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Stolen from Chaos

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Hendandra watched the three men closely as she slipped through the crowd. Her small stature made it easy for her to go unnoticed by those around her. Most people thought she was a child at first glance and many never registered the daggers or rapier she wore at her side. She ignored several money pouches on the people she passed as she approached her marks; there was no need to risk drawing unwanted attention to herself at this point.

Two smaller men, both wearing robes, flanked the large burly man in ring mail carrying a large sword across his back. The cut of the silver-gray robes worn by the oldest of the pair, along with the staff he carried marked him as a mage in her mind. This was the one she was after. His robes were of a finer cut than others she had seen this day and his dark brown hair and beard were neatly trimmed. All signs he was doing well. That he seemed to have a bodyguard with him was also a sign of a fat purse. The other was dressed in simple black robes, and carried no obvious weaponry though he moved with the grace of a dancer.

She leaned against a nearby post as she continued to study the three men. The mage was the oldest of the group and she would guess the one with the sword as being at least ten to fifteen years younger. He was clean-shaven, though his black hair was in disarray and the ring mail he was wearing had seen better days. She glanced at the scabbard on his back as they walked past her and frowned. No matter his appearance, the scabbard looked to be well cared for.

The one in the black robes was only a few years younger than the one with the sword, though his face was also clean-shaved and unlined; which made him seem much younger. It was his dark blue eyes that betrayed his age. There was wisdom in those eyes as they met hers briefly. She smiled and he turned his attention away from her. She frowned as she looked again at his robes, there appeared to be other colors woven into the material. Colors that shifted and changed as the material moved. Very unusual, she thought.

The trio paused in front of one of the small shops that carried magic items and components for sale. They talked briefly and she pressed back into the shadows to watch them.

After a few moments, the one with the sword and the unarmed man nodded and headed to one of the taverns a few buildings down. The mage entered the shop and she silently moved from her spot to stand at the corner of the building where she could watch for him when he exited. She risked a quick glance at the other two as they left then turned her attention back to the door of the shop.

Hendandra didn’t have to wait very long before the shop door opened and the gray robed man stepped out. She took several quick steps past him then tripped on a “loose” stone, falling against him. “Your pardon, My Lord,” she said bowing her head respectfully as she slipped his pouch from his belt.

He nodded, stepped back to allow her to pass then spoke very softly. “Your skills are good, but not good enough. If you do not wish me to alert the guardsman across the way, you will accompany me to the tavern. Perhaps, you will be willing to earn that pouch you have stolen from me.”

Hendandra turned and nodded. She forced a smile as he took her hand to escort her.

~ * ~

“Falden, I knew you would eventually find one of the girls in this town to your interest,” the man in the ring mail said as Hendandra and her escort sat down.

The other man slapped the other on the shoulder. “Etewyn, behave yourself,” he said harshly. “Falden, what are you up to?”

“I caught her trying to take my money pouch,” he said.

“Then call one of the guardsmen. We have other business to attend to.”

“Actually, Bukon, I believe she may be of use in our endeavor. If it wasn’t for the alarm spell I placed on the pouch, she would have gotten away with it.”

“You’re good, little one,” Etewyn said. “I believe you’re the first to ever succeed in taking Falden’s purse.”

“Would you be interested in a job?”

“Depends on the job and the pay,” Hendandra said. “I don’t take jobs where I know I have no chance of succeeding.”

The three men laughed. “And, yet, you attempted to pick the pocket of a mage. There are many who would claim that was an unwise move with a high chance of failure,” the mage said.

She smiled. “Many would indeed make that claim. And it is precisely because of that kind of nonsense I am able to successfully target many mages.” She picked up the cup of water the server sat on the table and waited as the rest of the drinks were served before continuing. “You see, most mages believe the stories also and think the pick pockets of Raspa are too afraid to attempt to rob them and therefore do not take the precautions necessary to make the stories true.”

“Now, that is an interesting assessment,” the mage paused and glanced down at her.

“Hendandra,” she said.

“Hendandra. A beautiful name for a lovely woman,” Falden said. “I am called Falden and my companions are Etewyn and Bukon.” He nodded to the fighter and the other man in turn.

Hendandra nodded politely to each of them then turned her attention back to Falden. “You said something about a job? Care to explain?”

“I have been directed by Rhyra to recover some items stolen from her temple by a group from Ballan’s temple. The artifacts are currently being held at the Dark Goddess’s temple here in Raspa,” Falden said.

Bukon looked around the almost empty room then leaned closer. “From what we have been able to learn, the artifacts will be taken to Malavar at the end of the week to be destroyed in a ceremony at the High Temple. My friend Etewyn and I were also hired by Falden to help with the recovery. Having you along will definitely be an asset; if you agree to help us.”

Hendandra looked at each of the men in turn and nodded once. “The temple of Ballan will contain many traps and secrets, in keeping with her nature. I am willing to help,” she paused and looked at Falden, “depending on the fee. To enter one of Ballan’s temples to take back something she had taken from Rhyra is a very dangerous proposition and it is not one I will undertake lightly. I will require an upfront payment of two new sets of lock picks,” she paused, glanced at his robes again and smiled. “The highest quality you can obtain. Negotiation of the final fee will take place after the job is completed and I see just how dangerous it became and the value of what we recover for your goddess. Replacement of any equipment expended or damaged is automatic—-no negotiation. Do you agree?”

“You expect me to agree to a fee that will not be decided until after the job is done with what can be a very expensive and unnecessary replace your equipment clause. I’ll find a better deal at the guild.” Falden stood up and the other two followed him.

Hendandra waited until he was three steps away from the table and jingled the purse she held in her hand. “And how do you expect to pay the guild without your purse?”

Falden spun around to face her. “You are treading on dangerous ground, Hendandra.” He stopped as Etewyn placed a hand on his shoulder. “Very well, I agree to your terms, little one. I assume you have a shop you deal with on a regular basis for the equipment you have requested.”

She smiled and tossed the mage his purse as she bounced out of the chair and led the men out of the tavern and down the street to the shop.