178/366 – The Honest Thief

Day 36 of 100 Word Prompts: Money

Zhen pushed his way through the door, stepping out of the rain. He had been soaked to the bone for days, unable to dry out completely. He shook off what water he could as he saw the familiar desk sitting in the center of the elaborately decorated room. Behind the desk sat Kilan, an elf with black hair and pale skin. They flashed a warm smile as he stepped forward.

“What’cha got?” Kilan asked, holding out his hand.

“Not much,” Zhen replied as he dropped the coins into their hand. “It was a slow day.”

“This is just sad,” Kilan replied, shaking their head. “Only a handful of copper and silver? I thought you said that you were good at this.”

“I tried,” Zhen said. “There weren’t a lot of people on the streets today. I can do better. The weather just needs to dry up a bit, so people aren’t wearing cloaks over their coin purses.”

“Excuses,” Kilan replied, clicking their tongue. “You know, money is the easiest thing in the world to find, it’s simply a matter of being able to get your hands on it.”

“You said that before,” Zhen said.

“I meant it then, and still do. I don’t know that it’s going to work out having you work for us,” Kilan said. “It was fun for a minute, but you draw a lot of attention to yourself with your blue skin and flowing hair. It’s only getting harder to make it so that people don’t follow you back.”

“I wear my hood up and a mask when I’m working. I’ve done everything I can to mitigate it,” Zhen said, motioning for his hood.

“I’m not saying you didn’t give it a good go, bud,” Kilan replied. “I’m just saying, maybe we can find something else for you to do. Lifting coin purses is a simple thing, and Gerard told me he saw you pass over some over the last week. Can you explain that?”

“They needed the money more,” Zhen replied. “You could see it. They were wearing tattered clothes and no shoes. They needed the few coppers they had-”

“Enough,” Kilan replied. “Byron hasn’t had any issues with taking from anyone. His scams are approaching legendary status.”

“I don’t know him,” Zhen said.

“Maybe you should shadow him. Let people decide to give you their money instead of taking it,” Kilan said.

“I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” Zhen said. “There has to be an honest way for me to make a living.”

“Honesty is for those that can afford it,” Kilan said.

“I haven’t been able to stay in a room for weeks, Kilan,” Zhen said. “No offense, but this isn’t exactly a lucrative business.”

“Hey! Don’t we take care of you?” Kilan said. “I know it’s been a little dried up lately, but the weather’s nice, you can stay dry in some of the spots we showed you.”

“I think I’m done, Kilan,” Zhen said. “I heard a rumor that there is another air genasi in Dostra. I think I’m going to try to find them.”

“Dostra?” Kilan repeated. “I don’t know, buddy. From what I know of them, they don’t like outsiders. Likely, they won’t let you in.”

“I have to try,” Zhen replied. “It’s not like I have a lot going on for me here. I don’t have a family, my friends are all thieves and swindlers, and I don’t even have a home.”

“We aren’t all thieves and swindlers,” Kilan replied, patting his chest. “I take care of my people. I can’t speak for the higher-ups, though.”

“Kilan, we both know that you take care of yourself first,” Zhen replied, motioning around him. “Look at this place. It’s not exactly a hovel. I’m not upset. I just think it’s time to move on.”

“Well, when you first started working with us, I told you that you could come and go as you pleased. You did better than most and brought in your haul before you left,” Kilan said, nodding as he weighed the pouch in his hand. He opened a drawer, fished out a handful more coins and dropped them into the bag before holding it out to Zhen. “Here.”

“No, I don’t want it,” Zhen protested, putting his hands up.

“Consider it severance pay,” Kilan replied. “I can’t say that I do this with everyone, but you are easily the most honest thief I’ve ever hired. You’re too good for this anyway.”

Kilan reached over the desk and pulled Zhen’s hand down, setting the pouch in it.

“I don’t think that you’re really made for this kind of life anyway. I hope you find what you’re looking for, but at the same time, I hope you come back. It’s been nice working with you, buddy,” Kilan said. “If you’re truly looking to go to Dostra, find your way to Bolestoney. There’s an inn there where you can find a man named Shen Jia. He should be able to help you get where you’re going.”

“Goodbye, Kilan,” Zhen said as he tied the pouch to his belt. “If I come around again, I’ll try to come to see you. Thank you for everything and the tip. I’ll look him up if I reach Bolestoney. I’m not sure where the wind will take me.”

“No, you won’t,” Kilan replied with a smile. “You’re going to forget that you were ever here and hopefully be the person you are setting out to be.”

Zhen opened the door and stepped out into the alley without another word. The rain still fell from the sky in a steady drizzle. The sound of the water falling onto the crates and barrels lining the alley created a kind of rhythmic melody around him. Zhen looked to the clouds and let himself rise to the lip of the roof, stepping gently onto the clay tiles before walking across them.

Zhen walked out of Alwoth toward Lysfield to the north. He wasn’t sure if he would make it to the coast, but he knew that if anyone could help him find a safe place, it would be the only other air genasi he had ever heard about in Dostra.


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