Scarlet Shadow: A Scepter Full of Trouble - Part Three
Scarlet was just about to bolt out the door when the Shoyru came back with a beautiful black gown. It was made of Skidget silk and had long, flowing sleeves. It seemed to flow down gracefully and its skirt was dotted with little white crystals, making them look like stars.
“I’ll take it,” Scarlet said happily, forgetting for a moment about Jeran. “How much?”
“One hundred and fifty neopoints,” the Shoyru replied, setting the dress down on the table. Scarlet untied the bag and handed it to the shopkeeper, who opened it and started counting. Amazingly enough, she was done before Scarlet even realized what she was doing. “Would you like me to package that for you?” the Shoyru asked politely.
Scarlet took a quick glance in the other Lupe’s direction. He seemed preoccupied with looking at a big, purple dress with red blobs all about it. At this, Scarlet almost giggled. “Yes, please,” Scarlet replied. The Shoyru picked up the dress and, once again, went into the back room.
Knowing it would probably take the shopkeeper some time to get the dress ready, Scarlet decided to be all Meridellish and help the Meridell’s Champion out. After all, being able to say she knew the Champion of the land would certainly be useful in the ball. “Excuse me,” Scarlet said sweetly, tapping Jeran on his shoulder. “Do you need some help?”
“Um, kind of,” Jeran replied. “I’m looking for a gift for my sister, Lisha.”
Scarlet had heard of the young Aisha and knew what she looked like. She knew exactly what would suit her. Scarlet looked about the racks for a few moments and finally pulled out a pretty pearl colored gown with blue sapphires embedding the neckline. She handed it to the knight. “That’s perfect!” Jeran exclaimed. “How much is it?”
“How should I know? I don’t work here,” Scarlet stated. This answer caused a confused reaction to show on the Champion’s face.
“It costs 200,000 NP,” the shopkeeper said as she came up to the two Lupes. She then presented Scarlet with a large package. “If you weren’t a noble, I would have loved to have you work for me!”
Scarlet giggled, causing surprise to show on Jeran’s face. “You sound just like...” he said, trailing off.
Scarlet realized just how risky the situation had become. Knowing Jeran couldn’t very well have forgotten what had happened years back, Scarlet said a quick thank-you and left the shop.
“How was it?” Shade asked when Scarlet came out. “I saw Jeran go in. I was pretty worried, but I knew you could keep your cool, so I decided against interfering.”
“Good choice,” Scarlet said, eyes glistening with mystery.
“You’re not going to tell me a thing, are you?” Shade asked, pouting.
“Nope,” Scarlet replied with a smile.
Shade sighed. “Back to the hideout, then?”
“At full gallop.”
Scarlet looked at herself in the mirror. Her long, wavy hair was now flowing freely and seemed to be in tone with the flowing of the gown. She looked like a princess... again. She sighed as the memories flooded her mind. She turned away, afraid of bursting into tears.
Scarlet walked outside, immediately receiving many stares and gapes from the other thieves. Ignoring them, Scarlet continued on to Kanrik’s tent. Kanrik, who was standing outside, took one look at Scarlet and asked, “Can I help you, Princess?”
Scarlet responded by hitting him hard on his arm. “Ha, ha, very funny.”
“Ow! That hurt!” Kanrik yelped, clutching his arm. He reached in his pocket took out a small box. “You know, maybe I shouldn’t give you this after all.” Scarlet gave him a pout. He laughed and handed her the box. “Every princess needs one.”
Scarlet opened the box. Inside was a beautiful black tiara with a tangled water lily design and two small amethysts sat atop the two stamens in the center of the each lily. “Thanks,” Scarlet said, picking it up and placing it on her head. Kanrik held up a mirror for her to see. Scarlet smiled. Her eyes softened as the sparkle within them glowed intensely. “Thank you,” she said, looking up at Kanrik, who was quite taken aback. Scarlet’s usually indigo eyes seemed to change to a softer, amethyst shade.
“You’re welcome,” Kanrik replied.
Scarlet turned back to normal just as a beautiful white, open roof carriage led by Shade and Sable pulled up in front of the two. Scarlet was quite taken aback. “You stole a carriage?!” Scarlet yelled.
“Of course not!” Kanrik smiled. “We had a few spare parts lying around, so we MADE one.”
“YOU made THIS?!” Scarlet exclaimed, eyeing Kanrik suspiciously.
“Scarlet, if anything in your little charade is something we stole, someone’s bound to notice,” Kanrik explained. “EVERYTHING is either paid for or made.”
“This is turning out to be quite the investment for you, isn’t it?” Scarlet said as she stepped into the carriage.
“It is, so don’t mess it up,” Kanrik responded, handing Scarlet a beautiful black brooch shaped like a single lily, also with amethysts. “It’s a microphone, so whatever you do, don’t drop it. If you need our help, just call.”
“Ok, got it,” Scarlet replied as the carriage started on its way to Meridell Castle.
“We’ll be arriving in a few minutes, Princess,” Shade joked.
“Not funny, Shade,” Scarlet stated.
“You be careful,” Sable said in a serious tone. “If you’re caught, there’s nothing we can do for you.”
“Relax, Sable,” Shade said. “She can take care of herself.”
“I know, but if anything happened to her, Kanrik will have my head,” Sable replied. “After all, she IS his best thief!”
“It’s ok, Sable,” Scarlet assured. “I promise to be extra careful.”
Coming up to the bridge, a guard stopped the trio. “Invitation, please,” he said sternly. Scarlet handed him her invitation. After examining it closely, he returned it to her and stepped aside.
As they rode into the inner courtyard, Scarlet was struck by its sheer beauty. Sure, she had been there years before, but so much had changed and as for the other night, she had been preoccupied with getting out that she hadn’t had the chance to look around. When entering, one found oneself on a beautiful cobblestone path that led all the way to the entrance of the castle. There were two such paths – one for entering and one for exiting. In the middle of the two paths as well as on their sides were rows upon rows of beautiful flowers. And when one arrived at the entrance, one would find the turning point decorated by a magnificent fountain. The water flowed from beneath a small pedestal. Standing atop was a beautiful marble statue of a young Acara. A harp was clutched in her left hand whilst the right were positioned to make it look as if she was plucking the strings. The Acara was clothed in a beautiful flowing gown and seemed to smile on every visitor that passed the castle doors.
Sable looked at the statue and gaped. “I wonder who that is,” he declared.
“That is Princess Crystal Turstone, King Skarl’s daughter and heir to Meridell’s throne. She... disappeared years ago,” Scarlet said as the carriage stopped in front of the steps that ran up to the castle’s entrance. She descended gracefully from the coach and climbed the steps.
As Scarlet glanced at the big wooden door, she had to refrain from laughing at the huge hole on its right side. Scarlet watched the two nobles in front of her as they handed their invitations to the Draik at the left side of the door. “Presenting Lord Nicolas and Lady Jennifer of the Metron family,” he stated after a quick glance at the invitation.
Scarlet stepped up and handed him her invitation. “Presenting Lady Lila of the Darkorn family,” he announced.
Scarlet walked down the long, carpet laid path to where King Skarl and King Hagan sat. Beside them, on a pedestal and guarded by two Draik soldiers sat the scepter. The small scepter was made of gold and clutched a blood red ruby. Scarlet curtsied politely. It felt strange curtsying to King Skarl, seeing how he was her... No, she couldn’t think of him as being related to her, she would just break down. She walked into the back of the crowd.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Scarlet suddenly felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning around, she was surprised to see Jeran. Lisha was standing beside him. “Sir Jeran!” Scarlet exclaimed, startled. She did a quick curtsy. “Good evening to the two of you.”
“And to you,” Lisha replied, curtsying as well. Standing up, she elbowed Jeran.
“Yes, yes, of course,” he said, bowing. It was quite obvious he was still not used to greeting nobles. Scarlet had to stifle a laugh as she remembered the first time Jeran had tried greeting the Emperor of Shenkuu. He was still a young squire at the time.
“So, I hear you were the one to choose my dress,” Lisha said politely. Scarlet noticed, for the first time, that Lisha was, in fact, wearing the very dress she had chosen that afternoon. Jeran, on the other hand, was dressed like a duke.
“Yes, I did,” Scarlet replied, her eyes glimmered with mischief. “Did your brother tell you what he was GOING to buy?”
“Yes, and trust me, I would have screamed if he did,” Lisha stated, giggling. Scarlet just smiled.
“Lisha!” A red Zafara in a blue dress with yellow stars on ran over to the three. “Want to go grab something to eat? I hear the cupcakes are extra good tonight.”
“I’ll be there in a minute, Kayla,” Lisha replied, turning back to Scarlet and her brother. “I’ll be at the buffet table.” She dropped a farewell curtsy and ran off.
Jeran laughed as he watched his sister. He turned back to Scarlet. “Thanks again for helping with the dress.”
“It was no problem, really!” Scarlet replied. She turned to watch Lisha. “Your sister is really nice.”
“Yeah, she is,” Jeran said, turning his attention to the two Draik guards rolling up the red carpet. Soon, everyone was moving backwards as couples began dancing to the music played by the small ensemble.
“Your band plays quite well,” Scarlet complimented, listening as they played ‘Meridell, My Home,’ Meridell’s famous anthem.
A yellow Lupe suddenly tapped Jeran on the shoulder. “Hey, Jeran?” the Lupe asked.
“Yeah?” Jeran replied.
“Is it just me, or is the harpist missing?”
“I noticed that as well,” Scarlet said, missing the tune of the harp, her favorite instrument.
“So, have any idea what happened?” the Lupe asked.
“She got sick last night,” Jeran said sadly. “It’s a pity. Everyone says she can play like Princess Crystal herself. I’ve been able to hear her play and think she’s ok, but still can’t be compared with Crystal.” Jeran sighed. “An ok harpist is still better than no harpist at all, though.”
“Oh,” Scarlet sighed, disappointed.
“Oh, by the way, Tor, this is Lady Lila,” Jeran said, quickly changing the subject so as not to let either of the Lupes continue to fret about the harpist. “Lila, this is Sir Tormund.”
“Nice to meet you,” Scarlet said, only half of her attention truly on either of the Lupes. Her mind was still preoccupied by the missing tone of the harp. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer. ‘Meridell, My Home’ just didn’t sound right without the harp. Scarlet walked over to where the ensemble was playing, which just happened to be beside the two kings, and whispered something into the conductor’s ear.
“I cannot do what you ask,” he replied coldly.
“Do it!” King Skarl suddenly yelled. Everyone – the musicians, the nobles – stopped and listened to the king. “Do as she says. I cannot bear hearing Meridell’s anthem without its main instrument!”
“Y-yes, My Lord, a-as you wish!” the conductor stuttered after a short pause.
Scarlet walked up on the small platform and seated herself down on the small stool beside the large, gold harp. The Lupess closed her eyes and began to play. The song seemed faultless and as the notes filled the room, the other musicians, dumbfounded by her talent, dared not play a single instrument for fear of hitting a wrong note and ruining the perfect melody played be the young Lupess. Everyone, even King Hagan, was impressed.
As her song ended, Scarlet opened her eyes. Seeing everyone staring at her made her cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. She hadn’t realized how many people were listening. “That was wonderful, child!” Skarl yelled.
“Most impressive,” Hagan complimented. “Tell me, my Dear, you are from Brightvale, are you not?”
“No, My Lord, I am from Meridell,” Scarlet replied, causing Skarl to grin teasingly at his brother. Brightvale had been the one to provide the ensemble and now a young Noble from Meridell had far outshone Brightvale’s best musicians.
“Really? Well, I was quite sure your accent was of Brightvale,” King Hagan stated simply.
“Do play another song, would you, Lady...” Skarl trailed off.
“Lila, My Lord,” Scarlet said as she closed her eyes once more and began to play.
Just as the notes began to fill the room again, however, a high-pitched scream from one of the courtiers almost burst Scarlet’s eardrums. Scarlet’s eyes suddenly opened as she remembered why she was there in the first place. She breathed a sigh of relief as she realized she had been able to keep everyone preoccupied, therefore completing her mission without even noticing! “Here we go,” she said to herself as a flow of masked thieves stormed the castle. She looked at the thieves, not recognizing a single one...
To be continued...