Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 103,901,843 Issue: 205 | 26th day of Hiding, Y7
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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Lessons

by nimras23


This story is the direct prequel to The Bargain, a series in issues 189 and 190. It's still a stand alone work though, so it will make sense if you haven't read the series.

"Miss Mareian!" Fizzen, the blue Lenny apprentice, called as he dashed over to the pirate Lupess. "Today's the day I finally get to work in the streets, right?"

     Mareian suppressed a groan; while normally she enjoyed training new recruits, in her mind Fizzen was far too excitable and unreliable for their line of work. Her recruits needed to be level-headed and composed in almost any situation. The other problem was that Fizzen worshipped Mareian, and she hated being the center of attention. In her mind, the less people noticed her, the better. Unfortunately, Fizzen had somehow memorized the story of every heist Mareian had pulled off. When she got back from Fizzen's final test today, she was going to have a long talk with some of the older members about not telling stories about her.

     As they walked down the road from Illusen's glade to the marketplace, Mareian ran over all the things Fizzen needed to remember to become a proficient pick pocket. Over and over she stressed that he needed to pay attention to his surroundings and the crowd: Fizzen's weakest point. If anyone had tunnel vision, it was Fizzen; he had the bad habit of forgetting that you had to get away with whatever you were trying to palm, not just maintain possession of it.

     To Mareian's relief, the first half of the day went as smooth as silk. Fizzen surprisingly kept his excitement under control and managed several easy marks. Taking a break at lunch time, he treated Mareian to a large lunch with his new 'earnings'. Sopping up the last of her stew with some flat bread, Mareian excused Fizzen from working for the rest of the day. She didn't want to push him too hard his first day on the streets. Besides, Mareian needed to work too; and now that it was past noon the richer, more difficult marks would be coming out.

     Mingling with the crowd, Mareian kept her eyes open for a good mark while pretending to look at the shop's wares. She was only distracted once, at a jewelry stand, where a beautiful black opal necklace demanded her full attention. Unfortunately, the Ixi shopkeeper was sharp-eyed, and gave her no chance to pocket it. He wasn't like the berry stand's Usul shopkeeper, who dozed lazily in his chair; though the berries that had just 'happened' to find their way into her handkerchief would taste very good later on after lunch wore off.

     After about an hour and a half of wandering the market, Mareian found a likely mark, a richly dressed faerie Wocky strolling by the fabric stall with two equally well dressed Shoyru companions, apparently ordering fabric for some new dresses. Following from a safe distance, Mareian waited until all three were distracted with a large bolt of velvet, then slipped forward and smoothly lifted the Wocky's purse.

     Her private elation from such a nice pick-up was punctured quickly when she froze in horror at the sound of a loud, familiar voice whooping, "Good lift, Mareian!" Fizzen, she thought darkly, I'm going to force feed you a Lenny Transmogrification potion when I get my hands on you.

     Desperately, Mareian tried to melt into the crowed, but by then the Wocky had noticed the disappearance of her purse. "Guards!" she squealed, pointing straight at Mareian, "my purse! She has stolen my purse!"

     Any chance of disappearing into the crowd was long gone now; Mareian bolted. Dodging through the narrow alleyways of the shops, she cursed her short legs. Normally being so short was an advantage for her, because people tended to overlook her or think she was much younger than she really was. Now though, her diminutive strides kept her from being able to outrun the guards.

     Vaulting over a stack of crates, Mareian found herself face to face with a large Grarrl guard. As his large hand closed around her arm, Mareian threw all her weight against his fingers and twisted her arm up under his thumb, causing his hand to reflexively open as it bent back towards his forearm. Out of long habit, her other hand grabbed his coin bag tied to his belt, and the twine securing it to his belt snapping as she twisted away from him. Using his momentary confusion, she escaped back into the labyrinth of alleyways, now carrying two jingling bags. One of these days, she thought to herself, my reflexes are going to get me in big trouble. Dryly she conceded that today just might be that day.

     She couldn't keep running; she was bound to run into another guard and next time she probably wouldn't be so lucky. Slipping behind a stack of empty pallets, she settled down between the narrow space between them and the back of the shop to which they belonged to outwait her pursuers. Years of training and advice from Mavude took over. Count to one thousand, she told herself, and then check your surroundings. Silently, she began to count the long seconds.

     After reaching one thousand seconds the market place seemed much quieter. Still settled behind the pallets, Mareian pulled out the berries she'd 'discovered' earlier and munched thoughtfully. A little extra time never hurt anyone, and she needed a little pick-me-up after being chased through the market for who knew how long.

     She and her brother Khalyen, the king of Meridell's thieves, were going to have a long talk about Fizzen, she decided. His little stunt today was probably just out of his mindless excitement, but it proved that he wasn't dependable for street work. Perhaps Khalyen could find work for him somewhere else, pricing jewels or filing gold off coin edges. Usually such jobs were reserved for the elderly or those who were physically unable to do the more demanding jobs, but they could always use someone young to help carry heavy loads.

     Shifting her weight, Mareian pulled out the two coin pouches she'd lifted. The guard's bag held only a couple of copper and sliver coins, which was no surprise, as guards very rarely carried more than they thought they would need for the day. The faerie Wocky's silk purse held about two dozen silver coins and only few golden coins, much to Mareian's disappointment. If she'd worked that hard to steal that purse, the least the Wocky could have done was have the decency to be carrying a lot of gold coins. With a sigh, Mareian dumped the Wocky's money into the guard's small, plain bag, which was much less conspicuous. Glowering at the empty silk purse, she stashed it under the pallets as a nice surprise for the shopkeeper. Its pink and yellow coloring really wasn't her style anyway.

     Deciding that it was probably safe now, Mareian stood up and dusted herself off as best she could. There was a reason she usually wore a brown skirt and cream colored shirts; not only were they common colors that people tended to not notice, dirt and dust were a common hazard in a job that often meant climbing and hiding. Slipping the coin bag into a pocket hidden in the folds of her skirt, Mareian calmly walked back into the main market and joined the crowd, only to be grabbed from behind by a large, striped, Elephante guard as soon as she reached the food shop.

     Spinning quickly, Mareian ducked under his arm and bolted back toward the alley, only to be grabbed firmly by a wiry orange Gelert guard. "Going somewhere, Miss Mareian?" he asked dryly as he led her back to the Elephante guard.

     This, she thought ruefully, is really not my day. Not only had she been caught by the guards, but the guards knew her name; two things she'd been trying her whole life to avoid.

     "Basim," the Gelert asked the Elephante, "could you keep our little runaway from straying again?"

     The striped Elephante grinned, "No problem, Tarcey." In one smooth motion he scooped Mareian up and hoisted her on his shoulder, stomach down. Tarcey the Gelert grinned and turned to give one last look around the marketplace, Mareian used her newfound height to swipe his coin bag while his back was turned. Turnabout is fair play, she thought to herself as she hid the small purse in a hidden pocket up her sleeve. The Elephante's shoulder was starting to dig painfully into her stomach; couldn't he have thought of a more practical way of carrying her other than flinging her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes?

     Apparently satisfied with his survey of the marketplace, Tarcey the Gelert headed back up to the castle, with Basim following behind him, carrying Mareian over his shoulder. It was a long walk, and Mareian quickly became bored. There really isn't much to do when you're stuck in these kinds of situations, she discovered. Idly she swiped her ride's coin purse and opened it. A couple silver coins winked at her. Smiling, she withdrew a small handful of coins and flicked them to some obviously poor and hungry children with a wink. Grinning, the children winked back and ran off with the small handful of coins, giggling with glee.

     Entering the upper dungeon of the castle, Basim dumped Mareian unceremoniously in a square cell with a small half circle window high on one wall and clean straw on the floor. Picking herself up, Mareian dusted herself off as demurely as she could manage while watching Tarcey open an office door and spoke to someone inside in a muffled voice.

     Watching the faerie Wocky walk out of the office, Mareian's heart sank. Following the Wocky was a medium-sized brown Zafara knight who had a firm grip on the wing of a very familiar looking blue Lenny. Fizzen was led down to a cell further down the row, and locked in before the brown Zafara came to the front of her cell. Looking at her through the bars he introduced himself. "Miss Mareian, I'm Sir Mourvan. We know you have some things that belong to Miss Carnahan, and maybe some others. If you give them to us now, it will save both of us a lot of inconvenience." He certainly looked like he wouldn't have a problem physically shaking the coins off her.

     With a sigh, Mareian pulled out the Gelert and the Elephante's coin bags out from her hidden pockets in her sleeves, then the Grarrl guard's from her skirt. She handed them to the Zafara through the bars. "But my purse," the Wocky protested. "Where is my purse?"

     "Under the pallets by the carpenter's shop," Mareian said sweetly, unable to resist the urge to verbally jab the noblewoman. "Pink and yellow are really too babyish for me."

     The Zafara's eyes crinkled in amusement, causing Mareian to relax a bit. As long as she could make him smile, she still had a measure of control of the situation. "Miss Carnahan, I'll see to it that your purse is found," Sir Mourvan said rather formally, "is there anything else you need?"

     "No thank you," the snobbish Wocky sniffed as she walked out of the dungeons with a huff.

     With the noblewoman gone, Sir Mourvan visibly relaxed. Shaking his head with a chuckle, he commented, "You really pick them, don't you Miss Mareian."

     Sheepishly, Mareian replied, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

     "The Lord Sheriff's little sister; and picking her purse seemed like a good idea?"

     "I didn't know she was the Lord Sheriff's sister at the time." Mareian smiled up at the Zafara winsomely. "But if you let me go now, I promise to never pick her purse again."

     Laughing, the Zafara refused. "Danner would have my head, though I'll put in a good word for you. You've been a lot more civilized than most people about this." Turning to face Fizzen, he continued, "Because you cooperated with us, Mr Fizzen, you'll be released tomorrow at noon." Nodding a polite farewell to Mareian, he exited the dungeon.

     Smiling to herself, Mareian pulled a lock pick from one of her hidden pockets, and started working on the lock to her door. A couple moments later a soft click rewarded her efforts. Mareian grinned, settling down comfortably in the straw on the floor; come tomorrow morning she wouldn't be still locked in this dungeon.

The End

Author's Note: Much thanks to Shakky and Ani for editing help. Blame goes to Guy, for asking what Mareian did to end up in Jail.

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