It Takes a Thief: Part Four
Hanso looked around Jazan's study, thinking furiously about how he was going to get out of here with his fur intact. Jazan and Nabile were bad enough – Jazan had absolutely no sense of humor, and was easy enough to fool, but his queen would take his side and she still thought like a thief. But Kanrik! Kanrik! Kanrik and another thief of his! What in Fyora's name were they doing in the Qasalan palace? He had thought that Jazan hated thieves!
It was starting to look depressingly like Jazan actually didn't hate thieves – he just hated Hanso.
The kid was crying – maybe Hanso could offer to take her to the nursery, or to play with her siblings, or sit in a corner and make funny faces at her. Whatever you were supposed to do with crying babies. That would get him out of here, and no one would try to kill him for fear of hurting the baby.
No, that plan would require Jazan trusting Hanso with his kid, which was extremely unlikely.
The little Usul sitting by Kanrik asked, "Who's Vanithad Farseer?"
Jazan leaned back in his chair. Hanso resisted the urge to roll his eyes. The Kyrii was always all too Fyora-blast-it eager to show off just how much time he'd spent with his nose in a book. Jazan said, "He's one of the Seven Lost Kings of Qasala, those whose final resting places are unknown."
Nabile said, "It's a Sakhmeti tale as well. He was known for being one of the best Seers who ever lived. And so the stories always say he was buried with a massive amount of magical treasure – he knew his time was coming from his visions, so he used his magic to build himself a secret tomb for the ages. Every year there's another expedition looking for it, but they've never found it."
Jazan took up the story again. "There are three artifacts known to have been used by him that remained with us. The scepter, the coronet, and the ring. The scepter is the one still in use today in Qasala – I have it magically guarded, and I would know if it were tampered with. The coronet was lost in the curse."
Kanrik muttered, "We'll have to assume the Sway somehow got their hands on it."
The Usul asked, "Couldn't it just be buried under thousands of tons of sand and rock?"
Kanrik asked her in return, "When have we ever been that lucky?"
The Usul snorted, as did Brynn and Nabile. Hanso noticed that the Usul was wearing a sapphire pendant that looked like it could fetch a pretty penny. But trying to steal from the Thieves' Guild was a good way to get yourself stabbed. For being a bunch of thieves, they sure got picky about their own possessions. Hanso prided himself on not doing that. If someone tried to steal something of his, what was the big deal? He'd just steal it back later.
Jazan continued, glaring at Hanso, "And the ring, a large ruby stone set in gold, was supposed to be safely in the Vault of Queens, behind protections that only a conquering army could vanquish."
Hanso looked to Brynn. She could likely explain without getting incinerated or turned to stone again. Why was she so much better at convincing people not to kill the messenger than he was?
Brynn said, "Some of the Fire Faeries requested permission to use it in a spell to increase the wards of Faerieland's borders – the defenses are much more vulnerable now that Faerieland is no longer a few miles in the air. It was a strong Fire artifact, they said, and several other artifacts from the Vault have been tied into similar defensive spells during the rebuilding of the City."
Jazan didn't look any happier. "The items in the Vault of Queens were sent there for safeguarding. Not turned over to Fyora to use as she would like."
Brynn continued calmly, while Hanso bit down several responses that would be funny but would probably get him hit with something. Brynn wouldn't think it was the right time for them. "Queen Fyora is aware of that, King Jazan. But we have no other choice. Magic laid down over generations was destroyed when Faerieland fell. Artifacts of power are the only way to quickly replicate what was lost in order to keep Faerieland from being overrun by denizens of the Wood.
"Thus, the Fire Faeries meant to use the artifact. But when they went to the site of the ritual that they had picked, they were ambushed. It was quick, skillful work, meant to incapacitate the Faeries and then run. And they ran. The Faeries never even saw who it was – just a vague image of black cloaks."
Kanrik commented, "I'm assuming it was the Sway, but I'll admit that everyone and their sister wear black cloaks when they're trying to be stealthy."
Jazan frowned. "Were the three artifacts united, there would likely be a trail strong enough for a gifted mage to follow it to Vanithad Farseer's tomb. I have no reason to disbelieve the rumors of treasure. Vanithad was a good ruler, and Qasala flourished under his reign."
Hanso asked, "Why'd you never try it, then?"
Jazan glared at him. "I had neither the coronet, nor the ring, nor the time or interest to seek lost treasure when there was work to be done. Qasala is still rebuilding, but it is not poor. There is no need to risk lives on a foolish venture – and a foolish venture it would be. Tombs and treasure halls of that era were often cursed and set with traps. No one seeks the lost Hall of the Fire Dancers, though it is said to be filled with golden statues and priceless tomes, because it is also said to be cursed with a plague that could destroy the desert."
Oh. That was probably an issue. Though it still seemed to Hanso that it was a crying shame to leave that many valuables just lying around gathering dust. He asked, "Isn't there anything you could do about that, though? You're supposed to be Mr. Awesome Mage."
Kanrik growled, "Shut up, Hanso."
From Hanso's vantage point against the wall, he had a very good view of the dagger belted at Kanrik's waist – the dagger that he'd used to beat Galem Darkhand. And in a fair fight! Hanso was completely honest with himself that he wasn't much of a fighter. He probably couldn't have bested Darkhand even if he'd gotten the opportunity to sneak up behind him. So he shut up.
And Jazan just had to rub it in by nodding briefly to Kanrik. "Thank you."
Hannah asked, "Is that the main thing the ring could be used for? Finding the tomb?"
Jazan said, "It is still a powerful fire artifact alone. But there are many other such artifacts that would not have required such an assault to win. Most kingdoms have several in their treasuries. Were any fire artifact equal in their minds, I would have thought it more likely that they would have tried to take one of the Cyodrake's Tears in Shenkuu, or some of the old artifacts in Meridell or Brightvale. I believe we should assume the worst – that they've taken possession of the coronet by other means, and that they mean to find Vanithad's tomb." He stood. "I should secure the scepter. One less artifact will make the attempt that much more difficult."
Difficult. Not impossible. Hanso noticed that, and didn't particularly like it.
Brynn asked, "Is there anything we can do?"
Jazan scowled. "Go back to Faerieland and tell Queen Fyora to seal the Vault of Queens again. I don't want to hear that the Orb of Khammar or any other niceties are now lost because some faerie apprentice decided to experiment."
Brynn insisted, "We were instructed to offer any aid possible, King Jazan."
Kanrik scowled at Hanso. Hanso wondered if he could burrow straight into the wall. Just what was Kanrik doing here? Kanrik said, "If they want to get ahold of the scepter, it'll be a major undertaking. If I can get some ears to the Qasalan underground, we may be able to anticipate it."
Hanso offered, trying to get something besides people looking at him like dirt, "I know a few folks in Qasala. I could ask them. They're not Thieves' Guild."
Kanrik raised an eyebrow. "Because they're clumsy, or because they don't have the sense to know when sticky fingers ought to remain in their pockets?"
Did he have to bring that up? Kanrik had been in disguise! He could have been anyone! And anyway, he really should have appreciated initiative from one of his subordinates. Hanso wished Brynn would stop insisting they could help. He didn't want to help. He wanted to wash his hands of any debacle that involved the two non-stone people who disliked him the most, and head back to regions where the breeze didn't feel like an oven door opening.
Jazan shut his eyes. "Perhaps you're right, Brynneth." It probably hurt him to admit it. The Kyrii continued, "The tomb of Vanithad Farseer could be a danger to both Sakhmet and Qasala. And the Sway, especially the Sway in control of the Obelisk and its Oracle, is a danger to all of Neopia. I don't like the Thieves' Guild. But you're the least of the evils in this situation."
Kanrik drawled, "Thanks ever so much."
Jazan continued, with his typical irritating imperiousness, "We need to find more information about where they are and their capabilities. If they intend to use the artifacts to find Vanithad Farseer, they'll need a gifted fire-mage, and perhaps more than one. We need to find out who they have, where they are, and when they intend to act if we intend to thwart them and recover the artifacts they've stolen. I must see to the scepter."
Nabile said, "I'll find rooms for everyone in the guest wing. It'll draw less comment if you don't keep travelling back and forth to the Palace."
Hanso left with Brynn, who immediately pulled him aside as they waited for the other footsteps to recede. She asked, "Hanso, how do you feel about stealing something?"
He grinned. "Come on, princess. You know how I feel about stealing things. What're we stealing?"
She was deadly serious. "Anything we can, once this all plays out. We don't want the Sway to have magical artifacts, but there's no telling where they might end up if the Thieves' Guild fences them. And Jazan is a good king, but I firmly believe that Fyora is better suited as a guardian for ancient objects of power. She looks to all Neopia, not just her own realm. You heard him. Were he to retain control of these, there'd be no chance they'd ever be used outside of the desert... even if people needed them."
Hanso blinked at her. "So you want to play along with whatever risky plot Kanrik and Jazan come up with, and then once we've got the spoils grab them all and run?"
She frowned. "It sounds sillier when you put it that way. And I do hate to just take things..."
He couldn't help but smile at her. "It might be silly, but you're cute, so I think I'll agree to it anyway. It's a shame we won't be around to see the looks on their faces."
Brynn smiled back. "Thank you, Hanso. I know I can rely on you when it comes to mayhem. Let's go contact Fyora."
To be continued...