1 Thick as thieves

"I'd say he's trying to compensate," one of the three hooded figures remarked as they paused before an immense steel door. Large metal rods were bolted across as if to hold in some monstrosity, and a wheel in the centre of it resembled the wheel of a ship. That was the single recognizable aspect about the massive door.

"I see it as an invitation," another figure stated as he pressed his head against the raw steel. He started turning the dial on the door, listening for the faint clicks and ticks. The others watched their younger friend go at it; his intense concentration on handling the dial seemed almost intimate. As if she would reward him with her cherished prize if he whispered all the right honeyed words and performed all the right moves.

The lone girl in the group blushed at the image the scene before her created in her mind. Yet, she knew the guy with his ear to the door only had a taste for traps and gadgets. Her eyes moved to the boy's favourite toy, the one he messed with into the small hours of the night, grunts and thuds resonating from his chambers. She gazed upon the black iron of his right arm: a mechanical marvel, especially this far south.

The appendage was a clockwork contraption attached to a stub wrapped in bandages. Various cylinders and gears made up the arm. However, she could not figure out what those were for. The only thing she recognized was that the prosthetic was perfectly functional, "With enhanced features" she thought as her eyes locked on the gauge on the forearm.

She turned slightly towards the other member of their party, taller than the first, leaning against the wall, arms crossed. His tanned, knotted arms suggested that "strong-arming" is what he does for a living. Though she had learnt that, he preferred to avoid confrontation altogether.

The lad pressed with his ear against the door twitched. "We're in!" He started spinning the wheel, setting a course for the reward inside. Their curiosity reached a fever pitch as he started pulling open the weighty door. Instead of the abundance of riches they had expected, the interior was a dark descending corridor. The shorter boy peered about for a minute before flipping a switch on the wall.

The interior lit up, showing that the staircase was only six steps that led down into a sunken floor and a room clad in grey stone from floor to ceiling. There were display cases along the walls with many treasures inside, from jade sculptures to beautiful ornate jewellery. "Too bad we can't take any of it," she sighed as she scrutinized the contents of the glass cases.

The tallest of the three tensed before he stomped over to the drawers at the far end of the chamber. She could not pick up all that he muttered, she only caught the words 'Rich' and 'bastard' and knew she did not need to hear the rest. She knew him well enough to appreciate that people hoarding wealth rubbed him up the wrong way.

He plucked open the drawers and started flipping through the papers inside. "If we ever get to decide who we steal from, I'm gonna rob this prick blind," she could practically see the steam rising from his ears. "Got it!" he pulled out an insignificant-looking sheet of paper and replaced it with an identical sheet of his own.

"Great, let's leave this place. I can already feel the stick going up my ass," He rolled up the paper and placed it in the paper barrel on his back. The others only shook their heads at his rude behaviour. They started heading for the door but froze in their steps as they saw the target of his frustrations standing at the entrance of the vault, flintlock raised with a scowl.

"I knew I smelled a rat!" Without a moment's notice, he pulled the trigger. As the shot reverberated around the windowless space, Jacob dove in front of his friends yelling "Vethar!" The bullet exploded from the barrel, but instead of burying itself in Jacob's supple flesh, it ricocheted off him and sloughed into the floor of the vault.

Lord Twain stared at the bullet embedded in the floor a mere foot away from him, terror running up his back before looking at the man who should have been bleeding out on the floor. Where previously Jacob's skin was a tanned coral, his visible skin now resembled cast iron, a symbol glowing on the back of his hand.

"Tal users!", the previously cocky lord twain scrambled desperately to close the vault door. He would rather not tussle with those who spoke the gods' tongue. The three crooks tried to prevent from closing the door, but it had designed to close the twenty tons of solid metal easily. The trio could hear the rods slam into place as the owner spun the wheel on the other side.

"Shit!" Jacob slammed his hand against the door before taking a calming breath. "Megan, we need an exit!" The younger boy, Anthony, looked at him with wide eyes. "You don't mean…?" The look that Jacob gave him suggested he was serious. Megan nodded and went over to the east wall before taking out her ink to write strange symbols on it.

The guys watched as she worked with practised ease until she double checked her scribbling. She turned to them and nodded silently. They retreated into the small alcove created by the steps and covered their ears, Jacob providing cover for Megan's, to which she nodded her thanks. "Brok!" she shouted internally as she pressed her palms together. Jacob braced himself. This was going to suck...

At that moment, Lord Twain was racing down the hill from his mansion as he tried to catch the attention of the city guard. "This is what I get for choosing a house with a view!" he thought as he ran, when suddenly a loud boom went off behind him. He spun around in shock to see the east wall of his Manor explode outwards, a mess of stone and flame. "My baby!" tears started forming in the corners of his eyes, just as three figures leapt from the hole in his wall.

As it turned out, he did not have to alert the guard. There was not a single person in all of Port Century that did not hear the commotion...