A Spy's Tale: New Life - Part Five
Leon, worried more than ever, paced around his office, occasionally glancing at Tabur for advice. It was nearly midnight; Audri should have come back by now.
"And you're sure she's not here in the palace?" Tabur asked Leon for what seemed like the hundredth time.
"I'm positive," Leon replied, trying to hide his concerned expression. The spotted Gelert sat down heavily on his desk and rubbed his forehead. "She said she'd be back by nine. It's way too late. She would have said goodnight by now."
"You don't think—?" Tabur began, but his voice trailed off when Leon looked up at him.
"Jaute?" Leon asked, his mouth hanging open. "It's a possibility."
The two knights took a moment to think. An idea suddenly popped into Leon's head.
"Do you still have those truth drops I gave you for your birthday?" he asked Tabur.
The brown Lupe nodded vigorously. "Head over to Jaute's office. He'll probably still be there; you know he likes to stay up late. I'll bring my drops over."
"Alright," Leon agreed. The Gelert yanked his sword out of its sheath and rushed out of his room. In a matter of seconds, he arrived at Jaute's office.
Leon pounded on the door. As soon as he heard the click of the door unlocking, he blocked the doorway with his sword. Jaute scowled.
"What are you doing here?" the disgusting Moehog demanded.
"What did you do with Audri?" Leon shot back. He shoved Jaute back into the room and slammed the door behind him with his foot.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jaute said, without looking into Leon's eyes. Leon also noticed that the Moehog shifted his feet slightly; these were the indications of a lie.
"Perhaps my friend Sir Tabur will inspire you to say otherwise," Leon retorted, forcing the Moehog to the floor with one paw and pointing his sword at the spymaster's throat with his other paw. "I don't see how you can be the spymaster, seeing as you can't even lie properly."
"Well, well, well." Jaute's fake confused look became a smirk. "The little brat has been teaching you, I see."
Leon did not take his eyes away from Jaute when Tabur stepped into the room. The Lupe closed the door and knelt at Leon's side, a small glass vial full of pearly beige liquid in his paw.
Jaute began to laugh hysterically. "You're going to make me drink soap?" His laughter stopped abruptly when Leon poked the Moehog's neck with his sword.
"No," Leon said firmly, "but if you don't shut up, I might just change my mind."
"Shall I do the honors?" Tabur asked, unscrewing the vial's red cap.
Leon nodded. "Open up," he ordered his captive, "or I'll force your mouth open with my sword."
When the Moehog reluctantly opened his jaw, the two knights felt slightly queasy; Jaute's putrid breath combined with the sight of his yellow and brown teeth was enough to make even the strongest stomach churn. Wrinkling his nose in disgust, Tabur slightly tilted the vial over the Moehog's tongue, letting only two drops fall.
"We only have three questions," Tabur informed Leon, "so ask wisely."
"Where is Audri?" the spotted Gelert demanded.
Jaute struggled to keep his mouth shut. Finally, he said, "If my men succeeded, she's being taken to an abandoned ship on the coast."
"How many men?"
"I don't know!" Jaute screeched. "I just asked a captain to have his crew kidnap her! Probably fifteen or twenty."
"Are the men going to kill her?" Leon barked. A chill ran down his spine at the mere thought.
"She's under the captain's wrath now," the Moehog sneered.
Leon clenched his jaw. He gave the spymaster a hard punch in the snout before standing up and telling Tabur, "Bar the door. I know where she is. I can take down a few pirates."
Tabur could only gape at his long-time friend. Before the Lupe could open his mouth, Leon said, "Jaute, if you even think about leaving the castle, I'll send every single mage in this palace after you."
And with that, Leon stormed out of the room.
* * *
Audri blinked as she began to regain consciousness. It took her a moment to feel the severe pain on the back of her head. With a moan of agony, Audri sat up; her head began to spin.
"You're up," a familiar voice said kindly. Audri's eyes shot towards the voice, hoping that someone had rescued her; she saw a cloaked figure standing on the other side of a set of iron bars.
"You," Audri growled, recognizing the pirate Kougra instantly, "I remember you."
The Kougra smiled. Audri could not detect any anger or hatred in his face, but she couldn't be sure. "We meet again," he said, his deep voice ringing through the small room.
"Where am I?" she demanded.
"You're on a ship: the Jetsam's Wrath," the Kougra replied bluntly.
Audri froze in fear. Taking in her surroundings, the Gelert realized that she was in a wooden lemon-shaped room that was square on one end: the ship's hold. Her cell was at the flat end of the hold, the stern of the ship.
"I'm at sea?" she whispered. She instantly saw the answer to her question; on the right side of the hold, there were three holes the size of Audri's head.
The pirate chuckled. "Faeries, no. This ship's a beaut', but she'd sink as soon as she touched water. She wrecked here ages ago. Now she's a great place for pirates to hold prisoners."
Grabbing one of the iron bars of her cell, Audri pulled herself to her feet. Her knees wobbled in protest. She glanced around at the few objects in her cell; when her eyes met a small barrel, she dropped herself onto it.
"What's your name?" Audri asked the Kougra. He walked over to a barrel near Audri's cell and shook his cloak off his shoulders. When he sat down, he still towered over Audri. But he seemed to have shrunk since their meeting last night; he was nearly one foot shorter. His blue-grey face was slightly rounder and his left ear had a small notch in the top. He seemed to be around twenty, give or take a year.
"James Landers," the Kougra said, offering his hand through one of the bars. Audri shook it, though she wasn't sure if he was trustworthy. "Son of Harris Landers, the captain of our crew. I'm supposed to be guarding your cell."
"Um," she said, "isn't that what you're doing?"
"Kind of," James replied, shrugging. "But they expect me to pester and insult you until you're on the verge of tears."
Audri nodded, and asked, "Who's 'they'?"
"The crew of the Golden Tangella."
"Okay. And why aren't you pestering and insulting me?"
The pirate Kougra sighed. "Let me explain. When I was a child, my father forced me into piracy. He's the captain of a great ship and he wouldn't let me go to school, so I had no other choice. He was never a father to me; he just treated me like one of his crewmen. One day, he ordered me and a few idiotic pirates to go steal something in Brightvale City. That's the same day you knocked me out." He paused, grinning widely.
"Sorry," Audri said, returning the grin.
"Don't worry about it. I forgave you the second I regained consciousness," James assured her. "I understand why you knocked me out. They were going to kill those two knights just to snag a few neopoints."
The white Gelert nodded. Audri asked, "So, why did your crew kidnap me? What's the point?"
"Well," said James, stroking his chin, "one day, the crew and I were in the city, and a man in a cloak came to the captain and whispered a few things. He gave the captain a sack of something. Neopoints, probably. Next thing we knew, we were told to keep an eye on you, and kidnap you whenever we had the chance. My father never told me who paid him to do this to you. He did say that the man in the cloak was trying to 'make you disappear.'"
"Ah, well. I have a pretty good idea who that was." Remembering her lock picks, Audri searched for the secret pocket on her belt. When she found it, she hastily removed her best three picks from it.
"I'm pretty sure those won't work," James said, gazing at her assortment of lock picks, "but you're welcome to try."
When Audri raised a bemused eyebrow, the Kougra explained in a whisper, "It's a magic lock. There's a possibility that your picks will melt. You can only open it with a key, and my father has it. I'd go get it from him, but I doubt that he'll just hand it over to me."
Audri nodded and asked, "Why are we whispering?"
The sound of the central hatch opening answered her question before she even asked. Two log-sized legs emerged from the deck and sped down the ladder. When he reached the ground, Audri recognized the pirate Elephante. She had knocked him out also.
"What's all this whisperin' 'bout?" the Elephante demanded.
"Jus' tellin' 'er a little secret, ye know?" James said. Audri put on a fake scowl to help James seem more believable.
"Oh?" the Elephante asked, "And what secret would that be?"
"Tha' she'll neva' escape!" Both James and the Elephante chuckled loudly. Audri simply pouted and glared at the two pirates.
The Elephante stomped over to her cell and pressed his face against the cool metal bars. "He's right, ye know. You'll neva' escape."
Audri spat on his trunk and watched with a satisfied smirk as the Elephante made a disgusted face and stormed away.
"Hey," James barked at her so that the Elephante could hear, "Don' do that eva' again! How 'bout I spit in yer face, eh? See 'ow you like it!"
James strode over to Audri's cell and made a loud spitting noise, though he made sure that he didn't actually spit on her. Audri yelped.
"Excellent," James said once the central hatch was completely closed and the Elephante gone from their view.
"You're very good at that pirate accent," Audri told him, "It's really quite frightening."
James did not reply. He simply cocked an ear towards the ceiling; Audri did likewise.
They heard a series of clangs, yells, and thunks from above deck. Again, the central hatch flew open. Audri saw two leather boots emerge from the ceiling and step gently on the ladder below. As the boots' owner inched himself down the ladder, Audri gasped. She saw a tall spotted Gelert carrying a sword and a thick club.
"Leon!" the white Gelert whisper-yelled, throwing herself into the bars of her cell. Her shock prevented her from actually yelling.
"I can't believe it!" Audri gazed at her knight-friend, breathing out a heavy sigh of relief. "How in the name of Fyora did you get in here?"
Leon grinned foolishly. "I couldn'a done it without you," he replied, referring to the skills Audri had taught him in the previous months. Until that moment, Leon hadn't even noticed the Kougra sitting near Audri's cell.
"You," Leon growled at James. The Gelert glanced at both his sword and club, unable to decide which to use. James simply leaned back against the side of the ship and crossed is ankles lazily.
"Leon, don't," Audri warned her friend. The knight gave his small friend a questioning look, but softened his expression when she shook her head.
"Who's this brave soul?" James asked Audri. He sounded as though he was simply asking her how she took her tea. "Well, at least I assume he's quite brave if he came here to alone to rescue you with only a sword and a club."
Audri smiled. "You assumed right," she told this pirate. She introduced the two men and beamed as they shook paws.
"It's a pity you can't get me out," the white Gelert said to Leon with a pout, "Unless, miraculously, you have the key?"
Leon grinned, pleased with himself. He reached into his boot and withdrew a small silver loop; on it hung a shimmering key. Leon slid the key into the lock on Audri's cell. With a barely audible click, the door swung open. Without thinking Audri reached up to give Leon a one-handed hug. Then the Gelerts both looked down, embarrassed.
"So," Audri began shyly, breaking a short awkward silence, "How did you find me?"
Leon gave a synopsis of his journey, including how he remembered this ship from his childhood. He had explored it with a friend once and discovered a few innocent civilians trapped in the same cell that Audri was. At the end of his story, both Audri and James were incredibly impressed.
"How did you escape the pirates here?" James asked.
Leon raised his eyebrows. "You say 'pirates' as though you're not one of them."
"I'll explain later," Audri assured him. She urged him to continue.
"Brute force," Leon replied to James's question, "I knocked out most of 'em, but I'm afraid I had to kill a few potential problems. I guess I was lucky, too; most of the pirates were drunk."
The spotted Gelert saw James's face turn white under his steel-grey fur. "You didn't kill the captain did you?" the Kougra asked, his eyebrows knitted together.
Leon shook his head vigorously. "I had quite a fight with him, but he's barely scratched. I told him that I'd spare his life if he promised to keep away from Brightvale. Then I knocked him out, snagged the key, and came here." Pausing to give James a confused look, Leon asked, "Why do you care so much?"
"He's my father," James replied frankly, shrugging. He rose from his barrel and stated, "Nice meeting you, Leon."
"Where are you off to?" Leon inquired.
James straightened his back, his face lighting up proudly. "I'm going to start a respectable life in Brightvale city. Maybe even go to a university to become an apothecary." He turned towards Audri and saluted her. "Happy trails, Miss Audri."
"You, too," the Gelert replied, "Good luck!"
The Kougra bowed his head towards Leon in respect and dashed towards the ladder. Audri and Leon watched him disappear beyond the central hatch doors.
The two Gelerts turned towards each other. Audri was the first to speak. "Thanks, Leon. Thanks for everything. Now do you believe me when I say we're even?"
Leon grinned in reply. "I think we should leave now, before the pirates start waking."
Audri nodded. The two Gelerts climbed up the rickety old ladder and closed the central hatch behind them. In a moment, they stood on the deck in the midnight air.
Audri and Leon clutched each other's paws so they wouldn't get lost in the dark. They scrambled towards the railing, careful not to trip on the dark, unconscious bodies that lay on the deck. At last, they reached the gangplank and maneuvered down it carefully.
Leon gave Audri's hand a tug, pulling her away from the massive old ship. He towed her towards a lonely old grenana tree, where an enormous silhouette stood. As Audri drew nearer, she recognized the silhouette as Leon's friend, Draft.
"Thanks for waiting, Draft," Leon said to the grazing brown Uni.
"I'm glad to be of some service," Draft replied, raising his large head from the ground. "Ah, there's Miss Audri. Long night, hm?"
Audri smiled. "Very."
"Well," the Uni said, "I'd best get you back to the castle. Mount up."
The two Gelerts did as they were told. Draft charged, spread his wings, and soared high above the ground. Audri glanced below her at the Jetsam's Wrath and the dark grey mass of ocean that reflected pearly moonlight. The scene might have looked pretty, if Audri's situation hadn't been so dreary.
"I bet you can't wait to go yell at Jaute, eh, Audri?" Leon asked her, his voice full of sarcasm.
Audri glanced over her shoulder at the spotted Gelert. "Actually," she told him, "I'm quite looking forward to it. Because when I'm done, I'm going to make you arrest him."
"Excellent," Leon replied, "I'll get some handcuffs."
"Hate to break up your conversation," Draft yelled behind him, "but we're going to land in a few seconds."
"Okay," Audri and Leon chorused.
Draft tilted his large, feathery wings and soared toward the ground. He landed gracefully and bowed his legs slightly, allowing Leon and Audri to dismount. The two Gelerts waved goodbye to their friend and speed-walked to the castle entrance.
"Hey!" an urgent voice yelled, "Audri, Leon! He's gotten away!"
The two Gelerts saw Tabur running towards them with a furious look upon his face. Audri and Leon exchanged wide-eyed glances before forcing an explanation out of Tabur.
To be continued...