Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 193,049,732 Issue: 675 | 9th day of Sleeping, Y17
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Hotshots: Part Six

by saphira_27


When Mortman returned to Tobey's inn after his excursion, he'd expected to go straight to bed. Instead, he found Kanrik sitting up on his own bed, arms crossed, looking more like a schoolteacher than any young lad had any right to look.

      Mortman decided to ignore him – he put his cloak on its peg and sloughed off his boots and his tunic, which left him in his shirt, trousers, and socks. On reflection, he removed his socks, too, then collapsed gratefully onto the bed. It was a hard bed, with a lumpy mattress, and it felt like paradise.

      Then Kanrik asked, "Where were you?"

      Mortman said casually, "Poking around."

      "Without us?"

      "Easier to poke around with one person. I knew what I was doing."


      "Who gave you the right to ask the questions?"

      Kanrik said, "You, really. Because you told us that it was time to go to bed, that we'd all been up too long on too little sleep, and that if we tried to do any more we'd make mistakes. And then you snuck out as soon as we fell asleep."

      Mortman really didn't want to have this conversation. The coffee and the energy potion were wearing off fast. He didn't bother to sit up as he responded, "I know how to poke around by myself. It was easier, faster, and safer. I laid my eyes on Mackaray and saw Roane working in his study, all without any real risk."

      Kanrik insisted, "If you thought it was a better idea to go by yourself, you should have said so."

      Mortman pointed out, resisting the childish urge to put his pillow over his ears, "You would have argued with me."

      Kanrik said evenly, "And then we would have understood your reason. Wasn't the point of sending us on this to have us learn?"

      Mortman reminded him, "The point of this might well have been for us to get our tails in Brightvale's dungeons."

      Kanrik grinned – a grin that wasn't particularly friendly. "That's Galem's point. That doesn't mean it has to be mine." He added, more seriously, "And you'd have hit the ceiling if Paselle or I snuck out while you were sleeping."

      Which wasn't something that Mortman could deny, as much as he would have liked to. He sighed. "I promise I won't do it again. And I promise that first thing in the morning I'll tell you everything I saw and heard. And since I think we need to move tomorrow night, I'll ask you two for any ideas that you can come up with." He didn't want to discuss it any more – he didn't intend to do any more thinking tonight. He rolled over to put his back to Kanrik, hoping that it would signal the end of the discussion.

      He wasn't sure whether it did or not, actually – he went straight to sleep.


      "You went out and spied on that Mackaray without us?"

      If Kanrik had been irritated, Paselle was absolutely furious. Her ears stuck straight up with indignation as she said, "You didn't even tell us!"

      Mortman sighed. "It was late. It was quicker and easier to just go myself than it was to bring you two, work out a cover story, and try to coordinate the discussion. But I should have told you – I'm sorry." He wasn't entirely sorry, but he was sorry enough for being put through the wringer twice that he went ahead and said it.

      Kanrik asked, "So what was Mackaray like?"

      Mortman shrugged a little. "Friendly fellow. He and his crew seemed to be enjoying themselves. They invited me over to sit with them when they saw me sitting by myself. They weren't discussing mission, though – and there was no way to tell who there was his crew and who was just there for dinner."

      Then he explained to them what he'd seen at Roane's and the ideas he'd had. Paselle asked, "Wouldn't it be easier to just steal the magic stuff? Then we don't need to make up stories. We're the Thieves Guild, after all."

      Mortman said, "Nope. Better to avoid it unless it's mission. You don't want the guards looking for you before you've even gotten what you came for."

      Kanrik said, "So not unless we really need it and can't buy it?"

      Mortman figured that was the best he was likely to get from these two. They were like all the young ones – because they stole some things, they saw no reason why they shouldn't steal all things. Of course, the reason was that it would be blasted stupid to end up getting caught by the Defenders and getting thrown in a cell until you went grey over some food or a bauble. He said, "Stick to things you can buy. We're just covering our bases. I'm hoping that standard magic-protection and magic-deflection charms can get us through. We've got some of those on our boat, to keep it from being tracked."

      He knew that there were mages in the Thieves' Guild – it was much easier to have a mage who could react to what exactly was going on than to rely on a charm. That was why those mages tended to get huge shares of their hauls, and even Galem treated them respectfully. They didn't bother with lowly smugglers. Mortman said, "Mostly, what I want is that ladder. If we're being chased, we'll want a ladder."

      Kanrik said, "Smoke bomb. They'll sell those in the weapons shop. We set it off in a narrow Brightvale alley and we'll have whoever's behind us blind. That's how we got away in Shenkuu."

      That was a good idea. Smoke bombs weren't of much use in the swamps, and Mortman wouldn't have thought of that – they'd be a lot more valuable in a city street. He nodded. "Good. See if you can get one of those. Any other ideas? There's not a lot that we can do about the burglary itself – invisibility takes an actual mage, and we don't have one. I think our best hope is in getting out of there like our tails are on fire. Now let's get breakfast before we go out."

      Kanrik asked, "Do we have time for that?"

      Mortman said, "Tobey's a good hand with eggs and bacon. Trust me, my young friends – there's always time for bacon."

      Paselle muttered, "You sound like a Plumpy. With a moustache."

      Mortman said, stroking the mentioned moustache defensively, "Trust me, girl. You'll learn this as you get older. Never pass up a good meal, and never ever pass up a good breakfast. The coffee should be good, too – Reina likes it strong enough to dissolve the spoon. Let's eat."

      They both wolfed down their food, clearly eager to be gone, but they'd either be on the run or in a cell tomorrow morning, and Mortman refused to hurry. It was a little funny watching them both sit there and twitch as he savored his toast, eggs, bacon, and potatoes, with coffee and juice to go with. Nothing like a big, hearty breakfast, and Tobey had always been a master at cooking those. He said, keeping his voice low even though the bustle of the inn provided cover, "We'll split. I'll get the smoke bomb – I'll come up with some story. Kanrik, you go for the ladder. Paselle, the charms. If you have any other ideas, go for them. Here's some money – get a few other little things, too. It'll help cover tracks if anyone's investigating us."

      Paselle asked, "Where do we meet?"

      Mortman said, "Back here. I'm going to sleep a little this afternoon – we'll be up all night for sure. We'll go out before dusk to be ready to get into position."


      Mortman went about his business that day with half an ear listening for the sound of chaos caused by his two young hotshots. But it was important to send them out alone – if they couldn't handle buying mission supplies without causing suspicion, he didn't need them working with him. But there was no trouble, and when he woke up from his nap they'd returned and were waiting for him to be ready to go. And so he told them, "Good job keeping it quiet today."

      Paselle shrugged. "It's easy – just don't do stupid stuff."

      Mortman said, "And let me tell you – more Guild members end up meeting the Defenders through little stupid stuff like that than actual gigs. I've had friends who did time that way. The big jobs are all planned and they all go great – and then you're all excited and you think you're the Invisible Grarrl and you get arrested for swiping a pastry."

      Kanrik snorted. "Stupid."

      Mortman said, "And common. And I think you two have too much promise to fall into a trap like that. So let's get going – I want you two to scout the area. If we find any of Mackaray's folk scouting, we'll tie them up. I'll let you two handle that."

      Paselle grinned – that girl was far too excited about the prospect of a fight. "Finally, the fun stuff."

      As they walked out onto the street, Mortman said, "The plan's simple. Get in, grab it, get out."

      Kanrik asked, "What if it's not in the study?"

      Mortman looked around to make sure that no one was too close before he replied, "I don't think we'll have the time to poke around the house. If it's not there and we're in trouble, grab anything that looks shiny and we'll try to buy Galem off. I'm not risking my tail for him."

      Kanrik muttered, "Though you might risk your tail if you flout him like that."

      Mortman said, "We don't know how Galem will react – especially if we waive our shares of the cut and still give him things to sell. We do know how the Defenders will react if they catch us red-handed. Call it a calculated risk. Any other questions?"

      Paselle smirked, "Thank you, Professor."

      Mortman found himself with a little smile as well. "Then let's do this."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Hotshots: Part One
» Hotshots: Part Two
» Hotshots: Part Three
» Hotshots: Part Four
» Hotshots: Part Five
» Hotshots: Part Seven
» Hotshots: Part Eight

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