Legal Theft Project: Swash

Silas was rarely awake in time to see the sun come up, let alone up, dressed, and walking outside in the crisp last moments of darkness. She took time to enjoy the experience, hugged her arms to herself on an inhale and threw them out on an exhale, never stopping her quick steps down toward the dock. The sounds of a city, waking, drifted in on the morning wind. She passed the light and heat of a bakery well begun on the morning’s bread. The click and thump of doors being opened, locked or latched. Animals calling to be fed, feet hitting floors, the clatter of wheels on cobbles. All of it so much slower than Silas liked.

The market was full, but it was sleepy. Merchants, traders, farmers and fishers starting to set up goods – usually Silas would have her fingers in every stall, an assortment of goods in her pockets, and seven new and delicious scandals before she had gone five feet. Not this morning. The market was all work and no play at this hour and she passed it by.

The docks however did not disappoint her. Time and tide wait for no one, and the docks swelled with sailors, fishermen, and assorted professions swirling about the ships like water around reefs. Silas darted into the crowd and noise like a needle through cloth.

“….hear the Harpy is setting out short a few hands-“

“Now heave!”

“Pardon sir-“

“Pirates struck the next town over-“

-deserves to be hanged that one.”

“Oranges for sale! Oranges, grapes and –“

“-winds blew her far off course that by the time-“

She lingered, fingers idly nipping into coats and baskets. Content to explore what treasures she’d accumulated later. She bought a fine silver fish, big enough for a family of three and carried it in paper in the crook of one arm. She had her bag over her shoulder, but she didn’t want her scant belongings smelling like fish. Plus, you never knew when an elbow full of fish could come in useful. Ears open, she tucked away rumor and tale just as easily as she filled her pockets with bits and bobs, smiling at anyone who glanced her way. She commonly rated a second glance, but no more than that before she was dismissed and ignored. It was just the way she liked it.

Not as much as she liked being right about the time it might take Tavius Ogden to get from his town house to the docks. The sun was just cresting over the water when he appeared, a slippery slimy man in clothes too rich to fit in at the docks, and carrying a large and crudely wrapped package. It was no trouble to drift around him at all – established as she was and that made the early hour completely worth it. Tavius made his way down to one of the long warehouses and spoke briefly to the man large probably smelly man outside. The guard had the tattoos of a sailor, but none of the swagger and he wasn’t being terribly polite to the snotty nob from off the hill.

“You got the goods?” he asked and spat off to the side of Tavius’s shoe.

Silas wasn’t close enough to see the look on Tavius’s face, but she imagined he narrowed his gaze in that cutting look nobles always thought were so effective. “I would hardly be down here at this hour if this burden contained anything other than what your master paid for.”

The guard shrugged. “Some people figure they can weasel out of a deal.”

“My word…” He surveyed the guard briefly before settling on, “…sir. Still means something to me. Now let me pass.”

“Suit yourself.”

Tavius disappeared from view and Silas tried to figure out a way to get close enough to hear what was going on. The warehouse only had thin windows near the rafters, and a few doors for hoisting in cargo. With the rising light, she couldn’t catch a crane up – not with her skirt being a blinding shade of orange anyway. She walked with the crowd as it circled the building… there. A small window, probably to get light in to a desk. It would be tricky, but what worth doing wasn’t? She walked as close to the window as she could get and created excuses to loiter. She looked around at the ships as if enjoying the view and rubbed the lobe of her right ear with her free hand. The sounds and conversations around her settled to a dull murmur and the conversation carrying on behind the small forgotten glass window became clear as if she was standing in the room.

“Excellent, Mr. Ogden. One more of this quality and we’ll be finished with each other.”

“You said this would be the last one!”

She heard the snake oil in the unfamiliar voice. “Surely you understand the value of having things in even pairs, Mr. Ogden. I am afraid five is just not aesthetically pleasing to my buyer and they simply must have one more.”

Silas held her breath in the silence.

“It will take longer.” Tavius said voice gravelly to Silas’s ears. Silas shifted from foot to foot.

“I’m sure I’m sure. We understand that art takes time. It is always a pleasure doing business with you Tavius.”

“And after this one, Essain. We are done. I won’t care about –“

“No need to be crass Tavius. You have my solemn oath.”

Silas thought furiously. Essain was a nasty nasty fixer by all accounts. He fixed prices, deals, whatever you wanted. And he wanted something, six somethings, from a well respected Glass sculptor. She knew why Tavius was there. The money had to be good and he was trying to gain enough wealth to be seen as a worthy prospect by his lady love’s family who were far more snotty and spoiled than he was… which meant that the real puzzle her was why specifically Tavius and not another Glass. The person who wanted the items might not care. Maybe Essain just knew what buttons to push and-

“Are you quite all right miss?”

Silas jumped back, nearly collided with a passing shopper, rubbed her ear to return her hearing to the right level, and stared at the sailor who had stopped to see if the dazed looking woman needed any help. “I…” she said.

“Is there anything you need, miss?”

“Oh, no – no. Nothing at all I just – I was thinking. Really should write a list down. Memory like a net you know – big things stay and all the little ones slip right out. I’ve got to be going.” She shot him a bright smile and darted off into the crowd. The smile fell off as she ran. She’d lost track of her thoughts and she was going to have to round them all up again if she wanted to make any sense of it. She paused at the corner and pretended to consider some dates. She still had a fish. She’d go talk to Verit. Yes. Verit would like the fish – or her cats would, and Silas could listen to her chatter as she tried to untangle the mess that was Essain and Tavius.

The sun was high in the sky, her pockets were full, and the world was full of interesting interconnected people – Silas could ask for nothing more. Well, maybe a cat.

____________________________________________________________

I am a thief! My friends and I stole the first line of this piece from Gwen’s “Waking“. See what everyone’s done with it here.

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