Rebel Among Rebels, Thief Among Thieves
Author's Note: Just so nobody gets confused, I'd like to mention that this takes place a few months before the Faerie's Ruin plot. Enjoy :)
It was with a sort of relief that Hanso finally crept through the entrance to the Brightvale headquarters of the Thieves Guild. He took a quick glance around as the door shut quietly behind him: the dark corridor down which he was now heading was empty at the moment, as was the main room beyond. That was no surprise, really; it was still fairly early in the morning.
The Ixi slipped into the room with a thief's silent grace, a movement that wasn't really necessary at this point but that he and his colleagues had honed over the years to the point where it was practically a habit. With a little smile, he took it all in – the odd scattering of tables and chairs, the flickering torchlight, the jumble of hallways snaking deeper into the lair, the musty odour and the general slight, but permanent, mess that was home.
"I see you're back."
Hanso nearly jumped out of his fur at the sudden sound. He turned to see a squat green Bruce peering at him from a shadowed corner. Apparently, the main room hadn't been empty after all.
Hanso flashed a cheeky grin. "Amazed by the great speed with which I pulled my escape, are we, Constance?"
The Bruce's expression remained flat, but she stepped forward.
"I'm hardly surprised by your escaping abilities," she replied. "What I'm worried about is the fact that you were caught in the first place."
Hanso blinked, confused. It wasn't like getting caught by guards during a heist was all that uncommon, even among guild members...
"Hanso, you find yourself in the dungeons more often when we're in Brightvale than any other location," Constance went on. "And people have started to notice. They're starting to talk."
Hanso threw his hands up innocently. "Brightvale guards. Clever people – what can I say?"
Constance folded her flippers, her eyes narrowing slightly. "None of the rest of us have any problems with them. Besides, you've made it obvious that you can break out of their cells easily enough."
Hanso wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he merely shrugged. Constance shook her head and moved toward the nearest table. She sat down in one of the rickety chairs and motioned for him to do the same.
"It isn't really the location we're concerned about," the Bruce remarked. "There's another pattern that you don't seem to realize your guildmates have picked up on. You're almost always captured by one guard in particular, that Kougra girl. It happened again last night; I saw her leading you off after your failed heist, so don't try to deny it."
Hanso was speechless for a moment. Had he really been so careless all this time? Still, he laughed, trying to shake off the tension and suspicion.
"You guys are just overreacting," he insisted. "Brynn's a vice captain, and she's probably the best guard there is! You can't tell me she doesn't make the job harder for other thieves too. What makes you think it could be anything different?"
"Well, there's the fact that you call her by name," Constance started. Hanso mentally kicked himself. "And, while most of the guild members have only started to notice your odd behaviour, I've been watching the trend for a few years now. Since before she was a part of their council, when there were plenty of guards that should by all means have been giving you a harder time."
The Bruce leaned in toward her fellow thief. She was a good head shorter than the Ixi, but he practically felt dwarfed by her as her eyes bored into him. "This is a serious problem, Hanso. You've clearly built up some bizarre notion of a friendship, even a kinship, with this girl. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you have taken a fancy to her.
"Those guards are our enemies, our opposites, our demons. You cannot build a kinship with one of them, and if you try, it could spell disaster for the Guild."
Hanso suddenly realized that he had inched backwards in spite of himself, and was now pressed against the back of his chair. He leaned forward.
"What, are you implying that I'd betray you guys just to get on one guard's good side? Come on, you know me; I'm not the treacherous type."
"Not treacherous," Constance snapped. "Vulnerable. Weak."
Hanso thought this over for a moment. "All right, that I can take care of. What would you say to me proving once and for all that I'm more than worthy of my position in the Guild, if not the title of Master Thief?"
Constance frowned thoughtfully. "It would be better for you to simply drop this little game with your Kougra friend, but I suppose that would be enough. At this point, though, it wouldn't do you much good to do any less than steal from her, or at least one of the other council members."
Hanso grinned, his eyes glinting at the prospect of a new challenge – and perhaps a few extra Neopoints to go along with it. "Actually, I've got an even better idea..."
* * * * *
This can't be happening.
Hanso couldn't help but glare at Brynn's back as she dragged him down a side alley, a pair of gems clutched in the hand that didn't have a vice-like grip on his upper arm.
It was probably the one time – the one time – that he seriously and specifically did not want to get captured by Brynn whilst attempting a personal job in Brightvale. The one time that getting caught by her would spell complete and utter disaster for him, rather than a few minutes of conversation on his way to a cell he'd soon break out of and that strange warm feeling of familiarity that he always seemed to have around her. And what does he do?
Duck into an alley just by her patrol spot and practically run right into her.
Hanso sighed inwardly. In retrospect, he really shouldn't have chosen this particular Neopet to steal from, simply because of the potential for this very situation. It hadn't been too bad of a choice to begin with, though. He hadn't wanted to rob Brynn – not only because of that odd half-friendship they shared (who cares what Constance thinks about it?), but because doing so would have really increased the likelihood of... well, the situation he was in now. After all, the results hadn't exactly been spectacular the first (and last) time he'd targeted her. A similar problem would have come up had he gone for one of the other elite guards.
Besides, this theft would have been more impressive, more daring, than any of them. The other members of the Thieves Guild would have looked on in awe when he showed them his prize as proof that he had done the feat, before giving the pair of jewels back to their rightful owner. That last sad but necessary bit was a tad risky, but he hadn't been too worried about it – Kanrik tended to be fairly lenient about these kinds of things, so long as you willingly returned his possessions.
But of course, he couldn't do any of that if he was going to be forced into returning the goods, and having Brynn (Of all people! This can't be happening) on the other side of the handcuffs made the situation about a hundred times worse.
Well. In any case, Hanso wasn't one to sit quietly and dwell on his misfortunes. Might as well get some enjoyment out of this moment, even if the moment mainly involved his being led off to his doom.
"So," he piped up, "I heard the Captain's about to retire. You planning on going for the job?" He grinned. "I bet you'd get it, seeing how you can catch even a master thief like me."
Brynn didn't reply, but turned her head slightly to give him a look that said something along the lines of 'How the heck do you know about that and why would you care?'
After a few moments of awkward silence, Hanso decided to go a different route. "So, why are we giving those jewels back anyway? You, ah, do realize that Kanrik's a thief too, right?" That sort of talk probably wouldn't be good for his cause among his guildmates, but by this point it didn't really matter – after this fiasco, he figured he was either going to get kicked out of the Thieves Guild or end up leaving it to avoid further damage to his reputation.
Brynn sighed as she turned a corner and dragged her captive along a back alley, but she finally spoke up. "Kanrik isn't wanted in Brightvale – as far as we know, he's never actually stolen anything or committed any other crime here. And while we could still arrest him for heading the Thieves Guild or hand him over to one of the countries where he is wanted, we instead grant him amnesty, partially because he seems to keep his thieves enough in line that they don't become dangerous thugs and partially because he's proven to be something of a hero." The corner of her lip twitched into a light smile and she glanced back at him again. "This might surprise you, but he's about as famous outside the world of thieves as within it, and he's pretty well-respected for a criminal. Doing things to help other people tends to do that for a reputation – you should try it sometime."
Hanso snorted indignantly. "Sorry, sweetheart, but heroics aren't my thing."
He was wearing a bit of a smug smile by this point, but it vanished when the figure of a hooded Gelert took shape up ahead. Kanrik's gaze was fixed on him, and it looked absolutely murderous. Hanso pulled back almost instinctively, trying – and failing – to twist out of Brynn's grip.
"Uhh... any chance you'd let me go if I told you I'd been planning to give the gems back?" he asked with a grimace.
Brynn sighed again. "Fat chance. You know, you really should have thought about this before you went and stole from your own guild master."