He did not live the life of luxury.
For Stan, it had always been a daily struggle just to feed himself. It was not an admirable life, by most standards, but it was one he had made for himself.
Here in the heart of the Lost Desert, the Sakhmetian sun shone fiercely upon the city's ancient stone walls. The Kyrii rested in the shadows that fell beneath them, carefully planning his next move.
Ten paces away, a threatening palace guard patrolled the perimeter of the very wall the Kyrii hid behind, a menacing glimmer in his eye.
It was a harsh life, he supposed, filled with danger and suspense at every turn. Surely he'd seen more adventure in his short life than any of the palace servants would see in their entire lifetimes.
And yet, he had no regrets about the choices he had made. As far as Stan was concerned, as long as he had the freedom to make his own choices, he was content with life. It wasn't easy, by any means, but it was a life that he was proud of, regardless of what anyone else thought of him.
To the palace guards, he was a menace, another defiant vagabond that needed a stern lesson and a trip to the palace dungeons. To the citizens of Sakhmet, he was an unnecessary frustration, a petty thief who stole the hard-grown ummagines from the fruit-vendors' carts.
He was just another kid on the streets, they had said about him. Surely he wouldn't last long in the city, give up and go home, back to wherever he had come from. Perhaps he'd return to become a palace servant, they'd wondered, once he'd sorted out his priorities.
He had lasted longer than any of them had ever expected.
He had not started out a rebel. Not the danger-defying rascal that had proven himself to be Sakhmet's most notorious vegetable bandit.
He'd been just a scared little kid, alone in the world and scared to death of the tough-looking guards that had come after him. He could recall the many sleepless nights spent hiding on the low rooftops of the city's poorest buildings, scanning the streets below for any sign of the Elephantes' heavy footsteps.
Since then, life had changed. He had changed. And although the sight of an Elephante guard no longer struck pure terror into his heart, it was still enough for him to instinctively start running in the opposite direction.
They weren't the smartest of species, but he had to give the Sakhmetian guards some credit – they could move at incredible speeds when they wanted to.
Luckily he'd picked up a few tricks that had saved him a few trips to the palace dungeons.
There had been some close calls in the past, he'd admit. After successfully swiping a juicy puntec fruit from a vendor's cart, Stan had once blindly run through the city's labyrinth of twisting streets in order to lose the guard on his tail.
He'd had the misfortune of turning into one the many dead-end alleys. There, with his back pressed against the rough stone wall, two guards blocking the only exit, Stan was sure he'd been caught. He could see the whites of the guards' eyes as they moved toward him, sporting identical wicked scowls. Yet somehow, he'd managed to escape. Instinct had kicked in and set the wheels of his daring escape plan in motion.
Being quick had helped, though being quick between the ears was far more useful, as he'd always told himself.
As long as he could think faster than the guards could run, he'd be fine. It didn't take much to outwit a pair of them anyway.
Though if there was one thing Sakhmet was known for – besides its unfortunate location in one of the hottest spots in Neopia – it was for its impeccable dedication to enforcing order among its citizens.
Few dared to openly provoke the city guards. Most didn't have a reason to. They kept the peace around these parts, kept the rule-breakers and offenders in their place. Folks liked the sense of security that the brought, and were proud of their authorities.
Of course most of them were Sakhmet's richer citizens.
It didn't take a genius to figure out why. It was the rich that had the most at stake. They locked their valuables in giant stone safes, far from the prying eyes of thieves.
It was in the poorest part of the city that crime and thievery thrived. Here where the citizens had little more than the ragged shirts on their backs was where anyone up to no good was likely to be seen.
Members of the Thieves Guild often held their secret underground meetings here. In the basements of abandoned, boarded up taverns, no one would bother them. Nobody ever noticed that they had even been there.
It was in these parts of the city that rebellion was most likely to occur. People who were unhappy with their lives, their neighbours, with the way their city was run; they were the ones most likely to turn to crime. But the guards didn't care. As long as they stayed out of the nicer parts of the city, the thieves were left alone. The Elephante guards had much higher priorities – of maintaining order in the richer part of Sakhmet. After all, those who had nothing had nothing to lose.
Stan was one of those who dared to enter venture into their territory. It wasn't so much about the thrill of the adventure, as much as it was a means of survival.
Every thief had their own reasons for choosing the lifestyle they lived.
Many of the thieves he had known in his lifetime were the adventure seeking type, and did it just for the risk of obtaining a stolen reward. Some were after rebellion, of causing as much chaos and disruption as they could possibly get away with. The Thieves Guild had welcomed all of them in, proven that they could verify their value to the Guild.
Stan had never taken much interest in the doings of the others. He didn't care much for causing chaos and disruption. He'd occasionally be tempted to snatch the odd coin or gem if he had a chance, but it was not in his nature to plan elaborate heists.
The Kyrii's existence was far simpler than that. All he really wanted from life was the chance to be free to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes that Sakhmet had to offer.
Life hadn't turned out to be quite so simple. Stan had had the misfortune of being born among the poorer class of citizens. Knowing full well that the existence he dreamed of was far out of his reach; he'd fled to the streets, and taken to a life of petty crime.
The fruit was always sweeter on the other side of the city. Of course, that meant a greater challenge to obtain it.
He was happy with the way that his life had turned out. He didn't have much, but to him, it didn't really matter. He had done his best with the cards that life had dealt him, and in the end was pleased with the result.
Others might not envy him. They might not respect him. But all had to admit, he was rather good at what he did.
He was Stan – The Ummagine Thief.