A Balanced Account

Varden smirked as he swiped the bulging purse. The noble didn't even notice the weight that had been taken off his fat waist. Just like those fat court nobles to be so oblivious to all this gold missing, Varden thought cynically as he jangled the small brown bag. The satisfying clicks of coin against coin met his ears. After casting a quick glance around, he casually walked down one of the many alley-ways of Rhyll to where he usually stashed his money.

Rhyll itself was riddled with alleyways, dead ends, and random paths leading to nowhere. It was a perfect place for a thief. Nobles thrived in the center of the grimy city, while thieves snuck around the edges, taking a few valuables or two. Varden knew the streets almost as well as the person that had designed them, and could mislead any follower that trailed him. Usually.

"You… you just stole that purse from that man, did you not?"

Varden spun around, instinctively stuffing the purse into his coat pocket. A short girl of about fourteen in an green mud-stained cloak stood there, hands crossed over her chest. Her hood covered most of her face, but he could see wisps of silver hair and golden eyes glaring at him.

"Well? I asked you a question!" she said. Varden raised a dark eyebrow. Nobody had caught him that fast before. Well, actually, nobody had caught him before now.

"You're observant," he said, his own green eyes meeting hers, "What's your name?"

The girl stiffened and shifted her weight to block his way out of the alley, "You do not need to know."

"I could take you down right now you know. You're weaponless and rather small." The girl's glare deepened, and Varden mentally grinned. He always loved provoking people.

"Try me then," she said, derision thick in her voice. Varden smirked. What an idiotic girl.

He pulled out a large dagger, plain and unadorned. It glittered menacingly in the sunlight that trickled into the alley. I'll have to stain this or something. It is too bright for my needs, Varden thought as the dagger sent off small beams of light. He looked up from his weapon to the girl, who had not moved.

"What are you waiting for?" she snarled. Varden rolled his eyes. She would be killed soon enough if she tried to fight everybody she came across.

He attacked swiftly, bringing his blade down in an arch towards her shoulder. Steel came up to match his steel, so quick that it was barely visible. He gasped as the shock radiated up his arm. She was fast!

Varden jumped back and shifted his stance to a defensive position. The girl's smirk widened.

"Men always underestimate women," she said blithely, "An act that tends to throw them off guard." She flicked her dagger a bit in her hand, just enough to draw a glance from Varden. That was all she needed.

She attacked, trying to get near Varden's neck. He parried, but just barely. He tried to land his own blow, but she was too fast. Always too fast. It was… inhuman.

She was down, then he was down. She was up, he came up. It was a never ending dance, a dance with sharpened metal as partners. Dirt from the ground fled up into the air under their feet, while sweat coursed down their bodies.

If anyone had been around to see the duel, they would have noticed something strange. The two were matched, maybe not in stature, but in their ability. It was a bit of an ironic thing, master thief Varden being matched by a short girl in a cloak.

Varden dodged another blow, trying to stay afoot. He could see the girl was tiring out. If he could just wear her down a bit…

He swiped his blade, and she met his dagger at the last moment. She brought her blade back in an attempt to strike again, but it was her undoing. Varden quickly brought his blade to her neck, but not before feeling steel against his.

"Well, it seems we are evenly matched," he said coolly, in spite of his ragged breath.

"You think?" the girl panted.

"So, while I have you under my influence-"

"Excuse me? I could slit your throat right now!"

"- I think I have the right to ask you a few questions."

The girls grip on her dagger tightened and she pressed the blade harder at his neck, "I think it is you that needs to be doing the answering." she snarled.

"Fine. I answer your questions, you answer mine." The girl gave Varden a look, "Yes, I did steal that money from the noble. It's not like he'll miss it or anything." he scoffed.

"You had no right to!" The girl protested.

"What's done is done, and unless you can go back in the past, you can't do anything about it. Anyway, I do have to make a living somehow."

"You could get a job as an apprentice! A person of the law! Becoming a thief is just the easy way out."

Varden shrugged as best he could in his current position, "What's wrong with easy?"

The girl opened her mouth to say something, then closed it, thinking.

"If you're all well and done with your interrogation, I think I get to ask a few questions now," Varden said. The girl didn't answer, "Okay then. First off, why is someone like you running around Rhyll?

She glared at him, "I am trying to find work."

Varden snorted, "In Rhyll? You're not going to find any 'decent' work around here. I'd try Strathwood if I were you. I hear they need some people for their law enforcement. Sounds like the type of thing you'd go after."

"You do not even know me!" she said angrily. Varden shrugged, "But… that sounds okay." She hesitantly took the dagger away from Varden's neck, and Varden did the same.

"I thank you for your help, thief," she said, sheathing her dagger, "I will not report you today, but believe me, if I catch you again, you will be thrown in jail. You understand that?"

Varden grinned, "Of course, thief-catcher." He put away his own dagger and tipped his head a little, "I look forward to the day you do that."

The girl gave Varden a last haughty glare then strode off down the alley.

The next time we meet, I will be faster than you...