Thief and a Hero: Part One
Author's Note: After seeing Kanrik's cameo in Chapter 7 and the Epilogue of "The Faeries' Ruin," the first question that came to my mind was "Now, how would be Leader of the Thieves' Guild allow himself to be pick pocketed?" Here is my answer, and homage to Kanrik's brief appearance in this plot, and to the plot itself.
He could taste the potential in the air.
Hanso crouched in a bush on the outskirts of the market that set up shop at the foot of Brightvale Castle every Sunday. Marketplaces were usually grimy, plebeian affairs, reserved for the bargaining of goods, old potatoes, and were only to be found in kingdoms such as Meridell – so thought King Hagan. However, this sort of market, so long as it was not abused or made a permanent structure, was more than acceptable. All the knowledge in the world could be bought and sold in these stalls. Books that usually went for unthinkable neopoints went for practically nothing around here. Knowledge and the pursuit of it practically grew on the trees. It was a thief's playground. So many first editions to be stolen, so many priceless works to be counterfeited and then sold for billions in Neopia Central!
Hanso, the blue Ixi with a mop of blue hair for a cowlick, smirked. Today, he knew, would be a good day. He was already seeing some familiar faces.
He knew all the Brightvale Guards from the castle by name and how many kids they each had. He had stolen from every shop at least three times and even vender who came from the four corners of Neopia knew him pretty well by now. He was an old face. They were old faces.
Once in a while there crept into his mind the question of why he had not moved on to more fertile soil. True, he was the greatest thief in Brightvale. But it was Brightvale. The land of the law-abiding intellectuals. It was nothing to the competition or the prestige he could get on Krawk Island, let alone at the headquarters of the Thieves' Guild itself. If anything, it was detrimental to his career that he didn't go out in the world, instead choosing to be a small-town thief rather than the Neapolitan Reprobate he knew he could be.
A recollection in the form of a ginger mane momentarily wafted into his memory, coupled with the name and face of one Brightvale Guard who was not yet settled down with children. Hanso shook his head, trying to get rid of the flood of butterflies he always seemed to get when thinking about those bright blue eyes-
Hanso blinked. Could it...? No. Of course not. But there, in the shadows, just behind in that alleyway... was it?
A blue Gelert with a scar across his cheek, a hero of the War of the Ice Caves, and the Leader of the Thieves' Guild –Kanrik was standing just across the way from him, half hidden in any alley behind some crates with bottles while he, Hanso, just across the well paved market-full street, sat in a bush. He could not believe it. It was every small-town thief's dream come true.
No. Not every small-town thief's dream. Hanso's. Hanso's especially because... well, because Kanrik was the only Neopet in the history of Neopia to be a villain – a thief no less – to become a hero, and to make it work. He had won the respect of all. An amazing achievement. What would it be like to have that much respect among the law abiding as well as among the rogues? What would it be like to be trusted by...
Again, the ginger mane flashed before his eyes, and Hanso was actually about to smack himself for it, but stopped as the realization that a ginger mane had actually just flashed before his eyes, and that its owner was now picking her way between the stalls and crowds and book lovers. He blinked after her. Brynn....
For a moment his head pivoted between the orange Kougra in a Brightvale guard's gear, slowly disappearing into the crowd, and the blue Gelert in a heavy hood and cape, threatening to disappear into the shadows at any instant.
And just like that Hanso's plan was formed.
Now, there comes a time in a Neopet's life when he has to square his shoulders and ask himself honestly – or as honesty as a thief could, anyway – what was he willing, truly willing, to give up for someone he cared for? For a thief – a most selfish individual – this was a particularly harsh question to face. Still, Hanso faced it:
Am I willing to make a fool out of myself in front of my idol for the sake of...
A last sidelong look down the street assured him that she, Brynn, had stopped and fallen into animated conversation with one of the venders.
It was now or never.
He darted out from under the bush. Close to the ground, the brass buckles of his coat scraping the well paved street, he slithered rather than crawled along the stalls, under a passing wagon to get across the street, through a very tight pull between two wagons that held the most pristine looking oak bookshelves Hanso had ever seen and then... he made it. For a moment, Hanso simply paused to revel in the moment. He was crouched behind the wooden wheel of a cart, only now, rather than being across the street from his shadow-clad idol, he was behind him. On the same side of the street and behind him. And Kanrik, leader of the Thieves Guild, had no idea!
For a moment it made Hanso dizzy. He could already see the awe on Brynn's face as he made his swift escape through the marketplace, leaving the world's greatest thief in the dust! How Kanrik himself, after some initial anger, would recognize the worth of such a young, handsome, and daring thief! He would ask Hanso back to the Ice Caves as his apprentice. No! Second in command! He would have the recognition that he always knew he deserved, and which only certain circumstances had kept from him...
...And Brynn... She would cry. Yes! She would beg him not to leave. All of a sudden Hanso could see it all. She... she would send the guards after him! But he would be too smart for them (as usual), and just as Brynn would think that he was gone forever, and had left her, he... he would race a stolen horse, and sweep her off her feet and take her off to the Thieves' Guild and... and... it would be perfect!
His head completely spinning now, Hanso skulked forward, appraising his victim through glazed eyes, looking for anything that might be worth the stealing. Kanrik crossed his arms, and sighed in seeming irritation. As he did so, he famous cloak slid back somewhat, and a flash of violet caught what had to be the only light in that dark alley. Hanso squinted... What was that thing? A one... no, two gem bobble, attached so some kind of leather strap. The stones... they had already been cut and refined, and they were beautiful. And they looked very precious. Hanso smirked. Bingo.
He could hardly believe it. It was just too perfect. Not only was he stealing from the Leader of Thieves, but he was stealing something like this from him? Brynn would die! Hanso edged closer. He could just see the color draining from her face as Kanrik would have to describe the lost item to her. How priceless it must be, and how only a truly skilled thief could have snuck it out from under his grasp. Almost there now... Those gems, they were so bright. In fact, Hanso doubted that he'd ever seen anything brighter or more beautiful, except of course for Brynn's own bright blue ey-
A hand, which had just a moment ago been comfortably crossed across its master's chest, came crushing down on Hanso's own hand which was, at this moment, edged under Kanrik's cloak and just brushing against the violet gems that he had been so sure of stealing. There was a snap, crackle and pop, and Hanso felt his knuckle's cracking beneath his skin as the vice grip tightened.
"Word to the wise, boy," the Gelert growled out, not even looking down at his victim. "Best to keep your head in the game, if you want to stay alive."
Hanso swallowed. He'd messed up. But why? How could he have slipped up now? At a time like this? Whatever the reason, it was going to cost him. Kanrik twisted his arm and, with a whimper, Hanso was forced out of the crouch he'd been in and into a bent stand in front of the Leader of the Thieves' Guild. This was humiliating. He'd messed up. And in front of his idol. His idol. What would Kanrik think of him now. Hanso looked into the dirt, ashamed. The only real reminder that he was even here was the pain shooting up his wrist.
"...You know who I am?" his idol growled.
To be continued...