“No, no and NO!” Garrett barked, slamming his fist down hard against the table.
He wasn’t usually a violent individual, and this was his first time expressing physical anger for quite some time. But he had good reason for it. What was Basso thinking?! The thief had always made it very clear that he worked alone, yet over the past few years, Basso had gotten the crazy idea into his head that Garrett needed a partner.
With things only growing worse within the city, more and more rogues had found themselves in the shady man’s services, and quite often, the seasoned Garrett was requested to team up with them in order to take in bigger, and riskier hauls. It was becoming more than a slight annoyance at this point. Garrett was more than capable of flying solo. He always had been.
“C’mon Garrett! For old time’s sake!” Basso pleaded with a drunken twinkle in his eye.
The thief whirled around, his bi-colored glare flashing with a silent ferocity.
“I said no,” he grumbled. Basso exhaled a deep sigh, and spat a wad of chew into a nearby crate.
“You know Garrett, this girl may be the key to your biggest heist yet,” the boxman coaxed.
“Oh? And why’s that?” Garrett smirked, thus far unimpressed with Basso’s latest show. If anything, this was doomed to be his weakest pitch yet, with those lofty expectations.
Garrett had killed a god--after robbing him blind, of course! He’d single-handedly put an end to the Mechanist cult, and stolen treasures so rare, that they were thought to be mere legends. He’d saved The City three times now, yet no one within its walls--save a select few--were even aware of his so-called heroics.
But even taking into account every past irritating wheeze and syllable to have exited his best mate’s lips over the years, nothing, could have prepared Garrett for the utmost foolery and suicide that was the following conversation.
“Because...she’s a Simmons!” Basso recanted, as proudly as though he’d just proven his constitution in a drinking contest. Just about as wasted, too.
Garrett’s expression went from nonchalant, to utterly speechless. He stared at Basso with genuine confusion.
“Why the hell would a Simmons want to work with you?! Anyway, Basso, are you insane?! What if she rats you out? What if she rats ME out?!”
“Relax Garrett, the gal’s a responsibility dodging scamp. She told me all she wants is her freedom,” the boxman chuckled at that last word. “No noble would ever talk like that, because no noble would ever use their brains to ponder what they might be giving up for all that gold. I’m sorry, but in my eyes, that shows possibility.”
“It shows that you’ve made an even bigger mistake than usual, old man. I’m not training her. If she wants to steal things, let her do so on her own time. By herself,” the thief huffed, and started for the door.
Basso hesitated. He didn’t want to hurt his mate, but he also knew that cunning manipulation might be the only way to win the day. He decided to take that gamble.
“Is it because of what happened? With Erin?”
Garrett stopped cold. His fingers tensed into uncomfortable curls, as he softly lowered his head. Erin. She had been little more than a skeleton in rags when he had chanced upon her that cold autumn’s eve. No older than six, the orphan had been half dead. To this day, he couldn’t be sure what it was that had made him take pity on the girl, but perhaps it had been his own hopeless memories of childhood.
Garrett could still hear her frightened whimpers as she gawked up at the ominous dark figure looming over her. He could still feel her clammy, tiny fingers as she reached up and took his beckoning hand. He had trained her to steal, taken her under his wing as his one and only protégé. That child. His child. The closest thing the lone man would ever have to a family. And now she was dead.
Because of him.
“Basso. You promised me that you wouldn’t bring her up anymore...” the thief’s voice held all the emotion of a dead man.
“I only bring her up because after what happened last year, you haven’t been the same. Your passion for the job is gone. It’s as if you’re emotionlessly driven now. I’m starting to worry about you,” he offered, a genuine concern coating his disheveled features.
The master thief whirled around, and locked eyes with his portly companion. Basso had always found it downright unsettling, how so much emotion could be found within the eyes of Garrett’s otherwise indecipherable expression.
Those eyes, were the boxman’s only warning to the storm that was to follow.
“Is that why you keep pairing me up with these no-names? You think I’m in need of friends? Someone to buy me pint?” Garrett scoffed.
"Are you?” Basso didn’t miss a beat.
Garrett didn’t offer a witty response in time, so the boxman, continued.
“What happened that night? Erin was headstrong, sure. She didn’t listen to you worth a damn, but that was kinda expected, given her age. But the whole thing just seems so...bizarre,” Basso pondered.
The thief curled his fingers tighter, forming a fist. He held them like that for several moments, before releasing them with a defeated sigh.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I was just trying to help. Hey! Speaking of which, maybe this, will ‘help’ persuade you to train Gwenevere...”
With that, Basso threw a large, bulging coin purse in Garrett’s direction. It landed squarely at his feet. The thief took a moment to study the sack, before picking it up.
He didn’t know which was more unbelievable; how much faith Basso was putting into this new girl, or how much he was paying for her training. There had to be over ten-thousand silver coins stuffed so tightly into that little sack, that it was practically bursting at the seams.
“I’m not even going to bother to ask where a bumpkin like you came across all this money,” Garrett murmured, tucking the coins away within the flap of his cloak.
“Bumkin?! Gee, thanks! ” Basso snorted sourly. “Well, then again, at least it’s better than some of the names I’ve been given. Filthy. Drunkard. Letch. Taffing Bas--”
“--You’ve made your point,” Garrett interrupted him with a snarl, before locking eyes with his contact. “I’ll train the girl, but you’d better stay out of my business from now on.”
And with a disgruntled flap of his cloak, the master thief rushed out the door.
Gwenevere waited in the darkness. Basso had contacted her earlier that day, via a sweet little magpie, informing her of when and where this Garrett fellow would meet her. The bird had flown to her hideaway beneath the bridges of Dayport, lead only by the words of a beloved master, and something far more convincing that only the mysterious green-eyed girl had possessed.
Said girl was growing nervous. What kind of man would she be dealing with, and furthermore, would he really be able to train her? What sort of man was it, who could mold a shapeless, forsaken flower such as she, into a skillful huntress of the night? Was it even possible? There was just so much uncertainty now; so much fear. Gwenevere’s future now lay in two distinct directions: Forward, into the life of a wily thief and vigilante. Or down, into the cruel and unending torments of the destitute. Either, was a very real possibility. Because she could never go back to Lord Simmons. Not after what she had discovered. Not after what she had done.
As she went about pondering these disquieting revelations, a dark figure went about skulking ever closer to her unsuspecting form. Then, it spoke to her.
“So you’re the girl Basso’s gotten himself in a fuss over,” its smoky voice rang from behind her.
Gwenevere jumped, and spun around. Before her stood a dark figure, draped in a murky black hood. Stunning eyes flashed from beyond, and Gwenevere gasped when she realized that this was indeed the face of a man she was staring into. A mortal man, with two eye colors! His left eye was a deep brown, while his right was an inferno of silvery blue. The young woman had never seen such wondrous eyes before, and they fascinated her.
Garrett frowned as she continued to gawk up at him, like a suspended mannequin with a broken jaw. Basso had gotten one thing right anyway. This girl, wasn’t at all what he’d had been expecting.
His first impressions of Gwenevere, were less than flattering. Fragile, breakable. A child parading as an adult. All things considered, she didn’t appear to be anything special.
The thief wasn’t exactly one to talk, but she was also quite small. The women he tended to meet, were perhaps an inch or so shorter than he was. Embarrassingly enough, most were his height. Some, were even taller. Garrett was, by no means, a large man. And those elegant and lording females were the ones he secretly loved robbing the most.
Gwenevere, was a good six inches shorter than he was--a revelation which prompted a slight grin to creep across the moonlighter’s rugged face. But it didn’t last when he began to realize, that everything about Gwenevere was unassuming. Those, were often the ones people had to worry about the most. And if Garrett had of somehow possessed the clairvoyance to comprehend that which would eventually come to pass from his involvement in her life, he would have bolted from that grimy moonlit alleyway without another breath.
Yet somehow, he did always seem to get tangled up in these things. An unwanted gift, or perhaps, an unnoticed curse.
The girl’s eyes held a look of wild terror, intermingled with an almost sickening innocence. But there was something else within those eyes too. Something, that unsettled him.
Poets and dreamers of his time, often said that the eyes were the windows into one’s soul. And if that really was true, then Garrett glimpsed more than he’d bargained for within Gwenevere that night. An overlooked warning. Forbidden realms to which a mortal thief would soon become all too familiar.
“You’re not very adept to your surroundings, if you didn’t even hear me coming,” he admonished with a cold scoff.
To his surprise, just as quickly as she’d become rattled, the girl began to smile. It was a demure, gleeful sort of expression. The corners of her mouth were soft. Deep dimples holding up those supple nude lips, as her first words to him passed through.
“Oh, hello! You must be Garrett, right?” she laughed at the end of her sentence, as if their meeting were merely a simple reunion between two old friends.
Rather than a surprise encounter with a wanted criminal.
The clouds moved swiftly overhead, allowing the moon’s glossy rays to finally provide some luminance to that dismal world of smoke and shadows. That’s when Garrett was finally able to get a better look at her.
That hair of hers, was a brilliant blood-red. He knew the nobles often dyed their hair--for what purpose, a simple thief would never comprehend. At the time, that had been Garrett’s first assumption. But something about Gwenevere’s hair was...strange. More than just its stark tone. Something about the way it fell down her form, gave her an almost savage appearance. Almost like the mane of a proud beast. More like fur, than actual girlish tresses.
Her hair was so smooth, that Garrett could almost envision the silky texture from where he stood. If not for common sense, he’d of suspected that she’d somehow enchanted her hair to achieve such a supernatural radiance. Garrett almost fell into the fool mistake of asking the girl about her strange locks, but the cynical bastard in him prevailed, and the thief remained stoic and mute in the moonlight.
All the while, she just kept staring up at him through those impossibly green eyes.
“So, you’re Garrett, huh?” that jovial smile of hers seemed to glow through the darkness surrounding them.
“That your best guess?” he groused.
It wasn’t Garrett’s greatest retort, but then again, this particular evening hadn’t exactly been one of his favorites.
Her cherubic little face sank at the thief’s acidic remark. Gwenevere took up a strand of that lavish red hair flowing downward from her cloak, and started chewing on it. Now this, he wasn’t expecting. Lock of hair still clenched snug between her teeth, she looked up at Garrett with those wide, perplexing eyes.
“I-I...just assumed...because you know Basso...” her little upturned nose twitched as she spoke, like that of a rat in pursuit of stale rubbish.
What?! Garrett raised a condescending eyebrow at that. How exactly did that idiot associate of his think that such a naïve kid would be useful? Unless of course, Basso had wanted her for a more ‘recreational’ purpose. The very idea caused the thief to cringe.
Ever since Jenivere had left him some years back, Basso had gone through women and booze at a pretty consistent rate. All the more reason for the thief not to go getting himself tangled up in that which his fellows deemed, ‘normal’. According to the ever-callous Garrett, relationships were like throwing coins into the South Quarter fountain. A waste of time, and money.
Speaking of which... the thief looked at Gwenevere again.
Garrett looked the little ‘prodigy’ over, trying to gauge if the girl had anything of value on her. His fingers simultaneously groped the bulging sack of coin tucked into his leather knapsack. Yet in spite of that, he was still having mixed feelings about this so-called favor. It wasn’t too late to just back out, after all. When Garrett saw a brief twinkle come from the girl’s wrist, he considered just mugging her, and leaving back the way he’d come. Unfortunately, that teasing glimmer hadn’t been at all what he was expecting.
Her high-pitched voice stirred the thief from his lazy perusal. Garrett once again made eye contact with Gwenevere, taking notice of the way she gawked upward with intrigue at his metal prosthetic. She’d been doing so the entire time, and it was beginning to seriously irk him.
“What?” he snapped.
Most people he came across couldn’t help but wonder about his uncanny right eye. Garrett was content to simply assume, that some taffers didn’t have anything better to do. But there was just something odd about how this particular girl never broke focus with it. For a noble, Gwenevere certainly hadn’t been broken in as such. She was proving to be just about as rude and inconsiderate as the rest of the lowlife ilk the thief avoided.
“I-I...” she stammered, with a visible tremble.
“Spit it out,” Garrett demanded, releasing a frustrated sigh from his nostrils. She seemed to gather herself at that, straightening her posture almost robotically.
Creepy...he thought. Maybe she had been trained after all.
“I was just wondering who you are, if you’re not Garrett,” she blurted, her words almost too muddled and quick for the moonlighter’s ears.
“Bit late, aren’t you?”
“Huh?” she blinked. Garrett rolled his eyes at that, wishing that this aggravation would just run its course, and end.
“Okay, yeah. Turns out your little ‘assumption’ was correct. I am Garrett.”
The girl’s eyes began to gleam like two Pagan torchlights at his confession. When the clouds once again devoured the desperate moon, Gwenevere began to bound with glee.
“Oh! So then that must mean you’ve come to train me!” she clapped.
The thief found it was almost amusing--how she automatically assumed that he’d be a willing participant in Basso’s little scheme. But then again, Garrett supposed that the nobles just expected everyone else to go along with their every whim. And if that were indeed the case here, Gwenevere Simmons was going to be very disappointed.
Because she wasn’t dealing with Basso anymore, or anyone else who’d be charmed by her playful antics, and moderately pleasing looks. Now, she was dealing with him.
“I didn’t say that,” Garrett snapped. Gwenevere seemed to visibly wilt.
“So, you aren’t gonna teach me to become a thief?” she leaned forward on her toes, her tiny hands clenched firmly up to her unexceptional chest.
“I don’t know. Are you worth my time, or not?” he barked.
“W-what do you mean?” she craned her head to the side.
“What do you think that means, you vacant-skulled tart?” Garrett grumbled under his breath.
Gwenevere didn’t appear to hear him, as she took a hesitant step towards the towering hooded man. Trust was evident within her light steps, though her little hands were trembling as she touched the sides of her cowl. She seemed almost unsure of how to remove the thing from her head, her fingers twitching.
Garrett cleared his throat, startling her.
“Care to tell me how a Simmons gets involved with a lowlife such as Basso?”
“Oh...you heard about that, huh?”
“Why the hell do you think I’m here, talking to you?” Garrett remarked coldly. “Do you honestly think just because I’m a commoner, that I don’t have anything better to do?”
“W-what?!” Gwenevere leapt back. “I never said--”
“--Well, it’s pretty apparent,” the thief sneered. “After all, that’s all your kind ever does. Assume that the world’s owed to them. Assume that they can get away with anything. And if you think for even a second, that I’m about to be swayed by something as trivial as your bloodline, then you’re gravely mistaken, kid.”
“Wait! You’ve got it all wrong!” Gwenevere yipped. “I’m not a Simmons! I-I ran away! Surely Basso’s told you that, yes?”
“He told me that you want freedom. Want something more. Listen kid, I know you think you’re some sort of ‘lost sheep’. A real taffing savant. The first noble to ever rebel in order to see the real world.”
“B-but I really am not a--” Gwenevere peeped.
The next look Garrett gave her, was absolutely terrifying, and it silenced her forthwith. The shadows of the alley licked and mingled amidst those of the thief’s cowl, giving his face a most foul and imposing appearance.
“But trust me when I say, that plenty of others have come before you. And most of them, end up face-down in the gutter. Because, truth is, no matter how special you think that blood of yours actually is, it can still be spilt like anyone else’s...”
The young woman looked downward, watching as a cockroach weaved in and out of the cracks in the cobblestone. Trying to hide the wavering fear within her eyes.
Gwenevere already knew that she could very well die down here. Regardless of what this hooded man thought, he was wrong about her. She wasn’t anything like the others. She didn’t even belong anywhere near high society.
But one of the thief’s statements was indeed correct: The nobles, assumed that they could get away with anything. Lord Simmons, certainly had. For many years. At least until three days prior, when Gwenevere had finally managed to sneak free from his greedy clutches.
“Well, if that’s what you believe,” she huffed, crossing her arms and pouting. “Then I suppose there really is no use in arguing any further. Seems you’ve already made up your mind about me...”
That all you got? Garrett smirked, crossing his arms. Did she honestly expect him to care?!
They must have stood there like that for at least five minutes; two cloaked, stubborn figures in the dark. But the thief’s arrogance proved stronger, when Gwenevere threw up her arms and began to wail.
“Why do you think I’m like that?!” she shrieked, nearly rupturing Garrett’s unguarded eardrums in the process. “You don’t even know me!”
“Taff kid!” he exclaimed with a visible cringe. “What the hell’s wrong with you?!”
This was proving to be much worse than he was expecting. She was a whiny noble’s girl.
“You can’t just do that to people, ya know? Judging them like that?” Gwenevere stomped her foot. “You can’t just get my hopes up, and then refuse to teach me! That’s mean!”
Oh, can’t I? Garrett’s grin grew smug, as the girl kept right on running her trap.
“Did you just come here to make fun of me then?” she accused. “You’re a big mean, burrick-faced jerk!”
“Excuse me?” He raised his eyebrow at that. Things had certainly escalated rather quickly. Gwenevere continued.
“You heard me! Why would I ever need your help anyway? I bet I can do it without you and everything!”
“Wanna bet?” Garrett bit back when the opportunity presented itself.
He sneered at the very idea of this handfed brat pilching so much as a copper from even the most unobservant merchant. She could barely span two seconds without making some distracting noise, after all.
“I don’t make bets, least of all with jerks!” Gwenevere sneered, attempting to push her way past him. “So get out of my way, you, you--”
Before the girl could expel another syllable from those obnoxious entitled lips of hers, Garrett advanced. Gwenevere yelped like a beaten dog as he forced her up against the wall of the alleyway. She tried to slip past, but the thief easily trapped the girl, by planting his left arm against the wall behind her. Garrett heard her gasp, as he moved in closer. Her gaze met his as the thief towered above her, and Garrett swore he saw those primitive irises of hers flash.
“Don’t act so tough kid. You’re in my world now,” he sneered, leering down at her. Gwenevere continued to gawk up at him, her expression a mixture of vehemence, and fear.
“Listen,” he growled, without giving her a moment to respond, “I’ll teach you not to get killed down here, but you’ve got to do exactly what I say. Is that gonna be a problem?”
“N-no...” she peeped.
“That’s what I thought,” Garrett snorted, his breath visible against the frosty nightscape.
But the master thief’s victory over the noble girl was unfortunately short-lived. Everything was about to capsize.