To Catch a Thief

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To Catch a Thief

Post by Lena Vershmitz on Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:35 pm

A woman's laugh floated obnoxiously across the lair of a local thieving crew as others huddled about their tables nursing drinks of one kind or another. A couple of semi-well-dressed men sat around the blonde's table, entertaining her with their exaggerated tales of mischief.

"I can only imagine the look on Lord Dunbar's face the next morning," the woman said with a chuckle.

"Priceless, I assure you, Miss," the shorter of her drinking companions replied with a jovial snort.

A young girl carrying a tray of drinks passed behind the blonde as she made a grandiose gesture with her hands. The waitress dodged the flailing arms, accidentally spilling a drink and splashing it on the woman's clothing. She shrieked and pushed away from the table.

"What a klutz, you foolish girl!" the blonde growled.

"I'm so sorry," the girl said fearfully. "I'll clean it up right away."

As the girl scrambled away, Lena narrowed her eyes and rose from her solitary corner table, casually bumping up against one of the men, who had risen to help the surly woman, then crouching down next to the blonde's handbag, pretending to help with the cleanup.

Before everyone settled down, Lena exited the lair and entered the dark streets with a smile, satisfied with her successful transfer of assets between the boisterous blonde and the serving girl.

Lena wore the typical female skaa attire - a plain, ash-stained grey dress with a similarly stained hooded cape. It served its purpose - blending in with all other skaa - perfectly.

Lord Dunbar she thought to herself. I haven't visited his place in a couple of weeks.

She made her way quietly down the slum streets toward the lesser lord's keep, casually avoiding any Steel Ministry patrols. Carrying nothing but a medium-sized burlap sack, Lena strode unnoticed toward the back entrance of Keep Dunbar. Her own evening strolls had informed her that Dunbar's guards were sloppy and inconsistent with their hourly watch. Tonight appeared to be one of those nights with an added twist. The back door was already unlocked.

Hmm...too easy or more exciting?

She stepped carefully into the kitchen, her senses on edge in anticipation of a trap. It was not the first time she had hit the Dunbar food supply, but it had been a little while since her last strike. Moving into the over-sized pantry, she began to fill her sack with foods that most skaa - other than those who worked in a noble's kitchen - had never seen.

Someone will be eating well tonight she thought with a satisfied grin.

Suddenly, something cast a large shadow into the pantry. Lena turned an expectant eye to the door, noticing a man twice her size blocking her only means of escape. The man's face turned up in a twisted grin as he eyed his soon-to-be prize.

Her eyes narrowed in challenge, but her mind was working overtime considering her options. She glanced thoughtfully around the room, but knew from past visits that the door was the only way in or out. She took a few steps back, further into the room, gripping the sack even tighter. Her voice took on the timbre of a young child and her lip began to quiver.

"I'm so sorry, mister. I'm just - just so hungry."

The large man seemed to soften slightly before shaking his head fervently, his eyes growing even darker.

"No...no way, you little street rat. I won't have you trying to soothe me. You think I haven't been taught how to deal with your kind?"

A look of genuine confusion crossed her face.

My kind?

The brute stepped quickly into the room, faster than a man his size could normally move. Reacting instinctively, Lena threw an open sack of flour at the man, who dodged left, giving her just enough space to sprint around to his right, as his vision was temporary impaired by the cloud of flour. His reflexes were so quick that he still managed to grab her by the leg, sending her crashing to the floor and bloodying her nose.

Her small size and unusual abilities enabled her to tumble unhindered through the kitchen and out into the mists. The man burst out the door behind her, closing quickly. She knew she could never beat him in an all out run, so she zigged and zagged, looking for places to hide.

Around the next corner she caught sight of an unoccupied second-story balcony, which she jumped to without issue, flattening herself against the cold stone surface. She heard the man thump around the corner, his breathing regular despite his pursuit. He stopped for a moment before continuing his search on Keep Dunbar's premises, seeming to have lost track of her for now.

She lay still a minute longer before daring to look out over the balcony. The man was no longer in sight, so she leapt from her perch and sauntered back toward the kitchen to retrieve her stash. As she rounded the corner, she saw a few guards scrambling about and she cursed. She was considered carefree and fearless by the few who really knew her, but she wasn't stupid and knew when she should just walk away.

As she meandered through the streets of Urteau, she pondered the night's activities, wondering how the keeps were getting better at anticipating her arrival. Not that she minded the challenge, but it was becoming frustrating. Not to mention the skaa families who were counting on their anonymous benefactor to help provide food for their little ones.

Her enhanced senses allowed her to catch a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure on a nearby rooftop. She glanced up without turning her head and gradually increased her pace, looking to lose the follower or better yet, turn the tables on him and become the pursuer instead.

The mysterious figure would not be shaken, however. No matter where she turned, he was still behind her. She made a series of quick turns and darted into a small covered alcove. Holding her breath, she listened carefully for approaching sounds.

She gave her tail another look as she turned back around to continue moving through the streets. She thought she could make out a long cloak enveloping her tail. Lena nearly collided with a figure garbled all in gray as she faced forward again.

Impossible! He was just behind me!

Only her exceptional reflexes allowed her to avoid a collision. She slid to a stop then sprang back, a cat ready to take a swipe at a mad dog. The sound of pursuit behind her had stopped.

The man stood impassively, his face hidden beneath a hood. Long tendrils of what Lena initially took for mist but were actually dozens of tassels of a strange cloak flitted out behind him. He spoke quietly, in a near whisper.

"You are a strange thing, Lena. Something that should not exist."

Her heart pounded in her chest, but she couldn't suppress the curiosity growing in her.

Lena inhaled deeply through her nose, drawing strength from within, in case she had to fight or flee this man in front of her. Her eyes narrowed in anticipation hidden beneath her own hood.

Should not exist? Does this have something to do with my father? No one knew about that except for him and my mother, who is now dead. I don't even know who he is. 'A strange thing,' he said. The brute at Keep Dunbar had said he was prepared to deal with one of my 'kind.'

"And just exactly what kind of thing do you think me to be, stranger?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

She couldn't explain why, but Lena felt her distrust melt away as the two stared at each other. She counted four heartbeats before he spoke again, his voice gentle and soothing.

"You're special. You can do things others can't."

He didn't move, but something changed. Lena felt herself perk up as she realized he was using her trick!

"But you're careless. And being careless gets our kind killed."

There it is again, only this time instead of your kind he said...

"Our kind? Our kind of what exactly?"

She shook her head trying to get him out of it, but it was no use.

Though she couldn't make out his face, Lena thought she could see the barest hint of a smile beneath his cowl.

"You should save your metals. You're almost out."

As he said the words, Lena could feel her strength run out. She started breathing heavier, muscles suddenly tired from her running. The stranger reached into a sash at his waist and pulled out a small vial filled with some liquid. He idly held it up to the mists, as if examining a strange stone. When he spoke again it was at a normal tone.

"You can't feed them all. Not by yourself."

Lena slowly arose from her crouched position, eying the stranger with further curiosity, until the wave of fatigue hit her. She stumbled a step before steadying herself on a nearby wall, blinking a few times to try to clear the haze from her vision.

"What just happened?" she demanded.

She gazed intently at the vial but found it increasingly difficult to see through the dark mists. When he mentioned the Skaa, her eyes narrowed, wondering how he knew of her evening ritual.

"You yourself said that I could do things that others cannot."

With a quick motion, the stranger flicked the cork off of his vial and downed the contents in a single gulp. Behind him, Lena could hear the distant rumbling of an approaching carriage or cart. He stepped closer, again whispering.

"Hide. Watch. Learn."

Without another word, he shot straight up into the mist, disappearing quickly into the swirling miasma. Looking down at the cobblestones where he'd stood, Lena could just make out a single copper clip laying on the cobbles. She bent down and pocketed the precious coin out of reflex.

A whipcrack sounded, prompting Lena to scramble around the corner of a nearby alley. She crouched behind some stacked boxes, waiting. She had a fine view up and down the street, and the carriage was brightly lit with lanterns. It was drawn by two beautiful bay horses. It moved slowly enough for the four soldiers following on foot to keep pace at all corners though. A fifth man sat next to the driver, and one more clung to the rear of the carriage. They all carried spears, but the two guards on the wagon had no spearheads on theirs and carried heavy wicker shields and dueling canes at their sides.

Without warning a patch of mist distorted into a dozen small shapes pelting forwards, smashing into the horse's chests from directly in front. Both beasts screamed in pain, but couldn't take more than a couple of panicked steps before they fell forwards, stopping the carriage right in front of Lena.

"STAND FOR YOUR LORD! STAND AGAINST ASSASSINS FOR LORD PERVAL!"

The soldiers drew swords, moving in a disciplined and well-practiced fashion. In an eyeblink, the four soldiers stood in a line, shileds together facing up the road as the rider drew back a longbow and the the two guards who had been on the carriage scrambled around the side opposite Lena. The driver stood up, shouting into the mist.

"SHOW YOURSELF, COW-!"

A shadow shot out from above Lena, and the stranger landed on the carriage next to the driver. Moving almost faster than her eye could follow, the stranger stepped behind him, then the four soldiers threw their swords directly at him somehow still facing forwards. No, they weren't thrown, the swords were drawn to the driver's chest and he fell in a spray of blood. Still impaled, the driver's body flew forward into the squad, crashing into them mid turn.

Then he was gone, back among the mist.

The soldiers got back to their feet quickly, and wheeled to face the now empty carriage.

He dropped down behind them, pulled the dueling cane from one of their belts, and used it to cave in the next man over's skull with a savage backhanded blow. He was gone before the body hit the ground.

By now the carriage's occupant had finally come out, and was quickly being escorted back down the way the carriage had come from by the two men with wicker shields. Or it would have been quickly, were he a man of more moderate size. Lena's eyes focused back on the remaining three soldiers. They'd formed a rough circle, standing back to back with their dueling canes out. Lena could hear them whimpering and praying to the Lord Ruler.

Just then, a shadow slammed into one of their shields feet first, pushing all three men off balance. He bore the soldier to the ground, then raised up the dueling cane and stabbed it down like a knive, splintering it yet driving it directly through the steel breastplate and into his sternum. He died with his final cry choked short.

Both of the remaining soldiers whirled on him, swinging their dueling canes with all their strength. The stranger caught the hardwood rods, then the soldiers flew directly away from him. They smashed into opposite walls along the street, one of them just a few feet away from where Lena hid. Then they flew off the walls, careening towards each other at breakneck speeds as they both screamed. The stranger stepped back at the last instant, letting the two men collide with a sick crunch. As they fell dead, the stranger calmly reached out and plucked one of the shields out of the air. He spotted the last few men, then with a grunt he heaved the shield, Lena heard the crack of wood as a pair of door frames behind him on either side of the street lurched from some unseen force.

The shield took the first man in the small of his back, and passed right through him. It must have deflected off his hip bone, for in a spray of blood it suddenly angled upwards and took the corpulent Nobleman in the back of his head with another loud crunch. Panicking, the last soldier threw down his shield and bolted into the mist.

Lena felt a tug at her pocket, and before she could react the clip she had grabbed flew out to the stranger's waiting hand. Casually he turned, raising and pointing his outstretched hand towards the fleeing soldier.

Lena watched in grisly awe as the stranger moved in such inhuman ways, felling armed men who should have easily overpowered a single person. As the blood lust continued, she noticed the way metal seemed to move around him at his will. She looked in envy at the way he flew gracefully above the guards, but winced every time a man fell dead. Her speciality was getting in and out unseen and unscathed.

As the stranger ended his display, Lena attempted to don an air of indifference, but her agape mouth and wide eyes betrayed her fascination and desire to mimic his movements, if not his blood shed. Her instincts drew her toward the carriage to look for any valuables left behind and then toward the body of the nobleman to check his pockets for the same.

Lena Vershmitz

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Re: To Catch a Thief

Post by The Steel Ministry on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:36 pm

The Stranger takes note of her quick adaptation to the gore. Lena quickly finds a fat purse full of Boxings and a tray full of assorted pastries and cakes. Many have bites missing, but are still far finer fare than any Skaa would be used to. After checking each of the men for pulses and sliding his knife across one man's throat, the Stranger approaches Lena.

"You don't balk. That's good. The Mists reject cowards. I can teach you. Show you how to take what is yours by right."

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Re: To Catch a Thief

Post by Lena Vershmitz on Fri Mar 06, 2015 7:13 am

Lena slipped off her cloak, tied the sleeves together, and made a makeshift sack to carry the sweets and the boxings in, not pocketing a single coin for herself. At his comments she laughs.

"I'm certainly no coward, but there were cleaner ways to rob that carriage. I know. I've done it."

'Done it' may have been an exaggeration. She had snagged a few things from less guarded carriages, but never one with six armed guards.

"But if you wanted to teach me how to move like you do, I wouldn't say no."

Again she tried and failed to contain her excitement at becoming more like this stranger in front of her.

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Re: To Catch a Thief

Post by The Steel Ministry on Fri Mar 06, 2015 10:55 am

He shakes his head, disappointed.

"Clean isn't the point. These mists belong to us. The Lord ruler chose to bless us, so we must use our gifts. Those who do not share them aren't worth the coin it takes to kill them."

He tosses a small vial to lena.

"You'll see soon enough. If you want to that is. I will teach you. In exchange you will on occasion do some small favors for me."

Lena could almost see the smirk under his hood.

"I'm a busy man, and sometimes the small things have a way of getting away from me."
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Re: To Catch a Thief

Post by Lena Vershmitz on Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:11 am

Lena catches the vial, eyeing it and the stranger with rapt curiosity. Finally, she makes determined eye contact with him.

"I will do small favors for you, but I draw the line at killing."

She smirks as a spark flashes in her eye.

"There are plenty of other, more creative ways to hurt people, some even more effective than a quick death."

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Re: To Catch a Thief

Post by The Steel Ministry on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:46 am

He laughs out loud.

"Oh you'll do your share of killing. If not for me, on your own."

He starts down the street, waving for her to follow.

"Call me Broulliar."
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Re: To Catch a Thief

Post by Lena Vershmitz on Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:28 am

Lena purses her lips and her eyes narrow then glance briefly to the side.

"It wouldn't be the first time," she says more to herself than to Broulliar as she follows him down the dirty street.

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