The Peering Eye

Chapter 1 - Wine, Women and Sleight of Hand

Cisco is the sixth son of a poor noble family, with a quick tongue and a reasonable wit. He has heard rumours of an elite criminal organisation called The Crimson Cloaks. They are said to be elite noble thieves with connections to the Vercelone thieves guild. Cisco has grown tired of the life of a poor noble and has fallen in with a rabble connected to the guild. He wants to prove himself so he can formally join their ranks. 

A local thieves guild crew boss called Baracello Spezolito asks Cisco to rob a pawn broker called Gabriello Ponza. His shop is called Ponza’s! Guido has been showing Cisco the ropes and believes he is ready to pull a job.

Cisco goes wandering around to Almudena Vec’s statue in the Piazza. At the square there are nobles, merchants and commoners.

He decides to attempt to acquire a valuable item to pawn at Ponzas from a group of nobles. He introduces himself to three ladies of Vercelone; Sienna Publico, Marcella Tercio and Sabrina Tucci. He claims to be Giovani Von Pompodoro a rich tomato merchant from the out of town.

Sienna, who appears to be the wealthiest of the group, wearing the most jewelery, is his focus and she is soon quite charmed by the dashing rogue. He invites them to get out of the sun and ushers them to La Luna Bella, an expensive bar on the piazza. He seats them at a table and spends a ten gold on a couple of bottles of wine. 

With an imperceptible gesture, Cisco scatters a fist-full of ball bearings and makes their waiter fall over in a clatter of crystal goblets and wine bottles. Perhaps fuelled by desire for Sienna outweighing his good sense, Cisco knocks her purse onto the ground as he attempts to steal from it. His hand touches her leg and her eyes flash scandalously. She waits, with bated breath. He mutters something incoherent, his glib tongue momentarily failing him in the face of her unexpected passion. The moment is lost.

Her heavily armed guard intervenes, reminding her of some previous appointment and she leaves in haste. Perhaps even a little flushed. Her friends follow. Cisco notices that she has forgotten her purse in her haste. Being a gentleman, he robs the purse. 

Inside he finds fifty gold pieces and a Publico family signet ring worth 10gp. Or far more to the right buyer.

Chapter 2 – Casing Ponzas!

Scene: Spying and Scheming

Watching unobtrusively from behind a chimney pot on a nearby rooftop is a small pair of brown eyes. These eyes are attached to a small figure perched in the shadows. This is Brindle Shadowhand a rock gnome street urchin. He watches in awe as Cisco weaves between skill and chaos. Brindle scurries down the side of the building into a darkened alley way and appears in front of Cisco.

“Can I see the ring?” asks Brindle. 

“How do you know I have the ring?” replies Cisco, startled but still dodging the question.

“I was watching you from the alehouse roof” smiles Brindle.

“I don’t like you spying on me little man,” responds Cisco in a vaguely menacing tone.

“Don’t call me that!” bristles Brindle, his face reddening. “You better take me seriously! Do I amuse you? Do I look like a clown to you?”

“Woah! Brindle calm down,” Cisco ushers him into a nearby alley and out of view. He hands Brindle the ring.

Brindle’s eyes go wide at the sight of the platinum signet ring. He produces a magnifying monocle and inspects it closely.

“We could sell this for far more than it’s worth, or maybe try a spot of forgery!”

“No, we can make more with my scheme at Ponza’s…” Cisco disagrees thoughtfully. 

Brindle’s curiosity is peaked, “So how do we go about ripping him off?”

Absorbed in bickering and scheming, the tiny fellowship of two makes it’s way to Ponza’s! pawnshop. Their conversation often lapses into a familiar pattern, dreaming of the dashing life they will lead as members of The Crimson Cloaks.

 

Scene: Ponza’s

The sun is low in the sky, casting long shadows between shafts of golden light when they reach Horseblood Lane. They decide to enter separately pretending not to know each other with getting the lay of the land.  

The reinforced door opens into a small room, with a large counter blocking access to many shelves. They are packed with all manner of merchandise. A guard sits on a high stool between the door and the counter. His glare is hostile but bored. 

The proprietor Ponza himself stands behind the counter. His suspiciously jet black hair is coated in oil, his sallow skin is pox marked and beaded with sweat. He is quite fat. Large rolls of flesh waggling as he moves. His demeanour is calm but his eyes promise violence. The unwashed odour of Ponza and his guard complement the musty small of the dust covered shelves. Ponza nods to the guard and scratches his nose as Cisco enters.

Cisco presents the ring with a flourish and a torrent of flowery language. Unlike the noble ladies in the piazza, Ponza is unimpressed. Ponza is not a member of the guild and has no intention of offering favourable fencing terms.

“Yeah I’m sure some fancy jeweller in the noble quarter would give you a nice pouch of gold for this molto caldo bambino, but I don’t need that kinda heat. In Horseblood, it’s worth twenty silver.”  Cisco decides to keep the ring hoping for a better deal. 

The haggling has been far from futile though as it has given Brindle time to enter quietly, observe and investigate. He sizes up infiltration opportunities,  calculates the ages of the eclectic bric-a-brac and deduces the best infiltration points. Then a stolen calligrapher’s pen appears in his hand and he sells is to Ponza for a modest amount. All the while he observes.

Then he greets Cisco and they enjoy some light hearted banter in the shop. The guard bores of this show quite quickly, shakes his head and goes into the back. Presumably the pair seem a higher threat to his good humour than to Ponza’s safety.

Eventually they move outside into Horseblood Lane. They agree that their next move should be to follow Brindle’s plan to use the ring to forge documents.

 

Scene: Daylight Robbery

Two hooded figures step out of the shadows. They are well armed and have weapons drawn. Their leader speaks in an exaggerated gravely voice, “Give us everything you’ve got and we’ll let you live.”

They grin at each other, finally some action. Brindle’s shortsword flies from its scabbard like a blur and stabs the leader. He screams in pain and staggers as the gash causes massive bleeding from his gut. Barely seen, Brindle’s left hand flips his dagger from a hidden sheath and jams it deeply into the leader’s groin. The pain is extreme sending his assailant into shock. He collapses to the dirty cobbles in a pool of blood.

Like a striking cobra Cisco’s rapier blade pierces the other bandit’s kidney. Blood flows freely drenching his shirt and trousers as he collapses. In moments both are dead and the pair drag their bodies into a nearby alley.

The would be muggers are well equipped. Brindle and Cisco strip them bare and divide the spoils evenly taking their studded leather, shorts words, daggers, crossbows, silver and other assorted valuables.

 

Scene: Cat Burglars

They move a discreet distance from the corpses and stash the valuables. They still need to complete the theft and decide to wait for nightfall before they strike.

They scan the nearby buildings and rooftops looking for a suitable weak point to exploit. Brindle’s mind has been feverishly working to deduce how Ponza might act and think, and where he might slip up. This effort is rewarded as he correctly calculates that there must be a hinge on the bars of the third floor window to allow Ponza to feed his cats. 

It takes little effort from either of them to scamper stealthily up the side of a nearby the building and cross over to the window. And there it is. A chink in the shop’s armor. A hinged set of bars over a dormer window, protected only by a simple padlock.

Cisco and Brindle grin at each other, perched on opposite sides of the window. Nothing can possibly go wrong!