37 i) Shyan lowers her voice to a whisper

Shyan lowers her voice to a whisper. “Okay, assume we’re gonna steal from a dragon. Which we’d never do because it’s totally suicidal and Abia’s already made it out of there in one piece not once but twice. The rest of us are one-for-one. That’s a pretty good record that’s gonna be hard to beat. I don’t wanna blow it on some baubles. The dragon and its creepy butler will know something’s up.”

She takes a long swig of her ale, turns the empty tankard over on the table. “Also, we have to pay Montague before we go a-stealin’.”

32 ii) The glowing sphere dances into the apple seller’s face

The glowing sphere dances into the apple seller’s face. He’s perplexed, swats it away like an annoying fly, but it dodges and weaves without effort, leaving him flummoxed. Peasants in tunics thread by, oblivious.

“I guess now’s your chance,” Shyan says.

Cang sighs and darts over to the cart, keeping his footfalls quiet. He holds wide the pockets sewn into his vest, and scoops a half dozen apples into them while the merchant is distracted. When Cang rejoins the gang, and sphere disengages from the merchant, who looks around for some explanation.

28 v) Cang starts, eyes wide, and turns on his heel

Cang starts, eyes wide, and turns on his heel, grabbing the belt of an elderly man and throwing him to the ground. As the fellow cries out and topples, Cang’s mark grips her coin pouch, standing on her toes to spot any nearby guards.

Sure enough, halberds rise from the bobbing heads of the crowd, which offers the guards no berth. Their helmeted heads swing about to spot the thief, but Cang crouches low as he scoots past the legs of many peasants. He’s so much shorter than average that the guards cannot see him.

He makes a lap around a large, rectangular block before rejoining the gang from behind, surprising them all as they nervously watch the befuddled guards from afar.

Breathing heavily, Cang says, “Perhaps we should try things your way.”

28 iv) …And there’s Cang, guilty grin smeared across his round face

…And there’s Cang, guilty grin smeared across his round face, hands on her coin purse. He coughs awkwardly, lets it go. “Pardon me, madam,” he says. “I believe you were about to drop this.”

For a moment, she’s flabbergasted, her jaw hanging open at the impertinence of the short, grubby thief. People edge by along the busy streets without taking notice. Cang’s hopeful she’ll believe it, even hazards a glance back to his companions, watching frightfully from around a corner. That is, until the woman draws a deep breath, her face flushing crimson, and she bellows, “Guards!”

28 iii) “No, wait,” Shyan says, but she knows it’s a lost cause

28 iii) “No, wait,” Shyan says, but she knows it’s a lost cause

“No, wait,” Shyan says, but she knows it’s a lost cause as Cang melts away into the crowd.

He follows the bouncing pouches, each a leathery fruit bursting with nutritious juices. He strains his cauliflower ears to hear the clink of coins, glances up to see the pouches’ owners’ distracted faces. Hurrying about their daily business, worrying about where their next coin will come from, unaware their wealth is at risk.

When Cang spots an older woman wearing a girdle of leather between her dress and her money pouch, he knows he’s got his mark. A flicker of a smile appears at his lips and he pads after her, deftly sweeping between the oblivious passers-by. At the right moment, he slips his arm up to grasp the pouch, steadying his breathing as he makes the grab, watching her face for any sign of attention, letting his fingers do their delicate dance.

His smile grows wider as he silently lifts the pouch from her belt, until he notices her nose twitch, crinkle, and turn up in disgust. The smell! She turns her head to find its source…