Don't try your luck in West Catoig. That's what people always say. Ayen had never cared very much for the things people say. People talk a lot and when he's around, they're usually talking about him. They call him a thief and a beggar. They call him a scoundrel. So no, he never put much stock into the things that people say.
With such seemingly worthless advice in mind, Ayen strode down the cobblestone street in the center of West Catoig. This street belonged to the shopping district of the city and was full of wealthy citizens with heavy purses and pockets. With the sly hands of an experienced rogue, he pinched coins here and there. Bracelets, pocket watches, rings, and coins all made their way into the pouch at his waist. He carried on up and down the street for hours. Then he spotted an especially flamboyant target. One, he hoped, would be good enough to retire on. At least for today.
She was human and dressed from head to toe in colorful feathers. The red and blue plumage at the crest of her hat was gaudy paired with the reds and greens that made up her coat. She looked much like an oversized parrot, though an attractive one. Ayen wondered if she thought those brought colors granted her safety for all the attention they drew. Perhaps another thief wouldn't risk it, but not Ayen. No, the elf stepped just to the right of her path. He offered her a confident grin as she passed. Her face was elegant, with features nearly sharp enough to be elven, but just round enough to be human. Her eyes were the blue of early morning sky and her lips painted red as roses. A beautiful and naive face. His hand slipped easily into the pocket of her coat and emerged holding a fat, velvet, coin purse. Smirking, Ayen slipped the purse into his own, now full, pouch. He kept walking and disappeared into the dense crowd. Hearing no cry of alarm, he felt it safe to assume he had been successful.
The elf found himself an alleyway to stop and count his finds. He leaned against the wall and sorted through his pouch. Inside were the jewels swiped from wrists, coins taken from pockets, and the purse from the woman who dressed like a parrot. With the help of such a crowded and wealthy street, he had done the work of a week's time in a matter of hours. Not a single city guard had spotted him through the crowd and not a single person had felt their loot as it slipped away. Ayen almost laughed. How talented and clever he was to have pulled off what so many cautioned against. Clearly, they were not as skilled as he was. Don’t try your luck, he thought as he smirked to himself. West Catoig, you are no match for Ayen Fenfir.
Ayen tightly closed the pouch at his waist and started down the alley. It wasn't empty. A dwarf lay passed out beside the rubbish bins which overflowed with the table scraps from the nearby restaurants. A stray cat hid within an overturned crate, eating a cold strip of pork. Further down, a human man leaned against the wall with visible fatigue. His clothes were dirty, but not ragged. He was far from the typical man to frequent this part of town.
"Pardon me," rasped the man as he passed.
Ayen stopped, hand on the knife at his waist. He kept his distance. "Can I help you, sir?"
The man lifted his head and Ayen saw that his face was beautiful, almost elven. His eyes were crystal blue and his lips a noteworthy red. His heart skipped a beat. It was so strange. He felt as if he had seen this man before, but he had no doubt that he would remember a face like that.
"I was hoping you might know where a man could find a bed in this town."
Ayen smiled. "I'm afraid, sir, I don't know of any Inn. I do, however, have room at my camp, for one such as yourself."
The man smiled coyly in answer. His eyes slipped down, running up Ayen’s body and his tongue swiped across his dry lips. "Do you?"
Seeming revived from his fatigue, the man stood up from the wall. He stepped closer to Ayen. All at once, he was grabbed and spun around so that his back hit the wall. Ayen grabbed the man's wrist, his other hand on his chest, intending to push him back and grab for his knife. Then he caught the gleam in his eye and the smirk on his lips. Not a fight then, but a different sort of excitement. Ayen's pulse quickened as the man leaned close. He felt like he was falling into his eyes as he waited for the space between them to disappear. Feeling his breath on his face, Ayen closed his eyes. Then all at once, the weight of the man pressed against him disappeared.
He looked now at an indifferent face. "On second thought, I have somewhere else to be."
Insulted by the rejection, Ayen swore. He kicked off from the wall and turned his back on the man. His hand went to his waist to find comfort in his winnings. His fingers grazed over an empty belt. A jolt passed through him, sending ice through his veins.
Ayen looked back over his shoulder. He saw the man, smirking back at him as his face transformed into a more narrow jaw, softer lips, smoother skin. Red, blue, and green plumage sprouted from their head and clothes. Suddenly he understood. This was neither a human man nor woman, but a shapeshifter who had made off with the very pouch from Ayen's waist taking with them a day’s work and a week’s living.
"Hey!" Ayen turned and ran after them. With a laugh, the shifter darted into the river of bodies that moved down the street. Ayen ran to the end of the alley, but he saw neither feathers nor beautiful eyes. All of his work had been for nothing. And that, he reasoned, is why you don't try your luck in West Catoig.