It Takes a Thief: Part Eleven
Kanrik paused with Hannah, Paselle, and Mortman for a rest in the shadow of one of the dunes. They'd left at dawn, after sleeping away most of the previous day to make up for being up all night. They were moving slowly, with the number of well-crafted weapons and other small and valuable items they'd stolen from the Sway's camp before the Qasalan army took control, but Kanrik wasn't worried. King Jazan and Mirzah would be flat on their backs for a week at least after the amount of magic they'd thrown around, and without them any pursuit didn't have enough teeth to scare him.
Paselle said, "I still think we should have tried to chase down Reskarim and Norheim. Those two slimy little gossip-mongers are going to come back to haunt us."
Kanrik didn't have to argue with her again, because Mortman said, "When the king started throwing fire around, all of them ran for it. Sweet Fyora, I'd have run for it if I wasn't pretty sure that madman was on our side. There were too many rats out of too many holes, and too many trails to try and follow over sand." He said, "I managed to track down a few of their suppliers in Sakhmet before you called us, Kanrik. They decided to take a nice vacation to Krawk Island when they found out you were onto them."
Paselle sighed. "Another fight we missed."
Mortman said, "You're a bloodthirsty maniac, Paselle."
Paselle curtseyed. "Thank you."
Hannah giggled, and Kanrik didn't try to suppress his grin. "It serves us well. In other cases. But we've made a nice profit, we've shut down the Sway's desert operations, and we even did Neopia a service when we helped take down the psycho Fire Faerie. All in all, I'd say this mission was quite the success."
Mortman said, "Forgot to mention – I also managed to divert most of the goods the Sakhmeti Sway had to Keldus and Aldonza. They'll split it up so we can resell it."
Kanrik nodded. "Even more profit. Always good. They kept out of the magic, right? I'm more and more convinced that the artifacts-of-power market is more trouble than it's worth."
Hannah nodded as she took a drink out of her canteen. "That makes two of us. I don't even bother to follow rumors of them anymore. It's too likely that someone else is after them who's bigger than me."
Paselle snorted. "Ninety percent of Neopia is bigger than you, Hannah."
Mortman said, "Don't worry. Anything deemed too risky to resell was dumped. Let some street rat try to pawn it and the pawnbroker get the Sakhmeti guard dumped on him like a ton of bricks. Never liked those scum – at least we call ourselves thieves."
Paselle asked, "You don't think the king'll come after us, do you? That's a fight even I don't want."
Kanrik shook his head. "We parted on good terms with the queen at least. And without her, they'd never have found us in the first place."
Hannah asked, "It takes a thief to catch a thief?"
He took her hand and grinned. "Exactly."
Hanso took a deep breath as the large transportation courtyard in the Faerie Palace swirled up around them, along with the petrified Ogrin whom they'd brought for Fyora to heal. The air was cool and fresh and absolutely perfect, with the smell of green and growing things instead of rock and sand and dust. Several faeries looked at them in shock. Hanso pointed. "This guy isn't supposed to be like that. Could any of you help us take him to Fyora's tower?"
A Light Faerie and an Air Faerie both nodded, and within seconds the statue was floating rapidly toward Fyora's Tower. Brynn said, "He's lucky we were there and knew Fyora could help him." She frowned. "I just realized that we don't even know the poor guy's name."
Hanso suggested, "Rocky?"
Brynn punched him in the shoulder. "Not funny!"
Hanso scoffed. "That's because you don't know street thieves and urchins like I do. They'll be making jokes about this for years – and he'll be the one laughing loudest. He got cursed by a Faerie and lived to tell the tale – they'll all think he's a good-luck charm!"
Brynn asked seriously, "You think the fellow will head back to Qasala? He could start over in Faerieland and make a good life for himself here. No baggage to hold him back."
Hanso had to remind himself now and then that Brynn had no idea what life was like outside the law – her life was the law. "And leave all his buddies behind? When he got himself in trouble sticking his neck out for them in the first place? Never in a thousand years."
Brynn sighed. "Is this one of those thief things?"
Hanso said, "Sure. When you don't have anyone else but your gang or your buddies, they're your family." He took her hand. "I knew of folks who had that. I never really did myself, though. Didn't fit in in the guild. Too smart for them, too good-looking..."
Brynn giggled. "And humble. Don't forget humble." She asked, "Do you have the ring and the coronet?"
Hanso nodded. She said, "I'm still a little surprised that Nabile agreed to let us return them to Faerieland – I was ready for Jazan to refuse and for you to have to steal them."
He shrugged. "Maybe she just wanted to put one over on him when he was in no condition to stop her. I know I'd be desperate to get the better of him once in a while."
Brynn said, "You shouldn't be so harsh with King Jazan. He really did do Neopia another service this time, sealing away Udiza and Vanithad's tomb at the same time."
"He did Neopia a scary service. Flinging all that fire around? It explains what happened to his sense of humor – he must have roasted it to a cinder."
Brynn nodded. "I have to admit, that was frightening. Even Nabile agreed with us when we said he had quite enough fire talent without the full set of Vanithad's artifacts."
Before long, they'd reached the door to the Vault of Queens – Fyora awaited them. "Well done, Hanso. Well done, Brynn. I will attend to the urchin you rescued after I have sealed away the coronet and the ring. Perhaps Jazan was right about removing artifacts from the vault – I fear some have been too lax with them in our hurry to make use of their power. I still think they may be used properly, but I will be placing many more limits on their implementation."
Hanso was glad to work for Fyora. But sometimes the Faerie spoke like she'd swallowed a dictionary. She held out her hands. "The coronet and the ring?"
Hanso took the coronet out of his rucksack – it was wrapped in a silk cloth specially designed to mute the effects of its magic. Then he reached into the side pocket where the ring was wrapped the same way.
A candy wrapper, a hair tie, a spare handkerchief... sweat stood out on Hanso's brow as he rooted around. Brynn asked, "What? What is it?"
Hanso winced. "It's not here. I know I put it here! I never put small artifacts anywhere else – and I don't lose track of shiny things!"
Brynn asked, "But where could it have gone?"
Nabile sat in Jazan's office with him – he lay back on a padded bench while she read him the mail and answered everything that she could politely respond to. He was almost asleep again – he'd nap as much as Neera did for the next week or so, until he fully recovered his strength. Neera herself was sleeping on his chest, her little Zafara ears flopping.
Caspar was on the floor in front of the desk, reading a book – Aldie was playing with her sword again. Nabile loved moments like these, all her family surrounding her. She frowned at Jazan. "I don't think that telling Lord Salmo to kiss a Meepit is going to solve anything. And you're setting a bad example for the children."
He sighed. "I know. I'm tired, and my patience is thin. I still need to tell him that he can't have any money and that I won't take his side against Onas. Is telling them to go work out their disputes on their own like the adults they claim to be too harsh, do you think?"
Nabile smiled at him. "From you? I'd call that normal."
He sighed. "I'm saving all the politeness for the letter I'm going to write by myself to Fyora asking her where in Neopia her operatives got the authority to walk off with desert artifacts while I was still sleeping off a working."
Nabile told him, setting Salmo's letter down, "I let them. I thought it would be easier than fighting with them, and Caspar and Aldie were both begging for food."
Jazan narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth, then shut it again. He gave her a small grin. "You've got that look on your face."
She grinned back. "What look?"
"The look where you think you've done something clever and you're fairly pleased with yourself because of it."
Nabile nodded, and pulled a small silk package out of her pocket. Jazan held onto Neera as he pushed himself into a sitting position. "The ring!"
Nabile couldn't keep a wide smile off her face. "Why bother fighting with Hanso and Brynn when I could just slip the ring out of his rucksack? I think he's rusty – he didn't even notice. Serves him right for not putting something that small in his pocket where he could feel it was there."
Jazan smiled at her, warm and proud. "Nabile, you're a marvel."
She ducked her head. "Fyora had the ring, and now she has the coronet. She hasn't lost anything, so she can't complain."
Jazan said, "I'll place it with the scepter and protect it once I've recovered enough to do so. I'll guard them well, and not use them except in direst need, as Fyora would do. She will have no cause to doubt my guardianship."
Nabile nodded. "I know, Jazan." Perhaps others doubted Jazan because of his Werhond personality, or his past with dark magic, but Nabile knew the man underneath the grouchy, intimidating exterior, and she knew that if anyone besides Fyora could be trusted to guard artifacts without being tempted by their power, he could.
He continued, "So the letter?"
Nabile nodded, and as he dictated she began to write. Even if it took a thief to catch a thief, it took a queen to deal with all this paperwork and politeness. And though it had taken time to reconcile them, she was glad to be both.