The rainy skies overhead had since cleared away into the deep purples and velvety blacks of nightfall, leaving the slums quiet and dismal. Town guards stood huddled around the fire pits, laughing, telling tales. and warming their frigid bones. Most didn't even notice the cloaked being slipping with ease through the streets. The figure stooped just beyond the shadows and undid the hood. Dark red hair flowed over the navy fabric like fiery blood. The auburn-haired beauty panted, and leaned up against the brick wall of the alleyway, desperate to catch her breath. Intense, sparkling green irises looked up at the brilliant night sky. It was late winter now, and the stars shone brightly in the cold dark night. Even the city torches and factory smog did little to dim their brilliance. The sight couldn't help but leave her thinking; what was she doing here?! It seemed so surreal, like the feeling one got after waking up from a realistic dream. Bolting up in your bed, only to feel relief at the sight of a familiar room. Only in this case, relief didn't come, and in its place, was a numbing emptiness. Did she really want to do this? A defeated darkness filled her head, threatening to drown out any and all of her joy. It wasn't a matter of preference; not anymore. The decision at been made, and the direction of her future decided. A single tear fell from her eyes, as the young woman released a load, mournful sigh. Turning away from her depressing thoughts, she continued on her journey.
As she reached the seedier parts of the neighborhood, a loud ruckus caught her ears. The young woman crept out of the alleyway to see two guards kicking a man dressed in tattered rags. Her mouth gaped in horror at the brutish scene.
"We warned you old man, keep yer nose outta our business!"
"You...were going to slaughter that woman...she has a child, and she's five months pregnant with another mouth..." The man protested with more bravery than any solider. A sharp kick to his abdomen silenced his words.
"That wench has been stealing bread from the village shop for the last three months. Enough is enough! If she didn't want to be hungry, then she should take a job in one of the factories, or at least whore herself out. I'm sure she'd make a killing that way." The older guard chuckled.
"You...monster..." The man began again. That did it. The other guard hoisted the man to his feet, and pounded his bony frame up against the brick wall. The surveying woman felt cold dread grip at her heart as his fellow produced a wicked looking silver blade, and passed it to him.
"Couldn't just take the beating eh? You had to be difficult." The guard positioned his blade just below the man's ribcage. "Well, we'll teach you what happens to difficult gutter shites..." The man's eyes were now locked in terror at what was to come. He struggled violently, desperate to escape his fate. The hidden woman could stand it no longer! She closed her eyes and focused her mind. A dark energy crept across her arms, in a sensation that resembled dozens of crawling insects. She gritted her teeth and violently thrust her hands outward. A sinister blaze of black fire engulfed the two guards, tearing away at their armor, and melting their flesh. The man fell to his knees, and began to cower as their shocked cries evolved into bloodcurdling screams. Eventually, the spell subsided, and two ivory skeletons were all that remained of his tormentors. The man yelped and shook, dragging his battered body away from the gristly sight. A dark shadow fell over his person. He looked up to meet the entity, his heart threatening to leap out his throat. Little did he realize that this was his savior whom he feared.
"W-what do you want?" He asked, voice barely above a pitiful whimper.
"Are you alright?" A soft, female voice asked. The man cringed.
"I-I am...please miss...don't take my life!" He begged, pleading to her on his knees. His fingers were interlocked as he marveled up at her; praying to the woman as if she were one of the old gods. Begging her not to use her unknown source of volatile power against him next.
"Relax. I only did that to help you. Those men were going to-" She hesitated, deciding that the statement would be a moot point. The cowering bum at her feet was well aware of what the guards had intended. She decided to change the subject. "Hey listen. My name's Gwenevere, what's yours?" She asked.
"Umm...Fredrick..." He managed.
"Alright, hello Frederick. I have a question for you. You do live here in the slums, correct?"
"Uh, yeah." The man replied, still slightly shaken.
"Great! I came here seeking a man named Basso. Do you happen to know where his shop is located?" The beggar rose to his feet, and gave her an odd stare.
"Let me get this straight. You don't know who Basso is, and yet you want to meet with him? That's a first." He mused, temporarily forgetting the formidable power his savior possessed.
"I don't understand. Why would that be so strange?" Gwenevere asked. The beggar just shook his head, and motioned for her to lean forward.
"I don't know why you're looking for him, and frankly, its none of my concern. He usually doesn't like to be disturbed, at least not by anyone other than his contacts. But in light of what you just did, I will tell you where he is." He whispered.
The building's windows were dark, but a faint glow of light could be seen from within. Gwenevere took a deep, cleansing breath. Pushing away the last of her fear and doubt, she entered the establishment. A short, stocky man with ripped clothing and an odd smell poked his head out of a doorway.
"Can I help you?"
"Y-yes...Are you Basso?"
"Who wants to know?" The man emerged, crossing his arms.
"The beggars in the alley told me about you...I'm Gwenevere Simmons. I'm looking for work." The middle-aged pauper could barely believe his ears! A Simmons was never seen this far from their manor, especially to inquire about becoming a petty thief. The prestigious family had everything they wanted; and more.
"Simmons?! As in, one of the most influential families in town? Is this a joke?"
"No! I am being serious!" Gwenevere retorted, nerves budding into tiny fireballs of rage. While she had never been taken seriously by her family, she had at least expected better of the low class. Those poor fools were about as down to earth as they came.
"I'm sure. Ok, sweetheart, what's this all about? I know you're family ain't tryin' to bust my organization, else they would have sent the guards. Not some dressed down tart!" The runaway jerked back. A strange sensation filled her: A cold numbing. She had never felt such rejection before...it felt, wrong. But perhaps the worst part, was the fact that she honestly never thought that she would BE rejected. She wanted to help these people after all! The young woman had never wanted for a life of privilege and luxury, but rather one of raw, unbridled freedom. Now even the poor of this city were denying her this. Who didn't have power over her?!
"I want to be a thief, that's all there is to it." She crossed her arms in disdain.
"Why?! You're rich, you have everything at your fingertips." The young woman winced at his words.
"Not anymore. I-I've given it up." Gwenevere started, fighting back the teardrops that pricked her eyelashes. "I ran away, and I'm never going back. I want to be free." She proclaimed. Basso ceased his chortles and glared at her. Thick disdain mixed with curiosity now coated his expression.
"Fine girly. But it doesn't matter what you want, yer no one special down here in the gutter. And in the gutter, only one thing matters; survival. If ye don't have any useful tricks or skills, then ye can just sit yer pretty little arse down with the rest of the bums. and wait ta die." Gwenevere cowered slightly at his harsh tone, but she wasn't unnerved enough to back down; at least not yet. "Now if yer quite finished, I've got some brandy ta finish." The young woman took a step backwards, crestfallen. The strangers words were true; she had nothing to offer him, nor his services. Unless...Gwenevere hesitated, the minutes inching by painfully slow. Her father had sworn her to secrecy, regarding her "special skills", stating that it would only cause others to think badly of her. But she was on her own now, and her father was not around to keep her mouth shut. She had already used it to help that homeless man, why not use it again?
"I-I do have a skill." She peeped. The man crooked a thinning grey eyebrow at her.
"Oh? What is it? Looking pretty? Perhaps you've mastered advanced etiquette?" He wheezed mockingly. Gwenevere tensed. A playful tingle ran down her spine. It was happening again. That untamed spark of mischief was taking hold of her. Her green eyes drove into those of the man before her. This was madness! She could simply tell him; show him with a minor demonstration. But no, Gwenevere wanted to secure his interest. She closed her eyes and lowered her head. The shop owner stared at her, never letting the absurdity of it all leave his thoughts.
"What are ya doin' lass?" He finally asked. As if on que, Gwenevere's eyes met his, though her head was still bowed. The look she gave him must have been intimidating indeed, for it caused the man to recoil backwards, towards his chair. "Oi! Lass, what the hell's wrong with y-" Gwenevere didn't answer him. She didn't have to. With a burst of primal passion, the young woman thrust her arms up from her sides. They were accompanied by a quick but brilliant pulsing light. The spectacle lasted only a moment, and when it was over, Gwenevere had regained her resting position. Basso got up from his chair and looked around, unsure as to what had just transpired.
"I can do that."
"Do...what exactly?" He shook. "Was that...was that...magic?" He asked, in a voice barely over a whisper. Gwenevere grinned.
"Sort of? Is that a joke? I just saw you use magic girl, no use lying about it!"
"If you're so sure it was magic, then why did you ask?"
"I..um..." He scratched his head. "Er, well done kid. Well done. But unfortunately, I'm not sure how using magic is gonna help my organization. I usually look for rogues; those who are quick on their feet and dexterous. Magic is kind of a...big distraction."
"Oh, that was just a light spell. I have many more in my repertoire, including sleep spells, detection hexes, invisibility-"
"Alright, alright!" Basso interrupted, nearly laughing again. "I think we might be able to squeeze ya in kid." Gwenevere was ecstatic.
"Really? Oh thank you! I promise I'll do my best!" She jumped.
"Yeah...I'm sure you will. Only one hitch. You mentioned prior that you didn't know much about stealing. I'm in a bit of a quandary here. You see, I can't just let people who work for me run around the city if they're novices; eventually, they'd get caught, and then they might talk. About me. Ya get what I'm sayin'?" Gwevevere nodded. Her heart slumped within her chest. She knew where this was going. Or so she thought. "But, I can't just let a mage offering their services to walk away either, especially such an experienced one. So, I propose a deal. Consider it 'on the job training'." Basso leaned in closer, almost beckoning the lost soul before him.
"Alright. What kind of a deal is it?"
"I'll send you on some practice jobs with a good friend of mine. His name is Garrett. We go way back, him and I. No doubt he won't be particularly pleased about it, but if I offer him a big enough purse of coins, I'm sure he'll come around."
"But wait. Are you saying...that you'd be paying another thief to train me how to steal?"
"Sure, why not? Trust me kiddo, whatever I have to pay that stubborn bloke; it's worth it to get a mage." The shady man winked.