Excerpts for Museum of Thieves


Separation Day    

Goldie Roth hated the punishment chains. She hated them more than anything--except perhaps for the Blessed Guardians. As the heavy brass cuffs snapped around her wrists and the weight of the chains fell on her shoulders, she stared sullenly at the cobblestones.  

She knew what would happen next. Guardian Hope would quote something at her. Something stupid from the Book of the Seven. Guardian Comfort would probably quote something too, and they would both look pleased with themselves.  

Yes, here it came. Guardian Hope tugged on the punishment chains to make sure they were properly fastened; then she raised one plump finger. "An Impatient Child," she said, "Is an Unsafe Child."  

"An Unsafe Child," said Guardian Comfort, folding his hands piously in front of him, "puts All Other Children at Risk!"   All I did was try and hurry a little bit, thought Goldie. But she said nothing. She didn't want to get into more trouble than she already was. Not today. Oh no, definitely not today . . .  

She squinted out of the corner of her eye at her classmates. Jube, Plum, Glory and Fort were looking anywhere but at Goldie, hoping that her trouble wouldn't rub off on them. Only Favor was watching, her eyes serious, her hands flicking together and twitching apart in the small, secret movements of fingertalk.  

To the Blessed Guardians, it probably looked as if Favor was picking at the threads of her smock, or twisting the links of her little silver guardchain. But to Goldie, the words were as clear as glass. Don't worry. Not long now.  

Goldie tried to smile, but the weight of the punishment chains seemed to have dragged all the happiness out of her. This was supposed to be good day, she signed fiercely. Now look at me!  

"Was that a scowl?" said Guardian Hope. "Did you scowl at me, Golden?"  

"No, Guardian," mumbled Goldie.  

"It was a scowl, colleague," said Guardian Comfort. The morning was hot already, and he had pushed his heavy black robes away from his shoulders and was mopping his forehead. "I distinctly saw a scowl!"  

"Perhaps the brass chains are not punishment enough," said Guardian Hope. "Let me see. What can we do that will make the lesson more memorable?" Her eyes fell on the little blue enamel bird that was pinned to the front of Goldie's smock. "That brooch.Where did you get it?"  

Goldie's heart sank. "Ma gave it to me," she mumbled.  

"Speak up! I can't hear you."  

"Ma gave it to me. It belonged to my auntie Praise."  

"The one who disappeared years ago?"  

"Yes, Guardian."  

"Disappeared?" said Guardian Comfort, raising an eyebrow.  

"Praise Koch went missing," said Guardian Hope sourly, "the day after she Separated. She was too bold, of course, like her niece here. Without a guardchain to protect her, she probably fell into one of the canals and drowned. Or was kidnapped by slavetraders and carted away to a life of misery and despair."  

She looked back at Goldie. "This brooch is important to you and your family?"  

"Yes, Guardian," mumbled Goldie.  

"And I suppose you think about your bold aunt when you are wearing it?"  

"Yes--I mean, no, Guardian! Never!"  

"I don't believe you. Your first answer was the truthful one. You should not have such a trinket. It sets a bad example."  

"But--!"  

Guardian Hope jerked at the punishment chains. Clank clank clank, they went. Goldie bit off her protest. Any other day she would have argued, whatever the consequences. But not today. Not today!  

Briskly, Guardian Hope unpinned the blue brooch and slipped it into the pocket of her robes. Goldie watched that hopeful little bird disappear into darkness.  

"And now," said Guardian Hope, "we must be on our way." Her mouth twisted in a sarcastic smile. "We must not be late for this impor

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