There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 190,988,152 Issue: 591 | 19th day of Eating, Y15
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Illustria of The Thieves Guild


by moonandflowers

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Illustria pulled her cloak closer around her with one hand, keeping the hood around her face. In the other, she held a small cloth bag, which was full of something apparently heavy. She trekked up the mountain, careful to mask her path as she went. She was just glad the snow hadn't begun to fall yet; she didn't have to worry about leaving footprints in the snow.

      A warm glow was visible up ahead. The Wocky quickened her pace. She'd be safe soon, safe in the thief's cave.

      "You give me those back! I stole them fair and square!" a voice yelled. Illustria entered just in time to get hit in the face by a ball of glitter. It exploded on impact, coating her cloak in purple and silver sparkles.

      Maybe "safe" was a relative term.

      The cave was in bedlam. Glitter bombs flew through the air. Eyes looked through holes in sock piles. Coffee beans were all over the floor. Guild members shouted at each other from across the room, chasing one another.

      "You can have them if you can reach them!" a Lupe taunted, holding several pair of socks over a particularly short Usul's head. She stood on her tip toes, trying to reach them.

      "That's not fair!" she shouted back, beginning to jump for them, even though it was obviously futile.

      "I guess a short thief is a poor thief!" the Lupe laughed. "Oh, hey, Illustria! Welcome back!"

      Illustria, who had been trying to sneak away to her room, deflated a little. Noche never missed anything.

      "Ooh, what's that you got in the sack?" The room went silent.

      Never. Missed. Anything.

      He stopped tormenting Phia about her socks and pranced over. A few of the others did, too. She was expected to share. They looked at her expectantly, waiting. Finally, with a sigh, she dumped the contents onto the floor. Various gems clattered onto the cold floor of the cave, and were snatched up.

      "Pretty!" A few of the thieves surged forward, picking them up and examining them. The others sulked away, grumbling that it wasn't food. Phia held a couple sapphires up to her eyes and looked through them.

      "I could make myself some wicked glasses with these!" she breathed, pocketing them.

      "I was going to give to Kanrik to sell," Illustria replied testily, which got her a few funny looks.

      "These aren't even useful. Who would want them?" A Hissi asked.

      "What do you mean they aren't useful?" Noche scoffed. "Nomad, you should know better. Kanrik would look marvelous with a couple of these on his fingers. We'd show up that Sway Duchess with her fancy ring in no time."

      "Or we could just steal her ring."

      "I would, but it smells like she drowned it in perfume. And anyway, it doesn't sparkle like these do."

      While they talked, Illustria stooped down and gathered up the gems that had been ignored, putting them back into the bag and making her way out of the room. Her tail twitched in irritation as she dumped her spoils onto her bed. Really, it was just a mattress and a pillow with a blanket over top, but it was better than sleeping in a pile of socks, the way almost everyone else slept.

      How did she even get into this mess? Thieves were supposed to be stealthy, quiet, and feared by others.

      "These aren't thieves," she mumbled as she took her cloak off and laid it neatly next to her bed, "they're clowns with dark masks." Making sure her jewels were safely hidden away, she made her way back through the maze of tunnels and to the common room, where everyone had seemed to calm down. No one was throwing anything. There were no unexpected visitors from any of the other factions. The glitter had finally settled from the air. Illustria poured herself a cup of coffee and leaned up against the cave wall, watching a Bori read a book to the giant sock monster. Illustria strained her ears to listen.

      "...but the connotation of the word 'demise' would have us believe that..."

      Seeker book. They must have raided their head quarters while she was out.

      That was the one thing she did appreciate. There were frequent raids on the other factions. Of course, nothing useful was ever stolen. Not intentionally. Anything that looked interesting was snatched up, any warm drink or clean dish replaced with dirty dishes. Books were taken only to read to the sock monster. "They help Socky sleep better," Amii, the Bori, would say as she skipped off with an armload. And no matter who they raided, they'd always come back with enough socks to keep the feet of a small army warm for two weeks on Terror Mountain.

      Socks. They stole socks. That was the highlight of their career for them. Stealing socks.

      Illustria sipped her coffee, about to lose herself in thinking when she saw someone step in from the cold. Her head snapped to attention. Kanrik. A few of the others looked up too, but it wasn't until Noche announced his entrance that everyone was well-aware he had arrived.

      "Kanrik! Good to see you back again, boss. Thieve well?"

      Kanrik looked around the thieves' den, not straying too far from the cave entrance. He stuck to where the wind had blown away the glitter.

      "A cup of coffee." He spoke in a commanding manner, one that Illustria had always expected from a head of a guild of bandits. Still, it always managed to startle her; she'd gotten so used to the others and their nonsense, hearing a voice of authority caught her off-guard. Noche poured a fresh cup and handed to him. He sipped it slowly, thoughtfully. He then waved a hand at the glitter, and Phia pulled a few socks off of one of the sock piles to clear a path for him to the tunnels. He walked as she cleared. "I have something to do. Noche is in charge."

      Just what Illustria wanted to hear. Even their leader asserted no control over over them. He wasn't proud of them by any stretch, at least not outwardly, but he didn't try and get them to act like respectable thieves, either.

      Now that was an interesting oxymoron. Respectable thieves.

      Illustria slumped back against the wall, sinking to the floor. She took another sip of her coffee, which had started to go cold. She didn't care too much.

      "That's right, I'm in charge!" Noche said triumphantly. "So the first order of business is to give all of your socks to me!"

      "Come and get them yourself!" someone else called. The challenge issued, chaos ensued once again. Illustria watched from her seat, stoic. She didn't even flinch when Noche pulled her socks off of her feet with a quick "I'll take these!". It was only when she noticed the second figure in the doorway that her demeanor changed.

      "Sway!" she yelled, standing. The cave went quiet, but only for a moment. Everyone turned to the sharply dressed Roo. They then rushed towards him.

      "Hey, glad to see you here!"

      "Excuse me, I'll take your socks..."

      "What a pretty watch you have, I'd sure like it."

      "Enough!" he said finally in a booming voice that quieted them. "I bring a message from The Duchess. She demands you speak with the Order about their constant magic use on our head quarters."

      "Well, why not?" Noche shrugged after a moment. "We haven't visited the Order in a while."

      "What?" Illustria demanded, finally snapping. "We are thieves! We are not messengers! We are no one's dogs, especially not the Sway's!" She knew she was making a scene, but she was too enraged to care. "You call yourselves The Thieves Guild, but you don't act like it! You know what thieves do? They don't make a racket, they sneak. They steal, and I don't mean socks, I mean valuables."

      "It seems to me," the Sway member cut in, "that you have joined the wrong faction."

      "You listen here, and you listen good," Illustria fumed. "I have always admired this guild. Always. And I couldn't wait to be old enough to join in. I've spent years on my technique, landing me on a few 'wanted' posters. When the war came and the Thieves were taking new recruits, I was ecstatic. I didn't join the 'wrong faction.' I over estimated just how amazing this faction was."

      Silence. Several thieves looked down at their feet. From the back of the room, someone cleared their throat.

      Illustria whirled around to face them, ready to defend her argument, then exhaled quickly, eyes wide.

      Kanrik.

      The Sway member, upon seeing the master thief, fled. No one noticed.

      The room stood still.

      "Illustria. Walk with me." He looked her straight in the eye when he talked.

      She could feel the eyes of everyone on her as they walked through the caves. And she knew there would be eavesdropping involved. Kanrik apparently suspected this too, because it was a long while before he said anything.

      "I want you to tell me what you think makes a good thief."

      Illustria paused. This was a test, she knew it had to be. "Cunning, nimble, agile, light-fingered, silver-tongued--"

      "And what makes the Guild better than any other group of thieves?" he interrupted. Another pause.

      "It's so well-known and yet you haven't been caught. You're all very good at what you do. People don't fear you, like most groups."

      "We function well because everyone here has a different skill set. Admittedly, most of these skill sets are used for stealing socks." He sounded a little bit resentful about this. "Nonetheless, for all the nonsense that goes on, we are all dedicated. When they fight for this war, they fight for us. They fight in their own, nonsensical style. If I were to give them an assignment, they'd do it." He stopped walking and turned to her. "Every one of my thieves is valuable to me. No matter what their skills are, no matter what they like to steal, no matter how rambunctious they get, I know that when it comes down to it, I can rely on them." He paused. "They take a while to get used to, but you'll find your place. I have faith in you." He nodded, then gestured that he was done speaking with her. She bowed her head slightly.

      "Thank you. I understand."

      She made her way back to the common room, feeling a little more part of the thieves already.

The End

 
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