"Thief! Thief!" the guard screamed hoarsely as two dirty, calloused feet slapped the cobblestones and the teenaged boy fled from the house with his prize, the Duchess' sapphire necklace. Soon the Duchess' entire household seemed to threaten revolt - the cooks and manservants bellowed questions and directions; maids and ladies-in-waiting shrieked, fluttering like uprooted pigeons. The Duchess and the Duke stood dumbfounded, shocked and devastated at the loss of the priceless heirloom. The Duchess blinked, her face drained, and her hands trembled. Suddenly she gasped elegantly and fell into a heap on the floor (not so elegantly). Soon surrounded by hovering attendants, the woman spoke but six words: "Find the thief. He is dead."
Halfway across the romantically beautiful city of Venice, the skilled thief, Reilly Freret, cowered behind the cargo in one of the peeling, cracked wooden gondolas as yet more Polizia bustled past, questioning civilians and occasionally resorting to violence in their desperate search for the precious jewel. The canalled city was crawling with constables, like ants on a sweet. One of these harassed, hurried policeman was J.J. He especially felt anxious to find this young robber. The Duchess, beautiful, royal, but cruel, had threatened a particularly violent end for him if the burglar, known by all in the city, wasn't caught and the sapphire returned. J.J., already out of favor due to an incident regarding a bungled execution, knew the Duchess spoke truly. He must find Reilly before he caused a rebellion in the tense city against its heartless female ruler. The problem was the actual capture- the crook had many accomplices and holes to hide in. Most likely, J.J. thought, Reilly would attempt to exit the city on one of the many ships that left the city daily. Struck by this sudden idea, J.J hastened to the harbor, unwittingly passing within three feet of the criminal he sought.
Reilly breathed a deep sigh of relief as the heavy footfalls of the guard faded into the distance. He knew full well that escape-although surely not easy, with the city crawling with armed men- might be achievable with Venice in its current state. Revolution and rebellion against the harsh penalties and laws set by the Duke (who was carefully controlled by the cold-hearted Duchess) loomed on the horizon constantly like a noxious cloud of ash. Reilly wasn't eager to cause public mayhem and unrest, but he also felt no enthusiasm to face capture or the violent end he might meet at the hands of one of the Duchess's assassins. No, he must reach his master and find a safe place to hide for a few weeks before he must inevitably leave the city he loved. The simmering anger of Venetia's citizens was almost as useful to him as anything else- almost any home and family would shelter, and even provide him transportation to his master's court.
The day passed uneventfully for J.J., stuck watching the brightly-painted ships sail gracefully into the harbor, but night, as always, brought fear to the hearts of the Duke's men and raucous joy to the souls of the rebellious townspeople- specifically in the flickering torchlight of the tavern known informally as the Court of Thieves. The main leaders of the potential uprising gathered there- men and women displeased with the Duchess, be they noble or common. Unbenounced to him, Reilly, too, would soon join their ranks. Wrapped heavily in cloth and tied almost painfully tight to his wrist, the Duchess' most prized, unthinkably beautiful sapphire necklace entered the rough, filthy Court of Thieves. The jewel, being so at odds with its surroundings, first caused Reilly's employer, a big, thickly bearded man, to only stare at the fantastic stone before laughing: a huge, deep, jolly sound. This stone symbolized the rise of the rebellion and the fall of the substantial wealth of the royalty while the poor starved in the streets.
In the large manor house occupied by the Duke's family, the Duchess paced slowly. She knew the cause of the theft, and she knew the stakes at risk if the jewel was not recovered and the leaders of the rebellion executed. Calling to her own personal guards, she summoned the Duke and a man she could make suffer and unleash her wrath upon. Stumbling up the steps to the Duchess' chamber, J.J glanced fearfully up at the compassionless face of the woman. Again, the lady spoke few words, but they wrought fear in the heart of J.J.
"Find the thief. Find his masters. Bring them to me, alive, by midnight tonight, or your head will decorate my ramparts by morning," she said icily.
Shivering with cold and fear, J.J. trudged up the streets of Venice as the sun set. Peering in the window of the Court of Thieves, a jolt of adrenaline shook his body. There was the thief and the jewel, both surrounded by burly men shouting more and more treasonous things as they consumed more and more wine. A smile crept across J.J.'s features as he sidled into the room, gesturing for reinforcements as he did. In a trice, all was chaos. The men, sobering up fast, fled through alleys known only to crooks. All escaped but Reilly, jammed into a corner. As J.J. advanced slowly, all thoughts fled from Reilly's head but one: his death was near.
The thought followed him like a specter on the trek back to the Duke's mansion, and covered him like a blanket in the chill dampness of the dungeons. The feeling was not relieved with the news that he was to be hanged on the morrow.
As the first rays of the sun penetrated through the bars of his cell and the heavy footfall of guards approached, all hope of rescue faded from Reilly's mind, and with it faded all fear. He stood and waited for his grim entourage, and walked bravely to the gallows. The gathered crowd held their breath as he stepped up to the noose. Politely refusing the offered hood, he seemed all gracious courage. When asked if he had any last words, his voice was strong and clear and unfaltering.
"This act, done not out of greed but of a longing for justice has begun a serried of events I cannot foretell, that will change the course of history. I do know that the Duchess will fall. The people will triumph, and my death will bring the end for Venetia's royalty. The revolution is begun."
Chaos erupted like a horrible flower from the spot where the gallows stood as the citizens and soldiers fought and the noose tightened around Reilly's throat.