Just before the time in The Steampunk Opera that Edgar McAlistair got dumped by his fiance, there was a small gang of burglars who were very successfully operating in the city of New Albion. They were two very young women, an albitross and a mouse and together they upped the ante and refined the art of thievery in the city-state.
This is not their story.
However, in order to tell the story we wish to share today we must being with this gang and move forward. This gang of four pioneered new methods of thievery and worked together with a tightness and eloquence never before seen in these parts.
While many will point to this particular gang as one of the great criminal success stories of New Albion lore, many will argue that the greatest actual thieves could be a pair of brothers who came a generation later.
In the years when Byron was just a tyke, two brothers grew up inspired by the magnificent heists of the old Gang of Four (who were now Three and many years out of the burglary business and engaged instead by the whole mob running business). They were raised by a single mother who had seen a great amount of struggle and hardship in her life. She loved her boys, did the best she could for them, and made sure they understood that in this life, no one gives you a damned thing and in fact will suck you dry of everything you have, so you be smart, you be quick, you be daring and you bloody well take it first.
The brothers, Barnabas and Bartholomew, were as close as two brothers could be. From a young age they didn’t simply enjoy mischief, they were infatuated with how to successfully snatch stuff and of course provide for their dear mother. As they grew older and started reading diligently and hearing the street legends passed about New Albion of the exploits of the Gang of Four, these tales became their favorite stories and deepest inspiration. Once they got past the thrill of the stories however what became more important was the methods and revolutionary techniques the GoF employed working together. Most gangs before them suffered from either some degree of distrust, lack of finesse or lack of creativity, all qualities which the Gang of Four had overcome. The brothers studied them with relish as well as the others thieves before them.
They trained obsessively, honing their bodies to excellence. They worked with con artists, studying the art of the con, apprenticed with locksmiths, assisted escape artists, everything they could do. During their 20s and 30s they were the greatest team of thieves New Albion had ever seen. They robbed everything. There was no job too big or small they didn’t try or succeed at.
In fact, their exploits became so over the top they came to the attention of the two women and mouse named Sam who now ruled the New Albion Mafia. The brothers were brought in, in general to be intimidated, brought under heel, felt out and put in step. However, when the brothers found themselves being interrogated by none other then their 3 heroes, they began gushing with fanboy reverence, sighting their favorite exploits and technique of the Gang. The two Women and Mouse ended up blushing and were completely charmed by it all and the brothers thereafter operated with their full approval. The brothers were so successful that no matter what crazy schemes they came up with, they were unstoppable.
Thus it is that historians will occasionally argue over what happened in their late 30s: The Betrayal.
At the peak of the brothers’ power and success Bartholomew betrayed Barnabas. It is argued over the amount, whether it was jewels, cash or trust, whether there was a woman involved (most assume there was). But whatever the details, the betrayal was public and unforgivable and forever afterwards the brothers were at war.
They hunted each other, set up traps and stings, would try to procure whatever the other desired and constantly worked to foil the other’s plans and even outright attempt assasination. Historians shake their heads sadly and point to this as why the brothers never were able to acheive the glory the Gang of Four did, as while they continued to be successful, well respected thieves, their hyper, full out rivalry kept them in check and thus they never did hit the heights of power the Gang of Four (Three, actually) did.
There are historians of a certain school though, who make a particular, compelling argument. They point to a legend about the brothers which does in fact seem to be confirmed by multiple sources: After the Betrayal, once a year, the brothers met at a bar they had grown up around. They would rent it out for the day and drink together for about 12 hours. Supposedly, during this drinking binge they would have a grand time, laughing and singing and sometimes crying on each other when the subject of their dear mum came up.
The truth, says this school of thought, is that The Betrayal was not a bad thing. It may have been mutually desired. In fact, the brothers were utterly bored and the only thing which could give their lives purpose and fully engage them would be to take on a rival as capable as themselves. In lieu of such a rival’s existence, they chose the only worthy partners they knew: each other.
The stakes had to be high, life and death, otherwise the game was tawdry and unworthy. And once a year every year the brothers would call truce, spend a day together to drink and laugh and compare game plays from the past year. In fact, they say, the brothers never loved each other more then when each served as the other’s perfect opponent.