This is the first draft of a short story I wrote, mostly to experiment with my roleplay character Saiza's background. Any thoughts?
Warning: Contains strong language and discussion of mature themes.
◄ Saiza Story Thing ►
Cosimo had been strolling through some of the less reputable streets of Shalebridge when the pickpocket struck, with a remarkable lack of subtlety. Normally, he was fast enough to snatch a hand that drifted too close to his purse, and willing to break it if the thief was not repentant. Today, the thief had chosen a more direct approach, colliding with Cosimo and knocking him off balance. This, in addition to an ill placed donkey drawn cart, had kept him from retrieving his purse.
Not that there was anything of much value in it. He would never keep more than a few coins in such an obvious place, especially here. Squinting and craning his neck, Cosimo could see the short form of his pickpocket darting around horses and pedestrians. The brightly colored bandanna worn around his head made him far from inconspicuous. It was a little boy; doubtlessly homeless, probably hungry.
Still, it felt wrong to let him off so easily. Cosimo smirked as the form disappeared into a shadowed alley. The sun was just beginning its descent. He had time to spare.
The boy stooped over the purse, undoing the leather strap that closed it. He was a bit short, quite thin, though it was hard to tell how much was from nature and how much was from prolonged hunger. He could have been anywhere from eleven to fourteen. Tangled red-blond hair fell around the boy’s face, obscuring most of his features. From the lump look of his bandanna, there was probably a great deal of it bundled awkwardly on top his head.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” The boy bared his teeth at the small coins in his left hand. With his right, he gave the empty purse a futile shake. Then, snarling, he hurled it into one of the nearby piles of garbage.
“What the silly goose? That guy was dressed nice! And not even a fucking silver piece!” the boy whined. “Why do the gods fucking hate me? This is the worst day ever! Fuck!” There was a tinkle as the coins collided with the opposite wall, scattering.
For a moment, the boy stood legs apart, hands clenched into fists, staring at the cobbles furiously. Finally, he groaned in surrender and fell to his knees. An unintelligible stream of obscenity drifted from his lips as he picked through the dirt and debris.
Cosimo did not bother hiding his chuckle.
The kid staggered to his feet, turning. “What’s your problem you-oh.” He took a step back.
Cosimo split his attention between the pickpocket and the ground as he strode into the alleyway, careful not to step in anything unpleasant. The boy glanced quickly over his shoulder, apparently considering escape, but did not retreat.
He gestured with an upturned hand to the piles of garbage. “If you want your money back, ‘fraid you’re gonna have to look in there. Seriously, though, there was, like, nothing in there. Did you spend all your cash on your wardrobe?” The boy put his hands on his hips and defiantly stared Cosimo down. In the shadows of the alley, the pickpocket’s eyes seemed blood red with anger.
Cosimo raised an eyebrow. Brave, but not very bright. “I do not keep my money in the open when I’m going through this part of town.”
“So, what? All the silver is down your pants or something? Like, for padding purposes?”
Casually, Cosimo moved few steps closer, and the boy stood his ground. “So crude. You should be respectful to your elders.” His deep voice did not hold a hint of anger, but there was an undercurrent of amusement and promise that was perhaps more ominous.
“I think,” he continued, “that you should pick up those coins yourself and give them back to me.” It was obviously not a suggestion.
The boy’s stance loosened, arms falling to his sides. One leg slid back so he was half turned away. “Like silly goose I will.”
For a moment they stood still, watching one another. Cosimo observed every shift in the child’s weight and adjustment in stance. Soon, the boy would bolt. The more closely he observed the child, though, the more something seemed…off? Cosimo frowned, leaning back, and sweeping his eyes over the small figure again. There nothing unusual about his appearance or behavior. But the feeling remained, and Cosimo knew from experience that it was foolish to disregard those instincts.
The boy noticed the momentarily lapse of attention. Abruptly, he turned on his heel and fled. Cosimo lunged for him, hand barely missing the loose sash around his waist. The little thief ran down the alleyway with Cosimo in pursuit, turning sharply to the right. It was yet another alley, this one even longer and filthier than the first.
It had been a long time since Cosimo had enjoyed this kind of exercise, despite the unpleasant setting. The light was beginning to fade, making it harder to avoid the junk cluttering the ground, and the air breathed in deep gasps was foul with decay. The gap between him and the boy rapidly closed, but before Cosimo could snatch his target, the boy turned sharply again. This pattern repeated itself several times; he was obviously being led into the least savory and most labyrinthine parts of Shalebridge. If the boy thought that this would dissuade his pursuer, he was in for a disappointment.
Cosimo turned another corner, but this time, instead of seeing a narrow retreating back, there was only a brief glimpse of the boy’s leg as he headed through a doorway into an old, dilapidated building. He followed after.
It was obvious from the inside that the building had been nearly destroyed in a fire. The floor was coated in ash, and blackened beams of wood were scattered along the floor. Cosimo stepped slowly, testing the floor’s strength. It seemed sturdy enough.
There was a flick of movement from another doorway, or what was left of it. The windows were boarded up, and it was impossible to see more than shadows inside beyond. Cosimo approached and looked more closely; the illumination was just enough for him to see the shape of two intact steps leading downward. Everything else was pitch-black.
So, the boy was hiding in the cellar. Cosimo rubbed his chin, frowning. He was reluctant to give up the chase after going this far. The boy still had not been taught his lesson. On the other hand, he was not inclined to go into a basement which had sustained fire damage blind. Besides, he had somewhere to be.
There was a rustle, and what might have been a childish giggle. He had come this far. Sighing in exasperation, Cosimo put a foot on the stair. It felt solid enough. He began to descend. Not the slightest creak cut through the silence as he moved; only the barely audible whisper of fabric. By the fifth step, everything was black, and the air was heavy with old ash and dust.
On the sixth step, something heavy flew past his face and clattered against a wall. There was another laugh in the dark. Cosimo turned to the source of the sound and it immediately fell silent.
Cosimo finally rested both feet on solid ground, only to have something else hurled at him. It slammed uncomfortably against his chest, bounced off, and fell at his feet. Wincing in discomfort, he leaned down to pick it up, tracing its surface with his hands. A candlestick?
He looked up towards the doorway he had come through and the top of the steps. There was a faint glow, but it was certainly not enough light for him to be visible to the boy.
Another rustle and a grunt. Cosimo immediately moved to the side. Something shattered, spraying pieces across his lower leg. He heard a muffled curse, from the other side this time, followed by the sound of debris being pushed aside.
It was possible that the boy’s sense of hearing was good enough to pinpoint someone fumbling around in the dark. That was not challenging. But Cosimo did not fumble. It took a trained ear to detect his footsteps. The odds of this boy being able to hear him were quite low. The child had appeared human, but he seemed to see in the dark as well as any dwarf. That was testable.
Cosimo, slowly, moved to rest his hands on his hips, pulling back the edges of his coat. Sewn into coat’s interior lining was his actual purse, heavy with coins and hopefully quite obvious in his current position. Then he turned to face the stairway. After a moment of prodding with his foot, he found the first step.
Immediately, there was a rush of footsteps and the crunch of glass. A hand brushed against his side and Cosimo seized the wrist, twisting it behind the boy’s back in one fluid motion. The boy gasped and thrashed, but, Cosimo maneuvered him up the stairs, half carrying and half shoving him into the light.
“Fucking silly goose! Let me go you-ouch!”
The boy flailed and struck out with his legs, but with one of Cosimo’s arms wrapped around his waist and another pushing his wrist into a painful position, there was little hope of escape. Still, Cosimo couldn’t hold the little brat forever. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the remains of a table. With a grunt, he hoisted the boy over and pressed down on his back, forcing him to bend over it.
This elicited a cry of such horror from his captive that Cosimo almost released his grip surprise. He recovered swiftly and leaned over the thrashing body, holding it down with his weight. Soon both of the boy’s arms were pulled back in the same position, both wrists held in just one of Cosimo’s hands.
Straightening up, Cosimo took a breath, enjoying the little victory. Despite the annoying chase, he now had the foolish little boy under control. His captive squirmed defiantly in his grip, but escape was impossible at this point. Even with the projectiles thrown in his direction, this had been rather entertaining.
Now, what to do with him? For such a foulmouthed, insolent young man, a spanking seemed appropriate. He hooked a finger along the edge of his pants and gave a tug.
The words had little force, but the tone was agonized. Cosimo looked up. The boy had stopped fighting, but was shivering as violently as if he was naked in a blizzard, and his breaths were coming out as sharp, desperate gasps.
Cosimo frowned. This was quite a change from the his previous defiant, nearly fearless demeanor.
Except now he had the boy bent over a table and was pulling down his pants.
“Ah.” Awkward. He had no inclination to comfort the child, but now administering painful spanking seemed excessive. So he waited, letting thoughts flicker through his mind as the boy’s shudders gradually died down.
A few minutes passed, and the boy shifted, trying to look over his shoulder. “So, what?” The voice was calm on the surface, but Cosimo detected the remaining undertone of fear. “Are you going to beat me or fuck me or just stand around like an asshole all night?”
“Watch you language.” Cosimo sighed. “I will not be doing any of those things.”
The boy looked extremely skeptical.
“What’s your name?”
“Hey! Get your hands off my ass, you pervert! Are you getting off on this?!”
“No,” said Cosimo, smiling again. If the boy was now confident enough for back talking then he was confident enough to sustain some injuries to his dignity. “That’s what you get for being rude.”
“Well, maybe I’ll tell you my name if you pull my damn pants up.”
He found that he had no real desire to argue with that. Cosimo looked down and started to tug the pants back into their appropriate location. He blinked. Something was there. It looked like a smooth leather cord, tucked underneath the sash which the boy had been using as a belt, but part of it extended upward until it was hidden by the shirt. Cosimo ran a finger along the visible area. The boy gasped; the cord was warm, and twitched.
“Shit.” The boy redoubled his efforts to escape, trying to pull himself into an upright position, but Cosimo just shifted his weight and he was easily forced back down.
“What is this?”
The tabled muffled his panic induced laugh. “It’s exactly what it looks like.”
Cosimo pushed up the boy’s shirt. The cord’s dark dark red-brown shade blended smoothly into the boy’s light skin, extending out from the base of his spine. He grasped the top , just where it connected to the body, and, slowly, pulled it out from underneath the sash where it was wound around the boy’s waist. It twisted like a snake in his grip, and the tip was shaped like an arrowhead.
“What are you?”
There was no answer.
The pieces clicked into place. He released the tail and reached over the boy, grabbing the edge of the garishly colored bandana. It came off in a sharp pull, revealing a pair of horns nested amongst the untended hair, curling back across the skull. They were the texture of a ram’s, but small and twisted.
This explained the odd feeling the boy’s ability to see in the dark. “You’re part demon, then,” Cosimo said, with the emotional investment of one discussing an unusual breed of dog.
“Devil. There’s a difference.” The boy tried looking backward at Cosimo again, sneering. “Scared?”
“Not particularly.” He pulled the boy’s pants back into their proper place. Now the tail hung free, moving back and forth like an irritated cat’s.
Tieflings. The result of a demon or devil in the bloodline, they were born liars, thieves, murders, and monsters. You could never trust one, the stories said, and they were tainted with dark power and evil potential. However, it was hard to take the warnings seriously with this little boy as the only example Cosimo had ever seen. silly goose, he’d associated with more threatening gnomes.
This was why the boy was living on the streets. Who would be willing to raise a corrupted child? In Lareaux, he had heard, they killed the things at birth.
“I’m going to let you go,” Cosimo murmured, “but you’re going to stay here like a good boy.” Abruptly, he released the child’s wrists. Before the boy could react, he rolled him onto his back, grabbed his shoulders, and pulled the boy into a sitting position, his legs dangling off the edge of the table.
“What is your name?”
The boy blinked dumbly. “Saiza.”
“Saiza Aulaz and get your hands off me.”
“A pleasure, Saiza. I am Cosimo Mantovani.” His hands slid from the Saiza’s shoulders and rested on the tabletop, one on either side of him. “That certainly is…an unusual name. Are you from here?”
Saiza squirmed, leaning backward to put some space between them. “I picked it out myself. At least it wasn’t boring like ‘Peter’ was. I mean seriously. At least ‘Saiza’ has a ring to it.”
Cosimo silly goose his head to the side, observing the tiefling through half-lidded eyes. “Is that the name your parents gave you?”
“No, the orphanage did, and-” Saiza crossed his arms, averting his gaze. “And that’s not any of your business, anyway. You have a point or are you just being a prying silly goose? Why are you even here? You’re not fucking me, your not beating me up. I can’t pay your money back or anything- ”
Cosimo chuckled lightly. “Certainly not with thieving skills like that.”
Saiza flushed and looked him in the eye. “Hey, I got your purse!”
“Which was nearly empty. A thief’s level of skill is determined by how much they can steal without being discovered. Today, you stole practically nothing and were caught for it. Very shoddy work.”
“Oh really?” Saiza tilted his head to the side, raising a single eyebrow. “And what do you know about stealing?”
Cosimo was surprised by how quickly he made the decision. Usually he took days to weight the pros and cons, but this very big step felt easy and natural, as if he had been considering it the whole evening without realizing it. “I know what is said about your kind. You can see without light, and you’re naturally stealthy and deceptive. Those are very valuable skills in a thief. Here is an offer. A roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food in your belly. All you have to do is work for me.”
Saiza’s mouth hung open for a moment. Then he gave himself a shake and snapped “By ‘working’ do you mean sucking your c- ”
“Manners, Saiza. If it gives you any comfort, I am not interested in you sexually.”
“You aren’t?” Saiza’s shoulders relaxed and his expression shifted into one of mock distress. “Are you saying I’m ugly?”
The corners of Cosimo’s mouth twitched, threatening to break into a grin. Little boys. Vulgar, but occasionally amusing. “Ask me in five years or so.”
“What kind of work are you talking about?”
“Theft, of course. I work with a small circle of associates. An extra pair of eyes, especially ones like yours, would be a welcome addition. With some proper instruction, you could contribute more than that in a few months time.”
Saiza’s raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to provide for me and train me, and all I have to do is help you steal stuff? Are you shitting me? Just team up with someone who knows what they’re doing.”
“It takes time an effort to integrate a new member into a tightly knit group; they need to learn my way of doing things, and it is often harder to unlearn old habits than to adopt new ones. Besides, they’d be entitled to an equal share in the spoils.” Cosimo removed his hands from the table and stepped back, putting space between them. Orange light from the setting sun filtered through the shoddily boarded up windows. He would be late.
Saiza uncrossed his arms and started idly wrapping his fingers on the tabletop. “I wouldn’t be? That’s pretty lame.”
“Not until you’ve proven yourself worthy of it, which could take years. Think of it as an apprenticeship. In exchange for food, shelter, and training, you work for me.”
“You expect me to hang around for years doing this?”
“Have other plans?”
Saiza glowered, opening his mouth to deliver what was probably an insult, but he shut it after a moment, reconsidering. “Okay, okay! I can believe that this isn’t something you’re just cooking up just to silly goose with me. But!” He slid off the table, brushing dust from his tunic. “I get to leave if I want, when I want. I’m not spending the rest of my life as your silly goose. And if you’re all crazy bastards, then I walk. Got it?” He poked Cosimo in the chest a few time to emphasize his point.
When the boy finished his unnecessarily forceful prodding, Cosimo extended a hand. “So, do we have a deal?”
“You’ve got it, Cosi.” Saiza hand was small, but squeezed tightly.
Cosimo chose to ignore the nickname for the moment. “Shall we?” He swept out his arm, gesturing to the doorway.
“And where are we going?” Saiza said, looking over his shoulder as he started to head out.
“To meet your new comrades, of course.”
The back room in the Green Mule Tavern misty with the smoke of its occupants. They were all gathered around a circular table, strewn with playing cards and glasses of alcohol. There were about twelve, all human or close enough to pass as one. With their scars, knives, and general aura of danger, they would probably have looked extremely threatening, had they not been gaping at Saiza like fish.
Charles, the best lock picker in the gang, turned around in his seat. “Didn’t expect you to be so late.”
“I was busy getting you this,” said Cosimo, giving Saiza’s shoulders a squeeze. He could feel a slight pressure as his new pupil pressed back against his hands, and away from the strangers before him. “This is Saiza Aulaz. He will be working with us from now on.”
“Wah…? But, I mean, he’s just…” Charles broke off, and looked away. Doubt was apparent on every visible face, but no one spoke a word.
“I will be responsible for his training. It is also worth noting that he is a tiefling.”
Saiza spun around to face Cosimo, eyes shifting to a furious red. A murmur went around the table, and the thieves fixated on him with renewed interest.
He looked from Cosimo to the group at the table. No one spoke for a moment. Finally, hands balled into fists, Saiza marched over, pushed a tankard aside, and pulled himself up onto the table, feet dangle off the edge. The thieves observed him with as much confusion as cats finding a mouse at their dinner bowl. “So, I guess we’re stuck with each other, huh?” He snatched the tankard he’d moved and took a sip. “This is horrible.”
“It’s mine, actually,” came the gravelly voice of Thatcher, a wide shouldered man with a heavily scarred face.
“Well, you need to have someone magic your taste buds back.”
Thatcher stared at Saiza, emotionless, resting his chin in his hand. “You’ll be a natural at this work.”
“It’s the devil blood. It makes me evil and all sorts of crazy stuff. Once, I killed a man with a watermelon.”
Saiza shrugged. “Yeah, but I’ve got a reputation to uphold so I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that to yourself.”
Chuckles rippled through the group. Suddenly, he was being peppered with questions and comments from all sides. Charles tried to explain basic lock mechanisms. Sarah Peek pried about his parentage and abilities. Earlton ordered hard liquor for the boy, and, when Saiza removed his bandanna to let them see his horns, Rapallino fussed with his tangled hair until it almost looked acceptable.
Cosimo stood off to the side, smiling in satisfaction.