Morning came and went as it often did within that dreary clockwork realm, as it held neither value nor precedence within the tower. Gwenevere finally managed to rouse herself from an uncomfortable slumber sometime near late noon. The girl cast her eyes up towards the monolithic timekeeper, only to huff again in mild frustration when she remembered that it was static.
“Oh well,” she yawned, cherished dreams still fading behind her glassy green eyes.
Gwenevere found that the nightmares had lessened greatly since coming to Stonemarket. Before, when she was living in Auledale with Simmons, they had occurred almost every other night. Though she couldn’t quite be certain as to why they’d finally relinquished their nocturnal torment, Gwenevere was grateful.
When she glanced over at him, Garrett was still asleep. Her stomach began to twist into a series of uncomfortable knots, as Gwenevere began to recall the incident from before. She wanted to slap herself for causing him so much anger and discomfort. But when the hand found her face with a resounding crack, the girl felt dissatisfied with her punishment. Compared to what she’d done to him, it just wasn’t enough.
“Why did you do that? Why did you ask him that?!” she scolded herself in a shrill, broken whisper. “Why must you always make everything worse?!”
This last personal quandary, prompted an anguished gasp to exit the girl creature’s lips. After all, last night was far from the first time she’d caused another pain in the name of compassion.
“I...I should have expected no less from myself,” she whimpered. “I thought if I got stronger, and more clever, then this wouldn’t happen anymore. But I just keep making such terrible mistakes...”
Gwenevere hastened to cover her mouth, as if this simple act would contain all of the toxic lament spewing out of her. But when she did this, it chose to exit her eyes instead. Thick teardrops coated her full cheeks, as Gwenevere silently sobbed there alone amidst the abandoned tower. All the while, Garrett’s heavy breathing and discontented snores persisted.
She must have dozed off amidst her grief, because the next thing Gwenevere realized, someone was shaking her. The girl blinked, her eyes blurry from a mixture of weariness and tears. Garrett was standing over her, the setting sun illuminating his cloaked silhouette.
“Hey. It’s time to begin your--”
“--my training?!” she jolted upright, still wondering just how long she’d been asleep.
“Don’t, interrupt me,” he warned slowly, “no. I thought since you’re squatting here, you could start making yourself useful.”
Gwenevere shot the thief a bothered glare.
“Does this mean you want me to clean for you again?” she inquired, her tone laced with both disappointment and mild upset.
“What, you have a problem with that?” Garrett crossed his arms.
“No. I just thought that my training would take precedence,” Gwenevere crossed hers right back, a strand of messy ruby hair falling into her face.
Garrett sneered at that. With a slow and daunting form, the thief leaned down to her level, and locked eyes with his unwanted apprentice. Gwenevere felt her throat tighten, as those impressive eyes of his drilled into her. His mechanical optic grated and gyrated within his skull, as it continued to focus upon her. But it was the solemn silence of his remaining flesh eye, which disturbed her the most.
“After you overstepped your boundaries last night, you’re damn lucky I don’t just kick you out on the street,” he snarled in a low, fearsome voice. “Now, you’ve already demonstrated how well you can clean; both with that tunic you’re wearing and the tower. Right now, you’re a lot closer to being a maid than a thief, so why don’t you make yourself useful for once and grab a broom?”
Gwenevere knew her jaw was dangling open in lieu of her mentor’s scathing retort, but she could not bring herself to snap it shut again. Garrett, took smug pleasure in that. He watched as the girl scampered to her feet, and ran to fetch the broom.
“You can keep right on cleaning while I’m away,” he mentioned. The girl glanced up at him, a look of surprise overtaking her cherubic features.
“Away?” she cocked her head. “Wait, where are you going?”
“Out,” Garrett snapped in that aggravated, gravelly tone of his.
His false eye captured glints of sunset, while the entire left side of his face was concealed by musty shadows as he slung the quiver over his right shoulder. Then without giving her another word, Garrett headed for the exit.
Gwenevere watched him leave, dust and cobwebs swirling in the stale air around her. She wondered where he was going, or why. Though she had never been the disobedient type, her own wanderlust and curiosity often caused the girl to unwittingly break the rules. When she could stand it no longer, Gwenevere dropped the broom and raced across the room to grab her navy cloak. Then, she headed out of the tower after Garrett.
The City before her was now little more than a series of black silhouettes against a pristine golden sky. Long shadows marked her passage, as the young apprentice followed her master into the twisted labyrinth of his world. Gwenevere watched as the first streetlights buzzed to life, tiny gnats and moths diving towards their luminosity from musty corners and hidden alcoves. All around her, the city grew solemn, as another active day drew to a close. She passed by several merchants, who were in the process of wheeling in their outdoor displays, or locking up shop. A dog barked in the distance as the autumn air grew colder, nipping at Gwenevere’s exposed cheeks.
At first, she’d thought herself discreet. After all, she had tailed Garrett this far without being spotted. But all of her pride was abruptly shattered and forgotten, when the master thief came to a jarring halt. The interruption of his pace was so sudden, that it caused Gwenevere to stumble. She only barely managed to maintain her balance after that. With his back to her, a simple question left the muffled confines of Garrett’s hood.
“You just can’t sit still, now can you?”
Gwenevere stared at him, her green eyes wide and brilliant against the backdrop of encroaching nightfall.
“You...you knew I was following you?” she stammered. Garrett glowered over his shoulder at the disobedient brat, his expression one of utmost scorn.
“Yes, and I don’t like being followed,” he growled. “What are you up to, Gwenevere?”
He watched as the girl began twiddling her thumbs, her long red hair tracing the sides of her little flustered face.
“I...I came to help...” Gwenevere murmured, then bit her lip before the final words of that offer emerged, “to...to make up for upsetting you last night when I asked about your eye...”
Garrett’s eyes narrowed, his face contorting into an ugly mess of visceral contempt, and ancient scars. After he’d verbally slaughtered her the night before, the thief had been certain that Gwenevere would never dare to speak of his eye again. But there was more depth to her obnoxious naivety than he’d initially given her credit for. Did she honestly think he needed her help, simply because he was missing an eye?! Although such implications had been the furthest thoughts from Gwenevere’s sympathetic mind, they were unfortunately all Garrett could register upon.
“Trust me when I say that there is nothing an inexperienced neophyte like you could EVER do for me!” the thief snarled, his words once again taking on that frightening raspy tone.
“Will you at least let me carry your loot for you?” Gwenevere offered, visibly shaking by this point. But Garrett could care less. “I mean, I could maybe--”
“--Just get lost Gwenevere!” he hollered, shoving the girl backward. This time, Gwenevere did lose her footing. She crumbled down onto the cobblestone road, her eyes wide and glistening with pain-stricken tears.
Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t seem to make this right again. As she sat there, drenched in both mud and personal guilt, the girl continued to gawk up at her furious mentor. Garrett, glared back.
Her expression unnerved him. So much desperation and regret was apparent within her features. The thief again found himself wondering how someone so tactless could display such devotion. Though he’d agreed to teach her the ways of the street, at the end of the day, Garrett was still very much a stranger to her. So why then, did this child choose to risk so much, just in order to help him?
Garrett inhaled a deep breath, before steadily letting it go again.
“Just, get out of here...” he muttered.
Gwenevere’s bottom lip began to tremble, and for a moment the thief was sure she was going to burst out crying again. Garrett braced himself for the abrasive outburst, only to instead be surprised by the young woman clambering to her feet in a rather calm manner. But there was still an obvious hurt within her eyes when she looked back at him.
“Alright. I’ll...I’ll just head back to the clocktower then...” she sniffled.
“No,” he intervened, his words firm and cold as the stones beneath her feet. “I don’t want you drawing attention to my hideout.”
The girl looked up at him again, her face one of helplessness and confusion. Garrett squinted, trying to gauge her next reaction. But he had never possessed apt foresight for such things. He could spring any lock, infiltrate an impregnable fortress, kill a god. But when it came to reading social cues, the master thief was just as unwitting and clumsy as the girl creature standing before him now.
“Then...then where am I supposed to go?” Gwenevere pleaded, her eyes glistening and attentive.
“Anywhere but the clocktower,” Garrett grunted, apathetic towards her obvious unrest and fear. “I don’t give a taff where you go, so long as it’s far away from me.”
One look into that hissing prosthetic made everything transparent as glass: She had hurt him by tearing open long-forgotten scars of unspeakable origins, and Garrett would never forgive her for that. So it was with that crushing ultimatum, that Gwenevere finally succumbed to her sorrows. Her dismal features crumbled into an expression of uttermost hopelessness, tears streaming down her face like warm rain.
“I’m sorry...” she whispered in a voice so soft and pitiful that the thief had to strain himself to even hear her. “I wouldn’t forgive me either...”
Still openly sobbing, Gwenevere hitched up her cloak and tore off down the opposite street. Garrett watched her go, clenching his thin fingers in abject frustration. She was gone, and he could now resume his planned heist without any difficulty.
So why then, did he suddenly feel so uneasy?
The autumn gales whipped through Gwenevere’s thin garments as she ran, chilling her damp face. Panic had overtaken her, driving her forward like a primitive animal. Several times, she’d nearly collided with wandering men, or well-dressed women out for a nightly stroll. They did not recognize her, due to the navy covering, and her somewhat bedraggled appearance never before witnessed by the select few who had seen her face. And so thus, they scorned and chastised her rude behavior, and clumsy feet.
“Watch where you’re going, you filthy little trollop!” shouted one particularly high-strung lass, with silky blonde locks, and a tiny upturned nose.
The insult caused Gwenevere to cower away into a streetlight like a whipped hound. She had never been called such a thing before. It served as a harsh reminder of how this superficial world viewed the lower classes. A reminder, of what she now was. A loathsome pest, nonessential vermin. That was obviously how Garrett saw her, as well. But at least, a thieving rat was better than a sacrificial lamb. Or a cat’s paw, for that matter.
When she at last came to the towering iron gate that led out of the City, Gwenevere’s heart grew restless. It would be so easy. After all, she had escaped Lord Simmons. She was free. Free to leave this place, to return to the woods once more. If they would even have her.
It had been so very long, and her instincts would not safeguard her against an unforgiving forest. As much as the very idea made her sick, she was far safer here within this artificial stone jungle, than in her natural environment. At least here, she had someone to teach her. Someone to feed her, and provide satisfactory refuge and safety. But now, even with that bulging sack of coin at his waist, the thief had abandoned her. There was no one left in either the Woodsie or Cityhead realms, who cared about her. And that’s when Gwenevere, suddenly remembered Basso. He had always been so kind to her, even taking a stand in her name when Garrett had been at his most ghoulish. It was a gamble at best, but what other choice did the wandering and clueless girl have?
She found the boxman within his hovel, whistling a glorified old ditty as he hand-fed his cherished little magpie. Basso looked up, lips still pursed mid-note when he heard the basement door creak open. Jenivere squawked and flapped her wings, as crestfallen Gwenevere hurried inside upon clumsy legs, nearly tripping down the stairs. Before the disheveled pauper could even begin to inquire about the nature of her unexpected house call, he felt a pair of weedy little arms being thrown around his impressive girth.
“Oh, er...um...hiya kiddo...” Basso murmured, his body rigid within her quaking, weepy hug.
“Basso...oh Basso...” the girl sniffed, wiping her eyelids upon the boxman’s dark green scarf.
Slowly, the older man’s posture began to gravitate towards the young woman’s obvious needs. His eyes grew warm, as Basso pressed his lips together and smirked up at the ceiling. Perhaps wondering silently to himself, just how he’d managed to obtain this level of trust and affection from the girl. Or if he even deserved such a gift in the first place.
“Okay sweetheart, okay...” he managed, patting the girl’s heaving back with cumbersome, clueless hands. “There there. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
“B-but it isn’t!” Gwenevere bawled, rubbing her face into Basso’s chest. The boxman smiled down at her, cupping his palm around the back of her head.
“Why? Are ya dying?” he asked. Gwenevere ceased her violent sobbing, and glanced up at him.
“N-no,” she sniffed. “Why would you even assume such a thing?” Basso’s eyes twinkled in the dim light.
“Is the City being taken over by three-headed dog monsters?”
“No...” Gwenevere couldn’t help but smile at the outrageous assumption.
“And have the Hammers instituted prohibition?”
“I don’t really know what that means, but I don’t think so,” the girl shook her head. Basso’s smile lengthened.
“Well then,” he grunted, “in that case, I can’t rightly think of a reason why we can’t fix whatever’s got you so upset.”
Gwenevere wiped her eyes, her smile seeming to grow right alongside Basso’s. While his speculations had been wildly exaggerated, they had managed to illustrate a very good point.
“I suppose you’re right,” she sighed, feeling a bit better.
“’Course I’m right, girly!” Basso grunted, motioning for his guest to take a seat atop his shabby cot. “Now, why dont’cha tell Uncle Basso exactly what happened...”
Gwenevere took a seat, feeling a bit better after Basso’s kindly intervention. She dabbed away the last of her tears, and began kicking her legs back and forth atop the rickety bed. Basso made his way to the opposite end of his homely abode, and began fiddling with various bottles and cups.
“Thirsty, kid?” he asked, turning to face Gwenevere with a large golden bottle in hand.
“I suppose I’m a little parched,” the girl replied, licking her lips. Basso gave a satisfied nod, and went back to preparing their drinks.
“Thought ya might be in the mood for some libations,” he commented, “always makes me feel better, anyway.”
Gwenevere listened to the sounds of pouring liquid and stirring, feeling as Jenivere came to rest upon her shoulder. The girl smiled weakly, as she began stroking the magpie’s glossy black feathers.
“Thank you for letting me stay on such short notice,” she crooned. Basso returned to her, a glass of whiskey in one hand, and an odd purple concoction in the other.
“Aw, it ain’t no imposition, Gwennie,” he smiled, offering the latter cocktail to her.
Gwenevere blinked at the strangely-colored beverage, before giving it a curious sniff. It contained the familiar sweetness of forest fruit, but also something quite pungent and foreign.
“What sort of drink is this?” she inquired, taking hold of the glass.
“This here’s called a Plumsie Smooch,” Basso answered. “I got the recipe from some hot-blooded lass down by the docks. She twern’t a real Pagan or anything, but by golly she was a savage in the sack, I’ll tell ya...”
The boxman began to chuckle at his own lewd comment, leaving poor Gwenevere wondering indeed how and why he was going around stuffing women into sacks to begin with. She began pushing the straw around the rim of her glass, her mind still far too upset to take a sip. Basso noticed this, and taking a swig from his own glass of liquid courage, the unshaven pauper plopped down beside her. The worn bedsprings creaked and protested under his weight, the shift in pressure causing the much lighter girl to bounce. With a concerned grunt, the boxman began to speak.
“Mmm. Somethin’ tells me that there’s a certain taffer to blame for your current state of affairs, kiddo.”
“You could say that...” Gwenevere sighed.
Basso shook his head, and began tilting his glass around in the low light, marveling at the reflections within the rich golden brew.
“Yup. Three guesses as ta who, and the first two don’t count...” Basso rolled his eyes. He then turned and gave Gwenevere a very serious look. “He didn’t hurt ya, did he?”
The accusatory, almost protective inflections flavoring his words rattled the girl. No. Despite his rude and often cruel behavior, Garrett had been decent to her. He hadn’t raised a hand to her, or denied her a meal. These examples alone, marked him as a far better man than Lord Simmons had ever been.
“I think, I was the one who hurt him...” she admitted, finally taking a sip of the cold drink. The familiar taste of plums tickled her taste buds, although that strange extra ingredient added a twinge of bitterness to the flavor. Basso looked down at her.
“Whadda ya mean?” he asked. Gwenevere took a longer, much larger sip from her straw before answering.
“The other night, I asked how he lost his eye...”
Basso nearly choked upon his drink as Gwenevere relayed this information.
“Ooh...” the boxman nodded, cringing as he ran his fingers up over his face. “Yup, that’ll do it...”
“I didn’t know he would get so mad!” Gwenevere protested, her eyes apologetic and vivid. “I was just curious is all! I later realized just how badly I must have made him feel, putting him on the spot like that. So that’s why I followed him tonight. I-I thought that maybe...I could make it up to him...”
Wiping liquor from his upper lip, the bedraggled fence took in a deep, contemplative breath.
“Garrett’s...not really the type of guy you can just make things up to,” he explained, his blank stare lost somewhere on some nameless corner of the small room. “For as long as I’ve known him, he’s always been like that...”
“B-but he told me to go away, Basso. And he said that I couldn’t go back to the clocktower. I...”
She began to cry again, but guzzled down the remainder of her drink before the tears could prick at her eyelashes. Basso hastened to mix her another, standing from the bed and causing her to bob upward again.
“I wouldn’t worry about it so much, girly. Garrett’s just a bitter old taffer who can’t let a grudge go. But with my gold in tow, he ain’t exactly got any choice but to train ya.”
Basso returned, and handed the troubled girl a second drink. She took the brew with wanting hands, and began chugging it down immediately. After the glass was half-empty, she looked back up at her grizzled old host.
“B-but I think he’s given up on me this time, Basso...” she mumbled.
The boxman grew livid, his round face reddening at the very idea. He slammed his whiskey glass down hard atop his desk, and ground his teeth.
“The hell he has!” Basso bellowed. “Not after what I had to do to get that money I paid him with!”
“W-what can I do to make him forgive me, Basso?” Gwenevere beseeched him; half desperate, and half frightened by the disheveled criminal’s violent outburst. “I mean, i-if he never lets a grudge go...”
The girl shivered at the thought. Above all else, she needed Garrett to tolerate her. If he couldn’t tolerate her, how was he ever going to train her? And if he didn’t train her, then every goal the young woman had set for herself would be meaningless.
Somehow, the boxman managed to calm himself down considerably before answering her.
“This is a long shot, but maybe if you give a little something of yourself, then Garrett may feel less awkward about the entire situation,” he encouraged.
“Give something...of myself?” Gwenevere crooked her head to the side, unsure as to just what Basso was suggesting.
“Look. If you open up to him, if you show him that you have weaknesses and secrets too, that may just work. Garrett’s always been a real sucker for confidential information. When he feels like he holds all the cards, he gets cocky. And when he gets cocky, he’s more open to trying certain things,” Basso winked. “Like, talking to people, for example.”
Gwenevere finished her drink, and smiled. Now she understood.
“You must be very happy to have a friend like Garrett,” she commented, her cheeks rosy. Something within that drink was relaxing her, and causing her to feel very lightheaded and warm.
Basso stifled an abrupt snort.
“Oh yeah, I’m doin’ backflips over here...” he groused, his expression almost comical. Pointing to Gwenevere’s empty glass, Basso stood up again. “Another?”
“Yes please,” the girl smirked, handing her host the cup. She was beginning to feel very dizzy. “I mean, yes. Garrett seems very cold and calculated. But, considering what he does, isn’t that a good thing?”
As he prepared her a third drink, Basso couldn’t help but smirk at such blind innocence.
“Depends, kiddo. Depends. Some of us manage to be the ‘bad’ guys without losing our humanity. I’ve met ice mages warmer than that guy...”
“Really?! You’ve met an ice mage?!” Gwenevere hiccupped. Basso shot her a solemn glare as he handed back her coveted concoction.
“I was jokin’ kid...”
“Oh,” the girl blushed, taking another long sip. “So how about you?”
“What about me?” Basso sat back down again, after refilling his own glass. Jenivere cawed, before fluttering over to his shoulder. Gwenevere stared up at the ceiling, lost in deep contemplation, and alcohol-infused bliss.
“Well, I’ve always kind of wondered where you got the money to bribe someone like Garrett to train me.”
The boxman grew visibly bothered upon receipt of her inquiry.
“That ain’t important. But I will say this: Stealin’ shit’s pretty lucrative in and of itself, kiddo.”
“Then, how come you live in a basement, rather than in a penthouse, or a mansion or something?” Gwenevere questioned, now quite tipsy. Basso chuckled at that.
“Oh, if only. But unfortunately, for every bit ya snatch, more than half of it goes to uh...‘living costs’.”
“Well, I’m sure even a green gal like yerself can understand how hard it must be, yeah? Most taffers around these parts--they don’t like our type. They’d rat us out at a moment’s notice, us thieves. So, tragically, most of us end up spendin’ a good portion of our hard-earned loot payin’ bribes or buyin’ equipment. For, me it’s the former.”
“I’m...sorry to hear that,” she frowned, toying with her straw again. “But, why bribe Garrett to do this for you? Why is teaching others to become thieves really so important to you?”
Basso reached for the golden whiskey bottle, and refilled his glass with a deep sigh.
“Some may call me a sentimental old sod, but I just can’t stomach the idea of everything I’ve ever worked for disappearing right along with me. I never had no kids--well, at least, not that I know of, heh,” his cheeks grew rosy. “So, I take the youngins under my wing, so to speak. When I’m up there with the Builder, I wanna be able to look down an’ see new thieves and scoundrels pickin’ up where I left off.”
“I would never have expected you to be a religious man,” Gwenevere commented.
“Well, I don’t go to Sunday service or nothin’--meself and the Hammerites have a pretty murky relationship. But yeah, I believe he exists, sure,” the boxman shrugged haphazardly, then turned to examine her. “Why? Ya think just because I’m a criminal, I can’t be a prayin’ man?”
Gwenevere’s inebriated eyes went wide, the last glimpses of her fading sobriety registering upon the pauper’s obvious vexation.
“Oh no, that isn’t what I meant at all!” Gwenevere clarified. “It’s actually...kind of refreshing to see someone so open about their faith in this city. Other than the Hammerites, I mean.”
Basso raised a finger, pointing to the ceiling for no particular reason. His own intoxication was beginning to show by this point.
“Don’t forget the Pagans! Or that new fanatical group, the Growers! See, that’s what’s wrong with the City in my personal opinion! Ya get all of these fanatics, who in turn exclude and look down upon the rest of us normal folk.”
“Yes. The factions aren’t very welcoming or forgiving, are they?” Gwenevere responded in a forlorn tone. “I think that’s why so many people I’ve met around here are either skeptical, or choose to keep their mouths shut about religion.”
“Right you are!” Basso slurred. “But, I don’t blame the Builder for that. That’s just what happens with fanaticism. Some obsessed and moonstruck cleric grabs a tome, gets popular, and everything just snowballs. Pretty soon folks are takin’ his word at face value, rather than doin’ the actual research themselves. When people stop thinkin’ on their own, it always leads to bad things, Gwennie. Remember that. Just because the Hammers are nuts, doesn’t mean the Builder’s necessarily a bad guy. He’s just got one hell of a fan club.”
Gwenevere smirked a little at that.
“It’s something to ponder, anyway,” she nodded, looking down at her glass.
Silence enveloped the small one-room dwelling for a time, the scent of pipe smoke and decay mingling with the faint hints of strong liquor and wild fruit. Jenivere began to preen herself atop Basso’s shoulder, while both of the befuddled humans gawked at nothing through their gormless, gaping mouths.
“What about you, kid? Do you believe in the Builder?” Basso finally asked.
“I do. I believe in all the gods, actually,” Gwenevere admitted.
“Oh?” the boxman’s expression grew animated again. “Now that’s rare these days. Not so sure the Trickster exists, though. Sounds a bit too farfetched and all. Cloven hooves and horns? I mean, come on! I think ‘trickster’ is just a metaphorical term for the evils of the world, meself. The Hammers just needed a literal demon they could blame it all on, so they made one up.”
“Oh, he’s real alright...” the girl replied in a hushed, almost fretful voice.
Something about the way she’d uttered those four little words, caused a shudder to traverse the veteran lockpick’s spine. Perhaps it was the level of conviction with which she had spoken that gave Gwenevere’s confession the characteristics of a personal story. But at the moment, he’d merely chocked it up to the heavy alcohol consumption.
“Well, I was brought up as a gentleman, so I ain’t gonna be the sort of guy to tell a lady she’s wrong. If you believe that he exists, then you have my respect,” Basso patted her back, a bit harder than usual. Gwenevere giggled at the rough gesture of friendship.
“I gotta pee all of a sudden,” she mumbled, her tongue feeling like soft rubber inside her mouth.
But Gwenevere had never so much as sniffed alcohol before that night. Thus, the poor girl had no idea of its effects on her mind and body. Though Basso tried to stop her as she attempted to get up from the bed, the girl was too eager. Her balance temporarily lost to the strong chemicals now coursing through her system, Gwenevere toppled over onto the dirt floor. Then, she began laughing again.
“Hey kid, you okay?” Basso asked, getting to his feet much slower than she had. After all, the boxman had a great deal more experience when it came to maneuvering around drunk. The inebriated redhead gazed up at him with crazed, sparkling eyes.
“Ohhh yeah, suuure. I’ma jus’ fiiine...” Gwenevere laughed, her words incredibly garbled. “Where’r the toilets?”
“Aw, over there somewhere,” the boxman gestured to his left, which Gwenevere took as an exact set of directions. Shrugging, the girl stumbled over to the corner of the room, squatted, and released her bladder.
That, was around the time Garrett came walking into Basso’s seedy little establishment.
“Alright, Basso. I’ve finished the job, so where’s my pay?” the Master Thief demanded, obviously exhausted from his previous heist.
The boxman waved him off, taking another sip of his beverage. When he spoke again, his voice was raspy, and just a touch slurred.
“Eh, I’ll pay ya in a minute.”
The thief’s frown intensified, as his patience continued to deplete. But Garrett wasn’t truly irked, until he noticed Gwenevere.
“What the taff’s she doing here?!” he demanded, pointing towards where the young woman was squatting in the corner of the boxman’s domain. But he turned away in abashed disgust, when he indeed realized just what she was doing there.
Throughout the course of his arduous existence, Garrett had met a myriad of colorful characters. Yet he’d never encountered any woman who was content to casually relieve herself in a corner--much less a so-called ‘noble’ woman.
“Basso, did you know she’s--”
“GARRETT!!” Gwenevere suddenly shouted upon noticing him.
The totaled girl stumbled over to the thief in a series of awkward twirls, like some sort of drunken ballerina. She collided against his chest, and proceeded to marvel up into his vulpine face with glazed green eyes.
“Didju know that you...hava alota hairs up yer nose, Garrett? Ya’know dat?” the hammered girl asked. A dreamy grin was plastered across her sanguine face, her top row of teeth extended down over her bottom lip in a mischievous fashion. Then, she wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, causing the thief to freeze stiff. “Yer cloak’s always sho shoft...mmm...”
“Gwenevere!” he barked, prompting the girl to release him and slide down his body with another giddy snicker. Garrett glowered down at Basso, who was wearing a stupid grin of his own by this point. “You got her drunk?!”
“Well yeah. The poor kid’s mah houseguest, Garrett!” Basso spat. Then, in a far less casual tone, “plus, she needed a drink, after all she’s had to deal with...”
“I, honestly have no idea what you’re on about, Basso,” Garrett blinked.
Basso stood again, stomped over to the thief, and poked him in the chest.
“You honestly don’t know? Well, imma gonna tell ya then, Garrett!” Basso threatened. Garrett rolled his eyes.
“Oookaaay...waste my time much, Basso?”
“Oh! Imma waste, eh? Weeelll, I’ll tell you somefing!” the drunken pauper lost his footing, swerving to the side for a moment. “This, poor kid, ran to me sobbing tonight! You made her cry, Garrett! You did that! What’d you do to her?!”
“I don’t have time to argue with drunks, alright? Do you have my money, or not?”
“Riiight...yeah, sure because that’s what it’s aaalll about with you, inn’it?” Basso pointed an accusatory finger into Garrett’s face. The annoyed thief stared cross-eyed at the chubby digit for a few seconds, before pushing the boxman off of him.
“Sleep it off, Basso,” Garrett groused.
“I ain’t THAT drunk!” Basso shouted. “And ya know, you could at least TRY to be a little nicer to Gwenevere!”
“I’m not a nice guy, Basso. You know that. Besides, you wouldn’t imagine the trouble that girl can get into without constant discipline. Tonight she actually followed me out to a job site. That could have sabotaged an entire month’s worth of planning alone!”
“Jus’...jus’ tryta take it abit easier on the gal, okay?” Basso closed his eyes, motioning with his hands for the thief to calm down. This, had the opposite effect.
“Why? What’s she ever done for me?” Garrett argued.
“Well, she hasa lotta money at home,” Basso shrugged. “Maybe she’d be willin’ ta share some o’her family jewels with ya?”
“Is that some sort of double entendre, Basso? Because I’m really not interested...” Garrett grumbled, stuffing his hands deeper into his warm cloak.
“It wasn’t, and aye didn’t say ya were...” the boxman shot his friend a sly, drunken glare. “Look, I know Gwenevere canbe a handful. She’s loud, an’ boisterous, but she has a sweet heart. She’s willin’ to learn from ya, and I’m sure the kid means well. Maybe instead of focusin’ on everything she’s bad at, you should be tryin’ ta focus on what she’s...not bad at?”
“You really think that’s all it’ll take, huh?” Garrett raised an eyebrow. Truth be told, he had no idea why he was even entertaining his sloshed friend. “Tch, I highly doubt it.”
“You gonna take’er home, er what?” Basso inquired, though his inflections were more demanding than curious.
Garrett glared back down at Gwenevere. She had fallen asleep on his boots, after overexerting herself. Her hair was messier than he had ever seen it before, and Garrett couldn’t help but notice the faint tearstains running down the length of her flushed cheeks.
“Do I even have a choice?” he groaned.
“Not if ya wanna keep my money, ya don’t,” Basso smirked.
With a reluctant sigh, Garrett hoisted the girl up over his shoulder, and started making his way out of the stuffy basement. As he passed by, Basso gave his old friend a playful--somewhat cryptic wink.
“Just talk to her. You’ll see what I mean.”