It Takes a Thief: Part Nine
Hanso was typically honest with himself, even when he was lying to everyone else. It tended to keep him from doing things that he'd view as stupid later. And right now he knew that he was in deep trouble. He was no fighter. His main strategies were first, to avoid getting caught in to start out with, and second, to run like he had rabid Werhonds on his tail. And now he was stuck in a fight, and with a sinking feeling he realized that he was the weakest link. Even Nabile and Hannah were better with knives than he was.
Well, he'd ended up here. And he wasn't going to get out of here without fighting. And even though he wasn't much good at fighting, he also knew that he didn't want to look like a coward in front of Brynn. Everyone else could go kiss a Meepit, but he wouldn't disappoint Brynn.
He ran with the others toward the obelisk as Brynn shouted, "Plan! What's the plan? Do we have a plan?"
Mirzah shouted back, "Jazan and I will take the Faerie! The rest of you, get everyone else!"
Hanso said, "I want a new plan."
Hannah nodded. "Me, too."
Paselle flipped out those long, jagged blades of hers, and Hanso took a few quick steps back. The Cybunny grinned fiercely. "Fight 'em, then pick their pockets when they're down? Sounds perfect!"
And that was why he hadn't minded having to leave the Thieves' Guild – because everyone in it was completely and totally insane.
The camp was still in confusion – Hanso could see that his own companions were trying to head straight for Maspal's Rock to get their backs against something solid. King Jazan was saying something to Mirzah, but there was too much noise for Hanso to tell exactly what. It didn't matter, anyway – Hanso didn't want to get involved with trying to go toe-to-toe with a crazy Fire Faerie. At least Jazan was crazy, too. Maybe that would make him better at fighting Udiza. Hanso felt sorry for the poor guy who'd been turned to stone – he'd been sore for days after Xandra had got him.
The sentries at the digging were standard rent-a-muscle, and they clearly decided that whatever they were getting paid wasn't nearly enough to cover tangling with the fighters barreling toward them. Jazan shouted, "We'll make our stand here! We can't let them get into the rock!"
There was a pause in the action, then, as Hanso's allies assembled outside the digging. There was a door there, cleaned off and gleaming with gold in the torchlight, but it was still shut. the Sway were probably deciding how best to attack. Hanso laid a hand on Brynn's armored shoulder. The armor was probably hot, but he was glad she had it – he kind of wished that he had some, too. He asked, "Are you okay?"
She nodded. "If the mages can keep the Faerie under control, I think we can do this. I wouldn't want to be facing Sambar, or Kanrik and his thieves."
Hanso cast a wary eye at the Thieves' Guild contingent, who were listening to Kanrik. Most likely planning their plundering afterwards. He asked Brynn, "How big of an if is that, though?"
She sighed. "That's the uncertain part. It always is, in battle, whenever mages are involved. Whichever mage wins, their side wins, unless the fighters can pull off several minor miracles."
"Get 'em, boys!"
Hanso didn't like hearing things like that. He also didn't like looking up at the edges of the digging and seeing the Sway's bullies gathering at the edge of the pit in a definite we're-about-to-charge type of way.
And then they charged, howling and screaming – a good old-fashioned type of charge. Blast them. Hanso wished he had some over-sized monstrosity of a sword like Mortman carried. It would put a couple more feet between him and the people who would like to skewer him, which was always a plus.
But he didn't have anything except for a knife and a stubborn determination that he would not be baggage that Brynn and the others had to rescue.
He noticed several of the more opportunistic fighters looking his way, and he had to admit he couldn't blame them. He'd rather fight a slightly skinny, verging-on-short Ixi than a mountain of muscle like General Sambar any day of the year.
Those fighters charged him and Brynn – Hanso sidled aside, allowing the first one to attack him to move past him harmlessly. While he slowed himself down to turn around, Hanso was able to pull the same trick in the opposite direction for the second.
He heard an unearthly screech – it was the Fire Faerie. But she was Jazan and Mirzah's job. There was another fighter coming at him who'd wised up to him, and Hanso was actually going to have to use his weapon. He parried – the other guy was a lot bigger and had a much bigger blade, and Hanso needed to deflect the strike. If it came to strength against strength, Hanso wouldn't win, so it just needed to not come to that.
A few more parries – Hanso kept himself close to the rock, so that no one could sneak up behind him. As any thief knew, you only had to face the amount of guards or bully-boys who could actually reach you.
Then he heard an unmistakable cry of pain. It was Brynn, and Hanso was able to see at a glance that she must have put a foot wrong in the darkness – she'd fallen to one knee, and was desperately trying to rise as she fended off a flurry of blows.
Hanso pushed past his own attacker and ran for her – there was no way anyone else could get there in time. He hadn't looked to see if anyone else had even seen. He shouted, "Hey! Ugly! I'd say you had a face only a mother could love, but even she headed for the hills when she saw that snout!"
Brynn's opponent turned – a big, shaggy Lupe that looked like he had Werelupe blood. Brynn pushed herself to her feet, wincing in pain. Hanso continued, "You fight like a ten-year-old at a Usuki convention! Someone take your Usuki dolls, kiddo?"
Even a few other Sway thugs-for-hire chuckled – it seemed the Lupe wasn't popular. Hanso shouted at him, "Come on! Are you a coward? Are you a yellow-bellied Puppyblew, you mangy dimwit?"
The Lupe charged at Hanso with a frightening burst of speed – Hanso hoped that amid the noise of battle no one noticed the girly little squeak that he couldn't manage to stifle. He was in trouble. Of course, the whole point of the exercise was to get himself in trouble in Brynn's place.
He barely managed to block the first strike from the Lupe's sword – the reverberations travelled all the way up his arms painfully, and it was all he could do not to drop his knife. This wasn't going to work. He had to use his brain. Even though Jazan and Kanrik both thought he had all the sense of a salted Slorg, he had to be smarter than this lump of dumb muscle.
He moved back quickly, jumping onto a rock to get some extra height. Perhaps he could use the uneven ground to his advantage – he was lighter on his feet than his opponent. If Brynn could twist an ankle, this thug could.
Quick. That was the trick. He dodged aside as the Lupe charged at him again, and his opponent tripped on the rock, nearly falling. Hanso grinned. Apparently no one told the fool it took a thief to catch a thief. The Lupe growled, "Come a little closer, you little rat, and fight like a man!"
Hanso said, "Why should I do all the work? Catch me yourself!"
Brynn was coming up behind the fellow. Hanso had to keep him distracted – thankfully the other fighters seemed occupied. "Too slow? No wonder you had to take a job out in the middle of Fyora-forsaken nowhere!"
The Lupe moved forward again, but before he did, Brynn hit him upside the head with the flat of her sword. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he settled to the ground for a nice nap – and a killer headache when he woke, most like.
Brynn smiled at him. "Thanks, Hanso. That was brave of you."
The night didn't seem half as dark and scary anymore. Hanso smiled back at her. "You'd have done the same for me."
Then a scream cut the night.
Hanso looked up in horror.
Flame had gathered around the Fire Faerie – flame that silhouetted her, giving her an aura of menace as she stood at the ramp down into the digging. In her light, Hanso could see that the sorceress Mirzah had collapsed. Nabile was kneeling next to her, tending to her, and Jazan stood alone, seemingly very small in the face of the magical fire and its wielder. And while Hanso didn't like the guy, he was also extremely aware that he was the only thing stopping them all from being mowed down by the Sway and a maniacal rogue Faerie.
Brynn grabbed his shoulder, her hand almost uncomfortably tight. No one was fighting – everyone had turned toward the silhouetted tableau before them.
Udiza raised her hand, a fiery lance appearing in it, and she struck down at Jazan in what was meant to be a massive blow. Jazan held up a hand and a blue-white shield flared, causing the lance to shatter off in fireballs that fell harmlessly to the sand. Udiza shrieked, "Destroy them! Destroy them all!"
Eyes turned toward Hanso and Brynn. She said, "We'll keep fighting. Try to make it to the ramp – keep anyone from distracting Jazan!"
Hanso nodded. He'd do it.
But the dread sat like a cold, hard knot in his stomach.
To be continued...