Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 176,603,172 Issue: 422 | 11th day of Celebrating, Y11
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Irregular Bane: Part Two


by saro_the_legendaerie

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Art by saro_the_legendaerie

Pink and gold light filtered through the dense branches of the tree Bane was sleeping in. He rubbed his crimson eyes, semi-slitted pupils adjusting slowly to the morning sun and sky.

     A Chumablah eyed him coldly from the branch above his head, curiously sharp angled body balancing artfully on the slender twig. Careful not to startle it, he checked to make sure the Dubloon was still in his bag. It was.

     Bane gathered up his things and rolled quickly out of the tree before the Petpet had a chance to ponder clawing the Cybunny's face for sleeping in its tree, mind working quickly even at the early hour. I really better start heading back to our base, he concluded.

     The Haunted Woods was quite peaceful at this time. The creatures of the night were all asleep and the Owners weren't typically out and about yet. Bane scuttled carefully through the undergrowth out of habit anyway.

     His dark fur helped him blend into the scenery, and he was thankful for that much as he noticed Zhar leaning against the entry rock. The Checkered Shoyru stretched his damaged wing carefully, inspecting the new scar tissue. He was higher up than Bane, being a Battledome trained Thief with an impressive resume. His recent brawl with the Snowager, however, had crippled those once-mighty wings and cost him the ability to fly.

     "Hey, Zhar," the Cybunny greeted the Shoyru from his place right beside him. Zhar startled satisfactorily, not having noticed Bane's approach.

     "Bane. Rancru has been waiting for you since sunset. Why did you take so long?"

     "Figured I'd let him nap," he lied, kicking himself for having forgotten to pay his fine for yesterday's fiasco.

     Zhar eyed the younger thief coldly. "Go inside. Now." The massive Shoyru easily shoved the mossy rock out of the way and pushed Bane into the thin crack of a tunnel.

     The Cybunny swallowed and pattered down the widening tunnel, blinking in the gloom. Coming around a sharp corner, he found himself in the Main Hall, a huge underground room lined with dark, round pebbles that reflected the light from a score of torches. The tree roots that made up the vast ceiling and the three taproot pillars in the middle of the room were plated with thin metal to prevent damage to the support system. Various items were gathered in piles according to worth around the Hall, with a lone and massive dining table in the triangle shaped space at the center of the three crooked pillars. Bane could just make out Lyce sandwiched between a Zombie Pteri and a Halloween Bori at said table. The Cybunny smiled, sharp teeth glinting the firelight.

     "Morning, Novice," the Skunk Aisha standing beside him growled.

     "Morning, Teshi."

     Teshi was in charge of selling the Dark Irregulars' haul and keeping track of who brought in what on what day. She had a notoriously bad attitude- even among the other thieves- and today was no exception.

     Impatiently, she clicked her pen and held it ready over her clipboard, pink hair cropped into abrupt layers. "What'd you bring in?"

     "Wind Up Potgatkerchi Toy and Two Dubloon Coin," he stated, handing her the items. She dumped in the 'unsorted pile' while Bane turned to go eat breakfast.

     "Where do you think you're going?" Teshi snapped. "Rancru wants you in his quarters. Now."

     The younger thief made a face of apprehension and fear, walking slowly over to the tunnel on the other side of the Hall that lead to his leaders room. Lyce caught his eye.

     "Good luck," she mouthed, and he replied with a grim nod. I'll need it.

     Before Bane even stepped into the room, he could hear Rancru's deep, smooth voice.

     "Come in, Bane." His words were colder than the ice on the peak of Terror Mountain, and the Cybunny shuddered.

     By the light of the lone lamp in this room, he could make out the features of his leader's face. Rancru looked like your typical Ice Hissi, except perhaps a little undersized. But Bane, like every other thief in the band, knew very well just how deadly that Hissi could be.

     "You are late, Bane," he remarked, his typical coldly calculating voice smooth as oil.

     "I-"

     "Did you complete my task?"

     "Yes. I turned in the item I got at the door. I also picked up a Two Dubloon Coin-"

     An Ice Scimitar pricked the young Neopet's neck. Rancru's voice was still as calm and smooth as ever.

     "It took you a whole day to raid the tomb, and the only worthwhile thing you bring back is a Dubloon?"

     Bane shuddered again, fur on his spine raising in fear. What can I say? I just didn't want to come back.

     "Shall I send you to the Snowager today?"

     The Cybunny remembered Zhar's broken wing vividly. "Please, n-no s-si-sir!" he stammered as the ice blade pressed harder.

     Rancru chuckled coldly. "Very well. I'm in a good mood after Zhar brought me that Icy Negg yesterday." He sighed, filling the room with a gust of cold wind. "Go eat breakfast while I think about your next task." He set the Scimitar aside and nodded once in dismissal.

     Bane dipped his head and dashed out of the room before the Hissi could change his mind. Back out in the well-lit Hall, Bane scurried over to the huge table and shoved the Halloween Bori to the side.

     "Scoot over, Danter," Bane murmured, forcing himself to sound cheerful. The Bori laughed, dazzling blue eyes dancing behind his skull mask as he moved obligingly out of the way and flicked Bane on the leg with his tri-colored tail tip tuft. He was only a year older than Bane but one of the highest ranked thieves in the room.

     Danter spoke in his smooth, slight Meridellian accent. "Lyce tells me you wanna be a shop keeper." Tilting his head forward, he watched Bane behind his blonde bangs, giving the Cybunny the coy look that every female in the Haunted Woods swooned over and that made him the best Bori thief in the history of the Dark Irregulars. Most Neopians seemed to have forgotten that evil can both young and beautiful.

     Bane mock glared at Lyce, who cackled. "I told you I'd tell him."

     The Darigan pet prepared his mouth to reply, but something beeped just then, and he felt the blood freeze in his veins. It's the pager that Faerie Meerca from the Employment Agency gave me!

     Bane fumbled around in his bag. It's not here!

     "Lyce," he said slowly, trying to keep calm. "Did you take something like, say, a pager from my bag last night?"

     She smirked in her seat. "Took you long enough to notice."

     "That's the pager I got for signing up to be a shop keeper."

     She would have paled if she hadn't been painted Ghost. "If Rancru finds it..." She didn't have to finish her sentence- the thought raced through each of the three friends minds in turn. You could be seriously punished, or worse...

     Suddenly, Bane lost his appetite. "I gotta find that pager!"

     He jumped out of his seat, thankful for the increase in number of Neopets as more and more came back from their morning raids. He would look like just another Cybunny in the crowd, and it was easy for him to slip between their bodies as he followed the sound with his sharp ears.

     Suddenly, Bane was aware that both Danter and Lyce were with him, the latter passing through fellow Neopets and vanishing into the nearest pile. Danter burrowed into the pile to Bane's right and the Cybunny started going though the Codestones and Dubloons in front of him.

     Even as his sharp armored claws grasped the pager and turned it off, something cold and strong grabbed the back of his neck.

     "Well, well, if it's not the little Dracobunny and his friends."

     The voice was a vaguely feminine robotic hiss, and Bane was hoisted into the air to come face to face with glowing pink eyes. He could just see Danter in the same position as himself, held by the scruff in steel hooves.

     "Surka," the Bori greeted her politely, charming as ever. Bane swore under his breath, stunned by his friend's nerve even dangling in hooves that could cut through stone.

     The robot Ixi's immobile face would have smirked if it could have. "Let's go meet Rancru."

     X-X-X-X

     As Bane sat in the dank room that served as a prison in the Dark Irregulars, he could pretty much already guess the fates of him and his friends. Rancru wouldn't dare touch Danter- the Bori's uncommonly good looks and skills were too valuable for him to be injured. Lyce was untouchable, too, because of her Ghost abilities- only a Ghost can damage another. The Darigan Cybunny was not as lucky.

     I am- what's the word? Oh yes. Expendable. It's doesn't mean 'expert' and 'dependable', as I once thought. It means he could do without me.

     Maybe I mean little enough for Rancru to let me out alive.

     Danter traced one claw carelessly across the concrete wall, knowing all too well it was impossible for him to dig them out. Lyce was just sitting in the corner, tails wrapped around her body. She was cold, but quite frankly Bane was too scared that she'd stab him if he went to sit beside her and try to keep her warm. It was his fault, after all.

     "I'm so sorry for getting you guys into this," Bane murmured into the darkness.

     "Good," Danter stated, stress making him blunt and cynical. Lyce raised her head at this.

     "Shut up, Danterion. It's my fault, too. I stole the pager in the first place."

     Danter raised his paws in mock apology at the use of his full name. "Well, excuse me for resenting my rank being threatened."

     Bane was comforted by Lyce's defense of him and would have said something to her to that effect, but Danter suddenly ripped a chuck of stone from the wall and hurtled it across the room, watching it crack against the far wall with some satisfaction.

     "This isn't how things are supposed to work," Danter snarled, blue eyes cold. "There's a much better way of running a band of thieves, without all the ranking and the penalties. It's not right."

     "It's what we have to deal with to be under Rancru's protection. It's 'be with him or against him'," Lyce replied quietly, as if resigned to this fate. Before Danter could reply, the door opened and Surka ushered them all into the hallway and towards Rancru's room.

     Rancru had added more lanterns, the light bouncing off his scales and making the room sparkle. If the young Cybunny thief wasn't facing definite pain, he would have found it to be rather pretty.

     "So. Bane decided to steal, for some reason, a pager from the Faerieland Employment Agency." The Ice Hissi blinked slowly. "And he decided to steal the ones reserved for those seeking jobs as shop keepers. I wonder why this is?"

     He knew very well Bane didn't steal anything. It was just his way, just another one of the games he played, like Balthazar might taunt his bottled Faeries.

     "I... I thought I could steal from shops better that way...?" the Cybunny offered. Beside him, Danter rolled his eyes in disgust, only to wince slightly as Lyce elbowed him.

     Rancru eyed the other two Neopets carelessly, before turning his icy gaze back to the Darigan pet. "Is that all?"

     "Yes." He swallowed.

     The Ice Hissi sighed. "Surka, take these two outside. They will not eat at my table until they have both brought me a Red Codestone every day for a week. Keep careful track. I will deal with this one."

     He drew his Ice Scimitar. Lyce's paw slipped into Bane's steel covered one, giving it a brief squeeze- all the affection several months of friendship had created between them demonstrated in that simple act. Danter's blue eyes smoldered with contempt and helpless anger, knowing all too well what was going to happen to his friend. But there was nothing they could do except follow the Robot Ixi as she herded them away.

     The door closed, and just like that, Bane lost his friends.

     "Tell me, Bane, in how many pieces do you want to leave the Dark Irregulars?"

     He might have even lost his life.

     X-X-X-X

     When at last he woke up, Bane was surrounded by darkness, and could hear water very faintly. Sitting up, he instantly regretted it as pain stung his body from the countless ice splinters buried in it. Ouch.

     As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he gathered his bearings. He was in the underground river, the long sewer-like tunnel that Saedar, a Zombie Peophin, hauled rafts loaded with loot down to sell them to the more shady Neopian Shops. The only way Rancru would have put me on a raft...

     ...is if he thinks he killed me.

     I'm free.

     "Saedar!" he called quietly in the greenish yellow faint light. The raft stopped.

     "Bane?" The Peophin swam to the side of the raft, watching the Cybunny with his glassy white eyes. "You live?" he asked in his strange accent.

     "I think so, " Bane gasped as Saedar jabbed him experimentally with one hoof dripping with slimy water.

     "You lucky," he noted in his deep rumble. "Lyce said give you this potion if you wake."

     He pushed a glass vial over to Bane. Thankfully, the thief drank the precious liquid. Fyora bless you, Lyce.

     "What happened?"

     "Rancru beat you up good. He think you dead, Lyce and Danter no think you dead. They give me potion and page'eh."

     "My 'page'eh'?"

     "Page'eh. Beep beep beep?"

     It finally clicked in Bane's tired mind. "Oh, my pager!"

     "Ya, page'eh. Lyce says it is only place you can go now. If Rancru finds you, kill you he will. Lyce and Danter say hide. They leave the Irregulars one day, and find you and keep you safe."

     He wiped his tail across his eyes sleepily. "I'll find them, too, if I can. Some day."

     Still in pain from his injuries, he laid back down on the raft and let sleep swallow him whole as the raft continued on its subterranean voyage.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Irregular Bane: Part One
» Irregular Bane: Part Three



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