Scarlet Shadow: A Scepter Full of Trouble - Part One
As mysterious as the darkest night,
A mystifying thief of swiftness’ light,
Footsteps not heard as treasure’s sought
No fear at all of being caught.
A precious stone found within its case,
A guard’s shout begins the chase.
A secret passage comes out clean,
Closing at the soldier’s scream.
Now safe within the meadow,
An amethyst gaze, the Scarlet Shadow
A dark shadow Lupess watched as the mayhem unfolded following her theft. She knew it was somewhat a bad thing that this had happened. After all, she meant to make a quiet escape, but that was apparently not meant to be. “Oh well, at least I got the diamond,” she sighed, holding up a HUGE diamond to her face.
A crunch of twigs alerted her of another presence. Without hesitation, she flung her dagger in its direction, ultimately pinning a dark figure to a nearby tree. “Sheesh, Scarlet, you have GOT to lighten up a bit!” the figure said, pulling the dagger from its sleeve and stepping out of the darkness.
As Kanrik’s figure became visible, Scarlet turned her attention back to the mansion. They had sent a few guards out to look for her. A smile appeared on her face as she mounted Shade, a shadow Uni that had been her friend and her mount for over three years. “We’d best get out of here before they find us,” Scarlet said, grabbing her dagger from Kanrik’s hand and placing it in its sheath.
Kanrik hopped on Sable, the brown checkered Uni known as the second fastest in the guild. “Whatever you say,” Kanrik replied with a toothy grin as Sable sped at full gallop into the woods. Scarlet pulled the hood of her black cloak over her head. “If it’s a race you want...” she said, gripping Shade’s reins, “it’s a race you’ll get.”
“Should I go easy on them or not?” Shade asked as he started speeding up.
“Either,” Scarlet replied, gripping the reins even tighter to ensure her position was a safe one for when the stallion pushed himself to full throttle.
Scarlet dragged herself to her tent. The race with Kanrik had taken a lot out of her, not that it was hard to beat him. It was just pretty exhausting holding on to her position when Shade sped up. She gave a big sigh as she removed her cloak and looked into the mirror. Her black, wavy hair, which was tied in a loose braid, reached beyond her waist. Her once amethyst-colored eyes had changed and were now dark and colored a deep indigo. A small birthmark in the form of a sun with eight rays was imprinted on her cheek. It was pretty hard seeing this mark because it was just the slightest bit lighter than the rest of the fur on her face.
Scarlet fingered it nervously. It was a birthmark like no other, and that was the problem. She knew that if anyone ever noticed it, she was going to be in a world of trouble. It was the only symbol remaining of her past, the only thing that could bring to light her true identity...
Scarlet winced as memories of her past started flooding her mind. Her father, the war... Why couldn’t the war be settled peacefully?! Scarlet’s fist rammed into the mirror as tears streamed down her cheeks. The tears continued to flow as she drooped to the floor.
Her memories were as clear as day. She didn’t want it to be like that. She wanted to forget her past, but whenever she looked at herself in a mirror, the memories came flooding back. All because of the birthmark! The rest of her - her color, her species, even her eyes - had all changed!
Scarlet dried her tears and picked herself up. She had to remain strong. She was one of the most respected thieves in the guild. If anyone found out about her crying, she would lose all the respect she had gained. In fact, if anyone found out who she was, she would be banned or worse...
The shadow Lupess sighed. Knowing how much the thieves around trusted her made her feel guilty for not telling them the truth... Scarlet decided to let it go for the moment. After all, no one knew Kanrik’s story either. It was too late to be arguing with herself. She got up and lay down on the small mattress. “Think about it tomorrow,” Scarlet told herself as she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
“What are we doing here again?” Scarlet asked. She and Kanrik were hiding in the forest almost right behind Meridell castle, across the mote.
“We’re here to steal the King’s Scepter,” Kanrik replied in a hushed voice. “The gardener found it in Meridell’s courtyard whilst planting a couple of tree sprouts.”
“Why is a king’s scepter so important?” Scarlet asked, her voice portraying annoyance. Kanrik had dragged her away from her training, and she was NOT going to be told that the only thing they were there to steal was a scepter.
“Because it’s not just a king’s scepter, it’s THE King’s Scepter,” Kanrik said, hushing his voice as he heard small footsteps close by. A Seece ran between his legs, causing him to lose his balance and fall over.
Scarlet giggled - a VERY rare sight. A sparkle appeared in her indigo eyes for the slightest moment, and then went as quickly as it came. “This scepter can do what now?” Scarlet asked, acting as if nothing had happened.
“You mean, you’ve never heard the story of the King’s Scepter?!” Kanrik said in a surprised voice. He was going to say something else, – something about her feeling alright – but completely forgot about it due to shock.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Kanrik exclaimed. He looked at Scarlet, whose eyes plainly showed that she was NOT kidding. “No one knows where it came from, but the legend states that it once belonged to a powerful king. It also states that there were other relics like it, but the scepter was needed to control them. It is also believed that it can put people under its control. I’m not sure how much of that is true, but I’m willing to bet that it’ll be worth a lot of neopoints.”
“Any reason why you just summoned me out of the blue?” Scarlet asked. “I mean, you normally inform me about big stuff like this so we have time to plan. I mean, did you even bring a blueprint for the castle?”
“The scepter will only be here in Meridell for three days, and two nights,” Kanrik replied. “I want to see the look on King Skarl’s face when he finds the scepter stolen the day it was found, or at least hear his announcement. And no, I didn’t bring a blueprint, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually.”
“Do you have ANY idea how big that castle is?” Scarlet inquired in such a sweet tone Kanrik had to turn around just to make sure it was still Scarlet he was talking to.
“Yes, I know it’s big, but we have to steal it today,” Kanrik finally replied.
“It’s huge, Kanrik, HUGE!” Scarlet said, rubbing her forehead with her hands. “Why don’t we just steal it tomorrow? That way we have more time to prepare.”
“Tomorrow, there’ll be a grand ball to reveal the scepter to the nobles of Brightvale and Meridell, therefore they’ll put extra guards out,” Kanrik replied, noticing the sky getting darker with every passing minute. “Also, they’ll start a sort of Neopian tour the very next morning, and you know the punishment for stealing from another guild’s territory!” Kanrik sighed. “Scarlet, the scepter will be heavily guarded for the ball,” he continued. “They’re not expecting anyone to steal it today, seeing how it was just found this morning. If we don’t steal it now, we’ll never have another chance.”
Scarlet sighed. “When are we going in?”
“As soon as the sun goes down,” Kanrik replied, surprised by Scarlet’s reaction. It usually took a lot more persuasion to get her to say yes to something she didn’t agree on. Another thing was the added risk of being caught due to not knowing where they were going. Kanrik knew Scarlet didn’t like risks... at all. “I knew I should have ordered those blueprints earlier.”
Darkness soon fell. “Ok, the bridge is heavily guarded, so we need to move fast,” Kanrik said. Turning around, he saw Scarlet some way off, investigating the mote. “Did you hear me?”
Scarlet put her finger to her lips as she raised her hand in a fist. Kanrik was both annoyed and confused. The shadows around them started creeping to the end of the mote, forming a bridge. Scarlet lowered her hand, pulled her hood up, and walked across. Kanrik followed, completely baffled by what had happened.
As Kanrik opened his mouth to speak, Scarlet darted across the outer courtyard and kneeled beside the wall. Kanrik suddenly noticed five Draik soldiers fly by overhead. He dodged into one of the bushes, waiting for them to fly off to the other corner.
The Draiks’ shadows, which were clearly visible to Kanrik from his hiding place, showed that they were hovering overhead. Had they noticed Scarlet? Was she being chased by the guards on the ground? All these questions circulated in Kanrik’s mind. These thoughts were soon put to rest when the shadows passed.
Kanrik peered out of the bush, searching for any sign of Scarlet. Ever since she had turned shadow, it had become harder and harder to find her in the dark, especially on a night like this – when the moon and the stars were hidden by thick, overcast clouds.
Finally, Kanrik saw movement from the wall and bolted for it. He wasn’t able to see Scarlet until he was fairly close. As Kanrik gave a sigh of relief for getting this far without being caught, Scarlet pressed her hand on one of the bricks on the wall. A portion of the wall slowly opened as Kanrik stood there gaping.
“This is what I like to call a secret panel,” Scarlet said matter-of-factly.
“I can see that, but how did you know about it?” Kanrik asked.
Scarlet smiled and walked inside with Kanrik following closely. The panel led to one of the castle’s many hallways. The two thieves followed the hallway until they reached an intersection. “Where’s it being kept?” Scarlet asked.
“I heard they brought it to the main treasury,” Kanrik replied, looking left and right. “Now, I wonder where that could...” Before he could finish, Scarlet took a sharp turn to the right. Shaking his head in annoyance, Kanrik followed.
“Ok, how do you know so much about this place?” Kanrik asked after seeing how seemingly familiar Scarlet was with the many hallways and corridors.
“I used to come here when I was young,” Scarlet replied.
“Wait, so, we didn’t even NEED a blueprint?” Kanrik questioned, refusing to go any farther until Scarlet answered. “And does this also mean you were some noble or something?”
“No, we didn’t need a blueprint, but it’s good to have a back-up plan,” Scarlet replied, continuing down the hallway. She wasn’t about to get caught because Kanrik wanted answers. Besides, her past wasn’t something she wanted to talk about.
The two thieves soon reached a corner, where Scarlet stopped. “Around this corner is the main treasury, and trust me, you do NOT want to go bumping into a guard here!” she whispered in such a harsh tone that Kanrik almost jumped in surprise. The two peered around the turn. There was a large door guarded by two Lupe knights. One was a blue and the other yellow.
“Jeran and Tor,” Scarlet hissed as they retreated back behind the bend.
“Who?” Kanrik asked, removing his dagger from its sheath.
“You’re telling me you don’t know Jeran and Tor?” Scarlet stated, reaching behind and pulling out her butterfly swords. In Scarlet’s opinion, butterfly swords were the both best defense and attack weapons.
“Of course I know Jeran, but who in Neopia is Tor?” Kanrik asked, still curious as to how Scarlet knew so much.
“Tor! You know, the guy who saved Neopia from the Darkest Faerie and such,” Scarlet stated simply, her voice portraying annoyance. “Now, who do you want to take?”
“I’ll take Meridell’s Champion, and you take what’s-his-name,” Kanrik replied.
The thieves rushed forward. Scarlet set her focus to making sure Tor attacked her and not Kanrik. She sprang herself at the yellow Lupe with all her might. The knight seemed surprised, but acted quickly, drawing his sword and blocking her attack.
“He’s good,” Scarlet said silently to herself.
The three swords clashed continuously for the next few seconds, keeping both warriors on their toes. “You’re pretty good for a thief,” Tor said, panting. “You must be that thief who stole the diamond from the Metron family. I must say, I’m impressed. You’ve kept your identity from us until now, but I guess we’ll soon shed some light on that!”
Although Tor’s attitude angered her, Scarlet knew she had to keep quiet. After all, you never know whether or not your opponent can instantly remember you by your voice, and in the thieves’ world, you can never be too careful.
Tor had already swung many powerful swipes at Scarlet, a feat regular knights wouldn’t be able to achieve. Scarlet was quite impressed. She didn’t expect him to be that tough. “He’s better than I thought,” Scarlet thought, examining the large gash on her left arm.
“Listen, we don’t want any trouble. Just give up and maybe you’ll get a lighter sentence,” Tor stated mockingly as the two circled each other. “Maybe.” At that moment, Scarlet heard a long horn blast coming from behind Tor. Stepping aside, he revealed Jeran, who had pinned Kanrik to the wall with his sword, and was now blowing an alarm horn.
At that moment, ten fully-armed Draik soldiers were running right for them from the corridor...
To be continued...