Copé shook his head, "Place is filled with crazies," he said, walking back over to the outside of the alleyway. Beforehand though, he once more saw The Man in the Top Hat. "Step inside!" He announced, flailing his hands for emphasis, however, as he did, Secrat caught intrigue at the back of his hand. A hangman drawing scarred his hand. A member of The Hallows.
The lady stepped inside as suggested, a playful smile on her face. The Man in the Top Hat shut the coffin-door and locked it closed. "And wallah!" The Man yelled, knocking on the front of the box.
Copé smirked, walking over to The Man as Brutus followed. The Man took sight of them and answered dryly, "She's in the future now. Out of my hands."
"Funny," Secrat replied, a small chuckle, if only at the stupidity of the woman. The Man laughed back to him. "Now open it." Copé said.
The Man with the Top Hat looked at him with disgust, that is, until he noticed The Thief held a knife in his hand, "Now," Copé added.
The Hallows were a prostitution ring in The Unprotected Wilderness out toward Urgway and Jalint, an area often frequented by Secrat. Their sex slaves were kidnapped all throughout the five major cities. Ones plucked for each customer's desires, whether they wanted to bag someone from Italina or from Jalint, they could nail either for a small price. The women were treated god awfully, and the men they kidnapped, since they were in less demand, were often killed once they served their purpose. The Woman in the coffin was almost a victim, somehow, someway.
The Man with the Top Hat obliged, though, with a frustrated look on his face, opening the box once more and letting the woman walk out of it. She walked out with a smile, looking around, "Doesn't look different," she said, laughing, clearly thinking she was 'in' on the joke.
"Very sorry, the Time Travel Box isn't working correctly," Top Hat said, handing the woman back her coin.
Copé nodded at her and walked away. Behind him, Brutus patted Copé on the back as they met the end of the alleyway. "Big softy," Ess said, "She was a good-get for him. Could've stopped by and said hello to her on your next visit."
Beyond the crowd, on the other-side of the streets, Copé noticed an antique shop in the distance, dubbed "Marlou" on a sign above the entrance. The letters were scribed with 'stylish' pzazz; it was only by luck Copé found them legible. "Over there," Secrat said to Brutus, nodding his head forward,
"Looks like the type of shop with something superfluously extravagant inside."
"Majestically digestive," Brutus mumbled, then added: "Do you think maybe we can go somewhere we don't have to travel through a sea of hostile bastards?"
"It looks like things are simmering down now," Secrat lied. An overhead view of Italina would've looked like an anthill with the residents all evacuating, but he saw no alternatives. "If we sneak in there, we might be able to snag something without anyone noticing."
Brutus Ess walked forward into the crowd. An ongoing person ran into him, but Ess seemed unmoved by it; however, the man fell down onto the marble on impact. Oh, the benefits of being large.
Secrat took the flask out from his leggings and swallowed its remainder of alcohol, which wasn't much. He followed Brutus as they twisted and turned in their attempt at navigating through the crowd. A step down off the marble walkways, the roads began; pure white dirt.
The carriages led by horses could only inch forward. That's all the crowd would allow them; a little bit at a time. Most had crates and boxes, and shops set-up in the back. Peculiar ones. Ones Secrat had never laid eyes on beforehand. Ones with second floors, for lack of a better way to describe them. Regular style carriages with doors on the side as usual, but with stairs that circled around in a spiral to the roof of the carriage for more seating and cargo space.
Copé found himself fascinated by it. All the different anomalies contrived in Italina he had never seen, growing up outside all the major cities.
Secrat and Brutus did their best to shove forward, and made many strides, halfway across the crowd before it noticeably started to disperse or relocate. Around them, they searched for an explanation for said happening and found it: several masked men on a carriage began to speak. Their voices were loud, but they didn't yell. "Ladies and gentlemen, I do hope all of you are enjoying yourselves with your festival festival festivities and many whatnots." The speaker's mask was dark-green and without eye holds, while his attire was nondescript, everyday pedestrian clothing. "All of you here, so many of you, it's ... intimidating, almost. But I knew this was the only place I could be heard." The man's voice sounded shaky and innocent; like a small boy unsure of himself.
Copé and Brutus both found themselves taken by it. "Something very bad is happening, unbeknownst to all of you!" His voice cracked and confirmed to Secrat they were hearing a young child. The boy hesitated for a second; unsure of himself. "Murderers in the wilderness!" He exclaimed, clearly expecting to induce shock. But he shocked no one. The Carvers were all too known in Maharris. Ignored, or turned a blind eye to, but known. "Members of my village were raped and murdered. Tents where a doctor would slice off a finger, if only to see what would happen. They killed my father, my mother. The Doctor, Dr. Rindan, tortured my brother!"
The boy's voice soon went silent; though, his lips continued to move when, another of the masked men, this one with a white mask, put his hand on the boy's shoulder. The boy brushed him off.
The white masked man's presence emphasized the smaller stature of the boy standing by him. “You'll have to excuse him,” the White Mask said. “We call ourselves Magnets and we are storytellers. False stories and all fiction, the best kinds of stories.”
Green Mask was pulled back by the other men in the carriage, for which he complied and did not offer up a fight.
“Something else we are is magicians, and today, we'd like to show you what the Magnets can do.”
The White Mask awaited cheers but received none; Secrat and Brutus lost interest and made way to Marlou.
“The crazies ALL attend the Aer Festival,” Brutus Ess said, stifling a laugh, and leading the way to the small antique shop.
The entrance-door was wedged open using a plank of wood, and many civilians frolicked about its confines.
“You don't believe what that one was saying?” Secrat inquired.
“What makes him crazy is thinking anyone in Italina gives a damn!” Brutus hollered, unable to suppress his laughter this time around.
Many wandering eyes amongst the store found themselves on Ess.
Meanwhile, Secrat tried to pretend they were strangers.
The store's contents were tacky in the same way as “not Azlak Temps” abode in Acera.
A statue depicting Livius Reid stood front-and-center as a main focal of the store, the 'big sell'. Reid wore slick silver armor, not unlike the knight they had seen upon entering Italina. Reid, however, had noticeable differences. His gauntlets and greaves, a dark-green, and his silver helm had a dark-green comb. The eyes were a very noticeable characteristic, bright orange diamonds that swirled and whirled like a flame. The statues' body was depicted as muscular and with broad shoulders.
The statue's creator took many artistic liberties when it came to depicting the physique of Italina's Aeonian.
Secrat eyeballed it intently until he heard the sound of a man's voice from behind him.
“It's a real beauty, isn't it? The guy who sold it to me said it's one of a set.” A woman said from behind him.
Secrat turned and made contact, young in age, the woman wore a long dress with woven intricacies. The design told The Thief she came from wealth. As compliment, she also wore large earrings with gaps in the middle and a magenta-colored scarf, same as her dress.
“It's definitely something,” Secrat said. “And you bought it?”
A smile came next. The woman had straight teeth and when she smiled, she could lit up the room. Her hair reminded Secrat of Christique, but it might have been his imagination that did it and not actual similarities.
The woman shook her head 'yes,' and continued: “The guy says those bright orange diamonds are very rare. Said the diamonds were found from a cave in the Hickly Swamps. You know how difficult it must have been to get them!?”
“Can't imagine,” Secrat replied. The woman made him uncomfortable for some reason, though, he didn't know why.
She continued to speak, but his mind found itself fluttering off and away, focused more on her person than all else. A necklace was dangled down her neck and over her bosom.
Secrat reached down in his pocket for his flask. A necklace with an emblem depicting a dragon.
“Ah,” Copé blurted out, as his flask slipped out from his hands and onto the rug beneath their feet. He stammered down awkwardly to retrieve it.
“Someone's jumping into the Aer Festival celebrations a little early, I see,” the woman said with a soft chuckle.
Once retrieving his flask, which he'd forgotten was empty, Secrat was fast back to his feet. Upon closer inspection, the necklace didn't look so much like a dragon after all, nothing like it, in-fact. Smiling nervously, “Old habits, always have to have something in my hands,” he feigned a chuckle of his own.
The woman's interest in him seemed to wane and she redirected her eyes back to the statue. Copé appreciated the fact and used it as an excuse to browse elsewhere.
He joined Brutus, who had gone off exploring the rest of the store. Ess was standing by a collection of vases, each one anchored down with bags of dirt. “Find anything exciting?” Copé inquired.
“Store's a bust,” Ess said. “All the big items are steal-proof.”
Copé tugged the neckline of shirt, certain Ess' voice would one day be the death of them both. Brutus caught wind of his discomfort and laughed.
“I have an idea, if you're willing to listen.” Secrat spoke, staring at the back of the woman's head, like she would somehow be able to overhear him.
Brutus' attention went to him. “Well then, let's hear it, boy.”
“See the woman over there?”
“The woman that turned your limbs into strings of spaghetti?”
“The very same.” Secrat said, enduring the insult without response, “She has legal possession of that statue. It'll be a day's work and more, right off the bat.”
“What are you suggesting?”
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)