night, not so close to her target. She could see the window of the jeweler at the end of the alley, just waiting for him to close for the night.
The light went out in the window and the jeweler closed up shop, retreating down the cobblestone street. Ishika released the coiled rope around her shoulder, a hook at the end. Sauntering up to the jewelry store window, she swung the rope overhead throwing it high, yanking down, catching on the tile roof sturdily.
Making sure she was alone, taking up the rope, giving a good tug, she planted her foot on the wall scaling up slowly. Arriving at the second floor, her grip strong, she snuck onto the balcony and settled in pulling the rope up to conceal her entry. Picking the window lock, she entered the upstairs attic of the jewelry store. Score!
The night wore on a turn of the hourglass as Ishika claimed her fill of trinkets from the jeweler’s treasure trove, hiding her goodies in the many purses and pouches hanging off her belt over her patched brown tunic, stitched full with repairs and scuffs from previous missions.
She climbed back down, yanking the rope and going about her way, coiling and hanging it off her belt, caching the pronged hook. She made her way to the Imlaya Pub, a hangout for alchemists who kept to themselves shielding their precious secrets behind voluminous robes hiding incantations and spells one must not utter on open streets.
Ishika had a meeting. The Imlaya, open all night, she made for the underground market in the luxurious catacombs under the human city of Ekhrine. She skipped down the ramp and darted past a guard who waved her calling out, “no stealing, young miss or i will haul you in…”
“By the goddess – of course not,” winked Ishika, spinning, smiling, a flourished bow then skipping away.
The hustle and bustle of the underground market rang loud, colourful cloth signs hanging over stalls inviting you in, Ishika waved at the fortune teller then skipped up to the young boy in the turban and bright outfit sitting near the Imlaya entryway as he fixed coffee in a metal cup over a gas burner.
Ishika leaned down, hands on hips. “Alran, not coffee, again? What did you do to the guild master now?”
Alan held the rod with the coffee cup swishing the dark liquid over the burner with one hand as he added, sugar, a pinch at a time, and goat’s milk, making the brew a deep hazelnut with the other.
“I filched his magic coin,” Alran winked and put the cup down on a metal saucer and removed the rod then added a stick of cinnamon and sprig of mint.
Alran stood up with the coffee and held it out to Ishika who leaned in smelling the sweet aroma.
“Wondrous mint. Your coffee is the best in Ekhrine, as always…”
“Come, the master awaits you.” Alran led Ishika into Imlaya past hanging tapestries, the room sumptuous, hookahs and water pipes leaving a haze in the air as cushions and pillows of many colors lined the carpeted floors. Alan led Ishika to a round booth in the back.
Master Thief Thieseen, the most renowned thief in Ekhrine, white haired with ebony skin in deep black robes and green eyes greeted her as she slipped in the booth. His robes shot through with golden magical symbols of warding smiled. “So, Thief, what treasures prevail you?”
“A jewel from Itheria, a Jahnae tradecraft as subtle and glorious as the faeries themselves,” smirked Ishika going into her pouches at her waist fisting the object. She held her hand clutching the item over the table hidden under her palm as she slipped into the seat. “It will cost you. The deep jade hue you requested, a jewel from the elven creation story lining the walls of the Kannon palace.”
“I will be the judge… The faeries’ murals on the walls of the palace at Kannon are elven legend.”
Ishika released her hand revealing a bright emerald etched jewel with octagon facets, inlaid with gold fleur filigree.
Thieseen’s eyes burst open on seeing the gem, reaching in to grab it as Ishika snatched it back.
“What does that mean?” Thieseen glared, annoyed.
“The gem is yours only if you give me a recommendation to the Thieves’ Guild Council. I am eligible for the title of Master Thief and need your support and a good word.” Ishika held out her hand again, index and middle fingers out, the rest bent. She hung in front of Thieseen waiting for his answer.
The Master Thief sat back in the booth, crossing his arms and smirking, cracking a boisterous laugh. “Little Thief, you ask much… The most renowned thief in all Ekhrine, you dare request a recommendation from me? That is some ego you got there, young lady.”
“You know it. You want this gem? The faeries don’t let just anyone in their walls.”
Thieseen harrumphed, slapping the table, putting out his hand. Ishika put the gem in his palm standing up. Couching the gem in his pocket, he stepped from the booth and ruffled Ishika’s relentless dark vermillion curls, her tanned cheeks red with glee that he accepted her request.
“Little Thief, my word is my bond. This gem will fetch a nice price on the Ekhrine market. I dare say the nobles will fight over this one. I will recommend you for Master Thief to the Thieves Guild Council. I will even be your mentor. How does that sound?”
“Excellent!” Ishika clapped gleefully, her curls bouncing up and down as she jumped in place.
“This deserves coffee, Alarn!” Thieseen cried, the young boy skipping over with two glasses on a serving platter. He set the platter down on the table and handed a glass to Thieseen and one to Ishika who took a sip of the deep black java garnished with mint and a cinnamon stick.
“Now, this my friend is the jewel of thieves,” Thieseen grinned.
“The richest jewel in the world,” agreed Ishika and took a big gulp of the coffee, smiling.