Khorrek walked towards the mansion's great gates. Normally he would never use the front entrance to an establishment such as this, in fact he couldn't even remember the last time he walked through any front door. But tonight was different. Tonight he was an expected visitor, even a welcomed guest. Well, not him exactly; the name 'Khorrek' did not actually appear in the party's guest list, but he knew a specific name that did, and that was enough.
Besides, he thought while pausing to glance at his reflection in a muddy puddle, I do look like an honoured guest. He smiled. It's been a while since I got to wear a fancy feathered hat, and I gotta admit I kinda miss the look. One of the feathers was bent. He had to use his left hand to straighten it as a big easel was tucked under his right arm.
He had no need to feel any nervousness when he passed the guards, nodding politely. In fact he felt quite amused. No one would recognize him here even without the disguise, as he had never visited the city of Lunaria before. That was actually part of the plan, the reason why he was chosen for this part. And the flamboyant clothes were definitely a bonus. His amusement peaked when he was escorted into the grand hall and noticed his decorated hat wasn't even the most ridiculous amongst the chattering aristocrats. He handed his easel and some brushes to one of the servants with a smirk.
Khorrek took pleasure in mingling with the noblemen. There he was, poor Khorrek, a thief in disguise, socialising with the richest and most honoured Night Elves in all of the Seven Kingdoms. Although a few eyebrows were raised over his Sentrin ears and relatively pale skin, the strange looks soon changed to admiration when he presented himself as Sir Darden Kalis, the famous portrait artist from the kingdom of Urtica. He particularly enjoyed bowing down deeply after every introduction, forcing his counterparts to bow just as low as customary in this part of the world. Ah, the fools!
"Lady Annette and Lord Styrax humbly request your presence in the dining hall," a servant announced, and Khorrek moved with the others into a large dining room with a long wooden table already arranged with ornate silverware and golden candelabra.
His eyes popped. Everything was so shiny! The cutlery had undoubtedly just been polished, glimmering in the candlelight. A spoon or two would go unmissed… but I must stay focused and ignore these trinkets, he reminded himself as he sat down. One of these nice forks may sell well in the market, but having my family provided for the next year is worth much more.
The lord and lady entered the dining room along with their young daughter. Everyone got up on their feet and Khorrek hastily followed, watching the girl as she trailed behind her mother with a sad look. She was just a child, probably the age when he was still running on the beach playing with his siblings. She seemed very lonely. This girl's house must have been filled with people all the time, was she not allowed playing with anyone? In fact, he noticed, even though this whole feast was thrown to celebrate her birthday, ironically no other kids were invited. If this was what being an only child in a rich family felt like, Khorrek definitely preferred the opposite.
The guests sat down and food was being served. Another bonus of this job. Khorrek was reluctant to accept the offer at first, as he hated working for others, especially strangers he had never met before. But the promise of so much gold and a free dinner managed to convince him, and he just tasted the results of his decision. It had many flavours: chicken, duck, boar, fish and venison. He didn't bother with the greens. Why waste the space in my stomach for cabbage like a rabbit when I could just fill it up with, well, rabbit.
Every now and then a toast was made. A different nobleman or woman rose each time to congratulate the hosts for their lovely daughter, to bless the girl or to bestow her with some kind of gift. Khorrek also took a few sips from his wine but reminded himself again that he should stay sober. The speeches were boring. His gaze jumped from one dish to another to make sure he had tasted everything. Occasionally he exchanged looks with the solemn girl. She looked as bored as he was. He tried to smile at her; she tried to smile back but it was obviously out of good manners and not of joy.
After a few rounds of drinks, when his belly was sufficiently full and the faces of the invitees were flushed as red as the wine in their cups, Khorrek decided this was a good time to act. He excused himself from the table and turned to the nearest servant for directions to the nearest latrine.
"Up the stairs, turn left and walk down the corridor until you reach it," the servant replied.
"Thank you," Khorrek bowed. He climbed the stairs and turned the opposite direction. This house was big and full of rooms; he could easily claim he got lost on his way. Still he preferred not to be seen. He spent a while searching for the right room, peeking through doors and poking his nose about. At one point he had to evade a few servants carrying desert (but still managed to stick his finger in the birthday cake to taste the white cream).
After some minutes he managed to find what he was looking for: a long glass cabinet that displayed various armours, shields and weapons, and among them the dagger he was hired to steal. It looked relatively plain, made of common steel and not decorated with any jewelry or precious metals. The only sign suggesting it had any special property was a small star that was carved into its hilt, by which Khorrek recognized that was the one. He fumbled with the cabinet's lock for a few seconds until it opened. He grabbed the dagger and placed it in an inside pocket. The next thing to do would be to restore the lock to its original position. He just finished doing that as footsteps were heard.
Khorrek looked around. The room had no windows or any other exits except for the door he came through. He was standing at the other side of the room, and judging by the echoing footsteps he wouldn't make it in time without being seen. He barely had any time to think of a plan, but he was used to those situations; good plans only ever came to his mind like this anyway. He quickly searched his pockets, and after pulling out a sheet of parchment and a piece of coal, he sat down and started to scribble.
"Hello?" A small voice called into the room. The birthday girl was standing at the door.
"Why hello there!" Khorrek smiled widely, still sitting.
"Who are you?" The girl asked.
"I am Sir Darden Kalis, surely the young lady have heard of me," he answered with a grin.
"No, I haven't, but I saw you at dinner." The girl stepped into the room. "This chamber is forbidden for visitors, you know."
"But I am not just any visitor!" Khorrek stood up. "I was hired just for you, my lady! I have heard it was your birthday, and I travelled all the way from the frozen cliffs of Urtica to the dark planes of Lunaria just so that I could paint you a lovely portrait of your lovely face!"
The girl considered his words. "If you came to draw me, what are you doing in here?" she asked with suspicion.
"Well uh… I wanted to practice a bit before I started. You know, a sort of a warm up before the important show, so that I don't screw up later. I am practicing on these extravagant arms you have over here," Khorrek pointed at two shields portraying roaring dragons.
"And? Are you done?" The girl said with excitement and moved over to look at his drawing.
"Oh no, stay back!" Khorrek exclaimed and turned the parchment over. "It's really bad luck to look at a painting before it is finished, you know. It might make your eyes burn. I'd stay away if I were you."
"Really?" said the girl and stepped back, "well, do you need any help? I could call a guard to take out the shields for you, so you could see them proper."
"Oh no no... it's fine, really, I'm almost finished anyway. No, I just need their colour. Red, green, blue… don't bother the guards, I can see perfectly fine from here. Just give me a few minutes here to finish colouring and I'll be back at the main hall shortly."
"Alright..." the girl turned and left the room.
Damn, that was close. He shoved the parchment and coal back into his pocket and returned to the stairs. Judging from the voices below the feast was already over, the servants busy cleaning the leftovers. Perfect, Khorrek thought and was about to exit the mansion, feeling the dagger deep inside his fancy robes. But just as he turned to leave he was faced by Lord Styrax.
"Ah, Sir Kalis! We were just looking for you. My daughter is waiting for her painting. We have placed your easel in the hall and prepared all of your brushes. Will you please join us?"
"O-of course!" Khorrek replied putting a grin on his face. Maybe not as perfect as I had figured…
All of the guests had retreated back into the main hall and were seated on soft pillows. The easel was placed in the middle of the hall and the little lady sat on a big armchair just in front of it. Lord Styrax joined his wife and sat on one of the pillows. “Sir Kalis, you may begin,” he announced and beckoned the servants to start serving tea.
Khorrek had no choice but to go stand by the easel. He looked around; everyone’s eyes were fixed on him. There was no way he could exit unnoticed… and so he picked up a brush. “Thank you my lord and lady; I thank you both for this remarkable opportunity. You shan’t be disappointed!” He touched the brush on the colour palette and started to paint.
And so he painted. Khorrek had seen real artists at it before, and though he never tried it himself, he figured it couldn’t be so difficult. He looked at the girl’s face. She had long elven ears, two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Her hair was long and straight and her skin colour was a bluish-purple. Her forhead was adorned with a golden tiara and she wore a blue dress. He drew what he saw. He had trouble changing the colours on the brush, as the paint was thick and wouldn’t come off easily. But surely some stains wouldn’t ruin the bigger picture…
The painting was complete within a few minutes. This was actually easy, and fun, Khorrek thought, maybe my parents were right after all, I really should consider a job change! He grinned and started to turn the drawing towards the crowd.
“No!” The girl exclaimed, “Don’t show it before it’s finished! You said it was bad luck!”
“Fear not my lady, for the drawing is complete,” he announced proudly and revealed his creation. “Behold!”
A joined gasp was heard from the guests and by the looks of their faces Khorrek realized it wasn’t a sign of admiration. Lady Annette looked like she was about to faint. Her daughter’s eyes filled with disappointment.
“Are you sure this is it, Sir Kalis…?” Lord Styrax scratched his head, “this doesn’t look very orthodox…”
Pfft. No appreciation for modern art. “You’re right, I forgot to sign it!” He grabbed the brush once more and scribbled a signature before the astonished lord's eyes. "Happy birthday!" he called and darted out of the manor as fast as he could, laughing out loud.