The last guard of the small envoy, a brown furred mouse, watched the night through the fog with crazed eyes, spinning in place first one way, then another. He brandished his sword at every noise and jumped at every stir of the mist. The envoy, six guards and a messenger sworn to secrecy, had left their last checkpoint at dawn the day before, and had planned to camp in a clearing beside the road but when they’d reached it something had started picking them off one by one.
As the guard stumbled about in the thick mist his footpaw hit something. He looked down and almost expelled dinner all over the decapitated body of the messenger, lying in the grass. He whimpered and started spinning slowly again, trying to point his sword everywhere at once. His eyes bulged as he stood still for a second, trying to gather his wits and hear whatever was doing this. He heard footsteps behind him a second too late.
Three footsteps, a crossbow firing, a body hitting the sod, then silence. Everything was still for a moment, then a wildcat in worn finery stepped out of the mist, settling a crossbow back into its case. Nicholas glanced around, his natural night vision letting him see and count the bodies easily. All seven lay motionless in the clearing, just fifty feet from the safety of their campfire, but the fog was thick tonight and the darkness heavy, so they wouldn’t have known that.
Smirking at his fine work Nicholas set about his grim task; patting down the bodies and removing anything of value from them. Three of the guards had purses with a few coins in them, one had a ruby ring (lucky find there), and the messenger had a silver badge of office pinned to his jacket. Not a bad haul from such a large party, large by Nick’s standards at least.
The highwayman was preparing to remove himself from the scene when, on a whim, he took a fancy to the messenger’s shoes; good marching boots that looked sturdy and elegant at the same time. They would match his trousers perfectly. Kneeling down he wrestled the boots from the dead beast’s feet; first one, then the other. After kicking his own off, he sat in the grass and pulled one of the boots on with a sharp tug.
Nicholas jumped (as much as one can jump while sitting) and frowned at the boot, “What in the world?” He muttered, pulling the boot off again. He reached a paw inside it and fished around for the footwear’s prior occupant. Soon he pulled out a sheet of parchment, treated repeatedly to make it tough as leather and folded to let it fit in the boot. Forgetting the other boot, Nicholas curiously unfolded the sheet and held it in the moonlight.
Within seconds he was grinning greedily from ear to ear, his eyes resting on what turned out to be a map of the border between Mossflower and Southsward. A large, red X with a crudely drawn chest beside it sat on what seemed to be the near shore of the inland sea, only a week’s march west.
Forgetting his boots and the messenger’s, Nicholas wandered absently away from the scene of carnage, not even bothering to cover his tracks…
...Not even bothering to check the other boot for the second map.