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The Tale of a Petty Thief: Part Two


by shadowcristal

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As time went on, I learned many more things, practical things. Astralis taught me how to cook food and collect berries in the wild, the Moehog supervisor taught me how to fish and hunt and I began to associate with other members of the Thieves' Guild.

     When I arrived, I had followed Astralis blindly. Now I got to know some of the other people who were living on this little camping place. Some of them had the most innocent faces, but they would easily sell you for a small bag of neopoints. Some of them were rat-faced, but inside they were really kind. By experience and Astralis' words, I learned to trust some of them. The naive little pet that had once been was now tucked away deep in my heart. I had to be tough among the tough.

     I made progress slowly, only climbing in the ranks now and then. Contrary to my partner, I was quite content with the position that I was in. As for Astralis... Well, she got to the highest position of one of our time in a couple years.

     Sometimes Astralis would yell at me for being inattentive. Now that I had gone through the rigorous training, I had more spare time. Nice days were spent outside on a hillside, with a grass blade in my mouth. Rainy days were spent in the library. My partner would always complain about me not using my time well, but I'd just shrug it off.

     It was a nice, sunny day when we were both off our jobs. Astralis sat on the hillside, letting the wind blow through her fur. I was pondering about the mysteries of life, as usual.

     "Why do people steal?" I suddenly asked. Astralis twitched and turned around slowly, inspecting me with her sapphire eyes. Finally she opened her mouth.

     "Some people steal for fun. That's just not right. Thieving is an art, like any other." Here, Astralis' voice took a dramatic turn. "It's just like painting or dancing..."

     "But those people... Those that we steal of?" I asked. The first question had been unintentional, but I couldn't resist testing Astralis.

     "Well, they steal of other people too. Think of it like this: A shopkeeper buys from the general shops, sells it for their shop for a higher price. Don't they swindle from people, who can buy from the general store cheaper than from a user shop?"

     I thought about it. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

     Suddenly Astralis' eyes turned dark and a cloud covered the sun. She looked at me for a moment, her face serious. When she spoke, it was not the normal, cheerful voice.

     "I am a thief. I steal to live. And live to steal. That's the thief's moral."

     "Really?" I asked, for this was something new to me. "Really... Steal to live, that's right... And live to steal..." I realized that I had gotten sight of what a thief really is.

     "Think about that," she said.

     The conversation ended there, on that bright, breezy sunny day which had turned a little bit cold. But when I look back at it, I think that it was a very important thing - understanding the thief. I understood that it was exciting and fun and all that, but underneath it was a seriousness and a pride that could match the pride of any other occupation. The true thief steals to live. And he dedicates his whole life to steal.

     -

     One day, Astralis came with a sudden notion about hitting the big one. I thought it was just one of her usual fancies, but she didn't drop the idea for long. Curious, I questioned her.

     "What's the 'big one'?" I asked the bright-eyed Zafara sitting beside me.

     "You know pirates?" Astralis asked me.

     "Of course. Our cousins of the sea."

     "Well, pirates, they dig up a buried treasure. There's probably a legend of the biggest treasure that hasn't been dug up and it's every pirate's dream to get it. That's what the 'big one' is."

     "Well, what is the 'big one' for thieves?" I asked, noting the sudden change of subject.

     Suddenly Astralis looked somewhat shy and confused. "I don't know," she admitted. "But I'll definitely find... I mean, steal it someday!"

     "And there are others who believe in that?" I asked, amused.

     "Yeah. We all do, like the way pirates believe in that treasure."

     I realized that it was something special, that belief. From that day on, I started to believe too. After all, I was a thief, and a pretty good one at that.

     -

     The thief's life is filled with excitement and fun. Nights consisted of missions, ordeals, games (if one was on break). Days were filled with training, sleep and other interesting things.

     When I saw a determined Astralis walk up to the leader on one of those normal, routine days, I realized that something was different.

     I saw her talking, and heard fleeting words such as 'break', 'permission', 'adventure' and more. Suddenly I realized what Astralis was doing! I jumped up and checked my tent. I was right! My bag was packed and ready to go...

     Someone tapped my shoulder. I turned around and saw Astralis, holding her knapsack and grinning like an idiot.

     "I did it!" she said, grasping my hand with excitement. "We get to go adventuring to find the big one!"

     Filled with happiness, we left the camp. Astralis thought that the big one was somewhere in Meridell. Why else would Skarl and Darigan fight so obsessively with each other, and twice on top of that?

     The first days were rough. There were no campfires to sing songs around, no other souls and no jobs. We had to get our own food, sometimes from small villages along the way.

     But the sights were worth it. It was wonderful to wake up in a forest, with my fur damp and wet. The glittering dewdrops and the birds greeted me every morning. Sometimes I would even see a waterfall or another wonder of nature.

     During the long trip, our feet got sore, but they healed quickly. I was training my condition in a way that I hadn't before, not even in the thieves' camp. Astralis always managed to find just enough food to still our hunger.

     Soon, we reached the fair land of Meridell. We had to search for a few days before we found it - the big one.

     It was Astralis who found it first. I was drinking from a little river when she nudged me and pointed up. What my partner had seen was a big, gray castle with a single black tower. There were no flags, and the stone looked torn and aged. Plants ran across the walls, covering most of the gray.

     "There must be something valuable in there," she whispered. She was right. The castle was very well hidden, among the crowns of tall trees and vines. If it had not been for the tower, we might've ignored it and gone on.

     "That has to be the big one," I replied as I finished drinking.

     This time, I was better. I was a good thief now. I did no longer make beginner mistakes like stepping on a branch or ramming into stones. We slowly snuck to the castle. The big iron doors were locked, as expected.

     "Let's climb up," Astralis suggested. I nodded. It was the best thing to do.

     As I clung to the vines, fearing for my life, we heard some noises.

     "There's someone inside. Of course... It is the big one, after all," Astralis muttered for herself.

     I only dared to look down once, and it took all of my willpower to not scream. When we finally got on the castle and off the vines, I felt my beating heart slow down. The few past days' boredom had not prepared me for such a heart-racing thing such as this.

     We moved along the wall to the tower, but had to stop and hide twice because of guards. The whole castle was bigger than it had seemed.

     "Do not walk in the light, but wander in darkness," Astralis murmured, quoting 'Thieves' Guild Survival Guide'.

     She dove into an underground tunnel. I followed her reluctantly, not being able to see well. The damp air made me want to throw up, but we continued. Soon we were at the underground door of the tower.

     "What do you know, it actually worked!" my partner said as she used her tool to open the lock. It was child's play for her, and soon we were inside the tower.

     All this time, I had this sensation of someone watching us... "Isn't this too easy?" I asked Astralis, hoping that this was for real.

     Astralis nodded. "But we can't stop now for that..." She didn't get to finish as two ice guardians appeared out of nowhere and blocked our way.

     "We'll have to fight," I commented. "Too bad knives won't work." Astralis, ever so quickly, took out a Honey Potion and threw it at the guardians. The two guards melted to honey as we continued.

     One step. Two more. Two steps. Four more. Soon Astralis grew bored of throwing items and opening doors.

     "I thought that the big one would be more exciting," she said as we reached the last stair.

     This was it. We played rock, paper, scissors and I won. I got to be the lab rat for whatever that was waiting. Each step up the last stair was painful. One step, a burning sensation in my feet. Another step, like walking through syrup. It was obvious that it was magic, and no tricks would help here. I heard some noises of discomfort as Astralis left the last step, which was an icy blizzard.

     The door to the top of the tower was not locked. I pushed it gently and the old oak door opened easily. Inside was a black book on a table. Around the book was a wall of shimmering light.

     "Just great. More magic." Astralis groaned quietly. "I hate magic stuff like this."

     I decided to give it a try, even though it probably wouldn't work. I was just about to stick my hand into that colorful wall when a cold wind blew through the room and we both froze to ice. A loud voice boomed.

     "Think you can steal my spellbook, eh?" It called out. The voice was deep and powerful, with an undertone of the howls of Werelupes in it. "Sure, it may be the big one, but it's not time for you youngsters yet."

     "Who are you?" Astralis called out.

     There was an evil laugh, and then a regular one followed. The voice said, "That you don't need to know. But what you shall know is that it is not time yet. You still have duties and things to do before hauling the big one in. Let's end this now and call it a draw."

     "No way!" my partner protested, somewhat disappointed. We had both anticipated of getting the big one, but now it was slipping out of our hands like a wriggly fish. I had expected there to be some great thing behind the last door, but a voice?

     "We're not on a goose chase here," I said. "We're here for the real deal."

     "Well, you won't get it," the voice boomed. It sounded annoyed. Somehow I knew that this wasn't the time. The easiness, the lifeless minions... I realized that it was all a game, and that the voice was moving all the chess pieces.

     "You're both formidable opponents, but let time run before getting it. It has been fun, so why don't you go home?" The voice didn't wait any longer, and immediately a tornado whipped us away. Then it all turned black.

     -

     I woke up days later, and remembered the adventure instantly. I looked at the sleeping Zafara beside me. Her face wore a frown of disappointment, but she held a page in her hand. I looked at my hand and saw a page of a book in there too. I realized that it was from the spellbook.

     I smiled. All of our efforts hadn't failed at all, and I had learned yet another lesson of thieving - don't take everything for granted, the tables could turn anywhere, anytime.

     "I'm very disappointed," Astralis said. She was awake.

     "Well, I guess it wasn't time. But at least now we're guaranteed another haul at the big one."

     "And I thought I knew enough already," she said, the disappointment showing in her voice.

     "I don't think we can ever learn enough..." I trailed off.

     Silence. After a moment, my partner spoke.

     "Do you know what the most exciting thing was? It wasn't the book, or even the big one. It was just the excitement running through your body, going through the last door and knowing that you did a good job... That was the best of it, thieving itself."

     "And that's the meaning with thieving," I said wisely, teasing her.

     "Yeah. The way of the thief..." Astralis smiled, frowned and then added, "But I'm still quite disappointed."

     "There will be another time," I said.

     "I guess that makes it all right!"

     -

     And that concludes my tale. I have done many other great deeds, but the most memorable was my hunt for the big one. Any thief, big or small, should believe in their own abilities and try their best. Many thieves will follow, and they'll find their own great 'big one'.

     Thieving is like other things. It's a thing that a proud thief should enjoy. Steal to live. And live to steal.

The End

 
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