Chance and Fate
He watched the boy's progress from the shelter of a nondescript alleyway.
It had been a few months since the incident that had resulted in the Thieves Guild gaining a new leader, and Kanrik seemed to have undergone something of a change of heart just before he'd been named Galem's successor. The Gelert held no more tolerance for any sort of treachery among guildmates, or for unnecessary brutality from Guild members undertaking jobs.
That suited Heska just fine. The Darigan Uni had had enough of brutality in his homeland's recent wars – it was why he'd left, after all.
Nevertheless, the new policies had inevitably resulted in the more cruel and bloodthirsty members of the Guild leaving, either by their own choice or at Kanrik's demand. And that had resulted in a membership decrease just strong enough that the Guild was going to need some replenishing if it was to maintain its authority in the eastern plains.
At the moment, Heska was a recruiter. And as he watched the boy's progress, he hoped that his gut feeling about this one had been right.
The young Ixi – around thirteen by the looks of him, named Hanso if the Uni remembered correctly – slunk along the streets, keeping an eye out for any promising targets. He'd already managed to pilfer a bit of food earlier, and while the somewhat sloppy execution suggested a lack of experience, Heska didn't mind. Time and a bit of training in the Guild would fix that, and he was really more interested in the intuition that had thus far seemed to come naturally for the boy.
At the least, he seemed to have avoided culture shock and gotten accustomed to his new surroundings quickly enough. Heska had found him in a little town in the Central region, slipping away from the authorities and looking around for passage to another nation. "I gotta get far away from here," he'd said to the Uni. Then, his anxious expression giving way to an excited grin, "...But if we could go someplace awesome, that would be great too."
A runaway, no doubt. It certainly attested to the boy's inexperience. Even so, if his escapades continued to go as well as they had been, he would likely soon learn that Heska had chosen Brightvale because it was where most of the Guild was currently stationed.
Hanso's face seemed to suddenly light up, and Heska craned his neck forward to see what he'd found. The kid started darting from one hiding place to another, creeping up behind two pets who stood out from the rest of the crowd by the uniforms both wore.
Heska grit his teeth – was this boy really so stupid as to be trying to pickpocket guards at his skill level? The Uni was suddenly beginning to have serious doubts about his choice of a potential recruit, but then he got a better look at the younger of the two. She really was rather young for the job, a Kougra about Hanso's age, and had the simple uniform and the fresh-faced look of a squire just out of training. And she was the one the boy was headed for.
Heska snorted. So the kid wasn't a complete idiot after all, even though the knight standing beside the girl posed enough of a threat that he must have been acting on pure bravado. Such boldness could actually be a pretty good thing if handled right – taking risks and making gambles was integral to the life of the thief, after all. In any case, getting caught would provide Hanso with a memorable lesson in choosing his targets more carefully.
And so he settled back and watched. The kid crouched low to the ground, slunk up just behind the squire, and reached a careful hand out toward the money pouch hanging at her waist. And of course, just as his fingertips brushed the heavy cloth of the bag...
The squire's hand came down on his wrist. Heska jumped a little at the sudden movement despite the fact that he was a few streets away. He blinked – the boy's work may have been unrefined, but it was still good enough that a new guard shouldn't have been able to catch him so easily. The two kids stared at one another in shock for several moments, as if neither could believe what had just happened, and then the girl twisted Hanso's hand around behind his back as he began to sputter out excuses.
Heska chuckled to himself. It seemed he would need to secure the help of a jailbreaker soon, but despite the less-than-stellar outcome of Hanso's stunt, he was fairly impressed. And while it was poor luck that the kid's first capture had been made by a mere squire, it would still serve as a lesson for him in the long run.
All in all, Heska figured he had observed enough. The Uni ducked out of the alleyway and started making his way to Guild headquarters, mulling over whether he should warn Kanrik and the others not to underestimate the latest batch of young blood in the guard as well as whether to offer his own aid in training the boy.
* * * * *
He kept one eye on the girl as they walked her first patrol.
It was that time again – time for the fresh young guards who had completed their primary training to finally begin taking on their first real duties. Truth be told, Sir Gregor was a little worried about this simply due to the fact that the bulk of the Thieves Guild was currently settled in Brightvale... But then again, that was what the knight masters who guided and tutored their less-experienced squires were for.
Actually, Gregor wasn't really too concerned for his own squire. The purple Draik knew how to read people – could quickly figure out their strengths and weaknesses, how they would handle the situations thrown at them and grow over time – and he'd singled out and chosen this one after hours of careful observation during her early training. Brynn was her name, and at thirteen years of age she was as young as was permitted in the guard proper. To him, that showed a dedication and maturity beyond her years; a dedication that, along with her quick thinking and natural skill, she had since proven to him time and time again.
Gregor swore she'd make Captain one day.
For now, however, Brynn was held back by her youth and lack of experience. The Kougra's eyes roved the market square, clearly trying to take in everything that happened around her. What she did not see, however, was the small spot of blue creeping up directly behind her.
Gregor smiled inwardly, though he kept his expression indifferent. He figured he would allow the thief to get as far as nabbing her money pouch before letting both him and the squire know that he'd noticed; the experience, after all, would make for a far better lesson in watching your own back than any drill he could run her –
...Then again, if she didn't really need that particular lesson after all, he supposed that was fine too.
Gregor blinked in surprise and turned toward Brynn, who quite suddenly had one hand firmly gripped around the boy's wrist as she twisted around and met his wide-eyed stare. The Draik read the looks in their faces: Brynn was numb with shock at both having nearly been stolen from and having actually caught the perpetrator, and the boy with terror at his discovery. The knight was impressed – the boy, a small blue Ixi now that he looked at him properly, couldn't have been much older than his squire, yet besides failing to account fully for Gregor's line of sight he hadn't been doing a half bad job.
Brynn must have suddenly remembered herself, because she turned the would-be thief around and twisted his hands behind his back to cuff him. The boy yelped in an unfamiliar accent, "No, wait! Have a little heart, I'm just poor and starving and needed a little money to buy food."
Brynn paused for a fraction of a second and glanced up at the senior guard, knowing that she still had to do her job but unsure just how to respond to that. He shook his head.
"Nice try, kid, but I doubt that when you've got clothes as fresh as those. Even if it were the case, there are better ways to get back on your feet around here. The prison wardens will keep you well fed while we track down your parents."
Brynn nodded in silent agreement. The boy huffed and looked away, his ears pinned back as he muttered, "I don't have a family."
Gregor cocked an eyebrow – he could tell the kid was still lying, but also that he wouldn't get anywhere by trying to press the matter further.
Brynn managed to inject some authority into her voice as she said, "Well, you still need to come with us. Let's get going."
The Ixi continued to pout as she came around behind him and began to lead him off, and Gregor fell into step beside her and kept an eye on him. After several minutes of awkward quiet as they walked, though, the kid craned his neck around to look at her and said, "I'm Hanso. What's your name?"
The junior guard scrutinized him for a moment before replying, "...Brynn..."
The boy – Hanso – grinned. "That's a cool name. Do they really let kids be knights in this place?"
Brynn's fur bristled slightly. "I'm not a knight yet, just a squire. And you're not any older than I am!"
Hanso seemed unfazed. "You still get to do patrols and stuff. That must be pretty neat. I bet you're good at it too, because I totally had you back there, and then WHAM! If I wasn't in handcuffs right now I would think that was the coolest thing ever."
Gregor chuckled to himself. Perhaps once this kid's sentence was up he'd manage to get him to join the guard and put his skills to better use, if he was so interested in knighthood. The Draik wasn't sure whether he believed in fate, but it seemed a handy thing that the two teens had managed to run into each other when they had – what better way to get a kid onto the right path than through a friend? And what better way to keep his squire's confidence strong?
For her part, Brynn still seemed perplexed, although her expression had softened a bit since the start of the conversation. Even so, her next words were, "You're not just trying to flatter me into letting you off easy, are you? Because that's not going to work."
Gregor had to hold back a laugh. That's my girl! Sharp as anything.
Hanso had less success, and burst into a fit of delighted cackling. "You mean people actually do that?"
Even Brynn allowed herself a tiny smile in response to his humour. "I don't know, I'm still new to this, but you did try something similar earlier."
Hanso continued to ramble after that, and Gregor let him be. This whole chatting-up-the-criminals business was a little bizarre, and a part of him was actually rather wary of letting his squire get too comfortable with the boy. Yet she was a smart girl and had been holding her own just fine so far, so he figured this wouldn't be any harm.
Besides, if fate really did have a hand in what was going on here, then he didn't see much of a point in interfering.