King of the Land of the Sun: Part Two
Kelland looked around the room even more furtively than usual. The blue Techo said, "I've had some word from my contacts. The Thieves' Guild is trying to move further into Altador."
Jazan frowned. "They've been doing a lot lately. We had a few try to set themselves up in Qasala three months ago."
Kelland nodded. "Could we talk somewhere else? No offense meant, Your Majesties."
Altador said, "They might be helpful. I know you've both worked successfully with thieves in the past."
Jazan actually smiled. "Yes, indeed."
Altador lead them down the stairwell and into the Hall of Heroes again. Jazan walked slowly around the edge circle of statues and Amira took a seat on a bench as Kelland began, "There've been several sightings of known Guild members – thought some of them were ones thought to be out of favor. Don't know what to make of that myself. But all the rest of the evidence seems to say that the Thieves' Guild are trying to use Altador as a new hub for their operations. There are a lot of old ruins in the mountains here, and in the empty lands between Altador and Shenkuu from the days of Jahbal and even earlier. That's not so bad by itself. I wouldn't blame a man for picking up something lying around with no one to watch over it."
Altador grinned. "Because, of course, that's all you would ever pick up."
Kelland gave him an innocent smile. "Of course, my lord. But it's the Thieves' Guild. You know how most of that sort are. One day they're merely passing around stolen jewelry. The next day they're running off or even harming street urchins because they're 'competition.' And the day after that they're trying to get into a city's politics so they can rob it without even needing to climb in windows."
Amira nodded. "We've got trouble like that in Sakhmet. The urchins and the street thieves are far more frightened by the Thieves' Guild than the guards."
Jazan nodded – while he had his back to them, he was clearly listening. "That's because the guards have rules."
Kelland continued, "I've met Kanrik before. Not a bad sort. But Galem Darkhand was one of the nastier brutes who's ever drawn breath, Masila's slyer than any snake and she's still alive, and all in all there are enough of that bad old batch still around that I wouldn't trust your average Thieves' Guild representative farther than I could throw them. I'll take a thief who's in it for the adventure. I'll even take a thief who's in it for the money. But when you get a thief who's in it for the power, you get a Fyora-forsaken nightmare."
Altador sighed. But at least they knew about the Thieves' Guild now, instead of after they've caused even more trouble. "We'll have to go out into the city. Figure out where they are and what they're up to."
Jazan offered, "Several Thieves' Guild members have warrants in Qasala. I'll see if anyone you find is due to spend time in our dungeons."
Amira nodded. "We don't have as many warrants – but I'll cooperate as much as I can. That's the whole reason we're here, after all."
Kelland asked, "Do you need me here, lord? I thought I'd bring you the news at once, but I'd like to find out a little more. I have some more contacts I can talk to who might have more news – a little more about what the Thieves' Guild's aim is here. They're never after just one thing." He spat. "Bunch of sneaking serpents. Give an honest thief a bad taste in his mouth."
Jazan nodded. Kelland looked at him askance and said, "I thought you don't like thieves."
Jazan corrected, "I don't like Fyora's Master Thief. And it's not because he's a thief. It's because he's an arrogant, irritating, immature, attention-seeking pain."
Altador couldn't help but laugh at the unflattering – yet not untrue – description of Hanso. Jazan continued, "That's the sort of thing Nabile says about the Thieves' Guild as well. I think I could be of use to you, Altador. If you need an extra sword in this business, I'll be ready."
And that was what Altador liked about the younger king. He wasn't a particularly friendly man. But he was loyal, and he was definitely a man that Altador wouldn't mind having at his side in a fight.
Amira said, "I ought to return to the reception before Dacon and Enarka start arguing with anyone."
Jazan sighed. "Mirzah is probably already starting her own arguments. Please tell her that if she causes any trouble she'll be babysitting for a month."
Amira delicately raised one eyebrow. "And if she changes me into a Geb?"
Jazan sighed once more as Kelland snickered. "That counts as causing trouble."
Amira smiled wryly and ascended the stairs once again. Kelland looked up at Altador and Jazan – the thief was fairly short. "Thank you for your help, King Jazan. Where there's Thieves' Guild, there's magic, and I'd be willing to bet that it'll be magic that's more your kind than Jerdana's."
Jazan nodded curtly. "Most likely." He put a hand to the sword at his waist – a long, curved desert saber. Altador hadn't worn his own sword, but Jazan seemed to take pleasure in being intimidating.
Two children in ragged clothes that were too large for them ran into the Hall of Heroes. There was a blue Kyrii girl and an orange Lutari boy – the girl was probably slightly older, but neither was above the age of ten. The girl cried, "Kelland! Kelland! Auntie Nymala said we were to find you, quick as we could!"
Kelland went to them and put one hand on each of their shoulders. Altador watched. He wanted to do the same – to pick up those little ones in his arms and reassure them that no more harm would come to them – but he had to stand, and watch, as Kelland asked, "What's wrong, Hestra? What's happened?"
Altador knew of Nymala – he was certain that everyone did. The old Eventide Kougra sold flowers down by the entrance to the Coliseum. The girl said, "Constantine and Tristan..."
Kelland interrupted, "Oh, those two." Altador heartily agreed. They were supposedly squires, but their main occupation was running through the city causing trouble. They were good boys, and well-liked by the city-folk, it was true, but they lacked the attention to their duty that would have been preferred in boys in their position.
Altador looked more closely at the girl – Hestra – as she continued her tale. She had reddish hair, and her blue eyes were eerily pale in her darker blue face. "There were some foreign jerks down in the market by the Coliseum. Not the tourist types there for the games. They were wearing cloaks, even in this heat, and they were armed.
"Laila was down there, picking pockets – you know how it is." Altador nodded along with Jazan and Kelland. Pickpocketing was one of the most common things for a street urchin to turn to, and these two lean children had that look about them. "And one of those foreigners came up to her and grabbed her. She hadn't been near him! He told her that this was Thieves' Guild territory now, and if she didn't give them her haul they'd give her to the guards.
"Tristan and Constantine, they were there and they saw it. Constantine came up and punched the foreigner and three of his buddies jumped Constantine. You know Tristan. As soon as Constantine jumped in, he did too, and they all fought and Tristan and Constantine are good, but the foreigners were better, and they all got away. Tristan and Constantine got the worst of it, and Auntie Nymala is taking care of them, but she said we needed to find you because if it was coming to fists already she didn't know where it would end!"
Kelland said, "She was right to send you to me. This is bad. I knew about the Thieves' Guild moving in, but if they're already trying to scare off the other thieves they're moving faster than I thought. The Council and I will get to the bottom of this, I promise."
The little boy, Julius, had been watching in silence. Now he said, "But Hestra, you said the only one on the Council who cared was Kelland! You said you heard the Wave say that all of us ought to be run out of town!"
Altador decided it was time for him to step in. "I know that Marak takes a hard view of justice. It serves the sea-people well. But the land is a little different. I give you my word, sworn upon my sword, that the Thieves' Guild will be dealt with."
They hadn't even noticed him, and their eyes widened. Altador said, "Kelland, go upstairs and get these two whatever you can carry from the reception. Come back quickly."
Kelland grinned widely. "Sneak up, grab the food, and leave. That's my kind of party!"
Jazan said, "I wish I could do that more often."
Kelland nodded. "Food for all then. Any requests, Jaz? Can I call you Jaz?"
"Absolutely not." Hestra and Julius both giggled as Kelland sidled away from Jazan's glare. And when Jazan turned to the children, his eyes softened. "I give my word as well." He sat at the base of the statue of Torakor. "What shall we do first?"
Altador said, "I think we'll need to go talk to Laila, Constantine, and Tristan. They'll be able to give us descriptions. They will probably want to help, as well, and we're in no position to be turning down anyone who might want to help us. Trying to catch a thief is like pinning a sunbeam."
Julius beamed proudly. "I'm that fast."
Hestra elbowed him. "Not here, Julius!"
Kelland returned, bearing a basket that looked heavy and a long loaf of bread under each arm. "Food for all! Come on, kiddos, have some dates. I've got olives and honey, too." As the children rushed the food, Kelland put his hand out. "Ready to go?"
Altador laid his hand on top of Kelland's, and Jazan, with an entirely unfriendly grin, laid his hand on top of Altador's. The Kyrii king said, "I've never liked bullies." Altador nodded his agreement.
Kelland's answering grin was every bit as merciless. "Let's get 'em."
To be continued...