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Red hair and black clothes, the thief checks to see the guard captain still watching.
Gamblor was observing Melfina's shop, and Stark was observing him.
It was some stupid game the two played. He couldn't simply deliver what was asked of him. He first had to attempt to creep up on the scribe and startle her. And he's succeeded every time.
At least he stopped by the guardhouse. Even though the sun was shining overhead, his lurking presence would still have been misunderstood. But just because Stark confirmed his story, and told his guards to leave Gamblor alone, that didn't mean Stark wouldn't keep an eye on him himself.
There were three places for Gamblor to stand that would give him a perfect vantage point to spy on Melfina's shop. She knew these locations, but he knew that she knew. The advantage was one sided, no matter what Melfina did.
On her own at least. This time she has help.
Gamblor flattens against the wall.
That was quick.
Melfina had just looked out her window, pretending to look out for Gamblor, and pretending to think he hadn't arrived yet. The purpose was three-fold. It would tell him that she was still in her shop. It would trick him into thinking she didn't know he had yet arrived. And it would tell her exactly where he was.
She wasn't looking for him, she was looking for Stark's signal.
They had set up a code. He was to set a pail by the crystal well when Gamblor arrived. Stand it upright if Gamblor was on the west side of Draven's museum, upside down if he was on the south, and on its side if he was hiding by the House of Poison. If Gamblor had decided to wait right outside her doorway, the pail was to be on its side with water crystals spilled out.
Stark had set the pail upside down. Gamblor had chosen the same location as before, which was surprising. Michael wouldn't be home all day, he had expected him to choose the House of Poison this time.
How can he be so patient, Stark thought, watching Gamblor watch the shop, steady and as vigilant as any guard. It wasn't to protect or defend. He did it for a game.
Watching. Waiting. What was the point?
The guard captain smiled inside. There was even less point now. Melfina was already gone.
It would take Melfina only a few minutes to recall to the rehearsed destination then quietly move onto Gamblor's location. All Stark had to do was wait until Melfina was near, then begin walking away in the other direction. Gamblor would no doubt try to keep on eye on both him and the shop, not realizing Melfina was coming from the rear.
There she was. It was time.
Stark began walking away, quietly, yet making just enough noise to attract Gamblor's attention. He would keep on eye on him now, as well as the shop.
It was up to Melfina now.
A few moments of anticipation and then there it was.
A successful plan. A failed Gamblor. It was very satisfying.
Stark turned back around.
"I finally got you!"
A slight turn of his head, Gamblor looks from the scribe to the approaching Stark, then back again at the scribe. "You cheated!"
"You used Stark to distract me!"
"Not only that, he signaled exactly where you were," she says with a satisfied smile.
"So you admit it!"
"I admit to beating you. There's no such thing as cheating remember?" She stands a little bit straighter and deepens her voice, "I use what I can, when I can, and I expect everyone else do the same. To expect anything less will get you caught or killed."
Gamblor has no reply.
"You just don't want to admit that I won this time. That you were outsmarted by a 'lazy little girl who just sits on her ass all day'!"
"The advantage is mine now," she says as she grabs onto Stark's arm. "Thank you, Stark."
Her appreciation was everything. He'd been feeling like there was a strange wall between himself and the scribe lately. Nothing he could clearly identify, but it was there. Perhaps that would turn around now.
"Fine, fine. You won. Which means..." he looks up, waving his finger as if writing in the air, "I'm still up by twenty-five!" Gamblor gives the scribe a push, and hops backwards out of reach.
As Melfina readies her counter-attack, Gamblor squints his eyes as something in the distance catches his attention.
Stark turns around, followed by Melfina.
A man off to the south wildly waves his arms above his head, shouting something incomprehensible.
"What...?" both Stark and Gamblor say at the same time.
They look at each other and both head off in the direction of the newcomer.
"Why is he just standing there? Maybe he injured his foot somehow?" voices Melfina from behind. "Maybe he wants to be in sight of someone else who needs help?"
Halfway there, the shouting has stopped, but the man begins jumping up and down and waving even wilder.
All three quicken their pace, but before they get too much closer, the man turns and runs.
Stark immediately turns back towards West Luna and jogs back towards where they came.
"Hey! Why'd you guys turn around!" yells Melfina.
Stark hears Gamblor yell back, "Something's not right!"
Stark runs, hearing confirmation of his suspicions from the thief.
Glass shatters in the distance and a cry from his guards fills the air.
Stark rounds the corner, and sees the door to the House of Poison wide open.
Nathan, Stone, and Ulloa close in on a pair of thieves, as they make their way towards the woods.
Another pair of strangers emerge from the forest's edge, precasting spells. A wall of stone appears, blocking the guards pursuit, forcing them to run around.
The guards round the wall's edge, and rush towards the revealed gateway. It, too, vanishes just as Nathan crosses the now empty space.
Fool! Nathan could have done nothing, except make a stand surrounded and alone.
"This isn't right," says Gamblor.
"What do you mean?" asks an out of breathe Melfina.
Stark commands those nearby. "Bear. Tulip. The Magic Arts. Alan. Edwin. With me." He signals for the rest to search the area.
It was riskier to strike during the day. Michael wouldn't be home all day, and night. They weren't after his shop.
Gwendalyne was the only one of his charges not accounted for. He didn't think they were after her either, but he had to make sure.
Our first true crime. Our first failure.
* * *
Subject: Violations of Property - Break-in and Theft
A guild of at least six struck at West Luna. Five confirmed spotted. One was a diversion and lookout. Two broke-into the House of Poison (Damage and Loss: MINOR). Two assisted in the escape. The final member(s) targeted The Magic Arts and Crafts. Master Crafter Melfina's rare books cabinet was broken into, however nothing seems to have been taken.
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