A Quiet Night in Altador
The streets of the city of Altador were almost always quiet at this time of night, once the last echoes of the great clock striking two have faded away, and there is only the slow dripping of water, seeping off the rooftops above, to disturb the silence.
So what was it that had woken the Kacheek from his dreamless sleep?
He sat up, and reached out towards his bedside table to search for his glasses. The very edge of his fingertips managed to touch them, before they clattered to the floor out of reach.
“Oh bother”, muttered the Kacheek, whose name was Paisley, to himself, before scooting over to the side of his bed. With his left hand, he reached down towards the floor, patting around in an effort to locate the fallen object. After what seemed like ages, his hand landed on something solid which he gripped before lifting the glasses onto his face.
Much better, thought Paisley as the room resolved itself from blurriness into clarity. The moonlight streamed through the open window, and lit the room with an eerie, pale glow. It glanced off the mirror on the wall opposite, and directed a beam almost directly onto the Kacheek’s pillow. Paisley nodded to himself in assurance. He must have left the window open, and it must have been the glare of the moonlight that had stirred him.
That seemed to be the most logical explanation.
With many a mutter and a grumble, the Kacheek swung his legs off the bed and into the cold air. Gently padding across the floor, his creaked his way over to the window. The curtains shifted softly in the night-time breeze, and he took the moment to look outside into the stillness beyond.
As expected, the streets were near silent. In the distance, he could just make out the glow of the Coliseum bathed in light. Whilst the Altador Cup was in progress, it was a policy of the Altadorian Council to keep the Stadium ready and waiting, just in case any of the players should suddenly want a last minute practice session to work out some kinks, or perhaps nerves, in their game. The constellations shone high above, and the Kacheek could just make out the First to Rise coming up over the horizon. In a few short hours, she would be blotted out by the blaze of the sun swiftly rising behind her.
As he was turning back into the room, Paisley spotted a flickering light at the corner of his vision. His curiosity raised, the Kacheek risked a glance at the seemingly new light source. It came from a building on the other side of the same street, but perhaps two or three buildings further along. The light came from a window, and outlined a black shape. The silhouette moved, shifting away from the window. The light moved as well, as if suddenly redirected by a hand or paw. Paisley peered more closely, squinting through his glasses and straining to see anything in the gloom and shadow.
Then he heard it, a gentle tinkling sound. Now, that might simply be someone innocently bumping into a set of wind chimes, Paisley tried to reason with himself. More likely, he thought fretfully, it was the sound of breaking glass.
He tried to the build the courage to call out, but the stillness and quiet of the night held him back. Then he heard it again. It was unmistakable this time, definitely the sound of something breaking.
“Who’s there?” he squeaked. That wouldn’t do at all. A Miamouse could have been louder.
“I say”, he called, in a much stronger tone of voice which echoed off the buildings, “Who’s that over there?”
There was a moments silence, filled only be the continual dripping of water from the roofs.
“Who’s yelling at nearly 3 in the morning”? came an angry cry.
“Oi,” came another voice, perhaps Paisley’s neighbour, “Keep your voice down, some of us are trying to sleep here.”
“Will you lot be quiet”, erupted a third, “I’ve got to be down the Quarry in three hours, and those rocks don’t flatten themselves”.
Paisley shook off these rebukes, and built up the courage to call out again.
“Who’s that breaking glass into that house over there”.
There was another moment’s silence, a little shorter than the first. Then, a light flipped on, followed by another, which was followed by a number more throughout the street.
“Breaking glass?” called out the voice belonging to the neopet who seemed to be adept at telling the time.
“I heard it too!”. A new voice this time, sounding much younger than the others.
“Well, where is it”? called the quarry-worker.
“From that building over there” replied Paisley, building up a head of steam, “the one with the Vaeolous gargoyle on the top.”
“Why, that’s Old Man Cooper’s place”, enjoined possibly Paisley’s neighbour, “but he’s out of the city for the next two months to follow The Hikalakas on their Neopian tour.”
“Well there’s someone in there, I saw a light move and heard a noise”.
“He must be being robbed - call the guards! GUARDS!”. The cry echoed down the street. It was picked up, repeated and echoed by others disturbed by the shouting. The shout redoubled, filling the streets with clamour and noise. More and more lights flickered into life, illuminating the street with a bright glow. Before long, all the buildings had been lit, save Old Man Cooper’s, and the cry of “GUARDS” seem to saturate the air. Less than five minutes since the call was first raised, a troop of Altadorian guards came rushing down the lane, each carrying a raised sword in one hand, with a flaming torch in the other.
“Old Man Cooper’s place”. The quarry worker again, who now seemed to have an air of authority, “Someone’s heard breaking glass and spied a moving light”.
Paisley watched as The Altadorian troop, barely breaking step, burst through the door into the house across the street and two or three buildings down. There was a series of scuffling sounds, before a yelp and a squeak could be heard. After a few more minutes, the Altadorian troop returned from Old Man Cooper’s place. They pulled along with them two dishevelled looking Meerca, identifiable by their long and looping tails. Their hands seemed to be bound firmly behind their backs.
“Back to your beds the lot of ya’” called out one of the Altadorian guards, “Nothing else to see here”.
“Good job lads”. It was the voice of the timekeeper, “Best in the business you lot are”.
One or two of the guards saluted smartly, before they all moved off. As the guards left the street, pulling the captive Meerca in their wake, the lights of the other residents began to flicker off, one by one. Darkness fell, with the constellations filling the sky. The First to Rise had risen slightly, heralding the nearing of the dawn.
Begrudgingly, Paisley returned to his bed, which has grown cold in his absence. He took off his glasses, placing them carefully back on the bedside table, before climbing between the sheets which he rearranged around himself for maximum comfort. The moment his head hit the pillow, he had a sudden realisation.
He had forgotten to close the curtains.