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TAF 02: Book By Its Cover

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Akara smirked. It was going to be even more interesting this time.

The thief had been taking packages into the tower for something around two years now, on Yule, and on Raistlin's birthing day. The archmagus had picked up on this easily, of course, and had taken to trying harder each time to catch the illusive thief. She who not only delivered packages out of seemingly nowhere, but still somehow always left a note either on him, or near him... and always they said that he was beautiful.

It was only natural that he would want to catch her.

Paladine had stopped supplying presents for delivery... but he hadn't taken his amulets back, either. So Akara felt free to continue the interesting missions, and if she snuck into the foreboding structure now and then when it wasn't even time for a delivery, well, she was just studying her opponent. Honest. And while the last few times had found her delivering things she'd herself made or stolen, that was of course just so that she had something to drop off.

No, really. That was all.

But the last time... she remembered, he had almost caught her. It had been absolutely worth the risk, though, as it had also been the very first time she'd seen his eyes...

Not that she was obsessed, that would just be silly.

- - - - - -

Akara had discovered from her sources that the archmagus was not in his Tower, but rather he had been at the Great Library for many days, speaking with the archivist there and searching the tomes for something. He probably hadn't even remembered it was his birthing day. And so, a confident Akara had shifted her sleeping schedule for the event, and entered the library in plain daylight, squinting at the brightness

The God of neutrality had contacted her, informing her that he would not interfere with her, and he would keep his acolytes from doing so as well. And while that was all fine and dandy, Akara was starting to really wonder about all these Gods that were taking an interest in her missions. It was almost like they wanted him to be distracted twice a year, given things, called pretty. But she discarded the idea as quickly as it came to her, deciding that she didn't really want to know what their deal was anyway. Stupid Gods.

She had found and snagged a set of acolyte robes, pulling them on over her dark brown clothing. Then, trailing the real ones around the library for several hours, she went about getting down their mannerisms and nuances of behavior. She even learned, by chance, what desk Raistlin was using for studying the books... although she was smart and stayed well clear of it. Akara learned every little minor detail of blending into the library that she could, even figuring out what books were where in case it was required for her disguise.

Thankfully for her own sake, absorbing new information was easy to the master thief, though she probably wouldn't retain it past tomorrow. Due to the nature of this mission, there was no package this time, only a card with a folded piece of vellum in it. And as always, a note. These were hidden in her borrowed robes; her grappling hooks and lightweight rope wound around her waist beneath the loose cloth.

- - - - - -

Now she wandered through the Great Library, moving within sight of the desk Majere was using. She was careful not to look directly at him, no matter how tempting the idea, as she was supposed to know he was here already and be pretty much ignoring him. So, the thief could only see him out of the corner of her eye, and it took quite a good deal of willpower not to simply start gawking anyway.

But she hadn't anticipated one possible glitch in her plans. The mage rose out of his chair and made his way purposefully towards her, leaning heavily on his staff, one of the books in hand.

/ Ooooh shit, he's coming right at me! / Akara swallowed her sudden nervousness, the sudden thought that he somehow knew she was the thief. Was the shape of the grappling hook visible? Could the rope be unwound and dangling out the bottom of the filched robes? She stepped on the impulse to turn and bolt, shoving herself back into the acolyte personality she had adopted over the last seven hours. Didn't matter, damn it.

Pretending to be busy checking books, making sure they were in order, pulling one out and moving it where it was supposed to be, Akara was careful not to look up when he drew near. She wasn't supposed to be able to sense his movements, that was a trait of a thief, not of the nervous new acolyte just trying to do her job while the evil archmage did his thing at a nearby table.

Though she tracked him easily, Akara still made sure to jump in surprise and alarm when she felt a too-warm hand clasp suddenly onto her shoulder. He had already set the book down on the nearest table, freeing the hand not already wrapped around the fabled Staff of Magius.

"Excuse me." Raistlin's voice was quite, dry, polite but with an undertone of superiority and maybe a hint of bitterness. She automatically glanced up at him, and then felt herself staring.

/ I was right two years ago, his eyes are captivatingly beautiful. / Akara gulped audibly, her own eyes widening. / He's like... a predator, like... like one of those really big cats in the Palace menagerie. /

"Perhaps you can help me with something." his hand left her shoulder and took her elbow in a firm grip, to direct her attention to the nearby book. Majere didn't seem to care one bit about her wide-eyed gawking, probably more than used to it even from the staff of the Library.

"Ah, u-um yes, perhaps. What's the problem?" she looked at the book now, again sinking back into the acolyte roll, if only just.

"I need some help in finding the second edition of this book..."

Akara shivered, glancing up at him again. At least she wasn't apparently busted, yet. She suspected that if he figured her out, she wouldn't get much of a chance to wonder what had given her away. Was it alright to incinerate someone in the Library, as long as you didn't do it too loudly and didn't set anything else on fire?

"Yes, I can... uh, help with that. I think. It should be either over here," she gestured to more shelving to the right, "or maybe a few aisles down. Where did you get that edition from?"

He pointed silently down the shelves to the left.

"Well someone must have moved it there," Akara shrugged, some of her usual behavior finally asserting itself in between the nerve-wracking certainty of impending doom and the partially-constructed role of the acolyte. "because only single edition books of poetry are supposed to be in that area." the thief made a show of looking the book over carefully. "Probably should have been over there."

She pointed again to the right, just like a moment ago. Raistlin stared at her for a moment, and Akara fought the urge to put her hands on her hips, settling instead for a raised eyebrow. Well, at least she wasn't mouthing off to him or anything, right? The thief simply didn't do the cringing routine, even in the face of a predator. It wasn't bravery so much as stubbornness, and she was very proud of being stubborn.

- - - - - -

Raistlin watched the girl out of the corner of his eye. The ever-illusive thief would show up today, and he was suspicious of everyone possibly being her. But no, this girl had no hint of even being capable of such things as that thief had pulled off these last two years. For one thing, the thief would have died long ago had she been clumsy like this foolish acolyte.

As though on cue, she went by him to get another possible second edition off the shelf, and ran into a small stack books sitting on the floor. They went everywhere as she tried to catch herself on a shelf and in turn sent more books into the mess.

Raistlin watched this all calmly, impatience itching at him behind the eyes and giving him a headache. Using the Staff of Magius for support, he bent and grasped the girl's wrist with one golden-skinned hand and hauled her to her feet. The books that had fallen on top of her slid off, and one in particular caught his eye as it bumped into the bottom of his robes.

He knelt briefly, picking up the book and looking at the title. Yes, this was the one he had been looking for the whole time. Standing again, Raistlin Majere nodded to the acolyte, turned, and went back to his desk without another word to the clumsy girl. Let her deal with her own mess.

- - - - - -

Akara noticed the stack, of course, and that the shelf nearby was about to spill. She kicked into the stack and tipped the shelf as she mock-fell onto the ground. A good distraction, she felt, and as she fell she slipped the enveloped card out of her robe's large sleeves. A flick of a wrist sent the stiff parchment to the target, hitting the back of the Archmagus' chair, flipping, and landing solidly on top all his other papers and books.

The thief had to hide her smirk at this. Yet another mission accomplished, well done, and Raistlin Majere none the wiser. The mage in question turned and started back to his desk, and she cut off the mental party to start solemnly picking books back up. The mage would have no reason to suspect her unless she just suddenly disappeared...

- - - - - -

He put the book down, set his staff against the desk, and sat down as before. Raistlin impatiently snatched up the quill from its spot on the desk in order to make more notes on the first edition.

And that's when he saw the card. Blinking, Raistlin picked it up and opened it.

A piece of folded vellum fell onto the desk, but he ignored it for the moment--reading the card's short bit of familiar handwriting several times over. His face went first pale and then an almost dark orange from frustration and anger. Damn her to the abyss, she'd somehow gotten past him again!

Dear Raistlin Majere,

Got you, again. Can't you catch a simple, lone thief? Or am I too good?

Signed,

And the usual "guess if you can!" type of remark was signed.

Mentally cursing the damned thief, he finally picked up the folded vellum. His first thought was to tear it up without opening it. But no--knowledge was power, maybe -this- would finally tell him something about the one who continued to harass him.

Raistlin opened the vellum slowly, and then simply stared in shock.

There, on the thick material, was a drawing. A very detailed, excruciatingly accurate one that must have taken hours upon hours to make. It was of a face, the head resting on a pillow and the eyes closed in sleep. There was no frailty or signs of sickness in the picture, although it still looked the same as who it was of, and as it was only a black and white image there was no golden tint to the skin.

But it was still him. Raistlin stared at the picture for several long moments, jaw slightly agape, before his hand started shaking and he had to put it down. This thief wasn't merely harassing him, wasn't merely toying with him... not if she had taken to drawing him in his sleep. The mage rubbed at the bridge of his nose as he stared again at the note, and distractedly wondered what sort of person this thief -was-.

- - - - - -

Akara had to keep from looking at Raistlin as she and the other acolytes picked up books and put them back on the shelf. Not a word was said about how they had ended up on the floor, the others seemed to look straight through her without really seeing her. Likely this was their neutral God at work, and it made her cover that much easier to maintain without the need for a back-story or explanation.

She kept from looking up as she helped clean up her mess, but she -did- see him as he was leaving; a book under one arm, the card--and presumably the vellum as well--sticking out just slightly from between pages. His staff clunked on the floor as he walked, and Raistlin's smirk as he went by her gave Akara a sudden chill.

And then he was gone, suddenly, on the wings of a spell.