A Spy's Tale: New Life - Part Six
"Jaute heard a guard tell me that you were here at the castle," Tabur explained to the gaping Gelerts. "Then he clapped his hooves and he was gone! I've got three mages trying to find out where he is."
"Did he say anything before casting the spell?" Audri asked, pacing back and forth like an interrogator.
"No, he just closed his eyes," the brown Lupe replied, eyeing Audri with curiosity, "He didn't even move his mouth."
Audri continued to pace for a few more minutes, racking her brain for something she couldn't quite grasp, something she knew she had learned before...
Suddenly, she remembered a spell her father had once talked about.
"He used a picture-transport," Audri mused, more to herself than to the knights.
"Um, Audri." Tabur knitted his brows together and wondered, "Why, exactly, is that so important?"
"Because in a picture-transport spell," the white Gelert explained, "you paint a picture of your destination in your head and you clap your paws, or hooves in Jaute's case. One of my classmates once told me that Jaute has only been to the Royal Forest and Brightvale City, and nowhere else in all of Neopia. Those are the only places he can actually see in his mind. So he can't have gotten far. I bet that he's in the Royal Forest. Well," she said with a grimace, "that's what a smart person would do. But since Jaute isn't exactly smart, we can't be sure."
Leon and Tabur stared at her. "Where did you learn all that?" Leon asked.
Audri shrugged. "My dad taught me about it."
"Well," said Tabur decisively, "Let's go see how the mages are doing, just to be sure."
The trio hurried to the mages' office. In the hallways of the palace, nearly everyone was aroused from their early morning slumber by the commotion. All wore bewildered expressions on their faces as they pestered Audri, Leon, and Tabur with boatloads of questions.
At last, they reached the mages' office. Three nearly identical blue Techos, who seemed to be brothers, bent over a round basin of swirling water. When the Techos stopped concentrating on the water to look at Audri, Leon, and Tabur, the water in the basin became as smooth as a piece of glass.
The Techos bowed simultaneously. One Techo, who seemed to be the eldest, said, "Sir Tabur, we have found him. He hides deep in the Royal Forest, near Elaila the Earth Faerie's home. We can contact Elaila, if you would like us to. She may be able to guide you towards his camp."
Tabur looked at the two Gelerts for their opinions. It was Audri who spoke first. "Hm, no," she said tentatively, "I don't think that will be necessary. We will contact her in person."
"Very well, miss," the oldest brother replied. "We shall give you a map so that you can find her." The sapphire-blue Techo conjured a folded piece of parchment in his claws and offered it to Audri.
"Thank you very much," the white Gelert said to the three Techos, inclining her head towards them.
"Tabur? Leon?" Audri beckoned, heading for the door. The two knights followed her to her room, where Audri plopped down in her chair and clasped her hands.
"We need a plan," Leon reminded her.
"We've got a plan," she replied quickly. "Here it is..."
* * *
In her soft leather moccasins, Audri sprinted across the slightly dewy grass towards the royal weaponry. Once she arrived, she hastily rummaged through cabinets and chests until she found what she was looking for: magic leather cords. The cords were particularly useful for tying a mage's wrists together, since they prevented the mage from using any magic.
With her cords in hand, Audri dashed to the Cobblestone Courtyard, where her two anxious knight friends waited. She waved them around so Tabur and Leon could see the bluish aura around the cords.
"Magic cords?" Leon asked. Audri nodded vigorously.
"Excellent," said Tabur. "So, are we ready to enter the forest?"
Again, Audri nodded. "Weapons?"
Her two knight companions pointed to their swords and daggers. They rushed into the forest, guided by a compass and the Techo's well-written map. In minutes, the trio found Elaila.
The tall Earth Faerie sat on a mossy rock outside of her hollowed-out redwood tree. Elaila let the water from a glistening spring that bubbled near her feet flow over her fingers. Suddenly, she lifted her head, gazing at the trio with curious emerald eyes. She rose from her seat and strode gracefully towards Audri, Leon, and Tabur, leaving a trail of glittery green light behind her. Every plant she stepped on or touched with her fingers became a brilliantly lush shade of green, before dying, growing again, and turning back into its original self. Audri, Leon, and Tabur watched this cycle in awe as Elaila walked towards them.
Once she was a few feet away from them, Elaila asked, "Are you traveling with the Moehog? He just interrupted my early-morning meditation as he stomped through the growth outside of my home."
"Our deepest apologies, miss," Leon said with a sugary-sweet tone, "We are actually going to arrest him, for kidnapping a woman."
Audri was greatly relieved that Leon did not say who had been kidnapped. More attention was the last thing she needed at two o'clock in the morning.
"That impertinent, foul Moehog!" Elaila exclaimed, squinting her bright eyes angrily. "I knew he was up to something."
"Do you happen to know where he went?" Audri inquired hopefully.
"Yes," the Earth Faerie replied, "I can show you, if you like."
Elaila flapped her wings and hovered over the ground, a finger pressed against her lips. She floated forward for a little ways with Audri, Leon, and Tabur close at her heels. Audri spotted a tiny flicker of orange light in the distance and tapped Elaila on the shoulder, with a questioning expression. The Earth Faerie nodded. Elaila closed her eyes and pressed her palms together; when she opened them, she released a translucent bubble that floated forward and stretched around Jaute's hideout.
"It will keep him within the bubble until you escort him out," Elaila explained softly.
Audri, Leon, and Tabur said their thanks to Elaila and began to sneak towards Jaute. Once they stood a few feet away from the bubble, Audri stopped and motioned for Leon and Tabur to stay where they were. Audri gingerly stepped inside the bubble, unsure of what would happen. Audri felt as though she had been splashed with a bucketful of water, though her clothes were not wet at all.
Audri spotted Jaute at last; he sat with his back against a tree, his dagger sheathed and placed far away from him. He still clutched a candle between his dull hooves, though he appeared to be sleeping. Audri tiptoed to the back of his tree and unsheathed her dagger silently. She positioned the dagger a few inches away from his squat neck.
"Don't move," Audri commanded in the filthy Moehog's ear. He awoke with a start, but he did not move more than an inch. Audri stepped around Jaute so that she could stand in front of him.
Jaute had a ridiculous, surprised expression on his face, though he did not utter a word. He glanced at the thin turquoise blade below his snout and smiled wickedly.
"Jaute, let's have a little chit-chat," said Audri, beckoning Leon and Tabur with her chin. "And if you even think of escaping, you'll run into trouble. Literally."
"Who do you think you are?" she demanded, her usually crystal-blue eyes the color of a stormy sea. She took her dagger away from Jaute's throat, letting it rest at her side. "You act as though you know everything about spying, and yet you can't even hide from us in this massive forest. You are the worst spymaster in the history of Brightvale, you power-hungry piece of Ettaphant dung."
Not realizing the angry knight behind him, Jaute raised his hoof to slap Audri on the face. Before the white Gelert could even react, Leon snatched Jaute's skinny arm from midair.
"Don't you dare touch Audri," Leon growled, his eyes flashing in anger, "You've insulted her, bullied her, even kidnapped her, and now you think you have the right to slap her? You don't even deserve to look at her, and yet you have the audacity to try to hit her. You're a pathetic Neopian. I really hope you know that."
Leon's short lecture made Jaute's eyes bulge slightly in alarm. It even sent chills down Audri and Tabur's spines.
"Here are the cords, Tabur," Audri said softly, keeping her eyes on Jaute as she handed the bluish strips of leather to the knight. Leon twisted both of Jaute's arms behind his back and stood out of the way as Tabur secured the cords on Jaute's wrist.
"Try anything stupid," Leon warned his captive, "and you'll serve extra years. Don't even try picture-transporting again." The Moehog did not say a word.
Tabur and Leon grasped each of Jaute's arms and dragged their prize out of the forest, following Audri's lead. Audri wore a proud smirk on her face, her whip-like tail raised high like a victory flag.
Later, as Audri, Leon, Tabur and their captive entered the Palace Grounds, a crowd of Brightvale citizens swarmed around them, cheering for the capture of Jaute and constantly asking questions. Audri waved them away and urged Leon and Tabur to hurry.
Standing at the main doors of the palace was King Hagan, clutching a robe around his large body. His personal bodyguards, as well as his manservant and a mage surrounded him.
"Sir Leon, Sir Tabur," the King said. He hesitated when he looked at Audri, for he did not know the white Gelert by name. "And, er—"
"My name is Audri Blake, your Royal Majesty," Audri introduced herself with a bow.
"Sire, may I have your permission to explain?" Leon asked. After King Hagan gave his regal nod of approval, Leon explained all of Jaute's wrongdoings.
King Hagan shook his head in disdain, and told Jaute, "Master Jaute, I had high hopes for you. The previous spymaster, Master Piers, was one of the best, and I trusted him to choose a suitable successor. I knew something odd was going on when he chose you. Did you threaten him in any way?"
Jaute looked down in shame, obviously aware of the fact that lying to the king could make his life sentence in prison even worse. When the Moehog chanced to look the King in the eyes, he bared his disgusting teeth. "How else was I supposed to be spymaster?" Jaute demanded, completely forgetting to address the King properly. The Moehog looked a bit insane, as though he were on the verge of screaming and trying to rip his hair out. "He was going to pick Ivan Blake as spymaster, so I told Piers I'd kill his family if he didn't choose me as spymaster. It was easy. The dumb oaf believed me!"
"You knew my father. You knew Ivan Blake, you scumbag, and you never even told me," Audri growled, "You were jealous of him. That's why you hated me."
Jaute smirked. "Yes, you stupid woman," he sneered, "I knew your father. He's the over-proud fool who gave you your 'amazing' spying skills."
"I am grateful that you caught this criminal. Please, take Jaute to the dungeons," King Hagan commanded Audri, Leon, and Tabur. To Jaute, he added, "You can spend the rest of your life in a magic cell. It is impossible to escape from, even if you try to teleport out."
Jaute scowled at the green Skeith, but did not struggle as Audri, Leon, and Tabur hauled the criminal to the lower levels of the castle. They pushed him through the iron door on one of the only cells with a crimson aura, indicating that it had been magicked. Once they were sure the prisoner was settled in his new home, Audri, Leon, and Tabur threw their own little celebration in Leon's room.
The next day, Audri went to Jaute's office with a broad smile on her face, only to find another small party with cake, sweets, and punch.
"So," Aiden the Ixi began loudly, speaking over the chatter in the small room, "Since our dearest spymaster is in the dungeons, and he refuses to pick the next spymaster, I think we should take a vote. Who wants to nominate someone?"
Paws, hooves, claws, and wings shot into the air. Aiden raised his eyebrows. "Okay, then," the Ixi said, "Fiona, you can nominate first, since you're survived Jaute the longest."
The Kacheek grinned eagerly. "Audri."
Every appendage that was once raised in the air flopped downwards. Only Audri's thin white arm remained, though she glared at everyone in the room for trying to nominate her.
"And you, Audri?" Aiden asked with a wicked smile.
"Um, you," she said tentatively. Fiona giggled, for she too knew who would win the small election. Audri knew it was no use; the spies in her class would surely vote for her. Though inside, she felt entirely glad that the class wanted her as the spymaster, she would never say so.
"Okay, then," said Aiden, his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Who votes for me?"
Audri's lifted her hand, because she did not want to vote for herself.
"And who votes for Audri?"
The white Gelert grinned when everyone's hand shot up. She bowed low, like a jester after a performance.
"Well, that was a close vote," Aiden joked, smiling like the host of Better Than You. "It looks like Audri's the new spymaster!"
The spies-in-training cheered and congratulated their new spymaster. For the remainder of their "class", Audri decided that they would simply take a vacation from spying class. After all, they did deserve it after Jaute's lessons.
* * *
As summer drew to a close and autumn whizzed by, the weather in Brightvale became cloudy, chilly, and slightly breezy. On the 17th of the Month of Storing, the steel-grey clouds began to drop tiny white flakes from high above.
Audri had never been able to enjoy snow in the previous years of her life, for she had been too focused on keeping herself warm and worrying about the cost of food to appreciate the cold, soft powder floating in the sky. But on that snowy day, Audri's opinion about snow changed entirely.
Upon seeing the blanket of snow outside her window that morning, Audri grinned like an excited pup and threw on her quilted down jacket, thick trousers, and snow-boots. She skip-walked to Leon's room, still wearing her foolish grin, and suggested that they take a walk. Since it was a Saturday, neither Leon nor Audri had any work to do, though Audri hardly considered her wonderful new job as spymaster "work".
The two Gelerts strolled through the palace gardens, past dreamy snow-covered pines and leafless fruit trees. They ambled through Brightvale Common, a middle-class area of Brightvale city that contained mostly shops, market stalls, and schools.
Once Audri and Leon had their fill of the harsh air biting at their faces, Audri suggested that they visit the Glazier's Inn for warm drinks. Leon expressed his assent and off they went.
Before they arrived at the cheerful old inn, Audri forced Leon to practice a relaxed commoner's walk, instead of the confident, proper gait of a knight. When the white Gelert was satisfied, she stepped into the inn with a bright grin on her cold face.
"Why, if it isn't my two favorite Gelerts!" George the red Bruce exclaimed from behind the simple bar counter. During the previous months, Audri and Leon had visited the Glazier's Inn frequently. George and Leon had become excellent pals, though George still winced slightly whenever Audri said the word "knight".
"Hallo, George," Audri greeted her long-time friend happily. She waved at the regulars, and strode towards the counter, beaming.
"G'day, mate," said Leon, using his well-practiced commoner accent that Audri had taught him.
"G'day to you, too," the Innkeeper replied. He turned towards Audri, and fumbled through his pockets. At last, he withdrew a cream-colored envelope. "Here ya go, Audri. A carrier Weewoo brought it here yesterday."
Confused, Audri took the thin envelope. Who on Neopia could have sent her a letter? The white Gelert never received Neomail. Audri pondered about the possible senders as she gently slid the letter into her bag.
Audri and Leon chose a table towards the center of the Inn and ordered a kettle of hot jasmine tea to share. As they sipped their fragrant drinks, Audri's mind continually wandered to the Neomail that sat in her leather bag.
After a few cups of tea to thaw their frozen bones, the two Gelerts trudged through the melting snow back to the castle. Audri fought the urge to sprint all the way to her room so that she could read the letter in private.
As soon as she reached the castle, Audri hastily told Leon to come with her to her room. She half-jogged through corridors and up marble staircases, with Leon never more than two feet behind, until she sat upon her soft bed.
The Gelert examined her own name that had been carefully written in long, tight letters on the front of the beige envelope. She began to carefully slide a claw under the seal of the envelope, but stopped suddenly. Her mouth shot open in shock as she realized that she was seeing something she never thought she'd see again: her father's handwriting. Audri quickly broke the seal and withdrew a folded sheet of off-white paper that read:
My sweet Audri,
How long has it been since we last saw each other? You ran away at age twelve, therefore you must be seventeen. Goodness! You are a full-grown woman now. I hope that you have not ended up in a Meridellian prison like your mother, or worse...
Wherever you are as of now, I hope you are well. I certainly am. I teach students the art of healing magic at the Qasalan University for the Magically Gifted. The pay is good. I live in a small home on the outskirts of this marvelous city. My house is just big enough for me and perhaps one or two of my fellow teacher friends. I adore it here, though the weather is quite hot in the summer. But enough about me. I would love to hear about you some day.
I have only one wish, Audri: Could you please come to Qasala, just for a day or two, so that I may see you again? To be able to see the woman you have become will give me great joy that even my friends cannot give me. Five years away from my only daughter has done great damage to my heart. Another year away from you will cause me even more pain; pain that no dagger, sword, or club could inflict. If you choose not to visit me me, so be it. But if you do, meet me by the Lesser Ruins in the Historic District of Qasala. I will wait there just before the sun sets for every day of the Month of Storing.
If you cannot make it to Qasala, then please remember that I will still love you, no matter how many miles of ocean or land separate us. I will never forget you, even if nobody else knows you exist. Remember everything I have taught you about spying, fighting, and life in general. And most of all, remember that you have me. I miss you so much.
Your loving father,
If you liked this story, there's more coming! Many thanks to Liannachick and Concertogreat_8 for critiquing my story!