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.

Legal Theft Project: Hard

After Saint’s Hain, the market closed down. Brisk trade in essentials, offloading of extra stock, and the hoarding of food, warm clothes, and those luxuries that made the dark months more palatable were bartered for and bundled away. Allison checked on the factory, made sure there was enough stockpiled for the holding, and wandered between the shops being seen, and seeing what was settling in under the snow. He’d need to keep an eye on Tumbler and Jeeves, they’d been snappish and nothing brought out tempers better than long weeks with little to do. He shot them a look and they settled down for the moment. He passed a narrow alley and glanced down at the tray pushed at him. The hands holding the tray were rangy and thin. The teen pushed the tray at him while huddling in a coat that wasn’t going to do squat in the snows. Fabric scraps, metal bits and pieces, twine, and a number of other bits and bobs. Allison took a step back and pushed his coat back. At the glimpse of the gun he wore, the teen reeled back, eyes that hadn’t risen to his dropped and retreated. Allison managed not to swear as he pulled out his purse.

He took half the tray, scooped it into the extra bag he carried. “Doc’s stall is still open. Get a damn coat. And if you have trouble, go to Outlast. They’ll keep you a spell – it’s too cold for grave-digging.” Allison shouldered his bag, took a handful of jingle and tossed it on the tray. Then walked away. He paid more than he should have for that collection of scrap. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, maybe his wife would have an idea, make decorations for the great hall or something. But it had to be good for something, and damn what that harpy over at Outlast had to say. Allison walked home, purse lighter, heart…. something.

There is a thefted line in here… I know another thief or two that nicked it as well….

Legal Theft Project: In the Dark

The sputtering fire barely kept the night at bay. It did nothing against inner demons. Old habits warred against the new world, and it was like shrapnel pulling against her skin. She was two days away from Surewood and each one dug the shards deeper as she drove in her stolen and oh so familiar military issue jeep. She wished she still believed in God. She wished the fire would die and something she could fight and defeat would- NO. No she didn’t. That was the …. That was what they were doing. Oh god. The woman the new world called Bloom stared into the fire and realized the added component to what she’d left behind a week ago. The base, the people who could quote the Princess Bride back at her, who knew what genres of music were, who knew what it was like to walk in step and swear an oath to something bigger…. Were doing the same damn thing as the rest of this post traumatic world. They were fighting the dangers that came out of the dark. They were using violence. It had all of the trappings of what she loved and lost, but it was trapping. It was the shield, the rhetoric. It was a tool that had been channelled by a country that had crumbled. Memories rose unbidden, memories of brass avoiding her unit, and dim thoughts about the … the information that had to be… kept… from them….

She stared at the fire until her eyes were too dry to tear up and went to gather more firewood. Log after log she brought back. Log by log, she built up the fire until it was blazing. Dried out more wood. The world had ended. She didn’t know how, but the fire and ice had turned into water and soaked everything that remained. The fire challenged the night and Bloom challenged the darkness. Old world or new, she was what she had always been even if the words had changed. So her honor was no longer tangled up in oath to powers that no longer existed. And now she knew what she was in the dark.

I stole this first line from a machete wielding diplomat with criminal connections…I may have had an accomplice or two. Check out the original piece to see.

Homecomings and Holiday Hazards

Sleeping on the plane was easy after sleeping on wet rocks for three months. Liam didn’t feel refreshed, but between the sleep on the plane and the brisk walk from the bus stop to the family restaurant, he thought he could manage the magic. The restaurant windows were festooned with lights and artistic murals of poinsettias and snowflakes. The interior was dark of the restaurant was dark, but the tree gleamed in a window of the upstairs apartment. He had to take his hand out of his glove to hunt for the spare key. He found it and was glad, a man of his appearance toting a large leather duffel bag and a battered hard roller case fumbling around in the dark at a restaurant side door was usually not the stuff of holiday miracles.

He stepped into the warmth of the entry way and admired the garland on the railing. Plastic candles centered a few arrangements with real pine boughs on the console table. Stockings hung from the wooden mantle, his tacked up there hopefully next to his father and sister’s stockings. Moving quietly despite his luggage, he tucked the roller case into the closet and sat the duffel on the living room floor. He only had an hour or two before his sister woke up, bakers hours started early and customs always took too long. He shrugged away the black feelings and focused on playing saint nicholas. Candied orange peels, spices, and rich chocolates went into stockings. A cross he’d carved from rose wood was tucked into his sister’s. His father got a wooden spoon for his collection, carved with decorative leaves on the handle. He tucked a few gifts wrapped in folded cloth under the traditional tree and moved to the kitchen. Smiled at the prepped station for cinnamon rolls and sweet bread. He was draping a garland of dried chilies around the kitchen window when something warm bumped up against his elbow. He almost stabbed his arm into the festively decorated agave plants in the window. Death by sparkling pointy flora was not exactly the way things were expected to go. Though the fairy light bedecked and santa hat wearing kitchen plants would be happy to change that.

Liam looked down into the orange-yellow eyes of a fat three legged and aggressively friendly cat. He looked at the cat. The cat looked at him. The cat bumped its head into his arm again. Slowly, Liam extricated himself from the plants, and looked into the cupboards near the cat until a bag with a paw and a fish on it caught his eye. The cat meowed at him. He held up a finger. “Don’t blow this for me, okay?” he said to the cat and gently offered it a few of the treats. The cat blinked and then ignored him in preference for the food. He shook his head and finished setting out the decorations, gifts, and lastly, as he checked his watch, starting the process of melting chocolate for a truly decadent brew. He was adding the cinnamon and dash of chilis when Nora came down the stairs and saw the cat on the counter. Her eyes narrowed and she reached for a spray bottle on the end of the counter that Liam hadn’t even seen, then aborted the movement. “Liam!” She hurled herself at her brother, who for his part, grinned and opened his arms to catch her. They hugged, hard. Then Nora pulled back. “Mr. Tubbs isn’t allowed on the counters.” Mr. Tubbs, having finished his bribe, had retreated to the floor when Nora had entered, and remained, sitting on the kitchen floor like a ham bone as he cleaned himself. Liam decided not to tell his sister that not only had he fed the cat on the counter top, the cat had nearly toppled him into her plants. Which would probably have led to her coming down the stairs and throwing a pot at his head, or something. “Sorry,” he said and hugged her again. The hot chocolate need his attention, and by the time he’d settled it, Nora had gotten down the mugs and was throwing questions at him. And the bone tired he’d been carrying with him all through the flight, through customs, and through the snow, vanished in the scents of cinnamon, chocolate and dough.

A few other people may have had encounters with dangerous sparkly flora…….

Legal Theft Project: Tantalizing Danger

The library beckoned. Dove tugged his shirt on before untangling himself from the nest of blankets. Proper barely grumbled as he burrowed into the warm spot he’d left. Dove grinned at him, but could no longer resist the lure of the open door. He’d been sharing Proper’s bed for a few months, and had never seen more than the sliver of tumbled papers and pile of clothes and blankets on the chair. For all he was careless with belongings, Proper was careful of his secrets. But… it had been months, and he trusted that any good secret was decently hidden, so what could be the harm in taking a look?

Dove padded over to the door and pushed his way in, the door only groaned a little and Proper turned over but did not emerge from the blankets. The walls were held up by shelves containing books and loose leaf papers, sheet music, containers of things Dove did not want to touch or breath near, a photograph of an unknown place, scattered statues and photographs, and a few needles close to rolling off shelves.

A window looked out over the frosted grass outside, just now letting enough of the dawn in to read by. A desk was shoved under the window. It was piled with battered paperbacks, scraps of paper with handwritten notes, a few journals, several knives with flash handles, and pouches of the snuff available downstairs. Tucked into a corner was a partially open case containing a carefully polished violin.

Dove extracted a journal from the pile and ran a finger over the embossed letters. It was heavier than the one he wrote in and he unwound the leather cord so he could take a look. The writing was messy, but legible. Dove knew most of the people mentioned though it took him longer than he would have liked to realize he was holding poison in his hand. The secrets in that journal could hurt people and he closed it quickly and wrapped it back up. He shoved it further into the jumble than it had been. Some of the notes scattered around were the same. One of the maps he looked at had markings that indicated camps, maybe men, maybe supplies. Dove looked back into the other room at the lump of Proper completely buried now under the blankets. His stomach clenched a little. The pretty, the dangerous, the illicit, and the romantic all blended into each other in this room, and some of them looked like others. Dove was suddenly certain that he had some of them wrong. He slipped back into the sleeping room and looked down at the person he’d been keeping warm. He shivered a little and went to make breakfast.

Some thieves also found libraries tempting. See who stole my line “The library beckoned.” I think some Kid and a Diplomat may have run off with it….

Legal Theft Project: Between the Luster and the Gloaming

He rambled in the wilder lands, paying homage to no lord of darkness, no lady of light. His were the tangled and the natural things, the beasts and the birds, the trees whose leaves whispered secrets to travelers, and the false lights that lead them astray. His domain a place between the gloaming and the luster, wreathed in mist, and filled with wilder things than dwell in the courts both dark and light. From beneath the trees he watched the civilized sides quarrel and marked their passing, but until that day, he stayed out of their squabbles. Better suited to hunt and roam, and discover the wonders of his wild range.

Until one day their quarrels raged. Raged and spread. The sun vanished that day. Night fell over every land and chaos reigned. But briefly, before the stars were banished and light scathed back across the lands. The night and the day were at war, beyond song, beyond skirmish, if the whole of the realms fell with them, they cared not a jot. He stood frozen nearly too long before he let loose the howl to call his creatures to him. Perhaps some in the fight heard, but the leaders cared not and so were unprepared when their spells went awry, when the beasts of fang and claw and wing descended, following their lord.

The battle is one of which no one speaks. There are few things more unsettling to the folk of the realms than the prospect of non-existence, of how close the whole lot of them came to the edge. The horde disperses. The courts of the fair, light and dark, go home to seethe and resent. The wild ones scatter. And the lord of the wilds turns his back on the courts, going deep into the untamed. Speaking to none. No one has seen him since. Though every once and awhile, when the fighting gets too intense, the undergrowth growls, and those who fight, pause.

A thief am I! I stole the line “The sun vanished that day.” from a diplomat with a machete. And I’m not the only one…. check out her post to see who else nicked the line.

Legal Theft Project: Shapes Shift in Water

He tipped his hat to her, ignoring the way it allowed rain to sluice down his neck. The lady appreciated the gesture with a smile before they parted ways, her safe under her umbrella. It felt like rain was still pouring through him. The visions had been coming faster and his head was so full of the possibilities that it was a wonder he didn’t crack. He needed a break, he needed to deal with his thoughts.

So, despite the rain, he walked home. Across the shining wet cobbles, letting the raindrops pummel his hat, his coat, the rest of him. The hat brim could only do so much and drops caught on his lashes. His hair made a wet rat tail over the back of his coat. He looked more dishevelled than he’d ever been in public before, but who would be looking? Or recognize him if they did? So he walked on, sorting through his head and letting the frantic energy of the last few weeks sluice away with the rain. By the time he got to his front gate, his head was as clear. Like a deep pool of water, not empty, but still. Thoughts dropped onto the surface like rain, but most of them got no further or were dealt with easily. Go inside. Take off the coat. Remove the boots. Leave them in the mud room. Doff the hat, leave it on the bannister. Go to one’s room. Get your sketch book. Sit in front of the fire. Draw.

The images flowed like a river. A scene of fire. Smoke drifting over a field, a house in the background, burning. People in front of it, swords drawn, pistols discarded. Pain. He shaded the shadows long. Finished, he turned the page to another. A night scene, a balcony, the party inside, the two figures on the balcony enjoying the night together, rather than the glitter inside. Page after page he filled, listening to the drum of the rain on the roof. Finally, he turned the page, and nothing came. His curse satisfied, he settled in to draw his current project.

On the page, the face of a lady took shape under an umbrella. Dark curls, delicate face, stubborn tilt to her chin. It was not the lady he had accompanied earlier. He looked at the face on his page and realized he might not be treading water.

Picked the first line of this piece out of Kid‘s pocket. It isn’t just a first line, clever thieves have hidden it in various places. Take a look.