Stealing Hearts -- a Krawk Island Valentine
In the Month of Awakening, Masila found it necessary to
alter her routine slightly and select a different table, in order to get out of
the way of the Valentine's Day decorations. The Krawk Island version of Valentine's
Day was... interesting, to say the least, and a bit messy. Pirates handled jewelry
well enough, but flowers, hearts, and lace.... Let's just say that flowers didn't
do too well in salt air, hearts seemed more likely to have belonged to an object
of enmity than affection, and you didn't want lacing anywhere near your drink.
Masila felt right at home, actually.
She had been lurking in the tavern on Krawk Island
on a regular basis for some months. She had her own table in the shadows, which
no one else had tried to take after the first three weeks. She had systematically
tried each of the dishes and drinks and now had a decent usual, a more expensive
favorite which would be conspicuous to order too often, and several alternatives
to keep the staff from growing too complacent. She had a handful of customers
who were occasionally willing to pay for her expertise at some of her less impressive
poisons, and given the tendency of pirates with coin to carry around a great
deal more of it than was strictly necessary to buy dinner, she did legitimate
work mainly to keep anyone from starting to wonder where she got her Dubloons.
The green Acara was not entirely pleased about
being Known there, but it was a natural consequence of spending too much time
in one place. And strictly speaking, she was Recognized, but definitely not
Known. No one had the first clue about the real extent of her abilities or her
motives. And Masila was definitely pleased on the one or two occasions when
that blithely oblivious Usul Hannah lent a hand to the busy tavern-girls and
served her drinks.
She was sipping one and eating a Stuffed Fish
Head, which she strongly suspected was the missing part of the more expensive
Headless Horsefish at the more exclusive Golden Dubloon up the beach, when a
shadow escaped from the alarmingly pink-bedecked wall and approached her from
behind. Masila tilted her shiny stein for a better, if distorted, view, then
took a long drink, set it down, and waited until the shadow was nearly at her
elbow before greeting it.
"Kanrik," she murmured. "I understand you've
been busy since you last saw me." Busy fawning over Hannah, at first, but this
was the first time he'd turned up here. Busy after that... well, logically
a thief of his ambition and ability, after killing Galem, would have moved into
the power vacuum at the top of the Thieves' Guild. His clothing, while worn
enough to denote use and avoid excessive attention, was in good enough condition
that he must have been making a fair success of it. "Why don't you sit down?"
She would have been unsurprised if he'd given
her a reason, but instead the dark Gelert sat, cloak falling quietly around
the other chair. "Masila," he replied. "I do believe you're the only person
in the tavern who isn't eating something red or pink."
That was not at all one of the ways she'd expected
him to start the conversation, and after a moment she allowed herself to laugh.
"I believe they get most of their food from Mystery Island, so there are plenty
of choices for either a sweet tooth or heartburn. And they seem surprisingly
enthusiastic about the holiday."
"I noticed that. Interesting decorations. A bit
messy, and more than a bit ostentatious."
"The pirates seem to like ostentation." They
had little patience for anything fancy or fussy, but however rough their decor
or behavior, it was certainly showy.
Kanrik lifted his head to catch the bartender's
eye, and the two thieves saved their conversation until after Kanrik had bought
himself a drink and a fish. And a second drink for Masila. Hmm. Either he was
trying to poison her, which would be more than usually foolish, or he wanted
something. "Careless with their gold, aren't they?" he asked softly.
Masila smiled. "You've noticed? I suppose paying
too much attention would imply they couldn't just go out and capture more. Their
idea of economy is boasting entertainingly enough that someone else buys their
"Hm." Kanrik chuckled and cut into his fish.
"Maybe that's why Hannah was prancing about on the tables the night I
"I suppose you came here looking for her?" Masila
didn't quite snap, but she had, she thought, spoken too quickly. It would be
difficult to carry out her planned revenge if she gave the game away. She'd
known Kanrik would be suspicious if he found her here, but that was no reason
not to act natural.
"No," Kanrik said, his voice low and unexpectedly
warm, "I came here looking for you."
Masila gave him a more direct look than she had
so far, appraising. This was different. Kanrik had found her fascinating before,
but confident as he was at his work, he had known his place in the guild (liking
it was another matter), had recognized her superior experience, and had never
approached her. She'd done any approaching.
But, of course, if she guessed correctly, he
held a rather different place in the guild now.
The pup might just be growing up at last.
"And just why would you do that?" she parried.
"Your accuracy in finding me is interesting, but I suppose it wasn't too difficult.
I was having a pleasant, if raucous, vacation. I believe I like the beaches
here better than on Mystery Island." Her eyes narrowed. "Is there Guild business?"
"You weren't too difficult to find, no. It merely
took a bit of interest and a long ear." His own long ears twitched forward,
then swiftly back before they could dip themselves in his drink. The left one
narrowly missed someone else's. "Perhaps it's Guild business. Perhaps it's personal.
They overlap, at times." He raised one eyebrow, the expression pulling at the
scar on his muzzle. "Why assume I was looking for Hannah?"
"Well," Masila said, "you must admit, this is
a more natural place to look for her than for me. I understand it's been her
haunt for quite some time."
"You came here to watch her, not for a vacation,"
Kanrik said softly. "Don't think I don't know."
It would have been so much more convenient if
he had come here looking for Hannah. But had he come to protect the Usul,
or were there other reasons? Did he think he could charm Masila? "As you say,"
she murmured, "Hannah puts on quite a show."
"So she does."
"And will you be joining her throng of admirers?
I understand she won't be the only one dancing on Valentine's Day."
"I imagine Hannah has a surfeit of admirers,"
Kanrik said, sounding amused. "I doubt you lack for them, either, but yours
may be more guarded. You tend to be intimidating."
She knew Kanrik. She somehow doubted he'd say
that, with or without this newly enhanced confidence, if she still intimidated
him. "Why, thank you. Still, you seemed quite cozy with her last time
I saw you -- or at any rate you were fighting on her side."
Kanrik shrugged. "She and the Bori lad shared
their fire -- with some persuasion -- after you poisoned me and left me in the
"I did not poison you," Masila said, nettled.
"I drugged you. If I had poisoned you, you would be dead. If I hadn't drugged
you, you would be dead, too."
"I had a plan."
She snorted. After letting loose the Bringer
of Night and getting caught, he had tried to sneak a dagger close to Galem.
With his arms tied, no less. Of course she'd had to intervene, telling Galem
that banishment would be worse and making it look likely that Kanrik would die
anyway, of cold or wild Snow Beasts. "What were you thinking? Galem wouldn't
have let you get away with pulling a dagger during your own execution, even
if your guards let you think you had hidden it adequately. One of them had probably
already tipped him off. You should leave the plans to me, my dear."
"Your most recent plan had just backfired rather
spectacularly, mostly on me," Kanrik said drily. "Fool that I was to play along."
So loosing the Bringer had been her idea. Even
so, the business with the dagger had been stupid. "I did think it might
"And you set me up to take the fall in case it
"I didn't let you die of it."
"Yes, yes, it all ended well enough." Kanrik
drained his mug. "Still, even if I know better than to trust you, I miss your
planning. Is there a way I might persuade you to end your little pirate vacation?"
Masila gave him a long look. "Convince me," she
said slowly, "that you don't prefer Hannah." She returned her gaze to her drink.
The second one, now, that Kanrik had bought her. It wasn't poisoned. "Then I
might consider it."
Kanrik snorted, choked slightly on his fish,
but managed to recover with a minimum of fuss. "Prefer Hannah? Is that what
you think?" He shook his head and curled his paws around the empty mug, gaze
moving up to where the Usul was laughing her way through some story with a pirate
Acara blind in both eyes. "She reminds me of my sister," he said softly and
a bit distantly. "Lively, musical... though my sister was, believe it or not,
a bit more sheltered."
"Was?" Masila asked.
"She's dead." Kanrik looked back at her. "She
died, and nearly my entire village died, of a plague. I didn't become a thief
until afterward." He lowered his eyes to his plate. "The dancing, the singing,
every now and again some other, smaller thing Hannah did would bring the past
to mind. I managed well enough to lose her in the tomb, but when I ran into
her again and found that some curse or other had struck her...." He sighed.
"Watching her collapse and fade was all too familiar. And I did rather like
her. I had to do something."
"An interesting weakness."
"Hers? Or are you suggesting that vulnerability
to musical female Neopets who keel over and pass out could be a general problem
for me?" Kanrik smiled wryly at her, the pensiveness gone. "I'll try not to
make a habit of it."
"And you're sure Hannah's no more to you than
"A bit less. I'm certainly not planning to treat
her any more like a sister than I have," Kanrik said. "I understand her uncle
killed her grandfather and she may have blown up the uncle, and while I wouldn't
mind having the gem they were all quarreling over, I'm not interested in family
"Would that be the Mermaid's Tear? I think I've
heard the story." Masila smiled and added just above a whisper, "If we get it,
we should definitely leave Krawk Island."
"Naturally." Kanrik looked up and around for
someone to wait on them. "In the meantime, why don't we order something pink?"