- 47 years later -
He looked out on the Old Square from one of its surrounding balconies, while relaxing in a luxurious armchair. Its white wood was carved with tiny little birds and flowers. Velvet pillows trimmed with golden tassels rested on the seat. They were so soft and comfortable that as soon as you sat down, you never wanted to get up again.
He shouldn't sit in it. It wasn't his and he was sure that merely using it wasn't allowed either. Was he bothered by that little detail? Not at all.
A cold winter's breeze tickled his neck, covering his skin with goosebumps. The sky didn't show a single cloud today, but that also caused the weather to be chilly. It made him put up the collar of a brown fur coat - also not his, of course.
Khorrek had a rather different opinion about possession than most people had: if he could get to it, it was free for him to use it. Even though he considered the piece of clothing as his own now, it was clearly not made for him. He could wrap it around his own skinny body three times. Even his own mother wouldn't be able to recognise him in all this fluff! He liked that; he didn't want his face to be seen by someone while he was up here, especially if that someone turned out to be the real owner of this place. His disguise was completed with the ugliest hat he could find. He pushed one of its long, curling feathers out of sight.
He wondered whether the hatter who made it had forgotten that putting something in front of your eyes might not be the best of ideas, or that he just didn't know where the eyes were located at all. There wasn't just one annoying feather: a whole flock of some sort of exotic bird must have been plucked for it! The sea of iridescent plumage made the hat look like a living rainbow. Pearls were sewed on it too, as if it wasn't flamboyant enough already.
Khorrek was sure that it was one of those fancy headgears from the South, but he never understood why they were so popular amongst certain classes of society here. The only thing he knew was the number written on the price tag for accessories like this. Thinking about those digits brought a smile to his face.
I have the best job in the world.
He put his feet on the thick, but elegant balcony railing. The vertical supports that bore its weight could be described in a similar way. The banister wasn’t just a safety feature, it was a status symbol; using it as a mere footstool while slouching in a chair was a downright insult to the stonemason who had crafted it. Khorrek didn’t care. He just wanted to enjoy as much of the winter sun as his outfit would allow, while his gaze wandered off to explore the wonders of the world down below.
The Old Square was normally used for markets, but today it was home to a wooden platform. At one side of it stood a small building. It wasn't possible to see what was happening in there; long theatre curtains made sure that curious eyes stayed away. The three other sides of the stage were flanked by grandstands. All these things together made the square look like an amphitheatre - and a big one too. ‘Big’ was a much-needed word here. This was one of the most popular attractions of the Winter Festival; hundreds of people were attracted to the shows it hosted. The festival was dedicated to the shortest day of the year. Clergymen said that the One will spread his light over the world again, as long as the people would bring him honour that day. But what had watching acrobats, bards, dancers and who-knows-what to do with honouring? Nobody knew, but it made the festival much more popular.
Khorrek looked from the corner of his eye at the revellers. They danced, laughed, drank; the air was heavy with happiness. It was one of the few days of the year when you could do anything without someone batting an eye - except for the stuff he did, maybe. The people painted the square bright with their costumes, turning it from the usual dusty brown of brick to something that matched his hat pretty well.
That was not an improvement.
The colours clashed so much it hurt his eyes. Some people had done their utter best to look more idiotic than he did! Maybe the poor choice of clothing was caused by the stuff they drank; a lot of them had more alcohol than blood running through their veins - and the ones who didn't were working on it. It made Khorrek grin.
If that’s honouring a god then I must become a follower as well!
Drunk or not, the number of people drawn to the temporary theatre still surprised him. It looked like every inhabitant of the Islands had come to Woldburg. Not that there were an awful lot of people living there though. The Islands were a bunch of sandy islands ruled by the tide and the wind, not by humans. The soil wasn't very fertile, the sea was dangerous and the weather was usually downright dreadful. No inhabitant of the mainland with a right mind wanted to live here.
The Islanders themselves thought differently about it. 'The rough side of beautiful' - that's how they described their home. Khorrek wasn't sure if he agreed with that. He hadn't seen much of the world to compare the Islands with.
The sight of all those people - or better: potential victims - made something stir in his heart. The largest part of him enjoyed what he did now, relaxing in the sun, but it couldn't stop the longing to walk amongst them - especially because the current entertainer, a rather handsome, nimble-fingered magician, was good at drawing attention.
His own fingers started to tingle; these circumstances were great for pick pocketing. That was a lot more exciting than breaking into houses!
And not just any houses, he thought, but completely deserted ones.
All the inhabitants were gone, probably to celebrate the festival. He did came across the family cat though, napping in the sun on a window sill, but the creature didn't find him interesting enough to lift its eyelids for him.
Khorrek sighed; so much for fun and adventure. His sense of reason was stronger than his unhealthy habit to seek out danger this time. The city guards were all over the place and those 'beware of pickpockets' signs glued on every wall didn't work for him either. On the other hand, the 'beware of corrupted' posters were almost twice as big, so maybe people didn't really think about common thieves any more. Posters or not, there were always people who forgot to lock their door properly.
There was another reason why Khorrek preferred burglary for now: a certain act had caught his interest, something that he didn't want to miss for anything in the world. He wasn't very tall, so he doubted he would be able to even catch a glimpse of it when he would stand along the masses that were flooding the grand stands. This balcony had his own drawbacks though: it was high up, far away from all the action and located too much to the left with respect to centre of the stage, but at least it provided him an unhindered view.
The spectators started to shout in awe when the magician showed another one of his tricks; a dove was 'magically' changed into a rose. He gave the flower to one of the women in the crowd. She obviously wasn't the best of the bunch in terms of prettiness, but she was one of the wealthiest. The woman didn't seem to notice this subtle, but important difference and looked quite pleased with herself. The giggle that left her mouth was so full of gloating arrogance that even Khorrek could hear it. It made him want to puke.
The only thing that guy is good at is flirting with the female part of the audience, he grated, while a small amount of jealousy pinched his ego, I didn't come here to see that!
He looked around, searching for something interesting to keep his mind focused on instead. That turned out to be harder than he had expected. Only a small, ugly flowerpot placed next to him on a table could keep his attention for longer than a heartbeat. It looked like it was bought in the same shop as his hat; it displayed a similar level of flamboyancy. The plant it contained didn't seem to be very fond of it. Khorrek stared at the piece of pottery and its dying inhabitant, trying to decide if this was better to look at than that frivolous fool of a magician. Another sigh escaped his throat. When was this cheap magic show over?
Soon, I hope…
And then the next act would begin, the thing he was waiting for... That would be a monster of a show!