Legal Theft: Three Steps Behind

Rob stepped off the sidewalk, separating from the herd to cross traffic in time. He received petty asides from fellow pedestrians at the breech in sidewalk etiquette.  However, lulled by the drone of their lives and the next annoyance, they forgot him a moment later. He ignored them, as they ignored anyone sharing the cracked cement, and kept his focus on her.

Half a block ahead, with a dark dull ponytail and a dark dull jacket, she moved with destination instead of purpose. Headphone wires, a badge of disassociation, dangled from her ears to disappear into the unseasonable scarf rolled around her neck.

The light changed. Vehicles crawled by slower than the foot traffic.  The savory smells of gasoline and smog wafted up from the veined asphalt as he crossed at another light. Her pace wasn’t brisk enough and her head was down. He only needed a few more careful blocks amidst the herd.

Rob pushed, sliding his shoulder in front of a middle aged woman’s. Then past a young student who seethed at him before returning to a phone screen. A block behind now. He saw faded jeans and low scuffed boots. He saw tan cheekbones and muscled legs.

Glares found his back as he shoved through the river of human bodies. He ignored them, but stirrings began around him. People edged away. Something was amiss, someone wasn’t moving right.It made his path clearer. Half a block.

Her head was bowed to the sidewalk, hands resting in the pockets of her dull jacket. Her world would be muffled. His became very sharp. So sharp he could see the scar bubbling at the base of her skull. The mark showed just above the soft rolls of the scarf. It was her.

Now three steps behind and still walking. The current kept them close, pressing everyone between shopfront and street. So close, he could marvel at the red flesh puckering the top of her spine, visible only so long as she kept her head bowed.

Rob took a breath and almost reached out. Before his hands would brush her shoulder, or catch her wrist, or wrap around that damning scar, she stumbled.

It was a graceful thing, barely even a misstep, that caused her to knock almost gently into the well-dressed man in front of her. Rob didn’t see her hands move, only the shudder that ran though the man she’d fallen into.

The moment passed. She folded something back into her pocket and resumed her steps. The man did not. Rob froze, watching the man waiver on his feet, fail, and then crumple against the cement.

The crowd ahead kept moving, the victim’s strangled gurgle not loud enough to wake them from their migration. She fell back in with them seamlessly, another dull piece in a larger herd.

Those around Rob pulled back, jolted from their progress by the sudden collapse of one of their own. Some kept walking, with only glances to spare. Others hovered. Someone yelled, others held up phones. There was chaos and the desire to get away from it. Rob blinked away the momentary stupor and searched the river.

A block ahead. She walked in a dull dark jacket, headphone wires dangling from her ears.There was nothing to set her apart from the rest of the faceless mass. Nothing to hint at what she’d just done with a stumble and a flick of her wrist.

Nothing until his gaze caught, like a fishing line going taut. She turned her head and met his eyes. There was no pause or surprise. She’d knew exactly where to find him.

The cries of alarm started around him. People’s hands were coming away red as they turned the fallen man over.

Rob took a step back under her gaze, feeling ice grow through his stomach. He’d thought to catch her. Did she recognize him, or had she simply caught her tail?  Rob tore his eyes away from her’s to look at the corpse beginning  to soak the sidewalk. The latter. It had to be the latter. The years had aged him after all, and she’d been young.

She was lost when he looked up again, long gone amidst the hapless herd. He closed his eyes.  He’d thought to reach out and catch her, perhaps finish what had begun years ago. He breathed out the acceptance of just how close he’d come to the last mistake of his life and how close he might still be.

“Well. shit.”

Was this theft legal? I don’t know, but I am a thief so I don’t care. The last line came from Bek. 

Dawn Bringer

Raksha slipped into the city before the humid day could cool into night. She paused only to assure the gate sentinels that she was no one to take note of. Raksha pressed a small purse into the guard’s hand. Confident in the power of gold, she turned towards the sagging roofs and narrow alleys of the Burrows.

The Burrows, named proudly by its inhabitants and with derision by everyone else, was a a district set on the riverside of the large city. Its mess of stacked shops, tenements, and doxie dens leaned over the narrow, half-cobbled streets so severely the buildings touched in places. Where the walls didn’t, the residents strung ropes and creaking foot bridges for ease of travel. The swinging overpasses, while perilous, kept one’s feet from the mud and worse.

Raksha slipped under a particularly low bridge and down a staircase, careful of the dirty water pooling at its corners. The doorknob turned under her fingers.

The inside of the pawnshop was a mess of stacked books and old weapons. Yellowed glass cases displayed tarnished silver and scratched gemstones. She smiled when the stocky man behind the counter scowled up at her. The day’s take was spread over the already cluttered counter in dull stacks of coins. “Closed.” He said when recognized the face beneath her hood.

She held up the bag still hooked over her shoulder. “You sure? Got something for you Ourik.”

Despite his sour expression Ourik gestured her over with two fingers.”Lock the door first. You always bring trouble.”

Ourik shifted the counter’s stacked contents to make room for Raksha’s goods. He didn’t put the money away, they’d worked together before. The bag gave a muffled clink when she set it down.

“Found it below ruins at the north border. No heat and the thing is pristine. Not a scratch.” Raksha peeled the layers of course cloth from the parcel with reverent fingers. She pulled the final bit of sackcloth away and the pawnbroker’s shop filled with soft morning light.

Raksha enjoyed Ourik’s open-mouthed astonishment. The diamond was the size of plum, and far larger than anything in the store’s dingy cases. Its size was nothing compared to the effect in the air. The motes of dust around them lit up like stars.

The stone’s faceted surface didn’t shine, but everything in its presence seemed to.  Even Raksha’s fingers seemed to glow with warm dusky light as they hovered around the prize. She smiled, chest swelling as the store was transformed by the glimmering motes.

“Raksha.” The broker breathed her name like it was a curse. The dust still shimmered around them, sending bits of light across his face. “What have you done?”

“What?” Raksha was shaken from her pride. She pulled the small bits of cloth back around the stone, shielding it from his unexpected reaction. “You’ve dealt with special items before.”

The light dulled from the shop, the dust in the air invisible once more. Ourik drew his palm across his forehead. “Ruins in the north?”

Raksha nodded, the crease between her brows deepening as she frowned. “The place was abandoned. You saw what it did, its obviously valuable, you should be able to turn it around easily.” Meaning she should get a good sum, such was the relationship between thief and broker.

Ourik helped her wrap the stone away and slipped it back into the sack. “A dawnstone is priceless.”

Raksha’s eyes brightened as if the stone had been unfurled anew. She pushed the stowed gem across the counter towards him, upsetting a stack of coins. “How much then?”

“Priceless, Raksha. There is no amount that can be paid for something like that. Best to take that thing and put it back where you found it.” He stepped away from her and the stone.

Raksha shouldered the bag but did not move her feet. She watched him “What’s a dawnstone? And why wont you buy one?”

“Because I don’t. Get out, take that thing with you.” Ourik hastily gathered his own coin and began shuffling around the store, checking window latches and blowing out the dusty lanterns.

“Its worth at least few crowns I’m sure.” Raksha begged, disliking the sodden feel of turned luck. “Ourik, please, I spent everything else getting back here.”

“Its worth kingdoms.” He growled and unlocked the front door. “More than that. Lives. A dawnstone will bring all sorts, and everyone one of them will pay dearly for it. For all that it shines, that thing brings death.”

“I’d be content with gold.” Raksha said, feet still planted stubbornly next to the counter. He still hadn’t told her what the damn thing was. Though the stone still rested heavy against her side, Raksha’s prize was stolen.

“You’re a burrow’s graverobber. The only thing you’ll get for it is trouble.” He opened the door, and a bit of dirty water trickled onto the floorboards. “Go, take it back, and then forget where you found it.”

Raksha clenched her jaw, weighing her options. “I’ll go.” She said finally.

She didn’t look at Ourik as he left, or back when the door slammed behind her. Water trickled down from the ropes and lines of the makeshift bridges. She had no shelter, no food, and no prospects because she’d managed to find the only priceless diamond in existence.

“But I’m not taking it back.” She said to the empty street. Raksha took a breath and started walking. She’d heard what Ourik had said, someone had to want this thing.

Behind her, in the alley of the broker’s shop, a thin shadow slipped from the stone and began to follow the thief.

This post is in response to Mindlovesmiserys Menagerie’s Tale Weaver Prompt.  I was in a nostalgic mood for classic fantasy and Mindlovesmisery’s prompt was perfect. 

Legal Theft: Evening Break

“That hurts.” Abrath pulled her lip up, showing fangs to the nervous stable girl. The servant shied backwards, leaving the straps of the saddle dangling unhooked at the mounts furry sides. Facing down the teeth of a full grown Dacian hellhound the girl looked around quickly for guidance.

“Abrath won’t bite.” Tremare assured the stable hand. He adjusted the cuffs of his riding gloves and favored the young servant with a smile. “She is just being fussy.”

Applying the word fussy to a two hundred stone mass of black fur and horns didn’t sit well with either the girl or Abrath. A swish of Abrath’s feline tail sent a flurry of stableyard dust into the air, covering Tremare’s new brocade coat in a brown dirt.  He sniffed and glared up at Abrath.

The stable girl, eyes watering from the sudden dust storm, took a hesitant step back towards the mount she was supposed to be getting ready for the ride. Abrath lowered her head menacingly, displaying the impressively sharply jagged horns rising from her brow.

Tremare waived the stable girl away. There was no arguing with Abrath when she took a dislike to someone.  With a move that would have gotten anyone else mauled, Tremare took a hold of one shining horn and moved Abrath’s massive muzzle so they were staring at each other. “You’re being obnoxious.”

He received a snort of hot breath into his face in response. “The child was incompetent. I got pinched.” Abrath said. Unwilling to rip Tremare’s arm from its socket to move her head, the dacian rolled her round russet eyes towards her back where the saddle remained perched and unbuckled.

“The injustice. That is a poor reason to scare the girl.” Tremare sighed, moving his hand to run his fingers through the thick pitch colored fur that fanned from Abrath’s jaw.”We are trying to make friends here, remember?”

“You should make friends who know how to fit a saddle.” Abrath replied.

Tremare gave up with a slight shake of his head. He patted her on the neck and moved to finish the stable girl’s work. Their evening ride was an old ritual Tremare wasn’t willing to give up, even if the sight of Abrath would cement his status as a curiosity. He got the feeling they both needed the break.

I am a thief…. I think? I really don’t know anymore. Supposedly I nicked the first line from Kate Kearney at More Than 1/2 Mad as part of the Legal Theft Project, or maybe I didn’t. Either way, enjoy. 

Meat and Marrow (Part 2)

The morning that crested through the windows of Marrowbone inn was as wet and grey as the night before. Sparrow watched the light grow with heavy eyes. He could sleep on dirt, under the stars, and through a storm. Resting last night in the inn’s common room had been impossible.

Shuffling footsteps from above the staircase pulled Sparrow temporarily from the haze of exhaustion. He pushed himself up and off his bedroll. Two of the hikers from the night before nodded to him, coming down into the common room. Neither had their packs with them.

“Heading out?” Sparrow asked hopefully. He’d slept in his clothes as he did on the road. He straightened them as he stood.

“No.” One of the hikers said curtly. Apparently the bad impression he’d made the night before had stuck. Sparrow sighed internally, and looked back towards the second floor. “Have Justine and Trevor woken up yet?” They’d been nicer about Sparrow’s refusal of the inn’s carnivorous fare.

Before either of the others could answer the innkeeper emerged from the back rooms, arms and legs first out the door, like a spider crawling from its hole. The spindly man answered before his guests could. “They left, before the sun rose. We saw them off with a small meal.”

The others looked at Sparrow as if the answer should have been obvious. Sparrow ignored their now rooted dislike. “I didn’t see them leave.” He said to the towering innkeeper now setting the table for the three of them.

“You were asleep.” The man rumbled. “They were quiet, they did not want to wake you.” He finished setting down the old silverware and straightened to his full height. Again Sparrow felt the urge to lean back from the man and his creaking limbs.

Sparrow inhaled as he looked up at the innkeeper. He’d not heard or seen Justine or Trevor last night, and the small common area left little room for them to have crept by, even if Sparrow had been capable of sleeping.

Content with Sparrow’s silence the innkeeper turned his knobbed back on them. “Breakfast is almost ready.” He folded himself under the door frame again and was gone.

Out the front windows Sparrow could see the muddy road beckoning him away. He’d stayed to wait out the night and the grasping trees, but daylight grew with each minute and the inn had proven itself dangerous. Sparrow checked his pack, still ready and undisturbed next to his bedroll. Then he turned to the other guests.

The two young hikers had settled themselves at the table, stretching the sleep from their limbs. “Something happened to Justine and Trevor. I didn’t sleep last night, no one came down those stairs.” Sparrow said softly, shooting a glance towards the kitchen door. “We need to leave, this place isn’t safe.”

Both of the guests looked at each other and then back at Sparrow. “You probably missed them. And this place is perfectly safe, they’ve been nothing but hospitable.” One said.

The other nodded. “The woods get creepy, we get it, but you’re being weird.” The two exchanged another look.

Sparrow held back a growl behind clenched teeth. This was why he traveled alone. Spiders took pains to make webs look hospitable to flies. Thick scents of cooking meat wafted from the kitchen, turning Sparrow’s stomach more than normal.

He tried again, unwilling to leave the travelers here to whatever the others had fallen to.”This place is strange though. The town is abandoned, and none of us were looking for this place, and we just happened to find it in the middle of a mountain range? Justine and Trevor are gone, I didn’t sleep last night. They never came down those stairs.”

The plea hung in the air between them, for a moment Sparrow thought they’d listen, that the two would rush up and grab their things and escape down the path into the safe expanse of the wild. But then the kitchen door opened again.

The innkeeper balanced three plates on a tray. Each was piled with thick slices of meat, the red juices seeping into the small potion of sun colored eggs. “Fresh, all of it.” The innkeeper assured them and set the plates at the table. The two other hikers turned their attention enthusiastically away from Sparrow to the offered meal.

He could have stayed, argued with the others more, but the innkeeper looked to Sparrow and gestured to the open seat with two long fingers. Sparrow shook his head and backed away. There were no livestock about, no game, and nothing delivered this deep in the mountains. Only wanderers, and the innkeepers.

Sparrow grabbed his pack. “Don’t eat that.” He said in parting to his fellow travelers. He didn’t think they would listen to him, anymore than they had before, but he said it anyway. Then Sparrow left, abandoning his bedroll in favor of haste.

Though the sun shone overhead, the path from the inn was dark.  The branches leaned over the path, creaking and settling. Sparrow swallowed the impulse to bolt, breathing in the charged potential waiting in the trees. His control failed him at the abandoned road, and he let his feet take him as far from Marrowbone inn and its empty town as they could.

Sparrow only looked back once on a crest of the road, half expecting the place to be gone like some bad dream. It was still there, through the thick grasping trees. In the distance the sun shone off the inn’s windows. The flash of it beckoned and Sparrow felt weariness grow in his bones at the sight. The inn promised a place to rest, a place to eat.

The bloody smell of the innkeepers meals still hovered about his nose. The memory of it kindled the fear in his chest, and the energy in his body. Sparrow turned his back on Marrowbone inn and kept walking.

Part 1 of Meat and Marrow went up two weeks ago, it can be found here.

Legal Theft: Rib to Rib

She liked to watch his lips as he spoke. They moved without pause and in time with his large hands. He never tripped over the smooth stream of words. Their movement was meditative.

“Following so far?” He asked kindly between sentences. His hand found its way around her shoulders, she leaned her head on his bicep. They settled deeper against the pillows, shifting so she fit against his side, rib to rib.

She smiled and nodded, still focused on his mouth. His eyes were a dull mud, his skin slightly pockmarked, but his mouth was wide and beautiful.”Your research. It is fascinating.”

“Not everyone thinks so, I’ve been called a sensationalist, a true crime author. It’s hard sometimes.” He confessed, the corner of lip twitching with a stoic unhappiness. She didn’t prompt him further, she rarely needed to. “But where was I? It’s been a month since the last body, the police are clueless. But they’ll catch him. These men are always caught eventually. Sometimes a victim gets away, or the police get something right. But it’s always because they slip, they can’t help it.”

“Why can’t they?” She asked.

He tapped himself on the forehead with his free hand, the other rested on her,  lightly tracing his fingers up her side. “They are not normal men. Advanced stages of psychopathy render them incapable of blending. Serial killers do not have the emotional intelligence to stay hidden for long. They’re notoriously narcissistic, love hearing about themselves, so much that they seek out the people who study and search for them.”

“Like you?” She drew a finger down his bare chest, following his breastbone with a neatly trimmed fingernail. It left a red trail against his pale skin. She watched it fade, and then drew it again.

“I suppose.” His chest swelled a little under her hand. “I’ve never met one.”

“You’d know?” She asked, watching him wet his lips with his tongue. There was a twitch of amusement, or perhaps annoyance at her question. She waited, holding her own breath until she felt him exhale.

“I’ve been writing on these men for years. I’d know.” He said firmly. He looked down at her, and moved a piece of her brunette hair behind her ear. Then he tweaked her chin and moved to shift himself into a sitting position.”Speaking of which, my editor is going to kill me if I don’t get some work done tonight. You know the rules. For the process.”

He looked to the door of the bedroom, but she was already sliding off the bed and searching for her clothes. She never complained about the odd hours he banished her from his loft, and he never asked where she went. She suspected he hadn’t thought to.

I am a theme thief this week, but a subtle one. Kathryn‘s opened ended prompt was gender conformity/non-conformity, I did my best to steal something. See what the rest did over at the Legal Theft Project (which I will link to when the page presents itself). 

The Little Engine Tag

I was tagged by Kate Kearney at More than 1/2 Mad for this Little Engine Tag. The picture it comes with is frightening, seemingly sentient, and mandatory.

Little_Engine.png

This thing gazed into the abyss and liked what it saw…..

Little_Engine hell

The Rules 

  1. This tag includes eight questions: six permanent, and two that change at the whim of the blogger. Do what you like with the last two when you pass this tag on.
  2. Each answer you give to a question must be more than two sentences long.
  3. At the end, tag some folks, include the picture, and post.

The Questions:

  1. What’s one of your biggest pet peeves?

In real life, when strangers needlessly sit next to me in public spaces. Seriously people, respect our culture in which physical proximity to strangers is akin to insult. This applies to public transportation, movie theaters, office meetings, and public bathroom stalls. Take one seat down and I won’t wish for your demise via fiery meteor.

In fiction, when an author decides three books in, that their previously interesting main character also needs to be a chosen one. I find it trite and usually implemented in lieu of actual character development. See also, discovers nobility and/or unique magical heritage.

  1. What is your favorite song at the moment?

Words as Weapons by Birdy

I like Birdy. But because of a very specific, very loud character, I love this song.

“I feel your knife as is goes right in
Cut to my core but I’m not bleeding
All that you say trying to make me small
Well the bigger you get the harder you fall”

Aside from that particular song, I’ve been revisiting bands I loved in high school and finding their current stuff. 17 Crimes by AFI is my new favorite.

 

  1. Who is your favorite blogger?

Anyone who doesn’t ask me this stupid question. This one made me rethink my pet peeve answer.

If I have to name someone, MindLovesMisery. Their prompts here keep me writing and have solved more than one bout of writer’s block.

  1. What’s the nicest thing you’ve seen someone do recently?

My friends took care of my dog all Sunday so I could spend Mother’s Day with my mother. Instead of simply letting Lily out and leaving, they took her to the dog beach for hours where she had a fantastic day filled with sand, lovable pitbulls, and delicious seaweed. Lily was returned to me freshly bathed and exhausted.

Freshly bathed and exhausted is one of my favorite versions of my dog. Thank you friends.

  1. What’s something you regret doing?

Forgetting my breakfast this morning. Three gourmet bagels sit on my kitchen counter. Now I am at work, bagel-less and remorseful.

  1. If you could take only three items with you to a deserted island, what would they be, and why?

A solar powered laptop, a satellite capable of receiving internet signal, and a machete.

The first two should be self explanatory. I feel no need to test the limits of my sanity via isolation. Solitude and self sufficiency can be pleasant in a small dose. However, even Thoreau took breaks. Servants brought him newspapers at the Walden cabin and Thoreau went home on weekends so that his mother could do his laundry.

The third item is explained by the simple fact that reportedly “deserted” islands are rarely that. A weapon will be handy when whomever or whatever actually lives on this “deserted” island comes to say hello.

  1.  Will you tell us some interesting animal facts?

Dogs experience a rush of Oxytocin when they gaze into their human owners’ eyes. Oxytocin is the hormone which facilitates the ‘love’ feeling humans get when they view loved ones. The feeling is mutual, and ‘gazing’ studies have been done on humans, domesticated dogs, and wild wolves.

Researchers theorize that domesticated dogs’ ancestors were specific wolves who were friendly towards humans and developed this bonding strategy as an evolutionary measure. [Science  18 Jan 2013: Vol. 339, Issue 6117, pp. 267-269 DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6117.267]

Also the American Kestrel is North America’s littlest falcon. They will often attack larger predatory birds to gain territory or protect their own. [Source]

  1. What are some tropes that just make you go “YES THAT IS MY THING”?

Vampires have been done literally *ahem* to death. But I still absolutely adore some well done vampire angst. A proper protagonist should not enjoy being a monster, and they should be a little miffed at whoever consigned them to an immortality of limited dietary options and a plethora of lace.

Tvtropes.org labels this trope as “I Hate You, Vampire Dad”, which is great.

The other trope I fall for every time is the one where enemies or rivals from either sides of a conflict must work together. If neither are happy about it, all the better.

“Fine, we’ll work together. At the very least, we’ll prove it’s a bad idea.” Black Mage

I’m tagging:

Raw Rambles. I am holding you to this. Its fun, I promise.

Lion Around Writing.  I am not holding you to this, but congrats on your 400th post, so here is a tag.

And your new questions are:

  1.  Where is your favorite place to write and why? 
  1. What makes you nostalgic?

Legal Theft: Take Two

He knocked against her with his shoulder, moving gently enough, but she pulled out of his way apologetically all the same. No one on the sidewalk noticed the exchange but the brief contact sparked something. A flinch of a glance passed between the two. The look caught and held them fast as they stared at each other. Trapped, his pulse quickened. Enlightened, her eyes widened with a soft inhale.  Then he leaned —

“CUT. Stop. Stop it.”

The extras sighed with relief, rolling their shoulders. Holding their places frozen as the world faded away around the lovers left cricks and aches. The director was already stalking into the set to confront her leads.

“Do you hate this?” She demanded snapping her fingers in front of Clifton Welch’s perfectly chiseled nose. “Because you look like you hate this. And her, you look like you hate her. You are supposed to be enthralled Jason, you look like someone is holding a gun to your head.” Clifton winced at the sound of his character’s name, but sent his co-star an ugly look. There wasn’t a gun, just a twenty million dollar contract.

Lorena Cruz pursed her lips into the shape of a smile. “I know you weren’t the first pick for this role, but you could at least look a little excited at the leftovers”

Clifton’s lip curled. The two caught each other’s eyes in another very different staring contest.

The director snapped her fingers between their noses and they both started, turning affronted frowns on her. “Kiss dammit. And maybe act like you are looking forward to it. That is your job after all, to act.” She clapped her hands, motioning to the extras who’d begun edging off set. “Trying again.”

Lorena and Clifton  went back to their marks, took deep breathes, and both tried to look like they weren’t imagining the other getting squashed by a falling electrical lights.

Not sure what I am stealing from, or who else is joining in on my little heist, but here it is. This first line is (probably) from Apprentice, Never Master and is part of the Legal Theft Project.