Alsabenya was a small restaurant not unlike very many in The Trading Network. It strived to supply halfway decent food for a marginally reasonable price. There were other shacks just like it, so it's not like it had a niche appeal or anything. It was a matter of which was closest to the customer. Which was more convenient. The hours it was opened told of a big window where Christique would be away from her home. Although, just to be completely sure of that, Secrat kept just far enough away from Alsabenya not to be detected and waited. Once he took sight of Christique's happy and smiling face, he knew he was given the clear to pay her house a visit.
She wasn't smiling though.
Her face looked frightening enough to scare a child. But the little that
Secrat Copé had in this world had been taken away from him by Christique. This included a flask, a couple of knives, and the minimalist equipment he used during heists. The equipment wasn't anything especially immaculate or intricate, hence the term 'minimalist,' and only included the bare-essentials that he needed to carry on. Both the knives he had and the equipment he used were easily replaceable. In-fact, Secrat carried more than ten knives on his person at all times, a trick he picked up in The Red Flux.
His fighting was all about stealth, thereby eliminating the necessity of heavier and slower weapons.
He'd have to make a stop at the Thieves' Network before it was all said and done, to retrieve some more particular items, but all he really needed to infiltrate Christique's abode were the means for lockpicking. These items included nothing more than an ordinary needle swiped from one of the merchant tables. A table with woven goods that was stolen with simple misdirection.
Picking the lock would prove a more treacherous feat, especially in broad daylight. The thief realized that and did his best to be as swift as he could. On his way over to her home, his eyes wandered, like somebody who was paranoid. And that's exactly how he was. Paranoid. There were a lot of folk around, and it would be difficult to break in without it being suspicious. Some of the men and women, and merchants and tradesman stared at him. He smiled in return; his hand felt down at the handle of his knife nervously. Fidgeting.
His eyes looked around at each building, and soon it was realized how little he knew about Christique's house. The night he left with her, it was dark and there were 'distractions' that kept his attentiveness diverted elsewhere. There wasn't a whole lot that really stood out about any of the buildings on this section. A casual and default form about all of them. They were sand homes. Most of them. Except for a select few that actually opted out enough to use wood or planks. Those ones looked the shabbiest and like they were damn-near ready to fall apart.
Copé scratched his head. He knew that Christique lived in one of the wooden homes but didn't know too many specifics other than that. It narrowed it down some. He also knew the general location of her house, that is, and that made things a little easier as well.
Sooner or later, Copé found himself at her doorstep, or what he was almost certain to be her doorstep. This wasn't the first time he robbed the wrong person, however. And the last time damn-near cost him everything.
He was out of options though, and worst-case scenario meant only that he'd have broken into a stranger's home. There were certainly worse things he could have done. The lock was simple, without extravagance and without sophistication, that's how most locks were. The key to lockpicking (no pun intended) was patience. A lack of patience was the only thing that could really keep a door from being picked.
The mistake in that, and the mistake in Copé's decisions is that he didn't have time for mistakes. A man fidgeting around a door would draw suspicion. If he did it fast enough, it'd look like nothing more than a man unlocking his door and going inside.
Copé walked nearer to the door. It didn't particularly feel familiar, but it was much darker before.
The main-center of the Trading Network with the tables, and the merchants, is what was most crowded, whereas the spots for living tended to thin the herd, but there were still more than a handful of people. Some of them sitting down and resting, blankets put out, and people socializing. There wasn't really a whole lot to see with the desert sands, so it wasn't much a place for tourists, not like Italina, which had a lot more scenery and romanticism.
The desert was strictly about the relationship between consumer and producer.
Secrat looked at the keyhole and readied his hand. He messed with his pin, fidgeted and tweaked, moving the tumblers up. A small mistake happened soon into his efforts, the hairpin became caught as he tried to pull it out, he succeeded.
His hand shaking more than necessary. No eyes were staring at him, and he knew that, but only under the surface, and above the surface, there was a layer of frightened dismay. A subconscious feeling that was unaware. He readied his hand again, trying to keep himself calm and focused, he moved one tumbler up and then the other. Breathing as steadily as he could.
The voices talking from behind him didn't fall on deaf ears, but he couldn't make out their words. Like buzzing coming from an annoying fly is how they sounded. Were they noticing him, or just having a discussion? The thief didn't have the answer to that, but he didn't have time to look. The time finally came as he heard the click of the door unlatch itself. He went inside.
He didn't come into the house like a man unlocking the door to his shack and coming inside, but like a man being chased like The Carvers were after him.
His back pressed against the door on the inside. His eyes wandered around the confines of the room. The wood felt warm beneath his feet. Bare. He walked further into the room and almost immediately recognized the bed.
Neatly made. Smiled at the sight. Some good memories happened there. Looked down at the ground. He was hoping the flask would be there and he'd be able to leave in a matter of seconds. That was not what happened though.
There was nothing there.
Secrat walked further into Christique's little den, admiring it with wonder. A shelf at one section filled with books. He couldn't read them, however, as they were written in a language unknown to him. It looked familiar for some reason though. It was on the tip of his tongue but none of him could say it for certain. He walked toward the books. Gathered with dust. They hadn't been touched in ages. His fingers skimmed around the spine of a few of them. His fingerprints cleaning some of the dust off. At last, his eyes left them. His interest lost.
To the side, a table, and on top of it, a pair of black gloves. He walked toward them, and in that instant, he heard a creak beneath his feet. A loose plank of wood. Copé came down to one knee and felt at it. He thumbed at it, trying to pry it free. It obliged. The gap was small and dark. His eyes could barely make out what was there. Her house must have been slightly elevated, at least by a few feet, because it led to the outside beneath. Copé eyed at the sand, and at once took sight of the flask. His flask. It stood out faintly, but he could see it. Hidden. Christique no doubt anticipated his arrival.
Secrat dropped to one knee and reached his hand down into the black until he felt sand. He reached around for it until he touched the flask. He brought it out, having the metallic feel of it in his hands gave him a feeling of nostalgia.
It was good to have it back. Even if it he was most likely going to sell it for coin.
The shine of its silver dulled by the sand, and the encrusted jewels were faint as well. The thief looked around Christique's home. Nothing else that he really needed. There wasn't anything that was worth more than one or two coin, and that just wasn't worth the trouble of finding someone to sell it to.
With that, the option of taking his leave presented itself. The wood plank fell back into its place on the floor and everything looked as it once had.
Unlike Christique, Copé didn't care about leaving a message for his opposing, all he cared about was getting his flask back, and after that, starting his life over as a thief. The flask went into his pocket, and his eyes threw themselves back over to the ebony gloves that rested on the table. He looked at them. Held them in his hands. They looked out of the ordinary for some reason, and he didn't really know why. On the top of the glove was a letter scribed in white, a big 'K' that seemed to hold some type of semblance lost on him.
The material was leather, and hard. Not exactly popular fashion in the Whispey Deserts. Back on the table, they went. The gloves had no worth to him.
The sound of the door shutting behind the thief befell his ears, causing him to stifle over himself at least momentarily. His composure regained, he turned around and saw Christique looking back at him. Not unlike how she looked when he saw her in Alsabenya, she was not smiling. Copé didn't look her in the eyes, because he knew they'd be fiery and filled with venom. Instead, all he did was stare down at his feet nervously for a second until mustering up the courage to speak:
"Hello," Copé's words didn't feel right for the moment, but they were all that he could think to say.
"Hello, yourself," Christique's voice disguised her temperament, but Secrat had a second-sense when it came to people being infuriated with him. She contained herself though. She walked nearer to him. Copé felt down his pocket for one of his knives. "You stole something of mine."
Secrat smiled. "Thief," he said, announcing his title, adding in a little bow for good measure.
"Is that right?" Christique asked. The way her voice sounded the words made it feel rhetorical. Copé held his tongue. Her feet stepped gingerly on the hardwood floor, an elegance, a certain primal aura with her movement that he hadn't noticed before. This took him aback some. He felt the handle of his knife in his hands, but before he could welcome it out of his pocket, Christique moved forward toward him fast. Her hand clutching his wrist and keeping his weapon sheathed in his leggings.
Secrat flinched but then looked Christique in the eyes at last. He could smell the scent on her. An intoxicating aroma. And he could feel the warmth of her breath on his cheek. "Can I have it back?" Christique said, leaning her face forward, the side of her face touching his.
"I'm afraid that's not possible. I do not have it." Secrat said clearly.
Christique pulled her head back from him. Slow, but distinctive enough to be noticeable. Her face distorted a moment until she went back to the restrained and somehow seductive plainness, she had been carrying herself with. She lifted Secrat's hand out from his pocket. His fingers still holding the knife in their clutches. For some reason, a reason unbeknownst to Secrat, he put up no fight against her and surrendered the knife. It was in her clutches now. She turned her back on him. This would've been as opportune of a moment as any to ready another of his knives and slit her throat from behind.
But he didn't do that. He didn't do anything.
Christique started to walk forward. Twirling around the knife in her hands. There was a sound in the stillness of it all. The sound of her brown woven boots knocking into the floor. In one hand, she held the knife. In the otherhand, she held gloves. Secrat looked down at the table. She had taken the 'K' scribed gloves while he had been distracted.
"Is there any idea of where it is?" Christique asked. Her back still turned away from him. The blade pointed upward. The gloves put away. Secrat didn't see where. Likely a pocket. Her other hand was on the door.
"I don't know," Secrat replied.
Christique let out an audible sigh as a retort. She didn't feel much like how she did at Alsabenya. Felt colder. Manipulative. In-control. As if something dormant inside of her had decided it now time to awaken.
"You followed me?" Copé asked. He already knew the answer to it. Didn't really have much reason to ask. But he wanted to keep it from being silent too long.
"It wasn't that difficult. I saw you from a mile away," she reaffirmed. "But that's all over now. Goodbye, Secrat."
Christique opened the door and began stepping out. She stepped out without any sort of haste. The door closed behind her. Copé could hear the distinctive clicking sound that the latch made.
"Goodbye," Secrat replied. Albeit, by this time, Christique was out of earshot. He didn't know where she was going, considering this was her own home, but he didn't much care either way. He let out a breath. A loud one.
It felt almost as if he hadn't breathed for the entire altercation between them. He didn't know why. But it bothered him. She bothered him. Almost intimidated him. Seduced him. He looked down at the wooden table again. He looked at the door where she left. A small tarp tapestry hung loosely over the window beside it. That struck him as odd for some reason. If only because he seemed to remember looking out at the moon the night they had spent together and there not being a curtain in-front of it. Biding his time. It was long enough now that he could leave the shack without any sight of Christique. That was good. He wanted to be as far away from her as possible.
He reached for a cigarette. Once more, it was not a taste or a feeling he enjoyed but it was a distraction. He reached for his pine sticks next. He had very few but at least some left. But when he dug deeper in his pocket, there were none to see.
Perhaps he lost them earlier in the Thieves' Network in his altercation with that girl. A sigh came after, but that was that, and he would have to come to grips. The cigarette went back in his pocket, and he went toward the door.
All at once, however, the curtains over the window became inflamed. Spreading slowly over to the door. That's what she meant by goodbye, Secrat thought to himself. Did she hang up curtains so I couldn't jump out the window? What a bitch...
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)