By Brent Alan Evans
Happiness Comes in Small Packages is the property of the author, Brent Alan Evans and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Email Brent with any comments and feedback on this story.
Boogers! Melfius thought, as he tried to jerk his hand back, only to find pinned within the lock. Had he been using picks like any normal thief, he might have gotten a nasty prick on his finger, followed by a warm feeling flowing up his arm as the poison - there's always poison - worked it's way through him. Lucky for him he was immune to most poisons. Unfortunately, he wasn't using a pick. One of the benefits of being a pixie, he could usually work his fingers into a lock and jimmie it manually. Of course, if there was a trap, and if he wasn't paying attention (like now), he usually had a much nastier time of it. Like having his hand impaled by a needle.
Sucking a breath through his teeth, Melfius tried to reach the fingers of his other hand into the lock to lift the needle. No luck. Plus, the blood was making things slippery. Not wanting to resort to magic, which might attract unwanted attention from the guards standing outside the door, he tried his dagger. Wedging it into the opening, he tried bending the needle. Slowly, it gave way enough to let him slip his hand free. Now the blood really started to flow.
Using his good hand, he reached into his pack for a small vial which he opened using his teeth and poured the contents over his mangled hand. It burned at first, then the healing balm began to do its work, knitting the tissue back together and, more importantly, restoring mobility. He stoppered the vial, stowed it, away, and bent over to examine the lock again. While the trap was obviously ruined, the lock itself was still going strong.
Well, at least I don't have to worry about traps anymore! Being obnoxiously optimistic is what usually led to Melfius working alone. Sometimes, people just want to grouse, and having a two-foot-tall ray of constant sunshine always looking at the bright side of things has a tendancy to get under most peoples' skins. But not everyone's..
Melfius looked over his shoulder, “Still busy?” Melfius' cohort, a tiny lizard with butterfly wings named Sylvanizard, was watching the guards under the door.
“Yep. Still busy.” Sylv looked bored, which was a warning sign that told Melfius he had better get moving before his flaky companion decided to liven things up. He reached into the lock again and was delighted to hear the soft click that told him the chest was open for business. Lifting the lid he found what he was after…lots of shiny things.
Melfius wasn't what you'd call a traditional thief. Sure, he stole things and had a nasty habit of sticking his hands in other peoples' pockets. But mostly it was just an insatiable curiosity to be where he obviously didn't belong. That's always where the really good stuff was!
In the chest, Melfius found a bag of coins (he ignored those), an emerald-set ring (pocketed without even thinking about it), and a smaller bag with some gemstones in it. This is what had convinced Melfius and Sylv that they just had to pay this place a visit. They saw the gems in the jewelry shop's window while passing by the day before. Pixies being what they are, Melfius immediately changed his schedule, not that there was anything on it, and decided to pay the place an after-hours visit. Besides , he had thought, this place has a lot of stuff in it. They probably won't even miss it.
So the next day after the shop had closed, Melfius and Sylvanizard had slipped in through a barred window and, after suitably distracting the two guards watching the office, began the liberation of these shiny baubles. Sure, the shiny baubles had a price tag of several hundred gold coins each, but they were worth more than money to Melfius and Sylv. They looked neat!
Melfius slipped the bag of gems into his pack and signaled Sylv that he was ready to go.
* * * * *
Later that evening, after the two thieves had made their way back to the bakery attic they used as an apartment, Melfius sat on the shield that served as his bed and said his daily prayers to his patron Puck, the Faerie god of Mischief. Melfius had found himself in Puck's service a few years back when he made the mistake of asking him for a little help. Of course, the fact that at the time he was being used as a chew toy for a dragon's imp familiar made the choice a little easier. And besides, being a pooka – what Puck called his ‘special' followers - wasn't so bad. Puck really only had one command to his followers, and that was ‘Be Entertaining'. Melfius never had any problem in that area. He had an odd notion that it was his job to make everyone happy, whether they wanted to be or not. Apparently this had been the source of hours of amusement to Puck, who made it a point to steer his drafted follower into situations where there were lots of unhappy people. Or so Melfius believed.
Finishing his prayers, Melfius emptied the bag of gems out onto a small cloth on the floor and looked toward the ceiling. “Okay, take what you want.” he said aloud. With a small pop, half of the gems disappeared. Puck had accepted his ‘tribute'.
When Sylvanizard returned (on the way back from the jeweler, he had noticed the baker putting a few pies out to cool, an irresistible invitation to the diminutive reptile's unending sweet tooth.), Melfius was taking inventory of their collection of purloined goods. Stored in a pile of rags in the corner of the apartment, their hoard was a mixture of odds and ends collected for no better reason than they had caught one of the two thieves' eyes. Gems, a few coins, small statuettes, jeweled daggers (weapons any larger than a dagger posed too many problems for the small duo), and random jewelry were mixed in with a pile of scarves, handkerchiefs, and various bits of clothing. It was entirely possible that some of the items might have been magical as well, but neither bothered to check unless they had obvious reason to suspect enchantment (like a dagger glowing).
“Puck take his share?” Sylv asked, sorting out a few loose coins into a pile Melfius had already started. They kept them around not for value, but because it only seemed logical that there be coins in their hoard. Sylv always called it a hoard.
“Yup. Half of the gems.” Melfius didn't seem too concerned about this divine extortion. It was just another part of being in Puck's service. “Didn't even say thank you this time. I think I may have missed something back there.”
“So we're going back tomorrow?” Sylv wandered over to where Melfius kept his equipment on a rack next to his shield-bed: a small suit of leather armor, two pixie-sized swords, and his bow. A quiver of magical arrows hung off the end of the shield. Each arrow was tipped with a small vial that held a variety of magics. He seldom if ever used his bow to harm anyone. Sylv poked through the quiver for a moment before wandering off to his bed, an old quilt they had found when they had moved in to the attic.
“Guess so.” Melfius said, standing and slapping dust off his pants. He had given up sorting out the treasure and pushed it back into a pile with the rags. “You think the guards might have gotten in trouble for losing this stuff?”
“Naw. They did their job. They guarded that door perfectly. No one went through it the whole time we were there, did they?”
“No. They did do a pretty good job of that. You think maybe the jeweler might be mad that we took his gems?” Melfius went back to his bed and started sorting through his arrows. While he would never tell Sylv not to touch them, he still preferred to know what order they were in so he could grab whichever one he was after quickly.
“He might be.” Sylv shrugged, “But if they were so important to him, he probably should have put them somewhere safer than that chest. Besides, they were for sale. Obviously they didn't mean that much to him, or he wouldn't have wanted to sell them. Maybe Puck was just irritated that it was such a boring job?”
“Hey! I kept those two guards happy the whole time we were in there!” Melfius said defensively. He had used an arrow that was filled with a gas that caused euphoria in anyone who breathed it in, to make sure the guards were kept entertained while he did his work. “Those two were giggling for a half an hour!”
“I still think we should have brought a keg of beer for them. Guards always seem to like that stuff.” Sylv curled up on his quilt and closed his eyes.
“Not half as much as you do.” Melfius said.
Sylvanizard didn't even bother to reply. He started snoring, signifying that the conversation was at an end. Not that this had ever stopped Melfius from continuing a conversation. Talking to himself just meant he could carry the conversation on in any way he liked. But tonight he was too tired. He rolled over in his shield and pulled the blankets over his head. Soon, Sylv's solo snoring became a duet.
* * * * *
The next day found Melfius and Sylvanizard hovering outside the window of the jeweler's office. They were in an alley that had several crates stacked up against the jeweler's shop beneath the window. A few garbage piles along another building had attracted several stray cats who took no notice of the two fae. Melfius was naturally invisible, and Sylv could become so seemingly at will, so neither risked being seen.
For the hour they had been watching, they had first seen the jeweler yell at his guards, much to Melfius' dismay. He had considered going in and telling the jeweler that the guards had done their job just fine. It wasn't their fault that Melfius and Sylv had come in through the barred window. It was the jeweler's fault for leaving the bars spaced too wide.
After the guards had left, the jeweler sat down at his desk and began pouring over a stack of books with several columns of numbers written on the pages. A couple of times, someone else would enter and hand the jeweler a bag of coins, only to have the jeweler complain that it wasn't enough. From what the two eavesdroppers could make out from the conversations that followed, the jeweler collected money that people had borrowed from some other group and never seemed to be able to pay off. The jeweler was simply a middleman.
The one thing that seemed to stand out to Melfius was that the jeweler just wasn't very happy .
“Well, Sylv, “ Melfius said, landing on a crate. “I think Puck saw that this poor guy isn't enjoying himself very much. Guess we're supposed to cheer him up!”
“Great!” Sylv liked nothing better than spreading Melfius and his own brands of cheer around. “What do you think we should do?”
“Hmm.” Melfius rubbed his chin. “Well, everyone who comes here just makes him madder and madder. He must not like them very much. Do you think he likes anybody ?”
“Dunno. Seems to me he spends all his time alone. Maybe he's just lonely?”
“Yeah!” Melfius jumped up. “Let's find him a friend!”
Sylv looked dubious, “I don't know. Everyone who he sees he just yells at. Maybe we should start him off small. Like with a pet, maybe.”
“Okay. A pet.” Melfius looked around. “You know, there sure seems to be a lot of stray cats around here. they must like this place, even with that jeweler yelling so much!”
* * * * *
After spending a night rounding up ‘friends' for the lonely jeweler and depositing them in his office, Melfius and Sylvanizard returned the next morning to see how the jeweler like his new friends.
They had barely rounded the corner into the alley before they heard the first screams. Rushing to the office window, they found the jeweler and his two guards wielding brooms against the thirty or so cats that had been moved into the office overnight. Every minute or so, the jeweler would sneeze violently and begin screaming again.
“Hmm,” Melfius said. “Must be allergic to cats.”
“Looks like it.” Sylv dropped back to the crates, followed by Melfius. “Guess cats weren't a good choice. Wanna try dogs? I've seen a few of them around, too.”
“I don't think so. We had enough of a problem rounding those cats up. Some of the scratches I got hurt. I don't wanna get bit trying to make this guy happy.”
“So, what else should we do?” Sylv was getting irritated. Helping this jeweler seemed to be too much like work.
“Well, if we can't help his loneliness, maybe we can do something else for him.” The two thieves put their heads together for a minute, searching for an answer, when Melfius' eyes lit up. “I got it! How about a party!?”
“You need friends to throw a party.” Sylv went back to thinking.
“Oh. Yeah.” Not put off for a moment, Melfius resumed thinking.
“You know,” Sylv said, half to himself, “I'd probably be in a bad mood too if I had to spend all my time in that ugly little room.”
Melfius jumped up, “That's it!”
Sylv, who had been leaning up against Melfius and subsequently almost fell of the crate, looked up at him. “That's what?”
“We can redecorate his office!” Melfius was pacing now, working himself into one of his creative frenzies that Sylv had learned meant some real fun was on its way. “Even if we can't have a party, we can make it look like a party! With confetti and candy and…”
“And pies?” Sylv added hopefully.
“Yeah! Pies! And cookies and sweetrolls and…”
“Those things usually cost money.” Sylv had the pained look on his face that meant he was facing a crisis of conscience, “That baker is nice, I don't wanna take his pies like that.”
“Who said we would take them?” Melfius looked at Sylv like he was turning purple (which he could do, but at the time wasn't). “I don't think that the jeweler would mind if we borrowed some money from him to pay for the pies.”
“Good idea! Let's come back tonight and set it all up for him.” Sylv was definitely looking forward to this. “I can't wait to see the look on his face when he comes in tomorrow!”
* * * * *
After borrowing the money and purchasing the confections (which meant the two had let themselves into the bakery after hours, helped themselves to some pastries, and left a pile of money on the baker's counter that they thought was a fair price), the two self-proclaimed morale boosters returned to the jewelers office to decorate.
Using a couple of minor magicks, they had recolored the walls in a festive shade of orange, the desk was now a rosy shade of pink, and the bookcases were a rich plum color. The pies and other desserts were laid out on any available surface, and a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-snakeman was stuck to the wall.
Standing back to admire their work, Melfius was struck with the idea that something was missing, which he conveyed to Sylv with a simple, “Hmmm.”
“What?” Sylv was only half paying attention to this friend. Mostly, he was wondering which of the pies he should keep as ‘payment' for their work.
“We need some confetti.”
This caught Sylv's full attention. “Well, he has a lot of books here. He probably wont miss one or two of those.”
“Okay. There's two over there on his desk. I don't think he'll care about them. They're the ones he's always scowling over when he's counting money.”
* * * * *
Needless to say, the two merry-makers were more than a little surprised at the scene that greeted them in the office when they returned the next morning. They found the jeweler in a frenzy, tearing his office apart in search of something . What irritated the two more than the apparent failure was that the jeweler hadn't even touched the goodies they had bought him. In one case (which almost caused Sylv to break into hysterics) an apple pie had been thrown against a wall.
“But we didn't even take anything this time!” Melfius cried.
“That poor pie” Sylv responded.
Debating on whether or not to just shoot a euphoric arrow into the room and have done with it, Melfius almost failed to see the two black-clad figures walk past them. Both wore short swords at their hips and a stylized dagger marking them as members of the Thieves' Guild. (Melfius once had a run-in with those most unhappy of gentlemen and recognized the symbol.) The two newcomers walked around front of the jeweler's shop and soon Melfius saw them enter the office.
The jeweler dropped to his knees when he saw them in an obvious begging posture. He was crying visibly now, waving his hands around the room to show what had happened. The guildsmen weren't impressed.
“This doesn't look good, Sylv.” Melfius said.
Sylv stopped his fretting and rejoined Melfius at the window. “No, I don't think so either. They must be upset over the pie, too.”
“No, I think we may have made a mistake here. I think they may want to hurt the jeweler.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, the one just drew his sword and is holding it at the jeweler's throat. That's usually not a sign of friendship.”
Sure enough, while the one guildsman held his sword at the jeweler's throat, the other was yelling obscenities about missing ledgers and something called ‘skimming'.
“You don't think those books we shredded…?” Sylv asked Melfius.
“I'm afraid so, Sylv. We gotta help him.”
The two left their window and entered the shop through the front door, something altogether new for them, and silently crept towards the back office. “Sylv, “ Melfius whispered, “You take the baddies, I'll get the jeweler.”
The guards had vacated their posts when the two guild thieves had arrived, so Melfius and Sylv didn't have to bother distracting them. They entered the room, Melfius moving over towards the jeweler and nocking a change arrow while Sylvanizard took his position between the guildsmen. As they were both still invisible, none of the room's three occupants were aware that they had company.
Melfius released his arrow at the jeweler's feet, releasing a cloud of magic that momentarily surprised the three, giving Sylv a chance to release his magic, a cloud of sparkling smoke that instantly rendered the two guild thieves unconscious. As they dropped to the floor, the jeweler had only a moment to stare in astonishment before the magic of Melfius' arrow took effect. He begin to shrink. The jeweler's cries of fear were soon replaced by the squeaks of a small, white mouse.
“Problem solved!” Sylv announced.
* * * * *
Melfius and Sylvanizard debated what to do with the jeweler-mouse and the two sleeping guild thieves.
“I think he's happy.” Sylv said. He had been keeping himself entertained for half an hour playing with the white mouse. “Can I keep him?”
“I'm not sure, Sylv.” Melfius was tying the two guild thieves' hands with one of the scarves from the hoard. “He's not really a mouse. He's a person. It may not be right to keep him that way.”
“Nonsense! We were supposed to make him happy. He's happy!” Sylv was feeding the mouse crumbs from one of the empty pie-tins. “No sense letting them go to waste!' he had explained.
“Well, “ A thought had occurred to Melfius, “it may actually be a good idea. These two won't be the last people looking for the jeweler. And if they don't come back, the guild will just send more.”
“Speaking of the guild, “ Sylv said, starting on another pie (his sixth), “You think they're gonna come after us?”
“Yeah, “Melfius conceded. “We're gonna have to move again.”
“So let's leave these guys here, and take Jewels with us! We can always turn him back when we get wherever we're going.”
“Jewels?” Melfius asked.
“My mouse!” Sylv looked proud of himself, puffing out his scaled chest, “I thought it was a good name!”The End
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