Writing prompt #3 – A thief’s mistake

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Writing prompt #3 – A working-dad desperate for money to feed his family turns to robbery, only to find that he’s chosen a wizard as his victim.

Germanus watched as Jacira cut thin slices of the one loaf of bread he’d been able to bring home that day. His wife had a pinched look around her eyes, evidence of the hunger the entire family was feeling. Jacira stirred the pot where a very thin soup was boiling. It was water, some chicken bones Germaus had scavenged from an inn’s refuse pile, and some wrinkled vegetables he’d gotten at the market for a few pennies.

Lileas and Kiaran staggered up to the table. Germanus wanted to cry. His children were getting weaker and they were dangerously thin. Winter was coming and he feared that none of his family was going to survive the bitter cold.

The food was served and his chilren ate with the ravenous delight of the starving. “Mother, I’m still hungry,” Kiaran said, looking up at his mother with wide green eyes.

“Me too,” Lileas said, her blue eyes full of hunger and pain.

“Jacira, give the children my share,” Germanus said. “I’ll eat at breakfast.”

“Germanus, you were working on the cathedral today. You have to be hungry,” Jacira said.

“I am, but the children come first,” Germanus said.

Jacira refilled the children’s bowls and gave them the other two slices of bread. “You’re right dear, of course. The children should always come first.”

Lileas and Kiaran ate the rest of the food. “Now, off to bed with you,” Germanus said. “You have your lessons in the morning and I don’t want you falling asleep again. Your teacher doesn’t appreciate it.”

The children ran to their beds and curled up under the quilts. Jacira came and sat down across from her husband. “Germanus, this can’t go on,” she said in a soft voice. “The children won’t last the winter, and I’m not sure you and I will either. They’re getting too weak to even go to their lessons. What are we going to do?”

Germanus looked at a small chest in the corner of the room. It contained tools from a long ago life, a trade he’d given up when he met Jacira. Jacira followed his gaze. She turned back to look at him, a stricken look on her face.

“It’s all we have left, love,” Germanus said. “What else are we going to do? Until I can find work that pays a living wage we’re going to continue to go hungry. I won’t see our children die for want of food and warm clothing just because my employer is a skinflint who won’t give his employees more than the bare minimum required by the law.”

“Just don’t get caught, my dearest,” Jacira said. “We won’t survive if you’re in prison.”

Germanus kissed her. “I’m not completely out of practice,” he said. “I won’t get caught.”

Germanus opened up the chest and pulled out items he thought he’d never be using again – lockpicks, a small crowbar, climbing gloves, a rope, a grappling hook, smoke potions, and a set of clothing that vanished in the shadows. He changed into his thief’s outfit and walked through the door into the night.

Germanus slipped from dark patch to dark patch, watching for a likely place to hit. He couldn’t strike out at the ones in his area. The vast majority of those who lived there were as poor as he was.

He moved into the wealthier parts of town. He moved through the alleyways, looking in windows and keeping an eye out for the Night Patrol and household guards. As he grew discouraged by what he found, he peered through the window of a nondescript looking house to see inside a vast treasure trove of unique items that could signify great wealth.

He tested each window on the first floor and found them all securely locked. He glanced up and saw that all of the windows on the second floor were open. He used his grappling hook and climbed up the wall. He checked a couple windows and found one that looked like it led into an empty bedroom. He slipped inside.

He pulled a tiny candle out of his pocket and lit it with a match. The room was plain and unadorned with the kinds of fine things he expected to find. He shrugged, thinking it might have been a servant’s room, and cracked the door a little bit.

The hall was dark and no one was about. Germanus slid out of the room, closing the door silently behind him. He crept along, moving as silently as he could, looking through keyholes and under doors until he found one that appeared to be empty of people but full of treasure.

He pushed the door open and went in. The door slammed behind him and a rope rose from the ground and wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his body. A man dressed in rune covered robes and several heavy looking amulets materialized in front of him. He walked over and retrieved Germanus’ candle before settling into a chair. He steepled his fingers. “Tell me, little thief. Who are you and why have you entered my home uninvited?”

A compulsion so strong settled over Germanus that he knew he was under a spell. “My name is Germanus Calabrese, Master Mage. I’m a mason by trade. My family and I have very little. My employer pays only what the law requires so we are starving. I can’t let my children die, so I took to thieving again to supply us with the money to fill our larder so our children would be able to survive while I looked for other employment.”

The mage scrutinized him closely. “Well, you certainly are close to death. If you’re this way I can only imagine what your wife and children look like.” The mage tilted his head to one side. “No matter how noble your reason, you still were intending to steal from me. What do you think your punishment should be?”

Germanus met his gaze with no fear. “Do whatever you wish to me, Master Mage. I care not. But give my family the means to survive and I will meet your price.”

“You’re a brave man, Germanus Calabrese. A caring and loyal one too. I could use a man like you in my endeavors,” the mage said thoughtfully. “The work I’d have you doing would be hard, dangerous, and dirty. Your unusual skills would come in quite handy in fact.” He made a complicated gesture with his fingers and the ropes fell to the floor. The compulsion was gone as well. “I will take you into my employment. Your wages shall be fifteen silvers a week. That should be enough to help support your family, to get them into a better place.”

“Thank you, Master Mage,” Germanus said. “I will serve you until the end of my days.”

The mage smiled. “That is good to know.” He stood and walked over to a small chest on a side table. He pulled out a coin pouch and counted something into it. “Here are twenty silver, your first two weeks’ wages. You won’t receive your normal pay for those two weeks as this is a loan against those. This should help your family now, and once you’ve paid back the loan you will be given your normal pay.” He handed the pouch to Germanus.

“Thank you again, Master Mage,” Germanus said, taking the pouch and bowing.

“You will call me Master Berker,” the mage said. “Now, leave and return to your family. I expect you back here at nine o’clock in the morning.”

“As you wish, Master Berker,” Germanus said. He clutched the pouch to his chest as he hurried out of the house. He felt a rush of joy, and a tremor of fear. He didn’t know what the mage would make him do, but now his family would be taken care of and he wouldn’t need to worry about his children starving to death any more.

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