“Two leagues distant; to the belfry of the orphange!” shouted a voice far above.
Mank looked up to catch a glimpse of his mentor soaring from one roof and disappearing over another. He swung hand over hand across the clotheslines of the broad thoroughfare of the inner city, in much the same fashion as the apes of Kundra.
“That is the way!”
This time he clearly saw the hessian bagged head of his mentor, jutting from around a corner. How could he keep ahead so easily? Even from this distance, he could detect the eyes watching him through the slits cut in the sack. The material over his mouth barely moved in and out, signifying that he did not labor for breath.
He should not have been surprised; he had watched his master glide across the rooftops with such supple grace that a cat would have envied. It was little wonder that he was known as the hero of Caliet, or the Cat-Man, but Mank had the priviledge of calling him by his name, Civa.
“You are going well Mank, but do not forget that you are to tumble down as well as up, as you traverse the poorer quarter!”
Arcing up, Mank let go of the clothesline. Slapping his hands down on the top of a balcony rail, his feet simultaneously stamped into the side. His legs and shoulders bunched as he reefed himself up to crouch on top of the rail before breaking into a run along its slender edge.
He then sprang free, repeating the manouvre on an adjacent balcony, then kicked away, twisting in mid air to catch the slender upper branches of a tree. In a series of “hops”, he worked his way down. From a sturdy bough, he jumped off sliding down to the street from the sloping canvass roof of a market stall. He alighted smoothly, breaking into a sprint without any loss of momentum.
“You go well my apprentice; you may just complete the task before the sands run out this time!” shouted Civa, this time from the rooftop of the building across the street. “Now get up on the roof of the orphanage, down the lane!”
Apprentice, he called him. Caliet was known as the “city of legends,” and Civa was by no means, the least of them. To have even been referred to as the apprentice of the “hero of Caliet” was enough to ensure that his name would be whispered in awe for decades to come.
In mid stride, he stepped onto a barrel, then onto the top of a fence. Two more steps along its edge and he found a ladder leaning against the wall, landing deftly in its rungs. Swinging aside, his hands slid around a statue mounted a floor above the street. He ran up the length of its back, and sprang back for the top of the ladder.
Again, he landed deftly, but it started to shift, beginning to fall laterally. Looking behind himself, he waited a moment.
Now he said in his mind, kicking the ladder back from the wall. It fell backward as a huge pendulum. It struck the opposing wall as he planned, allowing him to roll free through an open window.
He raced up the stairs to the top floor, diving through another window. Catching the underside of the eaves, he curled up and over onto the roof. Racing now, he reached his goal, the orphanage belfry, to touch it before falling to his knees, laboring hard for breath.
From a vantage point which he could not determine, he saw the hands of Civa slap onto the edge of the eaves and curl himself over. He waited as his mentor ran over to meet him.
“You have done well Mank.”
“Then I have passed the task?”
“No; you were a few grains short, but you were much closer than last time.”
Mank sighed deeply.
“Why do you train me?”
“Look out there; what do you see?”
Mank scanned the undulating roofs of hundreds of buildings; yellow lights were beginning to show in the windows of the houses.
“I see a beautiful city.”
“That is what I thought too when I first came here, but it hides its ugliness in the shadows of its narrow lanes. I have patrolled these streets for a decade, but I will not be able to do it indefinitely. The time will come when Caliet will need you to act in my stead.”
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