Acquisitions Specialists: Part Four
"Hmm, I do recall seeing an object of that description a couple of weeks ago." Princess Amira sat forward on her throne as she addressed Brynn and Hanso. The two had secured a meeting with her this morning to ask after the Scarab Medallion. "I believe it was recognized to have possibly belonged to my father, and so we placed it in the vaults."
"So, is it possible for us to take a look?" Brynn asked.
"You think it is some dangerous artifact, you said?"
"Yes, Queen Fyora just sent us to make sure it is properly taken care of."
While Amira sat in thought, one of the members of her court came up behind the throne and cleared her throat. "And, pardon me, but how do we know what you say is true?"
Brynn turned to address the old Acara. "Well, Queen Fyora is reasonably sure it is a cursed object that was long ago lost from the protection of the Faeries. She only wishes that it be returned before it can do any harm to Sakhmet."
"Oh, goodness knows I have had enough with ancient curses." Amira remarked.
The Acara spoke again. "Your Highness, you cannot seriously be considering granting their request?"
"Er, I'm sorry." Hanso spoke up for the first time since they came into the room. He had politely stayed quiet and let Brynn handle things so far, but... "Who are you, exactly?"
The Acara took a few steps forward and gave a short and sarcastic bow. "Senator Barca, advisor to the Princess."
"Barca," Amira interrupted before Hanso could respond and enrage her advisor further. "You know I value your counsel. But what harm could it do to just let them take a look and confirm their suspicions?"
Barca had a sour look on her face. "But Your Highness, what they are asking is disrespectful. We cannot make a habit of letting strangers stroll into our vaults and take whatever they may please, simply on their word."
"We would not ask such a thing without good reason, but Queen Fyora really thinks--"
Barca cut Brynn off, "Should Fyora not have other concerns? I have heard what has happened in Faerieland of late. It is my understanding that the Faeries are not in much of a position to demand anything, at the moment." She raised an eyebrow at Brynn, challenging her to say more.
Brynn just stared back, unsure of what to say.
Amira, however, still looked concerned. "But what of this curse, Barca? You know what happened the last time I ignored such things... I have no wish to repeat the experience."
"I do not think we have much to fear, Princess. After all, this Medallion that these two claim to be cursed has already been with us for over a fortnight. If nothing unfortunate has happened yet, it is unlikely anything ever will."
Amira still looked unconvinced. Brynn wondered what exactly happened this "last time" to make her so wary, but this was the wrong time to pry.
Hanso, however, frowned. "A fortnight?" he asked. "Hang on--"
"AMIRA!" The doors of the room slammed open, and a very angry looking Usul stormed in. "Did you take my gold mirror? I told you to not touch my things and you..." She trailed off and settled for glaring at Amira, seemingly unaware of the rest of the room.
"Vyssa! I am in the middle of a meeting, so if you don't mind?" Amira stood and glared right back.
Vyssa did not look like she was going to move anytime soon. "I am glad that my concerns fall behind those of complete strangers, sister," she said dryly.
Sister? Hanso asked Brynn, silently. She gave him a look to be quiet. This was not their battle.
Amira gave a big exasperated sigh, looking nothing like the regal princess she was moments before. "I didn't take your mirror, you little brat. You probably just lost it in that horrible mess of a room."
Vyssa looked like she was about to explode, but Barca stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Princess, I would be happy to accompany you and search for your mirror. I know how important it is to you."
"Oh finally, someone here sees sense!" Vyssa threw her hands up and stalked back out of the room, waving for Barca to follow.
Barca gave Brynn a cold smile. "I think we were done here anyway."
Hanso bristled. "No, we really were not."
Amira still looked frustrated. "I need to go deal with that, sorry." She walked to the door that Vyssa had slammed open. "Barca, take care of things will you?"
"But," Brynn protested, "what about the Medallion? And the vaults? Should we come back tomorrow?"
As Amira left, Barca gestured to two of the guards standing against the far wall, a malicious glee in her eyes. "Oh, I don't really think that will be necessary."
"Ow..." Brynn rubbed at the elbow she fell on after Barca's guards threw them out of the palace. She saw Hanso stand up and glared at him. "Don't. Say. Anything."
"I wasn't going to," he said lightly and stuck out a hand to help her up. "But, are you ready to try that other method now?"
Brynn patted some sand off her tunic. "I don't see what other options we have, so I guess we'll go try what Nabile suggested. I doubt that Barca will let us anywhere near Amira again, never mind the vaults."
"Yeah. But did you catch what she said about the Medallion?"
"You mean other than the bit where she said we can't take it?"
Hanso looked thoughtful. "A couple of weeks ago, she said. The Medallion has been in the vaults for a fortnight."
"That crazy Usul out in the desert. He said that Coltzan's spirit had not been seen for a fortnight."
Brynn looked dubious. "You think they're connected somehow?"
"Possibly. We never did find out what kind of curse the Medallion brings."
"Well, maybe you're right." Brynn allowed. "But I guess it doesn't really matter unless we can get to it somehow." She took out the ring that Nabile had given her back in Qasala. "Let's go see if we can find this trapdoor, then."
A short while later, after squeezing through the crowded Sakhmet market and stopping Hanso pilfering from the food stall, Brynn stopped and looked at the ground. "I guess this is it," she said, tracing the outline of a trapdoor with her finger. At Hanso's shrug, she gave it four solid knocks and sat back to wait.
She did not have to wait long. A moment later, the door opened and a red Zafara peered at them from below ground. "Eh, and who are you, then?"
Brynn handed her the ring. "Nabile sent us, she said Horace could help us with something?"
The Zafara scrutinized the ring. "And what can Horace help you with?"
"Can we do this inside, maybe?" Hanso asked quietly. He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at some palace guards on patrol.
The Zafara glanced at the guards, then gave the two of them a long look. "Alright then, if Nabile said so." She retreated back down, and the two of them scrambled in after her.
When Brynn's eyes adjusted to the gloom, she saw that they were actually in some sort of cellar.
The Zafara seemed to interpret her curious look. "This is actually the storage cellar for the food stall," she explained, amused, and pointed at a Grarrl stacking crates in the corner. "He owes us, basically."
The Grarrl did not look happy to share his workspace with a bunch of street urchins, but said nothing.
"I'm Zina, by the way," the Zafara continued. "That's Horace."
"So I hear you were asking for me?"
Brynn turned and saw a young Blumaroo sitting behind a table. "You're Horace?" She asked.
"Suppose I am. And you are?"
"I'm Brynn, and this is Hanso."
"Brynn and Hanso, then." Horace said. "What can I help you with?" Zina had handed him Nabile's ring, and he took a good look before putting it in his pocket.
And so Brynn summarized the last few days. "Then that Barca threw us out of the palace, and I really don't think she'll let us back in to ask again. So we need a way into the vaults to get the Medallion. Nabile said one of you might know how?"
"Hmm, maybe." Horace waved at a Lutari to come over. "This is Darien, talk to him if you want to be sneaking into the palace." And with that he left through the trapdoor with Zina in tow.
Brynn blinked at the abrupt exit, then turned to Darien. He looked a bit young to know how to sneak into that fortress of a palace, but then she thought of how young Hanso must have been when he started and decided not to say anything.
"Ah don't mind Horace, he doesn't take well to strangers. Good thing you had that ring! So you want to get into the palace vaults? Well!" Darien went on without waiting for an answer, and Brynn struggled to keep up with the stream of words. "They all said I was crazy but I swear this could work! There's a gate in the back, see? Right around here." He started drawing a crude sketch of the palace walls. Brynn got lost a couple of minutes into his rapid speech, but Hanso seemed to take everything in, nodding once in a while and asking a few questions.
After a while, though, even Hanso seemed a little confused. "Er, sorry, not familiar with how that's laid out. Say, Darien, how about you come with us?" Seeing his hesitation, Hanso continued, "Maybe there's something in the vaults in it for you, as well?"
Brynn looked disapproving at the plan for extra thievery, but said nothing. They probably needed the Lutari to help them, after all.
Darien still looked nervous about the prospect. Hanso tried again, "But you said your plan was foolproof, didn't you? So there's nothing to be afraid of, right?"
"Right. Right!" Darien shook his head. "It's just... the palace, I mean, the markets are one thing but... I've never actually snuck in before."
Brynn wondered at what he meant by that, but Hanso just clapped a hand on Darien's shoulder with a grim smile. "Not to worry, young Darien. I'm sure everything will turn out just fine!"
Brynn wasn't sure she believed that. She wasn't sure even Hanso believed that. But still, she hoped that he was right.
To be continued...