Kyri took a deep breath to steady herself. This is not my day. Oh, well. Maybe once we get out of this blasted city, things will get better.
The guards noticed her approach and stiffened up accordingly. It was understandable. Even though Kyri didn't bother to actually hide her approach, she still slid through the night with no sound to betray her. Even the shadows contrived to hide her in their depths. Practice, I suppose.
"Halt! What's your purpose?" the older of the two guards called out. Kyri personally thought they looked quite nice in their navy blue and gold uniforms.
"I came to inform you that three men forced their way into my house a few moments ago! They were ranting and raving about unconscious guards."
"What sort of wife dresses like that?" the other guard's gaze was lewd and very suggestive.
"The sort that must fight to support herself and her family!" Kyri allowed just the right amount of anger to shade her tone. "I do not have a husband, so I must work for a living!"
"Forgive him, child," the older guard glared at the other. "He is young and of the higher classes. He doesn't understand our ways."
Kyri caught movement out of the corner of her eyes and smiled. "Think nothing of it, but please hurry! I don't know how long my family will be safe with them! I only just escaped."
"Sit still, daughter. These men are also wanted by us. They have harmed our fellows and for that they will hang whether it be a public or private affair," his face was dark with foreboding.
The two guards rushed off in the direction she indicated. Kyri had no problems getting out through the gates, but she still trembled at he thought of filled gallows. Her profession was not easy or especially safe. "Mieri? Mieri? Anyone?" she called softly pausing at the edge of a wood.
"Anyone?" a cheerful little voice called out.
It was that boy that had rescued Mieri. "What are you still doing here?" Rylee stepped out of the shadows. "What are you still doing here?! Haven't you caused enough trouble?"
"Nope!" Rylee grinned at her. "I figured there's plenty to keep me around. Not the least of which is a group of extremely ticked jewel guards hunting my hide."
"Oh?" the boy looked interested. "Surely you two don't go around picking pockets! I'm Karoshi by the way."
Mieri stepped out of the forest and snorted. "Not likely! At least not me. But how could you tell?"
Karoshi shrugged. "Anyone as good as you at roofwalkin' wouldn't bother with the liftin' lay."
"Wrong!" Kyri chirped happily. For once she was truly smiling at him, and Karoshi found it an intoxicating experience. "That is precisely why I am also skilled at the liftin' lay, too!"
"Huh?" Karoshi paused. "Why would you want to pick pockets?"
"Because no one who knew my profession as a house thief would ever expect it. We've never been caught; but if our work got a little dangerous, there'd be something else to fall back on."
Understanding lit Karoshi's eyes like fire. "Oh! You wouldn't even have to use a different name! The Guard wouldn't even think to look for another offense as a pick pocket! They'll be focused on t' roofwalkin'! A bit of genius!"
"Thank you!" Kyri made a slight bow. "Not many thieves can do both with any kind of skill."
"Oh?" Karoshi peeked slyly at her. "I know of a couple. Or at least one. They do work as a team. Just like you."
"Who?!" Kyri demanded hands on hips. "We might have some competition after all, Mieri!"
"Oh, I would say so!" Karoshi nodded. "These two are the best there is! They could do any bit of thievery you could want."
"Swordwork?" Mieri asked.
"Everyone says none could take them with a sword."
"Magecraft?" This was from Kyri.
"The best I've ever seen."
"You've seen them?!" Kyri actually stopped in the middle of the path they'd been following. "Where? When?"
"Oh, it must have been years ago." Karoshi stopped.
"Oh, come on! You can't leave it at that!" Mieri moaned. "Great Storyteller Karoshi, please grace us with your great storytelling prowess!"
Karoshi laughed. "Very well, fair maiden! I shall tell you the story of how I met the world's best thieves! It all started one bright and sunny day-"
"Oh do get on with it! I've had quite enough of this! I want to hear about these infamous thieves!"
Mieri laughed at her. "Just ignore her," she told Karoshi. "She gets very competitive when it comes to her chosen profession!"
"As I was saying." Karoshi continued. "I lived in a little out of the way town with my family. I had two brothers that I was pretty close with. One older and one younger. My father often helped out in the treasury, and he sometimes took us with him. This day I looked up and noticed that my younger brother was gone. He was only five at the time, so I was very worried. I told my older brother Kaleb, and we set off to find him. We did find him. He was in the street talking to two young girls. They left town, and we of course followed them. They stopped several miles out of town. A harrying journey for me, I'll have you know. I was pretty young myself. But as I was saying, when the young girls stopped, it was just this side of a huge encampment of men. There had to have been about a dozen men there. All were doing something. They were practicing swordwork, magecraft, and any number of things. It really scared me and my brother. We figured we were about to see our little brother get gutted. We were preparing to do some stupidly brave action to save him when he just trotted off towards the village. We were so shocked that we stayed a little longer. As soon as Jays was over the hill and out of sight the men disappeared. It was magic. When Kaleb and me got back to the treasury to hear our dad ranting about how we'd been robbed with us right there, we figured that the two little girls were some very good thieves. The thing is that most thieves would have slit his throat. Maybe it was because they were so young or because they were female. I don't know, but I'll always hold them in high respect and help them forever for what they did."
Mieri had been growing more and more suspicious of this boy's origin the more he talked. There was something freakily familiar with this tale."Surely not! What village are you from, Karoshi?"
"No way!" Kyri squealed. "I can't believe we found you.or you found us.or whatever!"
"You're what inspired me and Kaleb to come to the city. We saw some honorable thieves and decided we couldn't do much worse on the farm. I have twelve brothers and sisters. That farm wasn't gonna miss us much."
"Great!" Kyri threw up her hands. "We're leading small boys to a life of crime! Gods help us!"
"I'm no boy! I'm eighteen!"
"What?!" Kyri and Mieri yelped.
"I thought you were, like, twelve!" Kyri mumbled.
"That-that would make you older than us," Mieri smiled.
"Hold on!" Rylee held up his hands. "Let me get this straight. You two are how old?"
"Seventeen," both answered.
"And this happened seven years ago?" A nod confirmed this. "So at the age of ten years old, you two were robbing villages?!"
"Yep!" Kyri grinned. "We got an early start. We actually crossed the boundaries of the law at age seven."
"SEVEN?!" Rylee and Karoshi gaped at them.
"Yeah. It's not like we had a choice," Mieri muttered.
Kyri drew away. "I'd rather not go there."
"Go where?" Rylee's confused look spoke volumes.
"Somewhere you have no business being!"
"Kyri," Mieri broke in. "If they're gonna stay with us to the next town even, they're gonna find out sooner or later."
"I won't have them in our lives, Mieri! They know enough as it is! They know our identity, our physical description! They even know our names! Surely you, Karoshi, know our beginnings! You know who we are!"
"Yes, he nodded. "The Master Thieves are known to a few of our trade, but none are certain where they came from or what they really look like. Not even your sex is known."
"All the better for us," Mieri laughed. "Since Kyri won't tell you our story, I'll tell you. It does start with her personal story though, so may we continue? And I'll tell you of how the Master Thieves began."