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Monday, April 5, 2010

How To Be A Thief - Chapter 1

It should have gone according to plan. When things don't go according to plan, it makes you look like an amateur. And to someone who has been training their entire life for this moment, nothing could be worse than looking like an amateur.

However, Fate is a fickle god. Most humans have very incorrect suppositions about Fate. To some, Fate is actually represented by 3 old crones sitting around a cauldron or sewing a tapestry while sharing a single eye between them. If this were so, Fate would be blind to most things that went on, but experience tells us otherwise. To others, Fate is seen as a nerdish, obfuscated figure in a robe toting around a tremendous tome which no one else can read. This sounds like a wonderful idea, because it puts Fate so far away from the rest of us.

For Eaups, the god of Fate was a slightly balding god with a penchant for the flamboyant, anything violet (and NOT purple) and a very annoying laugh. He also went by the name of Murphy. Eaups was very certain of this because he'd not only seen and met Murphy, but he owed the guy $20.

Eaups, pronounced "oops", was a priest in the Pantheological Cloister in Kell, the capital city of the Kingdom of Mayford. He was a star student, rising in ranks quicker than almost anyone in the cloister and permitted to be the youngest Avatar of a god. None of this, however, did anything to ease his mind as he hid in a large, rank urn that must have recently held something involved in a cow's digestive system.

"Stop squirming," came a voice from outside, that of a girl.
"Sorry, it's.. it's cramped in here and it smells like sh-"
"I don't care! You said this would work, and it better, or we are out $300." There was a sharp strike against the side of the urn, causing a dull CLANG to ring in Eaups' ears for some time.
"It'll work, Jesz. Trust me," Eaups said, though there was definite doubt in his voice.

Jesz wore a large burlap sack, trying to make it appear as if it might be a robe. In the dark alley, the illusion worked fairly well. Though her voice was young and sharp, her wrinkled hands shook as though she had palsy. In front of her was a large cart which carried the urn Eaups was hiding in, as well as a host of other nondescript items of pottery, basketry, and glass-works.
"Witch's brews, potions, charms, fetishes," she cried out in the voice of an old hag as she pushed the cart clumsily onto the cobbled road out of the alley.

There were a few other people on the road this night, which was typical of the neighborhood. In the day, it was a busy market place, lined with shops that sold everything from the obscure to the dangerous. By night, however, only the brave dared to venture down its winding lanes. By night, the road-side shops closed up and only carts remained. Carts were mobile, and with the proper lookout, even the slowest cart selling the most prohibited goods could make a decent getaway.

A tall, brunette woman moved up to the cart, a dark, expensive robe and cowl wrapped around her to conceal most of her features. It was an exquisite robe that screamed aristocracy, the kind that was only ever seen either being sold or being stolen on this street.
"What are you selling, madam?" she asked in a loud, gruff voice, an amusing attempt to conceal her identity.
Jesz leaned in and whispered behind clenched jaw, "Not so loud. Geez, where did you get that robe, Mel? I thought I said a rag!"
"It was the only thing I could find on such short notice," the woman answered back in a hurried whisper, then leaned back as she "inspected" a jar filled with what she hoped were pickles.
"Well you stick - Only the finest charms, fetishes, 'n potions, deary - out like a sore thumb!" The change in her voice from chastising to little-old-lady made Eaups shiver a little. She did that too easily.

After a moment or two of bickering and loud appraisal, Jesz shot a knowing glance to Mel and nodded beneath her hood. Two men had just come into view, one with arms ticker than Jesz's ego, the other with a large patch over one eye. As they wandered closer, Jesz moved around the cart, hobbling as well as she could, and Mel stepped back, holding the jar of pickles up the light of the moon as if inspecting it carefully.

"Charms, brews, and potions. Sir, you look like you could use a first-class item of genu-ine witchery," old-lady Jesz said as she picked up some items from the cart and moved closer to the man with the eyepatch. She held up a bracelet that looked like it was made of a lizard - or perhaps several parts of several lizards - and motioned it towards the man.

"No... thank you," the man added, holding his hand up in a gesture of dismissal. He knew better than to anger a witch. In fact, the eyepatch was a constant reminder.

"Yer lookin' to get even, ain't ya?" Jesz said. Although the only part of her face the man could see was a large nose that could only be attached to a crone, he could tell she was smiling. This wasn't any smile, but the smile of knowing a secret. The man stopped in his tracks, causing his companion to run into him before blushing and stepping back as if overseeing the transaction.

"How did you know that?" the man asked, raising his eyebrow.

Jesz cackled and tapped the side of her crooked nose. "Granny Beetle has her ways," she said. Mel ventured a glance over at the bodyguard, but rolled her eyes at the name Jesz chose to call herself. "If'n yer lookin' to get an eye fer an eye..." Jesz said, leaning closer. The man found himself leaning in as well. "Then you'll want a boggart's brew," she said, pointing at the urn Eaups sat in. Eaups had been holding his breath every since the man began to talk. That, however, was his cue. He closed his eyes and started to mutter a spell, his hands having just enough room to weave the necessary gestures.

"What's a boggart's brew?" the man said, his eye following along Jesz' crooked finger to the urn. He already seemed drawn by the air of mystery it possessed.

"Trade secret," Jesz replied with another ghastly cackle. "Boggarts're nasty little buggers that peck out yer teeth and leave ya gold," she said, eliciting a groan from Mel. The bodyguard turned to look at Mel, who looked back to him with a huff and moved to the cart to put down the jar of pickles.

Everything was ready. The man was starting to lean over the urn with the promise of money and revenge, Mel had put herself into position to block their escape, while Eaups was almost done with his spell.

Jesz reached down and started to lift the top of the urn. everything was in slow-motion. Jesz was pulling out her big guns. "Gar-an-teed," Eaups heard her say as he came to the last line of the spell. His mind raced with the thought of the bounty they were going to get as he looked up into the face of his unsuspecting vic-CRASH!

The urn fell over, shattering pots and jars on the cart and rolled off onto the street, slipping open. Eaups didn't have time to process what was going on - all he knew was the world started to spin and then the urn broke around him.

"STOP!" yelled Mel as she chased after the two men who had escaped in all the ruckus. She darted off after them, hiking up the robe to help her move faster.

"What happened?" asked Eaups to no one in particular. He blinked, took a breath of fresh air, and finally noticed Jesz on the ground with a stranger on top of her, a man, dressed in black, with an arrow sitcking out of his side.

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