Rhyli casually grasped the side of her hood, partially shielding her face, as she strolled past the entrance-gate sentry lounging in the afternoon sun. Prydell, a medium-sized, crowded city built predominantly of timber and defended by a somewhat lackadaisical city guard, stood on a major trade route and was well known for its busy market square and yearly harvest festival. As Rhyli reached the square, her senses were arrested by the bustling market stalls packed with trades people and shoppers alike.
"Easy pickings," she mumbled to herself and ploughed into the crowded passage. Repeatedly knocked about by fellow travelers and merchants, Rhyli pointedly steered a circuitous path through the bodies and eventually made the full lap of the square. Along the way, she deftly separated more than a few patrons from their traveling pouches or ornamentation with her nimble hands and a word or two of `excuse me' or `so sorry'.
After emerging from the crowd near where she started, Rhyli decided it best to not push her luck on the first day by making a second round even though dusk was approaching and the shadows would be her friend. However, over by the blacksmith's stall, she spied an unattended, un-tethered horse fairly beckoning her to lead it off into the shadows.
"The horse itself would be of little use," she whispered to herself, "not inside these city walls, anyway—probably branded—but look at that lovely leather pouch just bulging off to the side…"
Just as Rhyli slid loose the leather latch and began to peer inside the pouch, a voice from behind her spoke up.
"Hey, that's Muran's horse. I don't think you belong in there."
Rhyli wheeled around to face a somewhat younger, redheaded girl about her height, dressed in a simple yet elegant blue velvet gown with gold organza sleeves and trimmed with gold ribbon. Because the girl was wearing very little ornamentation, Rhyli guessed that she was not facing a noble but rather a lady-in-waiting or similar class and perhaps she could bluff her way out.
"Sure'n it is, mum." Rhyli half-curtsied and bowed her head so her hood would drop a bit lower over her face. Keeping her head turned down as low as she dared, she continued, "Only this man, Muran, sent me to fetch some'fin from `is pack for `im."
"Oh, he did, did he?"
The redheaded girl cocked her head to one side and put both hands on her hips. Rhyli could tell that the story wasn't going over well, so she began to hastily calculate the best option for a quick retreat. Because the sun had dropped below the horizon, shadows were now enveloping most nooks and all she needed was a distraction.
However, before she got a chance to think up any kind of distraction, the redhead grabbed her wrist.
"Well, let's just ask Muran ourselves, shall we? There he is!"
Without even thinking, Rhyli reacted, throwing her bodyweight towards the surprised girl. As usual with an inexperienced captor, the girl's grip on Rhyli was braced for a pulling away motion rather than the opposite and so Rhyli slipped her arm loose and kept moving past before the stunned girl had time to turn around.
Confident that she had eluded any trace of would be followers, Rhyli decided it was time to satisfy her stomach and stopped in at the nearest tavern. After eating her fill of stew and crusty bread, she paid the barkeep for her meal and a mug of ale and settled down in a quiet corner.
"No need to hurry out into the chill autumn air," she breathed to herself, contented by the hearth fire and her anonymity in this place.
She propped her boots up on the bench next to her and slouched back against the stone wall behind her, wadding up the hood of her cloak like a pillow and closed her eyes.
"What? No more saddlebags to rifle through?"
Rhyli thought about ignoring the voice in the hopes that it would go away. Knowing, however, that it likely wouldn't, she lazily opened one eye and confirmed the presence of blue velvet gowned redhead.
Choosing still to basically ignore the fact of the girl's presence, Rhyli closed that eye again and spoke in the girl's general direction.
"Am I supposed to be impressed that you found me?"
"I suppose that's up to you. I just want you to give me back what's mine."
At this statement, Rhyli opened both eyes and twisted her head around to face the girl.
"I thought you said that horse belonged to somebody named Muran? And besides, I didn't get anything off it."
"I'm not talking about that. I want my brooch back."
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
Rhyli sat up and gulped down the last of her ale. There was something about this girl that she knew was going to cause her more trouble than she wanted. If only she hadn't gotten herself comfortable at a table so far from the door.
"Look here. Just give me my brooch and I won't call the guards."
Rhyli chortled into her mug.
"Oh yeah, they would be a lot of help, now, wouldn't they?"
"Are you going to give it to me?"
Fire was beginning to flash in the girl's eyes and color was rising in her cheeks. Rhyli stood up and attempted to maneuver a closer path to the door.
"Seriously, I don't have any brooches. But if I find some tomorrow, I promise, you can have first pick."
As Rhyli moved to edge her way around the redhead and make for the door, the girl's arm shot up and grabbed for the clasp at Rhyli's neck. Not expecting this action, Rhyli was thrown off balance a bit but recovered quick enough to prevent the girl from ripping off the cloak.
"Hey, what's the big idea?"
"Give me my brooch!"
"This? This is mine. I've had this since I was a child."
The redhead was furious at this point and looked anything but an elegant lady. Since Rhyli's ale had now kicked in, she was less interested in backing down than in not being bested by an uppity lady with false accusations. Both of the girls' voices had raised the attention of other patrons in the tavern and before long the grabbing and shoving had turned into mugs flying at the walls, bystanders running for cover, and the barkeep hollering out the door for a guard.
The scuffle finally ended when two guards finally intervened well after midnight. Because of the lateness of the hour, the girls were bound in cuffs and taken to the jail to wait until morning when the complaints would be heard.