A few years had passed by and you hadn't seen any familiar faces from the refugees. You had assumed they were either dead or moved elsewhere. You had continued to survive by stealing and were slowly aiming for bigger targets.
Rather than just going after scraps, you decided to steal some more valuable items to allow yourself to rent a room in the tavern for a short time. You had been training yourself up a bit to tackle such a raid. You were small and needed to know how to defend yourself, so you purposely picked a few fights to try out your moves.
You didn't have a good track record and were often left bruised and scarred, but that slowly began to change over the last year. You won more and more fights, and against more opponents too.
Since your recent fights were quite successful, you decided to aim for your first bigger catch. You heard word of a wealthy merchant who traveled in the guise of a peasant to hide their identity. They often carried valuable items, like coin, antiques, and artwork.
You had done your research and found out all you needed to know about him. You had no qualms stealing from the rich since so many were starving and suffering in the streets. You had resolved to change your own situation and finally live a comfortable life. This merchant was your first step towards achieving this goal.
Waiting in the shadows of the trees along a desolate road, you heard the clopping of hooves and watched as the wagon slowly approached. You assessed the situation carefully. The wagon was covered, though it appeared he was the only one inside. You didn't see any weapons on him, so drew your knife in preparation.
You slipped behind the wagon, silently climbing aboard through the back but were shocked by the sight inside. "What the fuck?" You couldn't help but blurt it out as you stared around the empty cart.
"What the hell?" The merchant heard and reigned in the horse, bringing the wagon to a halt. You responded instantaneously, lunging to the front where he was seated and now turned toward you. Knife pressing against his throat, you questioned in anger.
"You're him, right? You're the merchant with all the valuables?" You yelled in frustration at the man in tattered clothes who had now raised his hands, a look of fear spreading across his face. Tears welled in his eyes as he explained himself.
"I am! But I was already robbed by bandits. So, there's nothing left!" He spat as he waved his hands around recklessly. You eyed him in disbelief and concluded he must have hidden some money somewhere.
"Just don't kill me! I have a family you know!" He cried as the knife dug a little deeper, drawing a few drops of blood. You found it hard to feel sorry for a fat happy pig but backed off a little.
"Get out." You stated coldly as you jumped to the ground, gesturing with your knife. He did as you asked, trembling slightly as he stumbled to the ground.
"Where's the rest?" You questioned him, staring intently into his eyes, a look of desperation now creeping across your face, despite you trying to remain expressionless. "There is no more! I swear! They took it all!" He cried as he got to his knees and begged for his life. "Just please let me go!"
You contemplated what to do now. After a short while searching the rest of the wagon for any hidden compartments or loot, you came up empty. You found all his hiding spots - they were very discreet, you had to admit. But none the less, they were empty. He was telling you the truth.
"Fuck!" You snarled under your breath. Your first attempt and it was already ruined. You had no idea what to do with him. He could easily report you to the MP's.
He might even say you were the one who stole his items if he was feeling particularly spiteful, though you were quite doubtful that the blubbering mess before you would even be capable. "Go." You lowered your knife in defeat and gestured him away.
He seemed to regain some sort of control over himself and cautiously rose to his feet, backing away slowly. "Why? I don't understand?" He looked at you now with curiosity. "You could have accompanied me and demanded I give you any valuables I had in my lodgings. Why let me go?"
Shit. That would have been the smart thing to do. You may have been young, but you weren't normally so careless and stupid. He was right. Maybe you still could get something from him. But why would he volunteer such information? He was practically admitting he had more valuables you could take.
Why tell you that? You eyed the man cautiously, brows furrowed in frustration. The man appeared collected now and the blubbering mess had transformed. He now wore a proud little smirk and his eyes burned with intent. He eyed the scars and bruises on the exposed sections of your skin.
You looked rough for sure, and you were covered in a light layer of dirt since it had been so long since you bathed and had a clean change of clothes. Those were luxuries you couldn't afford...yet. He observed the burning in your eyes, the desperation, paired with anger and willingness to fight evident in the marks on your body.
"What are you playing at old man?" You brandished your knife again, waving it in anger as you spat your words at the merchant. His cunning grin only grew wider and he inched toward you. You backed up slowly still threatening him. He raised his arms as if to offer a peace treaty.
"I have a proposal for you." He lowered his arms and began walking back to his cart. He pulled out a contract and flashed it at you. "What's this?" You questioned as you took it, knife still at the ready. You couldn't read the words on the page. No one had ever taught you how to.
"Fuck you asshole! I can't read alright!" You threw the paper back in his direction, though it simply floated gently to the ground. The merchant struggled as he reached over his stomach to pick it up from the dusty path.
"It's called a contract. You see, a nobleman agreed to purchase one of the artworks I was selling for a very handsome price. Though that won't be possible now, will it?" He smirked at me as he placed the contract back in the safety of his carriage.
"So? Why should I care?" You questioned in frustration. "You're not thinking about the bigger picture kiddo. You could make a whole lot more money if you actually worked together with people like me rather than stealing from them.
I can make sure that happens." He offered; his hand extended to seal the deal. "And how the hell will you do that?" You questioned, still wearing your scowl. "My reputation will be ruined if I don't deliver that artwork...
...Retrieve it, and my other valuables from those filthy bandits for me and I will reward you with twenty percent of the profit from the sales." He offered. "I'm not stupid, old man!" You spat in disgust. "I could earn the whole amount if I kept them myself!" You were now shouting in uncontrollable anger.
"Think ahead." He reminded. "If you kept all those items, how would you actually get any money for them? You can't sell them; people would know they were stolen good. You'd likely get caught and sent to the jail, or maybe even hung for your crimes.
But, if you returned them to me, you will have my thanks, a worthy reward, and can walk away scot-free. " He smiled wide at you and offered his hand once again to shake on the deal.
He was right, you couldn't believe you hadn't thought that far ahead. Perhaps you could have used the coin but everything else would have been essentially worthless. Even the coin would have been enough, but you couldn't get anything if you walked away now.
It's a decent deal, and if he betrays you, you could easily end him and take the money. "Fine...deal!" You vigorously shook his hand, a cheeky smile on your face. "Alright!" He shook back hard, a genuine smile now dancing around. "Here's what I know about them..."