Kenna rubbed her hands together, suppressing a laugh.
It was everything she'd expected. No one guarded the temple at this late hour. Aside from the gate out front, there weren't any locks, sentries, or even watch dogs. Pathetic. These backwards people in Rhovaine had no sense of security. So naïve and trusting. They needed a lesson in how the real world worked. Well, that was Kenna's job now, wasn't it? To be the teacher they so desperately required. And she charged a steep price.
Mert and Saisoi kept their backs to Kenna, arms folded as they surveyed the narrow street on either side. Kenna grabbed a line of rope out of the bag on Saisoi' back.
"Ignore the gold," Kenna barked, keeping her voice clipped and quiet. Not that there was anyone in this part of the city to hear her at this hour. But she wasn't pressing her luck this far along into things. "The gems are where the money is at."
"Still plenty heavy," Mert added over his shoulder. "You forget that bank we visited back in Weivdale?"
Kenna grunted. "Shut it. Now hold this for me."
Mert turned from his view of the street, taking the far end of the length of rope. Kenna wound up her arm, lobbing the rest of it over the wall of the Goddess' Temple. She waited two breaths to see if there were sentries after all and if they had any reaction to the rope's appearance. But nothing stirred on the other side.
Grinning, Kenna tugged it into place, hooking the looped end to an anchor point. Then she scurried up the side in three quick steps, crouching on the apex of the wall. She gazed around.
The temple courtyard was vacant, the torches and gas lamps put out for the night. Ambient light from the front gate spilled in across the courtyard and elaborate fountain. Not a single soul stirred within, and she couldn't hear any street traffic from the far walls. Perfect.
Kenna eased herself down the interior wall, landing in a crouch on the chalky colored stone floor below. She tugged the rope twice, and Saisoi followed next. She immediately fanned left, staying low as she made her way to the Goddess' shrine. That's where the good loot waited.
Mert dropped down a moment later, crouching beside Kenna as he surveyed the temple interior. "Probably gold in each of these little alcoves."
"Plenty," Kenna agreed. "But nothing easily carried out. We stick with the gems."
Mert shot her a flat stare. "You don't even want to look?"
"I had plenty of time to look when I was just another pilgrim here this morning. The good stuff is in the shrine. We get it and we get out."
Mert shrugged, springing forward. He was soon behind Saisoi and through the twin stone doors that guarded the shrine. Kenna exhaled, sparing another glance around the courtyard.
Mert had weird ideas about merchandise of value. He always went for the gold. Gold only mattered in ingot form. Kenna wasn't interested in pawning the decorative stuff. It was a pain to carry and rarely worth the load. If they found something encrusted with jewels in the shrine she supposed Mert could take it. But if he raised another peep on this job she'd cut him going forward. Kenna could easily replace him even if it meant she and Saisoi had to work the next couple of jobs solo. That didn't bother her. Saisoi knew how to focus.
Kenna stood up to her full height. She glanced over her shoulder, letting her eyes wander over the shadows and dark parts of the temple grounds. She was certain there weren't sentries watching her. But…she couldn't shake the feeling those dark patches gave her. Kenna knew all too well how easy it was to use them. She imagined other versions of herself lurking in the shadows, waiting for the real Kenna to turn her back and expose herself. It's what she did too often. And naturally it meant she was all too aware of the path she'd take to exploit someone in her shoes.
She forced herself to walk casually up to the shrine doors. Maybe it was an act of pride. To prove that she was the master of these shadows. No one else was waiting for her because she was the one who waited in the first place. It only partway helped.
Kenna opened as small a gap as she could muster without creaking the massive doors on their hinges. Pressing her body flat against the rough surface, she slipped into the chamber beyond. Moonlight poured through skylights, bathing the pale stone in blue-white light. She walked through the labyrinth of interior winding corridors to the central chamber where the Goddess' visage sat on a throne of gold, surrounded by ornamental gems. Mert and Saisoi were nearly through a third of those gems, filling the sacks they'd packed in.
"Heavy," Mert grumbled, hoisting one of the bags for show.
"Stick to the ones around her throne," said Kenna. "We'll leave the rest."
The two obeyed wordlessly, finishing up their work. A good thief didn't get greedy. They took what they reasonably could and left the rest. Sometimes it took her targets time to realize they'd been robbed. They never could understand how someone would only take a portion of the loot. And that's how Kenna stayed in business. By not taking unnecessary risks. By making off with a decent haul every single time that she escaped to sell. A series of full coffers in her home town made her a small noblewoman in wealth status. Not that she would ever flaunt such wealth. But it was hers precisely because she was shrewd in her practices.
Saisoi and Mert—for all his flaws—understood this practice. And they obeyed her word as law. They never pulled stupid stunts that would land lesser thieves in the stockades. Tonight they'd make off with a small fortune, even if it was still small.
Kenna grinned, nodded once, and turned back to survey their exit. She froze when she saw a girl standing in the hall.
She wore a strange costume. A single robe hooked over her shoulder, flowing sensually around her not so small breasts, and tucked at the waist so that it barely covered her thighs. She was a small thing. Maybe fifteen? But she had flawless brown skin and golden eyes that glowed in the moonlight. Black hair spilled down around her bare shoulders, flowing as if caught on a breeze. The air was perfectly still in the halls.
Kenna thought quickly. She was a child. Probably another thief. But why the elaborate costume? She looked like she belonged in one of the late night revelries somewhere in town. Maybe intoxicated, wandering in through the front gate? If there weren't a sentry or a lock, who would stop her? Kenna decided to play that angle.
"Heyyyyy." She slurred her speech, pretending to wobble as she walked over. "You lookin' for the fine wines? They didn't keep any here."
The girl frowned, eyes narrowing. "What are you doing in my house?" Her voice was elevated in pronunciation and diction. Shit. A noble girl. Probably one of the city families who funded the temple.
Kenna switched tactics. She sped up, prepared to strangle the girl. She knew a quick hold that would put her to sleep. She didn't need to die. But she definitely needed to be out of the way.
The girl made no move to resist as Kenna grabbed her quickly, spinning her around and pulling against her little body tightly. She was surprisingly warm. She also didn't put up a fight. Was she that stunned? Usually people, especially the young, immediately struggled. But it would only take Kenna a few precious seconds to put the girl to sleep.
The girl didn't go to sleep. "Are you trying to disable me?"
Kenna frowned. She tightened her grip. But the girl remained upright, unmoved in her hold. It was as if she could somehow still breathe with Kenna's arms holding her lungs closed. That wasn't possible.
The girl chuckled. "Well…this is new. The others will get a laugh out of that."
The girl swung her arms up fiercely. They broke Kenna's bond with surprising force, shoving her back. The bones rattled where the girl hit her, and Kenna cried out, startled. It hurt! But…nothing was broken.
Mert and Saisoi bolted into the corridor. They froze beside Kenna, sizing up the girl. She placed hands on her hips, giving them a once over as well.
"Thieves," she sighed. "Haven't had to deal with your ilk since I manifested myself to the people. You must be from beyond the borders."
Kenna's breath tightened. She knew too much. Had somehow escaped Kenna's sleeper hold. She needed to die. It was the only safe option.
Mert obliged her thought. He had a knife off his belt and flung at the girl before Kenna could blink. The knife flew true, right at the girl's left eye. Mert was good with blades; could have one through a man's head and have him dead in a single breath. But his knife merely ricocheted off the girl's head, clattering somewhere on the stone floor. She didn't even blink.
"You three were cute. But I don't take kindly to that kind of violence."
Something in the air rustled, hot and sharp on either side of Kenna. She looked around quickly. Mert and Saisoi were gone. What in the gods' name just happened?
"You," the girl barked. "We need to talk."
That same hot wind caught Kenna, ruffling her cloak and nearly laying her out on the floor. The room whirled around her, suddenly replaced by an explosion of stars in every direction. It happened so fast it left Kenna dizzy.
Then it was all gone, blinding sunlight in her face. Kenna threw up her hands to shield her face, and tumbled down into bright green grass. It smelled like spring time and wildflowers. When she got her blinking under control, Kenna realized it was daytime. And she wasn't in the temple anymore.
She sat on a well groomed lawn beneath a manor. It wasn't like anything she'd ever seen before. The style, geometry, and materials were beyond her experience in traveling the world. It looked unmade by any builder she'd ever known.
The girl sat nearby in a shiny white chair. Her sensual robe was gone, replaced by pants cut short and a strange top that left her shoulders and breasts largely uncovered. She also wore spectacles that covered her eyes with dark lenses. She reclined in the shiny chair, letting the sun bathe her body.
"All right, that's better," the girl said. Only she wasn't quite a girl anymore. Her body and voice had filled out with age. She could've been closer in years to Kenna now. "Let's look at your soulweave."
Something cold reached inside Kenna. She gasped, shuddering as the cold liquid pooled from her stomach and spread out into her limbs. It was invasive and strangely ticklish. And somewhere in there Kenna felt flashes of memory streak by.
The girl was inside her head.
"My oh my, aren't you a clever thief?"
The cold retreated. Kenna found herself face down in the grass, panting. Her whole life felt laid out before her. And the girl was reading it like a book. That made Kenna's face burn red.
"I have to say, I've never met someone like you before. Plenty of thieves harassed my people in the beginning, but you…you are something special. I could use a woman like you."
Kenna looked up sharply. The girl wore a self-satisfied smirk.
"If you haven't figured it out yet, I can help you along."
Kenna subdued a groan. "You are the Goddess. And that was your temple I robbed."
"Almost robbed," she clarified. "Everything you took is already back to its proper place."
"And my friends?"
"Held in a separate axial where they can't get away until I decide otherwise. When this is all done, it will have seemed as little more than a breath to them. For us, it's as long as it takes to sort things out."
So they weren't in any immediate danger. Which meant Kenna was alive because she was useful to a goddess somehow. But what would a goddess need with a thief?
"I know what you're thinking," said the Goddess. "And not because I can read your mind. But because all mortals think alike. What could a goddess use with me? Well, certainly not your body. It's your mind. That is truly a gift. I think all you need is a change in career options and I can find all sorts of interesting things you'd enjoy. Things that would give you purpose and a rush unlike all the thieving you've ever done."
Kenna hated how much that excited her. She wanted to believe it was the Goddess pressing on her emotions. But when she was honest with herself, she knew she was intrigued. She knew a job offer when she heard it.
"And if I turned you down?"
The Goddess laughed, doubling over. "You wouldn't. Not in your wildest dreams. Because you know what I can offer you would make your former life a pale ghost of what it could've been. I can show you adventures and pleasures the likes of which would make any mortal kill themselves to come live in my silver halls if only to bask at my feet for a few short moments."
Kenna hated her for it. Hated herself for how much she wanted it. She'd never had the full attention of a literal goddess before. Or the promise of a job that would sate her heart's fondest desires.
Kenna reluctantly bowed. "I am yours to command. Now give me back my friends."
"All in due course. You don't even know what your job is yet."
"I have a fair idea."
"Oh, and what's that?"
Kenna looked up, smiling at her own cleverness. "You need a thief to rob another god."
A/N: I had a fun idea for a large setting, but nothing specific as far as individual characters or stories within that setting. So I gave myself a quick prompt, dropped it in this larger universe, and ran with it to see where it would take me. Turned out to be a fun exercise. This is somewhere I should come back to sooner rather than later.