It Takes a Thief: Part Six
Hanso twitched nervously.
Jazan snapped, "Stand still."
How could Hanso stand still? He was in the middle of Jazan's magical workroom, about to let Jazan cast a spell on him, and Kanrik was leaning against the wall smirking. "How do I know you're not going to make me look like an idiot?"
Jazan asked, "Do you have another mage willing to make a glamour for you? Or would you prefer to stay behind and let Nabile and Hannah do this by themselves?"
Let himself get upstaged by a pair of girls? Hanso would never live that one down. The Hero of Faerieland couldn't let girls do that sort of work for him – especially girls like Hannah, who, minus the ears, barely came up to his shoulder.
Jazan repeated, "Stand still, or this glamour won't take. They're complicated, and if I do this wrong it might become permanent."
Hanso didn't want to risk that. He said, "I've always wanted to be Fire, though. If it's not too late for a request."
Jazan shot him a look – his eyes had gone all red. It either meant he was angry or he was already starting the magic, and either way it was as creepy as all get out. Then the Kyrii ordered, "Shut your eyes." Hanso decided to obey.
He knew when the glamour started to take effect – it was a pins-and-needles feeling all over his body, and it took everything Hanso had to not shake himself like a wet Werhond. He was thankful his eyes were shut – there was a roaring in his ears, and he wished he could have plugged them as well.
Then the sound died away, and he heard Kanrik snickering. He opened his eyes and looked down at his hands.
His multi-colored hands.
Hanso looked into a mirror over a worktable. His fur was green, but spangled with bright spots of pink and orange and gold. His horns had gone pink, as had his eyes... "You made me a Disco Ixi! That... I... you..."
Kanrik grinned. "I wanted Faerie, but Disco was a good second best."
Jazan had already turned back to his worktable, as though making Hanso look like an utter idiot – and one with no sense of style at that – had merely been a footnote in his plans for the day. "It worked as well as I could have hoped. The magical traces are subtle. Any physical signs?"
Kanrik said, "He's still clearly Hanso, but that's because I know him. Someone who didn't wouldn't look past the change to his coloring."
Jazan nodded. "Far too hard to change someone's physical features. It couldn't be held up for any length of time without a major working. I have Nabile's and Hannah's ready – they took Brynneth to find clothing."
Hanso hoped Brynn had gotten him long sleeves. And a hood. And a mask. And gloves. He clenched his teeth. He had met one or two disco-colored thieves before – one of them was one of the Thieves' Guild's foremost smugglers. So he couldn't object on those grounds. And, of course, he couldn't go asking for Jazan to redo the magic, because that would be admitting that he and Kanrik had won.
He'd thought they were at each other's throats! And, honestly, he would have preferred that. That was far better than ganging up on him. And then he could have taken care of things like looking clever, saving the day, and impressing Brynn and Queen Fyora with his resourcefulness, bravery, and charm.
Of course, nothing ever worked out exactly that way. But it could have at least worked a bit better. He couldn't deny that Jazan and Kanrik were both extremely capable – he certainly wouldn't like to fight either of them. But he didn't particularly like being treated as though he were a useless accessory.
He looked in the mirror again. A tacky, useless accessory.
Kanrik threw him a cloak. "Here. We don't want anyone seeing your new face walking around the Palace."
Hanso glared at him. "If you'd given me a subtler new face this wouldn't have happened."
Kanrik shrugged, letting his own hood fall farther over his face. "Sometimes unremarkable is best. At other times, unbelievable is better. Who'd disguise themselves with a Disco glamour?"
Hanso put the cloak on. "Let's go." He stormed out. They could follow or not, as they pleased – he remembered the fountain where Brynn had said they would meet.
Behind him, he heard Kanrik ask, "Are you sure your sources are right, and that this warehouse is where some Sway operatives have been sending people?"
Jazan asked, "Are you certain that your sources are right and these smugglers are indeed connected to the Sway?"
At least Hanso could take pleasure in the fact that they didn't actually like each other, even if they occasionally ganged up on him.
They lowered their voices as they continued their argument – Hanso refused to get close enough to them to hear what they were saying to each other. He had some pride, even if he was currently a color that managed to clash with itself, and he wasn't going to let them know that he had any interest whatsoever in their argument. It wasn't important, anyway. If there was a change in the plans someone would tell him.
He stopped at the edge of the little fountain courtyard, at a fairly bemusing scene.
Nabile and Brynn were sitting on the edge of the fountain, with Hannah on the tiled ground leaning against it. There were a few small bowls of food – cookies and fruit by the looks of it – a pitcher of fruit juice, and several cups on the ground next to the little Usul.
The three women just looked at the men, looked at each other, and started laughing their heads off.
Kanrik asked, a note of what might have been pleading in his voice – if that arrogant jerk would actually condescend enough to plead – "What is going on?"
They just started laughing harder. Hannah said, in between gasps, "Oh... nothing... you wouldn't get it..."
Brynn said, smiling widely, "Hanso, let's see the glamour!"
Nothing for it. They were going to laugh. So what Hanso could do was be confident, and pretend like this had been his own idea, and that he'd intended for them to laugh. Then he could steal some of the victory from Kanrik and Jazan.
Nabile covered her mouth, as did Brynn – both were clearly trying to stifle a fresh round of giggles. Hannah merely shot a flat, cold glance at Kanrik. "If I turn Disco, you will regret it. Briefly."
Kanrik held his hands up. "Blame the man with the magic if you don't like how it turns out."
Hanso raised an eyebrow at Kanrik. "For the record, I'm still blaming you."
Kanrik looked at him evenly. Jazan said, "Nabile, you next. Over here."
Hanso couldn't help but notice that Jazan was a whole lot nicer about getting Nabile to stand still than he had been earlier. She shut her eyes, and the magic flickered over her – the effect was a little dizzying, and Hanso looked away.
When he looked back, her hair was still black, but her fur had changed to a pale lavender, and her eyes were blue-green. She turned to look into the fountain. "Royal! I've always wondered what it would be like to be royal."
Hannah snickered. "You are royal."
Nabile laughed. "You know what I mean. You did well, Jazan. I can't tell this isn't me."
Jazan merely nodded. "Thank you, dearest. Hannah, your turn."
Hannah's transformation was similarly non-dramatic – she became a brown Usul with slightly darker brown hair and eyes a paler blue than they had been before. He asked, "And they got subtle colors... why?"
Brynn grinned at him. "Don't worry, Hanso. I think it suits you."
"No, it doesn't. Disco doesn't suit anyone."
She walked over to lay a hand on his shoulder. "But you wear it far better than most other people would."
All of a sudden, his particular glamour didn't seem half as bad.
Before too long, as the sun was setting, Hanso, Hannah, and Nabile left the palace quietly and began to cross the city. They were all wearing slightly tattered, plain clothes, including sandals for Hanso and Hannah. Nabile went barefoot, not seeming to notice that heat still radiated off the stones of the city even at this hour.
Hanso said, "So we're going to go to that warehouse and sign up. We find out whatever we can, and then Nabile calls in the heavyweights and we wipe the floor with them. Simple enough."
Nabile said, "Which means it should go disastrously wrong."
Hanso nodded. "Which is why we have the backup plan – if we're in trouble, you call in the heavyweights and we wipe the floor with them whether we've learned anything or not."
Hannah smiled. "Also simple. So we've got two simple plans."
Hanso's plan also involved getting out with whatever valuables he could when the heavyweights came in – Kanrik had brought in some big folks from the Thieves' Guild whom he wasn't keen to catch up with. Paselle especially, since that Cybunny had threatened to turn him into an Ixi-fur rug if she ever laid eyes on him again. And Mortman had absolutely no sense of humor – perhaps the Kougra had smuggled it somewhere else.
Nabile knew her way through the city, and they moved quickly. Hanso had his set of knives and lockpicks – he wished he could wear his normal jacket, with its useful pockets, but it was too distinctive, not enough like a petty desert thief would wear. He adjusted his hood – he had a hood and a scarf over his face, like a desert trader would use, or a particularly loud Ixi trying to disguise his coloring.
He knew that a Stealthy or Shadow glamour would have been far too cliché. But Disco?
"Move along, street rats."
They looked up at the roof of the building closest to them – there were several of the lean, tough, none-too-bright types favored by shady folk looking for guards that would be slightly less stereotypical than massive hunks of muscle with all the brainpower of a concussed Spardel.
Hannah said, "We've heard you need folk."
One of the guards, a scruffy Yurble, snorted. "Buncha Meepit bait like you won't be good for much, but might as well. And don't let us see you trying to sneak out, or there're three little street rats who won't have a fun night. Understand?"
They all nodded, and Hanso smiled a little behind his scarf. Brynn hated bullies, and she'd be glad to give the guards on the roof a fight with someone who could fight back. Then they filed in the door.
There were perhaps two dozen people dressed like them of varying ages – the petty thieves that the Sway was recruiting. But what drew Hanso's attention was the three black-clad figures on the far wall of the dingy warehouse, on a small stage made out of crates. One was a Nimmo, one was a Techo, and one was cloaked and veiled so completely that it was impossible to tell what manner of Neopet they might be.
They were Sway, all right. They just reeked of money. And that pocketwatch and monocle that the Nimmo had would sell for a pretty penny. If Hanso managed to get half a chance in whatever chaos they were about to unleash, he needed to find time for a spot of pickpocketing.
The Nimmo stepped forward. "Those of you who are gathered here will have the... opportunity... tonight to be richly rewarded."
In this crowd, all he had to say was "rich" to get attention. A few of Hanso's neighbors clearly hadn't had a decent meal in a while, let alone anything that would be considered riches. The Nimmo continued, "But discretion is of the utmost importance. Losing your share of the treasure is far from the worst thing that could happen should you betray confidence."
A throaty woman's voice said, "Enough. The sun sets. It is time to begin."
The veiled figure threw off her mantle and hood, and Hanso's heart immediately leapt up into his throat.
She was a Fire Faerie. A Fire Faerie, working with the Sway. She had to be a rogue – which meant she was incredibly dangerous.
And she wore a golden circlet on her forehead and a ruby ring on her outstretched right hand.
To be continued...