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A Felony of Birds

Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

Harris Tobias
A Fisherman's Guide to Bottomdwellers

Michele Dutcher
Louisville's Silent Guardians

Michele Dutcher

The Hedged Bet


Michael Bishop

What with his loud voice and buying drinks for all and sundry, his presence filled the inn. Then again as a mage he would have dominated any room. Mine host of the “Lost and Found” though did not mind about the braggadocio; with gold flowing like a river, it was going to be a good night for him.

The girls who worked the Lost and Found were less pleased. A feisty redhead who appeared soon after the mage’s arrival now shared his lap and his beer. In an attempt to secure the mage’s wallet for herself the most senior had challenged the interloper muscling on her trade. To the amusement of all the men in the room, a catfight ensued.

When the fur finished flying the loser relinquished any claim on the prize. From then on, she and her compatriots concentrated on the regular crowd.

Eventually the mage decided to call it a night. He slung the redhead over his shoulder then strolled up the stairs to the toasts of those not yet comatose. Although he had drunk more than any of them had he was still steady on his feet.

On entering the room he tossed his bed mate to be onto the bed then cast his jacket onto the floor. For her part, the redhead landed as smoothly as a leopard then rolled onto her side to teasingly reveal one slim leg.

The mage laughed then continued undressing. A moment later the room filled with cries of ecstasy. The moon had risen high before they ended.

For a while Melite stared at the sleeping body of the mage. It seemed a pity to take advantage of him because he had been a considerate lover. However, business was business.

Before though she could move to complete her commission she heard a sound at the window. Low and merely the sound of scratching, if she had not been awake she would not have heard it.

However, she was and if she did not know better she would have said that someone was stupid enough to be trying to break into the mage’s room.

The scratching continued for a while before it turned into an equally low screech that only ended with a plop made by a small pane of glass landing on a rug. Yes, someone was.

The window opened and a figure slipped in. For a moment they sized up the room before creeping across the room towards an ornate box sitting on a chest of drawers.

At this point Melite decided that she would have to make a move because the thief seemed to be about to take what SHE had come for. So in a trice she slipped from the covers then before said individual slipped the box into a sack she tapped him on the shoulder.

In spite of the shock the action must have caused he did not cry out, but turned to face his assailant.

Running her right hand over a magic ring on her left middle finger Melite lit up his face. Not entirely to her surprise she recognised it.

“Hello sneak,” she said in a low voice. No point saying his name and thus letting on that she knew who he was.

“Hello tart,” the thief replied equally quietly. “Go back to bed and do what you are good at.”

“And let you walk off with the loot? No way!”

“What do you suggest sweetie?”

 “There are two items here, the box and the medallion in it. I suggest that we play parchment, stone, knife for whom gets which.”

“And if I don’t?”

“I give a scream and wake the mage up. OK, so I get nothing but you will be banged up after the town watch have finished beating you up. Assuming of course the mage doesn’t do something to you first.”

“Agreed, but the best of three and if you welsh on the deal I will claim that you are my confederate.”

“Agreed. Guild honour.”

She was not in the Thieves Guild, in her mind a right bunch of losers. However, her opponent would not know that.

He responded with “Guild honour”, which was as big a lie as hers was, but she was not supposed know that either.

Her first sign was a knife. Not good as his  was a stone, which meant that she had won.

The second round went much better because his knife cut her parchment. One all now.

Her next sign was a stone but so was his so a draw. Hands went back behind backs then again he chanted “One, two, three.”

Initially Melite planned to play a knife, but the last instant she switched to a stone again.

“Sucker,” the thief commented after he had shown her his parchment. “Guild honour”, he added as he put the medallion in his pouch then headed for the window.

“Speak for yourself,” she silently mouthed as he dropped out of sight.

Melite waited while before sticking her head out into the night. As there was no sign of anyone it was safe to clamber down the outside of the “Lost and Found” and depose the box in an empty cask.

Then she returned to bed and the mage. Thanks to the her adveristy her alibi was well established, and much better than the thin excuse she had originally planned to cover her tracks.

As she settled back down to sleep she wonder what sort of hell the minion would be getting into when he handed his thieving over to his master.

When the mage awoke in the morning and saw his box gone he went absolutely ape. After finding the hole in the window he flung his half-naked companion and her clothes out of the room then headed off to find mine host.

Melite quickly dressed then left. It did not seem to be a good idea to find her former patron and ask for the rest of her silver; she had only received half of her payment the night before. With his mood, the best that she could hope for was a slap for being a cheeky tart.

Whilst money is money, on this occasion the payment was merely a cherry on the top.

Instead she left by a side door into the yard to recover the box. Thanks to the yelling coming from the inn no one paid attention to a slut poking around where she should not be. Thus, no trouble in scooping it up then disappearing into the early morning throng.

Back home it took a while to transform her appearance. By the time she had finished it would have taken a better man than the mage to recognise the redhead from the “Lost and Found” in the worn out storyteller tapping her cane on the cobbles as she made her way to her pitch.  

It was not until noon that her other patron appeared. Even though dressed in a cloak she knew who they were, the local wizard.

He waited until she had finished her tale and her punters gone before he slunk over.

“Have you been given it?” he asked in a low voice.

She nodded. “It was dropped off at dawn.”

The wizard did not question her statement, but then he had no reason to. As far as the high and lowlife of the streets knew the storyteller was merely a conduit to the underworld. No one suspected that the items she passed on were also stolen by her Melite and she aimed to keep it that way.

Naturally, the Thieves Guild was not happy about the freelancers she supposedly did business with. In fact, they would have badgered her to find out who said persons were except that she had a lot of friends. Touch the Five Ways Story Teller and the best you could expect was a damned good thrashing for your pains.

 Reaching her bag she removed the box all covered in sacking. “Here it is.”

As he made to take it a hand slapped his away.

“A message for you from the eh agent. The fee is now four not one thousand sesterces. Why you ask?  

“One, whilst some people may not be able to read Magical script they can recognise it when they see it on the outside of a ‘worthless’ receptacle. Lying about the value of objects to be ‘acquired’ is an insult to their intelligence and deserves punishment.

“Two, you also sent your minion to acquire it. Hedging your bets was very naughty, even for a wizard!"

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2016-06-27 16:24:55
micheledutcher - I enjoy this story more each time I read it. I like the rock paper scissor game very much. This story is clever.

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