Failure at Life
Her mission: Steal Hull’s diary.
‘I didn’t even know he had a diary…’ Enya thought as she straightened up from her crouch over a locked chest, hairpins in hand. ‘but Imoen says she steals and reads it all the time…’ Anyway, this was a matter of pride. She would show Imoen that being a thief was what she was born to do! After all, she had naturally brown skin and black hair. That was perfect for blending in with the shadows, right?
Hull was on duty right now, so he was out of her hair. Imoen was in the kitchen. Baking.
‘I still don’t buy that logic of winning a man over through baking… maybe she plans to slip a love potion in?’ the teenage human giggled. ‘Whatever, as long as she doesn’t abandon a life of adventuring with me to be some sort of baker.’
Whatever the case, Imoen was deadest on learning how to bake. And Enya was deadest on being a thief. Now they just had to prove their skills to one another.
But after a few hours of practicing on the chest in her room, she was getting frustrated. ‘I’ve watched Immy do this a trillion billion times! I should be able to get this!’ She stood up and stretched her sore back. She had been bent over the chest in her room in the central keep for-ever! And now her back freaking hurt. ‘Oh well, I guess it’s time for a break. Hmmm… I wonder how Imoen is doing...’
That was very obvious as Enya reached the inn. For one thing, everyone was outside… including the visiting nobles. For another thing, the front door was open and a thin stream of smoke was pouring out. As far as she could tell, the place wasn’t exactly burning down. But the smoke wasn’t exactly pleasant to breathe in.
Enya pushed her way through the small, grumbling crowd. As she did one particularly ugly noblewoman firmly grasped her forearm and held her back.
“How dare you play this sort of trick on us! I’ve heard about you and your pranks! How dare you endanger our lives with your games! All that smoke will give us tuberculosis!”
Enya shook the woman off and declared, “What a moron you must be. You don’t even know what tuberculosis is.”
At least, that’s what she should’ve said. Instead, she jerked her arm away and glared at the woman. “You’ll be fine. If we wanted you dead, we wouldn’t do it so indirectly as through a fire,” Enya said, grinning maliciously.
The woman’s jaw dropped and Enya chose that moment to escape. ‘Oh that was so much more entertaining than insulting her intelligence.’
Inside, Winthrop was yelling. Winthrop only yelled about only a few things: those that endangered his life and those that endangered his business.
“Smoking is a bad sign! Never let it just keep smoking!” Enya heard Winthrop roar as she neared the kitchen doorway.
“It didn’t seem like that much smoke…” she heard a disheartened Imoen say.
“Smoke spreads quickly! Now this entire building will smell like smoke for at least a few hours! These guests don’t come to socialize! They come to donate and relax in their rooms away from everyone else for a few days. Now they’re all going to cut their visits short!”
“I’m sure it won’t stick around that long…”
“Well you better do your best to make sure it doesn’t! Go open all the doors and windows in the building. When you’re done with that, take that dishrag and start fanning out all the rooms!”
“Yes sir…” Imoen muttered.
Enya stepped back out of view as Winthrop stomped out in a sweaty rage. As he neared the door he slowed down and wiped his face off, donning a smile before walking out. She waited until she could hear him amiably talking to the guests before entering the kitchen. ‘
I have a feeling at least one group won’t be sticking around… I probably should get out of here before she has time to complain.’ Not that that gave her much time. Those nobles were always looking for an excuse to complain, embellishing when needed to get more attention. By the end of the day some people of the keep would be hearing that Enya had attacked her instead of merely insult her.
Inside, she found Imoen huddled up, crying lightly next to the oven which had a skillet of burnt cookies and a burnt cake on top of it.
Enya walked over and hugged her friend. “What happened?”
“I burnt my cake,” Imoen groaned, looking at the ground between her legs and sniffling.
“But all that smoke…” Enya asked, glancing confusedly at the cake and the pan.
“Oh, that came from the cookies,” Imoen looked up and wiped away her tears forcefully. “I was trying to fry them like the ones Gorion’s friends, Jaheira and Khalid, sent us from the Carnival.” Imoen scrunched up her face. “But apparently you’re supposed to put batter around them first... not just throw them in and wait for them to get puffy.”
“Why didn’t you stop when it started smoking?”
Imoen shrugged. “They hadn’t puffed up yet, so I thought they just needed a few more minutes. Winthrop came running in and started yelling. He took the skillet off and yelled at me some more and then I remembered my cake should’ve been taken out ten minutes ago, so it got burnt too.”
Enya giggled. Imoen glared at her. “It’s not funny!” Imoen stood up quickly, “Crap. I better start opening up all the windows.”
“I’ll help you,” Enya said, humor in her voice.
“No, I think I want to be alone right now, since you think it’s so funny and I really don’t,” Imoen said icily and stormed out.
Enya shrugged. It was about time she did a little field research on her own problem anyway.
Hull was one of the guards whose post was at the entrance to the keep. He was the one who let people in after the Keeper of the Portal had taken and approved of their donation; and he was the one who escorted people out. He had the most exciting- and boring- position of all the other guards. At least the other guards could move around somewhat freely; Hull had to constantly stand at his post in case of unannounced visitors.
As Enya came into Hull’s view she saw him tense up and quickly hide a book in his pocket while simultaneously looking up. He relaxed when he saw her and pulled his book back out. She recognized the cover. It was a trashy romance novel written by Elminster in his younger days. Books like that were part of the keep’s collection because they were written by famous people like Elminister and Kelbin Blackstaff. She had read them all, too, but it seemed creepy for Hull to do so. Mostly because he seemed to always take extra long “bathroom breaks” after reading a chapter or so of one of them. When he came back he always switched to some action novel. She had followed him once to see if he was sneaking around somewhere or something. Never. Again.
“What happens when you get caught doing that anyway?” Enya asked when she was closer, mentally shuddering from the things she had seen which could never be unseen.
“Nothing. Just get yelled at a little bit,” he grunted, tracing his finger along the page. After a minute his finger stopped at the end of a paragraph and he looked up, annoyed. “Did you need something?”
Enya shrugged. “I’m just bored. Wondering if you have any errands for me to do…”
Hull thought for a moment. “Yeah, actually. I left my water jug on my bed. Go get it for me and I’ll give you some pocket change.”
Enya was tempted to ask if he needed anything from his chest but refrained. She didn’t want to seem too suspicious. ‘Besides, maybe his chest is unlocked!’ she thought hopefully.
Of course it wasn’t. But she did get a chance to look at it, which pleased her well enough. She took the water bottle to Hull and then returned to her room to practice some more.
Dinner with Gorion and Imoen was entertaining. Imoen had finally lightened up about the whole ordeal and was even making a few jokes. Gorion was past the point of being frustrated with the girls’ antics. Nowadays he seemed to just accept the tragedies and pranks that ensued from the duo’s general clumsiness or boredom, as if it were fate.
After dinner, Enya and Imoen retired to Enya’s room. Imoen still refused to help Enya, but Enya thought she had the hang of lockpicking. Or at least enough to break into Hull’s chest. Imoen sighed, “I guess I’m not cut out for baking,” she said.
Enya snorted. “So much for all that ‘endurance and hard work’ you’re always preaching to me about.”
Imoen threw Enya’s pillow at her. “Shut up. It’s not like they’ll ever let me near a kitchen again for as long as I live here. I mean, did you see the glares I got from the cook in here? He totally blocked the entranceway to the kitchen every time I walked by!”
Enya grinned. “That was pretty funny. I guess things are getting blown out of proportion. But Imoen, let me be honest with you.” Enya paused, grinning wickedly.
Imoen glared at her. “What.”
Enya giggled and spoke slowly, accentuating every word. “Your cake was a failure and you are a failure too. And no one will ever love you.”
Imoen responded by retrieving Enya’s pillow and clobbering her with it.
“We’ll see who the failure is tonight!” Imoen declared.
Enya was positive that it would not be her.
But she had been wrong before and apparently would be many, many more times.
Her usual punishment: the attic. The whole ten by ten of it. She scratched another mark on the wall opposite the landing. So far she had been up here at least two row lengths, from beginning to end of the wall. Well, this year anyway. This was a new type of punishment. Gorion had given up giving them lessons and making them do community work. Community work had been an especially huge failure. Anyway…
She sat and contemplated what all had gone wrong. A shorter list was what had gone right. She had gotten Hull’s chest open! But not with lockpicks. With her warhammer. And she had gotten Hull’s diary! But then the soldiers had come in. Because smashing the lock had made an awful lot of noise.
So here she was. We really need to loosen a floorboard and sneak some books up here sometime, was all she could think about. In fact, she picked out exactly which books she’d like to read while up here and was coming up with a way to sneak them in when a knock on the door brought her out of her reverie. She looked up and saw Imoen smiling through the door’s window.
She stood up and approached the door. “Hey! Let me out.”
“Nuh-uh,” Imoen said.
“What?” Enya exclaimed. “Oh wait, are you still mad about earlier? Look, I’m sorry, ok? I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings about your cake.”
“Mmhmm. That’s good and all, but I want the secret ingredient.”
“What?!” Enya scoffed. She made the best brownies in the keep: Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Brownies. “No way.”
Imoen shrugged and turned around.
“Wait!” Enya called. “Show me how to pick the lock out of here and I will tell you.”
Imoen turned around, a wicked smile on her face. “Tell me first.”
Enya gritted her teeth. It’d taken her years to perfect that recipe. Nobody knew it but her. But she wanted to be a thief. “Honey,” she whispered.
Imoen grinned from ear to ear and rubbed her hands together. “Righty-o! Here’s some lockpicks,” she kicked lockpicks under the door, “Now, this is what you gotta do…”