The glamorous and modern city of Rodluvan.
The beautiful Lady Theresia, an actress of poor renown and the daughter of fallen nobility.
Having parents who still cling to a lavish lifestyle they cannot afford, she takes it upon herself to make ends meet.
They, in turn, work their cruel machinations in the hopes of forcing her to marry a man of wealth.
'There is only one thing that bids her reprieve from the crushing responsibilities of life: The stage
Her talent is remarkable, and her heart longs for theater. Yet soon even this joy is stolen from her.
For she is beautiful—as were the women she played again and again. Talent neglected, her heart begins to wilt...
...until soon, her heart knows nothing of love and everything of despair.
The night of a masquerade held in a lavish manor.
Lady Theresia, forced to attend this pompous charade, is alone at its balcony, watching nothing in particular when... a suspicious figure absconding with the manor's goods.
Who is that...?
I don't know whether he's the violent sort of rogue, but it doesn't sit well to leave him be.
For the first time in far too long, an impulse grabs her and her heart starts to race.
She takes a slender rapier from a decorative suit of armor and, if only to keep the feeling, chases this phantom thief.
St... Phew... Stop! Return that right now, thief!
The bolder her pursuit, the closer she comes to him.
Feeling all that had been pent up within her surging up along with the burning of her lungs......she pours all her energy into each lunging step.
A certain high, born of the moment, breathes new life into her, granting her true clarity and focus.
It reminds her of her early days as an actress.
At the central lake on the salt flat by the manor.
Lady Theresia, breath coming in ragged, and the mysterious gentleman, cool and composed, stop.
You don't seem afraid of me.
This gentleman appears intrigued by his pursuer's courage.
With a profound gaze and matter-of-fact tone, he returns that which he stole, claiming he no longer is in need of it.
This gaze moves her deeply and, feeling something of a bond between them, she spills her life's story to him.
Though she finds it depressing and dull, he listens acutely and only speaks when she is finished.
You are more valuable than any gem I've ever beheld.
You may be uncut, unpolished, but I've no doubt that with the right guidance......your spirit will sparkle more than the whole of these salt flats.
For all her girlhood years, no one had seen her as he did in this moment.
She had been regarded as a disgraced maiden from a fallen home; a nuisance of a daughter; a nameless actress who should long ago have given up hope on being seen as anything more than a pretty face...Only he recognized the raw gem within that made Lady Theresia... simply Theresia.
Her attraction to the gentleman is instant.
Even as he makes to leave, she tells him her name in hopes of one day meeting him again.
After some time...
Theresia's efforts paid off, and she became a promising actress beloved far and wide.
She and the gentleman had met many times since that night.
He had fast become her dearest supporter.
A scholar in his own right, he devoted his energies into developing his unique brand of magecraft: gem magic.
And Theresia, ever the apt pupil, absorbed all he had to teach like a sponge, thirsting for knowledge.
She was quick to improve, to the degree that she was soon able to almost perfectly emulate him.
His mannerisms, his swordplay, and his magecraft all became hers to perform with perfection.
Her relationship with the gentleman began to blur as she became more entwined with him.
Aspects of teacher, lover, and patron peppered their rapport.
He was, as he had ever been, the only one in the world she could truly open her heart to.
The unintended savior who had given her the strength to live on and continue to grow.
Yes, Theresia thought she could do anything, as long as he was a part of her life.
As long as he would speak her name in his soft and dulcet tones....Anything.
I've been thinking, and I believe the time has finally come to leave Rodluvan.
Not long ago, I finally found it. The perfect gem I've been seeking my entire life.
Theresia, with that opal, I ask you to be my right hand; a crucial partner in my plan to take the gem.
And when we succeed, we shall leave this city together......living our lives as we travel across the continent, perfecting our studies.
A perfect, flawless jewel, the sort that would likely be a paragon for the studies of his system of magic......was soon to be on exhibit at Rodluvan's museum.
Indeed, he had paused in his pilfering pursuits as he spent more time visiting with and instructing Theresia.
Through this, however he sees an opportunity worthy of resuming his roguish ways.
With the gem in hand, they would leave the bustle of the city and devote themselves to his treatise on gem magic.
She considers it—and she considers her deep love for him also.
Had Theresia never met the gentleman, she would never have become who she is now. She agrees, and as she falls into his embrace, she imagines this as a spectacular farewell performance. And beyond it lies a beautiful happy ending that she thought only to exist in her dreams.
A museum under the tight security of soldiers.
Theresia and the phantom thief, sneaking inside under the veil of the night sky to find the gem on display within.
Theresia has been given two specific tasks by her cohort.
As he approaches the special collections room, she is to create a scene in the main exhibit hall.
This, he explained, is intended to divert the attention of the soldiers and keep them from engaging him.
Then, when he gives the signal, she is to break off and make for the escape route he had secured in advance. From there, the two would flee the scene together.
Drawing a deep breath, she wraps herself in night's veil and rushes before the guards on duty.
She curls her fingers around the ornate hilt of her rapier to wield her gem magic with performative finesse. She waits and distracts, deflects, and deters.
Enough time passes for him to have secured the gem.
Dazzling the guards, she leaps overhead to enact the second phase of their plan and meet her lover for a grand escape...
...but to her alarm, he is nowhere to be found.
Could it be that she'd mistaken the signal?
Or did something happen to him while she was en route to the rendezvous point?
There is still time before the guards find her; all she can do is wait.
And continue to wait...The seconds run shorter, and he is still nowhere to be seen—until the risk of getting caught grows much too high.
Tightening her grip on the hilt of her sword, she maps out objects in the room to leap from to aid in her new plan.
But as she makes to sprint forward, she immediately feels something off.
Her feet seemed almost rooted to the ground, as if bound by magic even stronger than her own.
At that moment, as if capitalizing on her moment of bewilderment, soldiers storm into the gallery and close in.
Theresia, knowing a cell awaits her were she to surrender, points the tip of her blade at her pursuers.
Even in her present peril, however, she cannot bring herself to spill innocent blood to save herself.
Her last and, indeed, only hope now is her gentleman thief.
However, even the very last ember of hope is snuffed when she chances to look outside the gallery's window.
The man she had loved, with whom she had planned this entire caper from beginning to end......is standing outside that very window.
Somewhere amidst the din, he had made his escape without her.
Though arrested that night, she is declared a victim and cleared of all charges after a thorough investigation.
The scandal between her and the phantom thief sweeps the city and lives on the lips of all who know her.
Like any good actress, Theresia seizes upon the cues given her......acting in every way the part of a noblewoman deeply distressed at being used in the commission of a crime.
But inside, her light had died in view of that window, when he pressed a finger to his lips to persuade her silence.
She resents her naivete as much as she resents he who abandoned her, and it twists into a deep, wretched despair.
Why? Why go through the trouble of teaching me if he'd only planned to use me as a discardable piece in his game?
Why would he work so hard to fashion me into his understudy?
Why give me such a valuable gem?
So greatly does it gnaw at her that it upends her entire career.
She quits the stage, forsaking her career as an actress to take up arms as a hunter of bounties.
She resolves not to be some powerless waif. She will not shed tears in the small hours of the night while lamenting questions left unanswered.
I won't ask again. Where is he?
She will take the tools he had given her, punishing criminals and fraudsters like him...
...until the day they reunite and she can mete out her vengeance.
She is no longer Theresia, the doe-eyed actress.
She is Tessa, the incomparable bounty hunter.
Tessa, confidence all-too plain in her feather-light strut.
Her pursuit has been lengthy, but all clues relating to the phantom thief's whereabouts have pointed here.
What moves her now? Is it love? Hatred? Hope?
She sometimes finds it impossible to discern one from the next, as though they had long melded into a single broad emotion.
No matter. She admires the night lights of this brand-new city, heart stronger than ever...
'Who gives a damn?', she thinks. 'All I know is I'll stop at nothing to find you.'