This story is by Lindsi McIntyre and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Travis marched through the Lord Baron’s manor as if he owned the place. He didn’t even bother to muffle the stomp of his boots on the shining, hardwood floor. It wouldn’t matter if he were heard or not.
With well-trained eyes, Travis scanned the halls. Tapestries lined with gold thread hung across both walls. A mahogany table lined with mother of pearl sat beneath one of them, positioned so that a massive Jade dragon could be prominently displayed for visitors to gawk over. There was a lot of wealth in a house like this, but not much of it was small enough to fit in the pack he carried. He never took more than he could carry. He didn’t need to.
If he absolutely had to have something in the manor, he could always come back for it later with some of the others.
A maid rounded the corner rather suddenly, her head down and eyes turned away from him. Obviously, she didn’t want to be heard. Or seen. Travis kept walking, his steps never faltering though a normal man would be just moments from discovery. The girl heard him, and carefully peeked out from underneath lowered lashes even as she moved to the side to let him pass. Her mouth opened, as if she meant to give an apology for existing in the presence of whomever she thought was the one walking down the hall.
Only, she didn’t see anyone.
Travis watched, humor mounting as the girl straightened, wide eyes scanning the hall for the source of the disembodied footsteps. He walked toward her, watching as she grew more and more confused. He passed her with only inches between them. She didn’t notice.
The tray she was carrying held the remains of someone’s lunch. A lunch served on the purest porcelain. Silverware glittered under the firelight dancing in the candelabras. Travis snatched up the fork as the servant turned and hurried away, no doubt imagining some otherworldly apparition stalking her.
Travis smiled as he slipped the now equally invisible silver fork into his pack. He liked the weight of it. It would melt down into a decent sized nugget of silver and make him a tidy profit. Being from a clan cursed with invisibility had its perks.
He turned and continued his search, rounding the corner of the hall and entering a new one. How many wings did one home need?
At the end of the new hallway there was a staircase. And at the bottom of the staircase, there stood a fully armed guard. This looks promising. You didn’t place a guard at the bottom of stairs unless you were keeping something valuable at the top.
Travis walked past the guard. The man didn’t even flinch. He just yawned as if bored with his task. The stone steps soundless held each step as Travis ascended the winding staircase leading him in a slight curve toward a thick wooden door.
Excellent. The thick door and sturdy lock seemed to confirm his suspicions. Whatever was behind them was going to set him up for months, possibly even years. He pulled out his lock picks and knelt in front of the lock.
With deft and practiced movements, Travis slipped his picks into place, enjoying the way they caught on the inner mechanism. He twisted the tools. The bolt moved out of the way easily. With a triumphant grin, Travis stood, turned the doorknob and slipped inside.
He knew he’d messed up as soon as the door closed behind him. This was no storeroom. Instead, a lush gold carpet lined the stone floor in front of a roaring fireplace. Delicate porcelain dolls sat in a row on the mantle. And in front of the fireplace sat a couch and small chair.
And in the chair, sat a young woman.
“Who’s there?” she asked, her eyes focusing on him. No there was no way. No one could see him. “Come now,” she said. “Speak up. You there. By the door.”
It was a strange feeling, being seen by an outsider for the first time in his life. His heart started to pound as every muscle cried out for him to run, but he couldn’t move. Then he noticed that there was something strange about her eyes.
By the heavens, she’s blind. His heartbeat returned to normal. She couldn’t see him after all. Maybe if he were quiet enough, she’d assume she’d imagined the door opening. Maybe he could trick her into thinking he wasn’t there.
“I know you’re there,” she said, a crease appearing between her eyes. “I’m blind not stupid. Speak now, or I’ll scream for the guard.”
Travis sighed. It wouldn’t matter if the guard came. But he hadn’t actually meant to cause this poor blind girl distress. Exposure wouldn’t kill him. “Please be still, my Lady. I mean you no harm.”
“Yet you enter my chambers without permission and try to hide your presence when caught? That’s an odd way to pay someone a cordial visit.”
Spunky thing. Travis chuckled. “Aye. You’re not wrong about that, my Lady. But see, I didn’t know these were anyone’s chambers.”
She tilted her head to the side to study him, though her eyes never really focused his way. “Then why are you here?”
He smiled. “I saw the guard below and thought there might be treasure hidden here.”
She smiled. “Ah. I see. Well, you weren’t wrong, per se. I am told Father has fitted this room with many beautiful things. Though, I’m afraid their worth is lost on me.”
Travis relaxed and made his way around the room. “Mind if I take a look around?”
“By all means. I doubt anyone would notice if anything went missing,” she replied. “I rarely get visitors and the servants stop in only for the necessities.” She looked his way with a smile. “In return, you have to sit here with me for a while. It’s been a long time since I’ve had company.”
Travis turned to her with a frown. “They leave you here all alone?”
“It isn’t so bad. All of my needs are met which is more than I can say for many others,” she replied. “I make Auntie uncomfortable, though she’d never tell Father so.”
“Auntie? Isn’t your Father the one who gets to decide where you go?”
“He has decided. That Auntie is to look after me.”
“And he’s alright with his daughter effectively being treated like a leper?”
“Oh, I doubt she’d told him. And he rarely visits,” she replied. Her back straightened suddenly and her cheeks grew flushed, as if she’d revealed too much. “Occasionally I’ll get a letter…” she added quickly in the way you did when trying to make excuses.
Travis made a face. Locked away in a tower for being blind. Ignored by the world. Treated like a curse. Forgetting his original search for treasure, Travis walked to the couch and took a seat in the soft, silk cushions. “What was it you wanted to talk about, my Lady?”
“Do call me Irma,” she replied with a smile.
“Irma,” he said, returning the smile.
“I want to hear all about your adventures as a thief.” She leaned forward excitedly, her eyes shining.
Travis flinched and then laughed in embarrassment. “I’m not a thief, my Lady. I’m a…an acquisitionist.”
She laughed, brining to mind the sound of bells. “Alright then. I want to learn all about acquisitioning.”
Travis chuckled. Then scratched his jaw thoughtfully. “Very well. How about I tell you bout the time I made off with a whole elephant.”
“Oh, yes do.”
The two of them talked for hours about Travis’ adventures and all of the places Irma wished to see someday. They talked until the sun dipped below the horizon and night had claimed the land. Travis looked out at the inky black sky and sighed. “I think it’s time I take my leave, my Lady.”
He stood and walked to the door, stopping when she spoke to him once more.
“Will you come again?” she asked.
The hope in her voice nearly broke his heart. As if asking for company were somehow inconvenient: too much to desire. Travis smiled. “Just see if anything can stop me.”