To Catch A Thief.

© 1997, Foxy.

It was a cold, wet night, as the bedraggled figure made her way through the winding, cobbled streets, zig-zagging across the roads, to avoid the largest of the puddles.
"Of all the days to be without money", thought Violette, as she paused momentarily under a welcoming wooden awning, escaping the downpour.
She brushed dripping wet glossy black hair from her muzzle and checked her purse once again. Two old copper pieces fell out into her palm. She shook her head with a sigh. Two copper pieces wouldn't buy anything in this cursed town. It seemed her luck had finally come to an end.
Suddenly she caught a movement out of the corner of one eye. The vixen dropped into a crouching position, her paw instinctively drawing one of the small daggers she kept concealed in her boot.
"Who goes there ?" She demanded, squinting her eyes to try and see the stranger.
"Who I am is of little importance", came the reply, a harsh, guttural male tone.
"It is to me", Violette continued, with a slight growl, "I always like to know the names of those I kill."
There was a brief moments pause, followed by a laugh.
"Come, come, Violette of Ishtar, I am here to make you a business deal."
Violette's ears pricked at the thought of money. "Then step closer, so I can see you."
The man walked into view, a broad, muscular figure, fur a midnight black. He was dressed in simple black leather armour, and held a small hand crossbow trained upon her, much like the one she carried slung over her shoulder, only of better craftsmanship.
The vixen thief pegged him instantly for a bounty hunter, not one to be trusted.
He smiled, revealing a row of sharp teeth. "This miserable night is no place for talk. Come, let us retreat to a tavern I know and I shall discuss this in more detail with you."
If you're paying, I'll listen", Violette replied, following her would-be employer.

The pair were soon sat in a dark corner of the Crossed Swords tavern, a seedy run-down inn tucked away down a littered alleyway. Violette shivered a little, despite the warmth of the roaring log fire, as she sipped her mug of warmed ale.
"So what exactly do you wish me to do ?"
The black panther grinned again. "My name is Faranor. I represent a certain nobleman of good standing in these parts. He has instructed me to find a suitable partner to retrieve an object he desires."
Violette nodded. "What's in it for me ?"
Faranor laughed. "Ah! Ever the opportunist!"
He threw a small pouch onto the table. "Two hundred fifty gold crowns. Count it if you like."
She blinked. Two hundred and fifty crowns was more than she was likely to see in months.
"Two fifty now, a further such sum on completion. Take it or leave it."
The vixen's paw concealed the pouch as she slid it from the table.
"Okay, what do I have to do ?"
Faranor paused for a moment, then lowered his voice, "My lord requires a certain object of religious background. He wishes for you to steal the Statue of Light."
Violette blinked, stunned, before she blurted out, "The Statue of Light ?"
Several of the inn's patrons glanced curiously over at her.
"Lower your voice!" Hissed Faranor.
"Steal the Statue of Light ?" She repeated, in a quiet voice, noting the glances, "Many have tried, but none have ever survived."
"Exactly", replied the panther, draining the last of his ale, "but those others were but amateurs. What fame would await he ", he coughed, as Violette narrowed her eyes, "or she who could achieve such a feat !"
The vixen pondered for a moment.
Faranor continued, "Much as it pains me to acknowledge this, you're the best thief in these parts. You know this, I know this.. isn't it about time everyone gave you your due credit ?"
Something flashed in her purple eyes, and he knew he had her. Trapped by her own ego, she had no choice but to accept.
Violette slammed her empty mug down on the table.
"I'll do it !" She hissed.
He smiled. "I thought that might be your reply. Midnight, the Street of Traders. Be there."
With that, he slipped from his seat, leaving her on her own to contemplate exactly what she had just agreed upon.

The streets were wet with rain as Violette made her way to the meeting point, staying in the shadows. The only people liable to be out after dark here were fellow mercenaries and thieves, the City Guard having long ago left the streets at night to such trades.
As she rounded the corner, she nearly bumped into Faranor, crouched low against the wall.
He pulled her down beside him and pointed.
"There", he whispered, "you see the guards at the entrance to the temple ?"
Violette nodded, backing into the shadows a little more to avoid being spotted.
"I'll sneak around the other side", the panther continued, "when I give my signal, you take the guard on the left, understand ?"
Violette nodded again, "What signal do I look for ?"
But before she could finish her question, Faranor had disappeared into the night. The vixen thief carefully moved forwards, towards the temple entrance, crouching low to the ground. Without a sound, she slipped a dagger from her boot, and opened a pouch on her belt. As the guard whistled tunelessly no more then ten yards away, Violette carefully removed a tiny vial, unscrewed the lid and dropped a few drops of a foul smelling, green liquid onto the blade.
Suddenly, a flash of metal caught her gaze, a brief gleam from the other side of the temple entrance. Violette took a deep breath, leaping forwards from her hiding place, reaching the guard in one fluid movement. Before he could even respond, her left arm wrapped around his neck, paw covering his mouth.
The second guard dropped beside her, a surprised look on his face, two small crossbow bolts tearing into his neck, blood splattering the ground.
Faranor emerged from the darkness, in time to see his accomplice thrust her dagger upwards into the guard's chest, twisting it cruelly, a look of evil pleasure on her face. She yanked the dagger backwards, sending the body slumping to the floor, lifeless.
"Nice technique", grinned the panther.
Violette glared. "More than can be said for you! What if you'd missed ?"
He grabbed her arm and drew her close, smiling a toothy grin. "I never miss."
Faranor padded silently up the entranceway steps.

"Now come.. we've a good five minutes before anyone raises the alarm." Violette nodded and settled into a fast walk behind him as they entered the temple. The pair kept a steady pace up, Violette just behind Faranor as they descended further into the temple.
It seemed deathly quiet, almost unnaturally so, as though some divine power was daring them to make a sound.
Suddenly Violette's keen hearing picked up the sound of footfalls. Ears pricked, she pulled him back just in time, as a precession of white cloaked monks trudged wearily past the narrow corridor they were in. She drew a sigh of relief, as they passed by, leaving the pair undetected.
Faranor glanced quickly round the corner. "That must be the prayer hall and resting place of the statue", he murmured, pointing to a room at the end of the main corridor.
"How can you be so sure ?" Violette muttered, looking both ways down the corridor.
"The monks pray there five times a day", explained the panther quickly, striding towards the room, Violette in tow, "that was the prayer procession we just avoided."
She glanced about, making sure they hadn't been seen, then entered the room.

The chamber she entered was quite unlike anything she had expected to see. The entire floor was covered in hundreds of marble slabs, each about the size of two average sized feet, many baring strange glyphs and characters. In the very centre of the room stood an ornately carved marble dias, and resting on this, the objects of their desires, the Statue of Light.
The statue was an incredible carved figurine of the Goddess Arcana, the winged unicorn deity of light and order. Her hands were raised above her head, a sword held aloft, her wings outstretched behind her as though in flight.
The scene took her breath away, to think, the mere civilians of the city were forbidden entrance to the temple itself!
Faranor's voice quickly brought her back to her senses one more.
"Quickly. Do your stuff and get me that statue! I'll stand guard at the door."
"Typical," she thought, "as soon as our mission becomes difficult, it's all up to me."
Violette slowly circled the room, staying at the very edges. She ran a paw along the wall beside her, noticing the many small, cylindrical holes that had been bored every few feet along. No doubt some form of arrow traps. These were nothing new to her in her travels, although the sheer number of them posed a problem.
She warily circled inwards, towards the marble plinth, until she stood almost directly in front of it. It was then that she heard the quiet rumbling sound. It was almost beyond her hearing, but it definitely seemed to be coming from beneath where she stood. Casting a worried glance downwards, she saw she was standing on one of the marked tiles, inscribed with an image of what appeared to be the sun. Her heart skipped a beat as she hastily stepped backwards onto an unmarked tile. For what seemed an eternity, Violette stood rock still. Then, the sound ceased.
Faranor cast a glance over at her. "Hurry up!" He snapped, "We don't have much longer until we'll be discovered!"
Violette glared back, then carefully made her way back to the side of the raised dias, admiring how the room had been laid out. It was impossible to reach the statue from any of the plain tiles, whilst standing on the marked tiles caused the sound from beneath the floor, which she didn't want to discover the nature of.
Gingerly she leaned over, drawing her paw back suddenly with an exclamation of surprise.
"Now what is it ?" Growled Faranor, casting anxious glances down the corridor.
"Fire ward", Violette murmured, blowing on her fingers to try and cool them.
She shook her head, momentarily lost in thought. So, the statue was guarded with a fire ward, protected at all angles by blow darts, some form of underground security.. and not to mention, there was a pressure pad directly underneath the statue itself.
Then suddenly, something triggered inside her, and she walked casually back to Faranor.
The panther just stared at her. "What the hell do you think you're doing ? Get over there and fetch me my statue!"
Violette threw her head back and laughed. "Get it yourself! This is worth far more than a measly five hundred gold crowns."
Faranor's expression turned to a snarl of rage and he lashed out, sending her reeling, head smacking against the wall.
"Useless bitch!" He growled, "And to think I thought you were the best. Just watch me fetch the statue!"
With this, he quickly padded over to the dias.
Violette's paw reached gingerly to her head, rubbing delicately at where she had struck the wall, eyes focussing unsteadily on Faranor. She almost cried out a warning, but then her purple eyes narrowed and she spat on the ground beside her. Leave the fool to his fate!
Faranor's look of delight as he grabbed the statue turned to one of surprise, as tendrils of smoke began rising from his hands.
"Wh.. what's happening ?" He blinked in confusion and anger.
As he lifted the statue above his head, there was a loud click as the pressure pad lifted. A sudden whistling sound was briefly heard, deadly blow darts firing from the holes in the wall, smacking into his chest and back with sickly thudding sounds.
His eyes wide, Faranor whirled to face Violette. Before he could utter another sound, the painted tiles beneath his feet gave way, and a cruelly sharpened metal spike thrust up beneath him, piercing through his boot and leg in turn. The panther double over in pain, blood pouring from the wound, leaving a scarlet pool on the marble. His paws burning, the statue slipped from his grasp, landing on the floor and shattering into hundreds of pieces.
Violette groggily got to her feet, stumbling over to Faranor.
"Gods.. Violette... help me!" He cried, futiley grasping at the shattered fragments of the statue.
Suddenly she detected a faint odour in the air. Looking upwards, the vixen saw curling whisps of gas seeping into the room through small holes in the ceiling. She collapsed down beside Faranor, legs momentarily giving way.
The magical fire had spread to his arms now, the smell of burning fur strong around the pair of them.
"Please!" He whimpered, gasping for every breath, "Why do you hesitate ?"
A million thoughts raced through her mind. She couldn't possibly free him. The spike had driven all the way through his leg, and by now, the guards would be on their way here. She could simply kill him now and be done with it.
Violette squatted beside the doomed Faranor. "Listen you," she hissed, "I've risked my life here, and for what ?"
She kicked the largest piece of the statue to him. "For a lousy fake statue, and two hundred and fifty lousy gold crowns."
Drawing her dagger, she reached over to him.
"Wha.. what are you doing ?" Faranor gasped, coughing up blood.
"Just claiming my extra money," Violette sneered, "after all.. you have your precious statue now."
With that, she quickly cut the string to his money belt and thrust in into a fold in her cloak.
Suddenly, with a grating sound, a metal portcullis began to descend from the doorway. Violette looked up in alarm, covering her muzzle with the back of her paw, the gas beginning to make her feel light-headed.
"You can't... leave me here!"
She scrambled to her feet. "Oh no ? Just watch me!"
The vixen sprinted to the door, hitting the floor in a roll as the portcullis sealed the room behind her.
Violette got to her feet, dazed, struggling down the corridor.
Suddenly, she heard voices from ahead. "Call the guards! We've an intruder in the temple!"
The thief cursed her luck, and quickly stumbled for the nearest door, darting inside and closing it, just as two robed figures ran past.
The room she found herself in was dark and musty. As she cast a glance around, she groaned in despair, seeing a line of white robes against the far wall. Then, she blinked again, realising they were empty robes hanging up, and not initiates.
Without hesitation, she grabbed the nearest one from its hook, slipping the loose, woollen gown over her clothes, and pulling the hood down as far as it would go over her face. Violette took a deep breath to steady her nerves, and stepped outside, almost bumping into the two men she had avoided only moments before.
For a moment there was an uncomfortable silence, then, head bowed, she murmured, "Peace be to you in this time of darkness", stumbling over the words as she struggled to remember them from her tuition many years ago.
"Eh ? Oh, peace be to you my Sister. May our path ahead be lightened by the strength of our souls", replied one of the initiates, a little distractedly.
"Tell me, Sister", the other figure prompted, "have you seen any strangers recently ?"
Violette gulped, and slowly she nodded. "I.. I have, Brother." She whimpered, trying her best to sound frightened, "I was disturbed in prayer by a strange man whose clothes and fur were as dark as this night."
The two figures turned their backs on her briefly, conversing in hushed tones. For a moment, she thought they had seen through her disguise.
Then then first figure laid a reassuring paw on her shoulder. "Have courage, little Sister. And be assured, such enemies of the light shall not defile our sacred place again."
She nodded, stammering, "Tha.. thank you Brother."
Violette turned, almost pre-occupied in the thought they had found what remained of Faranor, and whats more, believed her story.
The two initiates stared at her. "Sister...?"
She hastily turned, broken from her train of thought.
"May you both walk proudly in the path of light." She said with renewed confidence.
The initiates bowed their heads and replied in unison, "You too Sister."
With that, they turned and walked away, quietly talking.
Violette slowly shuffled in the opposite direction, heart pounding in her chest. As soon as they rounded the corner and were gone from sight, she quickly stripped off the robes, thanking her deity, Ri'narr, God of Thieves, that Arcana allowed the mingling of male and female initiates in holy places, and fled from the temple into the safety of the dark city streets.

A few hours later, Violette lay gazing up at the stars, head resting on an old fallen tree, laying at the front of the forest on the outskirts of the city. A small fire cracked beside her, offering a little warmth and security from any wild predators.
By now, she figured, life in the temple would be back to normal. Faranor's body would have been disposed of, and no trace she had ever been there would remain, save but for two initiates' memories of a female novice.
She laughed, shaking her head. No doubt, Faranor had been lying. He had probably thought to kill her and flee with the statue himself, taking all the glory as he returned it to his noble employer.
Suddenly, her thoughts turned to the money. Of course! She reached inside her robes, removing the small, heavy pouch. Long gone were the nights spent in jail, followed by the cold shame of the pillory for her crimes. Here was she, with five hundred gold crowns to her name!
Why, that sort of money would buy many a tavern room and many fine flagons of ale in her travels, without so much as having to work for months!
She laughed out loud again, opening the contents of the pouch onto the ground beside her, then blinked in disbelief.
On the moist grass lay ten copper coins, and a bent, tarnished silver piece.
Violette growled in frustration. "No! Damn you, Faranor!"
She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, leaning back against the tree stump beside her.
Ah well.. two hundred and fifty gold crowns was good for one nights work, at the very least.
She shook her head, pondering the events of the evening, remembering the greed of the panther, which led to his grisly fate.
Opening her eyes once more, to gaze at the stars, she murmured, "You were right about one thing, though, Faranor. I am the best thief ever. But the best knows when they've been out-witted, and when to run to fight another day."
An owl hooted somewhere in the distance as Violette threw another few twigs onto the fire, and rolled over onto her side, drifting off into the realms of sleep.

The End.