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Bandit knew how to get attention, but she also knew how to be ignored. All she had to do was look lost in contemplation, and after a second or two of glancing at her pigtails, people generally thought, Oh, right, a gnome. She’s probably thinking about levers or hydraulics or something, and go about their day. This freed her to observe without being observed.

The gnomish clockmakers had a saying that time was the thing that stopped everything from happening at once. If that was true, then time didn’t seem to work so well in the Gastonian capital, because this midmorning, it seemed like everything that could happen was happening, somewhere. Fishmongers bellowed in the marketplace, elderly day-drinking ladies stumbled out of a nearby tavern, rowdies wrestled over the attentions of a raven-haired maiden like dire moose butting antlers, a slender elvish poet sat under a tree and composed an ode, children flew koboldskin kites… and on and on, no two scenes alike.

And if everything was here, then that meant the thing Bandit wanted was here, too, and it was just a matter of sorting through the noise until she found it. She had taken that basic approach before as a thief: there was always going to be someone in the crowd who looked well-off and careless, if the crowd was big and varied enough. In fact, sure enough, she spotted a potential mark without even trying: some older fellow in an oversized red coat with similarly inflated leather vest and breeches, preoccupied with the large pastry he’d just purchased. He wore a hat with a plume so massive it had probably been plucked from a bawkbagok or an izulu.

She stomped down the impulse to follow the mark just to get a little easy money. She had a mission.

She considered the wrestlers she’d noticed earlier. The smaller, stockier one seemed to be getting the better of the taller one, who may’ve had a bit more mass overall and definitely had better reach, but had no idea how to use it. But both of them fought too much like children at play: brash, clumsy, leaving themselves wide open. There was no hunger in them, no need to win..

For all Frigg’s childish enthusiasm, she had that need. And there was a practiced skill to what she did. Whether she was clubbing warrior nuns into unconsciousness or holding her own against a supertroll…yeah, Frigg was going to be a hard act to follow, but these guys were too far beneath her to be worth considering. Whatever had happened to those warrior nuns, anyway? One of them could do in a pinch.

Without her conscious intent, she’d trailed behind the fop in the plume hat after all, only realizing what she was doing as he rounded a corner into a side street. Gah, what was wrong with her? She was trying to open herself up to the same instincts that had led her to join the Peacemakers, because that was just an instinctual thing, it wasn’t like she had most of the others’ gift for planningness. But she didn’t know how to open herself to some instincts while keeping the thief instincts out–

Oho. What was this? Some half-elf half-starved street magician seemed to be having the same idea that…another thief might have. You didn’t see too many street magicians even in the capital, but his hat, though tattered, was an unmistakable signifier. He’d clearly been hesitating for a while as the rich idler finished his pastry, but now was reaching out to grab a shiny pendant from the idler’s pocket. And a policeman was also taking in the scene, thinking to catch the magician in the act.

Hungry? Definitely. Fighting skills? Bandit had no idea. But maybe he knew somebody. A favor owed could be useful currency. And keeping a desperate man out of jail was just the right thing to do, cogsarn it.

Bandit knew how to be ignored, but she also knew how to get attention. “Yo, QUIZ WIZ!” she shouted, addressing the magician with such certainty that even he seemed to wonder if “Quiz Wiz” was actually his name and no one had told him.

Bandit quickly advanced, using broad, jerky movements that filled up a lot more space than her frame would normally occupy. She picked the magician up from his crouch on the street and led him off by the hand, keeping up a steady stream of patter to keep the fop or the cop from asking questions.

“Y’forgot t’get paid after that kid’s birthday party! What, did y’ think the baron was serious when he said y’ should ‘just be grateful for the exposure’? That was his li’l joke, nobody’s that much of a monster! He felt so bad, he took me offa my housekeepin’ duties for th’ day so I could getcha your money and treatcha to whatever y’ want at the tavern! So, c’mon, let’s go, I wanna try the dragonkin soup an’ kelp fritters!”

E-Merl didn’t fully comprehend why this small creature was herding him, but he definitely heard words like “paid,” “money,” “tavern,” and “soup,” which was enough to silence any objections from him. He’d only been about to cross the line into thievery when he’d had no other options. For now, he’d see how this situation played out.