"Light as a Feather"
by Rich (aka dragoman)

Ch. 2 - Picking the Feather

I looked warily around me. Willow, the girl who had saved me (so she claimed) from the Hammerites (their name, according to her) was leading me deep into the city, winding around side streets and alleys in an attempt, I was sure, to confuse me as to my whereabouts. Which was working, as I had no idea where I was.

"Where are we going?" I asked the girl, whose name described her willowy form perfectly. She smiled, said, "Come on" and kept going. Her green cloak, of good quality, swirled around her, hiding the equipment and weapons that I had seen her carrying. Soon, we came to a door in a dark alley. She said, "Wait here" and disappeared inside. I figured that I had nowhere to go and settled down to wait. After a while, the waiting got boring, so I began to practice my acrobatic tricks, since I was sure I would be depending on them for food and money here in this town.

After finishing a series of flips, I realized that Willow and an unfamiliar man were watching me from the doorway. While Willow was small, slight, with green eyes and brown hair, this man was rather large and fleshy, but it seemed like the flesh just covered hardness, not fat. He was balding, with once-blond hair, and hard eyes the color of granite. He turned to Willow, murmured something, and passed her a small purse. Smiling gratefully, she backed away, shot me a grin and a wink, and took off down the alley. The man turned to me and said, "Thomas, is it?" At my nod, he nodded and said, "Do come in." His expression made the words more of a command than an invitation.

Nervously, I entered the building and found a well-lit hallway. What struck my eye were the unique lamps which lit the hallway. They were bronze, with glass to let the light out and a conical metal cap. The smoke from the torches was coming out from under the cap. The man noticed me looking and said, "They are inextinguishable by water arrow." My obvious confusion about the term made him pause, but after a moment he led me to a room down the hall.

"Sit down, Thomas." I did, and he sat across from me. The room was relatively bare, with a wooden table and chairs. Obviously a room for business. "Let me introduce myself," the man said. "My name is Cutty, and my profession is that of a fence. You were brought here because I am on the lookout for people who are possibly interested in being thieves for me. Willow noticed your performance on the road and again later, and of course my own observation confirmed that you are an excellent candidate."

As the man spoke, the hairs on the back of my neck rose. This self-admitted criminal would not be telling me these things unless he had already made a decision. Now, I am not a big one for morality, and I really don't have a problem with thieves, but I dislike not being given a choice about something. The man noticed my frown and said, "I realize you aren't being given much choice, and I see you have guessed that you really don't have one. I can't afford to let the news of my activities get out, so you either agree with me or, well..." He didn't go on.

Now, this really got my back up. Now I was being threatened! I started to respond in kind until I recognized the downcast look in his eyes. Here was someone who didn't really like what he was doing. I swallowed and asked, "Why me, sir? Why am I being given this 'choice'?" He sighed, and said, "I don't usually do this. My line of work, it pays to be discrete. But this time I have no choice." At my quizzical look, he continued.

"See, I just got a commission. Not one I agreed to, but one I have to fill. This person is not reasonable, and has threatened my personally if I do not fulfill the commission. The problem I have is that there are very few thieves left anymore that can do this. My best thief, a man named Garret, has 'retired', and many of my less talented employees have gotten caught by the Hammerites."

"Who are these Hammerites?" I asked. Cutty blew out his breath in an explosive snort. "Their a pain in my ass, that's who they are! But I suppose you are asking what their function in the city is." At my nod, he continued, "They worship a figure they call the Master Builder, and they are fanatics when it comes to construction and technology. Also, they take it upon themselves to patrol the streets picking up anyone they deem as 'disreputable' and throwing them in their prison, named Cragscleft. Willow saw that this was happening to you, so she 'distracted' the Hammerites so you could get away. Regrettably, one of them died."

"Regrettably? They were going to throw me in prison!" I exclaimed. "Yes, but by killing one of them, every Hammerite in the city will be looking for her. She will have to lay low," Cutty said. "Anyway, I believe that you would make a good thief, and hope that you will take up the offer. It is not a bad life, and most come to enjoy it. So what do you say? I will provide training and supplies for the first mission."

I thought about it. Truly, up until now I had not considered a life of crime, considering myself above it. I thought about the nights spent on the side of a road, or in a gutter, about eating 3 times in a week, about not having anything but my clothes, and sometimes not them if I got mugged. Then I thought about what money could bring me; clothes, food, a place of my own to stay, actual possessions like those I once possessed. I thought about these things, and the decision I reached showed on my face long before I said the words "I'll do it."

If you have any feedback on this story e-mail it to Rich aka dragoman

Chapter 1 / Chapter 3

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