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Stealth and Witchcraft

By Shannon Mayhew

Drama / Romance

Taffer Boot Camp

The full moon was pale ivory that night, shimmering like a crystalized beacon against the frozen sea of stars. Garrett sat in focused silence, staring pensively at the map in front of him. Looking Glass Jewelers. It had been years since he had broken into that place, thus the newly updated map he had procured. The shop had since installed a series of air shafts, and the thief was intending to use them to his full advantage. Quill in hand, he began to mark his intended route through that maze of iron shafts and updated security systems. Two more days remained until he would pilfer every round and lovely bauble from within that place. Garrett wasn’t the least bit concerned over this upcoming heist. What did trouble him, however, was the job to follow.

From across the room, he could hear Gwenevere. In just a few short days, the real work would begin. Garrett had always enjoyed a good challenge, but molding that graceless tart into anything remotely comparable to a real thief? Now that, was going to be tricky.
He glanced over at the girl, annoyed by all the ruckus she was making. How she managed to make so much noise with so little around her had always been an absolute mystery. The thief turned to look at her as her struggles and grunts of frustration grew more obnoxious.

“Stop it,” he demanded, in a level, uninterested voice.

Gwenevere spun around, causing her short skirt to momentarily ride up her thighs, revealing more of them than she had ever intended. Seeing this, Garrett abruptly turned away, shielding his eyes with his hand. Or rather, concealing the slight blush that the sight of her forbidden flesh had caused to dart across his unsuspecting face.

“Garrett? Am I bothering you?” she asked in that whiny, yet inexplicably enduring tone.

“Yes, you’re bothering me!” he snapped. “What have I told you about that outfit? Just because you’re not on a job, doesn’t mean you should be wearing that.”

“My outfit?” Gwenevere’s eyes grew wide. “But the new one got all dirty! It’s being washed right now. And besides, I like this outfit! It’s pretty.”

Garrett looked down at his map again and scowled. She could say that again.

“Isn’t it just a little uncomfortable?” he asked, projecting more than a few of those strange, nagging emotions he had been feeling towards the young Simmons runaway. Gwenevere giggled.

“Of course not, silly! It’s silk!” she stepped away from whatever she had been doing, and marched right up to the situated thief. “See? Feel how soft it is,” she offered, holding out the rim of her skirt for Garrett. He retained his discomfort.

“I’d rather not. There’d be no point to it.”

“But why does everything need to have a point?” Gwenevere cocked her head. “I just want you to touch it. Why can’t you at least humor me a little?”

“Because,” Garrett finally looked up at her, “that’s not the sort of thing a thief should be wearing.”

The young woman pondered this for a moment, looking up at the ceiling of the clocktower. Her index finger was planted against her bottom lip.

“Well, what should I be wearing then?” she asked.

Garrett glowered up at her. Now, she was just seeking attention, and it was painfully obvious.

“You already know the answer to that, Gwenevere. Something dark. Something comfortable and easy to move in. Being a thief is about not getting caught. That harlot outfit, is for the exact opposite purpose.”

He could feel himself growing leery of her effect on him once more.

“So, I should dress like you!” the young woman chirruped.

“In a matter of speaking...” Garrett grumbled.

Gwenevere went quiet, the first inklings of a new idea beginning to take form within her playful mind. Then, she asked the fateful question.

“Can I try your cloak on again?”

The thief gaped up at her in unwavering disbelief, his eyes wide and his mouth agape.

“What?! No, of course not!” he snapped. “Why would you even consider asking me that?”

Gwenevere appeared hurt for a moment, but she quickly grew jovial again as her new idea began to flourish and grow. Branching paths, and new and exciting outcomes were beginning to take root.

“Garrett, how come you never take it off of your own volition?”

“I do. When I’m asleep,” he responded gruffly.

“But, we’re inside now. There’s no rain, or guards, or anything. C’mon! Just take it off!” she urged, taking a step closer. There was now a lustful twinkle in her eyes, and it disturbed the thief greatly.

“No,” Garrett refused, the word icy and blunt as it left his mouth. But Gwenevere’s playful side was extra powerful that night, and she wasn’t about to take no for an answer.

“Lemme see that sticky-outie hair of yours again!” she demanded with a giggle.

Garrett was flabbergasted. He struggled to get out of his chair, but the young woman side-stepped him and reached for the dark hood. He sharply pushed her hand away.

“Back off, brat!”

The candlelight danced and flickered across Gwenevere’s fiery locks as she reached out, and tugged at the hood with her other hand. Once again, Garrett fought to deflect her.

“Come on! It looks so soft and warm. Just let me wear it for one night!”

“No!” he shouted, slapping her hands away.

Gwenevere recoiled, her eyes glassy and wide as she proceeded to rub her hands together.

“B-but...i-it’s so cold Garrett...” she whimpered, her teeth beginning to chatter a bit.

The thief’s harsh gaze locked up at her pitiful words, leaving him temporarily blindsided. His hardened features thawed into an expression of great surprise. And perhaps, even a dash of pity.

“Gwenevere, why didn’t you tell me you were cold?” he asked, concern seasoning his every syllable. “If I’d known, then maybe I--”

“--Gotcha!” she cheered, dropping her ruse and lurching forward to tug at the hood again.

Unfortunately, it was still attached to a long billowing cloak--and Garrett was sitting on that at the moment. The weight difference between Garrett and Gwenevere caused her actions to drag her down as the hood refused to come free. Garrett tensed, as the young woman did a rather clumsy faceplant into his chest. That was when the chair topped over, sending them both to the floor.

Instantly, the harsh landing was disrupted by something far more shocking. Thief and noble lay there, staring at each other in blatant shock. Gwenevere’s lips parted, her face almost glowing from her bright red blush. Garrett stared up at her with a similar expression. His hood was off, leaving his messy dark brown hair visible.

“I’m...” Gwenevere started, trying to apologize. But she was breathing far too heavily for any words to come eking out.

She felt Garrett twitch beneath her. She couldn’t tell if he was trying to dislodge her, or something else. Regardless, he still refused to speak. Her eyes were large, glassy green saucers against a backdrop of low candlelight. They bore into the thief, completely captivated. Smitten beyond any reprieve.

As much as she didn’t want to, Gwenevere hesitantly slid her body off of his, and stood. She offered a hand to Garrett, along with an apologetic little smile.

“You okay?” she grinned. Garrett sat up, and hastened to tug the hood back over his hair.

“I’m fine!” he barked, standing on his own. “No thanks to you!”

Gwenevere’s smile crumbled into a disappointed frown.

“I’m sorry,” she pleaded. “I didn’t mean to make you fall, or...or to upset you. I just wanted to play!”

“You’re too old for that nonsense! How the hell do you expect to become a disciplined vigilante, if you can’t even repress such childish urges?” the thief chastised her.

He turned the chair back upright, and took a seat. His bi-colored eyes scanned over his new maps, whilst his sharp features remained flustered and aggressive. Gwenevere cleared her throat.

“I mean it! I’m really, really sorry, Garrett!” she whined. Garrett rubbed his temples with his thumb and forefinger, quill still in hand.

“I couldn’t care less, Gwenevere,” he sighed. “So why don’t you go be sorry somewhere else? As always, you’re bothering me.”

So, upon receipt of that heart shattering cruelty, Gwenevere lowered her head and retired to the Hammerite dormitories. Once she was gone, Garrett finally looked up from his work. He rubbed the small bump on his head that he had sustained from the fall, and groaned. Looking back down at the map, the thief sighed hard. Though he would never convey it directly, the expression on his face spoke volumes. He was sorry, too.

***

On the day her training was to begin, Gwenevere was up long before the sun. She sat huddled in the darkness of that chilly abyss, contemplating the morning ahead from her favorite bend in the stairway. In her lap, sat a loosely-arranged sack of goods. Six apples, a pound of flour, and two containers of shoe polish. It was all she’d managed to swipe while Garrett yet slept. The streets were devoid of any vendors at that ungodly hour, and Gwenevere was still far too clueless to use a set of lockpicks this early in her training. Thus, it was the objects forgotten on porches or in crates, which were taken in the night by this dedicated little girl creature.
Hours passed, and the girl’s head bobbed and ducked as she struggled to stay awake. At some point, her heavy eyelids became too much to bear, and sleep finally succeeded in overtaking her.

Through dreams of clambering up twisted black iron gates, and slinking down corridors lined with bright and gaudy wallpaper, something harsh and corporeal managed to shake Gwenevere from the depths of her slumber.
“Gwenevere. Get up,” Garrett’s impatient voice hung like a dense mist over her, as Gwenevere’s mind struggled against surreality. The world around her appeared to be smudged. She looked up at her mentor, and gave him a dopey smile.

“Oh. Good morning, Garrett.”

“Morning? It’s three in the afternoon, Gwenevere,” the criminal frowned.

“Oh, that’s nice,” she whispered, her eyelids beginning to droop again.

Garrett jostled her shoulder, with more force than before. Gwenevere’s eyes flew open, and something between a gurgle and a groan exited her mouth.

“Are you up for this, or not?” he demanded. Gwenevere blinked.

“Hmm? Up for what?”

“Your training,” the thief stretched the word, trying to sound as patronizing as possible. “I told you we’d start today, did I not?”

At the very mention of her training, Gwenevere snapped to attentiveness.

“Oh yeah! How could I have forgotten that?!" she shook her head with a smirk.

Reaching into the bag between her legs, the young woman produced one of her stolen apples, and handed it to Garrett. The thief stared at the ripe red fruit as though it had grown lips and begun speaking to him.

“Why are you giving me this?” he asked, perplexed. Gwenevere appeared confused.

“I thought students were supposed to give apples to their teachers?” she replied. Garrett snatched the apple away from her hand, and gave the girl a stern look.

“Once again, and say it with me: You are not my student,” he groused.

“Well I brought you an apple all the same!” she trilled.

Garrett said nothing, as he began polishing the sweet red fruit upon his cloak. Although he’d never outright admit it, he did love apples.

“You wanna get started now?”

Gwenevere began to bounce up and down with glee. She stood from the staircase, saluting the thief with a big smile upon her face.

“Yes sir, mister Garrett sir!”

Garrett crooked an eyebrow at her.

"Sir?" he scoffed. “Garrett is just fine. Formalities are for YOUR kind. Now come on.”

He motioned for the girl to follow him deeper into the tower. Gwenevere skipped merrily behind him, looking around at the still gears and rotting planks. Garrett pushed aside a tattered Hammerite banner, to reveal a small study just beyond. Atop a rather rickety wooden table, sat a pair of stone cups and platters. Each were filled with an assortment of cheap food, ranging from dried meat, to small slices of carrot and potato.

“Sit down and eat,” Garrett ordered. “You’ll need your energy for training. Especially since it looks like you didn’t get too much sleep last night.”

Gwenevere cringed at little at the meager portions in front of her. She took a cautious sip from her cup before answering him.

“I did sleep, at least,” she murmured. Garrett stared at her as he sat.

“Maybe it’s for the best,” he confirmed. “You’ll be needing to abandon that diurnal lifestyle of yours if you’re gonna be out all night.”

Gwenevere began picking at the morsels on her plate, toying with the hard strip of meat before gulping it up. The gamey, salty flavor almost caused her to gag outright. Garrett fought to conceal a sparse smirk as he chewed his own fare without incident.

“Like it?” he asked.

“Not particularly,” Gwenevere moaned. “What IS this?!”

“Dried meat,” the thief responded in a snarky tone.

“I gathered that, but what sort of animal is it from?” the doe-eyed maiden clarified. Garrett shrugged.

“Damned if I know. It was free, and easy to carry,” the hooded rogue cut into one of his potatoes, “here’s a quick lesson for you: Take what you can, and don’t be stingy. Thieves can’t afford to be picky eaters, Gwenevere.”

“Well, could you at least steal something palatable?” the disgusted girl smacked her lips, trying desperately to get the dreadful taste out of her mouth.

“Now that’s gratitude for ya,” her mentor groused. “I go and even the score, and this is how you respond?”

“What score?” Gwenevere’s expression was one of abject confusion.

“You stole breakfast for me that one time,” Garrett replied, shoving a bite of potato into his mouth.

For a moment, the girl just stared at him. She’d been living with this man for almost two weeks, and yet she still had yet to understand how he functioned. Garrett’s world seemed to be a constant jumble of debts and favors, a loveless and harsh existence wherein nothing was ever endearing or free. And while Gwenevere could at least understand such an outlook, she was still having much difficulty wrapping her mind around one thing: Even if kindness was a nonexistent luxury for the thief, surely, he at least knew what it was? Garrett was, after all, one of the most intelligent and methodical creatures Gwenevere had ever chanced upon.

“I didn’t do that so you would owe me a meal,” she spoke in a concerned, worried voice. “I did it out of kindness.”

“I don’t need your charity,” Garrett grunted through a mouthful of food.

Gwenevere pouted, pushing the veggies around her plate with her fork. Some of them were discolored, others had lost their form completely, resembling sludgy, multi-colored vomit.

“Well, if you won’t accept my gift, can we at least take turns stealing meals for one another?” she offered.

“I’d rather not,” Garrett remarked, wiping his mouth with the edge of his cloak. “It’s too risky sending you out with all those bounty hunters sniffing for you. Besides...”

He shot her an unnerved, yet knowing look. Gwenevere didn’t get it.

“Besides what?” she cocked her head. Garrett groaned.

“Besides, you’d probably just steal cakes and pies and call it a meal.”

“Well, what’s a matter with that?” she asked.

“You’re gonna get fat if you keep eating those things,” the criminal stated callously. To his surprise, the girl merely shrugged.

“Eh, small price to pay.”

“Thieves shouldn’t be fat, Gwenevere.”

“Basso’s a fat thief, and no one gives him grief for it,” Gwenevere countered. Garrett glared at her, knife in hand.

“Basso, is not a real thief. He’s a fence. The lazy taffer hasn’t done any successful fieldwork on his own since before you were born. Now shut up and eat.”

Gwenevere started to protest, but the fierce glimmer within Garrett’s metallic eye silenced her. She begrudgingly began picking and nibbling at her lunch, smacking her lips and gagging every so often on the limp greenery, and poor cuts of mystery meat.

“Close your mouth when you chew, Gwenevere,” she heard the thief reprimand her. He then went on to outwardly wonder how a noble’s girl could possibly possess such atrocious mannerisms. Gwenevere, took offense to that little jab.

“Well, maybe I don’t wanna be a noble’s girl,” she retorted. “Maybe, just maybe, I’m my own girl, and thus not defined by my environment or bloodline.”

“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that...” Garrett grumbled, taking a bite of the apple Gwenevere had given him. Immediately, her expression lit up.

“Hey! My apple! You do like it!” she cheered. Garrett hastened to conceal the fruit back within the folds of his cloak. He glowered at Gwenevere, teeth clenched beneath taut and pallid lips.

“I never said that!” he hissed. And Gwenevere, giggled even more.

***
After lunch, Garrett began his first lesson. Taking her deeper than ever before into the very foundations of the clocktower, the thief ushered his charge to a locked doorway. There, he handed her a small leather-bound case. Gwenevere took the object, her hands trembling with anticipation.

“What’s this?” she questioned.

“Open it and see,” Garrett replied. And Gwenevere, did just that.

Inside, were a pair of lockpicks. They winked and twinkled up at her in the low light. Gwenevere’s eyes sparkled with joy, the eagerness and delight she felt within that moment incomparable to anything else she’d experienced within this murky city. Finally, she was moving towards her goal of becoming a vigilante. These unassuming metal tools, were her first step down what was destined to be a long and arduous road. But the young woman relished the journey ahead. She would do whatever was necessary, in order to liberate the downtrodden and destitute. To liberate herself.

“Wow...G-Garrett...” she stammered, brushing a strand of red hair from her eyes. She then closed the case, and clutched it close to her heart. Beaming up at her teacher through overcome, gregarious emerald eyes. “Th-thank you so much!”

“There’s no need for such pleasantries,” the thief groused. “These are necessary for the job, and that’s it. So don’t you go reading too much into it, okay?”

“I won’t,” she smiled.

Garrett turned his attention back to the locked doorway.

“Now listen very carefully, Gwenevere. Like many things, lockpicking is a process. Each successful heist is just the completion of several, easier jobs. To become a successful thief--or in your case, vigilante, one must learn how to successfully perform a variety of different tasks.”

Gwenevere nodded, hanging onto his every word. Then, a sensation reminiscent of guilt threatened to engulf her, as she held those lovely lockpicks between her thin fingers.

“Garrett?” she peeped.

“Does this pertain to the lesson at hand?” he answered gruffly. Gwenevere shook her head, prompting the master thief to roll his eyes. “Then don’t bother. This is neither the time nor place for idle chatter.”

“B-but I just wanted to apologize for my behavior as of late!” Gwenevere pressed. Garrett sneered down at her.

“What?”

The girl shuffled her feet, her disposition meek and hesitant to continue. When she finally summoned enough courage to meet his domineering gaze, Gwenevere’s face was reminiscent of a guilty child’s.

“I-I’m sorry. About trying to take your hood off the other night, and causing you to fall,” she bit her bottom lip, as cold dread began seeping into her veins. It warned her not to continue, telling her that some things could never be forgiven. But the vivacious creature chose to ignore the warning. “And...and I’m also sorry for when I asked about your eye. I know that really upset you, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel guilty about hurting you. I wish I could take it back, but...but I can’t...”

His reaction, was far less intense than she’d feared. Garrett stared down at her through empty, unfeeling eyes, his face momentarily betraying the mixture of complicated emotions and scars that he always tried desperately to hide from others. Then, just when she was certain he wasn’t going to continue, three simple words exited his thin, chapped lips.

“Forget about it.”

“Garrett?” the girl’s face twisted into a visage of concern. “Aren’t you...angry about all that stuff?”

“Do you want me to be?” he countered, paying more attention to the sealed metal door than her emotional turmoil.

“No, I suppose not,” Gwenevere bleated.

“Well, then let’s concentrate on today’s lesson,” he snapped.

***

Gwenevere held the rough edges of the silver lockpicks between her fingers, gulping down a wad of bitter nerves. She could feel Garrett behind her, his smoky musk permeating her sensitive nostrils. His presence was making it difficult for her to concentrate; especially on a new and unknown task. Finally, with a disappointed groan, her mentor intercepted.

“Do you need me to go over it again?” he patronized.

“N-no Garrett! That’s ok. I’m just...” she pondered over her situation again. The darkened keyhole before her seemed to be watching her through an invisible eye, taunting her almost as much as the cynical thief.

“Then get started raking those pins!” he demanded with a snort.

“What are pins?” Gwenevere asked. Garrett released an exasperated moan.

“Pins are short pieces of metal of varying lengths which prevent a lock from opening without the correct key,” he clarified.

“Oh. So why don’t we just steal the correct key instead?” she argued. Garrett just gaped at her cheery little expression.

“How dumb are you?” he inquired bluntly. The girl batted her eyelids in puzzlement.

“How exactly is asking a question considered dumb?” Gwenevere asked. “I mean, this isn’t really common knowledge, ya know? It’s like they say: There are no dumb questions, just dumb answers,” she concluded that statement with a satisfied dip of her head.

The thief rubbed his temples. Garrett had dealt with his fair share of difficult characters, but sometimes, Gwenevere was more than even he could take. That irritating cleverness of hers had caught him off-guard yet again. Unable or unwilling to admit that anything pertaining to lockpicking indeed wasn’t common knowledge, Garrett deflected her words with another of his petty jabs.

“No, Gwenevere. There are in fact, dumb questions. Usually, they’re asked by dumb people. Or naïve little princesses who’ve strayed too far from their respective castles.”

“Are you being mean because of what I did before? ’Cus I said I was sorry,” the bubbly redhead frowned. Garrett scowled down at her.

“I’m not being ‘mean’, Gwenevere. I am trying to teach you how to pick a lock. So, let’s just get back to the lesson at hand, alright?”

“Fine. Be like that,” Gwenevere pouted.

Garrett scratched the back of his cowl, wondering how in the world he was going to teach such a dense and sheltered kid like her anything. Never before had the prospect of returning a sackful of gold sounded so rewarding. Unfortunately, the master thief had long since spent every cent of Basso’s bribe money. Hindsight, truly was a curse to live with.

But as he continued to watch Gwenevere struggle and mull over the impossible task before her; as he witnessed her clueless and lost expression twist and intensify across her heart-shaped face, something inexplicable came over him. Perhaps it was mere stress, or even impatience which prompted Garrett’s next actions. Or perhaps, it was something else entirely.

“You know, this early in your training it’s common for an apprentice to require assistance,” he intervened.

Gwenevere slowly turned her eyes upward to meet his. She gawked up at him from over her shoulder, her mouth hanging limply from her face. The moonlighter’s unlikely empathy had rendered her speechless.

“R-really? That would be great!” she stuttered. Garrett offered no further words, as he proceeded to lean forward against her back. His chin now rested just above Gwenevere’s right ear.

She gasped as his calloused hands took up her silky digits. The thief traced her tiny hands, sliding his fingers into place until they covered each of her own. Then, he began to press.

“What are you doing?” she asked, both flustered and intrigued.

“Just let them go limp...” Garrett murmured.

His hot breath caught the edge of the girl creature’s earlobe, causing her to shudder. Gwenevere felt as her entire face grew a wild shade of scarlet, and against her own desires and understanding, her body began to soften. Her fingers now dangled like limp vines against his own hands. Feeling this change, Garrett’s eyes flashed, and he began his instruction.

“You need to insert the straight tool here, and apply some pressure,” he demonstrated, using the tension wrench in her left hand. Gwenevere’s green eyes watched his demonstration, absorbing every visual into memory. “You do this in order to hold the pins in place.”

Gwenevere felt captivated, watching through astonished eyes. She felt such excitement, feeling as he worked fluidly through her. Garrett had to press firmly against her fingers and the handle of the picks in order to successfully demonstrate each technique, and at times it did get a tad uncomfortable. But Gwenevere didn’t mind. The entire experience was far too enrapturing for her to mind.

“Next, you need to determine which way the cylinder must be turned to unlock the lock,” the thief continued. “I’ve commonly used this particular lock, so I already know which way you turn the key to open it. But I’m not going to tell you Gwenevere; that would ruin your training,” he explained in a stoic, almost deadpan sort of way.

“No fair!” she protested, shooting her mentor a flustered expression. Garrett glowered scornfully at her.

“If you’re going to be childish, we can stop right now,” he growled. “Now listen: In the event that you don’t know which way the cylinder turns, you can always use the tension wrench to apply pressure to it in either direction.”

“Oh?” Gwenevere appeared hopeful again.

“Yeah. See, the cylinder will only turn a fraction of an inch or so before it stops. Try to feel the firmness of that stop. If you turn the cylinder the wrong way, the stop should feel very firm and stiff. If you turn it the right way, there should be a bit more give. The amount of pressure required will vary from lock to lock, and from pin to pin. So, this may require some trial and error,” Garrett elaborated. “Start gently, though.”

“I see,” Gwenevere nodded, chewing on her hair again.

“Also, some locks, such as padlocks, will open regardless of which way the cylinder is turned.”

“Good to know.”

“Alright. I’m giving you your hands back, Gwenevere. Try to do it as I told you.”

Garrett released his hold on her, and took a step back. He crossed his arms and gazed upon his apprentice with pensive eyes, as she attempted to unlock the door.
Gwenevere scrunched up her face in concentration, her little pink tongue poking past her lips as she began to work. Placing her right hand against the doorframe for support, she inserted and positioned the tension wrench. Next, she turned it to the left slightly, feeling as the pressure intensified. Obviously, that was the wrong way. This time, she turned the wrench right, feeling as the cylinder gyrated a bit before the tension increased.

“I think I found the right direction, Garrett!” she cheered. Garrett’s solemn eyes danced. Indeed, she had. Gwenevere continued to look up at him, awaiting further instruction. “Do I take it out now?”

“No. Once all the pins inside the lock have been picked, the tension wrench will then be used to turn the cylinder and open the lock,” he explained. Gwenevere nodded, watching as Garrett took control of her hands a second time.

“I’m assuming you’re right handed, given the way you position yourself and such?”

“Um, yes...” the girl muttered, feeling a tad overwhelmed at having him so close to her. Although she didn’t quite understand why.

“As I thought,” Garrett muttered, sticking the half-diamond pick into the keyhole. “You’ll use the betty here, to do most of the work. Once the pick is inside the keyhole, you should be able to press up and feel the individual pins with the tip. You should be able to push them up and feel them spring back down when you release the pressure. Identify which one is the hardest to push up on. If they’re all very easy to push up, then turn the tension wrench more to increase the pressure. If one won’t go up at all, ease the tension until you can push it up. Later in your training, I’ll show you how to rake the pins instead. There are certain situations in which this may work better.”

When Garrett had concluded his wordy instruction, he once again encouraged Gwenevere’s hands forward.

Pressing upward on each pin, Gwenevere was able to feel little differences with each one. The pins towards the back were much tighter, she found. So, as per Garrett’s advice, she worked these last, easing and increasing the tension as needed. A time or two, her hand slipped, causing all of her tedious work to come undone. From behind her, the thief would release subtle groans and frustrated mutters, but his disappointment only fueled the girl onward.

Aside from the kindly maid, Olaura, not one person had believed Gwenevere capable of anything noteworthy. And Gwenevere, was determined to prove them all wrong. She would save this city, she would liberate herself from Simmons forever, and find her people at long last. Then, maybe then, she could finally discover why the lord of chaos had orchestrated her birth. Why Simmons wanted her blood so badly. Sweat was now trickling down Gwenevere’s brow, as she struggled to unlock the door. And when it inevitably came, the sound of that beautiful click brought forth a sensation of unspeakable triumph.

Her eyes luminous and proud, Gwenevere reached for the handle, and opened the large metal door with a loud, resounding screech. She looked back over her shoulder at Garrett, who was watching her through a pair of unimpressed, menacing eyes.

“Garrett! Garrett, did’ja see?” she hopped up and down. “Garrett, I did it!”

“Yeah, I noticed,” he commented. “Not bad, for your first attempt.”

“Thank you...” Gwenevere blushed again.

“But next time, try to get it open faster.”

His criticism caused the girl’s cheeks to inflate with hot air, as she leered up at him. Garrett nearly chuckled at how ridiculous she appeared.

“I’m going to start giving you a list of exercises to practice each day,” he continued. This week, you are to practice picking locks, obviously.”

“So that’s it then? That’s all you’re gonna teach me?”

“For today, yes. Since someone slept in until three, our lesson had to be cut short. It’s nearly nightfall, and us real thieves have places to be,” Garrett retorted. Gwenevere made a face.

“So, what am I supposed to do with the rest of the evening? I’m not exactly sleepy yet.”

“Why don’t you start practicing with those picks I gave you then?” her mentor snapped. “After all, the clocktower’s a big place. I’m sure you can find something to unlock around here.”

“You’re tellin’ me!” Gwenevere beamed, his dry wit restoring her positive attitude. “Did you know that there’s a rickety old elevator down there?”

“Yes, I’m well aware,” Garrett’s lips tightened in annoyance. “Anyway, to return to my original point, you should be able to find several training opportunities, even when I’m not around to instruct you.”

“For example?” Gwenevere craned her head to the side in bewilderment. The wily rogue thought for a moment before answering her, then began to grin.

“Take the elevator and see if you can find something to open with those picks. There might even be some interesting stuff down there that I’ve forgotten about.”

“Yes,” the girl bowed her head, feeling for her new pair of glinting metal picks. Opening another door without help would certainly prove challenging, but Gwenevere promised herself that she’d give it her very best shot. “I’ll make getting those doors unlocked my number one priority, master.”

The thief stared at her as though Gwenevere had just sprouted wings and a tail when that simple word exited her lips.

“What did you just call me?” he questioned, his eyes wide and baffled.

“I called you my master,” Gwenevere repeated herself.

“Why?”

“Well, it’s just a matter of respect is all,” she shuffled her feet, looking down at the floor in embarrassment.

Respect. Now there was something Garrett wasn’t in the least bit used to. Master thief though he was, the misanthropic rogue was far from admired. His heists and deeds were more infamous than revered, even among his fellow thieves. There was always someone attempting to outdo him, kill him, or pose as him in order to get hold of a score. Aside from the few passionate fans of his work, such as Basso or Jack Danger, Garrett was a mostly hated, envied man by his fellow lowlifes. Some considered him pretentious and arrogant, a rumor spanning back to his youth, when he’d refused to join the organized crime racket. Others, were merely jealous of his renowned successes.

But then, there was everyone else. Those who either feared him as a wanted outlaw, or those who loved him simply because they did not know him. And there were a surprising number in the latter category. Whispers from Dayport all the way down to the East River, spoke of a hero, draped in robes black as night. Ballads composed by bards with far too much time and far too little talent, told tale of the enigmatic moonlight man, who had saved their poor city from ruin time and time again. Garrett had to wonder, if they would still sing his praises, if they indeed knew that their beloved savior, was one of the most wanted men in the entire city.

He looked down at that whimsy-eyed maiden, adoration and candor thick within her cherubic features. As cynical as he was, it was beyond evident in that moment. Gwenevere, thought the world of him. Her gushing awe rendered him speechless, and silence passed like an unseen gale between their forms. When at last her bell-like voice permeated the surrounding haze, it nearly caused Garrett to jump.

“You don’t...have a problem with that, do you Garrett?” she whimpered, her eyes as round as saucers. Gleaming, like two fireflies in the darkness. Garrett hesitated before answering.

“Actually, I do,” he breathed heavily. “As I’ve told you before, calling me by name works just fine. There’s no need to complicate things.”

“I see...” the young woman hung her head in crestfallen defeat. “Well, thanks for today. I’d better get to my room and stuff...”

Gwenevere turned on her heel and started to head back towards the dormitories, when the thief called after her one last time.

“Gwenevere?”

She turned, looking up at him through dazzling green expectant eyes.

“Yesh?”

The moment her sparkling irises found his, Garrett felt his entire mouth go dry. Whatever meaningful sentiment he’d thought to covey, seeped between the folds of his mind like sand drawn back by an angry sea. Lost forever to the depths of his lament and ceaseless torment. As the initial words faded from his conscious memory, the thief defaulted to his usual greedy and callous nature.

“If you do find anything of note down there, it’s still mine. So don’t go keeping your findings from me, got it?”

“Yes master,” the girl grumbled. When Garrett scowled down at her, Gwenevere quickly corrected herself, “I-I mean, yes Garrett...”

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