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

Ch. 5 - Noose of Stupidity

"Good job." Garrett's voice, dry like dead leaves being drawn over stone, rang out over the practice field. "Your overall performance was satisfactorily, and you accomplished the objective without killing anyone or encountering many guards. You should have explored the entire house, but that judgement will come with experience." The master thief had made me go through the entire mission, pointing out my mistakes along the way. He was scornful over my injury, stating that I should never have neglected the moon: more often than not the margin between success and failure is no thicker than that of a moonbeam.

"But your going to have to do better than that if you want to last longer than your first meeting with a guard on even terms. Your swordwork is atrocious, and you still need to work on your footsteps. They are too loud. You should practice walking on metal floors, that way you won't rely so much on moss arrows. You also should have felled the guard with one blow: more than that is risky and noisy."

Bristling at so much criticism after a mission during which I thought I had performed pretty well, I started to get angry at the one eyed man. Just before I could take it no more and was about to verbally respond, Cutty came into the practice room. As usual, he and Garrett went off into a corner to talk. I continued to practice, or at least pretended to keep practicing, while I strained to hear their conversation. While I waited, I took a look around the practice room.

Situated in a warehouse not far from Cutty's place, it was chock full of tools needed to train would-be thieves. First, near the entrance, was the pickpocketing dummy. It was a mock-human being, with lots of bells attached to the clothes and inside the pockets of the clothes. The idea being to remove the bells from the clothing and from the pockets without having the bells ring. The light fingers and precise muscle control required to master this are hard to come by...I had been working hard to master this and still hadn't gotten it right. Next were the climbing posts. These were thick wooden posts that reached the roof of the warehouse, and had various posts and platforms attached. This was to practice using rope arrows, and various climbing and scaling techniques. My experience as an acrobat helped me here, and not even Garrett could scale walls and use ropes the way I could.

Of course, there was also the archery and knife throwing range, and the sound training section (a section with several different types of flooring, the purpose being to train thieves how to walk soundlessly over different types of floors). All in all, the facility, while compact, was a fine place to learn the skills I needed.

I was jolted from my reverie by the approach of Cutty. I had not seen or heard Garrett leave, as usual. Cutty said, "Why don't you go out and get you some tools. I have your cut from that last job, so you can get yourself some good stuff." With that, he gave me my share, some 4000 gold, and left. While leaving he said, "See you later."

Ten minutes later I was walking in the street, looking for a weapons shop. Cutty had told me several places that sold questionable merchandise and didn't report to the Hammers about it. On the way I tried to learn my way around the city more. I was in the docks area, which is mainly warehouses and a few of the lower-class merchants. The buildings all pretty much looked the same: rectangular buildings made mostly of wood. The whole focus was to build buildings to hold as much cargo as possible, and as such decorations and windows were few and far between. The buildings also tended to be tall, which meant for streets that were perpetually dark and dirty.

"And smelly," I thought as I walked. This part of town had a lot of beggars, and most of them didn't smell too good. Enter the odor of fish and salt water, and the docks streets smelled like the inside of an outhouse. As I walked away from the docks area, I came toward the center of town. I had made a quick, rough map on a piece of scratch paper, and tried to write down the main points that I had seen (included). This town was laid out in three big sections. One was the dock section, which I was in now. This section extended directly away from the water. Near the center of town, the road ended, and continued on the right and left. This intersection was known as the "Teething" for some reason I hadn't quite yet figured out. In this way the main road resembled a "T" shape, with the shaft of the T the docks area, and the arms of the "T" the other two sections. Coming from the docks, the left area was the upper class neighborhood. Nobles and wealthy merchants lived there, along with the high class businesses. The Hammerite temple was also located in this area. The right area was the middle class neighborhood, with the working class people lived, the farmers' market, and the smaller businesses. This was where Cutty (and I, for the present) lived.

Upon reaching the Teething, I took the road on the right. I knew that there were businesses that way, especially the kind of businesses I wanted to frequent. What I didn't reckon on was the greater frequency of Hammer patrols in this area during the day. Apparently too many nobles and merchants had been getting robbed there. Seeing a group of Hammerites on patrol, I stopped, uncertain whether to risk staying on the main road and risk being recognized by them or to take one of the side streets.

Needing the supplies badly, I stuck to the main road, as I wasn't totally sure of my way around the side streets. My chances of discovery would have been far less had I took one of the side streets, but I was in a hurry to buy my gear. As I walked I heard snippets of conversation that made me smile. "...about Nonnus?" "...robbed while he slept..." "...guess that strongbox wasn't so hidden after all..." "...left a feather" During this walk, I also found out that the Hammer of Crosus I had in fact been stolen from a Hammerite temple, and that the Hammers had tried to get it from Nonnus the day after it was stolen. Apparently they were very angry and were looking for the thief who had taken it.

This made me nervous, but thankfully, none of the Hammerites recognized me as I walked by them, as I was sure they would. "Whew," I thought. "What a relief." However, this is where I got stupid. Noticing the crowd, I saw a fat man walking with a self-important waddle towards me. Of course, I couldn't help but notice the fat purse hanging at his belt, nor the gold buttons on his sleeves. I thought, "I guess I'll practice my pickpocketing skills" and proceeded to perform a timeless maneuver, the bump-and-grab. I executed it perfectly. Bumping my shoulder into the man's chest, my hands naturally (or so it looked to passersby) came up to the man to steady myself. During my brief grasp of him, I lifted his purse and managed to twist a gold button off his sleeve.

"Ignorant buffoon!" the man yelled, swinging a heavy fist at me. The action caught me by surprise, knocking me to the cobblestones. Quickly, I jumped up and hurried away, wanting to be gone before the Hammers noticed the exchange. Just then, the noble noticed his purse missing. "Stop, thief!" came the cry from his throat. I laughed, wondering if the thief ever did stop on hearing that.

My laugh cut off when I noticed the Hammers were closing off the block in front of me. Spinning around, I saw they were doing the same at the other end. I was trapped! The noble was going with the patrol, looking at everyone to try and find me. I looked at the doors and windows lining the street, but they had all slammed shut when the first cry of trouble was heard. "The Hammers would probably search everything anyway," I thought. Just then, the noble cried "There he is!" and pointed straight at me. I had no time to run before several Hammerites surrounded me, brandishing their heavy hammers. The patrol leader walked up with the noble in tow. "Is this the man?" asked the Hammerite. "Yes, that's him. That's the one who took my purse!" "Search him!" the Hammerite ordered. The guards, roughly searching me, quickly found the noble's purse and button, along with my own coins.

"Alright, taffer, off to prison with thee!" the Hammerite patrol leader exclaimed after the damning goods were displayed. "Thy thieving days dost be finished!" With that, a heavy blow landed on my head, and I was fadiiiiinnnnngggggg...

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

Chapter 4 / Chapter 6

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