Legal Theft Project: Hidden Faces

Warning signs scaled with immortality. What would be a red flag to most people when dealing with a single life time, did not register when you were dealing with more than one. Time was a massive force and few things would actually last through it.

Shatterstar stood at his window and watched those he considered friends as they good naturedly rough housed with each other on the practice courts. It was a small yet vital thing. As Nuka laughed at Bronze, he smiled. He hadn’t missed the flags. In Nuka’s case, it had been more like a seeping of red paint as time exacerbated a sense of helplessness. No, he thought, watching the camaraderie below, it wasn’t that he had missed the signs, but he had misdiagnosed the cause. Hadn’t realized the full extent he’d contributed to it. So much more than he’d imagined.

He took a deep breath and let it out on a count of eight. Breathing exercises he’d learned as a boy to help him concentrate. The eight count rhythm he would use to center himself before prayer, now a habit. He carefully tucked that flag away. Time would handle it, or it wouldn’t matter. He let the mixture of negative emotions flow through him, sampling the depth and strength of each. How heavy the guilt, how dark the regret, how tearing the despair. He folded his hands into the sleeves of his robes as they began to shake, and he turned away from the window.

Self-recrimination, sharp and bitter. The tangled sour worm of years of frustration. The plummet of free falling into helplessness. His meditative breathing grew a touch ragged. He’d had all the time he could spare to explore. He knew it now.

One of the proclaimed gods of an empire, Shatterstar gathered his magic about him. If he felt too much, it would be apparent. If he felt too much at one time, there would be awkward questions. Questions which would derail plans he’d spent hundreds of years creating. Plans he would not abandon, that was the prerogative of his nemesis and at times like this, Shatterstar let himself hate the man. His magic summoned, he set it to taming his emotions, fraying the edges, bleeding it down. The energy wasn’t gone, he just, moderated it down to a reasonable level. A level that left him clear thinking. It would be fine as long as no one figured it out.

Shatterstar looked back at the courtyard through his no longer wet eyes. The warning signs were there, for all he was an expert at misdirection, disguise, subterfuge, and deception. The men in the courtyard were most likely to notice. Not that they could do much if they did… but their notice would be noticed. And with notice came a presumptive interrogation and the walls would come tumbling down. He let his hands down and moved to his desk, pulling out a stack of research he kept carefully tucked away. But he was careful and no one would notice. He flipped to the last page of his well thumbed notes and went over them again. The research had born no fruit in a millennia, but he could not give up on it. Perhaps, like the breathing, and the magical regulation, it had become a habit. But not all of them were bad. Research obsessions were a family trait after all. And while he had no hope that he would find anything, had in fact surrendered the probable discovery to those joined with his nemesis…. He would not relinquish it. He’d made a promise. At least to himself, he would keep it.


Some thieves made off with the line “It would be fine as long as no one figured it out.” Let us count the thieves….

One Thief….

 

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Legal Theft Project: The Fates We Choose

The sun simmered red as it slunk towards the jagged horizon. The skyline turned to mahogany beams and stark shadows, sun slipping through like the aged red wine favored by the locals. Standing on a balcony, hidden in shadow, and sipping a dry white, she tried to look make out the inelegant line of the barrier wall. If she shaded her eyes, she could just make it out as a stark shadow, physically and metaphorically, holding back the might of Naleem’s enemies.

She came to the end of her wine as the sun dipped below the peaks. She slipped through the carved balcony door to her quarters and left the glass on her desk. As the sun ebbed, her resolve blossomed. She changed. Her time was short, the city would be waking from the imposed civility of the day, ready to be getting on with the real business of pointed smiles, hidden knives, and stolen opportunities. But she was practiced. It wasn’t often she did her hair in the formal braids, but they suited the occasion, even if few recognized the gesture. Instead of a dress she chose a Muhallian style set of loose trousers and fitted tunic. The colors were not exactly as she would have preferred, the trousers in a shadow grey, but she wanted the style and the vivid yellow of the tunic made up for the darkness. She pointedly wore no jewelry and for make up, the traditional kohl around the eyes.

Her reflection smiled back at her and she took a breath in, out, and went down to find a new fate.


I is a thief! Check out the thievery ring:

The robbed: M.D.’s Portentous Star

Other Thieves:

Kid’s The Old Timer’s Tale

Legal Theft Project: Nature’s Bounty

“You have got to be kidding me.” He breathed it like a prayer, but one he knew would not be answered. He looked at the small excuse for a patio outside his apartment. He could no longer see the crumbling concrete wall. He could barely see any of the cracked brick floor. The pine tree he’d planted in the corner still towered. Now, it had friends. A riot of orchids in odd colors obscured the walls and the cracked brick pavers were hidden behind a carpet of vibrant purple saffron blossoms. In the corner opposite the pine tree, the pavers curved away from dark loamy earth and the small mounds of white truffles rippled through it. Never mind that pine trees and orchids and saffron and truffles came from completely different and contradictory climates. Never mind that most of them were incredibly finicky and rare.

As to their presence, well, he knew who, what, when, and where. He just, was not clear on the why. Then he took another look at the saffron and put a hand over his face. For just a minute. He took two deep breaths. He was going to need to get some licenses. Because damned if he was going to become a criminal over orchids.


Thieves! They ran off with the first line of this piece and used it to create original fiction. 

One thief….

Legal Theft Project: Practiced Escapes

Sometimes the island felt like a prison. She could leave more easily than others, but she was also more recognizable, and in more danger than some of the others. If something happened to her, the others would lose one of the main advantages they had over their enemies. So she grabbed her harness and glider. Scaled the cliffs up the sides of the mountains. And leaped. Soaring under her own power over the glittering ocean, it was hard to feel trapped.

Sometimes the island felt like a prison. Kneeling among the earth of his garden, tending the miraculous curse that let them fight for so many years, he wondered if the roots and vines were strangling him. Even dusting off and wandering into his lab did not lessen the weight pressing down on his shoulders. He did have to remain rooted and still. It was lives and purpose and revenge all rolled into one. When his mind rolled too far in that direction, he left the current harvest in the kitchen for others, and retreated farther into his lab. Past the everyday titrations and herbal experiments into the warded room. And there he pushed the limits of power. He often made little progress, but he had time to crack the mysteries of the universe. Incremental progress would move mountains. After all, wasn’t that the whole point of resistance?

Sometimes the island felt like a prison. The holding point between battles and action. Sometimes it felt like a home. Sometimes if felt like both. He’d felt trapped by station, standing, and home before. He’d now lived on the island for as long as his entire family had lived in his old home. He could bleed off the feeling. Ride a storm, harass a trade caravan, sail, go to the theater. But it never addressed the root issue. Few things did. Sparring with his brother was one. And his short idiotic trips to visit someone he should not be, were another. He smiled to himself and planned his next risky trip. Maybe she would like a new jacket….

Sometimes the island felt like a prison. It was the most incredible place he had ever been. Even as he kept travelling, kept roaming, what the isle contained and how it grew and thrived, were miracles he could not compare to others. Even if the grandeur was wearing off, even if the stories were fanciful tales to be told around the campfire and the wonderful lords and ladies wandered around barefoot like regular people in their cottons, he still felt part of another world. So he wrote. To capture the island as it, and its inhabitants, captured the hearts and minds of so many others. To add in the loneliness, the sense of stasis, the longing that pervaded every corner of it. Maybe when their actions failed or succeeded, people would read the stories he wrote and never believe it true, but they would know … so much more. Maybe, win or lose, it would never be in vain.

Sometimes the island felt like a prison. When it did, she ran. When running didn’t work, she sailed. When sailing didn’t work, she worked. When work became meaningless, she sparred. When even that didn’t work, she read. She read everything. Somewhere there would be an answer, somewhere there would be a thought that could change her mind. And when she could not find one, she played. She took her violin to the practice room, and she played and played and played. In music she found peace and freedom. In music she let herself feel all the things she could not let affect her judgement. In music, the island no longer felt like a prison.


I am a thief! Myself and others have thieved the line “Sometimes the island felt like a prison.” from a machete wielding diplomat. Check them out here.

Legal Theft Project: Wake

Dawn called, and he wasn’t going to answer. The night had stained him, and he didn’t want to see what the mottled shades turned into with the light of the sun. But still he lingered, looking at the first rays of light. Birds called and his feet remained rooted to the spot. The faint light picked out the burnt orange of his disguise, but still he ignored it.

This first unrolling of the day promised so much and he felt that promise roll into his bones and wash out a little of the grit and despair he breathed. But he was still weighed down and with every dawn he was running out of time. When the first curve of the sun crested the hills, he turned his back and headed deeper into the shadows, heading into the cool concealment promised by the cave. He would have to face the day, but he could gather himself to pretend that it didn’t ache.


Overwhelmed by the melodrama, the thieved piece is short. I stole this first line from The Gate in the Wood. A few other thieves abound as well…..

Legal Theft Project: Setting up a Punchline

Almost everyone was actually in the gym today and Kimball was happy. The upbeat pop was generic enough that no one was fighting over the music and everyone had their practice. He bounced through the obstacle course and pulled himself up onto the highest rope. Rell was chasing many Aiden’s around the track. Rell would fire off little arcs of lightning and curse when they dissolved. One of them instead yelped and ran a little faster. Rell grinned, only to be confronted with multiple versions of Aiden giving him the finger. “That hurt!” Aiden said, but more to complain than for anything else.

Lara and Cole were sparring and Kimball shook his head at them. He was glad they’d gotten over their issues regarding training, but the force of their practice made him wince. Not his speed. He returned to practice, flipping between the cross beams, the lines, and platforms. He finished his paces and was stretching. Everyone else seemed to be drifting toward the center of the room to talk. He wasn’t entirely sure what started the debate and it was staying mostly friendly, but Aiden was starting to roll his eyes and Rell was digging in his heels.

Kimball considered interjecting, then had a better idea. He dashed off to get a few supplies and returned quietly, still at the elevated level of the gym and looked down at the progress of the debate. All four of his friends were invested now, Aiden playing devil’s advocate and Rell, Cole, and Lara all countering, arguing, and getting the beginnings of insults in the conversation.

“-that’s the reason it’s important,” Cole said.

“Well,” Kimball interjected, hiding something behind his back. “A few important things have no reason behind them, yet, somehow, that will never alter their gravity.” As he finished speaking he grinned brightly, and rained water balloons down on his friends. He’d given the water balloons a good dispersal pattern, and no one remained unsplashed. Rell couldn’t stop them all, and though Aiden dodged, he wasn’t quite quick enough. Cole blocked one with his arm which made the water wash all over him. Lara had rolled out of the way, but as the floor quickly became slick, she got hit by the second round.

“Was that a PUN?” Rell asked of the water bombarding friend.

“Couldn’t resist!” Kimball called. And then he ran, laughing, as his friends united in a plot for revenge. Totally worth it.


I am a thief who decided to display her stolen line, “A few important things have no reason behind them, yet, somehow, that will never alter their gravity.” in a less than serious setting. Keep an eye out for other potential thieves, and the original author…..

Legal Theft Project: Water Under the Bridge

The hard holder arrived first, long dark coat stark against the grey of the day. Calistoga nodded to him, and Allison nodded back. Utah, the news, arrived last, unhurried, her long dark hair bound back under a lavender scarf. Her eyes met Allison’s and one could hear the social blades unsheath and stand at the ready. But Calistoga had not called them here for a duel.

“You’re here to settle things, not start them again,” Calistoga said. He leaned back on his heels and eyed the two personalities in front of him. “You both know things cannot continue as they are,” he paused. Neither of them nodded. Utah lifted her chin, not in acknowledgement but in stubbornness, and Allison’s glance could cut stone. Calistoga let out a slow quiet breath and shook out his shaggy hair. “So what are you going to do about it.”

Allison spoke first, he’d barely moved at all since Utah arrived and he did not do so now. “Keel is dead and she’s harboring known enemies of my holding.” His voice flattened as he continued. “I’ll forget this happened once she cuts all ties with the man known as Rhyme.”

Utah’s eyes flashed. “You’ll forget this happened? You didn’t win this, Allison. You don’t get to dictate terms to me.”

“My holding, my terms,” Allison replied, leaning forward ever so slightly.

“I’m not in your holding-” Utah started.

“You certainly act like you are,” Allison interrupted. “And you’ve been undercutting me as long as-”

“You can’t stop people from coming to the market, Allison-”

Calistoga sighed. “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” The escalating accusations cut off and Calistoga continued. “Either of you.” Utah and Allison both looked at Calistoga. “You’re both powerful, you’re both important to Sure Wood, and you both spit like cats in mating season whenever you think your pride’s been dinged.” And like cats, Calistoga could almost feel the growls and the claws waiting to rend him. “And this whole fiasco never would have happened if someone hadn’t taken advantage of that.”

Finally, he had their attention, their stances had shifted, angled toward him, and their eyes weren’t constantly cutting to each other. “Utah, if you had actually been in town, you would have known there was some kind of con running, that’s what you do. And Allison, you would have seen her, known her people weren’t mobilizing, and maybe, just maybe gone to actually talk.” He held up his hands. “I know, fat chance anyone telling either of you what you would do. But can we at least agree that the two of you having constant fights is bad for Sure Wood? Each of you tell me one grievance, just one, that you have and want the other to address.”

Allison and Utah looked at each other.

“Options for fuck ups other than at the end of the gun. In Sure Wood, it’s Allison’s way or facing down the barrel.” Utah crossed her arms, daring him to contradict her.

“Stop tearing me down,” Allison said, half in reply and half as his request. “If I don’t have a hold on Sure Wood, it tears itself apart, and every time you speak you make people question me and test the limits. Of course I lead with a gun.”

The silence drew out for just a moment before Calistoga spoke up. “You both want what’s best for Sure Wood.”

The pair settled stubbornly in their stances. Damn straight they did.

“Then you’re both going to have to compromise.” He didn’t trust them to say anything without snapping, and he had an idea anyway so Calistoga continued. “Allison, you don’t trust Utah, so you don’t talk to her. But that means you aren’t getting heard on the air. Go on for a space of air. Talk.”

Utah had a sharp short victory smile. Allison’s face was still clouded.

“And Utah, you need to move into Sure Wood proper. You deliberately set yourself outside yet you want the protection and the access of being part of the holding. You want Allison to change, be in a position where it matters.”

Allison and Utah took each other’s measure and seemed reassured that neither of them liked this plan. But neither could they walk away from it. As for Calistoga, he was tired, and cold, and needed to put a damn shirt on.


I am a thief. I stole the line, “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” from a cute critter. Keep an eye out for the original and any other thief who made off with the loot….

Legal Theft Project: Silver Tongue, Ice Heart

She walked out and didn’t look back. Her vision narrowed to the hallway and the door to the stairwell down to the lobby. Raised voices from behind her and running footsteps following her down the hall.

“Lara wait, she means nothing to me-”

She heard it in his voice now, the same silver cadences that dripped from her father’s tongue. They hit the walls of ice she’d summoned and bounced back to fall flat at his feet. Vance knew better than to touch her right now, but he got in front of her with an earnest and panicked expression. She paused.

“I know how it looks, but Lara, you’re the forever one. Just let me explain-” Vance had his hands out and was angling his body to make her feel in control. She wanted to believe him.

“How many others?” she asked. It was a reasonable question.

“No others,” he said, too quickly. “I swear it’s a single mistake.”

“All your other business trips? It’s our anniversary, Vance.” She said, almost reasonable. He barely winced, already summoning an excuse, mustering his considerable charm. She took a step forward and he didn’t move back, just raised his hands to stop her. She punched him in the face and kept walking. The epithet he threw at her back cemented her knowledge of his character – slime.

The walk to the hotel lobby was a blur as the last three years and the ones she’d planned to spend with him crumbled into betrayal.

 

She was quiet all through the plane flight, took her copy of his key and removed her things from his place. Her fingers lingered on the lighter and the vision of the whole apartment up in flames danced behind her eyes. But no. He knew too much about her, and they always looked at the girlfriend for arson first. She took her belongings. Donated them at the first shop she crossed. She texted her brother then destroyed her phone. She’d already blocked four from Vance. She couldn’t look at his name. Back in her apartment, she changed the locks, dumped his clothes into a bag and scheduled them for pick up. Cleared out, momentum gone, she threw herself on her bed and burst into tears.


Some thieves have lifted this first line for their own fiction. I think I saw one thief through a gate, another with a machete, and a bunch of critters with a third…..

Legal Theft Project: Fate Seeker’s Hope

He looked up at the sunless sky and the decision made itself. He wandered purposefully down the shadowed paths, past grottos and bowers, considering phrasings. Lavender roses climbed over a dark trellis highlighting the opening between the deep green hedges. Through the trellis he crossed the courtyard and entered through the black marble arch hung with deep red drapes. His lady was lounging on a black and dark gold chaise on the gallery. He moved to stand to the side of the chaise, but didn’t look down into the arena below. Metal struck metal and he remembered the smell of battle, the sweat of men and horses, of the sea. He pushed them back and away, focusing on his lady. She glanced at him and waved for him to sit, attention going back to her favored entertainment below. He nodded respectfully, but did not sit. He watched her and waited until her hand rose to deliver the pronouncement. A thumbs up. He breathed a little easier, she had been pleased. Her attention turned fully to him, “Fen.”

It felt ridiculous to remain standing, so he accepted the seat on the low chair near her right hand. “Adaya,” he returned, “I’d like to ask for something.”

Her heavy lidded eyes opened a little wider in surprise and pleasure. “But you never ask for things, Fen.” She smiled languidly, “What can I give you?”

His smile back was dangerously careless. “A wager.”

“A wager?” Her smile spread until it showed teeth. “Now whatever has happened?”

Fen shrugged. “Inevitability of time. If I go on like I have been, I will go … lets just say neither you nor I will be pleased by what becomes of me. It may take an age, but…” he shook his head. He looked her in the eye and straightened his spine. “I want a wager for my freedom, Ada. I don’t know what it is or how long it will take, but I want it.”

“That,” she said holding a finger across her lips for a moment, “Will be quite a wager.” She stretched her hand out to touch his cheek. “Your service is very dear to me.”

Fen, eyes engaged for the first time in ages, said, “I know, and I’ll wager anyway. I bet I can find you something of equal worth. I just need the time to travel and do so.” He needed a way out. As long as it was only nearly impossible, it would still be possible.

Adaya leaned back in her chaise. “So you would deprive me of your company?”

“No more than I already do to stay sane,” he replied with a partial bow and a sideways smile. “However, I will be going more places. The mortal realm, the wild lands, maybe farther, I don’t know what I’ll encounter there or if I will hear you when you call. I’ll take your token and do my best.”

She chuckled, looking at him. “Very well Fen”, she said lowly, “see that you do.”

Fen stood, bowed over her hand, and took his leave. Hope brightened his heart and he held it close against the shadows of the perpetual twilight.


Some light fingered line thieves are around. Keep an eye out and see who stole away with the first line of this piece.