A Brief Introduction

I don’t remember my birth, or my first year or so of life. Then again, who does? But because of that little, common defect, I can’t tell you where I came from, nor who my parents were. All I know is that before I knew it, I was living in the alleys, sleeping on the streets, stealing from shopkeepers, from tourists, from housewives at the market, from other thieves. I’ve heard tales of noble thieves, dashing men and women of upright character and firm conviction who stole from the guilty and corrupt, while leaving the common folk unmolested. My belief is that these thieves likely never existed, and even if they did, they likely stole just for fun, rather than for survival. When you’ve gone a week with no food, you don’t have the leisure to choose your targets – you steal from anyone, the moment an opportunity presents itself.

Of course, I’m not disparaging such a code of conduct – if people get a kick out of stealing, that’s their problem. Not mine. I’m just making it clear that I wasn’t in so comfortable a position as to be able to adopt such a code. I spent my days watching the streets, keeping an eye out for easy targets, tourists or nobles who were careless with their money. You can’t tell whether a mark is easy or not without taking the time to observe. There are signs, of course. Beginners tend to think that a pouch clipped at the side is the sign of an easy mark. Sometimes, they are. But to be sure, you have to watch. You have to trail them, to see how often they pat the pouch to check that it remains at their side. Often, those who keep their pouches in their coats are the easier marks – they’re so convinced of its safety that they drop their guard. The way the people carry themselves can tell you a lot about how careful they are with their money – it takes experience to learn the signs, but I’ve had close to ten years’ worth of experience under my belt. I used to – and still do – pride myself as a very careful thief – after I’ve chosen my mark, I spend an hour or two tailing them, to make sure that they’re as careless as they seem. Even if I did get noticed, I had my secret weapon to get me out of it – and so I’d never been caught. I’m pretty well-known among the thieves in Frunzeit. They liked to call me the “invincible coward” because of my love for caution – I’d never been caught, but because I only go for easy marks, my hauls generally weren’t as impressive as the others’.

I should probably dedicate a line or two to my fellow thieves – if they could only see me now, they’d probably enjoy a good laugh at my expense. They say that company makes any endeavour more tolerable. Naturally, that applies regardless of the legality of the endeavour. Since Frunzeit was a reasonably large city, the network of thieves was large. We had a nice and organised system, where different groups of thieves selected different areas of the city, and each group acknowledged these areas as marked territories. Once having claimed a territory, the group would stick only to that part of the city – trespassing and stealing in others’ territory was considered taboo. While the groups rarely interacted, those thieves who made up each group tended to form almost familial connections. It was possible to refuse membership in any group, but group membership came with many benefits, such as assistance with larger-scale jobs, shelter when things went south, and often even monetary handouts for those who were struggling. Choosing not to be a part of a group meant you were not restricted to territories, but also meant giving up on all these advantages.

I was one of those rare thieves who chose not to join any group. Since I was in the habit of tailing my marks for hours, I would often have to cross territories, so a group membership would have hindered my methods. Even so, I kept up good relations with many of the groups in the city – I was, after all, intruding on their territories, and it was always wiser to have more friends than enemies.

Since we’re thinking of publishing this book someday, I’ll refrain from giving names or details of my old friends – I’d rather not betray their trust in this way, and most of them have moved on to other cities or other lines of work anyway. Knowledge of their names and activities is irrelevant to the tale that I’m about to tell. The only person I shall incriminate in this work is myself – and even then, only because I have since been granted a pardon for my past crimes. For those of you I’ve stolen from in the past: I’m not sorry. I had to do it to feed myself. Please understand. I would appreciate if you could simply take it as a lesson to be more mindful of your belongings. Though even if you choose to hate me for it, those I stole from wouldn’t have been able to recognise me as the thief, so it’s not like you could take me to court – and even then, I have a pardon. So I’d advise letting go of the pointless grudge.

In any case, perhaps I should write a bit more upon my past – that first paragraph might not have been sufficient as context. As I’ve previously written, I never met my parents. Perhaps they died. Perhaps they abandoned me. I don’t know. I don’t really care. I’ve met others in my position who chose to lament that their parents abandoned them – one or two of them even made it a life goal to meet their unknown parents. An unrealistic goal, certainly, but I understand the intent – when you’re living by the day, unsure of tomorrow, it can be immensely helpful to set a goal to force you to stay alive and push your way through the infinite tomorrows that rule your life. And so I understand why some might choose to set themselves a far-off, unrealistic goal.

That said, I never did the same. My parents were gone, nothing I could do would change that. I had no name to go off, no heirlooms or traces I could follow, no indication of whether they were even still alive. Attempting to seek them out would be like trying to identify a single flower in a meadow of flowers without knowing what it looked like. As such, I never entertained such exercises. They were a waste of energy, and they took my attention away from other, more urgent concerns, such as where my next meal was to come from. Of course, for the sake of convenience, it was necessary to name myself – an act which I undertook as soon as I realised it was necessary. Basing my name off my inborn magic, I named myself Glint. No surname, since I never found it necessary to possess one. Not back then, anyway. I’ve since given myself one, but that’s a tale for another to tell.

So that was my life. No parents, drifting between groups, with a self-given name, stealing to survive, going for the easy targets. Not a very exciting life, but I was fine with that – I knew no other, and “boring” was better than “dead”. If nothing had happened to shake that up, I likely would have lived out the rest of my life in that way, and would probably have eventually died in an appropriately unremarkable fashion.

Of course, as you’re no doubt aware, something did happen to shake that up. Something big. It started the day I decided to steal from Elysium Ling.