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Fanfiction: Five Rules of Thieving (David Eddings) 
1st-Jan-2008 02:08 pm
onion girl
Notes: Written for wickedgameff for Yuletide. Many thanks to _bounce_ for last minute betaing!
Fandom: David Eddings (Elenium/Tamuli series)
Main Characters: Danae & Talen, Ensemble, Minor Original Male & Female Characters
Rating: G

Click here for HTML version archived at Yuletide.

5 Rules of Thieving

Rule 1: A compassionate mark is a careless mark

“I really do like blue more.”

Talen took a deep breath and counted to ten in his mind. And then counted again in Styric. “Yes, Princess, but the sun isn’t blue, it’s orange. If I used blue, it’d wouldn’t be a sun, it would be a...a...lake in the middle of the sky!”

Danae’s eyes brightened and she scooted closer along the bench to Talen, who eyed her warily. “What a wonderful idea! We could go swimming in the sky!”



Talen blinked. “Uh...we’d have to fly to do that, Princess.”

“You mean you can’t?” Danae almost seemed disappointed as she focused her dark eyes on him.

“Um,” Talen said cleverly, and then turned his attention back to the drawing he had been working on for Sparhawk’s daughter. He had promised Queen Ehlana to keep the young heir’s spirits up while her parents were on the Daresian continent. Danae had been crushed and furious when her mother adamantly refused to allow her on this visit, citing a minor cold and a particularly cool fall season. And since Mmrr had apparently pulled another of her disappearing acts today, the young Princess had been feeling melancholy. “Where do you want me to draw Mmrr?”

Carefully contemplating the idyllic setting Talen was creating, Danae pointed at a small stream meandering by a patch of red, pink, purple, and black-striped flowers. (Talen had attempted to argue about the black-striped flowers, but Danae had refuted his logic with a pout.)

Talen eyed the stream, nodding. “Shall I have her looking for fish?”

Danae shook her head firmly. “No. Swimming.”

There was a brief pause while Talen internally debated the merit of arguing, but his stubborn streak insisted. “Danae... cats don’t swim.”

“Mmrr does,” was the calm response. “She’s an excellent cat-paddler.”

Talen’s mouth was open to respond before his brain caught up to the action, and firmly closed his mouth, reminding him that arguing logic with a ten-year old, particularly this ten-year old, was an exercise in frustration and futility.

And humility. “Right. In the stream, then.”

Watching as her favorite cat came to life in front of her eyes, Danae carefully launched her next attack, sighing wistfully and imbuing her voice with just a touch of admiration. “I wish I could do that.”

“It’s not that hard to learn,” Talen muttered absently, tilting his head as he added the mackerel stripes to Mmrr’s fur.

“Really?” Danae said, pleased and slightly predatory.

“Mmhmm,” Talen said, distracted.

“Good. It’s settled, then.”

Talen looked up abruptly, suddenly sensing the walls closing in. “Settled? What’s settled?”

Danae looked up at him, eyes wide and innocent. “Your teaching me, of course. You don’t really have to go back to Demos until Mother and Father return, and you can spend the time teaching me to draw.”

“I–”

As swiftly as Mmrr pouncing on a mouse, Danae jumped up and kissed Talen enthusiastically. “Thank you, Talen! I feel so much better now!”

“I–”

“Please bring me the drawing when you’re finished? I’m going to see if I can find Mmrr.” With a swirl of blue silk and velvet, the Royal Princess Danae of Elenia hurried off down the corridor cheerfully, leaving a wide-eyed and startled Pandion squire sitting in the corridor, dumbfounded.

Rule 2: A good disguise is an invaluable asset.

Hendel had been a groomsman in the service of Elenia for almost 30 years. His father had served King Aldreas, and his father’s father had served his father. One of Hendel’s sons was currently apprenticing as a blacksmith in the stable, and the other worked alongside Hendel caring for the Queen’s horses.

However, in 30 years of caring for noble steeds of Elenia, he had never quite expected to meet one that talked.

“Is she gone?”

Hendel blinked once more, and stared more closely at the stall containing the visiting Sir Tynian’s horse. The horse stared back at him, and whickered.

Finally, he cleared his throat. “I...I do not know who you mean. Sir...Horse.”

“Oh! Sorry.” The voice of the horse muttered a few strange syllables, and suddenly the patch of shadow in the back of the stall shimmered and vanished, leaving the squire Talen standing there, a worried look on his face. “Princess Danae. Is she still outside the stables?”

Hendel glanced to the entrance of the stables and then slowly shook his head. He watched with bewilderment as the squire climbed over the stall door, patted Sir Tynian’s horse on the nose, and walked swiftly out of the stable through the courtyard, sneaking furtive glances about him the entire time.

Hendel scratched his head and shrugged. At least horses still made sense.

***

Almost to the inner garden, Talen felt a pricking on the back of his neck. Attempting to appear casual, he walked over to an oak tree under the pretense of examining the blue flowers growing at its base. He leaned against the tree, knowing the tree’s shadow would hide him, and carefully surveyed the courtyard, looking for where she might be hiding.

Nothing.

He glanced up at the sun and grinned. A few more minutes and two very exquisite nacre shell pendants Caalador had sent from Tamul were as good as his. He already had a fence in mind for them.

Absently, he raised a hand to swat at an apparent bug on his neck. Two more minutes.

He glanced down at his wrist, looking triumphantly at the blue braided bracelet, a fine black hair tied carefully to its–

The bracelet was gone.

He blinked.

No, still gone.

“Psst.” His eyes widened and he looked up into the beaming face and dancing dark eyes of the Royal Princess-–who was dangling from one of the lower limbs of the oak tree, twirling the bracelet around her index finger gleefully.

“What!?” Talen stared at her in shock as she swung about and jumped down from the tree. “No! I found it! I had to climb to the top of the east tower! I had to sneak around Mirtai and not wake her up! I win!”

Danae shook her head stubbornly, pointing up at the sun. “Noon! And I’m holding the bracelet and Mirtai’s hair! I win!

“But you didn’t steal them!”

“I stole them from you.”

Talen stopped abruptly at this calmly stated fact, and then looked again at the exuberant Princess. He started laughing, and had to hold onto the oak for support. “Yes, Princess, you did. Congratulations.”

“Yes!” Danae pounced him in excitement, but Talen skillfully fended off her kisses.

“Danae! You’re too old for that.”

Now the dark eyes blinked at him sadly. “You don’t like me anymore?”

Talen sighed, and leaned over to hug the young girl carefully and briefly. “Of course I do, Danae. But you’re 13! You’re not a kid anymore.”

Danae gazed at him and then smiled in a way that made the back of Talen’s neck prick up again. “You finally noticed that?”

He cleared his throat, trying not to blush. “Uh.” He cleared his throat again, and then gestured to the palace. “Come on. You won, let’s go get your pendants.”

Danae continue to watch him intently for what seemed like an eternity before she finally nodded and followed him into the palace.

Rule 3: Know your mark

"What about this one?"

Danae turned and eyed the book Nalise was holding up. Her dark eyes turned inward for a moment in thought before she responded. "No, he's read that one."

Her maid blinked at her with bright green eyes. "Your Highness, you haven't seen him in four years."

Smiling softly, the Royal Princess of Elenia simply shook her head. "Trust me, Nalise. He's read it."

Well used to her charge's eccentricities, Nalise nodded and perused the selection again. Her gaze caught on new volume of pastoral poetry. "This one is new, Your Highness."

Danae took only a moment to glance at it before curling her lip in a smirk. "No. He hasn't read it, but he won't." She returned her attention to the shelves and then smiled suddenly. "Now this has possibilties."

Nalise looked skeptically at the volume entitled: The Cyrga Affair: An Examination of Actual Events. "Really, my lady?"

"Itagne writes well." Danae grinned mischeiviously. "And it'll make Talen laugh." She turned to the shopkeeper. “Please wrap that, and add the pencils and drawing paper as well.”

As they left the shop, Nalise watched the young Princess walking calmly and confidently, oblivious to the stares of the others in the marketplace. Though the Princess was dressed plainly today, she carried herself with the same presence and grace of her mother. Nalise smiled softly. “You miss your friend, my lady?”

Danae glanced over at her, and nodded simply, before returning her attention to the bag full of homecoming gifts.

“I am sure he misses you as well, Your Highness.”

A flash of fire sparked in Danae’s dark eyes momentarily before she broke into a rich smile. “He’d better, Nalise!”

Rule 4: Choose your allies carefully: you have to split your profits with them.

“Are you going to ignore me the whole ride to the city?”

“I’m not ignoring you.”

“Ha! He speaks!”

Ulath glared sourly at the man riding to his right, tall and muscular, and covered in thick Pandion armor that couldn’t conceal the air of mischief emanating from the broad grin on his face. “I’m not ignoring you. I just don’t have anything to say.”

“You had plenty to say last night,” Talen groused, rubbing his still sore shoulder. Ulath had a tendency to enforce his points with punches.

“Learn to duck.”

“I did duck,” Talen said, glaring. “I can’t help it if you’ve got a longer reach than I do.”

Silence greeted this response, and Talen sighed. He’d been thrilled when Ulath had been the one to meet him in Madel after his long stay in Daresia. He’d been significantly less thrilled when Ulath voiced his opinions on the subject of the Royal Princess Danae. Specifically, how the Royal Princess Danae felt about Talen’s farewell celebrations on the Isle of Valesia.

“We’re friends, Ulath, really,” Talen finally voiced in mild protest. “She’s...well, she’s almost like a little sister.”

Ulath turned and gazed at him flatly.

“Um. Sort of, anyway.” The silence continued, broken only by the sound of their horses clopping along the road to Chyrellos. “It’s just a crush, Ulath!” Talen finally burst out. “She’s a sweet kid, and we all adore her, but...”

He trailed off. Ulath continued to ride. The silence continued, and Ulath mentally began running through the Adian sequence of defensive axe maneuvers. He had completed the first five when Talen finally cracked.

“I suppose I probably should have brought her something from Daresia, though.”

Ulath waited.

“She used to like those little pearl bracelets from Tega.”

Ulath waited.

“I could have picked one up for her.”

Finally, Ulath broke the silence. “Platime.”

There was a pause as Talen tried to work that out. “Alright, I give up. What about Platime?”

“He fenced a few bracelets to that store on Rose Street.”

“And you know this because?”

Ulath shrugged inscrutably. He hadn’t known actually, but Danae had. She’d been very specific about what gift she wanted Talen to bring her to make up for his thoughtlessness. And very generous with a new throwing axe as payment for maneuvering Talen to the correct purchase.

Rule 5: A good distraction makes up for slow hands

“I’m sorry, I still don’t understand.”

Tynian shook his head. “How many times do I need to explain it, Kalten? They’re engaged.”

Kalten stared at him, clearly bewildered. “Does that have another meaning? Or is it one of those Styric words that sounds like an Elenic one but means something–”

“Kalten! They are getting married. They will be man and wife. They will have a wedding. There will be a priest. There will be dancing and music. They will kiss and–”

“No! Stop!” Kalten covered his ears. “Enough, enough! Alright, I understand.”

“Finally,” Tynian muttered under his breath.

“No, wait, I don’t understand.”

Tynian sighed and slowly lowered his head to the table in defeat.

***

Emperor Sarabian, Imperial Majesty of the Tamul Empire, leader of the most-feared and fearless army in the world, the warriors of Atan, was currently fighting a losing battle.

Left with no other options and no way to retreat, he finally resorted to his last hope of salvation. His wife.

“Ely? She still won’t give it back.”

His wife, the Empress Elysoun, gave him a rather withering look as she leaned over the bed and rescued Sarabian’s letter from a spikey-tailed kitten (a great-great granddaughter of Mmrr).

“Thank you, dear,” Sarabian told her, and resumed reading the missive from Queen Ehlana. A moment later, the letter dropped to the top of the bedcovers again and was claimed by the kitten as Sarabian blinked in shock.

“What is it?”

“Princess Danae–she’s marrying Talen!”

Elysoun considered this a moment, and then smiled. “About time.”

***

“I’m still a little foggy on the tree.”

Talen squirmed. “It’s...well. It was a thing. And I knew she’d remember. So.”

Khalad looked at his brother critically. “A thing. Yes, suddenly it’s much clearer.”

Sighing, Talen leaned over the castle wall. “Never mind. I just needed to hide it someplace that she’d find it.”

“And, of course, just giving her the ring would have been illogical.”

Talen grinned mischievously. “What would be the fun in that?”

His brother eyed him wearily. “Right. So when she found the bracelet, you slipped on the ring.”

“Yes. The bracelet was just a diversion.”

“Because, of course, just asking her would have been illogical.”

Talen was silent for a moment, and then stated quietly, “She might’ve said no.”

There was a long pause that was abruptly broken with the sound of a loud smack. Talen jumped backwards, rubbing his head gingerly. “What was that for?!”

“She might’ve said no?!” Khalad shook his head sadly. “What a tragedy. The Royal Princess is marrying an idiot.”

Talen glared at his brother, and then slowly broke into a grin. Khalad grinned back and hugged him quickly, fiercely, and then let go, and the two men stood on the top of the castle wall, chucking quietly.

Epilogue

Sir Sparhawk, no longer Anakha, Prince-Consort of Queen Ehlana, father-in-law of Talen, and father of Danae--a.k.a. Flute, a.k.a. Aphrael, Child Goddess of Styricum, carefully topped off the second mug of mead, and placed both mugs along with full flagon on a serving tray. As he walked through the corridors there were few others stirring at this early hour--most still sleeping off the celebrations of the wedding the night before. He found the bench he sought, and sat down with the tray, glancing up at the sun through the corridor window to gauge the time.

And waited.

About an hour after sunrise, he heard it--the shriek of shock and terror echoing from the bedroom above. Moments later, frantic steps hurtled down the stairs to his left and a barely dressed man rushed towards him, moving towards the stairs, past the bench on his right which led down to a courtyard.

"Talen."

One step from the stairs to freedom, Talen stopped at Sparhawk's voice, so suddenly his bare feet slid on the stone floor and he plopped to the ground. He sat there a moment, staring at Sparhawk with wide eyes and dropped jaw.

Sparhawk shook his head and held out a mug of mead. "Here. I thought you might need this."

Slowly, Talen stood and took a step forward. He grabbed the mug from Sparhawk and drained it in two gulps. "Sparhawk--" He shook his head and stared at the empty mug and then looked back at his new father-in-law. "She...I...We...YOU. APHRAEL!"

Sparhawk nodded and held out the second mug. "I know. Welcome to the family."

***

10 years later

Talen nodded sympathetically to the still wide-eyed and shaking sailor, who had managed to blurt out a few terrified words about "The Queen! The princesses! The great beasts!" before sliding to the floor in a gibbering heap.

Handing the poor man another mug of mead, he rubbed the bridge of his nose to forestall the headache he felt coming. "'Watch out for the whales?'" he muttered under his breath, and then sighed. "Very funny, Sparhawk."
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