Disclaimer: I do not own Take a Thief. All familar charachters, world features, and plot devices belong to Mercedes Lackey.
Summary: Based on Take a Thief. What happens when Skif runs into people from his past? Read this series of one-shots to find out!
A/N: I HAVE NOT read past By the Sword. If this story deviates from future cannon, please, DO NOT tell me! Thanks!
A/N2: Sorry for the suprise repost. FF decided to do some unsolicited reformating for me. I couldn't stand it, I fixed it. Thanks!
Skif paced the collegium hallway, clearly exasperated. He would never understand why Seleany wanted him involved with this particular assignment. Helping ex-pickpockets teach the guard how thieves operated, sure. That made sense. He could understand that. Helping to "guard them", despite the fact that they were no longer convicts. He didn't get it.
When Seleany had told him of the job, she had said something about the Nobles wanting the convicts watched. He supposed the notion made sense, in a ridiculous, noble-brained way. It was almost rational, if you were a paranoid noble. However, to Skif, and probably the convicts they were supposed to be rewarding for excellent behavior, it seemed insane. Who would rob the palace in broad daylight while working with the guard? Not a well-trained thief, that's for sure.
In Skif's opinion it was insulting as well. It seemed to him that having an ex-thief as their guard wouldn't help the ex-convicts opinion of the queen. He had told her as much. She had disagreed. Telling him they would appreciate working with someone they could identify with, and that he had to accept it.
"Bothered, you are." Alberich said from the shadows. Skif had wondered how long it would take for the Herald to admit he was there.
He grunted in response; Alberich couldn't have made a more obvious statement. The weapons master leaned on a wall near him, and waited for Skif to reply.
"And you aren't?" Skif finally asked. "She's asking you to review them and me to keep an eye on them. And we're practically on the same footing."
Alberich arched an eyebrow at him and Skif snorted.
"I mean, we were like them, but forgiven. Right? They're thieves not idiots. They'll see the insult."
"And do nothing about it." Alberich assured him, "They will know the work is necessary and do it."
"They'll have no respect for Selaney, or the guards they're teaching!" Skif exclaimed, "They'll walk right back in to the street and steal, all because they were given the message 'once a thief always a thief'. You can't expect someone to stop a habit like that if you don't let them know that you believe they can."
"Could that not be why Selaney chose me and you for this particular job?"
"I don't see your point."
"Why show belief in a person's ability to change, when you can show proof?" Albrich asked pointedly.
"They'll think we're special cases."
"I think not." Albrich said gently, putting a hand on Skif's shoulder. "Come, we are expected at the gate."
Skif protested half-heartedly, but followed Albrich to the gate. Hopefully this could be done quickly and he could go on to his other duties.
At the gate five ex-pickpockets were lined up. Skif had a morbid curiosity about how each one was caught. Though for three of them it was rather easy to figure out. Their features were very distinctive; from a glance Skif would have been able to pick them out of a crowd.
The other two must have made mistakes. They were as plain faced as Raf had been. There were differences between them, sure. One had longer hair than the other. One was shorter. It wasn't that they were identical. Their features just sat on a scale from middle to middle, so that you couldn't pick them out of a crowd.
Alberich stepped forward, clearing his throat to insure he had their attention. He then proceeded to introduce himself and Skif. After he was done 'approving' their presence in the palace Skif debriefed them on what they would be doing.
Talking about the lift n' lay made it very easy to forget that he was acting as a Herald. Without realizing it he started using theft jargon that the pickpockets were familiar with.
When he was finished one of the distinctive men asked, "So if y' know all 'bout it, why are we 'ere?"
Skif frowned in confusion. With a glance at Alberich, who shook his head, he realized what he had done.
The other men were agreeing with the first man. Skif had to explain himself. The trouble was he didn't have an answer to the well asked question. So he did what any good thief would, he made something up. "The Queen want's the guard to be taught from multiple points of view. Not just what I know."
"You mean t' say that th' Queen knows you're no good at th' lift n' lay, and want's professionals t' teach 'em?" One of the plain faced men asked, taking a somewhat familiar cocky stance.
"Excuse me?" Skif demanded of the man. What did he think he knew? He examined the man closer, wondering if he was one of the thieves that Baize's boys had out stolen. Then he saw it. This particular plain faced man didn't look like Raf. He was- "Raf?" Skif asked with rising certainty.
"Y' know this Herald, Raf?" The man who had questioned him asked.
"Sure, Len. Tha's Skif, th' best," Skif glared at him when he started to say the word 'roofwalker', "Erm, laundress we ever had."
If he hadn't been so glad that Raf had picked up on the cue, Skif would have tackled the man. Laundress, seriously, that was the best he could come up with?
The group had a good laugh at Skif's expense. Then one of the other men clapped Skif on the shoulder in a companionable fashion. "Y' could've jus' said y' needed someone t' give examples." He informed the herald with a grin. That put everyone's mind back to work.
When they got to the guard room Skif decided to show the guards exactly why it was harder to catch some pickpockets over others. He motioned to Raf and Len. "Alright," Skif asked the guard in place of a call to order, "Which pickpocket is least likely to be caught?"
"Now how are we supposed to know that?" One of the officers asked incredulously, "We haven't seen them in action."
"They were all caught!" another reminded him. He pointedly ignored him.
"Just take a guess." Skif encouraged the group, "You should be able to tell, just by looking at them." The guards looked flabbergasted at the claim. Then, much to Skif's amusement started staring at the men's hand, as if that would tell them anything. Skif decided that it was time to ask for a show of hands.
"Who think's Raf would be a better pickpocket?" Skif asked gesturing to Raf. Only a few raised their hands, they seemed to be guessing. He sighed inwardly. Apparently there was a lot of teaching to do. "Alright, who think's Len?" The rest of the room raised their hands, probably going off the fact that Len had longer fingers. Skif sighed for real this time, did they really believe that longer fingers equated better skill?
Skif shook his head. "Believe it or not Raf is least likely to get caught. Can anyone hazard a guess as to why?"
"'Cause he worked with you?" one of the men guessed.
Raf and Skif grinned at each other. "Good guess. But not the answer I'm looking for. Would one of you like to explain it to them?" He asked the group of ex-pickpockets.
"You can't pick 'im outta a crowd." Len replied easily, "Too plain lookin'."
Skif nodded and continued the lesson, letting the pickpockets give examples as he went.
After a while lunch was called. Most of the men excused themselves and went back into the city to meet up with various people. Raf stayed with Skif though curious to know how exactly Skif became a Herald. They headed to Companions Field because Raf wanted to meet Cymry.
A while later a guard found the pair to tell them that they were needed back at the guard house. The guard then left them to go back to his post and to ask his friends exactly how it was that the pickpocket Herald could walk across rickety old fencing as if it were the ground.
A/N 3: Thanks for reading and reviewing everyone! It makes me very happy to know that there's people out ther who are intrested in the little ficletts I like write. To celebrate the fact that finals are over I'm posting a bit early. Huzzah! Now to find time to finish this wonderful series. Till next time!
Updates: This was supposed to be the end of the story. However, I might, post a fourth chapter about all four of Bazie's boys meeting up at some point. However as that chapter hasn't been started yet, and my summer will be insanely busy, it may be awhile. So, stay tuned!
Reviews: Remember, constructive criticisim is awesome! Flames are for reading by.