Origins: The King of the Thieves
Chapter One: The Thief at Market
The bazaar in the slums of the port town Dirn was buzzing with activity. The midday rush had begun. Merchants stood outside of their stalls, calling out to passerby in hopes of gaining their attention. For some, their livelihood depended on today's sales; others were luckier, with no particular need for a good day of business, though it was naturally welcomed with open arms. The day was a pleasant one; the normally beating sun was just barely poking out from behind thick clouds, which gave no signs of incoming rain. A particularly graceful young man slipped through the crowd, gliding through the booming marketplace with ease. He called no attention to himself as he looked around with piercing blue eyes from underneath a black hooded cloak decorated with navy blue swirls. He chewed the inside of his lip as he probed the contents of each stall, searching for one with an inattentive owner. Eventually, he spotted one whose owner was busy chatting up a few women, trying to get them to look through his cheap jewelry. Although the bracelets and rings were not particularly well made, the gemstones set in them were undoubtedly real.
“And the fun begins,” muttered the man as a mischievous smirk spread across his face. After maneuvering his way through the bustling crowd, he slipped behind a stack of crates, completely unseen. Luckily for the man, the stall's owner was completely invested in the conversation with the women. How he kept their interest was a mystery to the man, as he was short, squat, and toad-like. He crept up to the stall, carefully gauging the possibility of discovery. Deciding that the time was now, he deftly snatched several pieces of jewelry as he casually walked past the stall, stuffing them into a pouch around his hips. He walked right by the owner, who paid him absolutely no mind, still trying to convince the girls to browse his wares. The man bumped shoulders with one of the women as he passed, who then proceeded to bid the man good day as she spun on her heel and began to calmly follow the cloaked man. She slowed down to savor the angry shouting of the merchant, who began to scan the immediate crowd, looking for potential thieves.
The hooded man dodged a few people walking in his direction and sidestepped his way into a dark alley, eventually stopping to lean against one of the walls. He pulled his hood down and patiently waited for the woman to arrive. He scratched the dark stubble coating a strong jawline as shoulder length dark brown hair fell into place. His hand traveled up his face, over an upwardly hooked nose and high cheekbones to his eyes, which he rubbed profusely. He was quite charismatic, and his height and lean, toned body only increased his overall attractiveness. Eventually the woman from before turned and walked into the alley.
“Took your time, didn't you?”, he asked her.
“You know how I enjoy hearing them wail in frustration,” she said politely with a smile.
“You're a terrible person, you know,” began the man, who stood up straight and began to walk further into the alley, “for enjoying anguished screams as much as you do.”
The woman smirked. “Don't pretend you don't like them either, Varan. I've seen that devilish grin you put on as you walk away from a successful steal, pockets full of loot.”
“I might like it too, but you savor it. If anguish could be manifested physically, you'd bathe in it. Who was that other girl you were with?”, asked Varan.
“A nice young woman I met at the tailor's shop. Very friendly. I think you would have liked her,” she said with a smile.
Varan scoffed at the notion. “And why is that, Kari?”
“I don't know. There was just something about her. Something I think you would have found... enticing.”
He scoffed again. “Where'd she run off to, anyway?”
“She was about to leave until I pointed out the stall and suggested we take a look at it.” She frowned slightly. “I believe we made her late for something.”
“I'm sure she'll get over it,” Varan said as he pushed open the door to a tavern in the deepest recesses of the slums.
As soon as he opened the door, a piss drunk man was thrown out into the alley. He looked like his nose was broken, and he sported a black eye. He got up, yelled something unintelligible into the tavern, and stumbled away. Varan grinned as he checked for any more inbound patrons.
“Things like that are why I love this place,” he said with a huge smile. After confirming that no more men were going to be thrown out at them, he held the door open and moved to the side.
“Ladies first,” he said politely with a bow. “Wouldn't want to be rude.” A large man to the side of the door looked over with a smile as they walked in.
“Varan! Kari! You're finally back!”, he said in a deep, booming voice. “Well? How'd it go? Get anything good?”
“Hello, Morris,” Kari said with a smile. “I believe today's haul was the best in a long time. What do you think, Varan?”
“Shoddy jewelry, but the gems are certainly real,” he said as he fished out a necklace. He tossed it to Morris, who held it under a light and whistled loudly.
“That's the real deal, alright. Davus is in the usual place. I'm sure he'll be willing to buy this for a pretty penny.” Morris tossed it back to Varan, who snatched it out of midair. He pulled the pouch of loot off of his belt and handed it to Kari.
“Why don't you show him the loot while I grab us some drinks?”, he asked with a smirk. Kari puffed out her cheeks and pouted.
“You know how much I hate the way Davus looks at me. I'll get the drinks,” she said sternly as she tossed the pouch back to Varan.
“Goddammit,” Varan muttered under his breath as he headed over to the table in the corner.
The man at the table was slumped in a chair. His long, greasy hair was messy, and held behind his ears. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of tinted glasses. He had a stern expression on his face, and in general looked like one of the last people you'd want to see in a dark alley.
“Davus,” Varan said as he nodded to the man and sat down.
“Varan,” muttered the man as he sat upright. “So, watcha got for me?”
Varan threw him the pouch, which Davus eagerly emptied. The contents spilled out onto the table and glittered in the dim candlelight. Davus whistled loudly as he inspected them more closely.
“Goddamn, Varan. Cheaply made, but these are the real thing. These are hot as the summer sun... might be a bit too hot for me, my man.”
Varan's expression had turned from one of pride to one of utter disgust.
“What do you mean, too hot for you? I thought this was your game, Davus. If you won't buy it, then you'd better be able to direct me to another fence,” he said, his voice full of ire.
“My, my. What's going on over here?”, asked Kari as she sat down and handed Varan his drink.
Varan scoffed and shook his head before pounding down the drink.
“Davus won't buy it. 'Too hot for me,' he says.” He threw his hands up in the air and slumped into his chair, rubbing his eyes as he did.
Kari frowned deeply as she turned towards Davus, the mood in her eyes changing from calm and understanding to a harsh glare.
“I'm disappointed, Davus. You've been our fence for nearly four years now. You've always gladly bought what we've brought you. Even the bust of the third king from the home of a noble family in Hightown.” Her tone was harsh, and her words stung like nettles.
Davus gritted his teeth, then opened his mouth to speak. He couldn't find any words to say, and eventually sighed in defeat as he sunk even deeper into his chair.
“I don't know, guys. There's just something about them... somethin' nasty. I've never had a feelin' like this before. I don't get it either. It's not even like I couldn't find a buyer for them. I know guys who'd probably take 'em in an instant. But... it just don't seem right.”
Varan and Kari looked at each other, both incredibly confused by what Davus was saying. They'd never heard anything like this from the fence before. Eventually, Varan spoke up. “Well, point us to a buyer. We'll tell 'em we're there in your stead.”
Davus looked up at the ceiling, then back at them, looking thoughtful. “I think I know a guy. I'll send him a mouth. Hang on.”
Davus pulled a necklace out from underneath his shirt. A pendant emblazoned with a toothy grin hung on it. He muttered something under his breath, and the grin spun around into the form of an ear. He mumbled a few words into the ear before it sunk into the gold of the pendant, completely vanishing. He fiddled with it until the grin reappeared on the surface of the pendant. He held it to his ear, and looked up at them with a smile.
“Alright, you two. I've got a girl who'll buy. Fifth street down from here, deep in the second alley on the left. Toss a pebble in the fountain. She'll show.”
Varan grinned, and Kari did the same.
“'At's the Davus I know," Varan said with a proud tone. "What's she buying it for?”
“Two hundred a pop.”
Varan's eyes widened, and Kari practically spat out the remainder of her drink.
“Say what now?”, asked Varan. “I was expecting at least 600 for it all from you. But 200 a piece? Girl's crazy, but I won't complain.”
“A rather ludicrous price indeed,” Kari said with a look of confusion. “Are you certain you haven't been paid to put is into a trap?”
Varan raised an eyebrow as he shifted his gaze from Kari to Davus. He stood up and leaned in close to Davus' face. “If you are, I'll gut you with my bare hands.” The look on his face was intimidating and intense.
Davus put his hands up in front of him and leaned backwards with a frightened expression. “These might be too hot, but I'd never do something like that to ya. Ya've gotta believe me, here.”
Kari's expression returned to one of serenity. “Calm down, Varan. I'm sure we'll be able to get away if he has indeed flipped. When should we go?”
Davus' voice cracked as he said, “any time today. You could even go now.”
Varan sat back down in his chair. “She's got nothing better to do but wait? Must be a bored woman.”
“Indeed,” said Kari as she finished her drink. “A little suspicious, but if she'll buy them for this much... Let's go, Varan.”
“Good call,” Varan said as he stood up. “I'm getting sick of Davus' face anyway.”
Davus scowled. “A pleasure doin' business with you too, Varan.”
“Don't mention it,” muttered Varan as he spun on his heel and headed for the exit, closely followed by Kari. “Later, Morris,” he said as he lightly punched the doorman on the shoulder and held the door for Kari. “Stay outta trouble, kids,” Morris called after them.