Legal Theft Project: The Proper Lighting

Outside the open apartment gate, a small pack of children threw rocks at passing cars. Fen ignored them and got a closer look at the shattered window and colorful graffiti that circled it. He got a few decent shots, playing with the afternoon light and saturation. He’d gained a small audience by the time he lowered the lens. Apparently he was more interesting than automobiles. He didn’t blame them. If he’d been out on the trail he would have had something for them. Something to light up the day and let them remember him. But … he simply lived here. So he stowed his camera and walked off, long legged strides leaving the curiosity and palpable pressure of boredom at his heels. A block later and he broke into a run. Tightened his camera bag strap so it wouldn’t fly off, and raced down the streets. Stares, whispers, and swears followed him. When he nearly tripped over a man leaving a shop and was treated to an improbable account of his ancestry, he finally slowed. He checked the sun and grudgingly turned his feet toward home, he still had homework to do.

His father was busy with the evening rush and his sister was off with her friends preparing for some school event. He understood glitter and poster board were involved. He managed not to shudder. Slogged through about a quarter of his assigned homework. Took a break by writing his required sentences for Spanish as a villanelle and then gave up entirely. Formulaic, cohesive, unimaginative crap. He put on the CD of traditional guitar he’d gotten when he last visited Spain and pulled up his pictures from the day. He studied the broken window, played with light levels and sharpness. Flipped back to earlier in the day, a blurred shot of a crosswalk, an electrical box so covered in tattered paper you could barely tell what its intended purpose was, the stark contrast of the new bakery next to the abandoned lot with the rusting car. He played with mood, making some stark, some bright, more false… but nothing worked. Frustrated he went downstairs and dug into the cookie jar. His sister must have been experimenting as his cookie contained both chocolate chips and butterscotch and the texture was delightfully crispy. He left her a note and headed back up the stairs.

It was the music that was wrong. Nothing about the pictures he’d taken felt like Spanish guitars. He flipped through his collection and made a list of modern, mostly eerie music and settled down in front of his computer screen. This time through, the broken glass was opportunity wasted, the electrical box showed time and carelessness, and the bakery seemed illogical in its place on that corner. Here, with the ability to manipulate moods, light, and blur, the world he was trapped in took on other properties. Transforming from desperate to mysterious, from abandoned to ancient. From mundane to magical. They became places he was willing to spend time. They just needed proper shading.

I stole this first line from a machete wielding diplomat. Well, at least it gave us something to do.

Legal Theft Project: Take that Bet

“You won’t be leaving this town alive.” He leaned over her car door, beer and menace on his breath. Lore smiled softly at him and brought up the mace in her right hand. Right in his eyes. Point blank. She turned the key, the engine revved and he was left, swearing, in her tail lights. His cronies were piling in cars and speeding after her. Two wild spurts of gun fires whistled up the street behind her. One dinged the paint. She shifted into a higher gear and made a beeline for the highway. Three quarter tank of gas and everything she owned in the world heaped in the trunk next to five and a half thousand dollars. Some men couldn’t take losing. She sped through a red light and cursed the fact that bullets were cheap as three more skidded over the back end of her red convertible.

Shifting again, she dodged three civilians in pokey sedans. Thankfully none of them swerved into her or her pursuers. The irritated gamblers weren’t driving terribly well. Her smile took on a razor edge as she flew up the freeway on-ramp. If she could avoid getting shot  for the next five miles she would lose them for good on the coastal highway. No way they would take those curves at her speeds.

She dropped into fifth gear and said a brief prayer of encouragement to her car. A few more shots trailed after her, but she barely heard them. The world became wind, road, and reflexes. Spirit soaring, she raced over the pavement. One of her pursuers dropped behind and fell out of the chase. Car repairs and surgery cost far more than what she had in the trunk. She wasn’t surprised the other car continued. Pride had a high value, for all you couldn’t sell it.

A white sedan swerved erratically and she swore. Managing not to get nicked, she made it by, but she lost ground. The curves of the highway were coming up fast and she started to hear the distant sound of sirens. She had to lose them, now. Curve after curve, she spun her complaining car down the curving coastal highway.

The squeal of tires and she risked a glance in the rear view. Her pursuer had finally messed up. She let out a long breath, glad he had spun out into the hillside instead of tumbling off the cliffs.

She let herself gradually decelerate and cruised along. She’d need to get gas, and then keep going. Change highways. Dip into small towns. She had enough to go on for a while. She turned on the radio, flipped to a pop station and sang along to whatever top hit came up. Alive, a couple thousand richer, a good chase behind her. Some days, it was all she wanted out of life.

Robbed that machete wielding rogue again. Click the link to see who else may not be leaving a town alive.

Legal Theft Project: Underworld

Every woman in Evanston over the age of twelve owned a red dress. Every man over thirteen owned a blue suit. Every cat was white. Every dog was black. Houses came in white, tan, and grey in blocks of three or alternating. The landscaping was impeccable and orderly. Everyone crossed at the crosswalks and cars never sped. To fly over Evanston was to fly over a dollhouse of a town. Immediately visible for its manufactured identity and immediately dismissed for its dullness. Which was just how the inhabitants liked it.

Underground, away from the prying eyes that drifted through the chem-soaked skies, the inhabitants of Evanston lived a different life. Entrance was granted to all in red dress or blue suit. The uniforms stored at the entrances in the basements of common areas, the library, city hall, the police station. Once shed of the uniform a closet opened, and a world of possibilities unfolded. Clad however they wished, the inhabitants of Evanston entered the other world. Where order, conformity, and fear were unknown. Quiet nooks for extended study, loud dance floors with flashing lights, computer terminals, restaurants, sporting rinks, and theaters all cheek by jowl and jumbled together in the echoing twisting caves. People joked about the facade, but the strict division between what others saw and what you did was a wonderful joke. Occasionally you got a tourist who suspected something, but once they’d had a taste of the world below, someone offered them a piece of pie that tasted like comfort, or they slipped on a red dress and followed some locals below ground, they didn’t come back. The sheriff’s department shook its head at the folly of tourists and posted more generic warnings. But if you looked in their eyes, you could see the smug glint. What Evanston took, Evanston did not give back.

I stole this first line from Kathryn awhile ago. See what she’d written For the Worst Days.

Legal Theft Project: Self Image and Ski Chalets

Somehow he managed not to throw his hands in the air. Admitting defeat was accomplished by a gritting of the teeth and the flutter of panic in his chest. “I’ll look at the brochures, okay?” Carefully, he collected the glossy destination brochures from the table. Snow covered mountains, impossibly green grounds, and weathered brick and wood buildings all glowed upon the expensive custom print paper.

“We truly think it would be best for you, Aaron. There have been enough disruptions this year, we want to ensure you have the best foundation possible.” His mother leaned back and sipped on her vodka stinger and attempted a sympathetic smile.

He nodded and returned the polite fiction of upturned corners of the mouth. “Of course mother.” It has nothing to do with a lingering sense of guilt and a terror of all things new and sharp. He made it to his door and a tiny bolt of lightning arced from his hand to the metal handle. His temper, visible, and lively. He wrenched the door open and sent the brochures flying onto his desk. Before they could skid off, he swept out his hand and commanded the air to keep them in place. The brochures fluttered, but remained on the desk. One of them fell open to a picture of a charming ski lodge that was actually a dormitory. He had a sudden image of himself in a suit, holding yet another mixed drink and slowly calcifying into his parents.

His keys leapt to his hand and he raced down the stairs, out the side door, and slid into his convertible. Revving the engine, he tore into town and skidded into a parking spot. Got out, closed the door, locked his car and began hunting down the streets for some kind of answer, some form of additional immunity to turning into some pickled alcoholic specimen of his parents. He stopped in front of a tattoo parlor. It would be perfect, but he doubted they’d overlook his age. But a piercing…. He grinned.

It took him two hours. He went to every piercing shop in town, laid down fifty dollars and said that he paid for however many people it covered. Two thirds of the way through, he sat down in a chair, told them his parents had approved it, tipped the person in question an extra hundred dollars, and got a ring wrapped around the very top of his right ear. A stainless steel band etched with a wave pattern, it hurt like hell, and he grinned right through it. They told him how to keep  the piercing clean, warned him it might be sore. He waved them off and sauntered out. Oh sure, he’d have problems with it, short as his hair was, but right now. Well. It just felt right.

I challenged some thieves to run away with a dormitory and an earring. They did. Clever thieves.

Legal Theft Project: One Hell of a First

Balae lit the tip of the incense from the thick candle at the heart of her summoning circle and placed it precisely in the bowl of offerings. The incense joined five glistening rubies and the body of the largest illreth spider she could locate. Standing outside the twisting rings of white and red runes surrounding the bowl, she began the invocation. As she intoned, the smell of brimstone and boneflowers swirled up along with the temperature. The bowl of offerings ignited in a roaring blaze. Balae didn’t falter, though sweat was starting to run down her back and neck. Finally, she spoke the name and the center of the circle vanished in a blaze of fire and clouds of sweet smelling smoke. When the air cleared, she let out a long quiet breath.

Sitting on a throne of ossified boneflowers, the demon queen set her coldly furious gaze on the diminutive dark elf in front of her. Balae knelt and then slowly sank back to sit on her feet, gaze not leaving the demon queen’s own. After a moment, the demon queen tilted her head. “Well, this is unusual. Hubris is usually a fault of your people.”

“It is, but I intend to spend mine on a better bargain.” Balae twisted her hands a few times and triggered the waiting spell in the runes. A small table, set with fine wine, and rare delicacies from the sunless lands appeared at the demon queen’s right hand.

“I admit myself intrigued.” The demon queen raised a bit of smoked fish to her lips and savored the aroma before popping it in her mouth. “More by what I don’t see than I do.”

“I could hardly offer to be at your service if I tried to bind you-” Balae swallowed her words as the demon queen laughed. And laughed, the sound like bones and bells all rolled together. She leaned forward, “I take no second seat to that eight legged frill-”

“I would not dare,” Balae said quietly.

The demon queen sat back and considered the calm, unfazed way the drow in front of her was sitting. The refreshments at the table and finally, the utter and complete lack of spiders in the room. “Then what, exactly, are you daring?”

Balae continued to exude outward calm. “Casting off the spider queen. Everyone here fights for her favor. She splits her attention between them and no one makes any gains. Her whims are unpredictable. This entire structure is nothing but one of her dreams that can fall apart at any moment and to falter means death… or worse.” She looked up and met the demon queen’s gaze. “I am looking for a less fickle patron. I want power. You are a far surer bet than the spider.”

“You betray her so easily?”

“She is made of betrayal. Your kind are known for keeping their bargains. Hers are not.” Balae smiled. “I highly doubt I can outthink one who has been bargaining since time immemorial.”

The compliment had the intended effect and the demon queen knew it. “What do you want.”

“Power, commensurate with my service to you. The greater I achieve, the more power I have, the more power I have the more power you offer.” She was leaning forward herself, hands on her knees as she named what she so dearly wanted.

“Power for power,” the demon queen said after a beat. “ I will agree to the request as long as I also have the freedom to walk in the material plane. I have missed some of its finer pleasures.”

Balae bowed her head. “I am not intending to leave the city of spiders, I am concerned that your presence would reveal our bargain and at this time I am not able to stand against the combined might of the entire city. The spider queen would say jump and my service to you would be severely shortened.”

“Then give me your mortal experiences. I think you should quite entertain me, little drow.” She held out her hand and a tattered grey book appeared in her hand, unfurling like a new leaf. The book floated over to Balae and opened, revealing a contract on the inside of the cover. It was written in the tongue of fiends and seemed to shift as she looked at it. Balae read it carefully. Then, taking a small obsidian knife, she cut her palm and paused. “And what would you like to name your house, my queen?”

The demon queen chuckled. “Call yourself Kazaeth, the spider will be flattered and I will enjoy the joke.”

“As it please you.” And Balae, new matron of house Kazaeth signed the contract in her blood. It glowed for a moment then faded into shadowy runes hidden in the design of the cover.

“Do keep the book. You’ll find it useful.” The demon queen finished her wine. “I’ll be in touch, don’t disappoint me.” And then she and her throne disappeared leaving only the empty offering bowl behind.

Balae clutched the book to her chest and leaned over to lay down on her side, laughing silently. She took several deep breaths to get herself back under control. For her very first fiendish summoning, she thought, it went rather well.

Well, I was challenged to steal a first experience by Bek. I did so. I am also borrowing bits of lore from various roleplaying games for setting for the fun of it.

Legal Theft Project: Luck, Damn Luck, and Felix

“You are the only person who goes hunting dangerous caverns, during the full moon, with a map written in a language you don’t know.” First Mate Kate adjusted the setting of her bulls-eye lantern, but at Captain Felix’s waving hand, she sighed and shuttered the beam. The moon was bright enough that all four of the people currently on the shore could see each other and the map without aid. Which just figured.

“It isn’t a language, Kate,” Felix said. “It is a code. And I do know it. Well, most of it.”

Kate snorted and Val laughed. Mel shook her head at the lot of them.

“I still don’t see why I had to come on this hunt,” Mel said, sitting down on one of the large and less pointy rocks that littered the beach. “I cannot cook our wonderful catch of fresh fish if I am sitting on an albeit gorgeous beach in the full moon light.” She pursed her lips. “Any chance I could meet a mermaid?”

Valiantly, Val kept a straight face, “They don’t like Kate.”

Kate looked at Val. Val had lost his shirt at the gambling table and was doing a bad impression of a stoic barbarian. Kate dropped her voice, “They were trying to drown us.”

“You beat them at a singing contest,” Val pointed out. Aside to a wide eyed Mel he explained, “Our Kate has a gorgeous voice that put the sirens to shame. They avoid us like the plague just to make sure it never happens again.”

Mel’s small oh of a mouth didn’t know which questions to ask first and so she didn’t get to as Felix cried aloud in delight. The other three all exchanged looks and then ran after him.


The cave system was surprisingly open, though the crash of waves was amplified and distorted by the twisting passages and Felix’s loyal crew were not at all certain they would find their way out with ease. Felix himself was absorbed with the map and kept running his fingers along the walls, presumably looking for something. The caves flickered with the moonlight glancing through from crumbled walls or open roofing. Kate occasionally opened the beam of her lantern, sending the buttery yellow beam slicing through the blue caverns like a revealing curtain. When they found it, they all saw it. Chiseled onto the wall was a detailed blazon of an owl in flight. The eyes gleamed dully with tarnished gold, the only embellished detail and when they were hit by lantern light they fairly glowed.

The four adventurers set to, Felix sprang over the doorway and looked around as if scenting the wind, Kate looked for traps, Val drew a machete in case of angry cave inhabitants, and Mel waited while snacking on a lemon cookie. Felix was disappointed in the lack of ghosts, Kate disarmed the trap, Val advanced into the room to watch Felix’s back, and Mel asked, “So what now?”

“Now,” Felix said, motioning her into the room, “I demonstrate why I invested so much time into this adventure.”

Mel humored her captain and entered the room. Kate came in and stood at her shoulder. With a showman’s flair, Felix approached the wall of the cave, and deftly twisted an unassuming knob of rock. The wall swung silently open, letting out the smell of dusty metal. The engineering of the door was exquisite, but they didn’t stop to marvel at the sliding mechanics when a dozen years worth of gold and gemstones glittered in the light of Kate’s lantern.

“Demon’s breath, Felix,” Val breathed. “We’re… we’re filthy rich. Kingly rich.”

“What the hell is this…” Kate took a step into the other chamber, Val and Mel followed her. Felix hung back at the door and his crew didn’t see the way the vivid light went out of his green eyes. “It’s mine,” he said lightly. “Shares from adventures, other than taking care of the ship and finding more maps, I didn’t have much to do with it.”

Val laughed delightedly and picked up an emerald as big as his fist. Val had very large fists.

Kate turned and looked at her Captain. They met eyes for just a moment and she knew and lunged for the door. She wasn’t fast enough. Damn Felix’s luck. The door swung shut as easily and quietly as it opened. Mel and Val blinked in shock.

“Curse it Felix! What’s going on?” Kate slammed her fist into the door.

“Sorry Kate. Sorry Val. Sorry Mel.” Felix’s voice was muffled by the door but still heard in the sudden silence of the sealed cave. “You’ll either escape or the door will open in a few hours. I … I did set a timer.”

“FELIX, there is never a time to pull the one man army gambit, and you know it! Let us out right now!” Kate kept her hand against the door, willing her captain and best friend to see sense.

“Sorry Kate, you can’t keep me out of trouble this time. You’ll all be safer out of it. I promise.” Felix’s footsteps were audible for a few steps. Val motioned Kate and Mel to the side and attempted ramming the door. The door won. The door won the next two matches as well. Val declared the door a nemesis and went to look for something to assist in his next attempt as he didn’t want to ruin his machetes.

Mel gave Kate a cookie and the two women sat down among the gold and jewels.

“Well, that explains why he wanted me to come, we have provisions,” Mel said.

“No chance you can summon your sea serpent to get us out of here?” Kate asked and bit into her cookie.

“About as much as you do with your monkey kicking boots and siren shaming voice. Or Val and his impressive musculature and aversion to shirts.” Mel made sure to save some cookies for Val and amused herself by attempting to juggle some of the gems.

Val sat down and consumed two cookies. “So…” he said. “We’re going to have to rescue his ass big time aren’t we?”

Mel and Kate nodded. “Oh yeah.” “Big time.”

Val nodded back. “S’what I thought. Bout time his damn luck ran out.”

Some enterprising thieves stole a map, an owl, and betrayal from this piece of fiction. I hope they had better luck. 

Legal Theft Project: Solitary Hunters

His sister did not look worried, which meant absolutely nothing. He’d learned the art of composure from her and she still managed to best him at it often. Their own personal game of chess. She was searching him for clues just as sincerely, he was sure. And he was just as sure she wasn’t going to mention what bothered her unless prompted. He opened his hand  and brushed it aside, inviting her thoughts and recognizing that they may not be as well constructed as was their usual want.

“You’ve made a lot of changes,” she said, placing her teacup back on the saucer. Only a half step, a knight jumping two over and one forward.

“I got attached,” he said simply. Tilting his head slightly as he attempted to read exactly what it was that had his sister… subliminally twitchy.

A faint bit of surprise crossed her face, followed swiftly by an automatic calculation. “Attached?”

He bit his tongue in order to not roll his eyes. “You don’t trust me to keep tabs on a teenager?”

She caught the wry tone. “It’s not you I don’t trust.”

He raised his eyebrow at her continued dismissal of his abilities. She rolled her eyes.

He poured himself another cup of tea and she took a sip of hers. Letting it cool slightly, he quoted one of their mutual favorite war philosophers, “There are no foxes in the bathhouse.”

She looked at him expectantly.

“I am assuming he isn’t the only one you’re concerned about.” Brandon picked up his cup and cradled it.

“You have a pattern of late,” she said.

“A rather deliberate one,” he returned.

She accepted that. Not that she understood what he was after, but the idea that he was pursuing something and going where the target was bound to be, at least appealed to her professional nature. It was as close as he could come. They were similar, almost too similar, and he wasn’t quite ready to admit to his sister that he was lonely and had been lonely and not known it for some time. He was quite concerned that if he did she would quickly have to deal with the fact that she was as well. And she did not have a protege, a ward, or a team to fall back on. Content, he sipped his tea and changed the subject.

I stole the truth “There are no foxes in the bathhouse” from that other thief with a machete. It took awhile to find out where those dang foxes were.

Legal Theft Project: The Little Things

He was allowed to ask for things; asking meant he was getting better. When he requested some herbs in order to improve the scent of his soap, his wardens positively beamed. So he asked for small constructive things for months. Requesting a different shade of curtain, a different dinner partner, a few more walks in the garden. More plants. A light mobile for the window. He took a full six before he began peppering his requests with little useful additions. Could he have some cedar shavings for a sachet to go with the lilac? Would they allow him a small amount of cleaning chemical to take care of the stains on his desk? No, he’d rather do it himself. He caused the mess, he should clean it up. When his caseworker informed him that he had made great progress, he created a bomb. A very small bomb. And two weeks later, he took his small bomb and placed it very carefully, and made a small hole in a beam. And that beam cracked and made an enormous mess of the entire west facade. He took his packed bag with a few of the extraneous ingredients and a set of clothes, and walked calmly through the chaos to the storage lockers. The terrified staff and confused patients paid him no mind. He retrieved his personal effects, glad to see that they had not been tampered with. Items secured, he meandered over to a port to the system mainframe. It was usually manned, but what with the threat of the entire building collapsing… well, he understood the lapse. They were only human.

He made his way through the files erasing everything he could find. His files, other files. Creating as much chaos as possible from the single port. Satisfied, he jammed a magnet from the back of a fridge magnet into the casing and hoped that would cover his tracks well enough. Nasty things computers.  He didn’t want another visit from well meaning citizens for a long time. It was a good thing he’d finished. The floor was starting to shake in a menacing manner. He navigated his way to the exit and across the street. He walked steadily away, looking back for a moment when the tremendous crunch of the collapsing building slammed over the street.

He allowed himself a small satisfied smile. An irritating but altogether not worthless half a year. Now if he could just get back to his tower, the mortals should leave him alone for about a decade or so.

I stole this first line from TheGateintheWood. It took awhile before anyone claimed it.

Legal Theft Project: Redecorating

She ripped down the curtain disguising the featureless bulkhead. It fluttered gracefully to the floor before she grabbed it and tore it into shreds. Decorative pillows were thrown off the bed and the sheets were militarily straightened. She paused looking at the ruined fabric. This wouldn’t do. She left and returned hauling a box and a large trash bag. She stuffed the fabric into the bag and put the pillows into the box. The lamp was thrown in the trash bag. It made a satisfying crunch when it landed. The handful of trinkets was tossed into the box. The more delicate ones actually getting placed instead of thrown. The rug she picked up and methodically tore into strips before tossing the ribbons into the trash. Posters and prints were ripped and trashed. The result was a smooth grey capsule of a room. All individuality washed out as if it had never been. Just the curved alien lines of a ship that was not her home. No matter what she’d done. No matter what she changed. This wasn’t her place. She’d been in too many places like it.

She sank onto the bunk and wrapped her arms around her knees as the similarity to the facility sank in. When the hot tears came she didn’t fight them, she lowered her head to the top of her knees and let herself weep. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.

Hours later, she took out the trash bag. When she returned, she packed up the box, grabbed her running bag, and walked out of the room. She couldn’t be done with the place. She needed the resources and the safety. But it was more than time to move out.

I stole an unsettling room from a machete wielding diplomat. Keep an eye out for other thefts.

Legal Theft Project: Storm’s Heart

The city’s scintillating towers and reflective edifices became somber and dark in the downpour. Rell settled himself on the narrow ledge and let the rain soak down to his skin. The rain wavered and shifted, allowing glimpses of the world spread out below. He ignored it and turned his face up into the rain. He could see the city from the height any time he wanted, but it was rare he found his way into this pure a storm. Letting it wash over him … well, he wasn’t one for meditation or spirituality, but this was pretty close. Connected to the natural world. Simply. So he basked.

Then with a long sigh, he let go of the peace and the quiet and let the storm inside him run loose. He breathed in and felt the air, felt the clouds, the rain, and the electric hum in the air. It had been raining for days, ceaselessly, naturally. It wasn’t someone like him. But … it wasn’t the season either. He couldn’t get a good reading from this building. He grinned into the wind and vaulted off the ledge. He allowed himself the fun of freefall for a few exhilarating heartbeats, before calling himself a wind and riding it into the sky. He coasted, following the odd drift of air and cloud. There weren’t nearly enough, not for this drenching. There was a significant discrepancy in the air quality over by the pier. He wavered over calling back up when he saw a familiar figure down below. He set down on the room in a swirl of wind and rain. “Been awhile Iron Sword. Looking for something to do?”

“I’d appreciate a change in the weather. You able to do something about that.” Iron Sword grinned and added, “Stormlord.”

“I was considering it, care to lend a hand?” Stormlord, Rell, grinned back.

“Thought you’d never ask.”

I stole this first line from someone with a machete.… and may have grabbed one of her characters as well. Hope she doesn’t mind.