"Sheesh, could you not get a light in here!" Taro grumbled as he turned to face the doorman, "Honestly, you'd think you were gonna murder me or something!"
The doorman, a tall man with broad shoulders and a big bushy beard, simply looked embarassed. Taro rolled his eyes, guards these days, did they not have a brain in that big empty gap between their ears? With another dirty look at the doorman he started to navigate his way across the room, swearing occasionally as he collided with various chairs, tables and other pieces of furniture. Eventually he made his way up a small flight of stairs and walked through an open door into a second room. A few candles cast a dim light over the interior of the room, its walls cracked and peeling with age. Two people stood at the other end of the room, one a dark-skinned, sharp-featured individual and the other a smaller, fair-haired man with dark blue eyes and an amused expression. They looked up as Taro entered and the dark-skinned man called out,
"Hey there Lightfingers! A good day's work I trust?"
Taro grinned and held up the merchant's bulging purse, the man laughed and beckoned him over.
"Good work lad, we'll not be going short of money for a while now eh? Come on, we've got some news for you."
"What might that be? You haven't set fire to another warehouse have you Sooty? We all know what you're like with fire."
Sooty pretended to look offended and the fair haired man clapped him on the shoulder amicably,
"Naw, don't worry Soot, our little cut-purse's just jealous that he can't do the same."
"I am not!" Taro replied indignantly.
"Whatever, now if you would care to stop insulting me I will tell you what we heard this morning. Just about an hour after you left, Bingo and I"- he nudged his companion- "were doing a little shopping in the High Street when we heard that our District Lord is supposedly throwing some sort of celebration party."
"And," Bingo said, "we heard that every rich fop in town is going to be there. That means plenty of loose purses just waiting to be collected."
"So, let me guess, you want me to go in and relieve some the guests of their money. Well I'd be delighted, provided you tell me the time, date and place. What sort of do is it? A costume party perhaps?"
"Something called a Masked Ball," said Sooty "I think that's kinda like a costume party only with a posh name. It's three days from now at the Lord's Manor in White Crescent, we'll need to get you a costume but aside from that I think it's just a simple smash and grab."
"I'm in." said Taro.