My brother used to say, “With a thousand lies and a good disguise, anything is possible.”
I might be a fool for believing him, but what was the point of knowing magic – real magic, not the cheap tricks from the gambling dens in Pilfers Alley – if we didn’t use it to build the life we wanted?
And a specially developed stone that could enhance magic to unimaginable heights sounded like just what we needed. I wanted to sell it in the black market and make a fortune out of it, but Logan had bigger plans for it. Either way, we were robbing the Treasury and getting our hands on that stone tonight.
Logan stole us the outfits – exquisitely woven navy-blue coats embellished with gold thread, white gloves, and gleaming black shoes – from a boutique down Fifth Street, where neat cobbled streets gave way to bumpy, cracked pavements. And, according to him, looking the part was half the battle won.
Even Anna-Sophia thought we were nobles, and she was a sharp one. If we could fool even her into inviting us to this ball, then surely we had a smidgen of chance with those old codgers in the Grand Council?
“Quit fidgeting, Rory,” Logan said as I smoothed the front of my coat again.
We strode through the empty ballroom in tandem, keeping our ears peeled for any noise. This place was a maze. Even with the help of the map we had stolen from Councilman Robbs’s office, it would take a while to find our bearings in here. The thick carpeting muffled our footsteps, but my hands were sweating in my gloves.
“If you’re looking for the Treasury, it’s that way,” said a voice all-too-familiar.
Logan and I whirled around to find Anna-Sophia in the doorway, dressed a resplendent red velvet gown and rubies in her hair.
“Anna-Sophia,” Logan said, beaming. “You look like a vision.”
“Thank you, Logan. As I was saying, the Treasury is that way.” She nodded to her right. “And you have half-bell’s time to do the deed and leave before anyone discovers you. Go – I’ll hold up the reception for as long as I can.” She disappeared down the hallway before either of us could reply.
Only two guards were positioned outside the Treasury – simple enough. Logan nodded once at me. I snuck behind a pillar as he loitered before the guards.
“Gentlemen,” he said pleasantly. “Could you kindly point me towards the reception?” One of them pointed. “Thank you.” He clapped the guard on the shoulder, his hands ungloved.
In an instant, the guard stiffened and his gaze went blank. A stony pallor washed over him, and he stood perfectly still, his hand still hovering in mid-air.
The second guard’s eyes widened. “Intruder!” he cried, only to be silenced by Logan, who laid a hand against his mouth. His face remained frozen in a state of alarm, mouth wide open but silent. Logan waved a finger at me and I got to work.
I removed my gloves and brushed my hand along the gaudily decorated wall, searching for the tiniest crack, the slightest opening that would let me through. Faster, Rory.
And then I found it. A hairline crack just below a blazing lamp perched by the double doors to the Treasury. I took a deep breath and slipped in, easing every inch of my body between the cool, solid rock until I could taste air again.
I emerged into a dark, cavernous room with a ceiling at least three stories high and lined with rows and rows of steel cases. None of those would contain what we were after. According to Anna-Sophia, Devil’s Eye, the stone that the Council had commissioned a group of magic-scientists to develop, would melt right through those cases. It had to be stored in pure marble that would subdue its heat.
Outside, a scuffle had broken out. “We’ve found an intruder! Seal all entrances!” someone roared. Several pairs of boots thundered down the hallway.
Come on, Rory. No time to lose.
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I wove through the rows of safes, aware of my ragged, shallow breaths, until I came face-to-face with a white marble box no bigger than a woman’s jewellery box mounted atop a marble pedestal.
This had to be it. I laid a hand on top of the case, felt the stone part layer by layer until my hand hit the bottom. I groped around, willing my fingers to meet the stone. But there was nothing. The safe was empty.
My hand was still caught in the marble safe when a door on my right, obscured by a column of steel cases, swung open. Lamplight threw me into stark relief and blinded me. I could just about make out five figures – a portly one holding the lamp, a curvy female figure, and Logan’s tall, strapping one flanked by two others.
It wasn’t until I came to terms with the light that I saw Logan’s hands, gloved and cuffed, behind his back and the two new guards behind him, gripping his shoulders.
“Well,” said Councilman Robbs, lowering the lamp and eyeing me from head to toe. “I suppose I could add a couple of stone thieves to my syndicate.”
Anna-Sophia stood behind her father. “I hear they’re very rare, but clearly very useful,” she said, a slow smile sliding across her face. The rubies in her hair glowed in the lamplight, devilish and bright.
About the Author
Joyce hails from the tropical island-city of Singapore, where she spends the perennially sunny days writing YA novels and short stories. Since graduating with a degree in English from the National University of Singapore, she has won a nationwide novel-writing competition organised by the National Arts Council and published her YA contemporary romance, LAMBS FOR DINNER (Straits Times Press, 2013). She subsists on green tea and baked pumpkins, and blogs about books, writing, and TV shows at The Writes of Passage in between writing her next novel. You can read all of her short stories here.