Prologue: First Cause

Humbert breathed deep as he moved along the south hall and considered his next obstacle: the lock on the door of the duke's office. For years, he'd practiced his hands at picking any number of different locks, and although he had a fine touch, there were certain styles that still gave him trouble. As luck would have it, the duke employed a well renowned lock and one admittedly difficult for most thieves – but Humbert was not one of them. With a grin and deft hands, the thief slid the tension bar and rake into the keyhole and shuffled the pins that held the lock secure.

The lock gave with an audible click. Humbert cringed as he looked about the hall to see if anyone may have heard it, but he was alone. Since the duke was away, there was only a skeleton crew of servants and guards on the grounds. Humbert pulled the door open and slipped inside.

For several seconds, Humbert stood silent as his eyes adjusted to the dark of the room. He dared not spark a light. The curtains did not look thick enough to block even the light of a match – which also meant they were thin enough to let in some light from the bloodless sky. Able to make out the shadows of the room, Humbert stepped behind the duke's desk. He worked on the drawer locks, which were just as easy as the front door, and pulled them open one at a time. In the first drawer, he found a great deal of correspondence. Humbert glanced at the names of the senders, but could not make them out in the room's dim light. He wondered what secrets the documents might hold. He figured the duke's enemies would pay a minor fortune if he should nab the right letter.

Of course, selling letters was a tricky business, and the duke employed a good number of spies. Humbert felt he was just as likely to get his throat slit and have his body dumped in a shallow grave if he wasn't careful at such a thing – not that he'd get much better treatment if he were caught stealing Creigal's coin... having already risked so much, he stuffed several envelopes into his shirt, in case he couldn't find more immediate riches.

In the top right drawer, Humbert found what he was looking for: a heavy purse. Despite the dim light, he could see a healthy mix of gold and silver – though he'd hoped to see less copper. It was more than enough to see him north in search of the ancient mystic, Lasitus. Indeed, it was more than most men made in a lifetime!

Humbert fiddled the lock on the last drawer and wondered if he wasn't being greedy. The lock clicked. The drawer slid open in a smooth, quiet motion. Among several pens and ink wells, Humbert found an elegant dagger with an elaborate filigree handle, and a musket of intricate crafting with a hilt of pearl – pricey treasures for sure! He checked the musket and found it loaded. With a grin, he stuffed the barrel under his belt and put the dagger and sheath in his bag.

With such fine weapons and so much coin, Humbert felt he ought not press his luck any more. He gently pushed the drawers closed and stepped around the edge of the desk. There, on the desk's corner, sat a fine wooden box. Humbert stopped and considered it. For a long second, he stared at the carved details in the wood. He felt bold with victories already won and couldn't resist, so he held his breath, and lifted the lid. Inside the box was a simple silver chain with a delicate silver locket. With a grin and nary a second thought, Humbert lifted the necklace and slipped it over his head.

It was time to be on his way...