Greatclaw: Part Three
Part Three: Search for Truth
Dredian watched the sunset out his window. Almost time, he thought, nervousness and uncertainty filling him once more. He put his cloak on, and, as a second thought, belted on a wooden sword. Then he sat on his bed and waited.
He felt lucky that he had been moved recently to a room made for one. True, the area was still cramped, but at least he didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him prepare to sneak out. After all, he didn’t just exit to go on nightly travels. Most of the time, he left the orphanage to practice with his wooden sword. Even though he withheld little hope of becoming a knight, he still made sure he was ready if ever the chance arose.
Dredian waited until long after the sun had sunk below the horizon and the sky had turned dark before daring to venture out of his room. He pulled the cloak up over his head and tiptoed quietly down the stairs. He held his breath as a floorboard creaked under his weight. When he heard no noise other than snoring, he slowly exhaled. He crept to the door. It opened with only a slight protest. Looking around briefly, he slipped outside and shut the door behind him.
The night air was crisp as it blew across the deserted streets. Shadows clung to every object, turning the world black and gray. Dredian ran down the streets towards the Recruitment Center. He wondered briefly if the Techo would still be there. He shrugged. There was only one way to find out.
As he skidded to a halt in front of the Recruitment Center, he took in a deep breath. This could get him into huge trouble if he were caught. He trotted silently up the steps to the large wooden doors. He tried the handle, only to growl with frustration when he discovered it was locked. He looked around, wondering if there was another way to enter. He saw a window in the side of the wall to his right. He slipped over to it and grabbed the bottom, pulling his arms upward. He sighed with relief when it wasn’t locked.
As Dredian slipped through the window, he heard voices. He ducked into the shadows of the wall. He listened as one voice said, “This is crazy. It’s not like he’s going to escape anyways.”
“You forget that we have a duty to the king!” growled another voice. “We have to obey orders.”
“I didn’t say I was going to abandon my post,” the other defended. “I just don’t understand why we have to guard this guy.”
Dredian groaned silently. Now I’m in deep trouble, he thought mutinously. He harbored thoughts of going back to the orphanage for a moment before shaking them off like cobwebs. He took a deep breath. He felt his foot hit something small and round. On closer inspection, it was a single neopoint. He rolled his eyes. They should really keep better track of stuff like that, he thought.
As he stared at the neopoint, an idea bloomed in Dredian’s mind. Smiling slightly, he tossed the coin towards the opposite end of the Recruitment Center. He heard a clank as the neopoint hit the floor. “Who’s there?” called a voice soon after.
“Come on,” growled the other voice. Two shadows flitted from the entrance to the prison area towards the place where the coin had landed. In no more than a heartbeat, Dredian dashed through the now unguarded entrance.
The Techo was quivering in the first cell. Dredian ran up to the cell and knelt down. The Techo quivered. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“Relax. I’m not here to hurt you.” Dredian put his clawed hands up. “See? No weapons being held.”
The Techo’s shoulders drooped slightly, but not much. “What do you want?” he repeated.
“I want to know the truth,” Dredian said quietly.
“The truth about what?”
“I want to know if your family is really so short on neopoints that you have to steal.” The Techo’s eyes widened. “Tell me where your family lives. If your story’s true, then... then I’ll come back and get you out.” Dredian felt a thrill of fear pulse through his veins.
The Techo was looking at him with eyes wide with surprise. “Why would you do that?” he asked.
Dredian shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I don’t like to see people get punished for helping others.”
The Techo opened his mouth to reply, but was stopped when one of the guards called. “Hey! Get away from there!”
Dredian whipped around, eyes growing wide, as he saw the two guards rushing back towards their post. He stood up quickly. His hand impulsively reached for the wooden sword hanging at his waist. He watched warily as the guards reached him. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“Its not important,” Dredian said quickly, though tremors ran along his back. He was only self-trained with a wooden sword, and he might end up in a fight with two professionally trained knights with swords that could easily cleave his sword in two.
“Yes, it is,” growled the first guard, a powerful looking Kougra. “Now, explain, or we shall have to put you in a cell as well.”
Dredian inhaled deeply. His two basic options would leave him trapped in a cell. So, he really only had one choice left. In the blink of an eye he had whipped out his wooden sword and lunged at the second guard, which appeared to be weaker than the first. The second guard cried out in surprise and pain as Dredian whacked his side with his weapon. Flapping his wings, he turned around and landed neatly back on the floor. He crouched into a fighting position, fear glaring in his eyes.
By now the first guard had drawn his sword and the second was beginning to recover. Dredian knew he could make a break for the orphanage, but he still felt strangely compelled to stay there. He glanced at the first guard’s waist, and saw a ring of keys swinging from his loosely tied belt. If I could just slip them off, Dredian thought mentally, his eyes narrowing.
He didn’t have any more time to ponder what to do when the Kougra guard lunged for him. Dredian immediately slipped to one side. As luck would have it, it was the side in which the keys dangled. He pulled quickly at the knot. It gave way easily, the belt slipping from around the Kougra’s girth. Dredian slipped the keys off just as the guard turned back around. He bared his pointed teeth in a feral snarl. “Releasing the prisoner, eh?” he asked.
Dredian chose not to answer. He began a movement that made it look like he was going to jump at the guard again. The Kougra fell for it, and quickly held up his sword. At the last second, however, Dredian threw his sword towards the Kougra’s right leg. It hit its mark, making the guard stagger.
In the midst of this, however, Dredian had forgotten about the second guard. As jerked around towards the jail cell, he saw the second guard standing before him. “Going somewhere?” he asked harshly.
Dredian gulped. He knew the first guard would be on him again soon, and now he was weaponless. Time was running short.
Suddenly, the second guard groaned and fell over. Dredian looked at the guard in surprise, then at the Techo still trapped in the cell. The prisoner held an object that appeared to be a rock in his hand, his arm just reaching out through the rusty iron bars of his prison. Dredian immediately rushed over and fiddled with the keys. He heard the sound of footsteps, and knew instantly that the first guard was closing in. He forced himself to ignore that and continued to try and find the right key. He heard a satisfying click as one key finally fit the lock. “Got it,” he growled, turning it.
Even as the lock opened, the Kougra guard was upon him. He grabbed Dredian by the collar of his brown shirt and held him up. Dredian struggled against the powerful grip, both his claws clasped around the Kougra’s wrist in a vain attempt to free himself. “You are going into a cell, too, pest,” snarled the guard, hackles raised.
There was a thud, and the Kougra gasped. He staggered slightly, loosening his grip on Dredian. That was all he needed to scramble free. He saw the Techo run from his cell out the window. Dredian was right on his tail.
When the two neopets were far away from the Recruitment Center, they paused in an alley, gasping for breath. “Thanks,” muttered Dredian.
The Techo looked at him. “No, I should be thanking you,” he replied. He extended a hand. “My name’s Tom.”
“I’m Dredian,” Dredian replied, grasping Tom’s gnarled hand in his claw and shaking it.
“Pleasure meeting you,” Tom replied. He paused. “Well, I suppose now I should show you my home, eh?”
“I’d like to know that I risked my neck for you for a good reason.”
Tom nodded. “Well said.” He turned around and waved a hand. “Follow me.”
The two neopets walked for a ways until they reached a small house. It was ragged, with a door that hung off its hinges and a loosely woven straw roof that could only keep out a bit of the night chill. The house seemed to sag under its own weight. Tom gestured at the tattered building. “Shall we enter?” Dredian stared at it bleakly before nodding.
The inside was even bleaker, with only a large room entered directly when coming through the doorway and a smaller adjoining room. When Dredian inspected it, he realized it was only a worn bathroom. He stared around the larger room. Two forms were huddled on the floor without anything to comfort them or keep them warm. They both wore dresses, but their clothes were tattered. The room was filled with dust and cobwebs.
Suddenly the larger one stirred. She raised her head and looked at Tom’s figure in the doorway. Her eyes widened with surprise. “Tom?” she asked.
Tom nodded and bent down beside her. “Aye, its me.”
“Oh, Tom, I thought they’d captured you!” cried the female Techo, throwing her arms around Tom’s neck.
“They did, and I would have remained in prison if this brave Draik hadn’t saved me.”
The female Techo’s head swung around and for the first time noticed Dredian. Her eyes were wild with gratitude. “Thank you for saving my husband,” she whispered. Dredian, still stunned by the pathetic shape of the house and its inhabitants, only managed a jerky nod.
Tom looked at him. “There’s proof,” he told Dredian. He stood up abruptly. “I’d better go. The first place they’ll look for me is here, and I don’t want to put you or Cleo in any danger.”
The female Techo nodded in understanding, though tears still filmed in her eyes. “Go carefully,” she whispered. Tom turned and walked out the door. Dredian followed suit.
Outside, the sky was just beginning to glow with milky dawn light. Dredian winced. He should have been back at the orphanage ages ago. He turned to Tom. “Well, I’d better be off.”
Tom appeared puzzled. “Where to?”
“Back to the orphanage.”
Tom’s eyes grew wide, and Dredian wondered what had happened to make him look so nervous. He looked around, but could find no one else wandering the streets. “You can’t go back to the orphanage unless you want to get put in prison.”
“What?” Dredian cried, almost forgetting to keep his voice low.
Tom’s eyes were shadowed. “I’m sorry I’ve put you in this position. But in breaking me out of prison, you’ve become an outlaw in the eyes of the knights.”
To be continued...