Fortunato, “King of Thieves”. That was his name.
He had been the orphanage’s most generous benefactor. And it was Fortunato who plucked Arsene, then a boy who had yet to see his twelfth name day, out of the orphanage.
Arsene was excited. He was still baseborn—he would have to carry that burden around with him throughout his life—but at least he would not be the scum his father was. For Fortunato was, to the good citizens of Port City, the kindly and charitable surgeon at the local infirmary. To serve as his apprentice was a great fortune. The young boy practiced diligently, steadying his hands to make the most precise incisions and . But some of his other “training” seemed queer. When would a doctor be required to scale walls? Slip through tight spaces?
Arsene finally thought himself ready to begin apprenticing for Fortunato—that was when he was introduced to the kindly surgeon’s true business. By that point, Fortunato had gathered an extensive network of thieves to do his bidding. They had already moved beyond petty theft—jewelry, heirlooms, and treasures—by the time Arsene was proficient enough. Fortunato and his thieves were stealing secrets.
“Everybody can be stolen from!” Fortunato quipped.
Whether, his assignment was to scale the high walls of merchants’ mansions and shimmying down chimneys to record trade ledgers and letters or sneak into docked ships and smugglers’ alcoves to copy maps and charts, Arsene executed his missions swiftly and efficiently.
Arsene had initially assumed that the wealth they amassed would benefit the infirmary and orphanage. But this was not so. The King of Thieves was charitable to the orphanage because it provided him a constant pool of new henchmen—Arsene had noticed that the network primarily comprised of former orphans. Of them he recognized Thom and Podrik, the halfling twins, and Lommy, who was rumored to be abandoned by some northern barbarian tribe—each had always been kind to him when they lived in the orphanage. The brutish Bachio and his henchmen, Yorek and Feste, who had all terrorized the orphans in years past were also in Fortunato’s network.
The infirmary cost little to maintain. But despite this, Arsene still admired the King of Thieves. He was able to live comfortably off of his cut of the extortion money—his life was better than if he had been left to stagnate in the orphanage. He had even converted from the orphanage’s faith to Fortunato’s: Norgorber. The King of Thieves was untouchable, even mythical in Arsene’s eyes; so he was shocked when Fortunato suddenly disappeared.
The rumor was that he was dead, but Arsene had none of it—at least, until he saw them fish him out of the harbor.
“Everybody can be killed,” Arsene thought.
After the funeral, most of the thieves, including Lommy, Podrik, and Thom, had disbanded; most leaving for greener pastures. But when Bachio tried to usurp the throne soon after, Arsene knew that he was the Thief King’s assailant. All Arsene had to do was sneak into his home, just as Fortunato had taught him years before, and open the sleeping man’s throat—a simple surgery.
But now what was he? A common brigand? He had tried to take up surgery work at a town in the countryside, but he could never shake the urges to steal. He was a vagabond, moving from town to town, burglarizing as he went. Occasionally he would take a stint with a smuggling ring or highway robbers, but he never stayed with the same group for long. These types were untrustworthy, if a man like Fortunato could be betrayed…