A Den of Thieves

You almost overlooked it, this unassuming door in the wall of one of the many narrow alleyways of Spite, but you’re sure this is the place. You knock thrice and kick the bottom of the door, just like the Shifty-Eyed Urchin showed you, and wait as the three bolts are drawn and the door opens before you. Once inside, you are surprised to see how much it looks like Caligula’s, albeit far less crowded and more dimly lit. As the Shifty-Eyed Urchin had described it to you this is a place for people from the more Shadowy walks of life to gather and share tales of their heists and burglaries, be they profitable or ill fated, all while enjoying fine spirits at a low cost and avoiding Mr. Wines’ taxes.

Lucan Ashfield sits in a corner booth with a bottle of smuggled brandy and a tale from his time in New Newgate to share with anyone willing to listen.

&quotThey had just put me in a cell with a scarred-up Rubbery Man when the word was passed that there was going to be a riot. My new cell-mate made a nervous fluting noise and I turned to see what it was on about. Several of its scars seemed fresher than the others, no doubt from the last riot, and it had pleading look in its eyes. I wondered if this was the one that I had heard about, the one that had killed one of the Governor’s boys the week before.&quot
&quotWhat’s wrong?&quot I asked it &quotA lot of people out there want you dead or something?&quot It twitched its facial tentacles in confirmation.
&quotTell you what,&quot I said, &quotI’ll look after you out there, when it all goes up, if you can help me get a weapon.&quot It perked up then, contorting its tentacles and making an off-putting noise like someone sucking loudly on a peppermint humbug. I was about to ask what it was doing when it spit out a chunk of amber shaped like an ice sickle or a stalactite, warm and sticky but deadly sharp. &quotWell that was faster than I expected.&quot I laughed. &quotJust keep your back to the wall and stay behind me.&quot It nodded and we waited for the guards to come take us into the mess hall. Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how bad riots can get up there, and when it started it seemed like half of the prison was out to get my new friend. The shiv it had made me worked wonders, though and I had sent five sorry louts to meet the Boatman when I heard a triumphant fluting noise from behind me. I turned just in time to look it in the eye as it sunk a second amber shiv into my belly. The last thing I saw before joining those five on the Boatman’s ferry was it clapping hands with the prisoners I had been &quotprotecting&quot it from as they congratulated it on its fine deception. The moral of the story is this: A Rubbery Man can make you a fine rib-sticker, but trust in New Newgate will get you killed.&quot

Lucan refills your glass and looks at you expectantly, waiting for a story in turn.

&quotSharp amber. That is a first - but I never quite trusted them rubbers.&quot

Anatasia looks down on her glass, swirling with a clear liquid. Gin? It was an unsettling story. Possibly it might be poison.

She drains it. No point worrying about it now. She might lose face if she hesitate on a drink.

&quotThere was a box of First City Coin. It was a classic - lift it for some gamblers, and you get diamonds for your trouble.&quot She tries to drain her glass again, but it is empty.

&quotI am not the one doing the liftin’, of course. This one is a bait, the old constable said. Suspect there is a bad egg with his contacts. So I set the coins up at the house next door. Sat in a closet for half a day with some insect biting me the entire time. Sure enough, someone came calling - one of these oh-so-depraved belle that happens to be good at pinching things from other.&quot She spits. &quotI was told to get them if the constables didn’t show, so I did. Tried to jump her from behind when I heard a click. Both of us get pricked by poison needles and had our things nicked while we choke.&quot She shrugs. &quotTurns out the old man also plays Knife-and-Candle. I now know not to mix work and play, at least.&quot

From your story I can certainly understand the suspicion of poison, but I assure you that isn’t the case. I’m a career criminal, not a savage.

Anatasia licks her lips.

Gin. Yet in the man’s hand is a bottle of brandy. Is the man from Mahogany Hall? She is not sure. But if someone wanted to take her down there are faster poisons.

She relaxes and slumps into her seat. &quotA career criminal. So, who do you usually steals from?&quot

&quotGlad you could join us, Nobby,&quot Lucan said, &quotpull up a seat and I’ll get us another bottle.&quot He returns a moment later with a dusty bottle and a few clean shot glasses. &quotBy the way, I’m a big fan of that &quotfishing trick&quot you lot use. I’m not very good at it myself. Better at catching ears and noses than a hat or a wallet.&quot He pours a round of shots for the group and lights a bone pipe, scrimshawed with a scene of an immense eel rising up from the zee before an unfortunate vessel.

&quotTo answer your question, Anatasia, I typically tend to leave the poorer folk alone when looking for a place to burgle. This isn’t out of any sense of nobility, though. After all, what can one honestly expect to lift from a household that doesn’t have two pennies to rub together. That being said, burglaries for me have become more of a hobby than actual work. Extortion and smuggling make up most of my operation nowadays.&quot

Anatasia snatch the bottle and take a deep swig. She needed that. Extortion? Here is a well-mannered, pleasant man, but his words mark him as the kind of heartless criminal she so despises. Extortion? Burglary as a hobby?

And the boy has the most incomprehensible accent, and the skill to present a tale of heist into the yammering of a salesman. Cockney.

Then she catches herself. She is judging people on a few words, again. She has met enough people in the Neath that proves otherwise. The boy, despite Cockney, is courteous. And does not prey on the poor.

&quotIt is fine, Nobby.&quot She hesitates as she realize the long delay of her reply. &quotSo Lucan, you mentioned smuggling. Are you an underling for the Widow, or the landlord at Medusa’s Head? Extorting for them?&quot

Well Anatasia, that’s a bit of a tricky question. I make my toasts to the Cheery Man. When I first arrived in London and found myself homeless without an echo to my name he offered me work, and I will remember that debt till the day the Boatman takes me away for good. That being said, i suppose you could say i freelance. I do regular work for both, you see, and run a small gang of hoodlums on the side for my own personal interests. What about you? To whom do you make your toasts?

&quotI don’t toast people,&quot Anatasia said flatly. &quotUnlike you, I do not have a career in crime, let alone dedication to any one of them.&quot

She takes another swig. &quotYou lead a gang? What do you do with them? Remind me to stay out of your way.&quot

Suddenly, the door to the establishment creaks open, as a man with a hideous mask enters, carrying a stone tablet under his arm. His eyes, scanning the interior, come to a rest on your table. Strolling up to it, he clears his throat and says "Are any of you up for a job? I had recently lost something that I have grown accustomed to. After attempting to track it down, I had found out that its misplacement was someone else’s doing. I want someone to help me tail them, and steal it back.

A couple looks up from a table in the corner, no longer consumed with their conversation. One is a woman, a familiar face from Wilmot’s End. The other shrouded underneath a heavy cloak.
“Missing something? We are Dirae Erinyes and Evensong; our mission is to balance the scales.” The cloaked one introduces.

Extending his hand, the man says, " Well then, the scales truly are out of balance then, a pleasure to meet you. My name is Koldun Hitch and I have lost an artifact that could make London even more of a hell than it already is. You know mirror spiders?

Evensong shakes her head &quotNot this again. . .&quot
Dirae Erinyes responds heartily while shaking Koldun’s hand, &quotWell, of course! The worlds behind the mirrors are one of my many interests. What do you want to to the B----rs?&quot

Grinning, he replies, " You see, a while back I had investigated a murder that was perpetrated with the use of one of these very spiders. This topic had piqued my interest once more a week ago, when I awoke in the middle of the night to find one of those buggers crawling past my ear. I tried to kill it, but it scuttled off towards my bedside mirror. Foolishly, I tried to grab the monster while it was halfway through, and for a mere moment, I experienced a vision of a London covered with spiderwebs, and an ornate silver mirror, with spider engravings in the frame. After I reeled back from the shock, I realized I still held the spider in my hand, only it was now a glass figurine. Out of fear, I locked it in one of my cabinets and returned to sleep. How surprised I was the next morning to find it on top of my bed sheets, its glass eyes staring right at me. Quickly grabbing it, I had a brief moment of contemplation and then tried, figurine grasped in my hand, to picture myself in my bathroom. Suddenly, as idf not a single moment passed, there I was, and not a second had gone by. What followed was a spree of stealing, spying and assasination. OF course, just last night, I was once again awoken, but this time by a figure in a ragged cloak, cobwebs hanging off their sleeves, if you could call them that, the figurine enclosed within their grotesque hand. I tried to stop, but no sooner than had I gotten up, it blinked away. So, that brings me to this morning, when I went upon a mission to find a group of thieves willing to help me track down the figurine." Taking off his gloves Koldun looks around and asks, “Well?”

He, perhaps more so than anyone else, knew he should not be here. He considered himself someone of gentler inclinations than thievery or criminality, but one does as one must. Sometimes, one must wind bandages around one’s person in order that they might sit and listen to loose talk, and so it was with Amyntas. To look mysterious in the Neath is far from difficult, things being as they are, but it was another thing entirely to look unassuming. Unremarkable folk are suspect in that so much around them is so strange. Looking the part of an average fellow in a place like this would be a fine way to get stared-at, in Amyntas’ estimation.

He hoped that the bandages, combined with the gait and posture of a living and healthy man, would be enough to make him appear distinct and thereby render him indistinct. He supposed this was what people meant when things were called ‘Neathy,’ and he certainly did take pains to look the part. His style was far from unique, but at least nobody would mistake a short little fellow like him for Feducci.

She was not here. He had come in with the expectation that she would not be, but there was always a possibility. He had come to listen. Hearing of her would be preferable, but one must not be picky in a place where secrets and exploits are traded so openly. Anything at all would help, and he could always sell off the interesting bits if none of it panned out. He had found himself a table and a tipple; without the Master’s taxes, the price and taste of the wine proved equally amiable.

The talk around him turned from time in New Newgate, and then to other things. Tension on the matter of toasts, or so he felt. He sipped at his wine - carefully, so as not to catch a taste of his perfumed bandages or, worse, stain them. For a moment it occurred to him that he might inquire about the Cheery Man, but the conversation around him quickly turned to a man with a problem.

This. Now, this was interesting, even if it sounded like the tawdriest of tawdry fabrications. Even if it was a bold-faced lie, there must have been some motive in stating it so plainly in front of everyone present. It could have been anything from a move in the Great Game to a momentary distraction while present company’s pockets were picked. If it were possible for him to listen even more intently than he already was, he would have certainly redoubled his efforts.
edited by Amyntas on 1/1/2016

&quotI’m game. Such unique challenges are good training for what lies ahead,&quot Dirae Erinyes answers. Evensong shakes her head.
&quotNo point in trying to stop them now. . .Though if the threat you have described is true, then I must act. London is my home. When it comes to spiders, the docks are the place to start. Though, if they came through of one the mirrors we should make our way to the carnival.&quot

“First of all, I would like to get to know you both. Let’s order some drinks and you can tell me of your past successes in thievery and stealth.” Tells waiter to bring 3 teas to the table.

Evensong sips her tea with more care than your average Londoner. “I work with the state department. My job is to handle certain matters in discreet manner. That’s all I can really say.”

Dirae Erinyes displays no such care, gulping the tea down. “If this is judged on technical merits, then my best job was robbing the bazaar of a certain love story. Overly sentimental but It did please me, and I keep the things that please me. However, my most personally satisfying theft was that of a certain mirrorcatch brooch belonging to the Lady Burdick. One of a kind she always claimed. First I to steal the heart of one of the maids to be learn where the jewelry box was hidden. Then I had to steal the key to the box at dinner party from her and her husband. One of those two part necklaces that are so popular with lovers these days. For the actual heist, I had to scale the Rattus Faber trapped walls to the third story, sneak past her slithery hounds, and find the hidden compartment of her jewelry box. However, the reason it was the most satisfying was that the Lady Burdick dared insult my darling choice of fashion at the September Ball.”

Evensong chokes on her tea. “That’s where you got it from? You didn’t tell me.”

“You were so happy at Christmas, I couldn’t bear to spoil it.” Despite trying to maintain a stoic façade, Evensong is clearly embarrassed.

“Mr. Hitch, what about your own exploits?’ She asks, trying to put a stop to her spouses fawning.

Edit: Fixing a formatting error.
edited by Shadowcthuhlu on 1/1/2016

“Well, I remember that one time, I had attended the lecture of a prestige professor at a university. I was surprised to see that when I arrived there, he was a crazed lunatic, raving on about how the correspondence is a lie, spiders are dead rubbery men things like that. I, from reading his incredibly well written texts, was immediately suspicious of this. So, after the lecture, I had decided to follow the old man, and what do I find, but a strange ritual that was supposed to grant endless knowledge, but instead drove him mad. Knowing he could return at any minute I had swapped out some of the components in the ritual and hid in one of the shelves. When he tried to perform the ritual once more , the dark creature within him was banished. Not wanting to explain myself, I snuck out, but not without taking a few rare texts. I needed payment after all.” Smiling he withdraws a small mirror from one of his pockets. “This is the mirror that I got the figurine from, and strangely, the night it was stolen from me, I found it cracked.”

Direa Erinyes laughs, “That was good old Professor Davis, wasn’t it?” Evensong takes the mirror and examines it.

“The silver back contains the trademark bird of Amethyst and Sapphirine Co. They have a shop front in Watchmakers Hill, near the St. Francis School for Children and Overly Intelligent Animals. Though, it could always be a knock-off. It’s not like those aren’t uncommon.” She passes the mirror to Dirae Erinyes.

Dirae Erinyes takes the mirror and waves a glove hand in pattern that one would recognize from university lectures. Afterwards, they press the mirror against their clothed forehead.

“A swamp without color. . .and the mists. . .d__n, that’s all.” They give the mirror back to Kuldon. “The crack makes any worthwhile connection to the other side impossible.”

“This looks like a little bit like that mirror I saw in my vision. I remember the crack only appeared after the figurine was stolen. The night before it was perfectly intact. Maybe this mirror is connected to the one I saw.” Says Koldun, deep in thought.