Back to Basics
((This is a story from Tai's pre-Tong days))
With a satisfying click, the last tumbler fell into place. Tai smiled to himself, glad that this particular nobleman hadn’t made the investment in one of the newer, more complex gnomish locks. Those locks had become a growing problem – spurred in large part by an apparent crime spree by a cat burglar. Tai grinned, recalling the headlines in the city’s preeminent newspaper, “Daring Rooftop Thief Prowls City”. Tai had never thought of himself as daring, but took the compliment in stride.
Using rooftops and ledges hadn’t seemed so much as daring to Tai as much as it struck him as efficient. When he and his brother, Dao, had first started making their way in Stormwind after leaving Kul Tiras, Tai had followed his older brother’s lead. They did alright, making off with some coins from pockets, some bread from the bakery, the occasional fish from the dockside marketplace when no one was looking. Still, in the end, it had all been to scrape by.
Now with Dao crippled and bitter, the burden had fallen squarely on Tai’s shoulders. At first, he’d simply tried to do more of what he’d been taught. After a close call at the local market, Tai squatted along the canal, looking out over the murky water and taking a bite of the hard-earned apple he’d snatched. He rolled the piece of apple around in his mouth, tasting it, thinking … Tai tossed the rest of the uneaten apple into the water and stood up. As the red apple bobbed in the water, Tai nodded, his mind made up; if you were going to take the chance of being caught, you should be damn sure that the potential reward was well beyond the risk.
The first change Tai made to how he’d done things with his brother was to select targets with considerably more property. Of course, these folks had the nasty habit of protecting their property. That led Tai to adopt his First Principle: You don’t have to be the best; you just have to be better than your competition. Tai had trained hard and intently with this in mind.
There was also the slight problem that people with wealth expected thieves. Only an insane or clueless nobleman would leave his doors unguarded – and neither of those tended to have much in the way of wealth lying around for long. Tai had formulated his Second Principle: Think like the other guy, and then think around him. Lots of wealthy individuals expected – and defended – against thugs on the street or even robbers. Not many expected a thief three stories up – a fact that many an unlocked window attested to.
Finally, Tai had found a natural bent to planning, calculating, and thinking through a problem, or a job. He found himself thinking in terms of odds, probabilities, and risks. This led him to his Third Principle: Always do your math. As Tai opened the bejeweled box in front of him, and he looked at the necklace of glossy pearls and gold, Tai nodded, thinking that this reward certainly outweighed the risk of this job.
Tai had also adopted more of a rule of thumb, than a true principle per se … make more money than you spend. That had worked very well, he thought, grinning to himself as he picked up the necklace …
Tai jumped as the clang of alarm bells went off. Tai’s gaze darted back to the box, and the small pressure plate that the necklace had been on and then to the door. Wouldn’t be long before heavily muscled men with swords came through that door. Tai made a quick mental note to himself to work on his cockiness. Really should have looked for an alarm, you dope, Tai chided himself.
With that, he ran to the window, slipping the necklace into his inner vest pocket. Thankful that he was usually over-prepared for a job, he knelt and pulled out the grappling hook and line from his shoulder bag. In practiced, fluid motions, he secured the grappling hook and snapped the line to the harness he was already wearing. With yells of large, angry men getting closer, Tai climbed out the window and rappelled down the side of the building, his dark clothes blending into the night.
By the time men came to the window, the line was hanging loose. In frustration, one of the men unhooked the line, and the grappling hook fell to the street, clattering loudly on the worn cobbles of the now empty street.