4452 words (17 minute read)

The Thieve’s Guild


Samba fell straight down into complete darkness. After a short drop, she landed on a curved surface. The momentum from the fall propelled her forward. She realized it was a slide.

It curved and corkscrewed through the darkness. She slid for half a minute before the slide deposited her onto a cold stone floor.

Sliding across the floor, she got caught up in a rug. It propelled her all the way to the other side of the room. Her whirlwind ride ended with a crash into a suit of armor.

Looking up, Samba watched as the armor fell towards her. She rolled out the way. It smashed to the ground. Individual parts separated every which way, making a racket.

Samba lay upside down on the floor. She pulled her disheveled hair out of her face.

“Real incognito,” she said.

Samba stood up, rubbing her aching behind. She took a deep breath and looked around her.

She found herself in a grand hall, structured around a large round table. Brightly colored banners draped on the walls, no two similar to another. Their frayed and tattered forms revealed their age.

Bookshelves lined the walls from top to bottom, converging on one side at a tapestry draped atop a mighty fireplace. At the other end a staircase led downward.

Looking around, Samba noticed a plethora of treasures placed on elevated columns or behind glass. It looked like some giant trophy room.

Piles of bright colored jewels, golden medallions, and ornately crafted swords twinkled in their exhibits. Suits of armor draped with the markings of variety of armies stood silent guard. The oldest of the goods worn and faded colors suggested ownership from long ago.

Looking into one of the cases, she stared at a beautiful sapphire that appeared to be glowing. Next to the gem was a small plaque.

The Eye of Sri Lanka. A small post-script lay under it. Stolen 1412 AD.

Stolen? Samba thought. What a strange thing to commemorate.

Next to the gem stood a knight’s armor, eternally at arms. Peering closely, she read the inscription carved into the breastplate.

Stolen 889.

She reached up and pulled a book down from the wall. Its inscription stated Library of Baghdad, checked out 842. The scroll next to it read Royal Library of Alexandria.

Samba realized that every single item in the room was stolen goods.

A flickering from the fireplace caught her attention. Samba noticed a few embers taking their last breath. She traced her eyes upwards. Over top of the fireplace, a well-kept banner sat in a place of honor.

On a deep azure base, it portrayed a golden hand reached down. The chain on its wrist snapped in two. It’s fingers plucked a single gold coin from a pocket.

Samba heard a clanking noise behind her. She turned to find the pedestal where the knight stood empty. Whirling around, behind her the knight himself held his sword ready to strike.

As he swung, Samba leaned back almost parallel to the floor. The sword went over her. The momentum of the knight’s swing sent him off balance.

Planting her hands on the ground, she kicked straight up, striking her heel into the knight’s chin. A shot of pain went through her leg. Flipping backwards, Samba bounced off her good foot towards the table.

Reaching the table, she climbed on and rolled towards the center. The knight ran up to the table. He thrust his sword at her.

Samba tensed up, only to find the sword couldn’t reach her. The two of them stood at a standstill. When she moved left, the knight clanked right. She moved right, he moved left.

Samba jumped to her left. The knight started to follow. She immediately jumped back to the right, causing the knight to stop. He grunted his disapproval. Samba began to dance a jig.

“Nah nah, you can’t get me.”

The knight tilted his head. He reached out to the chair in front of him. Pressing it forward, he revealed a hidden lever under one leg. Waving his finger back and forth, he nudged it forward.

The table lurched vertically, throwing Samba off her feet. It tilted to one side, slowly increasing it’s angle. Samba grabbed the upended edge. In horror she watched as the chairs parted and a large hole appeared in the floor.

The knight moved to the other side of the pit, pacing the edge.

“I don’t know how you got in here,” he spoke, his voice ringing off the metal, “but you’re going to tell me exactly who sent you.”

Samba felt her grip weakening. The table reached its apex. She couldn’t hold on.


A black ball of fur fell from the ceiling. Lupin landed on the knight’s helmet. The blow knocked the knight off balance. He swung wildly at the cat. Lupin refused to let go. His paws blocked the knight’s eyeholes.

The knight’s foot caught the edge of the trapdoor, sending him flailing towards the hole. He stretched fully, catching himself from falling. He lay sprawled out over the pit.

Letting go, Samba landed feet first on the back of the knight. The three of them sat perched above the abyss.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” said the knight, his tone changed dramatically. “Maybe we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

The table reset itself. Once in place, there was no hint of the trap below. Samba brushed herself off.

“What of kind of place has built in trapdoors?” Samba said.

“Ok, we got off on the wrong foot,” said the knight.

“You mean no footing,” said Lupin.

“You can’t be too careful,” the knight continued. “These are dangerous times.”

Reaching up to his neck, he unclasped the helmet. Holding the helmet, he pressed a button on the back of the armor.

The sounds of locks unclasping reverberated through the suit. Pieces of armor began to separate, landing upon the ground with a clatter. Every piece fell off except his shoes.

The man inside wore a neatly pressed three-button blazer and red bowtie. He stepped out the shoes and lifted off the helmet.

Samba didn’t recognize the man, but for some reason she felt she knew him. He had a kind, boyish face despite his age, with light brown side-swept hair.

“Neat, ain’t it?” he said. “Pain in the bollocks to put back together, though.”

Without the armor on, she could very clearly hear him speak with a cockney accent.

She looked at him through furrowed brow as he gingerly placed the helmet on the table.

“How do I know you?” she said.

The man smiled and took a small bow.

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am the infamous wild rover, Jack O’Altriedes. Sorry for the harsh treatment, love.”

Samba motioned to her surroundings.

“What is this place?”

Now it was his turn to look surprised.

“You don’t know?”

Samba shrugged her shoulders. A look of realization came over his face.

“You’re not one of us.”

“One of what?”

Jack rubbed his chin, taking a close look at her.

“Curiouser and curiouser. Not just anybody can walk in here. Don’t know if you noticed, we don’t exactly get visitors anymore, not with the war on.”

Samba couldn’t help but feel that she was getting nowhere. Every answer led to more questions.

“What war? Why did Father Lorenzo send me here?”

“Wait a tick,” Jack said, a hint of excitement under his voice, “did you say Lorenzo?”

“You know him?”

“Snooty attitude, good with housework.” Jack paused.

“One hand?”

“Yes!” Samba said.

“You probably should have started with that one,” said Lupin.

Jack narrowed his eyes on her pendant.

“Where did you get that?”

Samba reached up and grasped it in her hand.

“It was a gift. I received it for my birthday.”

He shuffled his jaw from side to side in thought. His eyes opened wide. Samba thought she could see a light click on in the back of his head.

“Melody? Little Melody?’”

Samba was taken aback.

“How did you know that?”

Jack’s face lit up with a smile.

“It is you! Little Melody. I don’t believe it.”

Jack realized Samba did not share his revelation.

“You don’t remember me, do you? I’m your Uncle Jack.”

“You knew my parents?” said Samba.

“Knew them?” Jack chuckled. “I was your father’s best man. When I saw you last, you were just a toddler. Now look at you!”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Samba said. “How did you know it was me?”

Jack pointed at her neck.

“I haven’t seen that pendant in a very long time. You see, it belonged to your mother.”

Reaching out, Jack lifted the pendant. He held it in front of Samba’s face.

“It was very important to her. She said it contained the key to the most precious treasure in her life. Never took it off. That is, until that horrible night.”

All the emotions Samba had bottled up, all the questions she had formed over the years, began to spill out.

“What happened on that night? Just who were my parents?”

Jack nodded his head.

“You were too young to know just who your parents were, and the great responsibility placed upon them.”

Lighting a torch, he moved towards the stairway.

“Allow me to show you your history.”

As he pressed his foot down, a section of the floor gave way to his weight. The sounds of gears grinding in the walls surrounded them.

Above him, a trap in the ceiling opened. Out swung a giant axe. Jack hopped back, barely dodging the deadly blade. It rotated back into the ceiling. The tiles returned to their rest, concealing the death trap.

Jack pointed his finger upward.

“But first let me turn off the traps.”

He grasped a stone segment of the archway and pulled. The rock gave way, revealing a false panel. Jack reached in and twisted a lever. The sounds of gears coming to a halt reverberated. Then, silence.

“Welcome to the Guild of Thieves.”

Jack stepped off. His body descended below the ground floor.

Samba peered into the stairway. Jack stopped. He held the torch high in the air. The light pulled back the shadows.

The stairs spiraled downward into a deep shaft. Looking down, Samba couldn’t see a bottom. Whoever had built them had woefully neglected to add in handholds. One wrong step could send an unfortunate person falling into nothingness.

Taking the first step, a small rush of cool air escaped past her. Samba couldn’t help but stare downwards. She moved deliberately, her back pressed against the wall.

Jack didn’t look fazed. He motioned upwards.

“If we only look at what at fear, we miss the beauty around us.”

Samba took a deep breath. She stepped away from the wall and looked up. Every spare inch of the walls were lined with paintings.

The paintings portrayed a variety of subjects, but contained one similarity.

“They’re all portraits,” she said.

“Every member of our guild, past and present.”

The vibrant paintings at the top of the stairs captured modern subjects. One portrait showed a dark-haired beauty in a bright red hat and trench coat. Another saw eleven suited men standing in front of an enormous fountain.

As they descended, the pictures became older and worn. A jolly archer in a green hood roamed the woods. Next to him, a masked man rode atop a black stallion.

“Where are all the rich old white men?” said Samba.

“They have their own club,” said Jack. “It’s called Wall Street. We’re not affiliated.”

After a long descent, the two of them reached the oldest of the paintings. The stairs bottomed out onto a stone floor.

A large iron door, reinforced with multiple locks, dominated the space. Above it a scene carved into the wall showed a man stealing fire from the gods.

“Behind this door is quite possibly the greatest treasure ever assembled. The Thieves’ Haul.”

Jack held his arms out and turned in a slow circle, taking in the entirety of the collection.

“They were the downtrodden, the unwanted, the unclean. Misfits and losers who could not thrive in normal society. So they decided to make their own.”

“The greatest thieves from across the world came together and formed a guild. They established a code to live by, and then chose from amongst themselves a king. The one person they considered the greatest amongst them.”

“Name, race, gender, it didn’t matter. All they cared about was merit. The king was entrusted with the key to a fortune known only as the Thieves’ Haul.”

“What is the Thieves’ Haul?” asked Samba.

“Imagine a massive vault buried deep beneath us. A collection of everything ever stolen through history. The greatest thieves you’ve ever known, a collection of all their ill-gotten gains, locked in a vault with only one key.”

Jack thought he noticed a hungry glint appear in Samba’s eye.

“And no one has ever tried to steal it?” she said.

Jack shook his head.

“It’s why the traps exist. The only way in is through the vault door. If you tried to dig your way in, the chamber is built to collapse.”

Jack made a box shape with his hands, then smacked them together

“Then everyone comes after the king,” said Samba.

Jack shrugged his shoulders.

“That is true. But the idea is that the king has earned his position, and is well equipped to stave off any hungry challengers. “

“For the other members, it gives something to strive for. Even if they don’t become the king, the hope is they take pride in how far they get.”

Jack reached out to a small picture on the wall. He beckoned her closer.

“At least that’s how it should work. As it has been and always will be, some people can never have enough. That is the reason why we’re where we are today.”

Samba took a close look at the picture. Ten people stood for a group photo, surrounded by stacks of cash, heaps of jewels, and other ill-gotten gains.

In the center sat a gangly man with a roguish smile. On his head he wore a golden crown. In his lap sat a femme fatale, showing off a massive wedding ring. Flanking them, the rest of their group mugged for the camera.

Jack pointed at the couple.

“These two are the former King and Queen of Thieves, before the position went to your father. Speaking of which, guess who this bloke is right here.”

Samba looked at the face under Jack’s finger, a young man with curly black hair.

“That’s your father. And this handsome devil next to him,” he pointed at the young man behind her father, “is me.”

There was no doubt about it. Comparing the picture to the man standing in front of her, she reckoned they couldn’t have been older than their late teens. Looking closer, Samba noticed that while Jack stared at the camera, her father seemed to be interested in someone else.

“Who’s this girl?” Samba asked, pointing at the young Japanese girl with long black hair. She held up a jeweled sword.

“That,” said Jack, “is your mother.”

Samba stared at her teenage mother. In her mind’s eye, what little she could remember, had always been warm and comforting. This girl in the picture could not have been colder.

“She’s not smiling.”

Jack nodded his head.

“She would have bit your head off. Didn’t really care for her at first, but she drove your father wild. Took awhile, but she came around. First he had to get her away from this man.”

He pointed at an older Japanese man standing in between her father and mother, positioned almost as he was trying to separate them.

“This blighter goes by a lot of names. Master of the Yakuza, Lord of the East, Shogun of Sorrow, Mr. Big. His real name is Noah Taiko.”

Samba remembered the name.

“He was the former king’s oldest friend, though you’d never think it from the way he seemed to disdain everybody else. He is incredibly honor-bound and a master of martial arts. Everyone believed he would be the next in line for king. But, when that day came, he got passed over for your father.”

“So what did he do?” said Samba.

“At the time your father and mother were secretly dating. They got married right after Timbre became king. Noah showed no outward signs of emotion, like usual, but no one believed he’d take it in stride.”

“He kept trying to get your father to make changes to the Guild. He wanted to run it like a corporation. Noah saw it as the only way to survive in the modern world. But it went against the freedom the guild stands for. Your father refused. That’s where this man comes in.”

Jack pointed at the green-suited man to the far right. The man kept his hat slung low over his face.

“It’s him,” she exclaimed. Beneath the hat, that pointed beard and wicked smile burned into her memory became obvious. It was the Gentleman.

“You knew him?”

Jack nodded his head.

“He was the fourth member of the old guard. Nobody knew where he came from. All we knew was that he loved his revolvers, and he never missed. He’s quite possibly the greatest marksman ever, but he refuses to use any other weapons.”

Jack twirled his fingers.

“So good with a gun that he started handicapping himself just to show off. I once saw him go toe-to-toe with a helicopter. Used to call him Old Scratch behind his back. Well one day he heard us. Didn’t say a thing. Just smiled that hideous smile.”

Jack’s voice became gravely serious.

“Both of them were there that night. They had to been working together. After your father disappeared, Noah tried to consolidate the guild. With no one else to lead them, most of the guild either left or joined him.”

Jack pulled a photograph from his pocket and handed it to Samba.

“Then a new player appeared.”

Looking down at it, it was a blurry image of a man wearing a white mask across his face. Long curled hair obscured the edges. His mouth was the only feature visible.

“Calls himself Carlos Montenegro. Always wears a mask. He rallied those thieves who wanted to honor the old code, and declared war on Noah.”

Jack made his way under the stairs. A small desk and chair sat beneath them. Jack used the torch to light the desk’s single candle.

“That’s where we stand. Neither side will budge on any issue, battling against each other while still avoiding our common enemy, law enforcement. But numbers on both sides are dwindling. I fear this conflict will only end with the guild disappearing into oblivion.”

He laid back in the chair, legs on the desk.

“But nothing for you to concern yourself. You can stay as long as you like until you can find your way.”

Samba looked around at the dreary surroundings.

“Why do you stay here?” she asked bluntly. “Why didn’t you join the fight?”

Jack rocked back and forth.

“When I was a young man, I fought for a cause. Truly believed in it, too. One day, I looked up, and I couldn’t tell if we were the good guys. The only reason I stayed put was because I didn’t know any other life. Then I met your dad. He taught me to stop trying to force the world to submit to my narrow beliefs. I don’t fight for causes, just for people.”

Samba looked at the photo of her parents.

“Do you think my father is somewhere in this conflict?”

Jack laughed.

“That romantic? He never saw a lost cause he didn’t like.”’

Samba thought for a second.

“If a cause isn’t perfect, it can still be worth fighting for?”

Samba weighed her options.

“I want to join.”

The surprise shot Jack back in his chair. He almost fell over.

“Your father did not want this for you. He gave you up so that you wouldn’t have to be in harm’s way, so that you could live a happy life.”

“But don’t you see?” said Samba. “That’s not the life I wanted. I didn’t get to choose. I want to find the men who tore apart my family and make them answer. I also want to find my father.”

Jack stared at her with a look of concern. Then his face softened into a smile.

“You’re as passionate as your father and stubborn as your mother. Fine.”

He clapped his hands together. He bolted out of his chair.

“Get some sleep. Early tomorrow you start your initiation, Samba.”

He placed heavy emphasis on her name. He pointed at her.

“Remember when you’re exhausted tomorrow, you asked for this. Don’t say I didn’t try and warn you.”

Samba turned and walked back to her room, not sure if she would be able to sleep at all.

When he was sure Samba had departed, Jack immediately jumped up, letting out a quiet hiss of celebration.

“I knew she wouldn’t let me down!”

He let out a puff of excitement, then reached down and picked up the picture off the desk. He stared at the image.

“I hope you’ll forgive me someday for this, brother.

Next Chapter: The Heist