The Guard and the Pickpocket

Captain Travis Sivart was not in a good mood.

In his career as a Captain of the Guard, he'd been stabbed, sliced, shot by longbow and crossbow alike, punched, kicked, slapped, war-hammered, axed, flailed, sat on, thrown, and countless other things, but never once had he let someone who'd done wrong get away from him. The injuries he could handle -- in fact, due to the unique power he was born with, they didn't even become injuries -- but knowing he lost a perpetrator wasn't going down easy.

He'd seen the commotion from afar, seen the thief girl run around a corner and disappear, and it was then that he knew she was like him. Not exactly like him, of course; he could harden his skin until only a dragon's claws could pierce it, whereas she could make herself no more visible than the wind, but both of them had extraordinary powers. However, as his guards and the piemaker ran past where the girl had disappeared, he turned out to be wrong; it seemed that she was working with a partner, and he was the one making her invisible.

He had been surprised to learn that a mere boy was able to not only make himself unseen, but also to apply this power to someone else. But he had been even more surprised, after apprehending the girl only to have her literally slip right through his clutches, to learn that invisibility wasn't his only power. Even the king's 'witches' weren't that powerful. He had been so caught up thinking about it that he'd even fallen for the boy's trick, heading inside the building to search for the pair of them. He tore the house apart searching for them, even when he knew they were long gone, just to make himself feel better about the whole ordeal.

But this is not the story of the guard and the charlatans; this is the story of the angry guard and the pickpocket.

The pickpocket was a destitute, dark-haired young woman living on the streets. Were she not so dirty or skinny or callous, she may have been a beautiful woman, but the streets had hardened her beyond repair. Every day, she silently held out her hands to passersby, hoping for a bronze coin, perhaps, or a bit of food. To the generous ones she mumbled a thank-you, to the rest, she simply gazed at them as they walked by.

Or so it seemed. Travis knew she was picking pockets, if only because anyone who passed her and didn't give her something out of the kindness of their heart ended up missing something. However, Travis was not the type of man to send her to the dungeon or the stocks simply on suspicion. He believed in law and order, of course, but he also believed in justice. Otherwise, he would be no better than the very criminals he sought out.

So on most days, he made a point of stealthily happening by her standard spot, and watching from afar as the people walked by her, suspicion evident in his features. However, he was always careful to make sure she couldn't see him. She was always on her best behaviour, though, when he came by, and he had yet to see her actually steal something. Which of course meant she wasn't stealing anything while he was there, because unlike most, the sleight of hand involved in pickpocketing was not something that escaped his eyes.

Today, however, he watched her with not his standard look of suspicion, with a hint of curiosity among other things, but with only anger and annoyance on his mind. He was still distracted by losing the two lawless street performers, and although his eyes watched the girl as they always did, his mind was elsewhere.

In fact, he almost didn't even notice that the girl had just untied the coin purse of a passing man.

For a moment he felt confusion as he tried to think of what he just saw, then a moment of surprise, and then righteous triumph as it finally hit him; he had her.

However, as soon as he began walking over to her, she looked quickly around herself, clearly spooked. And when she saw him walking toward her, she simply froze and locked eyes with him.

It is important to note that Travis Sivart is no ordinary man. In his first year as a guard, he single-handedly slayed a dragon that knocked over the town wall and started torching houses, while the rest of his regiment ran for their lives. He did have the benefit of being able to basically turn his skin to stone, but the point is simply that he was unafraid, even facing such a formidable foe.

Which made it all the more strange that as he glared into the street urchin's eyes, he felt a twinge of fear inside him. He quickly brushed it off, but it had undeniably occurred, and when he didn't have important things to deal with, he would doubtlessly mull it over in great depth.

Or so was the plan.

He had just dismissed the fear when another feeling overtook him, one even less common, perhaps; pity. Staring her down as he continued to walk toward her still unmoving body, he was nearly overwhelmed with the desire to simply let the poor girl go. She was pathetic, really, living on the streets as she was, and those she stole from could afford to lose a little so that she could eat.

However, Travis managed to shake this feeling too, and anger dominated his mind again as he reached the girl, who now looked completely shocked, for some reason. Almost as if she'd expected him to have pity. Almost as if she knew how he was feeling. Almost as if she'd caused it...

"Let's go," he growled, and although she looked defiant, she said nothing, and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. Travis gave her a look, but her defiance didn't falter, and so he began to walk down the alley, his hand wrapped tightly around her wrist. 'Police brutality' wasn't a concept that even existed in that time or place.

He began to pull her along, but was surprised to meet with absolutely no resistance. After a moment, he turned back to look curiously at her, surprised she was just going along with the whole thing, and saw that she had disappeared.

He almost, almost, unclenched his hand in surprise (a little more surprise than he would naturally have felt), or simply because she was no longer in his grip anyway, but he noticed just in time that she actually was in his grip. He could feel her arm, even though he couldn't see it. Swearing loudly out of frustration, he pulled the now-invisible girl along at an even quicker pace, noticing with satisfaction that he could feel her weight slightly dragging this time.

He weighed his options as he stalked along. He couldn't just bring her to the dungeon; she'd escape the incompetent guards there in a matter of minutes. And he would be the laughing stock of the city if he put an invisible girl in the stocks and tried to convince people to jeer at nothing as if it were someone who'd done wrong. But what other options did he have?

* * *

She'd nearly rubbed her wrists bloody trying to undo the ropes around her hands, but even a street kid's expertise was no match for Travis' knot-tying abilities. So she simply sat, idle, in the chair in Travis' kitchen, not making a sound and not moving.

"What is your name?" Travis asked, interrogation-style. When there was no answer from her, only further defiant looks, he went on to ask more questions, each time pausing to wait for an answer before going on, each time not getting one. "What did you do to me? ... How can you turn invisible? ... Where are you from?"

Eventually he gave up, and simply turned around to prepare himself dinner. Soon he was slaving over a hot stove, preparing a hearty meat-and-potato stew, seasoned deliciously. Travis had learned to cook long ago, a very rare skill amongst men, but he wasn't about to let his daughter eat badly prepared food when his wife disappeared.

After a few moments, when the smell had really started to waft through the room, he sensed the girl shift in her chair, and turned his head slightly to watch her. She hadn't done much more than slide her body to the side a little, as if to get more comfortable, but seeing as it was the first time she'd moved since she'd stopped trying to undo to knots, he found it pretty significant. And as the feeling of hunger he had suddenly doubled, the significance became quite clear. He smiled to himself as he finished, and poured himself a bowl.

Sitting at the table, across from his prisoner, he began to eat his soup. The message behind his actions was clear; she wasn't giving anything, she wasn't getting anything.

To her credit, she lasted about halfway through the bowl before giving in.

"My name," she said quietly, her rarely-used voice nearly a croak, "is Kara."

"Travis," Travis replied gruffly, sliding another bowl over to her and nodding mutely at it.

Kara didn't bother asking for her hands, she knew it would be futile and didn't want to bother speaking when she already knew the answer. She simply leaned over and slurped greedily at the broth.

"Nice to meet you," Travis quietly added, before going back to his own meal.

The End

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