"Your credentials are authentic, Brendell." The regional secretary of the Thief’s Guild returned my documents proving I was a graduate of the Thief’s Academy and thus an Apprentice Thief and deserving all rights and privileges thereof. "I suppose I should congratulate you."
"However," and she sat back in her chair, "we currently have no contracts available that are suitable for someone of your "experience."
This was not the news I was hoping to hear. "There are no current contracts, then?"
"On the contrary." She picked up a small pile of papers on her desk. "These have yet to be filled. But each requires the talent of at least a journeyman thief. Not someone who has just left the classroom."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Throughout my five plus years at the school, we had constantly been reassured that there was a crying and continuing need for professional thieves, that contracts would be immediately forthcoming once we earned our diplomas, that marvelous adventures and untold riches were awaiting each and every one of us. That we would be welcomed with open arms by the Guild and our fellow members. "I graduated third in my class," I said, not trying to hide my frustration.
She was unimpressed. "I saw your transcript. Your lockpicking and disguise skills are quite high. Others, not so much." She leaned forward. "Let me explain something to you. The Guild cannot afford failure. Our livelihoods, our very existence as an honored Guild, depend upon our continued success with every contract. Would you care to know the failure rate for apprentices?"
I didn't but I knew she was going to tell me anyway. "Yes."
"73 percent. Apprentice thieves are caught or thwarted in nearly three quarters of their initial assignments." She pointed at the mound of unfilled contracts. "Each of these is too valuable to jeopardize by placing it in the hands of someone fresh from the academy."
I gritted my teeth. "Perhaps you know of some contracts at another Guild office. Ones that a mere apprentice can complete."
"No." She picked up the letter opener off her desk and played with it while she ruminated. "But I may have an alternative," she said after several minutes.
The way she said it wasn't reassuring. "What?"
"A master thief has put in a request for an assistant. He would prefer a journeyman, but he might be persuaded to use an apprentice."
I swallowed heavily. One of the reasons I had chosen the profession of thievery was the opportunity to work on my own. During my stay at the Academy, I had always found that putting one’s fate in the hands of another inevitably led to disaster. But I reluctantly realized she was giving me an opportunity, no matter how undesirable. "What would I have to do?"
"That would be up to him. But I"m sure if you follow his instructions carefully, even an apprentice thief will have no difficulties." She looked at me. "You can follow orders, Brendell?"
I knew several professors who would laugh at that question. "I will do what is necessary."
"In that case I will contact him. Fortunately he is here in Kaylin’s Cove on other business. Where are you staying?"
I gave her the name of my inn, thanked her for her help and headed for the nearest wine shop to think. She was doing me a favor, I mused over a glass of mulled wine. Kaylin’s Cove was the fifth Guild office I had visited in the past six weeks, and her reception had been similar to what I had received elsewhere. Here I sat, a freshly minted thief from the Academy and the Guild considered me counterfeit. Not that I had expected to be handed lucrative contracts the minute I received my diploma, but I had never expected such disinterest. Already my available funds were perilously low; if I did not receive a contract soon, I would have to find other work.
Out of curiosity, I scanned the other patrons in the establishment. Mostly locals, I decided, with a few travelers scattered about. I could easily lift several purses or jewels and replenish my finances, but that was frowned upon by the Guild. If I were a master thief, my situation would be different as I could take out contracts on anyone at any time. As a mere apprentice, I lacked that freedom. I was bound by the Guild Oath to refrain from casual theft, from stealing at any time from employers both current and past, from not delivering the obtained item to whomever it was contracted for no matter how valuable. There were other regulations as well, all designed to advance and protect the stature of the Thief’s Guild. But what was my stature in the Guild"
I sighed in frustration and finished my wine, then returned to my room. I had much to ponder that night, one item in particular. The Academy had never told us how difficult it would be for new graduates to obtain valid contracts. Which left the question: what else hadn't they told us"