Today I have an unusual surprise for you. A recorded interview with a known thief – one of the best (according to himself)! Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and welcome Senth Antonello from Kayelle Allen’s At the Mercy of Her Pleasure.
Let’s start with something simple. How old are you?
I’m eighteen. I know, I know. I don’t look it. But I’m old enough to join the Armada and vote. I’m legal.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
I’ll tell you what my thieves’ union card says instead. It reads “non-Kelthian brown and blue.” Which means on Kelthia, a world where probably ninety percent of the population has dark brown or black skin, I’m the oddball. For you non-union types, it means I’m fair-skinned and have brown hair and blue eyes. Long curly brown hair. Way too curly. By the time I get a comb through it, it’s all tangled up again. Yeah, yeah–I know what you’re looking at. I have fangs and slitted-pupil cat’s eyes. My mother was human and my father was a Kin, a race of feline humanoids. Which makes me a HalfKin. Not wanted by the Kin, not wanted by humans, and not one of any crowd much at all.
What is people’s first impression of you?
“Oh look. It’s the weird guy. Let’s harass him.” Well, maybe they don’t, but as much as I get teased and people try to bully me, you’d think I was wearing a sign announcing I was different. The other reaction I get is that people look through me like I’m not even there. They don’t acknowledge me at all. Makes me want to claw something. Except that’s one Kin attribute I didn’t get. Figures.
Name three of your favorite things.
My girlfriend NarrAy. Food. Sleep. Sex. Yeah, that’s four; so sue me.
Name three things that tick you off.
1. People who think they’re better than others.
2. Being thought of as too young to do something. Seriously, all my life. Until this young kid named Sylk came along, I was the youngest to do everything in the book. But Sylk makes me look like a raw rookie. And he’s just four! I’m proud to say I mentor him in the guild.
3. When my father calls me Senthys instead of Senth. I mean, come on! What kind of name is Senthys for a professional thief?
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Here lies the best thief in the Tarthian Empire.
What would you most like to forget?
If I talk about it, I’m not forgetting it, am I?
Are you close to family?
A month ago discovered I have a half-brother who’s human. Khyff and I never knew each other growing up, so we have a lot of catching up to do. And even though at times my father makes me scream with frustration, I love him. He’s been there for me no matter what and he’s given me chances most non-humans in the empire don’t get. Our relationship is complicated though. How complicated? Well… see… he adopted me when I was three, sponsored me into the Thieves’ Guild, and taught me a trade. The guild doesn’t allow members who aren’t human, unless they’re slaves. On the other hand, they won’t promote a slave. So my father keeps me as his one and only slave and also his adopted son. That way, I’m non-human but I can be in the guild, and because I’m his legal family, they can’t refuse to promote me on merit. See? I told you it was complicated.
What is your most prized possession?
My new cloak. It’s made of this special material only the guild has rights to. When I put it on and raise the hood, I’m invisible to copbots and sensors, and because of the way it bends light, people essentially look right through me. Gotta say, that’s just exactly like my life.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Let’s take a look at your story.
Deep in the shadows outside a ruined warehouse, Senth Antonello shoved back the hood of his sensor-blocking cloak and fanned himself. The Thieves’ Guild tech let him hide from copbot scans, but it didn’t cool him. Sweat beaded on his skin. Using his fangs, he unfastened first one glove, then the other, and peeled them off. He tucked them into one of dozens of hidden pockets in the cloak, and wiped his face.
The faint sound of gang chant carried in the chilled night air. Gangs in the Crooktown District hunted mixed breeds like him. At first glance, Senth appeared human, but with his catlike eyes and fangs, no one could miss his Kin nature. In moonlight, his eyes would glow.
The chant grew louder, along with the sound of breaking glass. The deeper darkness that followed meant two things: another streetlight had met its end, and that gang was closer than Senth had thought.
“You come down here, I skin you.” Senth flattened himself against the brick wall. “I skin you, the Grand Master skins me. Let’s do each other a favor, huh, boys?”
Worse, the Grand Master would inform Senth’s Sen’dai. His guild master. The crime lord all the other crime lords feared. The Man. The Harbinger. Luc Saint-Cyr.
The Guild didn’t accept non-humans, unless they were enslaved to a human member. No one could rise past level ten, unless related to a human member. Guild-arranged marriages and adoptions happened regularly. To keep the Guild happy, Saint-Cyr was Senth’s lord and master and his adoptive father.
No way Senth wanted the Man angry with him. The last time, he’d almost…
Senth shook off the thought, drew his hood forward again, and edged around the corner into a darker alley. “Ffffftt!” The Kin cuss word hissed past his fangs. Where was Khyff? He had to be close. Senth had looked for hours. His HalfKin sense of smell caught a faint whiff of male, mixed with… He took another sniff. Someone–or something–else.
Pressed against the wall, Senth slipped around a corner, and hunkered down. He melted into the concealing darkness behind a barrel, and narrowed night-sensitive eyes.
His human half-brother leaned against the opposite wall of the trash-strewn alley. Khyffen Antonello’s blond hair shone in the muted light. A female pinned him, arms around his neck. She tore open Khyff’s shirt and ran her hands over his chest.
Senth folded himself into the tight space behind the barrel and settled in to wait. Protection of his brother went before any assignment. Family came first. At least tonight.
Senth’s mother had died after birthing him. Khyff, who’d been three, had been told Senth was dead, and Khyff had been sold into slavery. Neither of them knew the other lived until a month ago. Neither had a clue about their biological fathers. Until Khyff found him, Senth’s “family” consisted of the Man.
Pulling out a square of paper, Senth angled it to catch the dim light and read the words he’d copied from Saint-Cyr’s note once more. YOU AND KHYFFEN MEET ME AT THE GHOST. I HAVE A JOB FOR YOU. DO IT AND I’LL BUY AND FREE YOUR BROTHER, BUT IT’S GOING TO COST YOU.
Of course it would. The Man didn’t do anything for free. But if it got Khyff out of that hellhole, Senth would do it. He tucked away the note, and slipped on his gloves.
Senth’s master had raised him to believe that no one should have to sell his body to survive. Saint-Cyr owned one slave, Senth, and only so he could rise within the Guild.
Senth and Saint-Cyr might not agree on much, but they both believed Khyff needed his freedom. With Khyff’s record, freeing him wouldn’t be cheap, and it sure wouldn’t be easy.
Kayelle Allen writes Sci Fi with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She’s a US Navy veteran and has been married so long she’s tenured.
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