Although he still looked the twenty years old he had been at his first death, Dexter Scrivener was now twenty seven and he set out to seek a life of his own. He had been out in the world for a little over a year, plying the trade he had learned from his master. He moved from place to place, spending a few months reading and writing for the locals before moving on to a new location. There was a demand for a scrivener in the smaller towns and villages, but not enough work to be worth settling, and most of the larger towns already had a resident scribe.
Besides, Dexter did not want to settle in one place; he had a wanderlust and now had the means and freedom to pursue it. Matthew had warned him about the perils of Immortals becoming too attached to a place or the mortals in their life; too often circumstance would necessitate a quick change of identity and relocation when someone saw something they shouldn’t. If Dexter kept moving, he couldn’t get attached.
He kept moving east, heading in the general direction of London, knowing that he would certainly have plenty of work in the city.
There had been a few times when there had been no call for his skills; small farming communities where the written word was still a mystery and unnecessary concern. He usually stayed only a day or two to replenish his supplies in those places. It was there that he discovered he had a gift for charming people, mostly but not exclusively women, and even without work he never went short of food and a bed.
Winchester was the first city that Dexter reached and he decided to stay a while and get a feel for city life. The hustle and bustle of so many people was a shock to someone raised in the country, but it was also a thrill and Dexter felt alive in a way he never had before.
But there was a problem that Dexter had not foreseen; the city had several scriveners and many educated men who had no need of his skills. Work was hard to come by, and Dexter found himself relying on his charm more and more, until eventually even that failed him.
He wanted to move on, but he was near penniless and could not afford to buy provisions to see him to the next town. If he did not wish to starve he would need to find another source of income and quickly.
Not too proud to ask for help, Dexter sought out the local scriveners and asked if any required an assistant, but most had an apprentice and saw no point in paying for an extra pair of hands.
Dexter was nearly out of hope when a nobleman approached him in the market one day.
“You there, you are a scrivener, yes?”
“Yes, milord,” Dexter replied and bowed low.
“I have an urgent legal transaction, I require you to take these coins to Lord Montague and witness him sign this contract,” the noble instructed and thrust a heavy looking purse and a scroll toward Dexter.
Dexter took them and bowed low once again.
“It would be my honour, milord,” he said. The noble nodded and handed him a farthing. With the promise of two more on his return, Dexter set off in the direction of Lord Montague’s estate.
He had been walking for some time, the purse at his belt growing heavier and heavier, when a thought occurred to him. There was more money in the purse than he had ever seen before. All he had to do was keep walking. The noble had not even asked his name, he would not be able to find him if he kept going. His need was so much greater than that of any lord or duke.
Dexter sat down at the side of the road and thought about the idea, weighing the purse in his hands. He unrolled the contract and read it; it was a simple deal, selling some of Lord Montague’s land to Lord Blackwood. Dexter guessed Lord Blackwood must have been the man in the market. He saw no harm in delaying the transaction; Blackwood was bound to have more money and he could buy the land another time.
He’d left all his possessions in his lodgings, but there was nothing that could not be replaced, especially with so much money at his disposal.
His mind made up, Dexter got to his feet and began walking again. He resolved to buy himself a horse at the next town.
By the time he reached London, Dexter realised that thieving was a lot easier and a more profitable way to make a living than being a scribe. He had become adept at lifting the purses of people he passed in the street, and had used his new wealth and his natural charm to trick people into just giving him their possessions.
Above all else, his new profession was *fun*. He got a little thrill of excitement every time he nabbed a purse, his heart beating furiously in his chest with the giddy joy of getting away with his crime. Not to mention the pleasure involved in charming wealthy young women, talking his way into their affections and chambers, and then moving on when he had gotten what he needed from them.
He was walking around a square one morning, collecting a few purses in the busy market, when he felt the presence of another Immortal. It was the first time he had come close to another of his kind since leaving his teacher but he was not afraid. Not afraid, but not foolish either; Matthew had warned him that many Immortals had already lived for hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of years and would be better than him with a sword. Erring on the side of caution, Dexter slipped into a nearby church and waited for the other Immortal to follow or pass by.
Amanda had been in London for a few months, living in the house of the Duke of Malmouth as a lady in waiting. She was using the pretence as a way to get close to the Duchess and learn the secrets of the house, specifically where the Duke kept his treasure so that she might alleviate him of some of the burden of wealth.
They were a nice couple; the Duke was young and a little foolish but he treated his people well. The Duchess was a kind soul but she was more concerned with the goings on at court than the welfare of the people on their land. Neither of them had left London in years and the Duke had never even been to Malmouth. The family fortune was blood-soaked and built on the lives of peasants that had toiled on the family land. It would not hurt either of these nobles to feel the pinch of poverty; assuming they even noticed the treasure was gone. From what Amanda ascertained, the family was wealthy enough to support several generations and more came in taxes from their holdings every week. She was really doing them a favour by stealing some of it; after all it is more difficult for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
Taking a stroll around the market one morning, she noticed a pickpocket and watched him for a while. He looked in his early twenties, but he did not have the careworn and shabby look of someone who had grown up on the streets. She wondered what had made him turn to a life of crime. She also wondered who had taught him; he was good. She watched as he lifted over a dozen purses, some from tricky positions and fastenings, without a single mark noticing. Deciding to learn more about the man she stepped forward and was surprised to learn that he was Immortal.
He must have felt her presence too as he looked up and scanned the crowd for a moment before ducking into the church that sat on one side of the square. She paused for a moment, her natural instinct in the face of another Immortal being to run away. But they would be on Holy Ground and she needed to know his intentions; if he wasn’t interested in her head then there was no reason to abandon months of careful planning.
She entered the church and discovered him sitting on a pew near the altar. A few parishioners were knelt in prayer, but the place was mostly empty. She took a seat beside him and sat in silence for a moment, pretending to pray.
He was handsome, quite tall and with a mess of dark hair. His body bore no signs of neglect or abuse, rather he seemed well-cared for, though not of noble upbringing; apprenticed to a tradesman perhaps. A glance at his hands showed calluses and inkstains that told her he was a scrivener. It also made her think that he wasn’t long Immortal; she didn’t think many of her kind would choose to be a scrivener and then switch to larceny in the same lifetime. Coupled to that, she could feel the tension come from him as clearly as she could feel his Quickening; obviously he’d not been around that many Immortals.
“You’ve no reason to fear me,” she said eventually.
“Forgive me, but that is not what my master taught me,” the young man replied. She smiled.
Definitely new to the Game she thought. She shifted slightly in the pew so she could look him in the eyes.
“Not all of us desire your head. Besides, it’s so much prettier on your shoulders,” she replied. He blushed and ducked his head, causing Amanda to smile even wider. Newly Immortal and recently arrived from the country, if she was any judge.
“What’s your name, lad?” she asked gently. He turned back to her and smiled meekly.
“I’m called Dexter, your ladyship,” the young man replied. Amanda let out a peal of laughter that drew stares from the closest parishioners.
“I’m no lady, no more than you’re a lord. But you can fool the world into thinking you are, if you’ll let me teach you,” she replied. Dexter looked at her with a look of surprise and wonder.
“I’d like that very much, milady.”
“Dexter, please, call me Amanda.”
“That hardly seems proper when we are only just met,” Dexter protested, looking faintly scandalised.
“You will soon discover that the rules of society have little bearing on the lives of our kind. That little display in the square made me think you had already realised that for yourself,” she commented, discreetly but pointedly looking at the place where Dexter had concealed his ill-gotten gains.
“You noticed that?” he asked and shifted nervously in his seat. Amanda smiled reassuringly.
“I was… admiring a fellow craftsman,” she answered. Dexter looked at her in confusion for a few moments before his mouth formed into an ‘o’ as he realised what she meant. He leaned in closer to her.
“You mean that you are… a thief,” he barely whispered. Amanda did not miss the hesitation before he said ‘a thief’. Clearly he was still not comfortable calling himself that. Or perhaps he was afraid to insult Amanda. She laid a hand on his knee and leaned closer until they were almost touching, her mouth close to his ear.
“My dear Dexter, I’m the best thief in the world,” she whispered. She pulled back and stood up, before looking at Dexter expectantly. “Are you coming?” she asked.
Dexter seemed to weigh up his options, and looked around the church again before his mouth broke into a wide smile and he got to his feet. They walked down the aisle, side by side; as they reached the door, Dexter placed one hand on the latch and stopped.
“Where are we going?” he asked Amanda. She looked him in the eyes, one corner of her mouth twitched in amusement.
“Anywhere we want.”