Earned, Not STolen
“This device is unreal,” Quentin said as he admired the strange work of craftsmanship in front of him.
Late into the evening, in the back of Quentin’s Quaint Tavern, two men sat in an otherwise empty establishment. In between the pair, three objects sat upon an oval oaken table: two wooden mugs of dark brown ale, and Kenny Rothman’s most recent unlawfully obtained prize. The trophy in question bore a distinct resemblance to a snowboard. This board, however, was unlike any that either of them had ever seen before. It wasn’t a simple plank of polished wood with foot straps like the traditional snowboard. This board was made of a very lightweight metal; it didn't appear to be iron, or even steel.
Kenny leaned in. “Seems real enough to me,” he grinned over a mug of ale. The slender criminal leaned back into his wooden chair with a relaxed hand on his drink. He wore a stylish brown vest and a white collared button-down shirt underneath, with sleeves sloppily rolled up his forearms.
“What do you plan to do with this thing, Kenny? I don't like it,” Quentin said in between deep quaffs of his stout ale.
"I can tell it's worth far more than its weight. Do you see these grooves? I think the wires are meant to run electricity through it," Kenny said while carefully turning the board on its side. "A couple of buildings in the capital use this same kind of machinery to produce light. Got a feeling all of Tandris will be illuminated in electricity pretty soon. I can see it now: a blinding testament to what men like Sutin Vintigo can accomplish."
The bottom of the board had intricate wiring and circuitry which was laid out with unsettlingly precise craftsmanship, the level of which was a very rare thing to see anywhere. What fascinated the pair of onlookers the most, however, was the cobalt glow of a small vial embedded in the board’s sides.
“I had to pick the most difficult lock of my life while coiled up in a luggage bag, leg behind my head, during a bumpy three hour cart ride.” Kenny had been waiting all day to unload that personal accomplishment on someone. “Looks like a snowboard. I’m assuming it'll function just like one. Tomorrow I’m catching a boat out of Tandris. Could be months before you see me again, pal. I’m sure the Triumvirate want their toy back, but they’re not going to follow me to Vega.”
Making a living off of theft in the expansive country of Tandris was a simple enough task for Kenny. There were plenty of small towns and villages clustered just close enough that they could remain united against the untamed wildlife of Selene, while remaining isolated with their own local jurisdictions and little to nothing in terms of long range communication.
The Imperial Triumvirate had a mind to change the face of Tandris. The Triumvirate had taken its namesake from its three original founders who, centuries ago, formed a band of warrior-lords that would go on to rally and inspire the common people of Tandris. For many years they defended and maintained the grand city of Thiadrod. After two centuries, their membership and treasury had grown to the point that they adopted the new title of The 'Imperial' Triumvirate, and made it well known that they were the most militarized force on the planet.
Kenny knew that this time he had stolen something of great value from the Triumvirate. It’s likely that they would be looking for it, which placed him in a potentially dangerous position until he could arrive upon the lush and vibrant shores of Port Dreq, in Southern Vega.
Kenny's life of crime began when he realized one of the flaws of society: people were remarkably bad at protecting the possessions with which they identified themselves. What started as a few small burglaries quickly escalated into elaborate heists of high value items. Once pawned, said items could sustain Kenny for weeks, even months, at a time. He could generally keep ‘want’ and ‘need’ isolated from one another, as he would engage in thievery primarily to get by. His most recent grab, however, was evidence that even he was not immune to wanting something just to have it. Quentin, a long-time friend with far less troublesome tendencies, was one of the few people on the planet of Selene who knew Kenny's face as well as his habits.
A portly Quentin rose from his chair and meandered through his establishment to the bar, where he refilled his beverage from the tap of a massive wooden barrel. Swaggering back to the table, he took an ambitious swig and soaked the large beard that rested on his cheeks and chin. He wiped his face dry with his sleeve as he squatted back into his chair.
“So you’re gonna travel all the way to Vega for this one, huh? That’s quite a commitment,” Quentin paused and belched, releasing a sour and displeasing odor that rolled over the table and into Kenny’s face, invading his sense of smell.
“Do you really think that they’ll want this thing back that badly? I mean, If it’s just a snowboard then I don’t see why they would care too much about getting it back.” Quentin was getting drunk and his focus shifted to swirling the liquid around in his mug, trying to keep the centrifugal motion as even as possible. “Hell, they could probably just make another one right?”
“Yeah, I suppose they could, whoever they even are. Knowing the Triumvirate, they probably plan on making a weapon out of it or something. Either way, I’m getting the hell out of this country by daybreak, and this board is coming with me,” Kenny told his old friend. He was anxious to see how it might perform once he got it to the Lucos Mountains in Central Vega.
"And where will you be sleeping once you get there? You gotta hash out these details, Kenny. I don't know if you've noticed but Quentin's Quaint Tavern isn't exactly a global franchise," Quentin continued, growing more and more disturbed by the incredible piece of technology in front of him. "You should consider selling that thing and just working here, man. I know you could bartend, and I'll pay you well enough. You're gonna look up and realize you're too old to be doing all this stuff. How much longer can you maintain the whole cat-burglar act?"
"It's not an act, buddy. There's a reason I've never been caught. I'm a ghost. I'm... what's the word? Ethereal. During the daytime I'm a ray of sunlight, and at night I'm a shadow. You can relax, Quentin. I've got a few friends over there, I've got some traveling money and I'm not a idiot. Do you know who are idiots? Imperial guards. I'll slip right past them, sail across a teensy little ocean, stroll up that mountain and see what's up with this thing," he said he patted the board as if congratulating it for something.
“Uh huh,” Quentin said skeptically. “Well then, seeing as how I won’t be honored by your presence in the near future, how about a toast? To the greatest thief on Selene, a title earned, not stolen!” Quentin raised his mug, which was sharply met with Kenny’s. They downed their drinks.
Quentin stood up with a look of drunken determination on his face, at which point he stumbled toward the front door of his tavern and opened it. “Kenny!” He swung his body around shockingly fast, even for himself, and slowly processed his next few words. “Take care bud, Vega is a crazy place you know. Very dangerous.”
“Yep, you know me," Kenny said tiredly, slouching over an almost empty mug.
“Don’t forget to lock the place up on your way out,” Quentin said just before closing the door behind him.
Whenever Kenny was in Port Kesser, he slept in the back room of Quentin’s eponymous tavern, which the two of them had tweaked into a cozy little safe haven. Kenny sprawled out on the bed and, still wearing his clothes, sunk quickly into slumber.
© 2017 Jesse Pennington