Cain shushes her loudly.
The two had lost track of time hours ago, but it must be nearing dawn by now — a dangerous time for thieves. A time when they should start heading back to the guild. A time when they should not be shouting...
Not like that’s ever stopped the raging wildfire that is Mabel Ellis.
The always-irritated yellow Aisha whips her head around to look Cain dead in the eyes, tossing her thick black hair over her shoulder with the motion, a snaggletoothed scowl glued tight to her tired face. She’s still got her left hand outstretched, her fingers now curled like claws, reaching desperately for a brilliant jade and gold amulet that’s set before her on a decorative dais, its every edge sparkling like haunted starlight through the darkness. With her other hand, she’s got a strong hold on one of the heavy curtains that half-block one of this room’s tall stained glass windows — the two’s only source of light in this moment — one foot precariously positioned on the edge of a bookshelf that is definitely not meant for climbing, and her other leg dangling midair as she tries her best to reach for the eye-catching piece of jewellery that sits temptingly proud on its pedestal.
To be fair, Cain would be lying if he said that the necklace wasn’t definitely the most striking artefact the two young thieves have found in this rich so-and-so’s hidden villa, but he’s always been a bit more... tactical... than Mabel when it comes to determining what is and is not fit for stealing. The always-nervous pirate Gelert is typically averse to the taking of items that will be obviously missing to the families that they once belonged to, especially since fancy things going gone typically puts yet another target on the Thieves Guild’s — his home’s — head. He sticks to stealing trinkets buried among other trinkets, or a few statuettes from a larger collection, or one or two expensive-seeming books from a row of shelves — simple stuff. Unnoticeable stuff. Unmissable stuff.
But what’s the fun in that?
“We have enough stuff already, Mabel,” Cain scolds in a whisper — a whisper that, honestly, is a bit too loud to correctly carry its name anymore. “Leave it alone.”
Mabel’s expression only continues to harden. She tightens her hold on the curtain. “It’s obviously worth a lot, Cain,” she says, matching the Gelert’s half-derisive tone. “It’s probably worth more than everything you’ve got in that stupid sack of garbage at least...”
Wow. Rude. Cain was pretty confident he’d managed to acquire some rather striking garbage while searching through this mansion’s drawers and cabinets, but... well, that’s unimportant. Now aware of the weight of what he’s holding, Cain shifts his position to better hold the large satchel of loot he’s got slung over his shoulder, then huffs lightly in response to Mabel’s words. “That’s not as important as making sure we don’t get caught,” he says, a bit louder — and a bit stricter — this time.
Mabel rolls her eyes. “We’re not gonna get caught, Cain,” she says, turning her attention back towards the amulet. “I’m good at this. Trust me.”
Cain shakes his head as Mabel goes back to her fruitless reaching. She tries to readjust her footing to give herself the last few inches she needs to grab the amulet, but it hardly works. She’s just flailing midair now. Cain huffs again at the sight. “Mabel, let’s go,” he reiterates.
“I want this necklace,” Mabel states firmly in response, swinging slightly — and wildly precariously — forward using the curtain as leverage.
Her fingers graze the gold. She’s getting closer. That doesn’t help Cain’s side of this argument.
Cain’s voice turns parental. “Mabel Ellis, we are leaving this instant,” he confidently declares, hoping that his tone alone is enough to convey the seriousness of his words.
But, of course, it doesn’t work. It never does. Mabel takes another swing. She makes another miss. “It’s... it’s for my mom,” Mabel then says, deciding to wildly change her argument’s strategy in the hope that it helps.
It... actually kinda works... but not in the way that she’d hoped. Cain is so baffled by the statement, he trips over his words a bit — holds both of his arms outstretched in a fullbody motion of disbelief, then scoffs loudly at her. “You hardly even talk to you mom,” he says, his voice’s volume increasing out of sheer disbelief in her brashness.
Now Mabel’s even more frustrated. She shoots him a nasty glare. “So?” she sneers. “Maybe I’m trying to... make amends, or whatever...”
Cain slings the heavy satchel back over his shoulder, crossing his arms with the motion. “You expect me to believe that...” he says, monotone.
Mabel rolls her eyes again, throwing her head back slightly with the motion. “Ugh,” she groans at the ceiling, “don’t start doing that stupid phrasing-statements-like-questions thing that your dad does... I hate it when he does that...”
Cain ignores her sass, instead returning to the topic at hand. “You are not taking that necklace,” he once again reaffirms.
Swing. Miss. “I said it’s for my mom.”
“I know it’s not, Mabel...”
Swing. Miss. “What makes you so sure, huh?”
“We grew up together, Mabel; I know how you work.”
Swing. Swing. Just barely miss. “Don’t act all cocky about it, you jerk.”
Swing. “Yeah you are.”
“We need to leave.”
“Not until I get this stupid necklace, Cain! Sheesh!”
The echo of a door closing in the distance.
At the sound, the two young thieves both turn their attention towards the (thankfully still empty) corridor behind them — opposite the pedestal upon which the necklace in question rests — with a bit of panic in their motions, Cain’s being caused by his knowing that they could now get caught at any moment, Mabel’s from her knowing that this means she doesn’t have much time left to accomplish her goal.
Cain’s voice shifts from slightly scolding to deadly serious. “Mabel, we need to g—!”
You have got to be kidding...
With whatever little footing Mabel’s got left, she takes the strongest hold of the curtain beside her as she can, then kicks herself off the edge of the bookshelf. Her intention was to swing nimbly over to her target, but... well, it doesn’t quite work out that way. She manages to take a solid hold on the far end of the pedestal, though it’s at the cost of her jackknifing herself uncomfortably across the intricately carved wood with the motion. But... well, she’s done it, and that’s what matters most. With a loud “A-ha!” she grabs the amulet and holds it up triumphantly, looking Cain dead in the eyes with an almost malicious-looking grin, though still scrambling awkwardly to find some sort of solid footing as she does so.
But her triumph is quickly cut short.
What Mabel didn’t know was that the dais was not actually fastened to the podium of rock it rested upon. At all.
The second she feels safe in her footing is the very same second the entire thing starts to slip.
Cain can see what’s happening before Mabel can, it seems. He breathes in sharply. “Oh no...”
In one split second, Mabel comes crashing to the ground, shouting in equal parts horror and shock. Terrified, Cain makes a mad dash towards her, not really knowing what he could do to stop her descent, but feeling the instinct nonetheless. His footsteps fall heavy. He grits his teeth.
He doesn’t quite make it in time, though. Mabel makes a heavy crash landing on one of the ornate tables of tomes and treasures that rested in perfect, aesthetic arrangements beneath the necklace she coveted so dearly. One table snaps completely in half; another is taken down with it; the tablecloth tears, then she lands with a loud thud! and an even louder echo of pottery and metals and expensive things smashing against other expensive things as everything comes crashing down around her, half-burying her in a shallow grave of shattered opulence.
Cain skids to a halt in front of the destruction, dropping the satchel momentarily to dig the stubborn thieftess out from the debris. His voice is desperate as he puts one worried hand on her shoulder, brushing her hair out of her eyes with the other: “Are you okay?”
But in the same moment that he speaks, a foreign voice can be heard down the hall. “What in Darigan’s name was that?!”
It’s distanced, but it’s loud, and it can’t be a good sign....
Mabel, despite her forming bruises and aches, hears the voice clear as day and looks up with a gasp, her eyes quickly darting between Cain’s worried expression and the (as of now) still closed doorways at the end of the hall. Ignoring Cain’s hands on her shoulders, she scrambles to her feet. “We gotta go.”
Despite everything — despite his fear, his shock, and his worry all brewed together now — Cain can’t help but throw his arms out wide in disbelief at her words. “Oh, now you wanna go...” he mutters, irritated.
The sound of a door slamming from somewhere further inside the villa then echoes through the halls, adding yet another threatening layer to this disaster.
Panicked, Mabel tucks the jade amulet she just struggled so valiantly for down the collar of her shirt, then desperately searches all around her for a means of escape. “Um, um, um...”
Cain picks back up the satchel at his feet, thankful that... well, at least they’re both fixing to leave now. He tries to take her hand to lead her to the door to his right — the door to the back gardens. “Let’s go,” he says, sounding panicked. “We need to ru—”
But Mabel’s already made up her mind on a different move entirely. With strength that neither of them really knew she was capable of, Mabel somehow manages to lift a heavy chest full of something-or-other from the mess scattered around her feet, then hurls it with all her might towards the beautiful stained glass window that looms above them. The entire thing shatters from the impact, the serene portrait of Brightvale’s grassy meadows that once spilled coloured moonlight into the room raining down in a shower of glass dust... and yet another horribly loud sound.
The voice down the hall again: “What is going on?!”
And now Cain is yelling too. “Are you serious right now?!”
“We needed an escape!” Mabel says, her voice’s default haughtiness returning. Without a hint of regret in her motions, Mabel scrambles over the shattered glass and broken trinkets, clawing and stomping her way towards the empty window frame.
Cain can’t be bothered to move just yet, though. He throws an arm out to his right. “The back door is right there!” he says.
Mabel scoffs as she finally makes it out of the mess around her feet. “That’s too obvious an escape route,” she says matter-of-factly. “Duh.”
“And the giant shattered window isn’t?!”
Mabel scoffs. “It’s... it’s unexpected!”
Now it’s Mabel’s turn to play the parent. “Caleb A. Rathbone,” she scolds, pointing a finger in Cain’s direction, “we are leaving this instant.”
And, right on cue, the heavy stone doors behind them begin to swing open.
He doesn’t really have a choice...
Cain doesn’t bother to look behind him. He doesn’t want to see. He’s honestly afraid to see... The now-panicked Gelert takes a running start and leaps nimbly over the mess that Mabel had just caused, then scrambles through the window beside her, ducking into the shadows of the moonlight and — miraculously — escaping safely into the sheltering Brightvale forests, the screams of their heist’s victims disappearing into the night behind them.
As expected, Kanrik is wide awake and waiting when Cain and Mabel arrive back at the guild’s HQ.
Always a fan of theatrics, the first thing the older Gelert thief says when he sees his two young trainees trudging breathlessly through the doors of his quarters is a short, curt, “You’re late.”
Cain and Mabel both jump at the sound. They have, understandably, been ridiculously on edge the entire run back from Brightvale, and the Master Thief’s dark timbred bass coming unexpectedly from the shadows the very second they think they’re safe doesn’t exactly help put their minds or racing hearts at ease.
But... well, Kanrik had no ill intent, which the kids both know. He’s just being a jerk. After the initial shock of it all wears off, Cain and Mabel both sigh in unison, instantly relieved to be back in familiar company... and in the presence of someone who actually knows what he’s doing.
Well... two someone who actually know what they’re doing.
Without a break in motion, Cain makes his way to the table in the middle of the room and begins to empty the satchel he’s been desperately clinging to out onto its surface. As he does so, another voice comes from the opposite side of the room. It’s a dark but surprisingly worried-sounding — and equally, comfortingly familiar — tenor: “Are you two alright?”
Mabel tosses the few pieces of jewellery she’d managed to snag herself into the pile as well, then looks up to meet the concerned golden eyes of the second speaker: the Thieves Guild’s expert appraiser... though most would know him better as Simeon, the notorious Gelert Assassin. Mabel huffs a bit in response to his question, blowing a stray strand of her (now incredibly tangled) hair out of her face with the breath. “Peachy,” she says, which the grey Gelert across from her accepts with a shrug as a perfectly valid answer.
Once Cain has laid out the night’s spoils across the table’s surface, he and Mabel both step back to allow their superiors to take a look. Surprisingly — even to Kanrik, who already had rather high expectations for the two of them — their haul is wildly impressive and should rack in quite a bit for the guild... maybe there’s hope for them after all...
Kanrik can’t fight his smile when he sees just how much the two managed to get away with. His expression alone is enough to make Cain and Mabel both feel a bit more confident in the outcome of their work for the night. “Impressive,” Kanrik muses, his words drawling at their cadence. He taps a finger to his chin in mock contemplation as he looks everything over once again. “Even if the jewellery turns out to be fake, at least its shiny,” he then adds with a flip of his hand.
Simeon begins to pick delicately through the pile of goods, holding up various pieces to examine them, setting the more pricey ones off to the side for Kanrik to take a look at, talking to himself all the while — “Genuine sapphire, Maraquan pearls... oh! A few first editions from the Diaphnes’ Rings saga; I still need one of these for my library... hmm...”
Each new item the two older Gelerts look over seeming impressed, the more relaxed the two young thieves feel in response. They exchange nervous glances with each other, both standing proud with their fingers laced behind their backs as they wait for the experts to give them a final statement.
After a few more seconds spent searching, Simeon’s fingers graze the surface of the jade and gold amulet that nearly got Mabel crushed, and his expression begins to shift at the touch. He, at first, looks purely puzzled as he pulls the piece from the pile, cradling it gently in his palm to examine it close, but then he starts to look... almost frightened, actually. Almost.
Simeon looks up to the two young thieves with an expression that’s nearly impossible to read. “Where did you find this...” he asks, the question (though a bit desperate in tone) falling into a flat sort of statement at its end.
Mabel immediately feels a pang of worry surge through her chest as Kanrik, too, raises his eyes to see what Simeon’s holding, then looks over to her and Cain with stern but curious eyes. Cain’s immediate reaction of huffing loudly then crossing his arms to give Mabel a sideways glance doesn’t help settle the thieftess’ suddenly racing heart. “Why don’t you tell them, Mabel...” Cain says, tilting his head sarcastically.
All eyes are on Mabel.
Steadfastly on Mabel.
And, although she’s never been one to feel fear... well, this is pretty close.
Mabel stutters a bit, her nervous blue eyes darting between all three of the Gelerts who stand around her, still unsure if the assassin is asking her this question out of anger or astonishment...
So she decides to ignore the question entirely. “Is... it worth a lot?” she asks, sounding the closest thing to sheepish that she’s capable of, hoping that her question is enough to deflect any and all possible guilt.
Everyone looks to everyone else.
There’s an achingly long silence.
But then, Simeon cracks a slight smile. “Well...”
And Kanrik immediately rolls his eyes at the sound. “Here he goes...”
Simeon ignores his younger cohort’s sass, instead relaxing his pose and holding the necklace out for the others to see, allowing the dim candlelight to glint off its every shimmering facet. “Unless I’m mistaken, which I hardly ever am...” — Kanrik rolls his eyes again as Simeon says this — “this particular piece is one of a collection of five sister amulets, the others being made of ruby, sapphire, diamond, and opal.” Simeon holds the amulet out for Cain and Mabel to see closer as he continues his explanation. “The story goes that they once belonged to five great sorcerers, sworn champions of the kings of their realms, and...” He twirls a hand. “Well, blah, blah, storybook garbage — it’s a dreadfully long myth...” He then holds the amulet over to Kanrik, who eagerly takes it with a puzzled expression. “But,” Simeon continues, “what is known as fact is that the pieces once belonged to, and were most likely forged by, one or a few incredibly powerful sorcerers, heavily enchanted with immense power, and then passed down through generations, sorcerer father to sorcerer son, on and on for centuries — you get the picture.” Pause. Simeon then turns towards Kanrik, who looks up at the grey Gelert with one sarcastic eyebrow cocked. “The jade itself is from Shenkuu,” Simeon again continues to explain, though derailing a bit from the more fantastical side of the story, “its golden casing from Altador — you can tell from the darker colouration around its edges — though most likely it was all forged together somewhere east of Cogham giving the ornateness of the clasps, which of course bears patterns typical to that area’s unique style of craftsmanship during the era in question...”
Kanrik shakes his head, chuckling a bit. “You are such a nerd...”
“That thing, Kani,” Simeon then says, looking Kanrik straight in the eyes and pointing a finger at the necklace the thief still holds, “is worth twice your weight in platinum, and could turn this entire realm to ash in the hands of a capable enough sorcerer.” Finally, he turns his attention back to the two young thieves across the table — who, understandably, now look a bit awed. “That is a wildly incredible find,” Simeon says to them with a smile. “I’m very impressed. Incredible work, you two.”
And with those words, Mabel can’t contain herself anymore. She gives an excited little hop, turning and pointing a finger accusingly towards Cain’s nose. “Ha!” she shouts, the sound coming out with an expletive’s harshness “And you didn’t want me t—!” Pause. She redirects her focus to the two older Gelerts, though still keeps her finger pointed at Cain. “He didn’t want me to take it,” she announces proudly, “but I insisted! I knew it was special! It was me! I took the amulet! He almost ruined the whole thing!”
Always the first to throw Cain under the carriage...
Kanrik laughs loudly, amused by Mabel’s unabashed ego — and, of course, impressed by her stubbornness in thievery, which is something he can definitely both admire and relate to. “Well, kudos to you then, miss Mabel,” the Master Thief says, giving the animated Aisha a small but genuine bow. His expression then turns a bit mischievous as he leans slightly over the table and lowers his voice. “Wouldn’t your parents be disappointed,” he adds with a smirk.
Mabel has never looked more proud.
Cain, on the other hand, can not believe what he’s hearing; although... well, he can’t deny it: he’s pretty proud of Mabel, too. He knows that he himself tends to be a bit of a spoil sport when it comes to taking risks, and he’s glad, in a way, to know that Mabel’s recklessness can apparently come in handy. He supposes that’s why they work so well together. Their personalities balance out. They’re a pretty powerful duo. Despite himself, this realisation makes him smile. But still... “I thought you said you were giving it to your mom,” Cain sneers, though lovingly so, and with a tone too light to be at all threatening.
And Mabel’s entire aura suddenly shifts. Her nearly permanent scowl immediately returns as she shoots Cain a nasty glance. “Seriously...?” she half-hisses through clenched teeth.
“Oh, you were insistent, though...” Cain continues to tease, crossing his arms and shifting his weight.
Pause. Mabel breathes deep... but then softens her expression. Always quick in wit, she then feigns confusion, tilting her head to the side like a confused pup. “Did I say my mom...?” she muses sarcastically, her tone two steps from palpably fake. “I... meant to say your dad.” And she gives Cain a wide smile.
At the sound of those words, and without a second’s hesitation, Simeon quickly leans over to pluck the necklace from Kanrik’s palm, then spins theatrically around. “Well, I’ll gladly take it then,” he says, giving Kanrik a grin over his shoulder.
Kanrik scoffs — an almost prissily irritated sound. “Excuse you,” he says, “but she said it was for his dad.” He points towards himself with both hands as he says this.
Simeon doesn’t buy it, though. He closes his fist around the necklace. “Precisely.”
Kanrik takes a few steps towards him, now accusingly pointing a finger at the assassin’s back. “That would be me, you pretentious old bag,” he says, sounding only half-irritated. “Give it here.”
Simeon shrugs. “Call it an appraisal fee, then,” he says, tucking the amulet away beneath the folds of his cloak.
Kanrik scoffs again. “I’d rather give you the twice my weight in platinum!”
“You can’t be serious...”
“And what do you plan on doing with it?”
“More than you, I assume.”
“On what grounds?”
“On the grounds that I am actually a sorcerer — not a petty thief.”
Yet another scoff. “What you are is a piece of work...”
As the two continue to bicker, Mabel once again turns to Cain with a painfully snobby — but also incredibly, endearingly proud — look on her face. Her smile is as radiant as it could ever be. She looks happier than he’s seen her look in ages.
Cain would be lying if he said he wasn’t incredibly proud, too.
Resigned at last, Cain throws his head back in mock exhaustion, but then walks over to Mabel to give her a quick hug. “Great job,” he says as he lets her go — takes a step back, then crosses his arms. “I’ve never seen them look that impressed with a haul before,” he adds in a whisper. “You’re a natural.”
And Mabel just beams even brighter.
Wouldn’t her parents be disappointed indeed...