Greatclaw: Part Five
Part Five: Entering the Castle
Dredian was surrounded. Strange shadows lunged at him out of nowhere, so quickly that he couldn’t tell what they were or where they went. He felt pain lance through his body as the shadows hit their mark. As he cried out in pain, he heard a voice whisper, “Why didn’t you just let them finish me?”
Dredian could dimly see a Kougra’s face before him. “Because I want to see your face as you leave this world,” it said.
Dredian felt himself tumbling, and felt himself hit something hard. His eyes snapped open to find himself in the hideout of the band of thieves. No strange shadows, no haunting voices, only the gentle breathing of the sleeping neopets. He sighed with relief when he realized that it had all been just a dream.
He moved away from the wall and rubbed his head. Hitting the wall must have woken me up, he thought blearily. He stretched and yawned. He had listened to Tom tell him about the various different methods of stealing things before his eyes had started to droop and he had been told to get some sleep.
Dredian shook his head to clear his thoughts. Suddenly, Jorde entered the room, opening the door with a loud bang. “Get up, all yaw lay 'bouts!” he shouted into the din. “The boss has a special mission for us!”
Slowly, the other neopets in the room began to stir. Dredian sat up and looked at the massive Scorchio who stood before them. “What is it?” called a voice.
“The boss wants us to enter the castle treasury and steal some sword,” Jorde said, rolling his wrist in a bored manner. “He says that after we get the sword, we can take anything else we want from there.”
There were excited murmurings from some of the thieves. Dredian simply snorted with frustration. “That’s easier said than done,” Tom said quickly. “Remember, the castle is guarded well, and the treasury is even more heavily guarded.” There were groans throughout the room, the loudest coming from Jorde. Dredian almost laughed. “Now, what we need is someone to get into the castle without causing suspicion so they can get past the guards.”
Dredian suddenly felt puzzled as to why Tom was going along with this. Yes, if they could get into the treasury, he could get enough food from his family, but why did this boss character think they could make them do it in the first place?
He saw many pairs of eyes boring into him from up ahead. “What?” he asked nervously.
“Just that you’re a Faerie Draik and, well, you aren’t exactly what most people would think a thief would look like,” murmured Jorde, scratching his chin thoughtfully. He grinned. “This would be a great chance to prove yourself.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” cried Dredian, holding up his hands in protest. “If I get caught, I’ll be put in jail for years! I’m not the best thief here; I know that much.” He felt especially daring at the moment, so he continued. “And, anyways, why do I need to listen to this boss? It’s not like he can force me to do this.”
There were gasps from around the room. Even Jorde looked surprised. “If you’re a part of this group, you must do as the boss says. If not, you will be sent to him.” He shivered.
Dredian felt his blood run cold. “And... and what happens then?”
“No one knows. None of the ones sent to him, besides me, ever come back.”
Dredian shivered, eyes wide. He was trapped. He sighed and lowered his head. “Fine,” came the angry snarl from his maw. “What do I have to do?” Jorde grinned, and quickly began to explain a plan.
“There’s a noble at the gates!” called a knight from the drawbridge. A servant nodded and ran into the castle to report to King Skarl.
Dredian shifted uncomfortably under the piercing gaze of the two knights before him. He was outfitted in a dark purple tunic with a wine-red vest over it, along with velvet pants of the same color. Black boots adorned his feet, a gold belt was strapped around his waist – from which hung his short sword – and a russet-colored cape flowed down over his shoulders, fastened with a golden brooch. On his head was a golden helm.
I really hope that I can play the part of a noble well, he thought fervently, forcing a small smile. Jorde’s idea had been to dress him up as a noble visiting the palace. If allowed to board at the palace, it would give him better access to the treasury. He was lucky that some of the other thieves had been able to steal regal-looking clothing so easily.
Suddenly a servant bustled out of the gates and over the drawbridge. He was panting as he said, “King Skarl wishes for you to take the noble to him.” One of the knights nodded and led Dredian towards through the gate.
Getting inside the castle was a dream come true for Dredian, even if his dream of becoming a knight had been denied. It was exciting to be in the castle, and yet it also had a certain familiarity to it.
The knight ahead of him led him directly across the hall and pushed open the great wooden doors to King Skarl’s throne room. “Your Majesty, I have present to you...” he paused, and turned to Dredian for a name.
The words rolled off of Dredian’s tongue before he even realized what he was saying. “I am Dredian Greatclaw.”
There were gasps around the room as the name was stated, and Dredian suddenly felt his blood run cold. That was stupid! he thought angrily.
“You carry a powerful name,” commented the king. “Are you perhaps related to the Greatclaw of old?”
“I can only wish, Your Majesty,” Dredian replied quickly, bowing. He made up a story as quickly as he could to amend for his mistake. “My father said that he was unsure of how our family came to bear the name of Greatclaw. Perhaps we may be related in some way or form, but I am not sure.”
King Skarl nodded his assent before breaking into a grin. “So, where are you from, Dredian Greatclaw? And why are you here?”
Dredian straightened and smiled in return. This he had practiced well enough to be comfortable. “My family hales from Market Town. We are a part of a wealthy guild there, and as such have gained much wealth. However, our guild has been having some problems with thieves – the nasty hooligans – so my father, the head of the guild council, sent me to Meridell. He told me to seek you out, and,” Dredian’s grin broadened as he invented a new part, “ask you if I could have some training with the sword.”
He was awarded with strange glances from the knights assembled. The king, however, simply frowned. “You have a sword at your waist, so, can’t you fight already?”
“Nay, my father was not a very good swordsman.” Dredian tried to sound as regretful as possible. “He gave me a sword for, as he says, decoration.” Dredian put as much distaste into the word decoration as he possibly could. “However, we need well trained warriors for this, and none of the guild council wish for the knights within market town to know of our problems with the thieves.”
“So, then, did you really make this journey all alone?” queried King Skarl. “You don’t have as many items as a noble normally would.”
“Yes, I came alone. However, I originally came with a few more items, but a group of thieves attacked. I escaped, but they confiscated the items and gold that I carried.” He lashed his tail twice, feeling nervous but somehow managing not to let it show.
King Skarl nodded. “Very well, then! I shall have you boarded in one of the guest room on the third floor, and your training will begin tomorrow.” He seemed to completely forget about Dredian when a servant entered and told him that supper was ready.
The knight who had taken Dredian into the throne room led him out, and up two flights of stairs. He stopped at a door a little ways down the hallway and opened it. “Here is your room, Lord Dredian.”
Lord Dredian? Dredian thought, bemused. He entered and nodded to the knight. “You may go.” The knight nodded in return and left.
Dredian closed the door and, when he was sure the knight was gone, removed the helm with a sigh and flopped down on the elaborate bed. “Glad that’s over,” he breathed, eyes sparking with relief. “How long am I going to have to endure THAT?” He sighed as he stared out the window. He couldn’t wait until this masquerade was over.
He had no idea how important a role he would play in the events to come.
To be continued...