Obsidian Journey - 3

Part Three: A Fledgling Thief

 
20 Years and a Few Months Later
  Dusk brought a stunning fire-red scourge across the sky. Tomorrow would bring beautiful weather, and up in the Free Kingdom of the Northern Islands, the rainy season would be just about at its end.  Captain Cafiero nodded, resettling his cap on his head.  He shouldn't linger. Few were on the docks this late at night and those who were tended to have less than honorable intentions.  With one more glance at the fair weather omen, he wished for luck and that his business here would be done soon.  The sooner he could take his shipment and the retrieved magical heirlooms to deliver in Pau, the sooner he would be home.   After the bustle of the markets and the wildfires he'd seen this year, it would be nice to get off the waves for a while and relax on a safe, sheltered field. Regardless of the sheep.   He headed toward his ship for a night's rest in his cabin.  In the distance, a guard's voice split the approaching evening.  
  "Haul them out!" the shout came, and Giorghi curled into a tighter ball, huddled against the side of the wagon.  Around him sat other unfortunates and criminals.  The really bad ones were far more grown and far stronger than he was, and they were bound by chains as a result.  Giorghi remained unchained by sheer virtue of the fact that they knew he had nowhere to go.   Nowhere to run to.  And if they made the trip to Arborea like the guard said...well, a boy could do worse than running off to get lost in a place of possibility.   He'd only taken bread that night, had tried to duck the massive grasping hands of the guardsman, but found himself hauled up by one spindly forearm.   "Whatcha think ya got there, runt?" The guard sneered into his face. "Looks like contraband.  That's not what we call pleasant business."   It wasn't even the bread that had landed him here, but the pendant his mother had given him on her deathbed.  She'd worn it for years, her good luck charm.  Business had boomed.  But Giorghi's absentee father sold the mercantile out from underneath them, left them penniless, and his mother had snuck the trinket to Giorghi, making him swear not to try to sell the star and chain for anything less than a promising future.  A promising future, he'd figured at the time, must not be worth much, since no one would want a stupid hunk of rock anyway.  Yet as she took her last breath, he'd hidden it under his shirt. He'd run into the night. And for a time, he'd made his way with the rock to both remember her by and to curse his father by.  A rock so worthless he'd bet he couldn't even trade it for that stupid loaf of bread.   Except the guardsman's eyes had lit up with the same grim delight his father's had whenever he'd seen money, and he'd definitely shoved the necklace into his pocket.  Giorghi was the wrong thief, but he knew the truth now: the world didn't really run on good luck charms.   The cell in Arborea had barred windows lined with greenery.  His plan to run failed, and over the weeks Giorghi had waited to see if they'd deliver his sentence.  He'd stripped the leaves for a pillow in the shadows, but it wasn't until he'd broken a moderately sized stick that his apathy shifted. To his surprise--and delight--it was hollow.  With a sharp stone, he whittled at it for days, nothing to do with his time but carve.  
  "What is that?" Without waiting for an answer, the bard she'd been keeping an eye on for a potential distraction leapt from his horse and strode to the gate of the prison.  He held up a large sack and shook it, its contents echoing in the small courtyard.  "Find me that musician."   She grinned. Well, that was one way in.  She wouldn't even have to stage a robbery in town.  Tucking the short strands of her hair into her cap and unclasping her daggers, she waited.  When the gate opened to the jingle of gold, the guards didn't disappoint.  They left it open while they counted coins, and she slipped right in.  It didn't take long to find the box.  It sat in a pile of unsold loot next to the greedy guard captain's bedside, a black chain looped around its latch.     Touching the chain only for a brief moment was a mistake.  Her palms itched as though they needed, desperately, to hold it, a craving that clenched her stomach and grayed the corners of her vision.   Odd. The Captain hadn't mentioned magic.    She brushed it with her fingers again. No, it wasn't bespelled, but whatever pull it seemed to exert on her, she had to ignore it until she had more time.  She hefted the box full of stolen goods and moved into the shadows.   As she slid back out of the prison gate, she spied the bard again, this time seated on his horse behind a young boy who clutched a carved stick in his palms.  Poor thing looked as though he'd been through a war.   Sympathy bled into her thoughts, quickly smashed back behind a wall of black. Her back went ramrod straight as she strode to the stables. This was no longer a life of dirty alleys, scraps, bitterly cold nights.  And she was no longer that abandoned Fadados.    She was Tio the Dark, walker of shadows, thiever of thieves.

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