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.

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.

Legal Theft Project: Rest in the Rain

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

Shedding his black coat and hat in the entryway to his home, the hard holder shivers. He is not immune to the cold and the damp, he only pretends it away when his people can see him. He sits down on the bench and removes his boots, placing them carefully in the tray just for them. He can hear the radio from the living room and sees the warm glow of a fire. Before giving in to the warmth, he drifts into the bedroom. His wife’s clothes are jumbled on the end of the bed as if she could not decide what to wear and so tried everything before she settled on something. It makes him smile as he picks them up and puts them away before taking out a sweater and slipping it on. He pulls the curtains closed on the grey grey day and goes back to the beckoning warmth of the fire. His wife smiles when he comes in and he lets the iron in his spine relax. He pours them both a drink and sits down with her in front of the fire.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

The soldier, still lost, lets it wash all other thoughts from her head. She has not had peace since she woke up from the ice and the rain makes it easier to pretend. She sits back and takes care of her guns, watching the mechanic tinker with things she used to know the names of, now made strange and ethereal by the light and the man who twists them to do impossible tasks. She misses sitting in the barracks, playing cards with her fellows, bickering about assignments on similar rainy days. Back when the world was ordered. Back before storms and white noise were similar. Back when wolves only had one name. Rain at least, rain is the same. So she protects the items from her past and meditates on her place in the future, now that there is no army, no city, no country, to claim her.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

Under the miraculous clear roof, the dedicate watches the rain. He’s met the springs, the sea, the fog, and the rain. While the springs may have his heart, the rains are a flirt, at times dangerous, at others delightful, and only time will tell which is which. Dry under the greenhouse roof, he tends to the flowers and vegetables, singing. His voice accompanies the scattered rushes of raindrops and rises and falls in time. When his work is complete, he walks out into the rain, letting it wash over him in chill sheets. It blinds him, but he knows the ways of his domain well and he makes it to the springs. He wades into the steam and the warm water with a smile. Water takes and water gives. And he is content to follow where it flows.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

For the first time in a long time, the driver is not waiting out the rain in her car. Her car is safe under her custom tarp, though it does not keep the driver from the occasional worry when she glances out the window at the sheets of rain. The room is smoky and close with people lounging and dicing, playing cards and chatting. The radio plays lowly in the background, something moody and slow. Her brother is on a stool at the bar, flirting with the bartender. For his part, the bartender smiles and puts the finishing touches on something warm and steaming that smells of apples and better days. She walks over and takes a seat next to her brother and earns her own flash of a smile. They talk and the driver forgets to worry about her car. They are not talking of much, but it has been too long since she spent a day out of the rain. A day safe with other people, and not worried about what would happen when the rain lifts. At least while it rains, tomorrow and its roads will wait. At least for now, she can pretend she has a home.

Rain drowned the world in white noise. And the world slowed. And the wolves went home. And all, for now, was quiet, was well. For now.

Thieves abound! and stole this rainy first line to write their own pieces. Take a look! Completely independently that machete happy diplomat and I ended up with eerily similar pieces.

Legal Theft Project: Disbelief, Teeth, and Dramatic Escapes

He pivoted left, letting the blade pass harmlessly a breath from his ribs, and felt their rage and terror pour into him. More palace guards were entering the courtyard to engage his small crew and their insane battle toward the sea wall. Felix couldn’t manage to laugh as he dodged another strike from the guards. Val had lost half of his stolen guard armor, which was great for identifying him, but possibly a detriment to his protection. Their friend the other guard was busy carrying the now unconscious Shadrian and unlocking things that should not be unlocked. How that person was doing so was not apparent to Felix.

Kate came up on his right and engaged the guards trying to kill Felix. “You know, paying attention and quipping annoyingly would come in handy right about now, Captain,” she said between strikes.

Felix blinked. “I… I’m out of practice.”

“Improvise!” Kate demanded as she disarmed a guard. She kicked the guard’s blade into Felix’s hand and returned to holding the line for the retreat. Felix grabbed the hilt out of habit, and parried mechanically. They weren’t going to make it. There was nothing around that he could use to … to change anything. Damnit, this wasn’t how his final chapter was supposed to go! “I ask again, what in the seven watery realms are the lot of you doing here, Kate?”

She shot him an ‘oh-heavens-not-this-again’ look and continued fighting. A blade got through her guard and nicked her cheek lightly. Felix didn’t know if it was luck or skill that it was so light.

“Seriously, this is your dramatic escape? Try to kidnap a wicked monarch and get murdered on the way to jump off a wall. Toward the sea? Even if we make it, we can’t swim that far.” Felix swatted a guard’s blade away, but wasn’t fast enough to quite avoid the graze to his arm.

“He still complaining?” Val called over the din. “Told you we should have shoved some whiskey down his throat. He’d be better off a tad soused.”

“He’d be a worse swordsman,” Kate called back. She surveyed the field and the crossbowmen setting up on the balconies. “Call Mel, we can’t wait any longer.”

“Works for me!” Val replied. He put his fingers between his teeth and let out a deafening whistle. Nothing happened for a couple beats of battle, then a dark shadow fell over the courtyard. The palace guards slowed their pursuit. The crossbowmen shot, but their bolts all shattered against the scales of the looming sea serpent whose head continued to rise over the sea wall. Holding onto the serpent’s crest for balance was Mel. Mel scanned the ground and spoke to the sea serpent, not that anyone on the ground could hear what she said. Kate stepped back from the conflict, grinning. “Okay everyone. We are going to go join our good friend Dakuwaquan, one of the seven lords of the seas, and as long as no one bothers us, we will leave your royal pain in the ass, right on that battlement. Got it?”

For his part, Dakuwaquan smiled. With teeth. Lots and lots of teeth. The palace guards retreated.

Val, Kate, Felix, and their new friend carrying the unconscious Shadrian all got up to the palace wall below the sea serpent’s head with no issue. At which point, Mel tossed down a rope and Val clambered up. Their new friend followed him up. Kate and Felix had a staring match to determine who would climb next. Felix lost to Kate’s unflinching gaze. While Felix was climbing, Kate leaned down and made sure the unconscious royal pain was secure. Then she patted his head and ascended the rope. Everyone was a little crowded, sea serpent heads were slippery and not intended for booted feet. However, they managed jaunty farewells and Mel whispered to Dakuwaquan.

The sea serpent rose a few more feet, taking himself off the wall and moved away. Slowly sinking into deeper water, until just his head and the people on it, were above the water. Felix watched the palace fade behind them and surveyed the sea serpent and the ocean as they swam further out into the sea.

“Mel,” he said mildly, “What in the stars did you offer our friend here?”

Mel looked up at her captain. “He had a craving for banana bread.”

Felix raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

Val nodded. “Mel made a loaf the size of a house. He ate the whole thing. Took an island’s worth of bananas.” Val continued tossing bits and pieces of palace guard armor into the sea. He ditched the gambeson too. He looked more like Val.

Felix looked over his friends, all stubbornly pleased with themselves. Except… “Hello friend, I’m Captain Felix Garret and I’m usually better at introductions during daring rescues, but I will admit I have never been the rescued before. A pleasure to meet you.” He bowed to the newest apparent addition to the band.

The armored figure waved. Felix looked to Kate who shook her head. “Nope, not enough time for that story.”

“Not in the slightest,” Val agreed.

Mel nodded emphatically.

The armored figure shrugged.

Dakuwaquan nodded in agreement. Those standing on his head all lunged for a hand hold on his crest. Everyone laughed.

“Alright everyone,” Kate said. “The sun is setting, the mood is right, please strike your successful daring rescue poses as we approach the ship and prepare for debarking.”

Val laughed and picked up Mel to sit on his shoulders. The armored figure balanced carefully so as to appear nonchalant and immovable. Kate adjusted her hand hold on the sea serpent’s crest and held out her other hand to Felix. “Captain?”

“Damn.” Felix grinned a bit of his old outrageous grin. “It’s good to be back.” He took Kate’s hand and turned to face the horizon. Dramatically.

I stole this first line from Kid. It got away from me a bit. See who else was dodging blades over here.