Salleem snaked his way through the masses of the dust-covered robed denizens of Avienan towards a less-crowded street corner. With each step, he extended his arms slightly on either side of him. Not so much that someone might take notice, but enough so that his hands lightly brushed across the many beige robes of passers-by. He lazily glanced around, a subtle smirk stretching across his fair face, faint enough that most might not have noticed if they were not already searching for it. He paused once he had reached the most heavily populated area in the center of the marketplace, about halfway to the street corner next to an old alleyway. His dark blue eyes glimmered slightly in the sunlight, and many noticed this. However, he was not looking at the many stalls that lined the streets for his next purchase. His eyes were on a different prize.

A small bulge protruded from a pocket of the robe of a young lady. Now! With expert precision and finesse, he drew a thin black throwing knife from a concealed pocket within his shirt and sliced open the rough leather pocket sewed to the robe, allowing its contents to spill into his other hand. A large pouch fell into his palm with a satisfying soft metallic thump. Before anyone could notice the petty theft, he brought the coin pouch, along with the blade, back into his pocket with one smooth motion as if he were just patting himself on the chest. The young woman continued on her way, unaware that she had been alleviated of her coin pouch and would-be dinner. Salleem drew his hand from his pocket, the skin of his fingers becoming translucent; it remained semitransparent for a moment or two before returning to its normal opaque state. His hand remained numb for a few seconds until sharp needles of pain shot back down through his arm, restoring feeling through his fingertips. This was normal. Salleem didn’t mind phasing in and out like that, and the pain that usually followed almost felt reassuring. For weeks after that silly old gypsy man had stabbed him, he had had ongoing nightmares about his limbs phasing out into nothingness and never coming back. But that was years ago, and if he were to see the old gypsy man again he would thank him for his gift.

Salleem shut his eyes for a moment in the middle of the busy market and opened them at the street corner next to the alleyway. He dared not open his eyes when he phased out his entire body, fearing that he might not like what there was to see. He had already accepted that one day he might phase out completely, and get stuck half way between the nothing-ness he had expected to envelop him. He shuddered at the thought, but now was not the time for such notions.

Where was Okohke? The damned bird never seemed to be on time, always distracted by some shiny new piece of trash he had seen on his way over. Honestly, Salleem grumbled, all the loot we could have had by now would be unimaginable if I didn’t constantly get stuck waiting for him and his shiny new pieces of shi--

A large hand attached to a rather muscular arm reached from behind and patted Salleem on the shoulder.

“Oh, hello old friend,” Salleem turned to greet the tall, muscular, and lanky Okohke, who was currently occupied with the rather daunting task of trying not to strain his neck looking at the shiny metallic object on his back. Salleem was confounded. “Why, might I ask, do you have a gun? You know I don’t particularly like those things. Too noisy, and there is nothing elegant about them.”

“A gun,” Okohke closed an eye, this one milky brown, and peered down the object’s barrel with the pale blue one. “What’s that?”

Salleem quickly grabbed the gun by its hilt and adjusted it so that the business end pointed towards the ground.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you. An unfortunate slip of the finger, and you and I might not be thieving together for very much longer.” Okohke looked up towards the sky, contemplating the cryptic message his friend had given him. He returned the gun to the sling around his back and watched Salleem as he scanned the immense crowd for the next victim. “There.” Salleem pointed towards an old man with a gray beard down to his knees, slouched over on a nearby bench. A small silver pendant hung from around his neck. “Do you see it, Okohke?”

“Shiny…” Okohki mumbled under his breath.

“Yes, shiny. Let’s go.”  The two thieves walked slowly towards the man, their hands shook with the excitement of yet another job. Now behind the old man, Salleem took out one of his blades and cut the cord around the man’s neck and knocked into his shoulder and catching the falling pendent in his hand as he did so. “I’m very sorry sir. I wasn’t watching what I was doing.”

“Hey, you kid!” A guard, medium height and in heavy iron clad armor ran up to the three men. “Give me that!” He swiped the pendant from Salleem’s hand. “Here you go sir. I just watched this young punk cut this from you.”

“He… took… shiny…?” Okohke looked mortified. He glared at the guard; his face turned a horrible shade of red, his eyes narrowing to slits.

“Okohke stop!” Salleem yelled.

With one swift movement, Okohke swung the gun from around his back and, with both hands on the barrel, charged at the guard. With a cry of pure rage he dealt a blow that connected right with the center of the man’s chest, shattering the man’s armor and sending him flying up against a near-by wall.

“You’ve done it now,” Salleem put a hand over his eyes, embarrassed.

“Shiny! Shiny! Shiny! Shiny,” Okohki danced around, a very accomplished look stretched across his face. A shout suddenly sounded from the closest alley and more guards ran out from the corners of the market place. The robed civilians backed out of the way, leaving a great empty space in the middle of the market street.

They were surrounded, guards continuing to poor into the market, and Salleem knew there wasn’t any point arguing with them. They had been caught in the act. However, he and Okohke had escaped from situations like this before; granted, they had never faced this many guards at once. Without uttering a word, Salleem danced through the small, but growing, army of guards narrowly dodging large clubs that were sure to be unpleasant if they landed a hit. His body phased in and out rapidly. Many clubs and swords darted through his chest, not connecting with flesh but simply passing through without the barest hint of resistance. A smile stretched across Salleem’s face as he and Okohke slowly made their way towards the edge of the gathered crowd; there, they would be able to disappear. Salleem glanced over and saw a rather odd looking group of people watching the affair with a rather puzzled look on their faces, but he only saw them for a moment before he jumped to dodge a club approximately the size of his head.

The End

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