The Old Switcheroo: Part Two
It was morning and the camp of the Thieves' Guild was bustling with activity. All the members were busying themselves with various tasks, and one could not have taken a step without stumbling into thieves preparing their weapons, consulting maps of the battleground, fighting to retrieve their belongings from their neighbors, counting their socks, or having a very serious nap. However, most of the thieves looked up immediately when their leader entered the main cave for one of his visits.
"Yo, what's up, my Guildies?" Kanrik called out, giving everyone a peace sign.
His greeting was met with a heavy silence and puzzled stares. Then someone whistled and all the thieves began to cheer and to respond using similar vocabulary.
The more experienced thieves could not believe their eyes as Kanrik strolled around with a wide grin plastered on his face, giving out handshakes and fistbumps. A Cybunny prowler walked up to him. "Good to see you, sir. Would you like to go over the plans for the next waves?"
Kanrik turned to look at her. He seemed slightly surprised. "Oh... yes, certainly, let's do that!"
The Cybunny waited for him to lead the way to his quarters, but he just stood there and they stared awkwardly at each other.
"Why don't you go ahead, I'll be right behind you," Kanrik told her hurriedly.
The Cybunny shrugged and started to walk to the leader's quarters, somewhat confused. Kanrik shook a few more hands, then he followed her. They arrived at the same time. She proceeded to go over maps, plans, and the loot catalogue. After a while, the Cybunny noticed that Kanrik hadn't made a single comment. She looked up and was startled to see that the leader was leaning back in his chair and inspecting the tips of his ears for something to do. When he realised that she was staring, he quickly straightened up, cleared his throat and narrowed his eyes to put on a solemn expression.
"That all sounds, er, interesting," Kanrik said in an exaggeratedly deep voice. "But you know what? I feel that today should be a special day for the guild. Why don't you put all that away for now?" He stood up and stretched. "I'll make it a holiday for everyone!" He ruffled the Cybunny's hair and skipped back to the main cave.
"Attention, thieves!" The leader's voice rung out louder than anyone had heard it before. "For today's special tactic, you will all need to taunt the other factions by dancing around their camps, singing out your feelings about them, and throwing their possessions around!" The camp burst into applause.
The Cybunny walked back to her comrades, who were giving her questioning looks. She shrugged in response. "I was close enough to take a good look, and it's really him. I wonder what put him in such a good mood."
One of the younger thieves had walked up to the leader. "Excuse me, sir," she asked, excited, "do you think you could spare some time to visit Socky? I'm sure he'd appreciate it."
Kanrik looked confused. "Socky?"
"You know, the Sockager. You let us keep him, remember?"
"There is... we have a... Sockager?" Kanrik's eyes had an odd glint to them, and his mouth was slowly spreading into a huge smile. "I must see it!" he yelled suddenly, throwing his fist into the air. "Onwards, onwards to Socky!"
The younger thieves were surprised but delighted by his reaction, and they immediately scampered to the Sockager's living quarters. Kanrik walked until he was right in front of the creature. It really was like a Snowager made entirely of socks. "Hello there, Socky!" The Sockager looked up from a pile of thick books that it was sorting through and turned towards Kanrik, who reached out to pet it.
The Sockager growled and sent a blast of its stinky breath that blew Kanrik's cloak away. He was blown back several feet and had to pull his hood over his face.
"That's odd, he usually likes you!" said one of the younger thieves, then added "sir".
Kanrik chuckled nervously. "He's just a bit grumpy today, is all. Feed him well!" More of the thieves looked surprised by the Sockager's reaction.
Kanrik's rescue was brought by a thief holding a Virtupets communication device. "Your contact is on line, sir!"
"Oh, good. I'll take the call," said Kanrik. "See you all later!" He waved at everyone and went back to his living quarters, where he wiped his brow. "That was close." He wasn't familiar with the Virtupets device, as they designed a new one about every month, but this one was simple enough to operate. He flipped the communicator open, read the name on the screen and grinned broadly. He pressed the call button.
"Hello, Hannah," he said in a husky voice. "Did you miss me?"
"Kanrik!" the Usul's face had appeared on the screen. She was in her Kreludor Caves suit, sipping a fizzy orange drink in what looked like Cafe Kreludor. "How are you doing? It sounds like they're celebrating on your side! Did you get any closer to that big rock?"
"We'll be there any day now, I'm sure. I let everyone relax in preparation for our victory party. How have you been, darling?"
Hannah's face fell. "Who are you and what have you done with Kanrik?" she asked.
He chuckled. "It can't do any harm to have a little fun after all that good work. Have you found some nice suits to add to your wardrobe?"
Hannah raised an eyebrow, bewildered. "I was serious. What was the important thing you told me at the end of our last conversation?"
Kanrik's eyes widened. "Erm... bye?"
Hannah pointed at Kanrik threateningly through the screen. "Listen, buster, I don't know who you are or how you pulled off this trick, but what I'm sure of is that you're not the real Kanrik, and I can drop a line about it to some friends in the guild or in Tyrannia at a moment's notice, or come down here myself to make sure."
"No, don't go telling people strange things! All right, all right." Kanrik gave up on the solemn expression and husky voice. "I'm actually Hanso. I can't believe you noticed! Was I that obvious?"
Hannah didn't know what to make of it. "You're kidding me. Can you actually prove who you are?"
He smirked. "Last time Brynn visited you, you spent hours giggling in that wardrobe of yours, playing dress up and listening to M*YNCI."
"All right, all right." Hannah cut him off before he could elaborate. "Let's say you're Hanso. How did you end up in such a convincing Kanrik disguise?"
"I'm actually in his body," said Hanso. Grinning, he pulled something out of his cloak with a dramatic flourish. "Ta-daaah. We were fighting over this - and I was winning, of course - but then it blasted us, we switched somehow, and here I am." He was showing her an ornate tea tray made of a silvery metal with purple filigree. "If I tickle it here, I can make it turn into this, and this!" He rubbed a spot on the tray, which turned into a frying pan of the same material, then a watering can. "But at first, it looked like this." Another bit of rubbing, and it had turned into a large teapot.
Hannah seemed interested in the object, but then she realised something that made her snicker. "Hanso... you and Kanrik were fighting over a teapot?"
Hanso raised one finger to correct her. "Not any teapot, darling. A magic teapot. An ancient teapot recently discovered at the archaeological dig site near the Obelisk."
"That explains it. So you just left Kanrik there in your body?"
"Yes. He was all right, just a bit groggy. And now I am the boss of the guild."
"Of course, you thought of showing the teapot to me, the treasure expert, so that we could find a way to bring both of you back to your own bodies. Right, Hanso?"
Hannah was staring at him intently. Hanso rubbed the back of his head. He was pouting, and the expression looked out of place on Kanrik's usually stern face. "I guess we have to fix it. I mean, I could get used to this, and I'm sure I can do a better job than Kanrik, but... I don't feel as handsome as usual and it's disturbing me."
"Good. You said that the... the teapot blasted you. A body swap isn't an easy spell, even for a faerie. The one who enchanted this item must have been very powerful if there was enough magic left to switch you guys after the time it spent underground. It's a pity you couldn't ask the archaeologists exactly how old it is." Hannah was checking notes that she had entered into another device. She pondered for a moment. "Look, at this point I think there are two possibilities. Do you know if the spell put a mark on you, like for a curse?"
"Nope." Hanso was smirking. "I checked."
Hannah rolled her eyes. "Of course you did. Well, seeing as the artefact doesn't have a faerie or another power source at hand and the spell isn't anchored onto you, I think you can just wait for it to wear off. The stronger the initial blast, the longer it will take. This spell is probably too complex to sustain itself very long."
"Really? That's a relief."
"Give me a call every now and then so that I know you're fine. If it hasn't worn off after a few days, we'll have to find another solution. If you notice any other effects than the body swap, tell me immediately. Try not to make too much of a mess in the guild, improve your acting, and please find Kanrik and make sure he's all right."
Hanso was pulling faces and saying "Nag, nag, nag" over Hannah's advice. "You know what," he replied, "thanks for the help, I'll call you back. Now excuse me, but I have a unique opportunity to have fun in Kanrik's body, and I'm going to take advantage of it. Toodles!"
Hanso hung up, cutting off Hannah in the middle of a sentence. He stretched and managed to make his way to the exit of the camp without causing too much ruckus. "Now that we're done... where are the nearest fangirls?" He spotted some in the distance, grinned and rubbed his hands.
Among the patrons of the Tyrannian hotels and eateries was a number of soldiers from Brightvale. King Hagan couldn't exactly send his army barging into Tyrannia without risking a diplomatic incident of massive proportions. However, a much larger number of soldiers than usual had been granted a week's leave with the understanding that they would join the battle on the Seekers' side. The Seekers had not needed any reinforcements so far, though, and the soldiers were free to enjoy their vacation.
Brynn had been delighted to find a few old friends from her time in the Brightvale guards. After several successful but exhausting artefact retrieval missions, Queen Fyora had sent her and Hanso to Tyrannia. They were supposed to be her eyes and ears, as the Queen was too busy with her new kingdom to inspect the Obelisk, but the main purpose of the trip was undoubtedly to allow Brynn some time off.
Sitting at a terrace on a sun-soaked Tyrannian plaza with two of her Brightvalian friends, Brynn couldn't bring herself to relax completely. Despite his good humor, his promises and his reassurances, Hanso was incorrigible. Now that he had walked out on her to do some things of his own in Tyrannia, it was a relief to spend some time away from him and his unpredictable moods, but Brynn felt oddly lonely. As if she was the only partner in the team. Even though they were supposed to trust each other, she couldn't shake off the feeling that he was up to something behind her back.
The two guards were discussing new and improved Tyrannian weapons and considering adding them to their own arsenal. Suddenly, Brynn's ears perked up. She sat straighter, her tail twitching. A moment passed, and they had heard nothing.
"Brynneth? Did you hear something?" asked one of the guards.
"Ssshhhh," said Brynn, motioning for him to be quiet. "My Hanso senses are tingling."
"Everybody's having a siesta at this hour. It's perfectly quiet."
Brynn pointed at him. "Exactly. It's too quiet. I recognise the signs."
Without further ado, she got up and bade goodbye to her friends, giving up on her afternoon of leisure. She wouldn't be able to rest until she knew what Hanso was up to.
To be continued...
(Note: all credit for the creation of the Sockager goes to Kanrik's Guild of Bandits. Special thanks to moonandflowers for her article describing Socky.)