Unexpected Inspiration Series: Sapphire's Saboteurs


“You can't mean that you've stolen from artists!”

Adair's voice had grown loud enough for others in the restaurant to potentially overhear. Etri eyed the room to see if anyone had caught this outburst, and while it didn't seem as though any had, he brought his hand to his mouth in a gesture of silence in case he was wrong.


“I have not. I did, however, work alongside a group of performers who share certain... talents with myself. Many artists in Silveridge have their creations stolen or are forced into questionable contracts for their art. When it is possible, myself and those other performers take this from the true thieves and return to the artists what they create.”

-Excerpt from an early draft of Colorweaver (Book 1)
Last week I introduced Sapphire and now it's time to introduce her loyal carnival troupe. They call themselves many names: the Jagged Gems, the Restorers, reverse-thieves, and their personal favorite that they think their leader is unaware of, Sapphire's Saboteurs. While most of Concordia's carnies are part of traveling troupes and are simply performers, the ones who live and work permanently in the capital city have an additional job as the thieves of thieves.

Concordia, particularly in Silveridge where the majority of the artists, inventors, and craftspeople live, has had a problem with theft going back far into its history. There isn't a lot of crime otherwise, but what they do have is all too common. The regular thieves, the ones looking to make a fast profit by stealing finished art, are easy enough to find and take care of by leaving them somewhere for the city's guard to find. It's the other, more subtle types of thieves who are the real problem. Sometimes these are thieves from neighboring countries who try to steal prototypes, blueprints, and works in progress so that their people can "discover" this first or to slow the progress of the Concordian makers. This type is notoriously hard to track down because by the time the Restorers locate them, they've usually left the country. Luckily it's much more frequent that the problem is the Concordian art dealers, merchants, and traders who are more concerned with personal gain than things like honesty or laws. The Restorers locate these thieves, steal the art back, then stealthily return it to the artists and creators. (I'm using the word "art" here because that's the term Concordians would use, but I'm referring to any kind of creation that has great value, whether it's made with magic versus mundane or if it's pretty versus functional.)

Secrecy for the Restorers is paramount. With traders of art on the government council and no one truly knowing which of them are part of the problem, the safest bet is for the art to be returned clandestinely. At first the Restorers tried to leave information for the guard and council to find about which dealers and traders were corrupt. Too many covered their trails too well and got away with it, and those who didn't... well, it seemed like two more popped up for every one the Restorers turned in. They decided it would be best to do this all themselves and leave their targets paranoid about when a "theft" might occur. The shady dealers and merchants don't report this themselves for fear of being audited and questioned. It's a roundabout way of keeping Concordia's prosperity flowing, but it works and the Restorers love the thrill.

This band of not-thieves are made up of three types. The first are the investigators, the actors, the ones who work by day to acquire information. They take on a disguise as an artist or potential buyer and walk right into where the suspect works. Occasionally they'll snatch up the art if it's in the open-- usually by a cocky, new dealer who hasn't yet learned to fear being caught-- or if it's something where a con would serve better than a theft. Usually, though, they pass along their information to the second type, the silent thieves. These break into the offices by night and are also the ones who sneak into the homes or workshops of the original creators to return what was taken. The last type are the performer thieves; all of the Restorers are performers, but these are the ones who use performance to cause distractions to help the other two types. They also gain information by listening and watching, hidden in plain sight while the audience or people passing by have conversations. Frequently enough they'll use sleight of hand to pickpocket a regular thief and on more than one occasion they've taken a young thief back to their home. There the youth is given the opportunity to join the troupe, which is what happened to Etri when he was a teenager. He chose to become one of the silent thieves.

The Restorers work together under the guidance of Sapphire to make sure the artists and creators are properly paid for their work. The artists know something is up when their projects return to their work tables and studios, but they usually don't mention it. They're afraid if they do, they'll lose this streak of good fortune. The Restorers are becoming a legend, almost like a grown-up version of a tooth fairy, only snarkier. If an artist is dumb enough to fall for a bad contract three or more times, they'll get a sharply worded note along with their returned artwork. The Restorers are busy, you know.

CONVERSATION

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